Extending Reading Model
We are trying extend reading in this unit. Many of the reading-expert, reading-strategy books offer helpful methods for helping students to read a text more insightfully. However, when it comes to reading across texts or to sustaining reading across a longer text, we enter the realm of task persistence over the longer haul, and the teacher-prep literature seems to grow a bit more thin. However, Greenleaf's Reading for Understanding has a chapter devoted to the idea of extending reading, and although some of the advice is somewhat generic (give students a chance to write about what they are reading, etc.) in that it is not discipline specific, I have culled together some of the suggestions in the attached graphic that I am using to help inform lesson design in this unit.
That's why I am offering a significant portion of class for sustained silent reading (RL.9-10.10), but again, this is very active time for me as a teacher, in that I use this time to interview students, to conduct think-aloud protocols, and to ask them inferring questions about character and theme (RL.9-10.3). The goal of these discussions is to offer challenge and encouragement to each student who is on a reading journey to complete a longer and more challenging text than is typically the case in 9th grade.
Checking in With Each Student
Today, I am focusing on making sure that all of the students have read chapter 7b, which is the most challenging scene in the book to discuss, in that sexual abuse is depicted. I don't want the students to get the scene second-hand from the classroom discussion, but instead, I am hoping that the students will offer their own opinions, so as I circulate, I am looking very pointedly during the SSR time to make sure that all of the students are at least as far as chapter 8. In reality, I've been checking in with them during study hall and in previous SSR days, so I am reasonably certain that they are set up for success (defined as having read chapter 7 well enough to offer an insight into the class discussion).
This SSR time is an important dimension of extending reading. I even plan to bring treats a couple of times so that the students can get the feeling that reading time is fun, pleasant, and relaxing. It's an adventure for me, too.
Visible Thinking Routines
Harvard University developed several discussion protocols that are supposed to help teachers facilitate "visible thinking." What I find to be so very cool about these protocols is that they set the stage for students to formulate insights and to offer them to the class in discussion (SL.9-10.1). In this way, their thinking is made visible. In contrast, typical IRE discussions, with the teacher leading ever insight with a question of his or her own design, can be too tightly directed. As I will discuss below in my reflection, such a flexible framework can be useful in addressing sensitive topics such as today's, as it provides enough of a solid boundary to the discussion while still allowing each student an entry point that he or she will undertake voluntarily through the choices embedded in the task. In addition, a little bit of writing can help students to clarify and focus their thinking, and frequent writing also can develop their writing fluency (W.9-10.10).
Goals for Discussion
I have chosen the protocol, "Compass Points," as you will see in the handout and from my video here below because I think that it most definitely will give the students a chance to discuss characterization (RL.9-10.3) in significant ways, and because it will allow them to discuss a controversial subject like sexual abuse with a framework that will give some structure but not be too directed by me.
Broaching Difficult Material
I am very much wanting to do two things in this discussion: to listen to what the students have to say about the horrific events that have transpired in this scene, and to assert a moral stance that what has happened is wrong (Hosseni, in no way excuses or glorifies the violence of this scene, for instance), that Amir should have intervened, and that the rest of the book is about his need to learn to have moral courage at the right time. For all of us, the take-away is to be an upstander in situations where bullying (or worse) is taking place, and to intervene when we can. I don't want to lead with this set of assertions about the moral stance that I believe Hosseni is offering because I think a heavy-handed opening to the discussion could effectively stifle student input on a sensitive topic such as this. Thus, in the discussion I am using this compass points frame to let the students do the talking, but as the adult in the room, I will expect us to come to a point of moral clarity in the end.