Island of the Blue Dolphins: Would You Rather....Be a Ghalas-At or an Aleut?

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SWBAT analyze how the narrator's perspective influences the way in which events are described.

Big Idea

Pick a side and say why!

Cue Set

15 minutes

Scholars begin this lesson by continuing to analyze two paintings that portray "The Landfall of Jean Nicolet."  (Jean Nicolet was a French explorer who arrived at present day Greenbay, Wisconsin.)  In one portrait,  the Europeans are portrayed as being almost savior-like, with arms raised like a cross.  The weather is fair and the Native Americans are intrigued and welcoming.  In the second portrait, Jean Nicolet has his arms raised like a cross, but has two guns firing from each hand.  The Native Americans are running away from him and it seems as if they are begging him to stop.  Each painting is clearly painted to represent differing perspective of "The Landfall of Jean Nicolet."  

Scholars have 3 minutes to compare & contrast each painting.  Then, we do a whip around regarding how the paintings are similar and different.  Finally, scholars say WHY they think the similarities or differences exist.  I am looking for scholars to say things like, "They are the same because a foreigner is arriving on new land. They are different because the foreigner is violent in one picture and welcoming in the second.  They are the same because the paintings depict the same event, they are different because they are told from a different perspective."     

We spend an extra day on this cue set to deepen knowledge.  Yesterday, their comparisons focused many on how they were the same/different, not the why.  Today we really focus on the why.  

Teaching Strategy

15 minutes

We start the lesson today by acknowledging the perspective from which Island of the Blue Dolphins is told: Karana's.  Therefore, the way that the Aleuts are portrayed is impacted by Karana's viewpoint.  This may cause the Aleut's to seem more ruthless or more negative than what they were.  In order to objectively analyze both perspectives (the Aleut's and the Ghalas-At), we begin our lesson by comparing and contrasting the Aleut's and the Ghalas-At.  This enables scholars to think outside of Karana's viewpoint and try to analyze the account from both perspectives.  We use this venn diagram to record our thinking.  

I model how to compare and contrast the Aleut's & the Ghalas-at by thinking about their diet, clothing, language and how they respond to challenges.  Then, scholars get into post-it note groups and complete the venn diagram that compares & contrasts the Aleut's & the Ghalas-at.   

Guided Practice

15 minutes

During the guided practice, scholars choose which group they would like to join: Ghalas-at or the Aleut's.  Then, scholars stand up/pair up with a friend who chose to be a part of the same group.  When scholars stand up/pair up, they stand up and push in their chairs.  Then, they pair up with a student of their choice.  I usually give them about 30 seconds to find that person and then they share their thinking.  These will be their partners today.  I change it up a bit to keep scholars engaged and to add an extra layer of fun.  Only do this if your students can handle working in self-selected partnerships.  I do remind scholars that I reserve the right to break partnerships up if they are not using their time wisely.  This takes care of 95% of all issues.  I do not hesitate to break partnerships up and send them back to their seats.  I do give them 1 reminder to be fair before I break them up.  

In partnerships, scholars create a character sketch of themselves as a Ghalas-at or as an Aleut, then they list the reasons that they chose to be a Ghalas-at or an Aleut.  Click here to see PartnershipsAnother Partnership, and the Last Partnership.  Scholars use evidence from the text to support their response.  


45 minutes

During the seminar today, there are two circles (one inside of another larger circle).  Scholars who are participating in the discussion are in the inner circle. Scholars who are watching/listening and evaluating the discussion sit on the outside of the circle.   I make sure that there are at least 2 people from either the Aleut perspective or Ghalas-at perspective in each discussion.  

Scholars discuss the following question: 

Would you rather be a Ghalas-at or an Aleut?  Why/why not?  

Scholars in the outer circle give an individual rating to their partner (person who has the same color post-it note on their desk) and an overall rating for the group.  Click here to see a sample Rating Scale for Socratic Seminar.  The rating is a simple 1 to 5.  Five indicating everyone participates, discussion remains on topic, participants respectfully agree/disagree, discussion is interesting,and participants remain attentive. Here are scholars using the rating scale.    

We will do three discussions each lasting 7 minutes so that each group of scholars have an opportunity to discuss.  As scholars discuss, they can continue to take notes on their venn diagrams.  Completed venn diagrams are a part of their checklist items for the week. Also, we will debrief each discussion for 2 minutes before we switch to the next one so that scholars can have on-the-spot feedback and so that the next group can possibly benefit from the feedback.  

Here are some snippets from a seminar today: