My students return today from Spring Break and should be accompanied by a long list of focus questions for Part One of To Kill a Mockingbird, which I tasked them to complete over their break. The task of developing focus questions was introduced in this lesson.
As I check in with each student on their homework, I give them each three small cards that I have cut from index cards. I instruct them to select their three best focus questions for Part One and to write one on each card. I encourage them to use this process as a review of Part One, as they will momentarily be taking a reading quiz on this portion of the text.
When they have completed their cards, I walk from student to student with a small box into which they drop their cards. I explain that we will address the cards further after they have taken their reading quiz on Part One.
Once all focus questions have been submitted, I distribute a reading quiz to each student, face down. I instruct them to keep the quiz face down until I tell them otherwise.
When all students have been given a quiz, I pull one of their focus questions out of the box of submissions and read it aloud to them. I instruct them to write the question down, on the back of their quiz, and then allow them to address whichever part of the quiz they choose first, the questions on the front, or the focus question they have just written on the back.
NOTE: I expect that the first question I pull out of the box (or the second, or the third . . .) may not be ideal, so I reserve the right to keep puling until I am satisfied!
The rest of the period is spent on addressing the focus questions in the submission box.
I arrange my students in groups of three, spreading out my high and low performers so that they are evenly distributed. Next, each group is dealt a hand of five focus questions from the box to address together. With each student having submitted three of their questions to the box, there should be plenty to select from, in case a few of the questions are duds, needing to be swapped. Each group will discuss their five questions until they come to a consensus, at which time one group member will document their answers on a sheet of paper.
This activity will give my students the opportunity to reflect on Part One on their own terms, working exclusively with what their peers are inquisitive about and deem integral to the text. As the groups are addressing their questions, I am circulating, providing clarity as necessary, but avoiding too much in-depth analysis or discussion about the text with my students. Today, I want their explorations to remain as student-driven and directed as possible, establishing their own sense of ownership over the portion of the text for which they were responsible for reading on their own. I want them to feed off the enthusiasm and ideas of each other as much as possible.
I do not expect that there will be time to reconvene as a whole-group today for discussion of Part One, but this activity will set us up well to begin as a whole group in the next class session.