Today we give a sky-high welcome to students, as it is both "Reach as High as You Can" Day and "Look Up At The Sky" Day. It is also the closest Mars has been to Earth in six years and a lunar eclipse (caution, auto-play videos). All of these ideas come together in class to remind students of Gatsby reaching for the green light and Scout reaching for adulthood in the novel.
In order to review the previous look at the Lit Circles Directions, as a class, we read through lit circle directions and answer student questions. Following the previous class, there was significant confusion regarding the assignment, and reviewing the directions will answer many of these questions.
Additionally, going through the directions this way allows an opportunity for students to practice active listening: to the speaker's reasoning and use of specific evidence in the directions, as well as when I use exaggerated examples to make a point (SL.9-10.3). Their questions and comments, as well as me, checking for understanding, ensure they will be prepared for tomorrow's literature circle discussion. In addition to listening to the reader, the directions are in front of the students and projected on the front board in order for the students to engage the directions.
To provide a goal and objective, I ask students to focus on how Scout learns to interact with others in this section of the novel (RL.9-10.3); these early chapters provide a significant amount of insight into how Harper Lee connects the theme of adulthood and growing up to the lessons Scout learns from the people she meets her first few days at school. The students' independent creative projects address these themes (see lesson, "Mockingbird Logistics: Project Introduction and Forming Groups"); by providing a focus, students begin thinking about and addressing how this theme develops, not only in this reading, but to carry over into the novel as a whole (RL.9-10.2). This focus gives students an anticipation idea to focus on as they read the assigned chapters, rather than a reading guide or review questions. Within the groups, this focus allows a starting point for conversations and group discussion. The literature circle assignments will reflect this focus idea, allowing for a commonality in ideas and responses among the class.
Today, students continue to work independently to read and work on their literature assignment roles for Chapters 1-6 (they began this work over the weekend). By providing ample time in and out of class, students can work at a pace they feel comfortable with, produce quality work, and take ownership in the novel. Students are reading independently in class because while they work in class, I can offer clarification and assistance if the students need, and they can check with their group members if there are questions. Independent reading, even for a teacher-assigned text, immerses the student in the literature, and gives them an opportunity to appreciate the text (RL.9-10.10).
The literature circles for this unit are the culmination of everything students have been working toward this school year: independent understanding of the concepts and literature, personal ownership of the material and their work, and effective, collaborative learning and problem solving. Each of these goals requires the students utilize practical communication and critical thinking skills.
Students are working in literature circles because they are both student-driven and collaborative. Students shape meaning in their literature circle group interactions, drawing from the novel. The assignments require students to discuss the novel with diverse (teacher-assigned) partners, building a sense of team identity, on a wide-range of novel related topics (SL.9-10.1), including specific details of plot events (RL.9-10.1), and how these details develop themes (RL.9-10.2), characterization (RL.9-10.3), and the narrator's point-of-view influences what we see in Scout's memory of 1932-1935 (RL.9-10.5). Literature circle assignment also require students to determine the meanings of unfamiliar words and their impact on the text (RL.9-10.4). In order to demonstrate and strengthen their own learning, students present their assignments clearly to their peers, in a manner that allows group members to take effective notes on the novel (SL.9-10.4).
In order to answer any questions students may have about plot, I call them back together after 30 minutes and ask them to pose any questions that will support their analysis of what the text says and the inferences they draw about the novel (RL.9-10.1). Open-ended questions, I will suggest they ask in their next literature circle meeting in order to spark discussion, but reading comprehension questions will be answered in class.
With two minutes remaining, I wrap up our Q-and-A and remind the students to be prepared for class tomorrow; have their books and have their literature circle assignments completed for discussion of chapters 1-6.