It's Earth Day, and I open class by reminding students of the opportunities at our school for environmental science, including the Environmental Club and science elective courses such as Natural Disasters.
Students are given the majority of class today to read and work independently.
To provide a goal and objective, I ask students to focus on what Scout learns about prejudice today, with the quote from Maya Angelou, "Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible," as a connection to the theme (RL.9-10.2). With the reactions of cousin Francis, the lynch mob, and the town as a whole to Atticus taking the defense of Tom Robinson, Scout is exposed to the ugly face of prejudice in Maycomb. The students' independent Creative Project Directions address these themes (see lesson, "Mockingbird Logistics: Project Introduction and Forming Groups"); by providing a focus, students begin thinking about ad addressing how this theme develops, not only in this reading, but to carry over into the novel as a whole (RL.9-10.2).
Today, students begin to read and work independently on their literature circle role assignment for Chapters 12-16 (they will continue this work over the mid-week break for State Testing). By providing ample time in class, to address the multiple components of our look at "To Kill a Mockingbird," the 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.
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).
While students are reading and working on their literature circles, I provide their creative project rubrics, based on their selections. The students have the opportunity to investigate previous students samples of the Creative Projects for "To Kill a Mockingbird." Set up as a "Gallery Walk," students are introduced to previous products, able to flip through, handle, and explore what previous students have submitted. I note that I may select their projects as samples to help direct future classes as well, and that I hope they see the high expectations I have of their projects.
By allowing students to view previous projects, not only do the students get inspired, but questions they may have not known they had are raised, and we can discuss how their ideas connect with or contrast what they see here.
As noted in the lesson "'Mockingbird' Logistics: Project Introduction & Forming Groups," the creative projects call for students to cite strong and thorough textual evidence, in the form of quotations and description of action in a scene from the novel (RL.9-10.1) in order to demonstrate understanding of one of the five central themes students will study and its development over the story (RL.9-10.2), as well as how the characters, especially Scout, advance the theme (RL.9-10.3). Student draw information from the text in order to support both their creative project and analysis and reflection to explain their decisions (W.9-10.9a), organizing information and referencing their imagery to make connections between their work and the text (W.9-10.2a), as well as developing their explanation with relevant facts, quotations, and explanation to air in understanding their interpretation of the novel (W.9-10.1b). These creative projects take the place of an overall test on the unit; while still measuring student understanding, the project provide additional variety, call for critical thinking as well as time- and resource-management, and allow students to take ownership for their project.
With two minutes remaining, I call students back to their seats and ask them when the next literature circle discussion will be (to check that they know their homework and they will be prepared). Grade 10 students have the next two days off as the Grade 11 students will be completing state testing.