I give all kids a Multicultural Take Home Letter & Reading Schedule letter. As a whole group, we go over my expectations for the unit, and I read aloud the letter. There is a parent signature piece so parents are aware of the expectations and the page totals that should be completed by the given group work day.
Its important for kids to understand that even though I am presenting this unit nearing the end of the school year, its very important that they take it seriously, and understand that it can effect their final grade.
I email a copy of the letter home to parents, but I also expect that students should bring this copy home, filled in with their page totals for group (they're given time to complete this in groups afterwards).
After kids find out their books and their groups, they're given some time to work together and decide their own page totals.
I find kids are more likely to adhere to their page totals when they have agreed upon totals together as a group. It gives them autonomy and power. We decided on these pages, so we should stick to this commitment. There is some positive peer pressure that helps kids stay on track; they don't want to disappoint their group members.
Each group is given a Kid's Calendar for Page Total Planning. They can count out the total number of days in the unit, and they can build an equation to decide what page they should be on by what group meeting. This also gives them flexibility to work around one anothers schedules. For example, if Student A has soccer on Thursdays, and Student B has dance on Mondays, their group may decide that the majority of the reading needs to get done on Tuesday, Wednesday, and maybe the weekend.
This time is used for independent reading of their literature circle text. This will look alike like typical independent reading.
I make sure to give at least fifteen minutes on the first day of the unit to give kids time to get into their reading. Kids are usually inspired during this time because they have met with their group and received some positive momentum to complete their pages. There is some positive peer pressure not to fall behind in their small groups.
At the end of the period today, we continue watching the documentary "Promises," which we'll continue in small chunks for the remainder of the unit.
"Promises presents a powerful portrait of seven Palestinian and Israeli children who live in and around Jerusalem. As filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg, who was raised in Israel, notes, They live no more than 20 minutes from each other, but they are each growing up in very separate worlds. The children include Mahmoud, Shlomo, Sanabel, Faraj, Moishe, and twins Yarko and Daniel."
-taken from topdocumentaryfilms.com
The purpose of watching this documentary is so kids can build background knowledge on a part of the world that many know very little about.