Literary Domino Effect: A Project-Based Literature Circle Response

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SWBAT analyze their literature circle text by creating a literary domino project.

Big Idea

"Shall we believe in luck or in circumstance? Strong men believe in cause and effect." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

This lesson spotlights the final student summative assessment for the year. For their literature circle text, I asked students to demonstrate their learning of the book they chose for the unit. I gave them one simple criterion: I want to see that each student completed the book(s). Because many students have difficulty deciding on how they want to demonstrate their learning, I gave them the option of creating Literary Dominoes

The lesson here does the following:

  • Introduces Literary Dominoes,
  • Shows how to plan and execute a Literary Domino project,
  • Indicates student responses to the importance of dominos,
  • Offers an online option to the traditional Literary Domino project,
  • Offers alternatives to literary dominoes for demonstrating student learning. These include: Doodle Graphic, Glogster, artistic response, scene performance. 

Since the unit focuses on building readers beyond the confines of school, a major concern I have is keeping students engaged without the project feeling too "schooly." 

Building a Long Line of Literary Dominoes

15 minutes

Once students are near the end of the Literature Circle unit, I offer Literary Dominoes as an option for demonstrating their learning. 

We look at the handout together, reading through it and addressing any questions. These typically include questions about the number of dominoes required. Students often overlook the requirement of analyzing the most important domino and the requirement to analyze how the plot will chance without three of the dominoes. Thus it's important to draw their attention to these requirements and to be sure students include these in their final projects.

The first thing students must do when tacking the project is to create a plan. This is really important if students are working in a group so than no one student gets stuck w/ the work. I have a chat w/ each group to find out who is doing what, and I require groups to have individual responses to the "Which domino is most important?" question as well as to the 'What would happen if you removed three dominoes?" analysis. Part of one student's plan is visible in Life of Pi Literary Dominoes Plan.

Life of Pi Literary Dominoes Student Project shows a final project for Literary Dominoes. Several other examples are also included here: MAUS Literary Dominoes and "Life of Pi" Dominoes and MAUS Literary Dominoes (Group 2) all show fairly traditional approaches to the project, although some do a better job than do others of showing the cause/effect relationships among plot events. 

Finally, one group really understood that literary dominoes can show both geographic place and the way place influences cause/effect relationships, as Life of Pi Literary Dominoes Map shows. 

When One Domino Falls, Others Follow

20 minutes

A component of Literary Dominoes requires students to choose the domino most important in the sequence of events. They then analyze the text to determine how it would change had that event not happened. Life of Pi Most Important Domino Comment and Life of Pi Domino Analysis and Life of Pi Dominos Fall Response and Life of Pi Cause and Effect Commentary (1) show student responses to the question "Which domino is most important?" and to the three dominoes that would change the course of action if students were to remove them from the sequence. 

Having students do this part of the activity is very important because it's the only way to 1.) guarantee students understand cause/effect relationships; 2.) actually read the text rather than merely find the plot online somewhere. 

Additionally, it's insightful to see what students choose as vital to the action compared to what their peers choose as most vital. In this way, rather than students trying to second-guess a preconceived idea put forth by the teacher, they are exercising their critical thinking skills to analyze the cause/effect relationships w/in a text. 

Dealing Dominoes Off-Line and Online with Padlet and Glogster

40 minutes

In addition to creating literary dominoes on a poster, students w/ access to technology (and classes, too) may want to consider using Padlet. Padlet (formerly called Wall Wisher) allows users to "build a wall." The call is where students put their "dominoes." I asked students to number the dominoes. Students may also insert images and video, such as YouTube videos. A group of students built the wall below based on Life of Pi. They were able to work on the wall on separate computers because Padlet allows this kind of collaboration. 

Other students chose to create Glogs for their final demonstration of learning. Glogster is an online poster-making website. A glog can include text, video, images, and music. While the glogs don't function quite the same as literary dominoes, they do offer options, as long as teachers clarify the parameter that students must show a complete reading and comprehension of a text. 

The Glogs below are a series created by two students who worked together on the project. They created several Glogs to show a thorough understanding of Life of Pi

Pi Part 1:

Training Richard Parker

Chapter 8: Lesson Learned: 

The Other Man



The Meeting


Demonstrating Learning Options to Literary Dominoes

In addition to Literary Dominoes, students had the option of choosing their own project.

I often encourage students to doodle and came up w/ the idea of a Doodle Graphic as a type of literary response to a text. One student really got my vision and created a fabulous doodle for Life of Pi. DoodleGraphic with Reverse Poem shows the doodle and the reverse poem the student wrote in response to Life of Pi

Another students used her artistic skill to create a memento mori response to Life of Pi. Artistic Student Response to Life of Pi and Artistic Choices Explanation and Artistic Student Response to LoP cont. show her work of art and the written explanation of the art she penned to show her thought process. This project grew out of a one-on-one chat the student and I had about Pi's comment: "My life reminded me of a memento mori painting" and the way it foreshadows events in the novel. Additionally, we talked about Frieda Kahlo's art and her use of death images. 

One group took their cue from previous performance tasks and decided to act out a scene from That Shakespeare Kid. The video became a good chance for us to talk about how they learned to understand that they can understand Shakespeare's language. Additionally, this type of response works beautifully for students who struggle because it offers them a very creative outlet for demonstrating their learning.