The last unit before the big OAA (our state’s end of the year assessment) is always a tricky one. So much to review, such little time. This year I wanted to create a multi-genre reading and writing unit that would review essential fiction and non-fiction skills that was engaging and driven by student interest.
My students are obsessed with the “I Survived” series. Each book in this historical fiction chapter book series is written from the viewpoint of a boy who survived a major event in world history. I’ve found that these addicting little books are an excellent way to get boys (and girls!) interested in history while burning through an entire series!
Building on their frenzy, I decided to create a four week unit around the title, I Survived: The Sinking of the Titanic [Tarshis, L. (2011). I survived: The sinking of the Titanic. New York, NY: Scholastic Paperbacks]. In this unit, students will research the actual Titanic using a website I created in order to gain an understanding of the ship, its passengers, and why it remains a popular topic to this day. Second, the students will read the I Survived text as a part of book clubs while reviewing fiction skills learned throughout the year. Last, students will produce opinion writing pieces about the Titanic using information gained from their non-fiction research and fiction book study.
Yesterday, students met with their opinion groups to brainstorm ideas for their projects. Today they must make a final choice and begin working. I ask students to pull out their notebooks, pencils, and then move to their work areas. I tell them that we only have a short time to work today. In that time, they first must decide what their project will be. Take a few minutes to read through the ideas you wrote down yesterday, weigh your options, and then make a final choice. Then they’ll need to plan how they will complete the project. What supplies will they need? Which group members will be responsible for each part? In order to complete the projects in a short amount of time, it would be wise to assign jobs, or parts of the whole project, to each member in the group. After you've made your final choice, I’ll be around to check in with each group.
Students excitedly begin making plans. As I hear a group make a final decision, I join their table. I ask what supplies they will need and begin gathering what’s available in the room. While I’m colleting materials, groups begin delegating tasks. As soon as they have their supplies, they set to work.
I assign a specific area of the room for each group to keep their works-in-progress. I ask that each group designate one person to be responsible for picking up and putting their project back each day. This way, others don’t disturb projects and the areas don’t become too congested. Students clean up their workstations and return to their desks.