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 chose their final project ideas, delegated tasks, received a few supplies, and began working. Today they will receive their remaining supplies, if any, and continue working. I ask students to move to their group work areas. They don’t need to take anything with them unless they need the notes in their notebooks and pencils.
I quickly tell students that they will have roughly twenty minutes to work today. In a moment, I’ll ask their designated member to collect their projects so they can begin working. As they do, I’ll be around to deliver any other materials they requested yesterday. I let them know that our routine will work this way for the next couple of days – students simply move straight to their work areas, collect their materials, and begin working. Now that project ideas have been established and materials have been received, there is no need to spend time meeting with or giving directions to the whole group. After asking if there were any questions, I dismiss table members to collect their projects.
During this time, students continue the work on their projects. I walk the room listening to conversations, fetch additional supplies, or provide other assistance as needed.
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.