Today students should arrive with the rest of Chapter 6 and part of Chapter 7 (through page 133 of The Great Gatsby where the couples leave the gas station) read. We will start off our hour like we do each day of our Gatsby unit, which is with a brief quiz in Socrative (SOC# 9894495 if you’d like to import it to your own account or check out the paper version of the quiz in the Resources section). These quizzes work well for my classroom on two levels. First, they offer immediate feedback about who has taken the time to critically read the assigned text so that I can better anticipate what our classroom discussion will look like. Secondly, the quiz questions give students a review of the chapters before we begin discussion to better prepare them to talk about the material and ask questions they had about the material but would likely otherwise drop. Analyzing the results further can also provide tremendously useful feedback for students and parents with regards to growth in the Common Core skills, as the Reflection attached to this section details.
After everyone completes the reading quiz, we will discuss the Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 (up to page 133) reading homework as a class. At this point in the school year, students will take the lead in asking clarifying questions and discussion questions, but I always have a backup list of questions that I want to make sure that we cover. My primary role during these review discussions is to serve as a facilitator and to probe student responses for evidence to support their statements if they don't proactively give it. I will also use my list of questions to keep the discussion moving if students get to a lull in analysis before they have fully addressed the points I expect them to on their own. See the attached "Chapter 6 and Partial Chapter 7 Gatsby Discussion Guide" in the resources section to access my full list of "safety" questions that should be answered during this period. Several of these also showed up on the quiz, so we will be both discussing the chapter and reviewing the quiz at the same time. During this discussion I will require that each student in my classroom vocally participate in the discussion at least TWO times for discussion points, and I will track this participation with Class Dojo.
After students have fully discussed the tensions leading up to the rest of the hotel scene, we will transition into an activity that will allow students to put all the excitement about what is about to unfold in this chapter to good use! I adore reading activities that require my tactile learners to get up, move around, and get involved in the process, so I utilize acting out literature whenever I can. My students have improved upon their ability to add emotion to their reading since the beginning of the year, but we continue to struggle with the concept of blocking while acting. Though it's a drama concept, it is also an extremely valuable concept to master while reading (and, therefore, while acting out literature even in informal settings like the classroom) because it allows students to better mentally visualize text while reading. Since I have primarily visual learners, improving this skill will improve their comprehension. Today we'll take a few minutes to explicitly talk about how blocking works and why it's important.
First, we will watch the following short clip from Citizen Kane, which has been annotated to show the director's blocking choices. While watching, students should consider how often movements occur, why the actors are ordered within the space how they are, and how movement helps the viewer pull additional meaning from the script. Most students will be surprised by the amount of blocking that actually goes on in film, so I expect this short activity to really have an impact on our own acting adventure today!
Next, we will take a few minutes to discuss what they've witnessed. They will likely have a better grasp of important people standing nearer the front of the "stage" and how the actors use their proximity with one another to suggest importance and connections. Then, we will write our blocking findings on the whiteboard behind our makeshift "stage" (a.k.a., "the front of the classroom"!) so that we can keep these blocking tips in mind while we act out our own scene.
As is typically my method, students will volunteer for the speaking roles that will occur in the section of text we will read. For today, this will be Nick, Jordan, Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby. We will probably only get through the hotel room portion of the scene, so that should be enough characters to get us started. All other students will take turns in a popcorn fashion reading the narration parts. They will read at least a sentence and no more than a page as the narrator before calling on another non-actor to continue the narrator part. Though we aren't really going to actively discuss this scene as we act it out, students will often react together and put their hands up to ask questions or get clarification on things they wish to talk about during this time. After setting up a few chairs in the front of the classroom and placing the "actors" in their starting points, the class will take over this acting adventure until we are nearly at the end of the period.
In the final moments of class, I will ask students to read the remainder of Chapter 7 for homework and continue adding to their visual character maps that they started at the beginning of the novel. Then, I will distribute each student's "Top 3" ACT Reading areas to work on based on the "Instant ACT 0359F Grading Workbook" (a template that's ready for you to drop in your own classes' assessments is ready to go for you in the Resources section!) that I created to score, itemize, and analyze the results of my students' Practice Reading ACT Form 0359C. I love the ease of use for this digital activity and Excel document, and I have found in previous years that giving students a short list of skills that would do them the MOST good on their ACT (instead of comprehensive ACT reviews that overwhelm them with information) has been much more effective for improving scores. I am not fond of standardized test-prep, though it is a requirement in my district (like it is for many districts). In my experience, I have found that setting high expectations, fully implementing the Common Core, giving students targeted feedback about standardized test weaknesses, and requiring students to at least try out interactive and personalized test prep websites have been the most effective ways to prepare students for these tests. In my humble opinion, there is NO reason to bludgeon your students with test prep work for hours on end when it will only benefit them for a 75-minute chunk of their lives.
In that spirit, I will also assign students the task of creating an account with a free test prep website, Number2.com, and adding me as their "coach" via email. I will warn you that the first time that you say this website's time, it would behoove you to say something like, "Go to Number2.com, like the pencil...#2," or I can pretty much guarantee chuckles around the room. Heck, I chuckled writing it, so don't say I didn't warn you. HOWEVER, it really is a fabulous site that students can use for tutorials on how to do better on the test and unlimited practice with questions for all subjects that are formatted just like they are on the actual ACT.
Next class period, I will formally assign a tutorial and practice questions from Number2.com so that they are fully aware of this website's capabilities. In the mean time, students will be free to look around and explore what the site offers. I expect many students to take advantage of this website, especially my high-achieving students who are extremely concerned about their ACT scores.