Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Throughout the year students have been reading books based on their own choosing. As a way to end the year, both on a positive note and a way to reflect on this work, I think it's important to give students ownership of they work they would like to do. This allows them to be more engaged in what they create. In order to do that, I have created an end of the year project that allows students to think about all they have read and find a way to show some commonalities amongst some of the books.
I begin the lesson by pulling up the Final Book Project on the Smartboard and explain the project as a whole. With projects like this, it's important to explain each step so students can see how each part is related and so students can feel comfortable to voice any questions. The handout explains what the project will consist of.
Students will first think of a common focus for the books they have read this year. They need to choose at least five books that have a common thread. This thread could be based on genre/subject, theme, writing style, author, setting, similar characters, etc. By giving students the freedom to choose they are more engaged in the process and enjoy it more. When engagement is up so is student learning. The handout uses questions as a way to engage students in this process. This helps them to think a little more clearly and critically.
After they choose these books and commonality, they then will look through the books to find a passage that relates to that focus. After they find this passage, they will write a paragraph explaining how the passage shows this overall focus. We will not be doing this part in class today but I let them know what they next step will be.
I also show students Past Projects so they can get an idea of what these final pieces will look like. Showing students visuals is a great way for them to conceptualize the overall project.
The final step will be to create a 3-D art piece or a movie showcasing this work.
After explain all three steps of the project I then ask students for any questions. This handout covers most of the common questions that come up during this time: Questions To Anticipate For Final Project.
My goal for this project is not only to assess that students have retained and comprehended some of the books they have read, but also to see how well they can begin to compare different texts. This comparison work is the first step towards some of the demands they will face in high school.
Students have the rest of class to begin brainstorming what they would like to focus their project on. Students will not be able to find the passages yet, but they can at least review the books they have read this year to begin to see if there are some similarities or commonalities that they may be able to begin to work with.
I give students class time work on this for two reasons. The easiest reason is so I can monitor their work and make sure they are productive. The other answer is because it's the end of the year. I have already collected their major research papers and will not be able to do a full unit so this gives me flexibility in the assessment we end on. Let's be honest, are eighth graders really going to engaged in a full writing piece or a grammar review at the end of the year, especially after handing in a six page research paper?
I tell students they can begin to work on this project and the first step would be to brainstorm various ideas. Here is an example of two students brainstorming: Student Examples Brainstorming Final Book Project. During this time I also try and conference with students to help push them in a direction that will challenge their thinking. Here is a video explaining how I would conference: Teacher/Student Conferences. Many students want to take an easy way out by doing a simple topic like growing up or teenage life. I try and challenge them ask them to take that further. What about teenage life can you focus on? What do they characters all have in common? Are the authors trying to say something about teenagers?
At the end of class I remind students that will have some time tomorrow to work on this class. Most students will be able to think of their books and their topic so I tell them to bring in those books tomorrow so they can begin to find those passages.