I recently told you about the novel,Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. My class started reading it at the beginning of the nine weeks and we are already on Chapter 8. I was originally going to do this book as just a read aloud when time permitted, but it has already evolved into something wonderful. It is probably going to take most of the nine weeks, but I have designed a unit that I think will be worth every minute.
My thematic foundation: Everyone deserves to be heard.
We will focus on the these questions as we read, write, and practice good speaking and listening skills:
- In what ways are individuals excluded?
- How does it feel to be excluded?
- How can we make everyone feel included?
- How can you effectively express yourself?
- How can we show respect for people who have different ideas?
To tie in non-fiction and media, I am going to introduce them to Carly Fleischmann, an amazing young woman with autism.
Both nonverbal, Melody (the protagonist) and Carly sharing some very similar characteristics, experiences, and abilities. Their differences will make a great compare and contrast activity, as well.
I am so excited how this unit has come together so naturally. I try so hard to find topics, novels, and activities that are meaningful to my students.
I bought the iBook on my classroom iPads, and while I only have the 6 iPads for 10 students, I am able to pair some of them up and their response has been great.
Reading a full length novel in an eBook format is new to all of them and they are very anxious to read each day. I have gone from reading to them, to them primarily reading on their own – even reading ahead at times. The ability to highlight, search, bookmark, and adjust the text size and font appeals to them.
For some of my very low readers, I highlight a small chunk of text, give them a brief overview, and ask them to read. After a few quick questions to check comprehension, I highlight another portion, focusing on the main events of the chapter, and repeat the process.
But honestly, I think the topic is key. We’ve had some very serious discussions about Melody. They’ve asked me flat-out if Melody’s classroom, “H-5,” is the same as our class – which it isn’t, but they see the differences in each student and recognize the struggles and emotions the characters face. They are making connections on how it feels to be included and excluded.
Although Melody is a fictional character, she is as real to them as anything. I can tell, after only 8 chapters, they feel a connection to her and care about her as a character. I plan on waiting awhile to introduce Carly’s story, so that they can continue to form their own images and opinion in their minds.
To read more about Carly: