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Tag Archives: novels

Which Outsiders Character are You?

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Our 7th graders will be starting out the year with The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, so I wanted to share the activity I used last winter when I read the book with my Resource Room.

I needed something to hook the kids, and from my experience with the book, the characters can be quite confusing for students.  I decided that I would assign each student a role, and they would represent that character while we read the novel.

Going with the very popular idea of quizzes that we all take on Facebook (Which Disney princess are you? I’m Jasmine!)…I decided to do something similar with my students.

Because I don’t know how to make an actual quiz like that, I just used a Google form and with 8 students, I figured out the results to strategically meet the needs of my individual students.

First, the questions:

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The next day, I handed out the slips of paper one at a time and read the descriptions to the class.  They then inserted the description, as well as a photo I had printed, into a 4 x 6 acrylic picture frame.

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Each day as class started, the students would get their frame and sit it in front of them on their desk. As we sat in a circle, I was able to reference/point to students as we were summarizing.

By having them associate the characters with their classmates, it was easier for them to keep the characters and plot straight.  It was also fun to build suspense and keep students interested.

“Will Johnny/Blake live or die?”

 “Will Cherry/Sydney fall in love with Dally/Josh?”

“Will the Socs/Nathan seek revenge for Bob’s death?”

Other skills I covered during this activity:

  • Point of View – Students were asked to rewrite their description several times – in 1st and 3rd point of view.
  • Perspective and Summarizing- After major events in the book, students had to get into character and write a journal entry or letter about the current situation.
  • Predictions – Students were asked to make predictions about their characters.

I am not sure how this would work in a very large class, but I am anxious to hear your thoughts.  If you could use this technique with a novel you are reading, please share in the comments!!

 

 

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Using Quotations from a Novel

The first novel we will read, starting in Week 3, will be When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt.

I skimmed the book again this afternoon and decided to make these speech/thought bubbles with quotations from the text.  (It’s hard to tell but they are pretty large – I used 12 x 12 cardstock.) I will hang them up around the room before school starts and not say a whole lot about them. (Kids are so observant.) I am hoping it might spark their interest and act as an anticipatory set.

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I can already see the lightbulbs turning on as we actually read these quotes in the context of the book.

Ideas on how I might use these quotations:

1. Make predictions based on what we have read and one of the selected quotes.

2. Locate the quote in the novel and practice writing responses with citations.

3. Identify the speaker and the situation in which the quotation occurred.

4. Retell and/or explain the portion of the story that each quote is related to.

5.  Write any of the above responses in journals (or interactive notebooks) or using the iPads.

6.  Draw the scene for each quote on drawing paper and post near the quotes.

7.  Act out the scene for each quote.

8.  Attach each quote to a large sheet of bulletin board or chart paper before hanging up around the room.  Students could write any thoughts or ideas as they come to them.

Any other ideas on how you might use quotations from novels?

Share your ideas in the comments!

Character Trading Cards

I found a really neat activity while I was searching for something for my after school study group on Wednesday.  ReadWriteThink had just what I was looking for!

The 7th graders I am working with during this time are reading A Christmas Carol.  Using the Trading Card Creator, students will be in the computer lab making character cards for each of the characters from the book.

The fictional character option covers appearance, appearance, thoughts, feelings, problem, goal, outcome, quotes, action, interaction, and personal connection.

Students can also include an image and save their card as a PDF to be cut, folded, and taped together.

This is going to be a great activity for my Resource Room when we read Stargirl.  For my class, we will probably create these together on the SMARTBoard as part of our reading discussion and then I will have a set made for every student.

There are also options for other topics as well: real person, fictional place, real place, physical object, event, abstract concept, create your own.

I think for this Wednesday I will do use the random word chooser to  assign characters to students.

Or…maybe I’ll put them in groups of 4 and have each group member choose a main character.

Or…maybe I’ll let them work with partners to create one card.

I don’t have the details hashed out yet, but I guess I’ll figure it out by Wednesday.

What would you do? Suggestions are welcome!

Teaching Vocabulary in Real-World Context

We read The Outsiders at the start of the year and one important piece of reading the novel is acquiring new vocabulary.

The other day I wrote about using visuals to reach all learners. When I am working with students with disabilities, ESL/ELL, or at-risk students I find that getting on their level and in their world helps them make connections, especially in vocabulary.

Here is the vocabulary list for The Outsiders (one word per chapter). Each day a new word is presented and students are asked to copy the word and definition. They also need to locate the sentence in the novel and write it in their journal. This list is used with most of the 8th grade classes.

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Here are some sample pages from the SMARTNotebook file I created for our inclusion class. The definitions are not only pared down a bit, but each page includes a graphic and the sentence from the novel.

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As we review the vocabulary and later test over it, students can picture Judge Judy and Wile E. Coyote and apply this knowledge.

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For the above example, we will connect it to a student athlete in the class and always refer to him when we discuss this vocabulary word. “Andy cannot believe that the Tigers beat them last Friday night.”

Because these vocabulary words are made on SMARTNotebook, students can download them from our Edmodo page, view them online, or print them and cut them out to make flashcards. (You have to print to the “large” or “medium” setting for usable flashcards.) I typically provide a copy of these to each of the students who require such an accommodation on their IEP. I also make a class set to use for review games during our intervention study hall.

I think this method of teaching vocabulary works because it helps students:
Who are visual/picture smart (obviously)
Who are book/word/linguistic smart (as the word becomes part of a very short “story”)
Who are people smart (as they get involved with the “characters” in the examples)
Who are tactile/kinesthetic/body smart (as they manipulate the flashcards)

And it should be no surprise, It is also way more fun to teach vocabulary like this.

Keeping “Classics” vs. The Common Core

For the past three years I have taught Language Arts 8 in a Resource Room setting. Working with students with decoding and reading comprehension skills below grade-level, I am forced to modify the materials and curriculum used by the other Language Arts teachers. Choosing reading material isn’t always easy – it must be high interest and low readability. I feel like I have a pretty good choice of novels and selections from the text book that cover everything I need to cover.

The four novels I read during the school year are

*With the exception of Stargirl, the general education teachers at my grade level use these exact same novels.

However, with the adoption of the Common Core, I am faced with a decision. All because of increased lexile bands.

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the lexile levels will increase for each grade level band. 6th-8th graders who were previously reading in the 860L–1010L range but will now be expected to read in the 955L–1155L range.

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Taken from the Common Core, Appendix A

While the jump is not earth shattering for high ability readers, it is significant for students with reading disabilities.

Look again at the novels I use with my students with disabilities:

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According to the lexile levels, only one of these books falls into the new range for 8th graders. In fact, three of these books are apparently in the range for 2nd and 3rd graders! If you haven’t read The Outsiders or The Giver, there are definitely some scenes that are not appropriate for 7-8 year olds. (I do understand the the Common Core is not recommending students at that grade level read these particular books, but you must get what I am saying.)

So does that mean that we ditch the books that have been middle school “classics” for years? The content is appropriate and the literary elements are there. I’ve seen these books make non-readers read because of the story lines. I’ve seen non-readers take these books home or ask if they can keep a copy because they love them. I’ve had students say that their parents are now reading these books because they’ve raved about them so much. In my mind, these books are keepers!

My frustration is in the fact that some people think that these novels, because of their lexile levels, must be thrown out. How can I justify not using three of the four books I have built my curriculum around? Especially when these novels are perfect for the students I work with.

At this point, I plan to use these novels and supplement with increasingly more difficult text as my students are able to handle it. Supposedly, we will be getting some software that will allow us to determine a student’s reading range. This should be helpful in writing the IEP and planning instruction, but will I be allowed to use these novels with 8th graders? That answer will hopefully come when we receive additional training in the Common Core later this summer.

How do you feel about the new lexiles and the Common Core?
Would you discard a classic novel that is grade appropriate because of its lexile?
How will you select your novels as your district adopts the Common Core?

Novel Playlists

A recent post I read, entitled Remember When, got me thinking about mix tapes and and listening to the radio as a kid. My sister and I used to write down the lyrics to songs – rewinding again and again and again until we figured them out (and we still probably didn’t have them right.) I remember making mix tapes for my best friends, my family, and to play by the pool. Little has changed…I am still making mixes for my kids, my boyfriend (I know, sappy), and to play in the kitchen while I’m making dinner. Same idea, but now we call them playlists. And it’s easier than ever; hit a few buttons on iTunes or YouTube (and then  Zamzar it) and you’ve got the ultimate playlist. I just finished a “Carnival 2012” playlist for my boyfriend’s middle school carnival. This playlist is a hit with my two kids at home and will definitely be part of our 11 hour ride to Myrtle Beach.

A great way to connect with kids (especially teenagers) is to incorporate current music into your teaching. Some teachers play music as students enter the classroom or as they do seat work. At our school this spring, we were all set to “Rock the OAAs” and played great 80’s music every Friday a.m. over the P.A. system.

One way that I incorporated music into my classroom was by making a novel playlist for our 2nd novel of the year, Stargirl. The idea came to me the first year I did this book with my Resource Room. A very popular song at the time was “DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again” by Usher and it fit perfectly with Chapter 31. So perfectly, that I downloaded it and played it for my class. I asked them why it was a good song choice. Seeing their reaction (one quiet, backward boy actually got up and started dancing), I knew I was onto something. I quickly worked on a playlist that weekend and burned 11 CDs.

On the day before Christmas Break, I reenacted a scene in the novel where Stargirl leaves loose change around town for children to find; I left 11 pennies in random places around my room. I “charged” everyone one penny for their Christmas “gift.” And we spent the rest of that period listening to the playlist and discussing how each song fit in the novel. It was a hit.

The second year I taught the novel, I decided to take the playlist to a new level. First, I updated it to make it “current” and I set up my lesson plans to include the playing of tracks after the appropriate chapters. I created extended response prompts that required the students to reflect on the song, explain how it related to events of the chapter, and evaluate if the song was a good choice.

Below is my Stargirl playlist, which I still listen to regularly. It still brings back some great memories of some great moments in class.

“Stargirl” Playlist

Do you have a summer playlist? Are you taking a long road trip this summer (with 4 kids)?
Here is the “Carnival 2012” playlist, which I am now renaming “Myrtle Beach or Bust 2012”, if you need some inspiration.

“Myrtle Beach or Bust 2012” Playlist (1 hour and 30 minute playing time x 7 = approximately 11 hours in the car)

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