Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ms. Gross: The Distracted Student

Role-Playing Book Club Scenarios

Dear Readers,

I honestly and sincerely love this month of teaching between our Thanksgiving and Christmas break. There is something magical about this time of year. It is also the beginning of two of my favorite units in 6th and 7th grades. 

My 6th graders are starting book clubs next week. Over the past couple of years I have allowed my students to take ownership over their book clubs.


1. choose from a selection of books
2. decide on "group norms"
3. determine how many pages will be read and by what date
4. define roles (facilitator, time keeper, task master)
5. choose where in the room their group will meet


This year, one of the skills we are working on is summarizing. In preparation for doing this independently, we.....

1. discussed the difference between "retelling" and "summarizing"
2. identified what components would be appropriate for a summary
3. used a shared text that I modeled a summary

The next step was having them work together in their bookclubs to practice writing summaries. I wanted them to see how as we work our way through books, we summarize sections and do not always go back to the beginning. I divided the text and each group had a different part.

The students.......

1. reread their section of text
2. highlighted key components they would put in a summary
3. wrote notes to themselves, annotated the text
4. talked with their group about what to write
5. created a summary on chart paper for a gallery walk

After their summaries were complete, we hung them in the hall in order of the story and discussed.....

1. content of the summaries
2. the progression of the summaries as we traveled through the story

An important discussion we have is how to respectfully disagree with each other. A few ideas the Ss came up with were......

1. I see what you're saying, I have another idea..........
2. Thank you for sharing, it helped me consider a different perspective......
3. Let's go back to the text and reread.........

Students need to be taught skills and strategies for having meaningful, thoughtful discussions and know it is perfectly acceptable to have differing viewpoints. However, they never have the right to be disrespectful.

Our last piece of preparation was to discuss roles, particularly that of task master. I decided we do a little role-playing. I pulled up next to a student (who I knew would engage with me) and asked what choices we have in these situations.

A Peer Starts Talking to You During the Discussion

Me: So, _______, what are you doing this weekend?
S: Well, I am going to..........

I stopped us and asked what he could have done as the student. They said ignore me or tell him they are not going to engage in conversation. I also pointed out, I started the conversation, but I might see _____ engaged in side conversations. So who gets "caught"? They chuckled about that, probably making connections.

Then I asked him to engage in conversation with me. The role player of the task master was an incredibly quiet student who does not participate much in class discussions. (She just happened to be next to us.)

What Does the Task Master Do?

Me: So, _________, what are you doing this weekend?
S: Well, I am going to play.......
Me: Oh, that sounds like fun......

(Enter Task Master)
S quietly says: What are you guys doing?
Me: Talking about the weekend.
S: You need to get back on task.

She was adorable, she kind of flitted her hands when she asked what we were doing and spoke very quietly, yet sternly. It was a great way to involve a student who does not normally participate in that way.

We are ready to begin book clubs on Monday!

Final Thought

Students need to have ownership of their learning and it is essential they learn how to navigate collaborative relationships and how to work together. They have to know it is acceptable to disagree, but need the tools in order to be respectful to each other.

Teaching is fun! Get in their with them! I have been hearing a lot, "Boy this class goes by fast!" Coming from a middle school student who has admitted he does not particularly care for Language & Literature as a class, I can infer he feels engaged, is having fun and is not watching the clock. I take it as a compliment when I hear them say that.

Happy reading!