Integrate, Model, Connect
You might be asking yourself what The Walking Dead, Quiet Power and Scrooge have in common. If you were in my classroom over the past couple of weeks you would know they all are excellent examples for theme development. We have been practicing responding to literature in different ways. Even though the task was to write a thematic essay, I took a different approach than I have in the past.
The Walking Dead
I hung a few photos of The Walking Dead on a whiteboard and just listened as the students came in.
- I love that show!
- I know everything about The Walking Dead!
- Oh no, do we have to watch it?
- I hate that show, it's so gross!
- What if we have never seen it?
- Are we writing about it?
I am always looking for ways to integrate their worlds into instruction. In thinking about theme, what better example of survival than The Walking Dead? It was something they were all familiar with, regardless if they watched it on a regular basis or not.
In small groups, they "brain dumped" everything they knew and drew out sketchnotes. We then discussed them as a large group. The next step was to take all the sketchnotes from the four groups and categorize using different text structures to create revised sketchnotes. The goal was to have them think broad and then narrow their thinking with examples and evidence.
Additionally, it also provided a platform for practicing empathy. How would you feel if you woke up and the world had completely changed? What if you did not know where your family was? How would you feel, as a parent, if your child was bitten and had to be killed?
Believe it or not, it led to an extremely interesting science discussion. Everyone has the genetic mutation to become a zombie. A student made a connection to the plane crash that forced survivors to look to those who had passed away as a food source. Why would that never be possible on the show?
Integrating what they know with what they need to learn is a powerful combination.
Some of you may know I love my anchor charts. I consider the walls in our classroom to be "living" and I am constantly changing the resources I hang on them. The models, mini-lessons and anchor charts develop independent thinkers, learners and teachers. I decided to write my thematic essay on introverts.
This also provided me an amazing opportunity to discuss learning and/or personality styles, the differences and similarities between introverts and extroverts. I chose my text evidence and analysis carefully so I could also use it as a teaching opportunity.
When we write with our students in real time and model our thinking, they feel success because they can do it too.
Me to a Student: If you use your thought prompts, it will guide you to analysis.
Another Student: Yeah, they really do.
As they develop a thematic essay using A Christmas Carol, conferencing is essential to building confident writers. Those 1:1 conversations help me teach to their strengths and gives them a safe environment to ask for help.
Showing students how everything connects, makes their learning purposeful and transferable.
I keep a notebook they can access as a resource as well. Anything in my notebook is for their use. When they see me as a writer, they see themselves as writers as well