I’ve been blogging quite a bit this year about the English Curriculum my team is writing.
- I shared an overview of our goals and methods here.
- I shared some examples of how we’re approaching vocabulary here.
- I shared some examples of the ‘sensitivity analysis’ questions we use for Close Reading here.
- I reflected on why we believe in basing our curriculum on shared books and using lots of oral reading here.
- I wrote at least a little about choosing books here.
- I wrote at least a little about the three types of writing we intended to try to use here.
So many colleagues have expressed interest in learning more that I thought I’d share a couple of sample lessons so you could see how a typical session plays out in full. Since The Giver is arguably my all time favorite work of youth fiction I thought I’d share some examples from our unit on it- though i am also choosing the book because Jen Rugani, who’s been the lead developer on the book, has done such an exceptional job.
Here then is the first lesson from The Giver. The first document is the packet that students work in. The second is the teacher-facing lesson plan.
Some things to notice about the Packet
PDF Here: (1- The Giver Student Packet_ pages 1-6)
Lots of (Low Stakes) Writing: Students write constantly in short manageable bursts… often at low stakes such as in the Do Now where they start by thinking in writing with no wrong answers–a good example of a formative prompt… don’t worry- we’ll balance it with more summative prompts too.
Vocab: We chose words that were especially useful in analyzing the book so kids could start using them productively. Our approach to vocabulary is knowledge-based. We start with the definition and then practice using the words in different contexts.
Embellishments: Notice the pictures of the two jets? The people singing a hymn? We’re constantly adding tiny pieces to build background knowledge.
Embedding: Speaking of knowledge, we add short nonfiction texts every lesson to build deeper background knowledge and ensure students read lots of nonfiction.
Annotation: When students read on their own there’s an annotation task so they mark the text up for a specific purpose and are engaged and attentive.
Developmental Writing: Like so many of you, we’re big fans of Judith Hochman’s The Writing Revolution. You’ll see lots of Hochman-inspired writing exercises designed to build students mastery of the art of and tools for writing great sentences.
Some things to notice about the Lesson Plan
PDF Here: (1- The Giver Lesson Plan_ pages 1-6)
Content Driven Objective: The goal is to understand something important about the book. Different types of questions–inferences, say, get asked in the service of that goal. They are not the objective themselves.
Teacher Friendly: Plain talk and a limited amount of text so it;s easy to use!
Reading Three Ways: Students read aloud, teachers read to students and students read silently. Teachers have significant leeway to decide how much of each is the right balance for their class.
Key Questions: The key icon tells you which questions we think are most important so you can make choices of what to drop if (well, when) you’re short on time.
Homework Options: Schools and teachers have different philosophies about what kind of homework and how much. So we always give teachers options. One option is always to complete things from the days lesson. Or to re-read. Or to do retrieval practice. And there’s also a new assignment you can give- usually with some writing,
Key Ideas: most of the text is things to notice about the book versus things to do and say. This is because all of the things to do and say are written pretty clearly in the packet so you don;t have to keep them in your head. You just have to think deeply about the work students do. The Key Ideas jog your memory and make sure you don’t miss something important… or spend all lesson worried that you will.
No lesson is exactly characteristic of the whole so I thought I’d share a second example. This one, Lesson 9, focuses a little bit more on Close Reading, Jen notes–something we value deeply and do in a distinctive way.
PDF Here (9- The Giver Student Packet_ pages 74-81)
You’ll notice similar vocabulary tasks. Lots of writing. More annotation tasks. But also lots and lots of questions about specific sentences- what they mean and how their meaning is made. There’s lots of Sensitivity Analysis but also lots of other slow reading such as explaining what “a crescendo of united enthusiasm” means and explaining “Who or what is “relieved from discomfort” in a line on page 74,
We hope you enjoy these samples as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them. Our hope is to have 24 book units (6 per grade level, 5-8) with daily lessons ready for next school year and 10 per grade level by the following year.
Look for more updates here.