To read the short story "Seventh Grade," I divided the class up in to three groups using a random group generator. I provided a link to the random group generator in the resources for this section. One group worked with my co-teacher, one group worked with my student teacher, and I worked with the remaining students. I am all about dividing and conquering. If you don't have a student teacher or co-teacher, you could use a student as a leader. If you have a camera, you can record that group and watch what they did later on.
I read the story aloud using a narrator/dialogue model. Each student was assigned a character and was responsible for reading that character's words aloud. I read the rest of the story aloud. The characters with an asterisk next tot heir names have the most dialogue. I also reminded students that Mr. Bueller and Victor would have to speak French, but we weren't going to be sticklers about pronunciation and I would help them out. I have found that reluctant readers are more willing to read aloud when they know they won't have to read a ton of dialogue. By dividing the students into two or three groups, every student was able to participate in this activity and I was able to hear every student read aloud. Using the narrator/dialogue model, the students are forced to pay attention because they don't know when their character will need to speak, at least for a cold read. If they have read it once, they are familiar with the text, which makes it less intimidating because the predictability is higher so fluency will be increased.
During the reading, I paused when we encountered a vocabulary word we had learned to discuss, model, or quiz the students on the meaning of the word. For example, when Michael tells Victor about scowling, I asked students to show me their best scowl. When Teresa lingers after class, I asked students to explain her behavior and motivation and even act out lingering. When Victor looks at Mr. Bueller sheepishly, I asked students to look at me sheepishly and explain he is sheepishly looking at his teacher.
There are times when it is beneficial to group students according to ability. There are other times when mixed ability groups are most wanted. That is one reason why I wholeheartedly support the inclusion model. If inclusion is done right, you have a mix of good, hard-working students along with reluctant learners. The reluctant learners have good role models, rather than being in a class of low-performing students who are often behavior problems.
When it doesn't matter what student is in what group, I like to use a random group generator. Last year I had a fantastic Excel document that had a page for each of my classes. Unfortunately, I managed to delete it. I could not find a link to that group generator, however, I did find another one from A6 Training that was developed by Dave Foord. I created a separate file for each of my classes, but it works just fine.
You should first enter all of your students' names for one class. You'll need to identify how many students you want in each group and it will magically sort the students into random groups for you. It's faster than using Popsicle sticks, and if you do it in front of students, they usually love it.
After reading "Seventh Grade," I asked students to respond to two specific questions. The first question was about basic understanding and vocabulary and the second question was about questions they had about the characters, plot, setting, conflict, and so forth. I used this paragraph as formative assessment to help me plan for the next day's literary analysis work.
This activity comes from my co-teacher and ties in to the Marzano six-step vocabulary. The sixth step is applying meanings through vocabulary games. This particular game is a competitive flashcard game.
We created six sets of flashcards. Each set has all of the words and all of the definitions on separate cards. Students worked in groups of three or four to match the definitions and words. You could also make more copies of the cards so students worked in groups of two, which would increase student activity.
Please see this video to see one group working on this activity. Please read the reflection to see how this game encouraged a student to participate, even thought he REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO.
I did this activity to provide my inclusion classes with more practice time to learn the vocabulary words. Yes, we did the definition shrinking activity. Yes, they made vocabulary tabs. Yes, they drew pictures and wrote examples of what the word is and isn't. For some students, however, it isn't enough. Some students didn't actually finish their tabs (yet). Some students were absent. Some students weren't actually paying attention. Some students have memory disabilities. This activity allows students to practice four times. The practice is perfect. They are using manipulative.
The best part of this lesson, however? It got all kids participating. K is a reluctant learner. A very reluctant learner. During the vocabulary shrinking, he needed a teacher right there to remind him what he should be doing. He hasn't finished his tabs. . .yet. He didn't want to participate in this activity, however, learning isn't an option. I made him take his turn. He got a few cards wrong and fixed them. He refused to give cards to the next student, claiming that he didn't get his turn yet. He continued to claim that he hadn't yet taken his turn. His group finished third, and even after they were done, took a second turn. He only missed one question on the text. That is success. No, it can't be measured using standardized data. But it is the best kind of success.