This lesson is the second lesson of a pair of lessons utilizing Malcolm X's "A Homemade Education" as a bridge between early and contemporary texts, as a practice for close reading, and as an activity to make group collaboration increasingly successful throughout the year. With regard to the school year, these lessons occur in the first unit of literature study, which focuses on literature of the early Americans: Native Americans, explorers, slaves, and colonists. Since it's the first unit, we're still building a foundation for each student's individual learning path, practicing what reading means under the Reading Apprenticeship model, and navigating the dynamics of successful, productive group collaboration. As I mentioned in the first lesson of this pair, I strongly believe in using this text at this point in the year, because it allows my class to experience genuine thought, open discussion, diverse perspectives, self reflection, and contemporary connection to build a stronger community of learners.
At the end of the first lesson in this set, students were to individually complete their observational report (which was due at the start of class today) and finish working through the fourth page of "A Homemade Education" with their groups on the collaborative Google Doc tracking thoughts and practices about vocabulary, reading strategies, and connections while listing questions students have about the text. The Common Core's speaking skills require students to actively work in groups to achieve a goal while navigating group dynamics, so group work is an important part of my classroom. To emphasize the importance of working with groups to achieve a task, I incorporate formative group assessment where groups have the opportunity to give their teammates feedback which will help to improve their performance. Students will have the opportunity to complete feedback on this first formal group activity next time, so I remind them often to be the group-member they want to have in their groups!
Today, students will review group work from last night and then continue the process of analyzing "A Homemade Education" within their groups. We will continue to pause periodically as a class to ensure that all students have the opportunity to share their findings and use other groups' feedback as a way to deepen their own learning. Before the group work finishing the excerpt, I will ask the students to formulate responses to "extended thinking" questions, and for homework they will continue their exploration of present-day illiteracy by watching a presentation and completing both a response sheet and a brief collaborative activity using Padlet and requiring them to synthesize their own solutions for supplementing literacy.
For bell work today, I will give students two objectives. The first will be to ensure that their Observational Reports are appropriately labeled as "Observational Report (date)" in their Google Folder, which has been shared with me. Since we are still working through our district's transition to 1:1 devices using Chromebooks, students are still having issues remembering to digitally turn in their work in the correct avenues. At this point, I've developed an analogy for students to demonstrate that work not placed in the shared folder is inaccessible to me, much like if they were to turn in pencil-and-paper documents under my file cabinets instead of handing it to me. In either case, the work not placed in the shared folder or given to me would be graded as late (or given a 0 if students never remedied the issue). I have had more success with this analogy than my previous pleas about the matter, so I'm crossing my fingers that students will remember this moving forward.
The second objective will be for groups to open their collaborative "Malcolm X" project (in a shared Google Doc) to evaluate their work on the project so far, addressing each group member's section of the three-columned document and noting areas of strengths and weaknesses. In order to facilitate close group work, I have arranged the seating chart in "pods" of three desks. In assigning seats, I used results from a Multiple Intelligence Survey and a Canfield Learning Styles Inventory to place students in pods with other students demonstrating similar learning preferences. In the resources for this section, I included an Excel workbook which automatically translates the data for you just by copying the results from your Google Spreadsheet (generated from the Canfield Inventory form), pasting it into the first page of the Excel workbook, and using the arrows on the third page to see results which are extremely high, moderately high, about average, moderately less, and much less than peers. In addition to grouping students using learning preferences, I also split up students that typically work together or are friends outside of class for easier classroom management and to ensure that students are more accountable for group work while practicing the skills necessary to navigate complex group interaction, conflict, and diverse perspectives called for by the Common Core.
After taking attendance, I will also pull up the shared "Malcolm X" reading logs of each group on my computer. Google Docs shows an icon when anyone is viewing a document, so students are aware of my presence on their document. From a classroom management perspective, opening their documents gives me several advantages. First, our school is often contending with students using "chat" boxes within Google Docs to communicate about matters other than the task at hand, and sometimes, about matters which are inappropriate for school. Since I am also in the document, I have access to the chat history as well, limiting this kind of distraction. Another benefit of having these documents already loaded is that I can stop by my desk and spend just a few seconds tabbing through them to see immediately where each student is at with their work, noting when students are lagging behind their peers or failing to contribute. Groups can also use the chat windows to log questions for me while their group is working, and I can respond to them while I monitor their work. This is a particularly helpful option for groups that have general questions which are not pressing or are shy and would likely not ask a question otherwise.
Group Building Reflection (10 minutes)
After students have had time to assess their progress as groups, I will transition the class into a discussion about the collaborative process as a whole-class. I will ask a series of questions to group, eliciting participation from groups that volunteer to contribute to discussion. In order to ensure all groups participate in this reflection, I will call on group members for their feedback on these questions if their group has not participated near the middle or end of my line of questions. The question-progression that I will use will be:
Malcolm X Homework Discussion (25 minutes)
After groups have had the time to give their opinions and reflect on their group work, we will move on to talking about what each group logged about the remainder of the "A Homemade Education" reading assignment. Each group had to assign a group member with a Vocabulary Tracker, Reading Monitor, or Connector/Questioner, so I will use this to propel my discussion forward. For example, all of my 11th-grade classes have between 30 and 33 students in them, so when I ask questions, I will reference the role that would have most certainly logged information about that particular question. If few or no hands are raised to offer their opinions, I can easily say at any time that I'm sure 10 or 11 students have information written on their log about that topic since they were assigned to complete that role! Any student is more than welcome to offer comments or opinions, but the students in those roles will be more "on the hook" than their peers are. This will balance out the discussion participants and propel conversation forward. As the discussion moves on (and the year progresses), I will have to revert to this strategy less often to get participation. I don't enjoy calling on students that don't volunteer, but with the reading logs there to give them ideas as to what to say, it lessens the anxiety they may feel about this.
During the discussion, all student comments and questions must be supported by page numbers, which are given when they offer their point for class discussion. Students will start comments or questions with "on page..." so that the whole class can turn or scroll to that page to read the section of text their peer is referring to while listening to the comment or question. When comments are given or questions are asked, I will turn the ideas back to the class to let them respond to the comments with their own opinions and answer the questions with information they have discovered. My primary role in these discussions will be as a moderator. The base questions I will ask to guide this discussion are:
Students typically bring up the salient points I want to address throughout this text, but if they do not, I will make sure that the following questions are also asked:
Once this discussion is complete, I will give the students time to complete reading and logging the text with their group.
During the final section of group close reading and discussion, students will be continuing the same practices that they have used throughout this exploration. Whatever job students were previously assigned within their group (Vocabulary Tracker, Reading Monitor, or Connector/Questioner), they will continue to do. I will emphasize to students that moving desks to facilitate an oral reading of the text and frequent discussion is the absolute best way to complete each team member's role since they will be able to capture the thoughts, processes, and questions of their peers instead of relying on their own internal reading styles. Before they begin reading with the group, I will also give them some additional thinking questions for this last round of group reading.
While groups work through this section of the text, I will alternate between circulating through the classroom to interact with groups on their journey and checking in on progress on the open collaborative documents on my computer. If groups stray from the task, I will engage the group on an individual basis by joining in their discussion. I also may send a chat message to groups to ask if I can help them or if they had questions that were stalling their progress.
As groups begin to finish their group work, I assign the homework for next time (in the "Next Steps" section). When all groups have finished their close reading and logs, I will again open up the classroom to discussion to review their impressions on what they read and thoughts on the questions from the "Application" section. As always, my progression of questions will begin with the same set of questions:
After groups have weighed in on this last section of text, I will ask another set of questions if students have not already brought up and discussed their responses to them earlier.
At the conclusion of the discussion, students will have the opportunity to get a start on their homework, which is explained in the "Next Steps" section.
Student responses to the essay are extremely interesting to watch unfold in discussion, which is one of the really awesome opportunities that the Common Core Standards' focus on speaking and listening skills allows to happen more frequently in the classroom. Some students will vehemently argue that his words and beliefs reflect a point of view that is narrow-minded or too strongly worded. Others will cite the extra information provided about Malcolm X from the videos and their own research while reading to show that his viewpoints were contextually appropriate and ultimately changed by his death. In all cases, however, students will use textual evidence (or evidence from the supplemental multimedia sources) to support their viewpoints, so it's really a win-win situation. Calling for evidence to support opinions really helps to build an open space where students can express themselves and safely contribute ideas to the group, even if they are not widely shared. The focus on providing evidence to support an analysis helps students to steer away from arguing with classmates or classmates being "wrong," and it instead makes them focus on arguing with the validity of the text using other statements from it, making discussions about potentially volatile subject matter more scholarly and less emotional. This was an epic win today!
At the end of the hour, students will have completed all of the reading and associated reading log, which I will review for genuine thought, effort, and a demonstration of understanding for the directions. Since this is the first project like this for my students, I will comment on each team member's thought, effort, and completion via email to ensure confidentiality (instead of making personal comments on the group document) and use it as a formative assessment of skill rather than a summative one. At the start of the next class period, students will evaluate themselves and each group member for their contribution to the group using the Team Member Evaluation Form, and this will also be used to offer feedback to team members to improve future performance.
For homework, students will be investigating current literacy trends further and will learn more about the different types of literacy by watching a Literacy in America Presentation while completing an Individual Literacy in America Investigation Handout. The presentation will explain more about the types of literacy, but it will also ask students to make predictions, use a graph to determine information, and synthesize ideas to improve different literacy skills. Like the in-class project, this form requires students to directly tie evidence from materials they are studying with their inferences and ideas, which is a major focus of the Common Core Standards. Moving forward, students will continually see the demand for evidence to support their viewpoints and analyses to continue practicing and addressing this requirement. The handout also requires that students post their suggestions on the "Improving Literacy Padlet." I made the mistake of creating only one board for 5 classes, but quickly regretted this! I would recommend that you make a board for each class or explicitly tell students to scroll down or over to place their comments in a new space rather than over other suggestions. My board for this looked like a Post-It explosion! Ultimately, they will be using the information from this board to create a plan to improve their own literacy skills.