The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers
I’ve blogged about all the work that goes into launching our historical fiction genre study before here, here, and here – it’s probably my favorite genre, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to frame the unit, and then actually launching and conducting it. Sometimes, I wonder if all the time spent is truly worthwhile; it always comes right before testing season, and I can’t help but notice that we are reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” while the sixth graders next door are up to their eyeballs in test prep. These days, our evaluations are based in large part on the scores our students receive in their NJASK – a sense of self preservation tells me to cut back on the HF unit and spend more time prepping for the test…but my other self, my real teaching self, says, “NO! This is more important – this is what they will remember!” So, I listen to that second self. I suppose I may well come to regret this IF my scores-based evaluation number sinks next year … but I’m going to borrow Scarlett O’Hara’s philosophy: I’ ll think about that tomorrow.
…meanwhile, in our classroom, we have listened to book talks, decided on our book club books, and are preparing for our first meetings on Thursday. This year, we are going digital. Each book club group has their own blog with resources and the initial questions up and ready for viewing, thinking, and responding to. Here’s what that looks like for one of our selections, Nory Ryan’s Song:
During our readaloud, we stopped often to learn about “events taking place in the time frame”, and found that what we learned deepened our understanding of the book, and made us feel much more involved in the story and invested in the characters. There was a sort of parallel learning going on – part literary, and part historical – that knit together for a rich reading experience. Often, a question was raised and we would turn to the internet for a quick history fact check or clarification, and that would help us form better theories about the story or the character’s progress. So, I thought that these book blogs would function as a way to set my kids up with resources to practice doing the same in a more independent way. The blog also allows them to begin the conversation before they meet – to jump start theories and questions before they meet face to face. I plan to print out these “conversations” for their meetings on Thursday to serve as reference points that would sound like: “remember when you said…?” , “what did you mean when you wrote…?”
By this morning, a few of my students had already jumped in (these book blogs went live on Friday afternoon – they work fast, my sixth graders!) to comment on what they had learned and how they thought this new learning would help them “get” their stories. Some, who are reading “The Devil’s Arithmetic”, had already done their research into the following posted sources: