Monday, June 25, 2012

Low Prep DIfferentiated Literature

This is a student-centered approach to a literature study.  It works in a class where students are reading the same novel and it also works in a class where students are reading different novels in book groups or different novels related to a common theme.  Students can even participate and benefit from the activities on some level even if they haven't read as far as the scheduled assignments call for.  It's so simple I almost feel like I'm cheating when I use it in my classroom. 

Here's what the students do.  They choose three quotes from the novel that "speak to them."  We discuss what that means in class.  They also write three discussion questions after talking about what makes a good discussion question versus a comprehension question and looking at some examples and non-examples of good discussion questions.  If students are not all reading the same novel, they will have to provide some context for the quote and they may need more guidance to write discussion questions that are thematic or universal rather than specific to one story.  Then, as fits your calendar, the students share their quotes and discussion questions in class over several days.  I used clock partners to make sure they were talking to different students and getting different perspectives on the novel.  This requires a little flexibility if a clock partner is absent or unprepared, but it is very doable.  Students without a partner remained standing and found a discussion partner that way.  I also stepped in as a clock partner at times. 

What makes this differentiated content?  Students can read books at their ability level.  Students can write questions at their cognitive level.  Students who struggle with written expression can express themselves orally.  Students can pair with students at different levels of understanding.  Students who haven't quite completed the book can choose quotes and write questions from the part they have read and will hopefully become more motivated to finish the book by participating in the conversations in class.  Students get lots of input and lots of practice before completing a summative assessment. 

I used this approach with To Kill A Mockingbird.  Some students read an alternate novel, Words by Heart by Ouida Sebastyen, an easier book with remarkably parallel elements.  It worked like a charm!

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