Introducing Early American Literature Time Period Background Information with Writer’s Notebooks, Doors of Wonder, and Station Rotations

If you teach a high school course that has traditionally leaned toward a survey type course of a particular canon of literature, you know that getting students interested in the background information can sometimes be a challenge. After only a few days with my students, I knew that a traditional lecture or time period overview even with engaging visually oriented slides was not a good fit for my learners, especially not this early in the academic year (this is week 2 for us).   In addition, my school is on a modified block, so mixing things up and giving students a chance to move about the room, collaborate, and providing them with both quiet times and active times of learning are essential to keeping students’ learning energy up for 90 minutes.

Because our Writer’s Notebook time is already a fixed part of our learning routine, I decided to give students an opportunity to read a map from our textbook that provided a snapshot of where different Native American nations lived on the North American continent.  I wanted to give them space to:

A.  read or interpret the map and make inferences

B.  make connections to prior knowledge

C.  ignite curiosity:  wonder and ask questions

Take a look at our notebook invitation

Because of the detail of the map, I projected the image on the board and provided students with a copy to look at more closely; once again, my beloved neon ticket holders are a great tool for delivering materials to students.  Once students in both my 11th ELA Honors and “on level’ courses had 10-12 minutes to write, students could volunteer to share something from their notebook.  While I am not a huge fan of extrinsic rewards, the reality is that at 7:30 AM, some students need a little incentive to speak up, so I offered bonus points on their work for the day if they chose to share.  With the exception of one class, the level of participation was excellent and may have encouraged some of my shyer students to speak out.  I was truly impressed with the depth and range of their thinking in their responses, and I think the students enjoyed hearing from each other as well.

We then put our notebooks aside, and students received a second graphic organizer.  I then explained that I had summarized the background information for our first few selections that we’ll read this week and next; I also explained that I had broken the information up into “chunks” with 8 different reading stations (also housed in the neon ticket holders/pouches).

Their job was to read the information and decide what the three most important ideas/concepts/facts were to record in their notetaking graphic organizer.  They could write more, but three was the minimum.  When they finished all eight stations, they were to re-read what they had recorded and then write what they felt were their three big takeways from all the readings.

  

 

Students worked approximately 35 minutes on the stations; they had the option to work alone or with a partner. Students also had the option to snap photos of each station so that they could work wherever they were if a station was crowded.

Only one class had time to do our Door of Wonder activity, inspired by Matt Griesinger at Moving Writers.  Our wonderings came from notebook entries; publishing our wonderings was important, especially since so many students chose to share them with the class during our share out time earlier.  For many students, these wonderings will be a path to a mini-inquiry project we’ll do after Labor Day.  The rest of my classes will publish to their door or wall of wonder tomorrow and Friday.

I love that our room is quickly filling up with learning artifacts from the students!  Stay tuned for the next post as we infuse Post-It notes, new reflection stations after we read three short Native American works of literature, QR codes, and more!

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