Those of you who have followed my work in the past five years know I am a huge fan of Harvey Daniels’ written conversation strategies. Today I decided to take anticipation guide prompts/quotes and incorporate them into a write-around with my 12th ELA Honors seniors as a fun way to kick off our first day back from winter break plus introduce some of the major themes of Macbeth focused on power, tyranny, and ambition. Because I have not taught Macbeth nearly ten years, I used this wonderful set of thought-provoking quotes as my “prompts” for the write-around.
I printed and taped my quotes into my handy manuscript tablets and then placed them on tables and table groups around the room; there were ten stations in all. I then introduced the concept of a write-around to my students and reviewed the protocols with them:
Once we reviewed the procedures, students wrote silently and made approximately three passes at every station for about 23-25 minutes.
I then assigned groups of 2 and 3 students to each station. Each pair or group of three had these six questions to answer:
- Step 1: What do you and your group members think the statement/quote means?
- Step 2: Do you and your group members agree or disagree with the quote? Why? If you cannot come to an agreement, record each group member’s response.
- Step 3: Look at all the responses at your station. If you had to categorize or summarize them into three categories, what would they be?
- Step 4: What is the most interesting response written at your station? Why?
- Step 5: What is one question your group has about the quote?
- Step 6: What is one connection you and group can make between this quote and either modern society/current events or something you have studied or read about?
Students took about 15 minutes to discuss and record their responses to these six questions with their partner or partners. We then did a large group share out with each pair or small group presenting their reflections to the entire class.
The activity generated some terrific discussion and was a wonderful “re-entry” into the new semester. After all groups had presented, each student received a copy of all 10 quotes from the write-around silent conversation stations and then completed individual questions using these prompts:
As we move through the play, we’ll revisit these quotes and periodically reflect on how our interpretations of the statements may change based on the events in Macbeth. As always, I find the write-around one of the most flexible and meaningful learning structures I’ve used in the last five years and in my 25 years of teaching. If you are interested or want to learn more, you can read Harvey’s book as well as my extensive series of blog posts that feature how I’ve used the strategies across different learning contexts and subject areas.