Wednesday, July 28, 2010


One thing I'm REALLY struggling with, particularly with 1984, is the scaffolding. How much should I do? What should I do? For example, our page 1 includes the first two paragraphs of the novel. The words that I expect my students will not know (lift, varicose ulcer) are easily defined through context. But... it's more than that.

I guess... I guess I expect that students will start my class with no idea how to read a work that challenges them. Not that they won't know how to study it... how to find out what happened and who did it. But when you read at or below your level, you can easily get pulled into the story and swept along. Immersed, as it were.

Reading above your level, there's more of a push-pull. You have to be able to recognize when you don't get the significance of a phrase or sentence, even if you know all the words. And you have to be able to pull away from the work just enough to figure it out while not losing your connection so that when you go back in you've still got that "flow," or at least return to it without having to re-read the entire chapter.

First lesson of the unit plan behind the cut.

Day 1 - Begin with a quickwrite, as always: Which is more important - freedom, or friends & family? Yes, obviously, both of them ARE important. But if you had to rank them, which one matters more, and why?

The essential question is also already on the board: How do you read a challenging book?

Students who get done ahead of everyone else should read their SSR books while others finish writing.

Once about half the class is reading, or when we're ten minutes into the period or so, I'll begin the day's read-aloud. Now usually I flip-flop between poetry and YA (something I can rec for SSR) but today I'm going to read chapter two from How to Read Novels Like a Professor. This is the chapter about beginnings, and how in good books, the beginning of the book tells us what to expect, and what's important, and how to read the rest of the book.

Next, I'll go over the day's objectives and which standards they relate to:

  1. Students will use details from the beginning of 1984 to create hypotheses about theme, purpose, character development, and later events in the plot. [GA10RL1, RL2, and RC3]
  2. The silent objective - I'm not actually going to SAY this to them - By putting effort into analysis and interpretation and experiencing success as a result of their effort, students will be aware of the work required but also invested in the novel, and thus more motivated to persevere through difficulty. This doesn't connect with any standards, but eff that. It's important, so there.
Hopefully we're about twenty minutes into the period at this point.

Now we start the "lesson" segment. I'll have several first sentences that I'll put up on my SMARTBoard - choosing, let's say, from Pride and Prejudice, Huck Finn, Great Expectations, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Little Women, Anna Karenina, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Paradise, Moby Dick, The Call of the Wild, Mrs. Dalloway, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird... oh dear. I'll have to narrow that down. But they're all such good openers! It'll be tough.

Innyhoo, I'll have the students select one of the titles, and then I'll click through to the first line. And I'll read it out loud, and think it through (also out loud), saying what my predictions are, and explaining the reasons behind them.

Next I'll have them pick another title, and click through to the first line of that one. This time, I'll mention details that stick out to me, and ask the students what might be interesting/unusual/possibly significant about that. [I'm a little uncertain about how to do this - what I have here feels a little too much like playing "Guess What the Teacher Is Thinking!" and I don't like that.]

Then they'll pick a title, I'll click through, and I'll ask them to pick out the details AND make predictions.

Then I'll have them pick partners (with the possibility of one group of 3 if there's an odd number of students in the class) and I'll hand out a list of questions - Where will this take place? When? What is it like in that place and time? What can you tell about the narrator? What kind of story will this be? What sort of problems might the main character(s) face? What ideals/objects/people might be important to the main character(s)? (etc) - for which they might be able to hypothesize an answer based on the first line. This time *I* will choose the titles - three of them - and each pair will discuss the first lines and try to make predictions. So I'll really only use six titles. Thirty-five minutes in as a full class; another fifteen in pairs puts us at fifty minutes.

We'll reconvene to discuss our observations and analysis for five minutes. Based on what they come up with I'll have to decide how much more instruction and support will be needed.

At this point (55/90) I'm going to depart from our typical schedule and have them read their SSR books (usually that's our closer). Thinking this hard is tough, and we're not done for the day, so we need a breather. While they're reading, I'm going to BREAK THE LAW and walk around passing out copies of 1984 and marking down who has which book number. Fortunately that'll only take a few minutes & then I get to read too. Yey!

Seventy minutes in: I'll give them a printout of the first three pages' worth of 1984. I'll read the first line; we'll analyze it. I'll read the first paragraph - ditto. I'll read the second paragraph - ditto. Seven paragraphs, through the three slogans of the Party (they appear on page 6 but the first chapter starts on page 3).

For homework, they should read through page 12, stopping at the beginning of the flashback, and do a lexicographer chart (three-column chart: column 1, copy out a sentence w/an unfamiliar word, underline the word, include parenthetical citation; column 2, your guess at what the word means; column 3, your rationale. Ten words.)

I'll be updating this from day to day as I work on it. I haven't decided if I'm going to add my edits to this post or make new posts for the revisions. Actually I think I like that idea better; it'll be nice for when I look back on it, so that I can see the progression of my ideas.

Image thanks to


OKP said...

I've done paragraph modeling before, and this is a variation you might like to use throughout, not just at the beginning.

Using a document camera or an overhead or whatever technology you have at your disposal, read a paragraph out loud (or a partial p'grph, since 1984 has large ones sometimes), stopping anywhere to think out loud.

Move through the problem and the solution, or the question and a possible answer.

"The clocks are striking thirteen? Is this a realistic story? This is going to be weird. I will have to go back to this line. It might be important."
"What does that word mean [underline it]? I'll need to look that up."
"What's made Winston willing to rebel? Maybe something in his past?"
"Oh, I see. Everything's the opposite: The Ministry of Truth tells nothing but lies."
"This passage reminds me of..."


Then ask for a volunteer to read the next one and do the same. No interruptions during the read and think-aloud.

When that's done, talk about the passage and then the process as a class, answer questions.

Put them in partners, or have them choose, give them a stopping place, and walk around listening to their reading and thinking out loud. After each partner has taken a turn, they can tlak to each other about the passage.

You can meet as a class at any time to talk together about the passage, finding commonalities, differences, questions, etc. After a few practices (with same or different partners) the kids are on it, and they generate class discussion like nobody's business. You can expand groups to three or four when you want a longer passage read and digested.

The in-class practice takes time and patience, but the reward for me has often been students general improvement in being able to analyze works better when asked to go solo or read at home. They need to internalize the habits of good readers, and this is one way to externalize it first.

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