Monday, March 19, 2012

Fiction vs Non-Fiction How Do You Find A Balance In Your Classroom?

Once upon a time, there was a teacher who had a magic clock.  Everyday, she would carefully take the polished brass clock down from the classroom wall and whisper the secret words (they are no, I am not telling them to you)  Gently, she would hang the clock back on the wall before her students arrived for the day.  This clock adjusted time during the school her exactly the right amount of time she needed to complete all of her activities, and still send the students home promptly at the end of the day.   Don't we all wish that we had a magic clock?  But, we don't, so the struggle begins to figure out how to include time in our teaching day for extended reading of fiction and non-fiction content materials while still meeting all the other content standards we are responsible for.

Here is my secret for "time stretching".
First, begin to plan your units on a web rather than a linear unit plan.  Put your main theme in the middle. Around it add specific content area standards you will address in the unit. From there, look at ways to integrate rich reading experiences. This may include finding a fiction book that has a theme, setting, plot line or character that connects to your content standards.  Then, look beyond your textbooks for content based textual reading for your students.  Sources include websites, e-zines, traditional magazines, and Infohio Gale Data bases.   Use a combination of reading strategies to expose students to the broadest range of materials.  I used jigsaw reading, providing a selection of 4-5 articles on a similar topic.  Students worked out of a "home group" with each student choosing a different article.  They then grouped with students who had read the same article to talk about key points and discuss questions or ideas they had while reading. They get back together with their" home group" to each share again.  This encourages Close Reading.  What other reading strategies can you think of to use with your class?  You can even extend the web planning idea to include related standards for other content areas.  I worked with the English teacher on my team to plan an integrated science unit on genetics around the novel Ghost Boy by Ian Lawrence.  The lead character has Albanism. The supporting characters, members of a circus freak show, exhibit a variety of other genetic disorders. The novel was a good starting point for lessons on genetic mutation. In addition, we looked at biodiversity and ethics.  The ELA teacher focused on the strong character development, identifying plot conflict and descriptive language.  The unit also included a research project that covered standards for ELA and science. Students were given credit in both of our classes.

Here is a sample of a unit web using a 4th grade Social Studies Topic - Heritage.  The book and article resources surround the colored standards.

Article Resources

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