I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Close Reading with "The Night I Won the Rights..."

We've spent most of the start of the year prepping...

Students (hopefully) now know WHY...

Why do we need to read?
Why do we need to write?
Why do we need to be respectful of one another?
Why do we need to seize every day as if it was our last?

We had been building community for 10 days. It was time to get started now on the tough stuff. I was asking students to READ today - on their OWN! ;-)

Here was the full plan:

“The Night I Won the Right to the Streets of Memphis”
– By Richard Wright
Lessons for today:
1.   Re-reading a passage over and over again helps you notice intricacies in an author’s message. This is called “close reading.”
2.   Participating in discussions (when on-topic) will help you understand the reading selection even more.
Step 1: Read the story silently, annotating in the margins.

Step 2: Listen to the story being read aloud, annotating more.

Step 3: Answer – What did you notice in the second reading that you didn’t notice in the first?

Step 4: Come up with a question regarding the text, and ask it of the class.

Step 5: Read the story for a third time, with a partner or two other people. Jot down strong verbs, or phrases that catch your attention. Next to these words or phrases, jot down - Why do these grab your attention? What is it about them that makes you notice them?

Step 6: Listen to the last paragraph being read aloud again. What do you notice about this paragraph? Jot it down, and be ready to share.

**Is there anything else you’d like to ask or any observations you’d like to share?**

Step 7: On your own, answer each of these questions.
1)  How does the boy’s attitude change from the beginning of the reading, to the end of the reading? Use examples from the text to support your answer.

2)  Is the conflict resolved? Do you think the boy “won the right to the streets of Memphis” as the last line states?   Use examples from the text to support your answer.
* When you finish, put a star by the question you would want graded, and leave it open on your desk for Mrs. Kirr to see. You may then read quietly.

These were connected to our Common Core State Standards for reading literature in grade 7. My absolute favorite step was Step 4 - I could've stayed on this step the rest of the period! During this step, students were asked to come up with a question related to the text, but not a "right there" question. The answer had to be hidden in the text somewhere... Some questions were stellar, and really had the students going back to the text to support their answers.

[2014 modification: Students came up with three questions, shared them with a partner, then chose their favorite of the six questions. These questions (on sticky notes) were put on the board, and we discussed which we'll never know the answer to, which we could probably figure out, and which we already sort of knew. Then, as a class, we voted on the one we wanted to discuss. Two out of three classes came up with the same question as in the video below, "How old was the boy in this story?"

2015 modification: Check out the lesson on this Google presentation. Students could either answer one of their own questions at the end of class, or one of the "teacher" questions. We moved to a part of the room that would be our answer, tried to defend it, and moved to a different corner if we changed our minds because of something a peer said.]

Finding text support was one goal for students. I had a goal for myself, as well - stay out of it! I was going to be that "guide on the side" teachers are always talking about. I've had lots of practice at this since December of 2011, but I wanted students to recognize at the end of this lesson how I was just a facilitator. I made sure when we were finished that I never told any student he/she was wrong, and I never told anyone he/she was right, either. After all - am I the author of the piece?? We were building more community - for all of us together are better than one of us.

The lesson went so well all day long; I had to document the last class - and here is a snippet...

[2014 - This year we actually researched how old he was when he experienced this. Students were amazed at how old he was!]
[2016 - The questions students decided to have a fishbowl discussion this year all revolved around the mother's decision. 1-Would you agree with the mother's actions? 2-Did the mom change him for better or worse?/Is this way of disciplining right or wrong? 3-Was the mom right or wrong to want him to fight?/Did his mother do the right thing for her son?]

1 comment:

  1. Joy, wonderful! Thanks for making your learning visible regarding close reading of this rich and complex text. I'm sure it's a story your students will remember, and a lesson your blog readers will value.

    Black Boy was a favorite of mine. It is in the public domain and on Archives.org as an audio book and a downloadable e-reader book too.

    I'm so glad you are sharing the joy of learning--your students' and your own--with the world, Joy!