Thursday, January 15, 2015

Secondary Smorgasbord - "Out of the Deep Freeze with Activities that Sizzle"

Secondary Smorgasbord - Out of the Deep Freeze

One of the first lessons that we teachers learn on our side of the desk is –Always Expect the Unexpected.

  • Planning Periods we set aside for creating tomorrow’s character activity is preempted by an emergency meeting.
  • Sunday afternoon, one of our children is flattened by the flu, leaving the writing activity we were typing in Sleep Mode on the computer.
  •  On that dreary Friday afternoon we had designated as Independent Reading Day we have to scramble through our lesson files for a dynamite activity because the Principal has strolled in for an unannounced observation.
When the Unexpected barged into my best-laid teaching plans, I always feared that my brain would freeze and fizzle instead of swell and sizzle when I desperately needed an engaging activity that addressed reading comprehension, writing and critical thinking skills.

This trio of objectives-

  • Be prepared the unexpected,
  •  Save my weekends for my family and me, and
  •  Keep a folder of flexible and sizzling activities
The House of Comprehension
led me to create a packet of activities that focused used the elements of literature as my vehicle to explore the basic benchmarks I mentioned in the last paragraph. Originally called Get R.E.A.L Reinforcing Elements for Literature, Compass Publishing saw it and asked me to turn it into a complete teaching program, The House of Comprehension (HOC), so my colleagues in the classroom would always be ready to Expect the Unexpected.

The sizzle starts with three charts that I always find crucial to planning a unit that will engage students and hook any administrative observer.

Timing of Activities

The House of Comprehension Timing of Activities p. 1The House of Comprehension Timing of Activities p. 2


Unit Structure Chart
This is a Sample; the book offers a blank chart for teachers.

The House of Comprehension Unit Structure

Activities Plan
This is a Sample; the book offers a blank chart for teachers.

The House of Comprehension Activities Plan

These three charts, along with the Common Core Anchor Standards and Bloom’s Taxonomy suggestions detailed on every Teacher Notes page, form the foundation to any literature unit I create. Once I detail the particulars on them, I choose the activities that I will use from the 40 printables offered in HOC.  Each activity includes a Teacher Note page that explains the Who, What, When, Why and How for each lesson. The open-ended aspect of the activities offers challenges to all secondary students. The Contents page shows the complete structure of the book.

The House of Comprehension Table of Contents

Even when I don’t need to plan a unit, I know that on a day when an unexpected cold settles in my head, or the period is shortened due to a sleet storm, I can open The House of Comprehension and find an activity that will pull my students and me from the literal and figurative deep freeze and into the warmth of learning.

Also, not only are the activities in HOC flexible enough to fit any text-fiction or narrative non-fiction- but they also  coerce my brain to leave the deep freeze for the heat that comes while creating a new lesson.

Thank you Pamela Krantz and Darlene Anne Curran for showing The House of Comprehension the way out of the deep freeze.

Happy Teaching,