Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Make the Most of May with this Independent Novel Study Plan

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
These lessons students want to complete
When the crazy testing schedules of May
Cause learning to take a back seat.
(Thanks to Lewis Carroll for his Jabberwocky inspiration)

Between  A.P. exams and the state standards of learning tests, May is a crazy month to teach. In my three decades teaching at the secondary level, every day anywhere from three-fifteen students missed English class due to the testing schedule. Plus, my colleagues and I had to monitor tests during our "Free" periods. Keeping teenagers inspired and the learning momentum smooth while maintaining my sanity made this month of May not so very merry.

Reaing Comprehension - Making The Most of May
Before I created Making the Most of May, trying to teach that one final required novel unit before the school year ended, while making sure that all of the students were up-to-date with their class work, was nearly impossible. 

I likened it to putting a straw hat upside down on the floor, tossing 25 balls in the air and waiting to see which ones made it into the hat without my being clobbered.

With this independent study plan, though, students are responsible for completing the assignments and projects and for being prepared with the work that they have finished for the mini-conferences. This enables them to be the leaders of their learning while the teacher takes an advisory roll.

The lessons and activities included in this packet ensure that the learning doesn't stop just because test review and reinforcement is done. Plus, students not only know that their fourth quarter grade is dependent on their work, but also they truly are engaged and inspired because they chose what to read and what assignments to complete.

The flexible plan takes absences due to testing into consideration, too, since students choose the novel that they will study, and they also create a daily reading and writing calendar that coincides with their scheduled exams and the teacher’s due dates. This creates a learning environment that engages students and promotes responsibility.  

To begin, teachers have two options. They may select six to eight grade-level novels from the book room for students to choose to read - up tp 4 students may opt to read the same book, or students may choose a book that meets the teacher's length and genre requirements. 

Once this aspect of the unit is completed, students will set their reading and activity completion schedules.The required activities included in the packet are:

  1. General Novel Packet with four aspects: Book Notes, Plot Diagram, Memorable Quotes and Theme worksheets
  2. Full-length Projects or Essays 
  3. Group Project: Threads-Making Connections.

Making the Most of May p.6
Making the Most of May p.9
Making ther Most of May p.4
Making the Most of May p.5

Every day the students will either 

  • read for half of the period, or 
  • work on their packets for half of the period.

The second half of the period, they will

  • participate in a whole class writing session, concentrating on a facet of writing, or 
  • discuss various aspects of their chosen novels with peers. 
NOTE: Each student in the group should be reading a different novel. Members take notes on the discussions. These will enable them to complete the Threads-Making Connections activity.

By managing their class time wisely, students will only have to complete any typing they had previously begun, and compile the required activities at home right before the final packets are due. They should bind all of the components together in some way - a folder with pockets is best.

Teaching time won’t be interrupted and chaotic because of testing when teachers choose this unit plan as their May learning keystone.  Its effectiveness stems from dual factors

  • students hold the ownership for what they are learning, and 
  • when they are learning. 

Teachers do need to 

  • specify minimum length, genre and anything else they deem necessary for their charges.
  • mentor students’ progress with mini-conferences where students bring their partially completed required work to discuss.
And you, my teacher friends, will appreciate the fact that your students are challenging themselves mentally as they increase their reading comprehension, their critical thinking and their writing skills with substantive activities and no loss of learning continuity.

Making the Most of May, which is aligned with Common Core Standards and Bloom's Raxonomy, includes detailed Teacher Notes and a Project Grading Rubric.

Download Making the Most of May from ($), and

Enjoy a month of Teach It Now days,

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