Wednesday, December 14, 2011

These Books Really ARE "Great"!

You know those days when you teach a great lesson and you just feel...amazing? I had one of those days this week. It was sublime!

My principal recently ordered the intermediate teachers in my school a program (if you want to call it that) called Junior Great Books. I.Love.It. "Love" might even be an understatement. I was so sick of our county anthology/basal, that this was a welcome change. It comes with a "guide", but I also find there are so many ways to "make it yours"...which is why I love it so much. I always has trouble making the anthology "mine" and the kids hate the feel of a textbook in their laps as we sit on the carpet. The stories are very high interest (mainly made up of realistic fiction and traditional literature). The best part is they are regular "book size" so they have the feel of a novel. 

Students used sticky notes to keep track of
questionsthey had as they read. 
Actually...the REAL best part is they are designed to be discussed! We have had some great literature circles with these books! I have the students create their own "complex questions" for their groups (see photo). You know...the ones that can't just be answered with one word, or that have more than one answer. This was exactly the stepping stone I needed to help guide me in the process of transitioning from an anthology to reading workshop...which is what I am working on.

Anyway, now that I have come down from my soap box (I should get some compensation from the company for my little plug...), here is what happened:

We've been reading an African folktale called "Kaddo's Wall." Today we discussed how the character experiences both losses and gains as a result of building said wall. I was assuming they'd pick up on all the material things that he both gained and lost which sort of had to be inferred in some cases. Of course, they blew me away with all of the things that even I didn't pick up on. For example, one student explained how one of Kaddo's losses was his "loss of dignity." We discussed how his having to beg for food after being selfish would cause this to happen. Another student chimed in with how he "gained the king's pity" when he was given the food. Wowzers! Then this led to us discussing how some gains (such as pity) are not always positive...which opened up the flood gates for other negative gains and more discussion! I was in teacher heaven!

I ended the lesson by asking the students to answer the following prompt:

"Explain the effects of Kaddo's decision to build the wall of corn."

I am sure you can guess that they had PLENTY to say. Just had to share :)


  1. Hi Mrs. P!

    How wonderful! (And how satisfying as a teacher to hear that level of discussion). I am so GLAD you had such a great day. So often we need the good days to help us survive the not-so-good days...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. I love Kaddo's wall too. ;) Wait til Oliver Hyde's Dishcloth Concert. It's a great one too.

  3. Thanks for hopping over to my blog. Looks like a lot of good things happening here - glad to have found your blog.

  4. You're very welcome. I saw a post about it on Twitter from Mr. Schu. I am glad I found yours, too!