Welcome back to our book study! We are now ready to move onto the "meat" of this book: the actual lessons for each signpost. I have found it hard to read all the lessons at one time, because there is so much information contained. I have found it is far more beneficial (for me at least) to decide which signpost you want to teach, and then flip to that particular lesson. Otherwise all the info tends to run together (for me at least!).
The two signposts that I will be discussing today are Contrasts and Contradictions (C&C) and Aha Moment (AM). I am going to abbreviate because I like to be efficient with my time :) So let's get started!
What I really like about each lesson is the overview at the beginning. The authors list the materials you need, the materials the students need, a brief overview of what each signpost signals, and an example of an anchor chart you can create with your students. The authors also use a gradual release model of teaching, which I totally agree with using. You explicitly model for the students what you want them to do, then you use guided practice being there to guide and redirect students, then allow students to work with a partner or small group before moving onto independent practice.
Lesson 1: Contrasts and Contradictions
This signpost helps students recognize character development, internal character conflict, and how the setting relates to the plot. All very important components of a text that students need to be able to understand. Contrasts and contradictions are 2 different things: contrast is when 2 or more characters, for example, are compared and differences are found; and contradiction is when a character acts differently that what the reader would expect, for example. The authors give us one question to ask ourselves for this signpost: Why would the character act or feel this way? I really like how the authors give us one important question for each signpost. Students can easily get overwhelmed with an abundance of questions, and giving them one important question like this can easily keep the discussion open for other points to be discussed. The authors suggest teaching this signpost first because all novels have contrasts and contradictions, and pretty much all expository texts have contrasts and contradictions, too.
Now, we get on to the actual lesson. The authors point out it is very important to help students make a real-life connection to what this signpost means so they can understand how it applies to their own lives and then eventually to the text. You can use a book you have read aloud to the class, or a book students have read themselves. You could even use a TV show or movie most students have seen. But what it important is to give students an actual example of how characters can differ and how characters can act differently then what you would expect. Once students understand how contrast and contradiction can be presented in a text and what they mean, you can move onto applying the signpost.
The authors use a specific text excerpt to apply the signpost. For this example they used an excerpt from "Thank You, Ma'm" and each student had a copy of the text and sticky notes. The teacher uses the gradual release model. First modeling the thinking and thought process of finding the C&C signpost, the next time the C&C signpost is seen, the teacher pauses for students to confer with each other (the teacher listening in and helping guide the discussions), the next time the C&C signpost is seen students jot notes about the signpost before conferring with another student. This gives students independent practice, but then they also get to share with each other so they can see how on point their thinking is. Each time the C&C signpost is seen, it is important that students discuss the anchor question (Why would the character act or feel this way?) Just by discussing this one question, the conversation will be deep and rich with students naturally using evidence from the text to support their thinking.
I really appreciate how the authors include the text excerpt so we can see how the signpost is presented in the text, as well as a transcript of what was said by the teacher and students. This helps me see how I can implement it in my classroom, as well as identify the language I want my students to use.
The end of this lesson contains some questions you might have with the lesson and texts you can use for follow-up mini lessons because we all know students need more than one exposure to a skill to actually apply it correctly themselves. I find these questions to be perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of the lesson because it helps me troubleshoot before I even begin.
Lesson 2: Aha Moment
This signpost is a moment when a character understands something he/she did not before. This signpost helps the reader understand how a character's actions are related to the conflict, the progression of the plot, and the theme sometimes. There are clue words that also signal the AM such as I realized or Now I understand. The authors give us one question to ask ourselves for this signpost: How might this change things?
The authors set up this lesson just like the C&C lesson: tying the signpost to a real-life example for students to latch onto, moving onto applying using the text "Crash" and the gradual release model. The process is the same as the C&C lesson, so I am not going to repeat it all. And the end of this lesson also contains those questions that most of us have with regards to teaching this signpost, and additional texts you can use to reinforce this skill.
I love the way each lesson is laid out the same with the same components. After I had taught a few signposts, it became very natural and easy for me to teach the rest because the process is the same. Only the content changes. And I did have to reteach through mini lessons many times before my students were able to consistently and independently identify the signposts and carry on a deep conversation with text evidence. It takes time, so you will need to be patient. I would say in my experience, it took about a month of reteaching and modeling a particular signpost before my students were at the level I wanted. And, for some of my students, it took even longer. But, I think it is very important to remember that the goal should be by the end of the year students will be able to identify and use the signposts. And, all of my students were able to do so by the end of the year. Practice, practice, practice. Model, model, model! :)
I did not want to give specific information regarding the lessons because I don't want to overstep copyrights, but I hope I did give you enough information to entice you to give them a try and purchase the book, or hopefully clarified the content of these 2 lessons some.
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)