Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fahrenheit 451: Using Lit Circles

451 degrees Fahrenheit...the temperate at which paper catches fire.

On Monday, we're going to start one of my favorite novels to teach - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I am teaching this book in the context of a bigger theme I've woven throughout this whole semester--censoring and banning books. I have mentioned on here before that my students read a banned book of their choosing third quarter. I actually have an activity I did with that that I will be posting on Monday. I'm excited to share!

In May, they will be writing argumentative essays on this topic as well. So we will be using Bradbury's novel to discuss censorship of reading material, not only today, but in the context of the 50s, which is when he wrote this book. Some of the predictions he made in that novel are creepily accurate today ("Sea shells" in everyone's ear all the time? What does that sound like ? Ear buds constantly plugged into our kids' ears?)

We haven't started it yet, but I plan to use lit. circles and discussion groups throughout our study of this book. Often, lit circles are used when different students are reading different books. However, I think it can work with one novel as well.

I split the kid into groups of four. They get to choose who has which role for each discussion; they can keep the same role the whole time or switch it up--they get to decide.

The roles are as follows (I have given an abridged description below):

1. Discussion leader: Comes up with seven critical thinking questions about that day's reading to ask the group. They cannot be simply comprehension questions. This person is in charge of keeping order in the group and taking questions to me.

2. Vocabulary wizard: Find ten unknown words in the reading to define, name the part of speech, list synonyms/antonyms and describe in context of the book. (Great role for the lower-level students in each group).

3. Quote selector: Find 5 meaningful or significant quotes in the reading, write them out, and write out the significance of each.

4. Summarizer: Write an original two-paragraph summary of main events and characters from that section.

On days when reading assignments are due, students will get in groups to discuss their writing assignments from above. This should take about half an hour. They have a form to fill out for this with an added section for group notes that they should take during discussion.

I wanted to make sure they were understanding the book and really getting as deep as I wanted them to. I worried that leaving ALL the discussion up to them might leave some necessary gaps. So for the last part of class, I will put 5 discussion questions on the board that I came up with, and they will first discuss in their groups, and then move to a full-class discussion. This way I can make sure we're all on the same page about what's going on. But hopefully the discussion groups will get more kids engaged in the discussion.

I'll report back on how this goes after we've tried it! What other tactics do you use for discussing a class-wide novel?

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