Monday, March 2, 2015

A Day in the Life of 6th Grade Language Arts (Week of 2/23/15)

This week, 6th grade IRLA students at Grover Middle School are studying literature by reading and discussing a variety of short stories and novels.

One of the short stories that some of the 6th graders are reading is “Stray” by Cynthia Rylant. Students are reading this story closely to evaluate the main characteristics of the protagonist in order to develop a claim about the character.  Using evidence from the text, students develop support for their arguments.

As students gather their notes, they are given a choice to do so on paper or digitally on the PDF shared by the teacher using an app called DocHub.  Some students choose to take notes on their Chromebooks and some choose to do so on paper.  While the students work, the teacher walks around the room conferencing with students individually and making announcements for the benefit of all. This work of close reading in order to develop an argument is preparing the students for their upcoming literary essay work.  

Reading short stories and working in small groups, students are practicing the skill of identifying evidence from the text to support the claims they make about the stories. The teacher conferences with small groups and individual students and coaches them to read the story again and “lift a line out of the story” thats supports their ideas. 

The teacher also helps students by pairing them up to work together based on their progress so far.  While working in the groups, the students benefit from resources provided by the teacher with some transitional phrases and other thought stems to help them talk about the stories they read.

The students are identifying areas of the text that support their ideas and then expanding on them in their own words to explain why the text supports their ideas.  Their notes contain both direct passages from the text as well as the ideas from the text put into their own words.

This unit of understanding and employing the foundations and conventions of talking and writing about literature also gives students the opportunity to
revisit the work they have done earlier in the year with plot and theme.  

Students read the short story “Stray” and analyze the various parts of the story’s plot such as the rising action and the climax of the story.  From there, students work in small groups to investigate the theme of the story. The students refer to materials provided by the teacher and shared with them in their Google Drive as they discuss the story.  

As they develop ideas about what the theme of the story might be, they go back to the story to look for support.  Students use both paper and their Chromebooks to record notes.  The teacher circulates around the room and visits with each group, coaching their discussions.

Drafting an essay on with the Chromebooks makes it possible to organize ideas by color much easier than drafting on paper. To help students organize and understand the components of their literary essay, the teachers have shared out a color-coded template through Google Drive.  This template models the use of a different color for supporting details, text support, explanation of support, closing sentences, and so on.  The students remarked that it is helpful for them to see each part of the essay in a different color because it helps them see what they still need to work on in their draft.  

As the students work independently on their drafts, they use other resources provided to them by the teachers as well as some resources they find on their own. Several students paused to look up words in an online dictionary or the thesaurus app to help strengthen the vocabulary they use in their essays.  The teachers walk around the room to conference with individual students.  They can quickly assess the progress each student is making by looking for the different colors in the students’ drafts.


During a read aloud of Gordon Korman’s novel, Ungifted, students analyze and discuss character
development.  They notice how empathy or lack of empathy in various characters can create tension and conflict in the story.  

Students discuss how the characters’ choices shape the events of the plot.  Also, they discuss how various events in the plot cause the characters to undergo change and, for example, gain sympathy for the other characters in the story.

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