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					Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                        Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Rationale
         There is a need to lift the level of talk, reading skills and content knowledge in middle school
classrooms. Unfortunately, I have noticed that some students hit a plateau in these areas and coast during
workshop relying on skills that they have already mastered. I also heard from teachers that they lack the
strategies to lift the level of reading skills in their classrooms. This unit is designed to maximize the time
spent in middle school in order to continue and build on the work they did in previous years. This work
will also prepare them for the more independent work of a high school scholar.
         It is assumed that the students receiving this social issues book club unit have completed some
work with the reading skills, but need to lift the level of their performance of these skills. The strategies are
designed to lift the skill level by opening up and lingering in the following specific reading skills:
      inference
      determining cause and effect
      empathy
      making connections
      interpretation
Much of the content and talk work in this social issues book club unit is centered on advancing character
work.
         Students will work on lifting the level of their work in social issue book clubs. Teachers will have a
variety of structures to teach and reteach these skills—minilessons, instructional read alouds, conferring into
clubs and strategy lessons. Students will have a variety of venues to practice this work—during minilessons,
in book club conversations, using reading journals, and with their independent reading.

Why Social Issue Book Clubs?— Goals of the Unit
         My observations in the field and conversations with professors and teachers have informed the
design of this unit. I’ve watched 8th graders feel like “they were done” talking about social issues or have
heard professors or teachers say that social issues are getting “over generalized and breezed over.”
         My hope for this unit is to reexamine social issue book clubs in the 8th grade by recontextualizing
how young adults view social issues, as well as deepened the reading work during this unit. It has been
expressed by educators in the field that reading work takes a back seat to the social issue work when this
unit occurs in the classroom. While it is not my intent to take away the natural focus students tend to have
for the social issue, I do intend to match their inquiry around social justice through exposure and practice
of higher level reading skills.
         Aside from matching the reading work with the social issue work, there are several other key
reasons why I chose to design a book club unit around social issues. My goals for this 8th grade classroom:
     1. Students will have conversation around books, therefore increasing their comprehension around
         social issues and books.
     2. Students will read books for social issues in order to inform and change their lives.
     3. Students will work on inference throughout the book, which leads to interpretation at the end of
         the book. This unit scaffolds inference work around social issues and characterization and build
         to support students having BIG ideas around the book, characters and social issues. This
         interpretation work towards the end of the unit supports a round of literary essay writing.
     4. Students will explicitly build off of previous character work. There is not a presence of low level
         character work, because it is assumed that students have mastered that by this point in the year.
     5. Lastly, students will be consistently challenged to break down the concepts of a social issue into
         more explicit, concrete examples of the issues manifestation in everyday life. For instance, students
         are just saying that poverty is the issue. Students are searching for characters that struggle with having
         enough money to live life smoothly.
Standards



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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                  May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                          Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

         The following standards are incorporated and embedded into the content of this unit:

Standard 2: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.
         • Interpret characters, plot, setting, theme, and dialogue, using evidence from the text
         • Compare motives of characters, causes of events, and importance of setting in literature to people, events,
         and places in own lives
         • Identify social and cultural contexts and other characteristics of the time period in order to enhance
         understanding and appreciation of text
Standard 3: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.
         • Evaluate the validity and accuracy of information, ideas, themes, opinions, and experiences in texts: for
         example,
                   - question the writer‟s assumptions, beliefs, intentions, and biases
                   - identify cultural and ethnic values and their impact on content
                   - identify multiple levels of meaning
Standard 4: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for social interaction.
         • Share reading experiences with peers or adults; for example, read together silently or aloud with a partner
         or in small groups
taken from http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/ela/elacore.htm

Structure
          It is important to be informed of the structures necessary to implement this unit. The essential
structures of literacy work handout that follows this page will outline the structures thought of and used while
designing this unit. These literacy structures heavily informed the work of this unit and are reflected in the
5 minilessons of this unit.
          I spent time this semester helping teachers plan the structure and instructional time of their book
clubs. The following chart illustrates the structure of the reading workshop through the week that helped a
variety of teachers plan their instruction. Therefore, the lessons of the book mirror this structure. This
means that some of the lessons are designed to be lessons around talk and others are lessons around reading
skills. Both strategies aim to lift the level of talk, skill and content work during book clubs and
independent reading in the 8th grade classroom. This also means that the small group work done in
workshop will either be coaching into book clubs or strategy lessons depending on the day or needs of the
class.
                     Monday            Tuesday                Wednesday          Thursday           Friday
Book Club or Book Club                 Ind Reading            Book Club          Ind Reading        Book Club
Independent
Reading Day
Minilesson & Talk Lesson               Reading Skill          Talk Lesson        Reading Skill      Talk Lesson
Mid-Wkshp                              Lesson                                    Lesson
Interruption
Small Group Coaching into              Strategy Lesson Coaching into             Strategy Lessons Coaching into
Teaching             Club                                     Clubs                                 Clubs

Inspiration
I borrowed extensively from Cory Gillette’s work in NYC’s middle school classrooms, calendar days offered
through the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project, Lucy Calkin’s book, The Art of Teaching
Reading and Randy Bomer’s book, For a Better World. This book club unit would be sparse and
incomplete if it were not for the work of these innovative educators.




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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                         May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                 Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8


Essential Structures of Literacy Work______________________

Minilessons

The architecture of a minilesson begins with a connection. This is where teachers talk about how
the minilesson will fit with the lives of readers and writers and with the work that is being done in
the classroom. In the connection, teacher teaches kids what they are going to learn to do, to use
it, how to do it (what strategy to use) and why this is important. This is called naming the teaching
point. This message of what, how, and why resonates throughout the minilesson.

The teach part of the minilesson follows the connection. Teachers teach students something that
they can use as readers and writers. Usually this can be a strategy or technique the reader and
writer can carry with them through their lives as readers and writers. It is NOT something that
can only be used one. Teachers teach the reader or writer in this section, instead of teaching the
piece of literature or writing itself. Teachers teach by demonstrating the strategy with their own
writing or reading of a text.

Then teachers give students the opportunity to try the strategy. This is called the active engagement
part of a minilesson. Students can try the strategy with an array of options, like turning and
talking with their partners or stopping and jotting in their writers notebooks. Teachers can create
opportunities for the students to try the strategy the best way that may work for their class.

Teachers link the minilesson to the work of the day and the students’ lives as readers and writers.
The teacher restates what the teaching point is, when to use it and why it is beneficial to use it.
Teachers remind students that they can carry the minilesson to a multitude of projects and
throughout their lives. Sometimes teachers ask for students to demonstrate the use of the strategy
that day. Other times, they request students tuck it away in their reading and writing repertoires
to use when needed. The group of students or project of the day commands this part of the
minilesson rather than it being an assignment.

Read Aloud

Reading aloud is sometimes used purely as a recreational activity, a time to quiet kids down before
lunch or relax at the end of a hot June day. While this is enjoyable and pleasant during the lives of
readers, it is not the only way to read aloud. Calkins sugguests that read alouds can be used...
     to start the day
     within reading and writing minilessons
     in support of the social studies and science curriculum
     in support of whole-class book studies
     to help children talk and think about texts
The read alouds I have observed this semester have been instructional and have occurred during
reading or writing workshop. An excellent example of an instructional read aloud is Cory
Gillette’s reading of Stevie by John Steptoe which is included on the next page.


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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                 May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                         Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Read Aloud Text: Stevie by John Steptoe
Location: 4th grade classroom
Skills: Inference and envisionment
Coaching within Read Aloud: Coming up with ideas (thesis talk work for literary essays)
Works for: Social Issues, Character Study

I. Read Aloud—Thinking Aloud and Turn and Talk

Think Aloud: I’m thinking....the little boy must be Stevie.
Turn and Talk: What is Robert thinking about Stevie?
TA: How does Robert feel about Steive? I think he’s jealous.
TA: Who is the narrator again? What does he look like?
TA: Oh! Here’s another place that he’s jealous...or I think he is jealous.
TA: Take time to make a movie in your mind about this park scene. Look at it in color. Make a picture.
TT: What did you see?
TA: I’m thinking Robert just started getting used to Stevie.
TA: I can just see these two empty cereal bowls.
TT: What is Robert thinking now?
TT: What do you think now, at the end of the story? About the characters? About what the book is about?

II. What ideas do you have about Stevie? [kids list their “1st draft” ideas about the book]
     Stevie was Robert’s friend all alound, but R. didn’t realize it
     R. was used to being alound which is why it is hard to him to have Stevie around
     I think the book would have been this way if...[Cory does not take this as an idea because it is a
       PREDICTION]
     Stevie wanted to be like Robert
     R.’s friends were not as good as a friend as Stevie
     R’s mother left the boys to be alone because she knew they’d get along

    Cory prompts, “What is this story teaching us? What is this story really about?” She does this because many
    of the ideas kids are giving are character based.
     The author wants to remind us to focus on the good times when times are difficult

III. Small group talk on the rug—pick one idea to talk about in your book. This conversation will help you
think more about the idea and possibly change your thinking. Kids could also do this as a whole group
discussion or write off one idea.

IV: What do you think after talking with your classmates?
     Kids develop more evidence for their ideas.
     Kids form conclusions for their ideas

V. Cory closes read aloud telling kids that they ideas they came up with around the book could be used as
thesis statements for their literary essays. The talk they had with their peers helped to gather evidence
around these ideas. Thesis statements must be ideas and have evidence. The read aloud demonstrated how
talk can help develop ideas and gather evidence.




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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                         May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                 Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Shared Reading

The shared reading I observed aided with fluency in the upper grades. Kylene Beers suggests that
students can read a text aloud with the teacher over and over, every day in order to breath life into
a piece of writing. This reading together helps with fluency and intonation needed for reading.
Students could also use shared reading of a text to help with phonics and high frequency words,
similar to Don Holdaway’s method in the primary grades with big books.

Small Group Work

   I.      Strategy Lessons
               Strategy lessons are a small group structure that helps teachers teach an explicit
               reading strategy to one group of students. Students are culled depending on the
               strategy they need. The lesson occurs around a shared text with a lesson that
               connects with what they are working on. The teacher demonstrates the strategy
               and asks students to try the strategy. During this time, the teacher observes,
               coaches and scaffolds the use of the strategy on the students own independent
               reading text. Usually, a second teaching point can be given based on the work the
               students are doing. The teacher links these teaching pints to the independent work
               of the student. The students are asked to try it and usually meet up the next day
               (or in days to come) to check on the progress of the strategy. This can be essential
               follow up work and provides a bridge to another strategy.

   II.     Guided Reading
              Guided reading lessons are similar to strategy lessons and are normally used in the
              primary grades. I only observed one guided reading lesson in the middle schools
              this semester. Guided reading heavily relies on the teacher knowing the tricky parts
              of the text and using book introductions. The students pulled into guided reading
              lessons must be at the same instructional level (as opposed to strategy lesson where
              students do not have to be on the same level). The intent of guided reading is to
              move a child up a level and test to see how they are implementing past minilessons
              independently on a tougher text.

               The lesson begins with a book introduction (see attached sheet), providing an
               overview of the text and helping the students with unfamiliar vocabulary. 80% of
               the lesson is the book introduction. Then, the teacher passes out the texts at
               random and listens to each child read independently. The teacher develops a
               teaching point depending on what she observes. The teacher does not mention the
               teaching point until the end of the lesson. The teaching point arises through
               discussion or work on a white board, referring back to difficult areas of the text.




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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                        May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Conferences

   I.      Conferring: Research, Decide, Teach Conference
              Conferring is an explicit way to help a reader or group of readers use a strategy that
              they may not be using or aware of. Conferring follows more of a minilesson or
              strategy lesson format.
              Step 1: Research
                      Teachers sit down with a reader or group of readers, look at past conference
                      notes or read a page of their reading and begin to watch the work of the
                      readers. Teacher then intervene by asking questions like
                               “How’s it going? What’s new with you reading?”
                               “Last time you talked about....What’s been happening with that?’
                               “What are you working on as a reader?
                      Depending on the answer the student give, the teacher can go on a journey,
                      asking questions that will lead to the work of the reader. Teachers want to
                      focus on what the student is doing as a reader, not obtain a detailed
                      account of the plot of the book he/she is reading. The direction of this
                      research process comes partly from the answers the student is giving, but
                      also the direction of the class’s work, the knowledge of this reader, and the
                      knowledge of how readers grow. Questions can grow from the teachers
                      knowledge of the child’s reading level and what things he or she should be
                      doing as a reader at that level.
              Step 2: Decide
                      The research portion of this conference will help decide what teaching
                      point to name and teach. This teaching point should be a level ahead of
                      what level the reader is operating on. It should not be below or too high
                      above the reader’s head.

                       The teacher also notices what the child is doing well during the research
                       portion. Before the teaching point is given, the teacher compliments the
                       reader on a strategy that he or she is using well. This compliment should be
                       specific and authentic to the reader; something he or she has truly mastered
                       and is doing well. The teacher reminds the reader to continue using this
                       strategy.
               Step 3: Teach
                       The last component of this conference is to teach the reader a strategy. It
                       begins with a connection, in which the teacher informs the child what she
                       wants to teach, why it is important, and how it fits into the daily life of a
                       reader. Next, the teacher names the teaching point and demonstrates how
                       to use the strategy. In an optimal setting, the teacher stays to observe the
                       reader trying the strategy. The readaer and teacher can record the strategy
                       taught in the child’s reading notebook and teacher’s conference notes. This
                       becomes the baseline for the child during the next conference.




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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                            May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                    Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

    II.      Coaching
                Coaching is used to follow up on past minilesson or conference work. It is not a
                place to teach a new strategy, but rather remind students of past work and coach
                them to use it.

                 Coaching readers is similar to coaching basketball players. On the sidelines, a
                 coach prompts players with phrases that will remind them of plays that they have
                 learned and rehearsed. A coach may yell out, “Remember! Keep your eye on the
                 ball! Remember your eyes! Eyes on the ball!” These phrases are used to remind
                 players of strategies they’ve used to play a successful game.

                 This is the same in reading. Teachers can coach a reader alongside their reading
                 but whispering reminders of minilessons they have learned, “Remember to make a
                 movie in your mind when you want to really see what’s going on in your story.
                 Remember the movie. Movie in your mind.” This coaching are light interventions
                 into the child’s reading that support their autonomy to use a strategy. This
                 coaching helps them continue to move through a text with the light scaffolding of a
                 coach.

Coaching into Book Clubs

There are three different teaching methods to teach into book clubs.
       Conferring with clubs—This method resembles a research, decide, teach individual
       conference.

          Whispering In—This method resembles coaching, where the teacher doesn’t interrupt the
          conference, but merely whispers prompts students can say that will lift the level of their
          work. Whispering in scaffolds the talk to feel like the talk of a high level book club.

          Perfect Partner—This method is used to model what it would look like if the partner was
          synthesizing many of the minilessons taught previously to the children. It could also be
          used to demonstrate a higher level of a talk or skill lesson. The teacher becomes a part of
          this book club in this method.

There are also specific prompts to coach into conversation that push kids to think in new and
different ways. See the attached sheet that details the different prompts. This is also an implicit way to
reinforce accountable talk in clubs.




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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                              May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                      Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

BENDS IN THE ROAD_______________________________________________________________
Week I: Good readers read with different lens to discover social issues that lie inside stories.
Skills: Inference of Social Issues
     In stories, just like in life, characters face issues in their life. Sometimes the issue is personal, like
        waking up in a bad mood. But other times, the issue is a “social issue,” like watching a group of
        high school teenagers bully an 8th grader on the train. We can read for social issues like we watch
        for social issues in the world.
     When we read for social issues, we don‟t begin our book by saying, „I‟m going to read to find
        bullying today!” Instead, know that many social issues lurk in books. We look for evidence and
        clues that show the characters struggling with real issues bigger than them. We keep track of the
        social issues that pop up in our books and face our characters.
     We know that BIG social issues, like segregation, affect us in smaller, more personal ways, like
        who we sit with in the lunchroom. The personal struggles our characters have are reflections of
        bigger social issues. To see this, we look for struggles the characters face and match it with a
        bigger social issue. One way to do this is by looking for places where they feel strong emotions
        in the text.
     We know that issues tend to appear and reappear in our lives, so they must appear and reappear in
        our stories. We notice the big issues and personal struggles that reoccur. We can choose one to
        focus one and this becomes a “lens,” a way of reading texts with a certain issue in the front of our
        minds. We use these lenses like magnifying glasses, looking at small amounts of text in a BIG
        way.
     Big social issues can manifest in a bunch of little ways for our characters. By using our lens to
        read, we collect evidence around certain reoccurring social issues. As reading researchers, we
        look for BIG, RED FLAGS that the social issue is working in the text, but we also look for subtle
        clues that the issue is there.

Week II: Good readers get to know characters better by observing how social issues affect their
emotions, actions, and choices in life.
Skills: Inference of Characterization and Character Motivation
        Determining Cause and Effect
        Empathy
     Big social issues, like segregation or poverty, affect how we feel about ourselves and the people
        around us. For example, someone who is poor may feel embarrassed or angry about being poor.
        When we read, we look for how certain social issues make our characters feel. We wonder how
        we may feel if we were in their positions. [EMOTIONS]
     We act out on our emotions. When we are angry, we may lash out at those around us. Characters
        have actions around their emotions, too. Knowing that social issues make our characters feel
        certain ways, we look to what our characters do with these emotions. We look to how the social
        issues make our characters react. We wonder how we may react if we were in their positions.
        [ACTIONS]
     When we react, we make choices. If I‟m angry and lash out, I make a choice to move toward
        being more violent. If I‟m angry and talk about my feelings, I make a choice to move away from
        violence. We make choices as they react to social issues, too. We can look to see if our
        characters are making choices that reinforce or go against certain social issues. We wonder what
        choices we may make if we were in their positions. [CHOICES]
     The choices characters make affect how they feel about themselves and affect how they interact
        with others. As we read and see how the social issues change our character, we track how the
        issue affects characters on their inside and how it makes them react on the outside. One way to
        do this is to ask ourselves, “What do the characters say, think and do during specific places in the
        story?”



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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                            May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                    Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

       The choices we make get us things in life. For example, if I‟m angry and lash out, I gain security
        because I protect what‟s really going on inside of me by making other people the focus.
        Characters are the same way. We can ask ourselves, “What does the character have go gain from
        their choices?” [POWER]

Week III: Good readers observe how characters’ choices affect other characters and impact our
feelings or judgments about them.
Skills: Inference of Character Relationships
        Empathy
        Making Character-Based Generalizations
     We don‟t operate in this world alone! Other characters are affected by social issues, too, but they
        may be affected in different ways. We look at other characters‟ emotions, actions, and choices
        around the same social issues our main characters are facing. Look how the characters‟ choices
        impact each other.
     We see that groups of people share similar choices and gain similar things from their choices. For
        example, politicians (like republicans or democrats) groups themselves according to the choices
        they make and what people like them will gain. We begin to see why certain characters hang out
        together in groups! After noticing the groups, we can also see how certain characters have the
        ability to move in and out of these groups.
     We should want to agree or disagree with the choices characters are making and how they are
        interacting with each other. We ask ourselves, “How does what we know about the world and
        our interaction with these social issues affect how we feel about the character and his or her
        choices?” This will help us to understand the character and story on a deeper level.
     We use all of this work to make specific and supported generalizations about the characters.
        Resist making low level, sweeping generalizations! Instead of saying, “The character is mean,”
        we can say, “The character is ______(insecure) when ___________ because _______.”

Week IV: Good readers find ways to bring what they learn about characters and interpretations of
social issues into their lives and worlds.
Skills: Interpretation of Theme
         Interpretation of Author’s Intent
         Making Connections: Text to Self/World
     We realize how characters change on the inside in light of the social issues around them. We
         build on what we know about books and how characters change. Characters usually change in
         small ways throughout the story and in big ways at the end of the story, especially in light of the
         social issues around them.
     Characters can be inspired to act and change things in their social environments as a result of the
         social issues around them. When reading for social issues, we pay close attention to how
         characters change the world around them after they are impacted by a social issue.
     Reading books for social issues can change our lives. We can develop theories about the social
         statement the author was trying to make. We ask ourselves, “What does the author want to say
         about the world?” We do this by looking at the conclusions the characters come to at the end of
         the book.
     Characters and stories are just like us and our lives. When finishing a book, we notice what parts
         of our world are reflected in these books. We can begin to carry our books into our world by
         asking ourselves, “What does the author want us to think about our own world and what we can
         do to change things in our lives?”
     A fun way to bring closure to social issue book clubs is making and carrying out a plan to make
         positive changes in our lives around the issues that impact us. For example, we can be like the
         Misfits and begin an anti-bullying campaign in our schools.



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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                          May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                  Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Read Aloud Plan

This social issue book club unit refers to two read alouds to use for instruction during minilessons.
    Week I-II: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
    Week III-IV: The Misfits by James Howe

These texts have been selected to fit the social issue, reading skill and advanced character work of
the unit. Both novels carry complex social themes that inspire students to unpack, as well as
provide an adequate space for students to practice the strategies taught in the minilessons. It is
intended that these books have either been previously read aloud to the class or are currently being
read aside from minilesson time. The books will be referenced frequently during minilessons.

Furthermore, the following short texts will be used to facilitate shared learning during strategy
lessons.
     Thank You M’am by Langston Hughes
     The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
     Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
     Just Lather That’s All by Hernando Tellez

Students will be reading a goal of 3 or 4 books during the four-week unit. The reading goal can be
adjusted to fit the students’ needs in the classroom. These books will be used when teaching
strategy lessons or coaching into book club conversations. I have included a possible book club list
that reflects what 8th grade teachers are currently using in their classroom.

Possible Social Issues Book Club Choices
      The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier                American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
      Witness by Karen Hesse                             Make Lemonade by Virgina Wolff
      Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz                   After Life by Gary Soto
       Ryan                                               Then Again Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
      An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio          I hadn’t meant to tell you this + Lena (sequel)
       by Judith Ortiz Cofer                               by J. Woodson
      Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer                Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
      Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez               A Cool Moonlight by Angela Johnson
      The First Part Last by Angela Johnson              Peeps by Scott Westerfield
      If You Come Softly by Jacqueline                   Overboard by Elizabeth Fama
       Woodson                                            True sight by David Sahler
      Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters               Who is Jesse Flood? by M. Doyle
      Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson                     Whirligig by Paul Fleishman

Also visit my blog www.childrensbooklist.blogspot.com for additional YA text choices for social
issue book clubs.




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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                 May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                         Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Accountable Talk Plan

Accountable talk will be supported in two major areas of this unit: turn and talk opportunities
during instructional read alouds and using conversational prompts in book clubs.

First, during instructional read alouds, students will have the opportunity to practice the use of a
strategy by turning and talking with a partner. This occurs after the teacher has demonstrated a
strategy by thinking aloud several times. This will look like the following example:

Read Aloud Text: Stevie by John Steptoe
Location: 4th grade classroom
Skills: Inference and envisionment
Coaching within Read Aloud: Coming up with ideas (thesis talk work for literary essays)
Works for: Social Issues, Character Study

I. Read Aloud—Thinking Aloud and Turn and Talk

Think Aloud: I’m thinking....the little boy must be Stevie.
Turn and Talk: What is Robert thinking about Stevie?
TA: How does Robert feel about Steive? I think he’s jealous.
TA: Who is the narrator again? What does he look like?
TA: Oh! Here’s another place that he’s jealous...or I think he is jealous.
TA: Take time to make a movie in your mind about this park scene. Look at it in color. Make a picture.
TT: What did you see?
TA: I’m thinking Robert just started getting used to Stevie.
TA: I can just see these two empty cereal bowls.
TT: What is Robert thinking now?
TT: What do you think now, at the end of the story? About the characters? About what the book is about?
Taken from C. Gillette’s Read Aloud in a 4th grade class @ PS 188

Secondly, conversational prompts will be used in minilessons to model the different ways students
can talk about books, as well as demonstrate reading skills and content knowledge through talk.
These prompts are talk strategies that isolate certain skills students need to work on.

In addition to the prompts included in minilessons, teachers can listen into book club
conversations in regards to students talk, demonstration of skills or demonstration of content
knowledge. Teachers can determine what area the students need extra support in and give
prompts that aid in with their talk. The teaching point comes in the form of a prompt. See the
attached sheet for listening into clubs.




                                                                                                          11
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                         May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                 Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Listening into Book Clubs

Club Name:____________________________

Talk Skills Observed               Reading Skills Observed           Content Observed




Teaching PointConversational Prompt for Accountable Talk




Examples of Conversational Prompts for Accountable Talk
Talk Skills
     “I see it differently...”
     “Another way to look at this is...”
     “Could you show me where in the story because I am confused by...”
     “I’m wondering if something else could also be true...”
     “Show me a part that interests you”
Taken from M. Ehrenworth

Reading Skills
    If students need to synthesize, they can ask...
            o “How does this part fit with what we just read?”
            o “What new information are we gathering by rereading this section?
            o “How does chapter 5 fit with chapter 6?”
            o “Why did the author choose this ending?”
Taken from K.Tolan

Content
    If students need to advance character work, they can ask...
          o “Why was this character introduced into the plot?”
          o “What does the character have to gain from doing this?”
          o “How does the character see herself? How do other characters see her”
          o “What caused this character to change?”
Excerpts from C. Gillette




                                                                                                12
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                              May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                      Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Assessment
The following assessments include record keeping systems that inform the teaching of the unit, as well as
informal and formal assessments that assess what students learn in the unit.
    I.      During Minilessons—Stop and Jots
                Students will have independent practice of the strategy being taught in the minilesson.
                This will primarily take the role of a “stop and jot” in their reading journals. The teacher
                may also choose to have them stop and jot on a post it, so that she can collect and assess at
                the end of class.

    II.     Book club Conversations
               When a teacher coaches into a book club, she will use the attached sheet to write down the
               compliment (We are great at) and the teaching point (We need to work on this). That way the
               teacher and the student can be reminded of the strategy they were taught. Students will
               keep book club folders that include this, as well as
                     Reading logs and assigned pages
                     Reading assignments
                     Notes from past meetings
                     Roles (teacher discretion)
                     Modifications (for ELL or special needs students)

    III.    Demo Book Club Conversations
               During the last week of the unit, each book club will demonstrate a book club talk. This
               talk will focus on a culmination of strategies and talk prompts that have been taught
               throughout the unit. Clubs will be asked to demo their club at its best and show their best
               work! Students and teachers will give feedback to the club. This will be a formal
               assessment.

    IV.     Strategy Lessons
                Teachers will keep record of the compliments and strategies she teaches each group. This
                will inform future lessons. See attached sample

    V.      One on One conferences
               Teachers will keep record of the compliments and strategies she teaches each child. This
               will inform future lessons. See attached sample

    VI.     Reading Journal
               Reading journals will be kept by each student that contains their own thinking around the
               books. Stop & jots, book club assignments, and journal entries can be kept in this journal.
               It is student based. Teachers can peruse their journals to plan strategy lessons for the
               student or group of students. These journals can also be a place to teach mid-workshop
               interruptions. See attached sample.

    VII.    Literary Essays
                By the end of the unit, students will have worked toward interpreting meaning from the
                text, ideas about the character, and insights into social issues. It is assumed that students
                have already written one round of character-based literary essays. This unit, students will
                write literary essays where their thesis statements are more world-based. For example,
                students will develop theories around what the author wants to say about the world.


                                                                                                            13
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                       May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers               Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Example of Strategy Lesson Records
Group Name:
Meetings    Compliment                     Teaching Point/Strategy Taught     Additional Notes or
                                                                              Reminders
Mtg. 1




Mtg. 2




Mtg. 3




Mtg. 4




Mtg. 5




Mtg. 6




Mtg. 7




Mtg. 8




                                                                                               14
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                       May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers               Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Example of One on One Conference Notes
Student Name:
Meetings     Compliment                    Teaching Point/Strategy Taught     Additional Notes or
                                                                              Reminders
Mtg. 1




Mtg. 2




Mtg. 3




Mtg. 4




Mtg. 5




Mtg. 6




Mtg. 7




Mtg. 8




                                                                                               15
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                           May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                   Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8


   VIII.   Social Action Projects: Students will design and carry out social action projects or campaigns.
           A fun way to bring closure to social issue book clubs is making and carrying out a plan to make
           positive changes in our lives around the issues that impact us. For example, we can be like the
           Misfits and begin an anti-bullying campaign in our schools. This can become a cross-curricular
           assessment, where English Language Arts blends with Social Studies.




                                                                                                       16
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                    May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                            Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Minilesson
Week I Session 2: We read with the possibility that characters struggle with issues that are bigger
than them.
Skill: Inference of Social Issues
Bend: Good readers read with different lens to discover social issues that lie inside stories.

  Connection

Imagine if I sat down for read aloud time, and before I even opened Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come
Softly, I announced to you that I was going to read to find racism today! “Today, I can’t wait to read and
find racism that affects my characters! Oh! And tomorrow, I’m going to read for bullying!”

Doesn’t sound natural, right? Almost annoying, right? Right. We don’t read books that way. Instead, when
I read from If You Come Softly, our ears perk when we here phrases like, “I don’t sit with them in the
cafeteria” or “My mom doesn’t let me date boys like you.” Smart readers pick up on clues that hint at
bigger social issues that affect characters.

Today I’m going to teach you that social issues lurk in books. And to discover them, we look for evidence
and clues that show the characters struggling with real issues that are bigger than them. We’ll keep track of
them, too. Just to see how often the issue pops up!

      Teach

In our read aloud, If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson writes in a handle of social issues for the
characters to grapple with in their lives. Now, the back cover doesn’t say in big, bold letters: PREJUDICE,
INTERACIAL DATING, CLASSISM! No, instead Woodson subtly writes a story that shows the
characters living through these issues in their day to day lives. Listen and watch how my ears perk up when
I think I’ve stumbled across one of the issues Woodson is writing about in her book.

Instructional Read- and Think-Aloud
Okay, I’m at the part where Ellie is telling her older sister, Anne, about dating Miah. Ellie is worried that Anne may
not like Miah...
         Anne laughed. “I bet I’d like him. Anybody who makes something inside of my stable baby sister
         go crazy much be amazing.”
         “He’s taller than me,” I said. “He has locks and these bright brown eyes—”
Wait a second. Ellie is trying to tell Anne that Miah is Black. She’s using the word “locks” to describe his hair. That’s
a word primarily used to describe Black hair. Ellie’s trying to tell her sister in less words than more that Miah is Black!
I wonder what she’s scared of...or trying to protect her sister from...
         “Locks?”
         “His hair. You know.”
         “Ugh. That’s kind of a bummer.”
         “Why?”
Is Anne saying that dating a black guy is a bummer???
         “I don’t like white guys with locks. I mean—it’s so obviously an appropriation—”
Wow. She doesn’t get it. Dating a Black male is not even on her sister’s radar. I don’t think she’s going to be happy,
not wait, comfortable with Ellie dating Miah.


                                                                                                                       17
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                 May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                         Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

         “He’s black, Anne.”
         “She didn’t say anything. I could feel the air between us getting weird. Maybe a minute assed.
         Maybe two.
Anne has some issues with interracial dating when it comes to her sister. It’s by what she ISN’T saying...rather than
what she IS saying in this moment.
         “Really?”
         “No,” I said, growing annoyed. “I’m lying.”
         “Sorry, Ellie. I just thought Percy Academy was so chichi and white.”
What is she saying about the Academy? That it’s full of rich people and white? Can it not be rich and black...?

Did you notice how I picked up on clues that the characters were confronting social issues? Woodson
didn’t come out and write it! I really had to take what I know about how people are and put the pieces of
the puzzle together. I know that silence sometimes indicates discomfort. Anne was silent. I know that
“weird air” Ellie spoke about, don’t you? That clued me into the issue of interracial big time.

  Active Engagement


Now you try, I’m going to keep reading from this passage. I’m going to pause several times throughout the
reading. When I pause, that’s your cue to turn and talk with your partner. Share what perks your ears and
clues you into the characters struggling with issues bigger than them.

         Teacher reads and pauses. During those pauses, the teacher listens into some of the partnership
         conversations. Pull out pieces of conversations that could be shared with the group to illustrate
         practice with this teaching point.

Sample of Student Responses
Okay, 8th grade. What perked your ears? What’s really going on with our characters?

Fatima: When Anne said she never thought about it for her family, I think that means she’s uncomfortable
with interracial dating in her family.
Tevin: Yeah. Like she may not be uncomfortable as a concept or with people outside of her family, but...
Fatima: When it affects her or her family, she gets freaked out and uncomfortable.

Ahhh...so the social issue manifests differently depending on the context of the situation. Hmmm. 8th
grade, by discovering places where the characters struggle with issues in the world, you sure are finding out
things about these characters.

      Link

Readers, when you go read your book club books, remember not to open the issues with an issue already in
mind. Let the story perk your ears and help you uncover the issues that are lurking in the text. This is
important because you don’t want to box yourself into one way of thinking when you are reading a book.
You want a broad horizon where a lot can be possible. Remember to keep track, too. These issues will pop
up in a bunch of different ways like Tevin and Fatima discovered today.




                                                                                                                  18
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                     May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                             Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

     Mid-Workshop
      Interruption


Readers, let me interrupt your reading for just a moment! I have to clue you in to the smartest strategy I saw
a student using while I was conferencing. I noticed that Jameisha had all these colorful post-its stuck to the
sides of her paper. I asked her what she was using them for. She told me that when she comes across an
issue affecting her characters, or thinks is affecting her characters, she puts a post-it there. She also
WRITES the issue on the post-it. Her plan is to take this work into book club tomorrow to compare with
what her group found as they were reading today! Really smart strategy, Jameisha. Thanks for letting me
share that with the class. So, 8th grade, feel free to grab some post-its and use them like Jameisha.

  Strategy Lesson for
  Struggling Students

Note: I may pull a small group of students that may be struggling looking for clues in the text to uncover the social
issues affecting the characters. They may struggle with that inference work of working with the subtleties of text and
making it more explicit by adding what we know about the characters or people, in general. If this were the case, I
would pre-teach tomorrow’s minilesson—Week I Session 3. This session equips students with an explicit strategy that
helps them uncover the social issues. Pre-teaching is useful because struggling students will feel more ahead of the game
or on target for the next minilesson because they would have already been introduced to the strategy.

The strategy is to look for places where the characters have strong emotions. These are places that social
issues lurk. Experiencing big social issues make us feel emotions personally. One way to look for social
issues in the text is looking for places the characters feel strong emotions. Then we ask ourselves, “What
could be causing our characters to feel this way?”

Let’s use one of our favorite read alouds, The Memory Box by Mary Bahr.

The teacher would have explicit places picked in the text in order to teach the strategy. This is an example.
Strong Emotions                                                                Social Issues
Gramps face covered with tears—possible sadness or fear (pg 4)                 Getting older
                                                                               Mental illness
Grams being scared knowing that Gramps will forget                             Getting older
thingsimportance of memory box (pg 5)                                         Mental illness
Zach feeling better now that he knows what the memory box is                   Children helping parents in times of
used for...to help Zach’s mom see all the memories they collected              crisis
over the summer (pg 5)




                                                                                                                        19
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                      May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                              Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Minilesson
Week II Session 3: We look to see how character’s choices relate with the social issue they face.
Skills: Character Motivation and Cause and Effect
Bend: Good readers get to know characters better by observing how social issues affect their emotions,
actions, and choices in life.

  Connection

When I was in junior high, my parents got divorced. My father was the one who brought in the money and
my mother was an excellent stay-at-home mom. The divorce left my mother, brother and I in a sticky
situation with money. We weren’t so poor we couldn’t eat. But we were poor enough that I couldn’t go to
the mall on the weekends and buy new clothes all the time.

There were a couple of girls who used to tease me about wearing the same clothes. I felt embarrassed that
my mom didn’t have enough spare money to buy me new clothes. Because of my embarrassment, I was
determined to do something about my situation. Instead of reacting negatively and feeling depressed, I
started babysitting. This allowed me to buy a few nice pieces of clothing so that I wasn’t embarrassed
anymore. I made a choice to find a solution to not having enough money.

Like this story from my life, characters feel emotions, react, and make choices. These choices reinforce or
go against certain social issues.

I know for the past two days, we have been examining the way our characters feel and react around the
social issues they face. Today, I want to teach you that characters make choices that reinforce the social
issue in their lives or go against the issue. This is important because you, as the reader, get so see how
characters continually make choices based on the issues in their lives.

      Teach

Let’s continue our work with our timelines. Yesterday we worked on that scene where Ellie tells Anne
about her relationship with Miah. Let’s remind ourselves of the work we have so far...

Ellie’s Emotions______feels old, disappointed, angry______

Ellie’s Actions_______picks raises her voice, is silent, hangs up the phone______

Today, let’s look at the choices Ellie makes when she talks with her sister. We will add another line to our
timeline and label it Ellie’s Choices.

Think Aloud
Let’s see what choices Ellie makes in this scene. [quietly rereading to self but loud enough for students to hear]Ellie says
things like “I gotta go” and “You’re such a jerk!” Oh! And then, she hangs up the phone. Hmmmm. She doesn’t talk it
through with her sister because she’s too angry. She’s not confronting this issue of interracial dating. She’s ignoring it
right now.




                                                                                                                         20
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                     May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                             Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Watch how I add a new line to our timeline.

Ellie’s Emotions______feels old, disappointed, angry______

Ellie’s Actions_______picks raises her voice, is silent, hangs up the phone______

Ellie’s Choices______hangs up the phone, stops conversation______

Do you see how this helps me see how Ellie’s emotions, actions and choices line up with each other? Do
you notice how she’s not confronting the issue?

  Active Engagement

Alright, readers. Open your readers’ notebooks to the timelines you’ve been working on for your own
books. With one of your book club partners, add another line to your timelines that indicates what choice
your character makes when they are in a situation that’s clouded with a social issue.

         Teacher listens into some of the partnership conversations. Pull out a sample of work that
         illustrates student practice with this teaching point. Don’t hesitate to actually show the work done
         in the notebook. This visually may really help some students in the class. The teacher makes sure
         to hear students say if the characters choices is reinforcing or moving away from the issue they are
         battling.

       Link

8th grade, we added yet another layer to our understanding of our characters and the social issues they
interact with in their lives! We have looked at their emotions, how they react, and today, what choices they
make. We’ve also questioned whether their choices reinforce of move them away from the social issue they
experience. I made a choice to babysit and it wasn’t because I just loved little kids! I was tired of feeling
embarrassed and wanted to react positively about my situation. Your characters are the same way. You can
do this work with your independent reading books, as well as your book club books. Enjoy looking for the
choices your characters in their lives!

     Mid-Workshop
      Interruption

Note: This is another way to reinforce the minilesson, especially if students are not connecting the character’s choices
with their emotions or reactions at the time.

Readers, remember that we don’t make choices in a vacuum! We don’t live life in a vacuum! Life affects
us! People affect us! Feelings affect us! Remember to look at how the characters feeling about the issue s in
their life. Try to link those feelings with the choices they make!




                                                                                                                           21
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                    May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                            Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

     Coaching Into
      Book Club

Note: If this lesson were to occur on a book club day, I would want to listen into book clubs and see if the students were
transferring the minilesson into their talk.

Students, may I stop you for a moment. First, I want to commend you for really talking about your
character’s feelings. It is a wonderful thing to really stop and get to know how your character is feeling.
That teaches you so much about them, doesn’t it? May I remind you of something? Remember how I
showed you the timeline this morning and how we added characters’ choices? You can use those timelines
to talk off of during book clubs. Yes—you can literally have your notebook open to your timelines and share
the choices you think your character is making. This way, you can scope out what your classmates think
and rework what you think! Try it out and let me know how it goes tomorrow.




                                                                                                                       22
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                   May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                           Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Minilesson
Week II Session 4: We make specific and supported generalizations about character.
Skills: Making character-based generalizations
Bend: Good readers observe how characters’ choices affect other characters and impact our feelings or
judgments about them.

  Connection

This week has been full of work around looking at the choices our characters make: how characters are
affected by other characters, how choices create groups of people, how we agree or disagree with the choices.

Sometimes when we agree or disagree with characters and their choices, we can feel pretty strongly about
them. For instance, let’s say you don’t do so well on a spelling test. When you get that grade, sometimes
there’s a reaction to lash out at the teacher, right? Go ahead...be honest! I know because I’ve felt that way,
too. I’ll earn a bad grade and instead of looking at myself, I’ll say to my friends, “Ms. Monahan’s mean,
man. Real mean!” Or, I’ll think to myself, “I’m not smart! I just can’t get it!”

Well, let’s take a moment. People aren’t just one way, are they? No, Ms. Monahan’s not always mean. It’s
not that I’m “not smart,” I just didn’t do well that day.

The way characters are in one moment of a story is not how they always are throughout the story. Today I
want to teach you one way to avoid making these broad, sweeping generalizations. Instead of saying, “This
character’s mean!” you can say, “the character is mean when _________(this happens). This makes me
think...”

      Teach

Let’s take one of our favorite short stories, Thank You, M’am by Langston Hughes. Let’s re-read the
beginning of the story, where the boys attempts to steal Ms. Jones’s pocketbook.

         Teacher re-reads section.

Now, I’m tempted to say here that Ms. Jones is a mean woman. I mean to you see how she shakes the boy and yells at
him. But I’m going to wait and gather more information about the character’s actions.

         Teacher continues to read excerpts where Ms. Jones cleans, feeds and gives money to the boy.

My thoughts are changing. If Ms. Jones was mean, she wouldn’t clean up or cook for the boy. She definitely wouldn’t
give him 10 dollars. I think Ms. Jones was mean in the beginning when the boy stole her pocketbook. This makes me
think she was trying to scare him into staying with her for awhile. Ms. Jones must know a thing or two about children.
She must have known that the boy was in need of money, but more importantly, care.

Do you see how I acknowledge my automatic, broad generalization, but resisted to make it until I gathered
more information about the character and her actions?




                                                                                                                    23
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                               May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                       Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

  Active Engagement

See if you can try this strategy! Let’s use the same story but focus on making generalizations about the boy.
          Teacher re-reads the first page.
Quick! Turn and talk to your partner. What’s the first thing you want to say about the boy? Make a
generalization.
          Students share broad, first impression generalizations.
Let’s resist the urge to label the boy just yet. Let’s read the end of the story to really try to figure out his
situation.
          Teacher re-reads.
Turn and talk to your partner. What’s really going on with the boy? How is he really after knowing what
you know? Remember to say, “the character is _________ when __________. This makes me think...”
          Student samples of partnership talk:
      The boy is desperate when he steals the purse. This makes me think he may be poor.
      The boy is scared because he’s afraid of who he ran into. This makes me think he’s not so brave
          after all!
      The boy is neglected at home when he is dirty and hungry. This makes me think that he doesn’t
          have parents around
I really heard some deeper thinking happening around this character when people put his actions into
context. Excellent work.

      Link

So remember when you are reading today. People aren’t just one way. Characters aren’t just one way. One
way you can remember not to make broad sweeping generalizations about characters is by saying, “the
character is ____________ when ___________. This makes me think...” This strategy is especially helpful
when you are talking about books. This way, you hear a multitude of ways to think about the characters.

    Teaching Share

Book clubs were so much different day. I must tell you that I heard specific, fair generalizations about
characters in two book clubs today: The Mighty Giants and Tru Sisters Clubs. Students in these clubs
isolated when characters were a certain way and closely examining why there were those ways! Ciara saw
one character change three different times in just 2 chapters! Excellent work today in clubs, 8th grade.




                                                                                                              24
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                    May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                            Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Minilesson
Week IV Session 1: We realize how characters change on the inside in light of the social issues around
them.
Skills: Character inference and interpretation
Bend: Good readers find ways to bring what they learn about characters and interpretations of social issues
into their lives and worlds.

  Connection

I remember when you walked through my door as 7th graders. You had looks of nervousness, excitement,
and curiosity on your faces. Now, you sit in front of me at the end of your 8th grade year. A lot has
changed, hasn’t it? Our faces, our writing, our lives have changed in two years.

Characters change in their lives, too. Instead of waiting two years, like I did, you can see them change from
the beginning of the story to the end of the story! It’s satisfying, really. You get to stand outside that
character’s life for a moment and look at all the factors that made them change, especially the social issues
around them.

Today I want to teach you to realize how characters change on the inside in light of the social issues around
them. The way to do that is to build on what we know about books and how characters change.
Characters usually change in small ways throughout the story and in big ways at the end of the story,
especially in light of the social issues around them. This is important because this process happens to most
characters in any story!

      Teach
Note: The teach portion of this minilesson will be in the form of an instructional read aloud. See the attachment
following this minilesson for a copy of the chapter.

This is a big day! We are finishing our read aloud, If You Come Softly. We know that characters change at
the end of books. Let’s see how our characters leave us at the end of the book. You ready?

Think Aloud #1: Let me see, Miah was killed when Ellie was fifteen years old. Three years must have past.
I bet those were a tough couple of years for Ellie to be in school without Miah.

TA #2: Ellie doesn’t seem too excited about college. I picking up that she may be disillusioned by the
whole preparation of college. I’m remembering that Miah and Ellie wanted to go to college together, so this
migh be a difficult moment for her.

TA #3: Ellie realizes that despite any hardships Miah and her relationship might have brought her (in
terms of prejudice), she knows that he was the one for her. I’m not sure how I personally feel about just
having one person in life to partner with (if anyone at all), but I think Ellie feels strongly that Miah was her
one and only. That will cloud her future in terms of relationships with other guys.

TA #4: Ellie chooses to remember the good times. She isn’t remembering the tough issues she felt when
she was in an interracial relationship. This shows her focusing on the positive memories. I’m wondering
what other memories she’ll have.


                                                                                                                    25
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                                   May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                           Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8


TT #1: “When we were friends...” Turn and talk. What is Ellie saying about her relationship with Anne?
What’s changed?

TT #2: Has Ellie’s perspective on interracial dating changed? How do you know? Do you agree? Turn and
talk.

TT #3: What is Ellie changing here by using her memory? Why would she do that? Turn and talk.

TT #4: What is the story saying about interracial relationships and family? Turn and talk.

  Active Engagement

It’s always bittersweet when a book ends, isn’t it. Great work with your partners, 8th grade. Take out your
reading response journals. Let’s linger for a moment. In small groups (could be book club groups as they
sit at the rug), let’s talk about a couple of things.

Remember talking about characters changing in light of the social issues around them at the beginning of
this lesson? In groups, talk about these questions.

         What happens to the characters as time moves on? Have the characters changed their views on
         interracial dating at the end of the book?

Students discuss questions. Teacher should stop students and give them a moment to record parts of their conversation
in their journals.

       Link

Remember to treasure the end of the book. Our characters leave us and we get that moment to look at how
they’ve changed, especially in regards to the social issues around them. This is important because characters
change in big ways at the end of stories. We can learn a lot about them and from them by talking about how
issues have affected them.




                                                                                                                    26
Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                               May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                       Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

Minilesson
Week IV Session 3: We can develop theories about the social statement the author was trying to make
with her book.
Skills: Interpretation of Author’s Intent
Bend: Good readers find ways to bring what they learn about characters and interpretations of social issues
into their lives and worlds.

  Connection

During writing workshop, one thing most of you tell me is why you are writing your piece. Some of you say
you are writing to entertain your friends, others divulge they are writing a special letter to their mom.
Whatever the reason, you, writers, write for reasons. You write to change other people: to make them
laugh, to make them inspired, to make them wonder.

The writers in our books are just like us. They write for reasons, too. They craft their stories, so that at the
end of them, we are somewhat affected or changed.

Today I want to teach you that reading books for social issues can change our lives. We can develop
theories about the social statement the author was trying to make. We ask ourselves, “What does the
author want to say about the world?” We do this by looking at the conclusions the characters come to at
the end of the book.

     Teach

James Howe has said that he uses his words to make a difference. Pretty powerful, huh? If James Howe,
uses his words to make a difference, what does he want to say about the world at the end of The Misfits.

Think Aloud
Hmmmm....Let me try to squeeze out an idea. What would James Howe want to say about the world...? He
might want to remind people that it’s okay to be themselves. Yes. That’s it. James Howe wants us to be
true to ourselves, like how Joe was true to himself.

  Active Engagement

What else could James Howe want to say about the world? Maybe something about fairness? Or being nice?
I’m not sure. Turn and talk with your neighbor to see what ideas you can come up with. What does James
Howe want to say about the world?

Sample Student Ideas
    Being mean isn’t right
    You should stand up against meanness
    Hold onto true friends
    Resist stereotypes
    Don’t judge a book by it’s cover
    When something’s unfair, work to change it!


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Maggie Beattie—Unit of Study                                                             May 2007
L. Calkins—Constructing Critical Readers                     Social Issues Book Club Unit—Grade 8

      Link

Remember when you go into book clubs today, you can talk about your ideas about why the author wrote
what she wrote? This works especially well at the end of a book. This is important because you and your
classmates can put your heads together to figure out the deeper message that lingers in the minds of the
authors you’re reading. You can take the messages with you long after the book ends!

  Strategy Lesson for
  Advanced Students

Some students can get a head start on their literary essays for this unit. Students familiar with developing
thesis statements can use their ideas about what the author was saying about the world and turn those into
thesis statements.

I would offer a boxes and bullets approach to teach kids this. Students would already be familiar with this
strategy from past literary essay writing. Students come up with their big idea of the book’s message.

                      Big Idea of Novel: What is the author trying to say about the world?
3 ways the author illustrates this message
   1.
   2.
   3.

Students can elaborate on each of the bullets, using what they know about supporting ideas.




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