Reading lesson plans can be discussed as effective when they are oriented to different students’ interests, needs, skills, and learning styles. From this point, it is possible to speak about diversity in the class that is related to the students’ language capacity, their cultural backgrounds, abilities, special needs, and learning styles among other factors (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012). All these aspects can influence the quality of learning significantly, and they should be taken into account by teachers. Furthermore, the focus should be on proposing activities that are appropriate to develop the potential of each student in a diverse class (Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2012). The purpose of this paper is to review the reading lesson plan and suggest the revisions and improvements that can be effective to make the lesson more appropriate for a diverse class with the focus on differentiated instructions and activities.
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Overview of the Original Unit
The reviewed reading lesson plan has been designed to present the information on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”. Thus, the lesson plan has been developed for students from Grade 9 (Appendix A). The purpose of the lesson is to explore and discuss the principles of Magical Realism as a genre in the field of literature that influenced the development of specific forms of literary pieces. Those students who study in the selected class can be described as self-motivated readers who are interested in reading many fantastic novels and stories, as well as works that are written in the genre known as ‘fantasy’.
Therefore, the learning objectives determined for the lesson are the following ones: to become able to analyze the themes in texts written according to the principles of Magical Realism and to become able to distinguish tools and devices that are used by authors in order to create texts in the context of the proposed genre. There are also additional learning objectives: to become able to discuss differences of Magical Realism in contrast to other genres and to become able to recognize cultural perspectives related to the text (Appendix A). These objectives correspond with the Common Core State Standards for reading lessons in Grade 9 (Manville, 2015).
While referring to the aspect of diversity, it is important to note that strategies that should be used during the lesson are selected with the focus on students’ skills and needs. Thus, it is proposed to use the ‘Bookmark’ strategy in order to organize the pre-assessment. This approach is effective to encourage the discussion of details related to the text, but it is also possible to add other strategies in order to support the ‘Bookmark’ technique and make students focused on the story (Ritchhart et al., 2012). Other strategies include the ‘Say Something’ technique and the ‘Red Light, Yellow Light’ technique that are appropriate in order to work with different elements of the text (Appendix A). However, it is also important to add more strategies that are oriented to the development of students’ critical thinking skills. One more strategy that is proposed to organize the post-reading assessment is the ‘Chalk Talk’ technique. It is effective to organize the final part of the lesson according to the principles of active learning and scaffolding, but it is also possible to add more strategies in order to collect the data that are necessary for assessing the results of working with the text. Therefore, it is critical to concentrate on revisions that can be offered in order to make the lesson more effective.
In order to improve the existing reading lesson for Grade 9, it is necessary to focus on such aspects as the cultural responsiveness and differentiation of the provided instructions. A good lesson should include activities and instructions that address needs of all students in the class in spite of their cultures and learning abilities among other factors. Therefore, it is possible to propose a range of revisions that can be applied to the reading lesson on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”.
Although the current version of the lesson includes activities directed to linking the lesson with students’ cultures and backgrounds, it is possible to add more assignments that can contribute to developing students’ visions of cultural diversity in relation to their own lives. The original lesson plan includes activities based on discussing “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” from different cultural perspectives and in the context of its relation to the Latin American literature. Furthermore, students are also expected to work with portraits of other writers who created their works while following the principles of Magical Realism. However, it is also possible to include more assignments that contribute to the cultural responsiveness of students.
During the pre-reading activities, students are expected to learn more about Magical Realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and different representatives of this literature genre with the help of the PowerPoint Presentation. At this stage of the lesson, it is reasonable not only to ask students to work with portraits of famous writers as representatives of Magical Realism but also to discuss their contribution to the development of their national literature. Students can be asked to name the famous Latin American authors as representatives of Magical Realism, discuss what elements of the Latin American cultures can influence the development of such genre in the field of literature, and discuss how this literature is perceived in other world countries. Students can be asked to list the main qualities or features that they associate with Magical Realism and Latin American cultures or nations (Ritchhart et al., 2012). After focusing on the association between Magical Realism and Latin American cultures, the teacher should initiate the discussion of other literature movements and genres that are connected with different cultures similarly to Magical Realism. The discussion can include the reference to Greek myths and Japanese haiku among other genres.
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Such approach to including culturally responsive assignments is effective because it allows Spanish-speaking students to focus on the elements of the Latin American culture and discuss its role in their development. Furthermore, the reference to Magical Realism in other countries and the reference to other literature movements, genres, and forms that are associated with different cultures allow for demonstrating diversity (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012; Ritchhart et al., 2012). The culturally responsive environment is important for students to share their views, ask questions, and learn about cultures of each other (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012). These additions to the lesson plan are oriented to attracting the students’ attention to the heritage of Latin American cultures, and they can be discussed as effectively connected with the lesson topic.
The selected lesson plan is designed to be implemented only by one teacher. However, the class is diverse, and it is possible to refer to some co-teaching strategies in order to achieve higher results while providing the differentiated instruction. The lesson plan should be appropriate to work with students with hearing impairments. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on a supplemental teaching strategy. According to this strategy, a class should be divided into several heterogeneous groups (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012). It is expected that a leading teacher will work with the majority of students when a co-teacher will work with a group of students who have hearing problems and with English Language Learners (ELLs).
Thus, the class should be divided into three groups. In order to guarantee that ELLs and hearing impaired students follow instructions properly and achieve the learning objectives, it is necessary to focus on individual education goals for these students. The task of a co-teacher is to prepare cards with definitions of terms and specials handouts with translated notes to support the information from the PowerPoint Presentation for ELLs. These materials are provided before the lesson starts with the instruction on how and when to use cards and handouts. If a student experiences difficulties with understanding some words and sentences during a lesson, and there is no explanation in handouts, a co-teacher provides a student with a translation. Group activities for ELLs are also supervised and assessed by a co-teacher. This approach is effective to provide diverse students with the necessary support (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012).
A co-teacher is also responsible for working with students with hearing impairments. In order to guarantee that these students understand the information, a co-teacher provides them with speaker notes for the PowerPoint presentation, additional tables, and graphs among other visuals. Furthermore, a co-teacher provides these students with written instructions and organizes the question-answer session and discussion of the topic with the help of the ‘Circle of Viewpoints’ technique adapted for being used in a written form (Ritchhart et al., 2012, p. 171). Students are expected to share their ideas regarding “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and its topic using a sheet of paper and color markers to add their viewpoints regarding the discussed aspect. This technique is appropriate to be used in a written form for students with hearing impairments in order to discuss their specific views regarding some topics or problems (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012).
Research-Based Literacy Strategies
In addition to the proposed ‘Bookmark’, ‘Say Something’, ‘Red Light, Yellow Light’, and ‘Chalk Talk’ techniques, it is also important to offer to focus on such research-based strategies as the ‘Book Talk’ and ‘Connect-Extend-Challenge’ techniques. The Book Talk’ can be viewed as the extended version of the ‘Bookmark’ strategy, and it is possible to improve the pre-reading activities while adding the ‘Bookmark’ strategy with the ‘Book Talk’ to motivate students to pay more attention to the analyzed story and develop their skills in critical thinking and persuasion (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012). Students should be asked to read the story at home while marking the most important and interesting parts in “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”.
They prepare a ‘book talk’ that should motivate other students to read the story because of the provided details, proposed discussions of the most interesting excerpts, and expressive descriptions of characters. Still, this ‘book talk’ should not include a summary of the story. The purpose of preparing a ‘book talk’ is to convince the audience to pay attention to the story written by Marquez. During the lesson, some students should be asked to introduce their ‘book talks’ as a part of the pre-reading activity, and other students should be asked to present their talks during the post-reading activity to accentuate the most impressive elements or features of the book. According to Gallagher (2004), “students need to care about what they are reading. They must see the relevance of the assignment” (p. 29). Therefore, the proposed strategy can be viewed as effective to help students understand the importance of the story for them and their peers.
The ‘Connect-Extend-Challenge’ is another strategy that should be incorporated into the lesson plan in order to increase its effectiveness. This research-based strategy is proposed by Ritchhart et al. (2012) in their book, and it is appropriate to help students relate their current reading experience to their previous knowledge. After using the ‘Chalk Talk’ strategy and discussing the story in the context of other literature genres and movements, it is necessary to ask students to write down their ideas regarding the connection of stories created according to the principles of Magical Realism with other literary works that were previously studied by children. The teacher should also ask to write down new ideas that could appear in association with the story: How can this story expand the person’s knowledge and provoke thinking? Are there any details related to the story and Magical Realism that should be explained and discussed? This strategy can be used as a home task, and it will help students think more about such specific literature genre as Magical Realism.
Best Practices for Students with Special Needs and ELLs
The lesson plan is designed for the class with students who have hearing impairments. Therefore, the focus should be on adapting the resources transmitted with the help of the auditory channel to be received by students who concentrate on the visual information. In this context, it is necessary to propose the work with visual sources and concept maps (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012). As it was discussed earlier, a group of students with hearing impairments will be supervised by a co-teacher who will prepare speaker notes, tables, graphs, written instructions, sheets of paper, and color markers. These students will be asked to share their ideas regarding the read story. It is also important to provide these students with tablets and ask them to create concept maps with the help of the specific software in order to structure the plot of the story and identify the main details, topics, problems, and ideas (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012). These concept maps will be printed and provided for students to continue working on the task at home.
Accommodations for ELLs also depend on the work of a co-teacher who is responsible for preparing cards with definitions and handouts with translated notes. In order to improve understanding of the material in the class with Spanish-speaking students, it is also effective to provide them with the variant of the PowerPoint Presentation completed in Spanish. The reason is that all ELLs have different levels of the language capacity and some students can experience difficulties while following the information provided with the help of the PowerPoint Presentation in English (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012; Manville, 2015). In this case, handouts and translated speaker notes cannot be discussed as a tool that is appropriate for all students. Therefore, tablets can be used in order to demonstrate the PowerPoint Presentation prepared specially for ELLs.
While adding more activities in order to check the students’ understanding of the material and develop their critical thinking, it is important to focus on improving pre-, during-, and post-reading assessments proposed in the lesson plan. The pre-reading assessment in the lesson plan is based on evaluating the students’ results of using the ‘Bookmark’ strategy. However, in the revised lesson plan, it is possible to use the ‘Book Talk’ strategy. Therefore, the pre-assessment should be realized with the help of evaluating students’ talks in terms of the provided details and skills in persuading other people to read the discussed story (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012).
Assessments that are used during the lesson also include the focus on the students’ participation in discussions and their answers to short and detailed questions. It is also possible to propose the assessment that follows the added ‘Connect-Extend-Challenge’ strategy. It is necessary to ask students to discuss their opinions regarding the story and provide their answers to questions in a written form (Ritchhart et al., 2012). The alternative variant is to use the ‘Connect-Extend-Challenge’ strategy in an oral form and ask students to prepare their journal entries related to the story. From this perspective, it is appropriate to add more assessments that are oriented to collecting the detailed answers to the provided questions in oral and written forms. This approach is viewed as effective to be used in middle and high schools.
The focus of this lesson is on discussing the elements of Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”. However, it is also important to provide students with an opportunity to read other stories written in the context of Magical Realism and prepare their journal entries in order to make other children interested in reading these works (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012; Ritchhart et al., 2012). Therefore, it is important to propose reading such works as Isabelle Allende’s The House of Spirits, Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones, and Angela Carter’s Wise Children. These works should be mentioned in the PowerPoint Presentation, and those students who will prepare ‘book talks’ for the next lesson will be provided with a bonus. This variant of a home task should be proposed to learners who prefer doing extra tasks or to those students who demonstrate well-developed skills in reading and analyzing texts (Antonacci & Callaghan, 2012; Gallagher, 2004). This approach can be discussed as effective to differentiate the instruction for students and provide diverse children who have different levels of the reading capacity with appropriate assignments.
The analyzed lesson plan can be discussed as requiring revisions. The proposed improvements are associated with involving a co-teacher to work with ELLs and students with hearing impairments. Furthermore, there are many strategies that can be used during the lesson in order to improve reading and assessment activities. While working on improving this lesson in the future, it is possible to apply a strategy of using innovations in order to adapt assignments and focus on students with special needs. However, the proposed revisions can also be discussed as effective to address interests of diverse students.
Antonacci, P. A., & Callaghan, C. M. (2012). Promoting literacy development: 50 research-based strategies for k-8 learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Gallagher, K. (2004). Deeper reading: Comprehending challenging texts, 4-12. New York, NY: Stenhouse Publishers.
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Manville, M. (2015). Common Core State Standards for Grade 9: Language arts instructional strategies and activities. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.
Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2012). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.