Genius Teacher Idea
This Halloween, don't miss Scope's telling of the creepy classic The Monkey's Paw. Your students are going to love this thrilling and mysterious play with a cliffhanger ending. That's why we especially love how middle school teacher Teresa Gross brought the play to life in her classroom. Check out how she did it on her blog, and discover more of her stellar classroom ideas @teresagross625.
How do you celebrate Halloween in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor's Note: We are so in love with Kim O'Bray's student-led project. After reading about tardigrades in a Scope infographic, Kim's students became fascinated by these microscopic critters. (We totally get why—tardigrades can survive 10 years without food or water!) So Kim turned her students' interest into an opportunity to do independent research and a creative project. We think this is a great activity for the end of the school year.
None of us had ever heard of a tardigrade before we read the infographic "The Amazing Tardigrade" in Scope (September 2015). After completing their contest entries (writing paragraphs arguing that the tardigrade should be the school mascot), my students were clamoring to find out more about this curious creature. So, I grabbed the opportunity and had them do independent research on the tardigrade. They were tasked with discovering anything and everything about tardigrades and then presenting their findings to the class in a creative way. Some students worked alone while others worked in groups, but they all came up with inventive ways to present their research.
speaking, listening, independent research, using multiple mediums to visually express information
1-2 class periods (time out of class to create presentations will vary)
Several students wrote fiction stories about the tardigrade and even illustrated them.
Some students created comics featuring the tardigrade as a crime-fighting superhero.
One group made a 3-D model of a tardigrade using a pillowcase for the body and attaching index cards with factoids to each of the tardigrade's many feet. This model hung in my classroom all year long!
Have your own creative end-of-year project ideas? Tell us about them in the comments below!
Kim O’Bray teaches reading to 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders at Pittsburg Community Middle School in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Editor's Note: We love this Sticky Note Museum activity from 7th-grade ELA teacher Jennifer Stahl—and not just because it involves a microphone! Jennifer gets her students up and out of their chairs by having them display their answers to Scope's critical-thinking questions on sticky notes around the classroom. Then students use a microphone to present their answers and respond to their classmates. Try this out in your classroom, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!
This activity is always a popular one with my students because it's fun and a little different, and it gives them an opportunity to shine. Each student presents his or her response to a critical-thinking question using a microphone, then passes the mic to another student. My students really enjoy the freedom of running the discussion on their own. I also notice that when students use the mic, they think more carefully about their responses and rest of the class listens more closely and is very engaged. For the activity below, I used the Scope short fiction "Dear Future" from the September 2014 issue of the magazine, but any long Scope text will work just as well.
What You'll Need:
- any Scope text, such as this one
- any of Scope's Critical-Thinking Questions, such as these
- poster board
- different colored sticky notes
critical thinking, speaking and listening
One class period (60 minutes)
NOTE: Students are very familiar with the text by the time we do this activity because we have read and discussed the text beforehand.
Step 1: Post the questions.
- Write out each critical-thinking question at the top of a separate sheet of poster board.
- Hang the poster boards on a wall where students can easily access them.
Step 2: Students answer the questions.
- Hand out the sticky notes.
- Have students write the answer to each critical-thinking question on a separate sticky note.
- I like to have a wide variety of sticky note colors on hand so that students can easily distinguish their answers later.
Here's how one student answered the first question:
Step 3: Students post their answers.
- Have students place their answers under the appropriate question on the poster boards. (I especially love this part of the activity because it gets kids out of their seats and walking around.)
- Once all students have posted all of their answers, you should have a colorful wall full of sticky notes!
Step 4: Students lead a "pass the mic" discussion.
- Kick off the discussion by calling on a student to answer the first question.
- Let students know that after giving their answer, they will call on and pass the mic to the next person.
- I like to gather the students near the wall of sticky notes so students can refer to their answers during the discussion if needed.
- Each student will respond to the previous student's answer by saying "I agree
because . . . " or "I disagree because . . . "
- I like to hang up a poster (pictured below) with sentence starters and questions to help students during the discussion.
- I interject during the discussion only to keep students on track and to get them to expand their answers. For example, I sometimes ask: "Well, why does that matter?" Or: "Can anyone give text evidence for so-and-so's claim?" But they run show!
Jennifer Stahl is a 7th-grade ELA teacher at Forrestdale School in Rumson, New Jersey.
Editor's note: Do your students get tripped up when it comes to central ideas and supporting details? If so, you will love this idea from Scope advisor and 6th grade ELA teacher Joanne Canizaro.
What you’ll need:
- Any long nonfiction Scope text. I used "The Girl Who Lived Forever" from the April 2015 issue.
- List of Close-Reading Questions. You can create your own questions and/or use questions from these two Scope activities: Central Ideas and Details and Finding and Using Text Evidence (available on two levels).
- Central Idea and Supporting Details grid
- Computer, tablet, poster board, or paper for the grid
- Presentation Rubric for peer review
Citing text evidence, identifying central idea and supporting details, speaking and listening
Three class periods (60 minutes each)
NOTE: By the time we do this lesson, we have already read and discussed the article as a class.
DAY 1: Respond to the Close-Reading Questions
- Divide students into small groups and assign each group at least one section of the article. (I sometimes give a group more than one section if the sections are short.)
- Distribute the Close-Reading Questions to each student. Students will return to these questions on Day 2 for the peer review.
NOTE: I create my own close-reading questions for this lesson, but you can pull some or all of the questions from Scope's Central Ideas and Details activity and Finding and Using Text Evidence activity.
- Have each group answer the questions for their assigned section(s).
Differentiation Tip: Have struggling students write a brief summary of their section before they answer the questions.
- Have each group present their answers to the class. (This helps the teacher assess whether the groups are on the right track with their answers.)
DAY 2: Find the central idea and supporting details
- Reconvene the small groups and pass out the Central Idea and Supporting Details grid.
- Explain to students that they should write the title of their assigned section at the top of the page, the central idea of the section in the middle box, and the supporting details in the surrounding boxes. (If tablets or computers are available, you can create the template as a PowerPoint or Google slide and have students share the slide(s) among the group members so they can work on it together.)
- Tell students that the supporting details should be arranged in an organized way, such as chronologically, sequentially, etc.
NOTE: This step may not take an entire class period to complete.
Here's an example of a filled-out grid:
DAY 3: Present and peer review
- Provide each group with a copy of the Presentation Rubric. Students should also have their copy of the text and the Close-Reading Questions from Day 1 in front of them.
- In section order, have each group present its completed Central Idea and Supporting Details grid. If using paper, use a document camera to project the grid.
- During each presentation, the rest of the class should assess the presentation according to the Presentation Rubric and check off the close-reading questions as they are answered.
- After each presentation, invite the rest of the class to ask questions or provide comments or suggestions. Students often have questions about why a particular piece of supporting evidence was chosen. They also like to offer suggestions for other pieces of evidence the group could have used. I encourage students to pose their questions and give their feedback in a respectful and encouraging way, like this:
I noticed that the box on the right states . . .
I wonder why you chose to . . .
We would like to suggest that you . . .We reread the section and thought you could . .
Here's a photo of one student presentation:
Joanne Canizaro is a Scope advisor and a 6th grade ELA teacher at Hopatcong Middle School in Hopatcong, New Jersey.
Editor's note: We are delighted by the way 6th-grade teacher and Scope advisor Kathy Walseman uses the Scope answer key to model constructed response! Check it out below—then try it in your classroom!
I find that modeling constructed responses really helps my students understand how to write these tricky answers. I noticed that Scope's very thorough answer key includes many terrific models. So, I began to share the answers with my students and found that their writing improved immensely.
What you'll need:
- any Scope writing prompt (included at the end of most articles), such as this one
- a Scope answer key (included with every issue of the magazine), such as this one
- a projection device, such as an Elmo
writing a topic sentence, supporting a claim, text evidence, organization
Students write an answer to a Scope writing prompt, such as this one from "War of the Worlds," the play from March 2017 issue of the magazine:
Copy the answer from the answer key and project it for students to read.
Have students compare the Scope response to their own.
Analyze the Scope answer as a class. I have students analyze the topic sentence to see if it restates the prompt and/or can stand alone without the question and highlight text evidence in different colors depending on whether it’s a direct quote or a paraphrase.
I ask students to write an exit ticket which states something they saw in the Scope example that they’d like to try to do in their next constructed response.
Kathy Walseman is a Scope advisor and a 6th-grade teacher in Dahlgren, Virginia.
Editor's Note: Nothing bring us more joy than when a teacher tells us her students read a story in Scope and were inspired to take action. So imagine our excitement when we heard about 6th-grade teacher Angel Barnsback's fabulous awareness campaign project! Read about what Angel's class did, and then scroll down to read Angel's lesson plan which you can use in your own classroom for any global issue that your students are passionate about.
How My Students Came to Adopt an African Elephant
Boris Roessler, Zuma Press
Like your students, my 6th-graders have big hearts and often want to make a difference but don't know how. So it was no surprise that after reading and discussing Scope's incredible story about Ishanga ("Can She Be Saved?" December/January 2017), a baby African elephant who was rescued after her mother was killed by poachers, my students wanted to find out everything they could about how Ishanga was doing today. We went to Scope Online where we found a link to the website of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where Ishanga now lives. My students got so excited when they saw that they could actually adopt Ishanga for a year—and for $50! The class had recently won exactly $50 for a holiday door-decorating competition and had been considering getting a hamster for the classroom. Instead, my students became Ishanga's adoptive parents. The money goes toward the cost of caring for Ishanga. We received a fostering certificate and get frequent updates on Ishanga's health and activities from her keeper's diary.
My students were so inspired that they wanted to inspire and inform the rest of the 6th-grade class. So they created a series of posters about the problem of wildlife poaching. Students chose a partner and created either an educational or an awareness poster to hang in the classroom. The only requirement I gave them was that they had to correctly use at least 10 of the vocabulary words from the Scope texts.
Lesson Plan for an Awareness Campaign
What you'll need:
Any Scope text that sheds light on a current humanitarian or wildlife problem such as:
- "Can She Be Saved?" about the problem of wildlife poaching
- "Thirst" about the lack of access to clean water faced by people around the world
- "Swimming for Her Life" about a Syrian refugee who competed in the Olympics
- "This Apple Could Have Been Saved" about the problem of food waste in America and how it can be solved
vocabulary words and definitions that accompany the Scope text, such as these
vocabulary, gathering information from multiple sources and diverse formats, conducting research, demonstrating understanding of a subject
one 90-minute period for creating the posters
I first had students text mark the Scope paired texts articles about poaching to identify the points they wanted to include in their posters. They used the following symbols:
- Exclamation mark: connecting to another text or identifying something surprising
- Eyeball: something eye-opening
- Thought bubble: something that makes you think
- Lips: something you would like to discuss
After reading the paired texts, my students wanted to learn even more about the plight of elephants and other wildlife. So they did additional research using the resources provided at Scope Online, such as the African Wildlife Foundation, through which they discovered that African elephants could become extinct in our lifetime due to poaching.
Some students chose to devote their posters to informing other students about the problem of poaching. So they made anti-poaching posters to hang around the classroom for the rest of the 6th-grade to read. They used information from the Scope texts along with the information they gathered from their additional research.
Other students wanted to devote their posters to presenting solutions to the poaching problem. As with the other posters, they used information from the Scope texts and from their independent research.
I instructed my students to incorporate their new vocabulary from the paired texts in their posters.
My students often encounter an injustice and want to do something to help, but they don't know how to or they think they can't make a difference. By adopting Ishanga, my students were able to see how even a small gesture can have a positive impact. Not only did they help one animal in need, but they also spread awareness and kindled a desire among others to do more. One student is now volunteering at a local animal shelter and another is doing an independent project on the plight of elephants in the circus.
Angel Barnsback is a 6th-grade ELA teacher at Liberty Middle School in Morganton, North Carolina. She is also a teacher advisor.
Editor's Note: 6th-grade teacher Mary Blow shares her excellent gallery walk activity, which familiarizes students with the challenging language they will encounter on high-stakes tests, reinforces key skills, and builds testing confidence.
Many of my students struggle with the academic language on high-stakes exams. So I came up with a gallery walk activity to expose them to this language and to some of the skills they will encounter on state assessments. Students begin by breaking down and answering a series of questions about a Scope text. Each student then becomes an "expert" on two questions and acts as a museum guide during a class gallery walk through all of the questions. Finally, students participate in a peer review. In the example outlined below, I used the short story "Follow the Water" from the September 2016 issue of Scope. Not only is it a great piece of fiction, but it also covers the six main standards that students will encounter on most state exams. However, you can do this activity using any long fiction or nonfiction text in Scope.
What you'll need:
- any long Scope text. For this example, I used the fiction piece "Follow the Water"
- questions about the text from Scope's support materials, such as Core Skills Workouts, quizzes (constructed-response questions), or critical-thinking questions. (I tweaked Scope's critical-thinking questions for the activity outlined below.)
- a poster for each question to hang around the classroom for the gallery walk, like these which I created
- a list of all the same questions on one page for students to use
- a rubric for peer reviews, such as this one which I created
inference, text structure, author purpose, point of view, vocabulary
four class periods, one hour each
1. Preparing the questions
- Prepare 11 questions from the text—one to use as a model and 10 for the students to answer on their own. These questions can be drawn from Scope's support materials for the text you are working with or you can create your own. Here are some examples of questions I created for "Follow the Water." (Download all the questions here.)
- Make an inference based on text details: Why are Georgie’s dreams important to the story? [RL.6.1]
- Explore the structure of the text: Consider how the author begins sections 3, 4, 5, and 6. How are the events in the story organized? [RL.6.5]
- Compare point of view: How does Georgie’s perspective of life on Mars differ from that of her parents? [RL.6.6]
- Create a poster for each of the 10 questions (or download mine). That is, write each question on its own piece of paper. The posters will be hung around the classroom later, during the gallery walk.
- Create a student handout: a list of all 10 questions on one piece of paper. Make enough copies to give each student one handout.
2. Modeling an answer
- Provide an overview of the activity, explaining to students that each of them will answer 10 questions on their own and then work in a group to become an "expert" on two of the questions.
- Model annotating and answering a question in the following way:
Step 1: Define the vocabulary.
- Clarify any vocabulary words in the questions and annotate their meanings.
- If there are any unfamiliar words, look them up.
Step 2: Identify the tasks.
- Identify the explicit tasks (those that are clearly stated). For example, the question below explicitly asks you to explain how the setting adds to the problem.
- Identify the implicit tasks (those that are implied). For example, to answer the explicit question below, you must identify the problem (implicit task) before you can explain how the setting contributes to it.
Step 3: Write a claim.
- Write a claim that answers the question. The claim should be based on evidence from the text.
3. Answering questions individually
- Give each student a copy of the handout (the list of all 10 questions).
- Have each student answer all 10 questions on his or her own, following the process that you just modeled.
4. Working in groups
- Divide students into five groups of about four students each. (Adjust group size as you see fit; if you have a small class, you may want to have fewer than five groups.)
- Assign each group two of the 10 questions. (If you have fewer than five groups, you won't assign all of the questions.)
- Explain to students that they will become experts on the questions they have just been assigned.
- As a group, students should discuss their responses to both questions. As part of this discussion, students should also explain what in the text led them to their claims—or, putting it another way, what text evidence supports their claims. All group members should take notes during the discussion. This will prepare them for the leadership role they will assume during the gallery walk.
- At the end of the discussion, all group members should understand the language in the questions, the explicit and implicit tasks required by the questions, what claim or claims can be made in response to the questions, and what text evidence supports that claim/those claims.
- While students are working, walk around the room to ensure that students are on the right track.
DIFFERENTIATION TIP! If you have struggling readers, provide them with some sentence starters.
DAYS 2 and 3
5. Gallery walk
- Hang the question posters throughout the room. (Hang posters only for the questions you assigned to the groups.)
- Divide students into NEW groups so that each group includes at least one "expert" on each question. (An easy way to do this is to start with students in their groups from the day before and then count off the members of each group from 1 to 5. All of the 1’s then form a new group, all of the 2’s another group, etc.)
- In their new groups, students should proceed through the gallery walk, moving from one question poster to the next and stopping to discuss the answer to each question.
- At each poster, the expert (or experts) within the group for that particular question should guide the discussion, making sure that the group understands the question and answers it accurately and thoroughly.
- During the walk, all students should take notes on their handouts. They will use these notes later when they complete their independent written responses.
- Groups should spend about 5 minutes at each question. Use a timer to keep the groups focused and moving.
- It takes one class period to go through about five questions, so we devote two days to the gallery walk.
DIFFERENTIATION TIP! Have each group post their annotated questions from Day 1 beneath the question poster on the wall. This provides a useful visual during the discussion and is especially helpful for students who are slower at taking notes.
6. Summative assessment
- Have each student randomly draw a number from a basket. Each number should correspond to one of the questions from the gallery walk. (I like to use numbered poker chips for the drawing, but you can use slips of paper.) Each student will work independently to write an answer to the question he or she picked.
- When answering, students must state a claim and support it with at least two pieces of evidence from the text. Tell students that they can refer back to the text as they work and that they can also use their notes from the gallery walk.
- I give students 10 to 15 minutes in class to complete the task because it simulates a testing environment. But if you want to save classroom time, you can assign this as homework.
7. Peer review
- In this step, students will use a rubric to assess each other's written responses. (Here is the rubric that I created.)
- Give each student one copy of the rubric. Direct students to fill out the top of the rurbric with their name and the number of the question that they wrote an answer for. Students should then pass their rubric and their written response to another member of the group. The student who receives the rubric should write his or her name on the rubric, select a color with which to mark the rubric, and use the rubric to assess his or her peer's work.
- Have students switch papers one more time so that each student's work is reviewed by two members of the group.
- The completed rubrics should then be stapled to the written responses and returned to the students who wrote the answers. Invite students to ask their reviewers any questions they have about their scores.
- Finally, all rubrics should be submitted to you for a final score.
This activity really builds my students' test-taking confidence. I don’t use test-review workbooks, and I don’t teach to the test. I do, however, take a couple weeks before the test to review how to transfer what students have learned in class to test-taking. This activity is a wonderfully collaborative way do it. One of my students recently said to me, "This was hard, but it was a lot of fun." It's not often that a student has fun while being challenged!
Mary Blow teaches 6th-grade English at Lowville Academy Middle School in Lowville, New York. Follow Mary’s fantastic blog!
Editor's Note: Amy Sylvester's creative multimedia project is just the thing for those final weeks of the school year. After reading, discussing, and analyzing a Scope play, Amy's students turn it into a gorgeous digital flipbook by recording a reading of the play and illustrating it themselves. This fun and collaborative project can be done whether or not you're a 1:1 classroom. It calls for just a few devices and some basic software. Amy and her fellow teacher Matt Mankiewicz collaborated on this project.
I do this project at least three times a year with Scope plays—which are always a big hit in my classroom. I love this project because it builds students' reading confidence and lets them stretch their creative muscles. It's also great fun! For the example project described below, I used the The Tell-Tale Heart (based on the classic Poe story) from the September issue of the magazine.
What you'll need:
any Scope play, such as this one
at least one iPad or computer per group
movie editing software, such as iMovie, or presentation software, such as PowerPoint or Keynote
audio recording software, such as GarageBand
speaking; listening; using multiple mediums, including digital media, to visually express information
5-6 class periods: 3 periods to practice reading the play and create the pictures, and another 2-3 periods to record the play, choose music and sound effects, and put the slideshow together
NOTE: By the time students do this project, they have already read and analyzed the play in class and learned about Edgar Allan Poe.
1. Divide students into groups and do a practice run
- Divide the class into groups of 8-10 students. The groups should be big enough so that each student gets at least one part. If there aren't enough parts to go around, some students can take on multiple roles.
- Have students highlight their role(s) in the magazine so they can follow along easily.
- Have each group read through the play once or twice for practice. By this point in the unit, they have all read the play 3-5 times before, so they are very familiar with it.
- As the groups practice reading their roles, circulate around the room offering tips and advice.
2. Record the play
- Once the students are comfortable reading their parts, they find a quiet spot in the classroom, gather around in a circle, and record a reading of the play.
- You can use any audio recording software, but I like GarageBand because it's pre-loaded on our iPads. Since we are 1:1, I have all the students record the play on their own devices so that they each have their own recording to refer back to as the create their illustrations. If you are not 1:1, students can record on one device and then share the audio files with the group using Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.
- The recording sometimes takes two tries to get it right, so this can be a little time consuming.
- As the groups record, continue circulating around the room to make sure they are on the right track.
3. Create a storyboard
- Students determine as a group which parts of the play they want to illustrate, considering which elements are most important and which lend themselves best to visual representation.
- The students create a storyboard on Google Docs (so that it can be shared among the group members), sketching out what each illustration will look like.
- Review all the completed storyboards and provide feedback to each group to help refine their ideas.
- Once the storyboards are set, the students divide up the illustrations so that each student creates about three. Each group should end up with about 23 illustrations for a 10-minute recording.
- I created the below document for groups to keep track of who is creating which illustrations.
4. Create illustrations and add sound effects
- Students create their illustrations then scan them.
- I like using iMovie to create the digital flipbook, but you can use any simple movie editing software, or even PowerPoint.
- Students upload their images and organize them according to their storyboard.
- At this point students also add music (iMovie has copyright-free music, but students can choose to add their own music too) to enhance the mood of the play. They can also record sound effects for extra pizzazz (such as opening a squeaky door or beating shoes against the floor to simulate clomping horses).
5. Share it out
- Have each group share their finished product with the rest of the class. (Google Docs is an easy way to do this.)
- Each group selects one person to talk about the group's work, walking through their process and decisions, and highlighting any challenges they encountered.
- Because each recording is about 10 minutes long, it's impossible to share them all in class, so I post all the movies on Google Classroom so that students can watch everything on their own time.
6. Peer review
- Assign students the task of watching 2-3 of the flipbooks and providing feedback to their peers. I think it's important for students to have an opportunity to provide constructive peer feedback. Through this process they also learn how they might approach the project differently next time.
By the end of the unit, even the most reluctant readers have become very confident because they have been so deeply engaged and feel they have ownership over the work. This translates to improved fluency, no matter the students' reading level. I am always surprised by the kids who typically don’t volunteer to read aloud in class but who become very engaged and perform impressively nuanced readings. And there's a part in this project for every student—more technologically inclined students can play a larger role in editing the slideshow and the sound effects, while more artistic students can help think up inventive ways to visualize the story. Even though each group is using the same source material, I'm always astonished by the diversity of the flipbooks that students produce!
Here's an example of a finished project:
Amy Sylvester is a 6th-grade teacher at Golden Hill Elementary School in Fullerton, California.
Matt Mankiewicz, a fellow Golden Hill teacher, collaborated with Amy on this project.
Editor's Note: Teacher Kim Wagner returns to the Scope Ideabook with another WOWZA idea. We are in love with how she uses subheads for summarizing, exploring text structures, and identifying central ideas. So doable! So delightful! Do you have inventive ways that you use subheads in your classroom? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Subheads are often overlooked, but I like to use them to help my struggling readers as well as my on-level readers practice several key skills. I've found that the subheads in Scope's nonfiction articles work especially well for these activities, particularly in longer articles like this one.
Here's how I use subheads to practice summarizing, text structures, and central ideas.
What you'll need:
any Scope nonfiction text with multiple subheads, like this one
a list of the article's subheads in random order
summarizing, text structures, central ideas
15-50 minutes, depending on the text length and skill
Before reading the article, have students read all the subheads and write a summary predicting what the article will be about. Read the article as a class, then have students return to their predictions and see how accurate they were. Have students discuss how and why their predictions were or were not accurate.
2. Text Structures
Before reading the article as a class, create a list of all its subheads in random order. Distribute the list to the class and have students organize the subheads according to different text structures: chronological, problem/solution, cause/effect, etc. After you read the article, have students compare their lists to the article's actual structure. Have a discussion about why the author may have structured the article the way that he or she did.
3. Central Ideas
After reading the article, ask students to rewrite all the subheads in their own words. This is a creative way for students to consider the central idea of each section while giving you, the teacher, immediate feedback about their understanding.
Kim Wagner is a Language Arts teacher at Hendersonville Middle School in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She is also a Scope teacher advisor.
Editor's Note: Sixth-grade ELA teacher and Scope advisor Angel Barnsback recently told us about how she uses "expert groups" in her classroom to give students ownership of their learning. After analyzing a text as a class, Angel breaks the class into groups and assigns each group a close-reading question on which the group members will become experts, first learning and then teaching what they learned to their classmates. We were so excited by her brilliant idea that we simply HAD to share it with you IMMEDIATELY. Enjoy!
What I really love about this activity—and why I do it so often—is that it gives students ownership of the knowledge they acquire, which helps them better retain that knowledge. Making students "experts" also gives them a sense of responsibly—to themselves, their group, and the class—to answer their assigned question thoughtfully and thoroughly. My students take this responsibility seriously! And because the activity is done in small groups, students who may be reticent to participate in whole-class discussions have the chance to be engaged in a less intimidating setting.
I usually do this activity with at least one article in each issue of Scope. For the November issue, I had my students become experts on the play This is What Courage Looks Like. Here's how I did it.
What you'll need:
any Scope text that lends itself to close reading, such as this one
close-reading and critical-thinking questions, such as these
vocabulary definitions, such as these
handheld whiteboard or large easel pad
text evidence, key ideas and details, analyzing, synthesizing, vocabulary in context, presenting information
15 minutes to construct answers
15 minutes for all groups to share their answers (about 3 minutes per group)
NOTE: Before I start this activity, we've already analyzed and discussed the text as a class, so students are very familiar with the text.
Step 1: Stuff envelopes.
I like to place the close-reading questions in envelopes, so students don't see the question they'll be answering before they choose it. I place one close-reading question in each envelope along with the definitions of the vocabulary words that appear in the text, to encourage students to use some of these new words in their presentations.
A great way to scaffold the close-reading questions is to add sentence starters and page numbers to direct students to the parts of the text where they can find the answers.
Step 2: Distribute the envelopes.
Divide the class into groups and have one student from each group choose an envelope.
Step 3: Students construct their answers.
Working in groups, students brainstorm the answer to the close-reading question from their envelope. They should use evidence from the text as well as some of their new vocabulary words. They should also make connections to other texts they’ve read, events in the world, or events in their own lives. Students then write their answers on a whiteboard or large notepad. (Students are very familiar with the text at this point, so they'll be flipping right to the evidence that supports their answers.)
Step 4: Students present their answers.
Each group chooses one person to present the group's answer. This student presents the answer to the class, providing text evidence to support the answer as well as explaining how and why the group formed that answer. I encourage students to talk to the class when presenting rather than look at notes. After all, they are experts now!
Step 5: Discuss as a class.
After each group has presented, I invite the rest of the class to comment and add to the answer. The presenting student responds to each comment. This is a great way to assess if the group really thought through its answer.
My students really get into this activity. In fact, one student suggested that every group should get a copy of the other groups' questions to discuss among themselves when they finish their expert group work. He followed up by saying, "That way, we can come to the whole-class discussion fully prepared to contribute." Love these kids!
Angel Barnsback is a 6th-grade ELA teacher at Liberty Middle School in Morganton, North Carolina. She is also a Scope teacher advisor.