New Semester. New Unit. Nonfiction.

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Part One: What is true?

The nonfiction unit I have designed to use with my kids this year can really be adapted to any classroom, at any age. Most of the unit is driven by student choice, and teacher modelling, so really you can use any materials to model any of the skills you are interested or called to teach. This is a highly student-centered unit, so it is important to remember that you are assessing skills. Not content. Of course, there is no lazy way to execute this. It will require a lot of modelling, reading and taking in a lot of information, but I mean, isn’t that the fun part? I don’t know about you, but my favorite thing about teaching is that I am in a classroom where I learn every day. As a fan of learning, and a believer that I do not know it all (or much, really, in context), I enjoy units like this that keep me on my toes, teach me a lot, and where the students are engaged, and learning, and teaching.

The Particulars:

  1. This unit was taught over 13 80-minute blocks that meet every other day.
  2. At the beginning of the year, I set up this routine. I play a song or read a poem to the students every single day. I cannot stress the success I have had with this (it’s my first year trying this, even though I have wanted to do this for years). These can be used in any way, to develop and deepen themes, to explore character development, to review figurative language. I mean, really, the list goes on. I like it because every single day, my students walk in happy and excited to see what is going to happen. They are called to the music that can be heard in the hallway, and when I hand them a lyric sheet and say hello as they walk in, students know that I care about them. They come in and talk about the song with their peers and then take their seats and get out their notebooks. Every day, the routine is the same, and they actually do it. Once the bell rings and I take attendance, we listen to the song again, and depending on the day I will give them a prompt about it to respond to, or just ask them to jot down things they like or notice. It is low-stakes writing that I do not grade. It gets them engaged, and thinking, the second they walk in the door. No time is wasted. It’s brilliant. Try it, and use it in a way that makes sense for you.


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