So, after nothing works (not the long and “meaningful” chats, not the amazing personal examples — cue photo from yesterday — , not the concisely condensed handouts and personal “reference” guides), here is what we do. It’s not new. It’s not unique. It not’s even unconventional.
Rearrange the room grouping the desks into threes. This is probably the biggest struggle since the opportunity for personal injury arises in any room rearrangement. Then wait.
They walk in.
“No assigned seats,” they think.
“No terrible and horrible columns of death,” they silently cheer.
“We are going to have fun,” they chortle. [Okay, too far. I know.]
- Split students into groups of two or three. They should be small enough to be productive.
- Give each group a short passage, an image, a cartoon, anything that will work for what you’re studying.
- Highlight three things you want them to annotate. This will differ depending on the “text” you’re using.
- Focus areas suggestions-tone, style, argument, purpose
- Ask them as a group to read, examine and discuss.
When finished, groups rotate the “texts” in round robin fashion. Each group must add to those three annotations. Build upon them. Delve deeper each time. They can’t examine a new area of the “text.” They can’t change the annotations that have already been constructed. They must add on, refine, and improve. It is a difficult task. However, working with the comments of others forces them to consider what is missing something they don’t see clearly with their own writing.
When every group has marked every passage, have students return to the text with which they began. They must now take those three built-up annotations and turn them into analysis/commentary. They can hand write or type.
Depending on time, students can read aloud their best or, for an outside of class extension, they can post to a discussion thread on a site like schoology.com. The up side to a discussion thread is it allows students to see models and it allows you the opportunity to comment on each group’s commentary with the reply button.