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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 9

Length: 20 min.

Grade Levels:
Professional Development

Language Arts and Literature

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Engaging With Literature: A Video Library for Teachers, Grades 3-5

This video workshop—part of the Envisioning Literature series based on the research of Dr. Judith Langer—shows grades 3–5 teachers how to guide students in becoming effective and engaged readers of literature. Nine 60-minute programs showcase teachers from across the country discussing and demonstrating the philosophy and techniques they employ. The workshop centers on the belief that students have the innate skill to make sense of information they discover in a text—if they are presented with the opportunity and expectation of doing so, and are generously scaffolded by their teachers as their story worlds evolve through reading, writing and talking about literature. Individual programs deal with initiating and maintaining such a classroom community while dealing with numerous pragmatic issues, including high-stakes assessments and meeting the needs of students of many ability levels. A print guide and Web site supplement the videos, providing for a complete professional development workshop.

Episode Guide

1. Signposts — This program introduces the principles that form the backbone of this video library—effective practices for engaging in literature. Dr. Judith Langer explains the characteristics that decades of research have shown to be most effective in building classrooms where students are active learners, building and sharing their individual and richly involved understandings of works of literature—what she calls envisionments. These characteristics are shown in action through introductory visits to the classrooms of the eight teachers who appear in this video library. View the web resources for this program here.

2. Voices in the Conversation — A visit to Katherine Bomer’s fifth-grade class showcases techniques for involving all students in a classroom read-aloud and the ensuing discussion that follows. Ms. Bomer respectfully models, supports and encourages conversations among students on the text The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph. View the web resources for this program here.

3. Starting Out — Jonathan Holden begins exploring poetry with his fourth-grade class. He carefully guides them as they create and explore individual and rich envisionments of the text through discussion and writing. The class explores poems from Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash by Donald H. Graves and Hey You! C’Mere: A Poetry Slam by Elizabeth Swados. View the web resources for this program here.

4. Responding to Literature — Rich Thompson works with a small student group as they explore the text Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Mr. Thompson becomes an active participant in their discussion, modeling ways in which students can take more active roles in classroom discussion through preparation, turn-taking, receptiveness to alternate views, posing (and trying to answer) authentic questions and a willingness to accept ambiguity. View the web resources for this         program here.

5. Sharing the Text — BJ Namba’s third-grade class works in book groups to connect with characters and perspectives offered by texts that portray unfamiliar situations. Ms. Namba interacts with the groups, demonstrating when to step in to the conversation and when to stand back and observe the group’s work. Texts include The Pinballs by Betsy Byars, Just Juice by Karen Hesse, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, War With Grandpa by Robert Kimmel Smith, and Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. View the web resources for this program here.

6. Building Community — A combined class of fourth and fifth graders works in small groups to explore historical fiction. Latosha Rowley models an engaged role for the teacher as she circulates among the groups, asking questions to help take their discussions to another level. Texts include I Have a Dream: The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Margaret Davidson, Walking the Road to Freedom: A Story About Sojourner Truth by Jeri Ferris, Which Way Freedom by Joyce Hansen, A Family Apart by Joan Lowery Nixon and Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan. View the web resources for this program here.

7. Book Buddies — Tim O’Keefe and his third graders meet with their Book Buddies, fifth graders in Julie Waugh’s class, in this classroom visit. The two classes have chosen to talk together about Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco. Over two days, the Book Buddies read and discuss the assigned section of the book, then meet as a group to discuss their reading and their responses. Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Waugh explain the process as it unfolds, and clearly demonstrate their roles in supporting the ongoing discussion. View the web resources for this program here.

8. Finding Common Ground — Bileni Teklu works one-on-one with her fifth graders as she encourages them to interact with literature through careful conversation. Ms. Teklu encourages her students to think about what they enjoyed about their reading experience, and ways in which what they read has some resonance in their own lives. Texts include Martin Luther King by Ed Clayton, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Green Mile by Stephen King and The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis. View the web resources for this program here.

9. Discussion Strategies — Barry Hoonan and his fifth- and sixth-grade cluster explore ways in which individual readers can help themselves enter the story world of a text. The group explores two different methods—using sticky notes in several different ways and mapping—which lead its members directly into the text. The text they have chosen for their attention, Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman, features a 14-year-old protagonist who suffers from cerebral palsy. View the web resources for this program here.

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