Novel analysis is a form of literary criticism and a foundational skill in the English Language Arts classroom where students study, evaluate, and interpret literature. Literary criticism is an aspect of Common Core
reading standards that expect students to have a range of reading skills evidencing critical and extended thinking. To accomplish this, students must develop a cadre of core comprehension skills because deficiencies “point to a negative economic impact if we do not ensure that all students are college and career ready in regard to literacy.”
Research-based strategies are anchored by Marzano’s
high yield instructional strategies like graphic organizers, identifying relational patterns, and QAR (Question/Answer/Relationship for example. I will incorporate strategies in order to scaffold student learning, offer guidance, and give support as students build their comprehension. Three primary strategies I will use are graphic organizers, QAR, and buzz groups.
Graphic organizers are pedagogical tools used in all classrooms regardless of subject matter. This strategy will be used to meet Objective R1 as students read chapter three, The Costs Of Inequality, and are introduced to newly acquired information about the economy’s vicious cycle and how it relates to The Great Gatsby Curve. I find this strategy essential because in enables students to internalize information through a visual modality similar to how information is presented in chapter three. Using this strategy to help students make connections will better position them to see relational patterns.
The QAR method is a tried and true strategy found in any ELA classroom. QAR helps students see the relationship between asking open end questions, finding text based answers, and then seeing the relationship between the question, answer, and independent understanding. This strategy will be used to accomplish Objective R2 and to help formulate their initial understandings, confirm understandings, and frame feedback conversations around their critical thinking.
Buzz groups are a way students engaged in focused conversations similar to the “turn and share” method. During buzz groups, students share information with groups members. This sharing happens in multiple groups at one time. Members then break off into different groups, sharing knowledge gathered from previous groups. Students “buzz” information around from different groups, sharing and learning new information.
It is important to reiterate that there are no aligned ELA and economic standards. Therefore, classroom activities are ideas that teachers can use to implement lesson objectives in tandem with reading the novel. It is if note that there are several places in The Outsiders that teachers can decide best fit in with this unit, and students should be reading the novel and connecting their learning to apropos chapters. I envision the activities being implemented during reading and writing workshop and can be paced according to student needs. I also envision using the Gradual Release of Responsibility instructional model moving from teacher guided to student independent practice where activities where instruction “purposefully shifts the cognitive load from teacher-as-model, to joint responsibility of teacher and learner, to independent practice and application by the learner.”
This model is key to meeting Common Core and state standards for students to build their critical and extended thinking. Activities are designed to follow this model, but are flexible enough for differentiation. To open lesson activities, students will consider essential focus statements. There are many ways to teach this novel, so in deference to time, the audiobook version may be helpful. There are also several online resources such as summaries, movie clip versions of the novel, and student exemplars that may be useful to incorporate at the teacher’s digression.
Reading Workshop: To bring context to issues of mobility, students will use a living wage calculator
to estimate the cost of living. Through this activity, students will conclude that a living wage is the minimum income needed to sustain basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Minimum wage also varies depending on geographical location. The novel takes place in rural Oklahoma, so students will use their estimates to calculate individual expenses, expenses according to family size, and will take into consideration the characters’ geographical location. Students will need to make adjustments for inflation and compare character’s wages to that of today. Since the novel takes place in 1967, it is important to recognize inflation. I anticipate some students may struggle with this, so I will provide a brief conversation on what inflation is. Students will know that inflation is when prices rise based on the economy. Inflation is the rate at which the level of prices for goods rise and the purchasing power of the currency falls. I will help students understand this through visual aids. For example, I will show the average price of general goods such as bread, milk, and eggs between the decades and have students generate conversations around why they think prices have decreased or increased. Students will also discuss how the value of currency changed over time.
Writing Workshop: Students will then form hypothesis and craft a brief write around one of these questions: 1. Does the cost of living support an equitable quality of life for all, some, or most of the characters? and 3. What conclusions can you draw about a characters’ economic mobility? After brief writes, students will turn and share to provide an overview of their hypothesis. Students will be tasked with asking probing questions to help confirm or adjust their thinking. Further adjustments can be assigned for homework and reviewed in class the following day.
Activity One: Essential Focus: The economy profoundly effects the lives of people.
Reading Workshop: I will introduce Objective R1 by having students reflect on the essential understanding first through a turn and share and then using a brief student friendly video titled Economy Definition for Kids.
This video introduces key terms such as “producer,” “consumer,” “goods,” and “services.” It also succinctly explains how the economy works in kid friendly language and visual detail. Most importantly, it provides a segue to Piketty's argument that: 1. stagnant economic growth causes inequality, and 2. inequality creates fractions of society that will always compete for resources, two sub-conflicts in The Outsiders' plot line. I will create the opportunity for students to explore this deeper by turning the essential focus into an open ended question by asking students to brainstorm about what happens when the economy slows and resources become fewer? I will keep a running class chart of brainstormed ideas to reference throughout the lesson and students will be encouraged to note any similarities between their brainstorming and character development. This will flow into our reading of chapter three, The Costs of Inequality and specifically focus on the economy's vicious cycle graph.
Writing Workshop: Students will use their graphs explained in the Objectives Section to solidify initial understandings. Students will create a visual picture of how a vicious economic cycle works and connect exemplars from The Outsiders. Falling wages or fewer resources alluded through character narration and experiences are examples I will encourage students to look for. They key is for students to draw parallels between vicious economic cycles and The Great Gatsby Curve noting that the cyclical nature of economic inequity predicts generational poverty or wealth. They will then use their organizers to write predictions of how this may effect issues of economic inequality according to The Great Gatsby Curve theory. For homework, students will complete a brief write (one-two short paragraphs) summarizing what they learned.
Activity Two: Essential Focus: The American Dream is accessible to everyone.
Reading Workshop: To introduce Objective R2, students will review the data reported on the Equality of Opportunity Project. This site defines the American Dream as, “upward income mobility: the ideal that children have a higher standard of living than their parents,”
and will be used to facilitate discussion on absolute and relative mobility. They will use the geography of mobility map to engage in a robust discussion and make predictions about the type of mobility a character will most likely face.
Students will keep a QAR rolling notebook where they will ask inferential open end questions about a character as they read. They will then switch journals with partners to work collaboratively on the answer portion. The Q and A aspect of the strategy should connect to their understandings gleaned from chapter four, Inequality Of Opportunity where they use text evidence to decide if a character is most affected by absolute or relative mobility. The R sections of their notebooks also gleaned from chapter four, should detail the relationship between issues of inequality and economic mobility as they see it unfold as they read.
A compare and contrast mini lesson may be inserted here where students graph similarities and differences between the two types of mobility. They can use their graphs to engage in informal debates arguing where they saw examples of inequality in mobility or how it affected a character’s development. They can also use their compare/contrast graphs to confirm or adjust their QAR.
Writing Workshop: Students will re-examine their QAR and graphs and write a brief reflection about what they learned. They will craft a brief write around the essential focus question: The American Dream is accessible to everyone. Students will finish their reflections for homework and will review in groups the following day.
Activity Three: Activity three slightly differs from the other activities as the essential questions shift to an essential quote. This quote was specifically chosen to help students draw conclusions and take an argumentative stance. This quote also best summarizes the crux of the novel where characters are limited by their opportunities. I anticipate this quote to spark deeper thought and debate along with what students have already generated in their QAR notebooks. Using the article titled Our Inequality: An Introduction, (Gordon, 2014), students will examine key points about income inequality and will add key main ideas to their QAR notebook
Essential Quote: “Inequity matters, most obviously and directly, to those whom it leaves behind. This includes the very poor- the “underclass” or the “truly disadvantaged...who have long been cordoned off from the rewards and opportunities enjoyed by most Americans…”
A version of the buzz group strategy will be used to meet Objective W1. Before students begin to write their first drafts, they will break into sub- groups to discuss key understandings from their QAR notebooks, graphic organizers, and overall conclusions drawn from their readings. Sharing information in this setting is a way for students to learn from each other and engage in focused-based discussions. Representatives from each group will move to alternating groups and share information. This is an effective way to disseminate large amounts of information and put students in charge of sharing the information (I think of this strategy as a more versatile version of fishbowl groups or similar strategies). Students will generate an argumentative writing template to outline their drafts (argumentative writing strategies are taught year long and students already have a working knowledge on how to formulate an argument. W1 objective focuses on fine tuning pre-taught writing strategies.) Students will examine the essential quote and use it to generate a thesis for their arguments. The following week can be dedicated to students writing their argument drafts and engaging in the writing cycle of drafting, editing, feedback and revision.