Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/-9CgdiILxl0
Patrick Lencioni’s book DEATH BY MEETING (Read the other blog we mentioned in the vid ... on Death by Classroom and how to use conflict to liven up classroom management.) talks about the most interesting thing to us humans … and yes, students are humans too … the most interesting thing to us is ………….. Conflict! We love it. We love to disagree and fight and discuss and joust and all that. So when thinking about how to start your novel off, think how can I engage them in healthy conflict to start? Another super important way to engage them is to activate prior knowledge and opinions. People love sharing their opinions and what they already know. They love feeling like they’re in on the conversation and have something to contribute.
And since we’ll be studying the novel for a while, wouldn’t it be great if we could foreshadow the important themes and events and plant seeds in their minds?!
We start all of our novel units the same way, and we want to teach you how. Our method does all of these: instigating healthy conflict, engaging prior knowledge and opinions, and foreshadowing compelling themes that will come up in the story.
We think through the major themes and events in the story. Then we craft 9 statements that assert something to be true. Some samples:
- It is okay to lie to people. (The Giver)
- People are the result of their choices, not the environment they grew up. (The Outsiders)
- Some kinds of people are trash compared to others. (To Kill a Mockingbird)
- Everyone should have to work just as hard, no matter how rich they are. (The Great Gatsby)
This gets really fun when you get the learners up and moving around the room. 1st, have them make their 9 choices on their own. Then have them stand up and move physically to different sides of the room depending on their opinion on each question. Agree … over here. Disagree … over here. (We like to use a PowerPoint with each prompt on it to project so we can examine and analyze all the words we disagree on).
I love this activity because they all have opinions and in this fun action format, they all really love sharing their ideas. As the teacher, you’ll need to moderate the environment with respect, but encourage their honest opinions. I’m always amazed at how my middle school students would think through these issues.
And allow an organized argument. Let people from each side share their thoughts. Then ask for people who disagree. The more conflict the better. This usually takes a solid 45 minute class period for my students. And they’re still discussing things on their way out of class.
As you work through the story, these topics will come up and you can reference the discussion from this day.
Then after you finish reading the novel, revisit these topics and see how their opinions have changed. They will be surprised at how the story has influenced and informed their beliefs. It’s pretty powerful.
So a quick recap: to hook students into a novel, (1) stir up conflict, (2) engage their prior knowledge, and (3) foreshadow the big themes that will come up. Any activity you do that does all 3 of these is bound to hook them from the start. Conversation of the Day: What activities do you love doing to hook students at the start of a novel study?