The literature project of my 8th graders has come to an end and now after some weeks I can draw a conclusion about its advantages, funny moments and things to improve.
First of all, I divided the project into three big parts:
- PRE-READING: the American South (history, culture, music), slavery, the underground railroad
- WHILE-READING: Lucinda’s diary entries and letters, the role of the Bible and religion, spiritual and work songs, the role of women in the middle of the 19th century
- POST-READING: American Civil War, the abolitionist movement, segregation, the civil rights movement
Even at the beginning of the project I assumed that plan to be huge and that was the case. Part 3, Post-Reading, was only partly successful since I was simply running out of time. The students came across the Civil War and the abolitionist movement but we didn’t make it to the 20th century with the two important topics “segregation” and “Civil Rights Movement”. What a bummer, especially because they had the chance to watch a Martin Luther King play at our school.
I don’t want to skip these topics so my new plan is to work them into my schedule for year 9 after the summer break. Let’s see how that works out 😉
Then I wanted to use the following tools:
- most important: the ebook-version of the novel in the (relatively new) kindle app by amazon
- Twitter (one account for the whole class)
- Letter Generator
- Google Drive (one account for the whole class)
The ebook-version, especially including the Audible audiobook (in the bundle it’s only 2,95€!), was really good! The students highlighted and took notes all the time, used the built-in dictionary and were very pleased they could use their phones/tablets – most important, because they couldn’t forget to bring their books, they said 😁
GoogleDrive? I love GoogleDrive and all the useful tools we could use! I prepared a class account so that everybody used the same email address and simply created new folders for each student. If you have a class account with the same password for the whole class it’s really about trust. From the start I told them that I trust them and don’t expect them to cheat or change other students’ work. All in all it went really well, some smileys appeared suddenly somewhere or the color was changed but with the helpful tool of “See revision history” I could always change everything back to what it was before.
Twitter on the other hand didn’t suit my students. After a couple of days they told me about their difficulties and their dislike, so we kept the twitter account but made it a voluntary task.
I skipped Snapchat as well but simply because of the lack of time.
The pre-reading lessons went quite well.
They liked the music and started moving a little bit in the classroom and were shocked to read about the slave girl’s account.
The biggest part, of course, were the while-reading lessons:
- Literature Project | While-Reading – II.1 Introduction
- Literature Project | While-Reading – II.2 Diary entries Jan 1st-Jan 11th evening
I planned a slow start with the novel so that my students had a chance to get used to the novel, the author and the style of writing. Surprisingly, they dealt really well with the language level and the missing vocabulary annotations. The ebook version with the dictionary helped a lot here ☺️
The following lessons always were a mixture of reading, listening, working on tasks, mind map etc. The pool of creative tasks (click on the picture to see the complete PDF) offered the students the chance to really work individually concerning time, interest and method.
Most of them told me they liked the amount of tasks and the variety. Plus, they also asked me to use the emojis on other worksheets as well 😃
Because the project substituted a regular class test, I prepared a detailed assessment sheet:
Here again I have to say that I love GoogleDrive. Especially at the end of the school year this big project could have been overwhelming in terms of correction for me, but it wasn’t! During the whole time, I could check and comment on students’ work, see their progress and give helpful tips. Bit by bit I filled out the students’ assessment sheets and after the due date I just checked the last bits and my overall impression. I will definitely use this form of assessment again!
At the end the students prepared questions for feedback, so I reorganized their questions and printed it out as a feedback sheet:
The results reflect my impression of the project as well: The majority liked, and some even loved the project because of their freedom to choose tasks they like, the different “test situation” and especially because of the use of social/digital media. It surprised me that most of them even found the summary writing useful!
Their most important tip to improve was about vocabulary: they wanted to work more with them so that they can really learn them. I have to agree with that, they collected them on lists, then we tried to include them into our discussions and wrote one vocabulary test. We can do better than that!
To draw a conclusion, I am very happy with the outcome of the project and the work of my students! There are just tiny things I should and can easily improve and I am looking forward to doing the project again! I am excited about the novel and the kind of literature project we will be doing next year 😊