Friday, January 13, 2012

Exploring setting

Last week I wrote a bit about how a new book I am reading, Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements, helped shape my class discussion. This week I continued with some lessons on setting in our mini-lessons. Now I believe I mentioned that the book is geared to grades 6-12, so I have to pick and choose what will work in my fifth grade classroom. The lessons on setting were interesting. It discussed that setting is more than the time and place the story takes place. I had to stop there for a minute, that’s all I have really taught my students in the past. Wilhelm and Smith go on to explain that there are levels of setting: micro, meso, and macro. They discussed the types of governments, relationships, and values all being influences of the setting. With that in mind, I thought about how to teach this to my students.

I ended up using the trailer to The Hunger Games:

I then put several stills from the movie on a slideshow as we listened to Taylor Swift’s song from The Hunger Games’s soundtrack. I introduced them to the terms of micro, meso, and macro but used the analogy of an onion for our setting with layers. One of the students mentioned that we really were doing “world building” in our minds as we begin a book and using the information an author provides as parts of that world. With that idea, the students and I discussed the images – where did they fit into our “onion” for The Hunger Games? Then the talk turned to books we are reading currently and talked about what snippets of information from the author helped us shape the worlds in our minds.

At the end of the week I used the app Sonic Pics as one way to assess the knowledge the students had gained about setting and building characters from last week. I preloaded ten images onto each iPad. Working in partners or teams of three, students selected one picture from the app. The group would study that picture and build a world and story in their head that could apply. They recorded themselves talking to the iPad for their selected image telling me details like:

·     When and where does this story take place?
·      What are the characters involved in this story?
·      What are their values?
·      What relationships are important to the story?
·      What type of conflict would there be?

The students saved their project and then emailed it to my school email address. It was fun to see the different images the kids picked and what stories they dreamed up.

All in all, I highly recommend Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements. I feel that my students are thinking deeper than they were before in regard to the books they are reading independently. I hope to see this continue in the next few weeks as we explore Theme and Point of View.