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Language Arts

Literature Circles for Fatty Legs 
By: Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

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Role 1: Word Wizard. The word wizard is responsible for defining difficult and unfamiliar words for their peers. Overall, I decided that this is a very important role as having a word wizard would help students fully understand what they are reading and would assist them in visualizing various aspects of the book. Defining key words also allows students to fully understand the imagery in a story and, in turn, advances their understanding of the moral of the story. If I were to incorporate a literature circle into a primary or junior classroom I would definitely keep the word wizard as one of the roles, but I would pre-select the words for students to define to make sure they are understanding the most powerful and meaningful words in the book. Our literature circle also discussed how this role helps to improve students’ dictionary skills (we were concerned that this is a skill that would be lost because of how accessible Google and Siri are to students). This role also supports the gradual release of responsibility as the teacher would be providing students with the key words and would be modelling the skills necessary to navigate a dictionary. The students would then be given the responsibility to use these skills to define / create their own understanding of the provided terms.  

 

Role 2: Connecter. The second literature circle role is a connector, the connector is responsible for taking key aspects, ideas or plots of the story and connecting them to the group members’ lives, school, current events, historical events etc. I personally took a lot out of this role, especially with a book that covers a topic as heavy as residential schools. One way to introduce such a heavy topic to younger students would be to have them compare the experiences of the characters to their own experiences. In the case of Fatty Legs, most students would not have had the experience of leaving home to attend school by themselves, but they could relate to Olemaun’s feelings of fear and isolation. By having students make connections between the text, their lives, other texts and movies or songs they will be able to relate to what they are reading and empathize with the Indigenous families in the text. If I used Fatty Legs for a novel study in my future classrooms I believe that focusing on real-world connections would also be a great way to slowly introduce topics such as colonialism and the loss of language to primary and junior students. 


Role 3: Discussion Leader. The discussion leader is responsible for posing initial questions and guiding the discussion throughout the literature circle meeting. Being the discussion leader was a valuable experience as it allowed me to play the role of the teacher and improve my ability to select meaningful discussion questions. Through my discussion questions our group was able to have an in depth conversation about key aspects of Fatty Legs. Although I took a lot out of this role, it may be too vague for primary and junior students. If I were to incorporate a literature circle into my future classroom I would keep this role, but consider providing more specific parameters around which type of questions they should ask and provide them with the tools needed to lead a discussion. 

 

Role 4: Summarizer. Having the ability to summarize a text effectively and succinctly is a great skill to have. The Guide to Effective Instruction states that having students summarize texts independently is a suggested writing activity to use alongside the four key instructional strategies (GEI, 2003, 10.5).  If I were to incorporate the role of the summarizer into a primary or junior classroom literature circle I would be sure to first teach the students the methods of creating an effective summary. One way I could do this would be to use a summary map. Before the class engages in the literature circle, I would read them a short piece of fiction and create a mind map on the board outlining various topics. Although how detailed the map would look depends on the grade level, some key aspects students would pull out from the chosen text would be the title, author, main characters, setting, problem and resolution. This activity would assist students in their ability to recognize key aspects

During the second half of my Language Arts class we conducted literature circles for the book Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton. Fatty Legs is the true story of an Indigenous girl named Olemaun and it follows her experience at a residential school. This novel is suitable for junior and intermediate students and is a fantastic way to introduce the topic of residential schools into the classroom. Literature circles are an incredible way to have student-led discussion about a novel and I cannot wait to incorporate them into the novel studies I conduct in my future classrooms. For each literature circle meeting, we would rotate roles between each of the group members. Having a chance to engage in each role allowed me to view Fatty Legs from a variety of perspectives. Below I will list each of the six literature circle roles and reflect on some of the challenges I had, the positive aspects of each role and ways in which I plan to incorporate them into my future classrooms. 

Role 5: Illustrator. The illustrator is responsible for drawing a picture or a diagram related to the text. Having the role of an illustrator is a wonderful way for students to be able to creatively express how the book makes them feel, while also relating their feelings to the key themes. Additionally, I believe that it is a great way to differentiate instruction as it would allow students who are not as confident in their writing abilities to express their understanding of the reading in a way that supports their thinking. There are many specific expectations within the Ontario Language Arts curriculum that focus on students’ expressing their understanding of a written text in the form of visual art. For example, in grade two specific expectation 1.8 is “express personal thoughts and feelings about what has been read (e.g., by using visual art or music to communicate their reaction)” (Ontario, 2006, p. 53). By having the role of the illustrator in a literature circle, not only are we supporting students’ creativity but we would also be fulfilling a specific curriculum expectation. 

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Above is the image I created for chapter 6 of Fatty Legs. It is important to give student's choice. If a student does not want to hand-draw an image, it is important to give them choice to use technology as well. I used Canva to create this collage. 

Role 6: Page Master. The page master is responsible for choosing several memorable passages from the text and explaining to the group why they chose these passages. If I were to have a literature circle in my future Language Arts classrooms I would be sure to incorporate the role of page master because recognizing significant quotes is an important skill for student’s to gain as it encourages them to make meaning out of what they are reading.

Bagels From Benny: Lesson Plan

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Lesson
Reflection

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The children’s book entitled Bagels From Benny, has been one of my favourite books since my grade three teacher introduced it to me many years ago! Bagels From Benny is a beautiful story about a young boy who loves to help out at his grandfather’s bakery. Benny’s grandfather teaches him that God should be thanked for the bagels. Benny sets out to thank God for his blessings and finds that he was able to help out a homeless man along the way. I decided to create a Language Arts lesson that  fulfills specific expectation 1.4 from the grade two section of the Ontario Language Arts Curriculum because it allows students to organize the main ideas of the text in a logical sequence. Through the use of concept mapping software, students will be able to practice their writing and organization skills using technology. 

 

 

This is the first lesson plan that I created in teacher’s college. I learned a lot from this lesson plan and I feel that it is a visual representation of my growth as an educator over the last year. As I reflect on the lesson plan I can see areas where I am proud of myself and areas where I can continue to grow. Below, I have listed two stars and a wish for my lesson planning skills:

 

Great connections to the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model 
Differentiation (choices between writing and including images / clip art) 
Continue to enhance my ability to create succinct learning goals and success criteria 

 

Overall, I think that this lesson would be great to include in my future classrooms. Not only will this lesson improve student’s abilities to classify their ideas but the book itself promotes the themes of empathy and kindness for others (which are very important lessons!). 
 

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Additionally, the lesson plan above includes a “Kindness Concept Map” activity which incorporates the writing strand of the Ontario Language Arts Curriculum. This activity will not only assist students in improving their writing, grammar and organizational skills but will also lay the foundation for the planning and brainstorming portions of the writing process. This will be accomplished through backwards design, as the students are given a well-written story and asked to map out the main ideas. This will provide students with the necessary skills to “...clarify their thinking and sort out and express their thoughts and feelings” in future writing opportunities (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006, p.12). 

Example of a "Kindness Concept Map"

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