I’m trying to create more brain-friendly lessons based on what I am learning in my BrainSMART classes. One point of research suggests that students do much better when their subjects are integrated as much as possible. That gave me another bright idea…
We are in the midst of a unit about Sequoyah and the Trail of Tears. My idea was to blend our unit with writing, fluency, and vocabulary. Thus my students embarked on a reader’s theater learning adventure combining their knowledge of Sequoyah or the Trail of Tears, with their writing and vocabulary skills.
My classroom is set up to encourage collaborative work. Therefore, each table group became a reader’s theater group. Students decided as a group whether to focus on Sequoyah or the Trail of Tears. We reviewed what they had learned so far about each subject. I wrote their comments on the smartboard for reference. Finally, they began writing. I had each group write their script on a single piece of paper, with the student who would read each part actually writing down what they would say. At the end I made copies for each person in the group. That way I hoped to avoid ‘handwriting confusion.’
The adventure then began. I gave them a relatively free reign just to see what they could accomplish. It was interesting watching the groups work together to solve problems and make decisions. One group immediately began mining books for more information to reference in their script. Two other groups began by writing out a cast of characters and deciding who would play each part. A fourth group began arguing about which subject to choose, then about who would play each part.
Ready to Perform!
Our script writing took two class periods. I was incredibly proud of how well the groups worked together to solve problems, integrate knowledge, and collaboratively write their scripts. I just couldn’t wait to see the final products! Soon my enthusiastic young writers were rehearsed and ready. I videotaped their first performances so they could critique themselves and add to or delete from their scripts. They were thrilled and motivated to see themselves on the smartboard!
We invited our school principal in to enjoy the final fruits of their labor. He gamely attended the afternoon performance and applauded each group. Even though not every fact was correct, they did a fantastic job. As usual I was humbled by what my second grade students can accomplish… and VERY proud of them. I’m looking forward to our next student created reader’s theater!
Student created reader’s theater is beneficial because each student writes his or her own part; therefore it’s not too far above any given student’s reading level. Each play is multi-level by default. Specify what vocabulary or spelling words you would like to see included in each play, this way students get ‘real life’ practice with the words. Decide on a writing skill you would like to see reflected in their work. Capitalization? Punctuation? Complete sentences? The list can be as long or as short as you want. A word of caution…don’t put too many restrictions or it will detract from their creativity. When you give this a try, keep in mind that it will get better each time your students participate. Open the creativity gates and integrate those subjects at the same time!