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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 9

Length: 20 min.

Grade Levels:
Professional Development

Language Arts and Literature

Video on Demand
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Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8

Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8 offers teachers practical ways to help their students form rich and informed interactions with literature. Eight teachers from around the country talk about the ways in which they encourage students to become active and effective readers, building strong mental muscles as they place themselves in the world of a text, form impressions of the work, and pose questions that help push their understandings further. The on-screen teachers illustrate their ideas by bringing the viewer into their classrooms as they and their students work together to “make meaning.” The video programs are augmented by commentary from noted educational researcher Dr. Judith Langer. Dr. Langer identified these habits of effective readers, calling them “envisionments,” or ever-expanding landscapes of understanding that are formed as students read, write and talk about texts. A Web site and print guide supplement the videos.

Episode Guide

1. Introducing the Envisionment – Building Classroom — In this program, Dr. Langer describes the hallmarks of an envisionment–building classroom — a place where students, working at the highest levels of their ability, can experience literature and make meaning for themselves. Her comments are illustrated by classroom examples. View web resources for this program here.

2. Building a Literary Community — In Joe Bernhart’s diverse seventh–grade language arts classroom in Houston, Texas, students work in small groups with a variety of texts in contemporary young adult literature. Bernhart demonstrates how he encourages students to develop deeper understandings of the text. View web resources for this program here.

3. Asking Questions — In a seventh–grade gifted and talented language arts class in Miami, Florida, Ana Hernandez prompts students to pose their own questions as they read Sharon Draper’s Tears of a Tiger. As they discuss major issues of the text and consider the actions of the characters, the students immerse themselves within the story. View web resources for this program here.

4. Facilitating Discussion — Students in Tanya Schnabl’s sixth–grade language arts class in rural Sherburne, New York, become involved withAmong the Hidden, Margaret Peterson Haddix’s futuristic text. As Schnabl encourages discussion of the text on many levels, the students move beyond their first impressions of the book to internalize lessons and make them their own. View web resources for this program here.

5. Seminar Discussion — Dorothy Franklin’s diverse seventh–grade language arts classroom in the heart of Chicago focuses on Langston Hughes’s short story, “Passing.” Franklin encourages her students to take on the perspective of the characters in the text, with some surprising and satisfying results. View web resources for this program here.

6. Dramatic Trableaux — This program features the seventh–grade Berlin, Maryland, classroom of Dr. Jan Currence. Currence and her students delve into Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963. Currence first models and then engages students in tableau activities, in which students draw on their experiences to bring the text to life for others. View web resources for this program here.

7. Readers as Individuals — This program visits Flora Tyler’s sixth–grade language arts class in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to show how one teacher, using writing and reading workshop models, works with students who are each reading a different literary text. View web resources for this program here.

8. The Teacher’s Role in a Literary Community — Barry Hoonan’s fifth– and sixth–grade language arts class on Bainbridge Island in Washington are studying a variety of contemporary young adult fiction titles. As students meet in small groups to focus on each text, Hoonan demonstrates how teachers can tactfully and effectively guide these discussions. View web resources for this program here.

9. Whole-Group Discussions — Witness an effective literary community as Linda Rief’s eighth–grade language arts class in Durham, New Hampshire discusses Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Here, the students work as a group to examine the text and discern the ways its themes relate to       their live.

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