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ReadWriteThink Connections: English Journal Vol. 105, No. 5 (May 2016)

ReadWriteThink, created by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Literacy Association (ILA), provides free instructional practices and digital resources that support effective reading and language arts instruction for all learners. Most articles in English Journal include connections to ReadWriteThink lesson plans and other resources.


Telling Unexpected Stories:Students as Multimodal Artists
In this unit, students write autobiographies, illustrate them, and set them to music. Music is a powerful tool to evoke emotion, and students will carefully select songs to accompany the stories from their lives. Students brainstorm lists of important events in their lives, along with images and music that represent those events. They then create storyboards in preparation for the final multimodal project. After making revisions, they present their final projects to their peers in class.

Invoking Viola Spolin: Improvisational Theater, Side-Coaching, and Leading Discussion
This strategy guide from is about Partner Talk—a way to provide students with another learning opportunity to make learning their own through collaboration and discussion. Partner Talk can be used for assessing classwork, making connections to prior knowledge, discussing vocabulary, or simplifying concepts.

Beyond Enhancement: Teaching English through Musical Arts Integration
Students read, analyze, and discuss medieval English ballads and then list characteristics of the genre. They then emphasize the narrative characteristics of ballads by choosing a ballad to act out. Using the Venn diagram tool, students next compare medieval ballads with modern ones. After familiarizing themselves with ballad themes and forms, students write their own original ballads, which they will perform in small groups. Finally, students engage in self-reflection on their group performances and on the literary characteristics of their ballads.

Moving Interpretations: Using Drama-Based Arts Strategies to Deepen Learning about The Diary of a Young Girl
After reading Beloved or another suitable novel, students review some of the critical elements of drama, focusing on differences between narrative and dramatic texts, including point of view. They discuss the role of conflict in the novel and work in small groups to search the novel for a passage they can adapt into a ten-minute play. Students write their play adaptation in writers workshop sessions, focusing on character, setting, conflict, and resolution. When the play draft is complete, students review and revise it, then rehearse and present their play to the class. As the plays are performed, students use a rubric to peer-review each group’s work. Because students are responding to a novel with significant internal dialogue and conflict, they are called on to use both analytical and creative skills as they create the adaptation, rather than simply cutting and pasting dialogue.

Saying "Yes, and" to Collaborative Prewriting: How Improvisational Theater Ignites Creativity and Discovery in Student Writing
The “Yes, and” statements can be recorded using the Circle Plot Diagram tool. The tool can be used as a prewriting graphic organizer for students writing original stories with a circular plot structure as well as a postreading organizer used to explore the text structures in a book. By students inserting main examples of a story’s plot directly onto the circular interactive, the concepts of structure and plot are reinforced each time the tool is used. When used as a prewriting exercise, the diagram can be printed out and shared with peers and teacher for feedback and revision in this phase of the writing process.

Textual Intervention and Film Literacy
While students read a novel, they imagine the characters, setting, and action taking place. This lesson allows students to use their imaginations in the form of a storyboard. Students first read a book that has a complementary film adaptation. They then learn about adaptation by writing short paragraphs and adapting them for film using storyboards. Once they have evaluated the adaptations, the students will create their visions of the books and compare them to the film.

Composing Screenplays: Youth in Detention Centers as Creative Meaning-Makers
Students are transformed into script writers in this lesson that develops skills in viewing, descriptive writing, and fluency. In this multisession lesson, students view a short film segment that has extensive action and little dialogue. As students view the scene in increments, they describe the action of the film as the teacher records the sentences students dictate. After students have watched the scene in its entirety, they listen to a reading of their descriptions and work to improve descriptions and revise any inaccuracies. Students are then assigned parts of the script and perform a dramatic reading of the script as the movie plays in the background.

I Am/You See: Traversing Literacies from Page to Screen to Body
Students can be guided to make powerful connections between their life experiences and the world surrounding their individual narratives. In this lesson, Elizabeth and Sarah Delany’s autobiography, Having Our Say, serves as a model for student texts. Students read and analyze passages from Having Our Say looking for specific examples of multigenre writing within the text. Students then choose to narrate a life event that has connections to or is informed by a larger event in their lives or in the world around them. They compose a multigenre paper that includes the autobiographical narrative essay as well as an informational nonfiction piece that provides context for and connections to the story from their life.

Bringing Edward Hopper's Paintings into the English Language Arts Classroom
Alienation is an important theme in contemporary literature, and it’s an idea that adolescents need to confront to fully understand what it means to be a human being in our modern world. This activity, based on the art of Edward Hopper and combined with fiction by Raymond Carver, allows students to explore the idea of alienation while tapping into their creative talents as they learn to create vivid characters through voice. Students view and reflect on several Hopper paintings before selecting one as a focus. Working in small groups, students brainstorm everything they can about a character in the painting. They then write a powerful monologue from their character that expresses the loneliness that pervades modern society. They share their monologues with other groups and revise them based on peer feedback. This work is especially appealing to visual learners who can read paintings as well as pages.

Writing from La Panza!: Exploring Monologue Literacies with Emergent Bilinguals
In what way do culture, personal experiences, and history influence a poet’s work? In this multisession lesson, students choose a Latino/Latina poet and poem to analyze. Students use online resources to gather background information about the poet and integrate that research into an analysis of the poem’s meaning, literary devices, and themes. After posting their analysis to a class blog, students then refine their writing skills as they respond meaningfully to their peers’ poetry analyses.

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