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Dialectically Speaking Ask students to keep a dialectical journal while they read. The purpose of the dialectical journal is to keep track of what is being read while taking time to analyze and reflect as you read. Students will fold a sheet of paper vertically. The first column will be labeled “Note-Taking" and the second will be labeled “Note-Making." Under “Note-Taking" students will write an interesting or relevant quote from whatever they’re reading and include a page number.
Next, students will reflect, question, or comment on the significance of the quote by responding in the column labeled “Note-Making." The statements in this column can note the literary relevance of the quote, note a comparison, challenge the author, or simply create self, text, or real world connections for the student. At the bottom of the page, students can write a brief summary on what they learned from the quotes and their comments. Dialectical journals are essential eighth grade reading activities. Once your students become accustomed to keeping dialectical journals while they read and using them for discussion in class, they’ll wonder how they ever read a novel without them.
Comics for Comprehension ESL students and special population students will benefit tremendously from eighth grade reading activities geared toward their needs, such as keeping a comic strip journal for visualizing events from the novel. Once the pictures are drawn and the story has been read, they can explain their images to a peer or the teacher and write their explanation beneath each image. Students should make sure to include the page numbers so they might refer back to the page for clarification. With opportunities for listening, speaking, and writing, ESL students will vastly improve their language skills.
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Add Art After discussing the story, ask students to locate a comic strip or a copy of a work of art which might portray a common theme from the novel or short story they’ve just read. Students must first explain the theme they understood in the fiction piece. Next, they must explain how they interpreted the comic or artwork. Finally, they should be able to discuss the similarities and differences that connect the literature to the art. This activity can be used to practice presentational speaking, comparison and contrast writing skills, or both.
Puppet Show Performance After reading a young adult novel, students will create puppets to represent characters. Then they will rewrite the story for an audience of children. Afterwards, they will perform a puppet show for a younger audience. If students are currently reading non-fiction, have them create a mobile to demonstrate the main ideas and significant details of the article. Students can use the mobile as a reference for retelling the article for a younger audience.
Across Genres Read poetry and picture books with a similar theme as the novel they’ve just completed. Have students compare and contrast the way the theme is presented in each genre and how characters responded to the conflicts in the story which led to the theme.
Getting Graphic About Characters Students will create character profiles after completing a work of fiction. First, make a graphic organizer by folding a sheet of paper letter-style to create a six-slot organizer front and back. At the top of each column, they must draw a picture of the character. In the column below, they will add details about each character. Finally, students can make note of any changes the character underwent during the course of the novel.
Keeping Structure in Line Create an outline for a non-fiction article. Help your students practice how to break down main ideas and details, how to visualize an essay’s structure, and even how to comprehend what Roman numerals mean. Once they understand how to create an outline, they will refer to this skill again and again.
Conference Time Have students hold a classroom press conference. Ask your students to assume the roles of characters from anovel they’ve read. Prepare the class by asking them to write down what they were thinking and feeling as a certain character during pivotal moments in the novel. Have the class take turns assuming the roles. The remainder of the class can use the questions they’ve accumulated in their dialectical journals to ask during the press conference or they can simply create spontaneous questions. Make sure to time the interview sessions if you’d like each student to have an opportunity to assume a different role.
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There are a myriad of ideas for what to teach but never enough time to cover it all. With just a few of these activities, your lesson plans will acquire an invigorating energy that will get you through to the end of a unit or just the end of a week, so pick and choose the juiciest ideas to use now and let the fun begin.
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Kingore, B. (2003). Literature Celebrations, 2nd ed. Austin: Professional Associates Publishing.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. (2002). Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension, New York: Scholastic Professional Books.