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Before you take off in your Summer of the Monkeys unit lesson, it is important to ensure that your students feel a connection toward the story. Establishing this connection between your student readers and the novel is quite tricky, for the plot of the novel is set in a farm during the early 1900's--a far cry from what almost all of your students currently experience. To enhance reading comprehension, activate your students' schemata by trying out these ideas:
1. Present a slide slow or a short film clip of how farm life is during the early 1900's. While viewing the presentation, have the students take down notes of which aspects in this period greatly interest or amuse them. Provide a guide of what areas to observe--family life, friendships, rules, hobbies, etc. After watching the clip/slide show, gather in a circle and initiate a sharing of what elements in the farm life struck them as interesting.
2. You can also modify the activity above to include an additional task wherein students would be asked to compare farm life and the life that they have right now. Compare how parents are with their children before and how the parents to children are now. Examine differences in hobbies, interests, wants, wishes, and goals in life.
3. Are your students yet to be familiarized with monkeys and their ways of life? If so, organize a classroom monkey museum by putting together pictures and facts about monkeys. Provide clips about their profiles and their life in the forest, as pets, and as carnival highlights. Then, initiate a discussion as to how your students feel toward monkeys, their way of life, and their fate.
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As the students are introduced to the endearing characters of the novel--Jay, Daisy, their mom, dad, and grandpa, and even Rowdy--guide the students to take in the quirks of these characters by having a Hot Seat in class:
1. Assign some students to take on the roles of the characters in the novel.
2. In a pretend talk show, call on your "guests" and have them sit at the center of a circle on your class Hot Seat.
3. While a character is sitting on the Hot Seat as a novel character, the other students, including you, the teacher, are now to ask questions about the actions, decisions, thoughts, and issues of that particular character. The person in the Hot Seat will answer the questions according to how s/he things the real character would answer.
4. Do rotation roles until everyone has already had the chance to be "interviewed" in the Hot Seat.
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Designing Summer of the Monkeys activities is all about making sure that the students are able to relate to the characters and the story that they are reading about, or else no significant comprehension will take place. Usher in a constructivist approach in discussing this literature unit for a greater impact on your students' reading and literary skills.