1. Reflecting on your responses to a text. In preparation for preparing lessons for teaching a text, you need to be able to reflect on your own responses to a text to consider the kinds of responses, interpretative strategies, themes, topics, issues, or critical lenses to focus on in your instruction. And, you need to recognize the differences between your own level of interpretation and those of your students, differences reflecting your knowledge, training, life experiences, and purposes for reading as a teacher.
Read a poem or short story that you have not read before. During the reading, or immediately after, write a journal entry in which you respond as fully as you can to the text you have read. Then reflect on your responses and interpretations, noting certain patterns in your responses or interpretations. Then consider some possible reasons for those patterns in terms of the text, your critical preferences/approaches, or your purpose for reading. Then, based on your reflections, predict how students at a certain grade level, possibly ones you’ll be teaching, will respond to this text and how their responses might differ from your responses.
2. Developing response tasks and purposes for tasks. Select a text and think about what you would like students to learn from interpreting this text. Based on what you want students to learn, select some talk, writing, or drama tools that will best achieve what you want them to learn. By defining what you want students to learn, you can link your tasks to your purposes—what students will learn.
Devise some tasks, and for each task, define the purpose for that activity based on what you want students to learn from doing that task and from using the tools designed to fulfill an activity—for example, that you want students to learn how to contrast different cultures in a text so that they can define the conflicting forces shaping characters using a mapping tool. Then, write a clear set of directions for these tasks, including your purposes—students will want to know: “why are we doing this?”
3. Sequencing tasks. In formulating your tasks, you also need to think about how to best sequence tasks so that each tasks prepares students for subsequent tasks “first things first.” In thinking about sequencing tasks, you are continually asking, will students be able to do this task, and, if not, what can I do to prepare them for this task so that each task serves to prepare students for the next task. For example, rather than start out with a discussion of a text, you may need to prepare students for that discussion with some free writing or listing-questions tasks. Or, for a mapping task, you may first want to have students list different items to include in their maps.
For the tasks you developed for #2, sequence the tasks so that each task serves to prepare students for subsequent tasks “first things first.” You may need to add some new tasks that will prepare them for a certain task.
4. Formulating alternative versions of tasks. Because you’ll be using the same or similar activities with different grade or ability levels, you will need to be able to create alternative versions of your tasks to match differences in students’ grade or ability levels. For younger grades or lower ability levels, you may need to provide more specific directions or scaffolding or you may need to substitute less difficult tasks. Even within the same class, you may need to provide some students with more structured directions than other students.
You will also be continually revising your tasks even during your instruction to accommodate for differences in students’ abilities, engagement, interests, attitudes, and performance. For example, you may find that students are simply not able to keep up with the reading, so you will then need to alter your plans. You therefore need to plan ahead for potential challenges, particularly related to reading ability. In reflecting on his teaching of Catcher in the Rye in student teaching, Chris Johnson noted the ways in which he accommodated to his students’ background reading experience.
I asked, who’s read a novel? Not many hands went up and they, I guess most of them had read one. Some had read one of those adolescent novels, but I don’t think any of them, well some of them, I’m sure had read, in fact I know one in particular that is a reader of paperbacks, and she read quite a few but a loot of them hadn’t really read any “adult” novels before. So, I took it real slow. We did maybe two or three chapters a day, no more than 10 or 20 pages per day, and I uh, had study questions for each chapter that I made sure they had to and they could really skim through that. I didn’t make the questions too challenging because I didn’t want them to get hung up on questions, have that interrupt the reading. What I did to settle the questions and I tried to direct them towards um, specific things in the novel that I just wanted to make sure they noted. Why they were in there? What did they represent? So when we went into discussion they already had the details down.
After we had finished reading the book, I wanted them to focus on Holden and his struggle with growing up, saving sexuality, and the death of his brother, basically all the issues he had gone through. So I did a group activity where I gave them a list of 5 essay questions and they picked one of them to put on the test. I broke them up into groups of about 4 or 5 kids in each group, and each group had to take an essay question, and had to discuss it and they each had a role. One person was the recorder, one person was the facilitator and so each group had to discuss the essay questions and come up with a way that they would answer the question on a test to present their findings to the class.
I was a little nervous about it, because they were in-depth questions. I mean, they were college-level questions. And I thought, oh boy they’re really going to bang their heads against these ones, but I was really pleasantly surprised that they all, all the groups came up with real solid answers and I was going around as they were working on them and helping out here and there, but I really didn’t have to do as much as I thought I would do, I just had to nudge them along, so that really showed me that they had been listening and paying attention and it wasn’t just two or three kids that did a lot of participation in the discussions who understood what was going on but they really most of them you know had been listening to what we’re talking about. I was real happy with that.
Take the directions formulated for #2 and formulate them for a 9th grade class. Then, revise your directions for a 12th grade class. Reflect on differences in your directions and reasons for these differences.
5. Considering alternative “intelligences” in devising tasks. In devising tasks, you need to recognize differences in the “intelligences” (Gardner, 1993; 2000) students bring to your classroom. When English classes may focus primarily on logical/linguistic intelligences, it is important to consider all seven optional “intelligences” in planning tasks:
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence--consists of the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.
Linguistic Intelligence--involves having a mastery of language. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively manipulate language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically. It also allows one to use language as a means to remember information.
Visual/Spatial Intelligence--gives one the ability to manipulate and create mental images in order to solve problems. This intelligence is not limited to visual domains--Gardner notes that spatial intelligence is also formed in blind children.
Musical Intelligence--encompasses the capability to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. (Auditory functions are required for a person to develop this intelligence in relation to pitch and tone, but it is not needed for the knowledge of rhythm.)
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence--is the ability to use one's mental abilities to coordinate one's own bodily movements. This intelligence challenges the popular belief that mental and physical activities are unrelated.
The Personal Intelligences--includes interpersonal feelings and intentions of others--and intrapersonal intelligence--the ability to understand one's own feelings and motivations. These two intelligences are separate from each other. Nevertheless, because of their close association in most cultures, they are often linked together.
These seven intelligences are not separate phenomena, but continually interact with each other. However, certain students develop particular skills associated with certain of these intelligences. For example, they have developed talents as artists, musicians, athletes, or socially-adept persons. In a unit on The Grapes of Wrath, Michelle used some drama activities designed to help them visualize images about the novel, empathy with others’ perspectives, and apply a variety of lenses/perspectives. Her directions for each activity highlighted what she wanted them to learn from separate groups doing different drama activities:
Analogy Strategy: In this activity, your group should enact a personal experience that parallels in some way a scene from the reading. Make sure that you think about the tone, the urgency of the situation, and the emotions conveyed in creating a parallel situation. You will mime your parallel situation. Then, as a class, we will discuss how your enactment connects with the text.
Slide Show: Your group will create a series of “slides” to tell about the major scenes from the chapter. You may add a caption to each of your slides. Be prepared to answer some questions about each of your slides concerning how you decided to depict the particular scene.
Hotseating and Inner Hotseating: In your group, a student will play the role of a character and answer questions as if at a press conference. Another student, standing behind the character, will respond as the “inner self” of the character telling what that character might be really thinking, feeling, and wanting to say.
News Flash: Your group will conduct a brief news flash about what happened in this scene/chapter. You may choose to interview someone from the scene or just give an overview of what happened.
Guided imagery: This activity is similar to the game of Pictionary. In your group, someone will play the role of the teacher and read a scene. The remaining group members should draw what they picture up on the board when they hear the scene read. You may do this spontaneously. Drawers, be prepared to explain your drawings.
Dramatic Play: Your group will “enter into character” and act out a scene from your chapter. However, you should incorporate acting out imagined conversations and interactions between/among characters depending on your interpretation of those characters’ thoughts and feelings.
Missing Scenes: Your group will create a missing scene or missing scenes that you feel were implied by the story or could have happened. You will act these out for the class and be prepared to have supporting evidence from the text that shows these scenes might have logically occurred.
Revolving Role-Play: In this activity, each group member will choose a character to play from the scene. After acting out that particular scene, everyone will “switch” into a new role and reenact that scene from a new perspective. This activity is similar to the dramatic play activity because you may be creative in acting out imagined conversations and interactions between/among characters.
To help student connect their participation in each activity to the larger purpose, she asked each group to choose one character or key event to portray through their specific drama activity. Each group then prepared a 3-5 minute presentation to include their dramatic activity as well as a brief explanation of why they chose to focus on that given character or scene/event, and subsequently, what their dramatic activity highlights. The students also had to write in their journals about their experience in their dramatic activity and how it offered new perspectives or made the text more relevant to their personal lives.
Devise some tasks that draw on intelligences other than just the logical/linguistic intelligences. Consider how you would integrate some of these other intelligences with uses of logical/linguistic intelligences, how, for example, mime or pantomime drama tools can be used to foster writing tasks.
6. Adding criteria for self-evaluating tasks. In completing tasks, students need to know what it means to do a task well. For example, if you ask students to list some different character traits to understanding that character’s complexity and they only list one or two, they haven’t successfully completed that task. You may therefore want to include some criteria to help them self-evaluate successful completion of a task. For example, in asking them to list different traits, you could ask them, “have you listed enough different traits so that you can understand a character’s complexity?” In formulating criteria, you are asking students to consider the amount (“do you have enough/sufficient amount”), range (“do you have a good variety/different aspects”), relevancy (“are your examples relevant”), significance (“did you select the most significant aspects”), or validity (“do your have evidence to support the validity of your point”).
For your directions in #2, take one or more of the tasks and add some criteria to help students self-evaluate successful completion of those tasks.
7. Modeling tasks for students. In giving directions for tasks, students often need to be shown what or how to complete a task. You there need to model a task for students — demonstrating how you would complete a task in a manner that you’re not telling them what to do. In demonstrating tasks, you may also refer to some criteria by which you reflect on successful completion of a task.
For your directions developed in #2, in a micro-teaching session in your course, working with 3-4 of your peers, give your directions to you peers. Then model the tasks you want them to complete. After completing the activity, elicit their feedback on the clarity of the directions and demonstration.
8. Selecting an organizational framework for a unit. In designing units, you are going beyond planning for individual activities to organize your activities according to some coherent, overall topic, theme, issue, genre, archetypes, historical/literary period, or production. During your student teaching, you may be employing a number of different units lasting from a couple of days to several weeks. It is important to prepare these units in advance of student teaching when you have the time to conduct research and pull together relevant resources. You can also discuss you units with your cooperating teachers in terms of how they are integrated into that teacher’s curriculum.
In devising a literature unit, you will be developing a series of tasks for a week or several weeks organized around a topic, theme, issue, ideas, text, genre, literary period, world, etc. In devising a unit, you need to select some texts (books, videos, Websites, etc.) and the some tasks that are related to your overall focus, tasks that involve students in inductive development of the unit’s focus.
- Topics. Organizing your unit around a topic such as power, evil, suburbia, the family, etc., means that you are finding texts that portray these different topics. For example, you may select a series of texts that portray mother/daughter relationships, as in The Bean Trees or A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. Students may then compare or contrast the different portrayals of the same topic across different texts.
It is important to select topics about which students have some familiarity or interest, or that may engage them. You may also want to have students study how certain topics are represented in literature and/or the media. For example, students may examine how the family is represented in 19th century literature compared to 20th century representations. Or, how the rural, small-town social worlds are represented in 20th century American literature.
One advantage of a topics approach is that topics do not imply the kind of value or cultural orientation associated with a thematic or issue unit. Students may construct their own value stance related to a topic, for example, defining different attitudes towards the topic of mother/daughter relationships. However, without that additional value orientation, students may lack motivation to be engaged in a topic.
- Themes. You may also organize your unit around certain themes portrayed in texts. A frequently used theme is that of individualism or conformity to society—the extent to which characters must conform to or resist societal norms. As we just noted, one advantage of thematic units is that students may become engaged with related attitudes or values associated with a theme. One disadvantage of thematic units is that they can readily become too didactic, in which you attempt to have students “learn” certain thematic lessons—the importance of not conforming to society or the need to be courageous.
This problem of didacticism relates to how you organize your unit. You can organize your unit in both a “top-down” deductive manner, providing students with theoretical perspectives or frames for them to apply in a deductive manner. You can also organize your unit in a “bottom-up” inductive manner, encouraging students to make their own connections and applications. To avoid the didactic tendency of thematic unit, you can move more to an inductive approach, allowing students to make their own interpretations and connections that may different from any presupposed central thematic focus.
- Issues. You can also organize your units around issues, for example, the issue of gender and power—the degree to which women may have to assume subordinate roles in a culture. One advantage of an issue is that students may adopt different, competing perspectives about an issue, tensions that may create interest in that issue. Students can also adopt an inquiry-based approach in which they frame questions related to an issue and then those questions drive the unit. One disadvantage of studying issues is that students may bring often rigidly defined stances on issues such as gun control or school vouchers, which may not allow for further development or consideration of alternative perspectives.
You may have students identify their own issues or inquiry-based questions portrayed in a text. For example, students may identify the issue of social pressure from peers to adopt certain practices valued by the group, but perceived as problematic by certain group members. They could then explore this issue of social peer pressure in Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War or Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
- Genres. You may also organize your unit around studying a particular genre—short story, novel, ballad, rap, drama, memoir, biography, poetry, film noir, or hybrid combinations or mixtures of genres evident in a multi-genre approach to writing instruction (Romano, 2000). (For discussion of genres in film/television, see Chapter 11). In studying a particular genre, students examine similar features of that genre in terms of prototypical settings, characters, storylines, and themes, as well as shared literary techniques.
One advantage of a genre approach is that students learn a larger literacy practice of making generalizations about similarities between different texts based on certain genre features. One disadvantage of a genre approach is that is leads readily into pigeonholing or categorizing texts as representing certain genre features without critically analyzing those texts. Moreover, such reductionist genre approaches can also reify a formalist approach to English instruction—overemphasizing the study of formal structures without examining other aspects of texts. For example, it may be assumed that all short stories have “rising action,” “conflict,” and “resolution,” when in fact there are many stories that do not follow that formal structure.
In organizing genre units, you need to work deductively to provide certain frameworks or concepts about genre features, while, at the same time, allowing students to inductively make their own inductive connections between texts. You may also organize a unit around producing or writing certain genres, integrating reading and writing instruction. Students need to have opportunities to create their own genre texts based on their study of genre. For example, after studying the genre of rap, they create their own raps. In studying texts, students may then focus on techniques being employed with an eye towards producing such texts. In writing texts, they then draw on their genre knowledge in providing feedback to each others’ texts.
- Archetypes. You can also organize units around mythic or literacy archetypes, drawing on the critical approach of the archetypal approach discussed in Chapter 10 (see also the Mythology/Fantasy links). For example, you may organize a unit around the archetype of the Romance quest narrative pattern evident in epic and medieval texts, as well as contemporary journey or travel quests or the Star Wars and Fellowship of the Rings series. As part of this unit, you may focus on the initial initiation of the hero in preparation for the quest, linking the hero’s initiation to adolescents’ own experiences of initiation in their own lives.
One advantage of archetypal approaches is that students may enjoy studying what are larger mythic aspects underlying a range of different texts associated with their own lives. If, for example, they understand that initiation rites as portrayed in literature also pervade their own experiences. One disadvantage of archetypal units is that they may lead to the same pigeonholing as with genre units. Moreover, unless students are familiar with a lot of literature, they may not be able to make generalizations about certain archetypical patterns in that literature.
- Literary periods. You may also create units based on certain literary periods, for example, the Romantic or Victorian period in British literature or the Harlem Renaissance in American literature. In studying these periods, you can incorporate background historical events or cultural attitudes shaping texts, as well as similarities between literature, art, music, and popular media. For example, Coleridge’s and Byron’s art work reflect much of the spiritual and political romantic perspectives found in their poetry. One advantage of such units is that you can study writers’ work as shaped by their historical and cultural contexts. One disadvantage is that it may simply become matter of covering a lot of historical information or facts about features of the period without fostering critical response to the literature itself.
- Historical/regional/cultural worlds. You may also organize units around certain historical, regional, or cultural worlds, for example, the short story literature of the American South—stories by William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Reynolds Price, Bobbie Joe Mason, and others whose stories portrayed the world of the “Old South” and “New South.” Or, you could organize a unit around the historical period of Puritan America based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories and The Crucible (See the following unit which links The Crucible to the McCarthy period http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/cruc/cructg.html)
Select a particular organizational framework or combination of frameworks and consider some tasks or texts that could be used within this framework.
9. Formulating objectives for a unit and aligning objective to curriculum standards. As you did in devising tasks, you then need to formulate some objectives for what you want your students to learn in this unit. These objectives need to go beyond simply stating what students will do in the unit—they need to define what students will learn from doing various tasks. Based on the idea of “backwards” planning—starting with how you will assess your students’ learning, it is also important that you formulate your objectives in terms of specific interpretive strategies or critical lenses you want students to learn.
The following are some examples of objectives based on some interpretive strategies:
Emotions. Students will identify the emotions they experience and reasons for those emotions associated with different characters or text worlds.
Defining narrative development. Students will define the causal relationships between unfolding story events, as well as predict story outcomes based on knowledge of prototypical genre storylines.
Character actions as social practices. Students will infer characters’ social practices based on inferences about patterns in characters’ actions.
Constructing social and cultural worlds. Students will explain or judge characters’ actions in terms of the purposes, roles, rules, beliefs, traditions or history operating in social world or cultures.
Elaborating on connections to other texts. Students will reflect and elaborate on connections between the current text and similar images, characters, storylines, or themes from previous texts.
Positioning/stances. Students will define how they are being positioned to respond according to certain invited stances and negotiate or resist those stances.
Voices/language/discourses. Students will identify characters’ uses of different voices and social languages in terms of the discourses and ideological stances operating in the text.
The following are some objectives based on applying different critical lenses (see Chapter 10):
Applying a reader-response lens. Students will describe their responses to a text and how that text or a social context positioned them to respond as they did.
Applying a semiotic lens. Students will identify the signs and images operating in a text and the underlying codes shaping the cultural meanings of those signs and images.
Applying a poststructuralist lens. Students will critically analyze the category systems operating in a text and how these systems shape characters’ perceptions of self and others.
Applying a psychological lens. Students will critically analyze the underlying psychological
forces shaping characters’ actions, feelings, and desires.
Applying an archetypal approach. Students will critically analyze the archetypal use of symbolism, character prototypes, narrative patterns, and themes related to underlying cultural values.
Applying analysis of gender, class, race approach. Students will critically analyze the portrayals of characters’ social practices and cultural worlds as reflecting ideological assumptions about gender, class, and race.
In formulating your unit or course learning objectives, you also need to relate them to local school district, state, or national standards. Many schools’ English curriculums are organized around standards derived from district, state, or national standards. These standards attempt to articulate what students should be able to do and know at different grade levels.
In some cases, state standards specify certain content that needs to be mastered, for example, that students should know certain literary critical concepts or texts. One problem with content-based standards is that they can homogenize or “standardize” the curriculum in ways that limit teachers’ autonomy. Another problem with content-based standards is that they tend to perpetuate a transmission model of instruction in which teachers primary impart and test for content knowledge. In contrast, other states define standards more in terms of general competencies, thought processes, or strategies based on a constructivist curriculum model. Students are evaluated based on performance assessments what they can do and know.
Standards formulated in terms of performance allow for more teacher autonomy in terms of teaching their own specific content. By evaluating students according to performance, students have to apply what they learn to demonstrate their ability to, for example, critically analyze texts to be included in an anthology.
Go to your school district’s and/or state’s Department of Education/Public Instruction Website and locate the English/language arts standards for your unit’s grade level. How would you characterize the overall focus of the standards related to literature instruction in terms of the models of instruction? Then, review your unit objectives and identity those standards that are addressed by your objectives. Then, list the standards addressed by your unit.
10. Developing unit tasks. You then need to specify your tasks, formulating them as in #1 – 7. You then need to consider an appropriate sequence for your tasks, so that each task leads, “first things first,” to the next task.
Initial interest rousers. In designing units, you need to begin with an interest rouser task that hooks students into the topic, issue, theme, genre, etc. By initially engaging them with texts, material, or phenomena you will be studying, you are providing them with an experience that enhance their interest and lead them to perceive the value or worth of the unit. For example, in doing a poetry unit, rather than beginning with a discussion of “what is poetry,” students may begin by bringing in and sharing favorite poems.
Providing variety/choice. In planning your unit, you also want to include a variety of different types of experiences in order to avoid redundancy and repetition. You can create variety by incorporating a range of different tools discussed in the next chapter: drama, videos/DVD’s, different forms of discussion, art-work, creative writing, hypermedia, etc. You may also build in choices between uses of these different tools; again, students are more likely to be motivated to participate when they are given options. For example, rather than writing a final report, students may have the option of creating a hypermedia production.
Drawing on school resources. In planning your instruction, before you begin your student teaching, you need to determine what resources are available in the school. For example, if you are going to teach a single text to an entire class, you need to know if there are class sets of that text in the bookroom. You also need to examine the literature anthologies available and whether or how you may use those anthologies. Literature anthologies have become increasingly user-friendly, and many publishers have created a wealth of supplementary material including related web sites, books on-line, reading guides, and art transparencies. On the other hand, recognize that you, and not the textbook, should drive the curriculum. Think of the textbook as a rich repository of source materials, and then determine how you might best use that book to serve your students' needs.
School technology resources. You also need to scope out the types of technology tools available for student use—whether students need to go to computer labs (and when those labs are available) or whether they can use laptops, the software tools on the school computers, and student access to the Web. You also need to determine school policies regarding student access to Web-based e-mail, chat rooms, blogs, and Web sites, to determine, for example, how and whether you can create a classroom blog.
Classroom contexts and climates. Your different classes will vary according to their demographic make-up, social dynamics, history, attitudes, interests, knowledge, experience, reading ability, or engagement with your activities. Two different groups of students at the same grade level may be totally different due to the make-up or size of the group, the ability levels of students, or even the time of day. Your period one of American literature at 8:00 may lethargic and disengaged, while your period two of the same course and same texts may be lively and engaged. The majority of students in a class have had classes based on teacher recitation discussions and lack prior experience sharing their responses in small or large group discussions.
If students lack a sense of classroom community, you could do some additional group process activities that serve to bolster classroom community. If students are intimidated about sharing their responses because they feel intimidated by other students in the class, you could meet privately with these other students and share your concerns with them.
Recognizing/respecting diversity. It is important that your unit reflects the larger diversity of society in terms of differences in gender, class, race, and learning orientations/ accommodations. This involves recognizing stereotyping, biases, or language use/categories inherent in exploration of multicultural literature or topics related to gender, class, race, and learning differences. It is requires consistently modeling ways of being respectful of others, as well as a willingness to address issues of sexism, class bias, and institutional racism in students lives and as portrayed in literature.
Final projects. You should also include a culminating final project that serves to draw together the different, disparate elements of the unit. This final project should provide students with an opportunity to extend approaches and ideas from the unit to create their own interpretations of texts. For example, in a unit on gender and power, students could analyze the portrayal or representations of gender roles in texts not read in the unit. Again, providing choices for different projects enhances motivation to complete their chosen project.
11. Evaluating your own and others’ units. Review your unit based on the criteria listed below. If you haven’t yet developed a unit, click on the “student units” link in the Website that takes you to units developed by preservice teachers. Select two of these units. What do you perceive to be strengths and limitations of these units? How would you revise these units to improve them?
- appeal: will the unit appeal to students?
- appropriateness for grade level: are the texts and assignments appropriate for the targeted grade level?
- variety: is there a variety of different types of texts and activities?
- writing: are there ample opportunities to use writing about and/or of literature?
- student choice: do students have choices or options?
- inductive vs. deductive: do students work both from a “top-down” deductive and a “bottom-up” inductive manner?
- logical sequence: do the assignments build logically so that initial assignments prepare students for subsequent assignments?
- beginnings: does the beginning create some interest in the unit?
- endings: do the culminating activities or projects help students define their own overall connections?
12. Devise a WebQuest. In devising a WebQuest—an inquiry based unit based on Web-based resources and design, you are trying to go beyond simply providing students with tasks to exploit the use of Web-based tolls. In learning to address their issue or question using web-based resources, students are learning how to use the web as a learning tool. They are also learning how to reflect on and extend the material they acquire from the web. And, in many cases, they are assuming the perspective of a role-a song writer, detective, movie producer, scientist, city planner, etc., who must address a problem or issue or who must produce a final product. One example of an activity involving mystery tasks is “Who Killed William Robinson,” developed by Ruth Sandwell and John Lutz, University of British Columbia. This simulation based on an actual historical person, William Robinson, a Black American who was murdered in British Columbia in 1868. An Aboriginal man named Tshuanhusset, also called Tom, was charged with the murder, convicted and hanged, but a closer look at the evidence challenges the guilty verdict. Students need to sift through various clues to determine who may have been the murderer. http://web.uvic.ca/history-robinson/
In B. J. Dodge's model, http://webquest.sdsu.edu/designsteps/index.html WebQuests consist of:
- an introduction: describes the overall activity, the purpose for the activity, and student's role.
- task/outcome: describes the overall final outcome or product-formulating a solution to a problem or a position, or creating a product-an ad, song, story, final report, etc.
- activities linked to web-sites: specific step-by-step activities that are linked to web-sites that provide relevant material.
- guidance: help for students in how to organize their material to achieve the final outcome or report.
- assessment: a specific rubric for assessing their work.
- summary: a summary of what they learned from completing the webquest
Go to the Website and find some WebQuest and/or Google a text and/or unit topic, theme, issue, genre, literary period, archetype, writing production that you’re interested in developing to find some WebQuest similar to your unit. Identify the kinds of tasks in these WebQuest and the degree to which they engage students in inquiry-based learning as opposed to simply completing a series of tasks.
Select a text and/or topic, theme, issue, genre, literary period, archetype, writing production and then conduct a Web search to some links that you could use in a WebQuest. Assess the quality, appropriateness, and level of engagement of these links.
Then using Filamentality http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/fil/index.html or another WebQuest design tool, using some of the links you identified, devise a WebQuest using many of the techniques involved in devising a unit.