Coaching ELA in a Cross Cat Environment

One of the classes I have been most actively involved in is ELA with our Cross-Cat teacher. We have planned over the last couple of weeks and began implementing our plan this week. Our goal was to begin the novel City of Ember. We decided that the best way to get students to think about the setting of the book was to get them to write about it. We attempted to get the students’ “internal motion picture” going by introducing them to several book covers and movie covers for the City of Ember. We asked them to be creative and to write about what they saw.

  • What is going on in this picture? What is the story?
  • Who are they?
  • What are they doing?
  • Where are they at?
  • Why are they there?
  • How would you describe the illustration?

Students wrote on KidBlog about their thoughts and what was going on. This really got them wondering as to what the story we were about to read was really about. We then watched the trailer for the movie the next day and had them write a new blog entry identifying how their thoughts on the book had changed. Again, the students were engaged in the activity and most developed through, albeit, strange stories about what they thought was happening. With no real understanding yet about the plot of the novel, I was impressed with their responses.

The next class period we began our book. Students listened to an audiobook as they read along with the content, allowing the teachers to interject as needed throughout the book. In the future, I think this would be an amazing way to use something such as EdPuzzle, in which we create comprehension and discussion questions throughout, and have groups of students proceed through parts of the book at their own pace. This would be ideal in the media center currently under construction and will be worth trying once it is complete.

Towards the end of the week, students began working in pairs on a Utopia project. Students began creating the components of what they saw as a perfect society. For example, what jobs would be needed? How would the government be formed? How would justice be served? How would you ensure individual liberties? This project was rather abstract for this group of students and it has been a struggle to get them to think outside of the setting of the book. Students have yet to present their Utopias, but I know that we will need to reflect on the outcome of this particular project and think about how we can get them thinking about the elements of a perfect society. Perhaps we need to provide some more structure in some way? We also plan to integrate Sim City Build It to give students a chance to see what goes into creating a vibrant democratic civilization. 

We will continue to read the book and discuss how this society fell into Distopia. We will also take a look at societies in world history who have tried to create “perfect societies” and at what cost this had to human beings and to our world. We will specifically look at the concept of Eugenics as we progress through the book and through our cycle.