This course is being designed for a Grade 8/9 split ELA class within a quad-split ELA classroom. The central theme for the course is Identity – “All That I Am – In Search of Self.” The students will explore this theme through the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. By the end of the unit, the students will be able to understand and respond to these questions with reference to the novel and a variety of grade-level texts and make connections to their personal lives and experiences while defining their own sense of identity. The course will have students work through 8 lessons to read the novel and explore the idea of identity – their own and the characters within the novel. The course will take 6 to 8 weeks to complete.
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This specific course is being designed for Grade 8 and 9 students I will be teaching in September 2023. It is important to know that these students learn in a four-grade split classroom ranging from grades 6 to 9. There are 15 students in the class – 2 Grade 6, 4 Grade 7, 4 Grade 8, and 3 Grade 9. Together, this is a diverse group of students, with some students requiring specific learning needs – IIPs, Individual Outcome Plans (IOP), Collaborative Team Plans (CTP), accommodations and modifications, and vision and speech supports.
The grade 8 and 9 group of 7 students have a range of abilities. One student in the group is diagnosed as having Diverse Needs and requires support for receptive and responsive language. We have and will continue to use technology to support these needs throughout this unit (ie. video, discussion, artwork, etc.) Students within this group have a range of reading and writing abilities. At least one student is achieving well below grade level, requiring alternative ways of accessing texts and content and demonstrating understanding, and the others achieve at or above grade level. Five students live outside of the school community on farms and are bused into school.
This course will be a blended learning format and include synchronous and asynchronous components. Students will be at school for both, either in the classroom or in alternative workspaces. Synchronous activities will be face-to-face with the teacher and their classmates and will include discussions and whole group lessons and instructions, depending on the needs of the students and the nature of the content. The course will include the following unit lessons:
Lesson 1 – Who Am I? – Exploring the Theme of Identity
Lesson 2 – Setting the Stage for the Novel – The Outsiders
Lesson 3 – Chapters 1 to 3: Characterization
Lesson 4 – Chapters 4 to 6: Choices and Consequences
Lesson 5 – Chapters 7 to 9: Symbolism
Lesson 6 – Chapters 10 to 12: A Closer Look at Theme
Lesson 7 – Identity Final Project
All lessons will involve both asynchronous and synchronous activities and tasks, and students will have opportunities to work independently, in partners, in small groups, and as a whole class.
For all the classes I teach, I use Microsoft Teams as the format for the online learning components of my blended learning environment. This is the platform chosen by my division and familiar to the students I teach. Therefore, I have decided to build my course in Teams, using Class Notebook to house the content of the course.
I will use the various features of Teams during this course such as Teams Chat, Assignments, and Channels to communicate with students and have students submit their work. Class Notebook also has Immersive Reader and Dictate features to support student learning needs, and it enables me to review student work and progress within the course lessons and assignments.
While Microsoft Teams will be the main platform for this course. There are a number of other tools I will use. The following is a slideshow of the other tools the students will use throughout the course.
Course Content and Learning Objectives
This unit will focus on the theme of identity through the study of the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The students will explore the idea of identity and who and what influences who we are. Through the study of the novel, students will reflect upon how influences, choices, and the environment impacted the character’s identities and apply this understanding to their own sense of who they are. The novel study will also enable us to look closer at the impact of stereotyping and assumptions on our identity. The students will end the unit with a choice project related to their personal identity and connecting it with the characters in the novel. For this unit, we will focus on the following theme questions:
- From where does our sense of identity come?
- What makes each person unique and interesting?
- How do people express their individuality?
- How do people change as they journey through life?
- How do we keep our self-identity yet, at the same time, become
part of a community?
As this is a split-grade unit, I have included the main outcomes for Grades 8 and 9. Numerous ELA outcomes will be covered and assessed throughout the entire unit; however, the following are the focus outcomes of the Lesson I will be designing for this assignment.
Assessments throughout the unit will be both formative and summative and provide a variety of ways for students to receive feedback and demonstration their knowledge and understanding.
Formative assessments will involve the exploration and knowledge-building activities the students will work through during their asynchronous work and tasks. These tasks will support students in their participation and completion of their summative assessments. Formative assessments will include:
- Collaboration boards
- Anticipation guides
- Jigsaw activities
- Nearpod lesson activities
- Video responses using Edpuzzle
- Journal responses
- Reading comprehension questions
Summative assessments will occur during and after the synchronous component of this unit, where students will have an opportunity to share, synthesize, and build on the knowledge they created during their asynchronous activities and tasks. The summative assessments will include:
- Discussions and Lesson and Discussion Reflections – criteria will be created with students and discussions will be assessed. Students will also complete a lesson and discussion reflection and a self-assessment.
- “Big” Idea Questions – Each lesson will conclude with a big question students will answer related to the novel, the focus of the lesson, and the unit theme. Students will have a choice to complete this as a written assignment or to record their responses on Flipgrid. These questions will be completed after discussions.
- Lesson Final Tasks – each lesson will have a summative task students will be responsible for. This will include tasks related to character development, symbolism, and theme.
- Quizzes and Tests – students will have quizzes and a final test for the novel.
- Final Project – the final project for this unit will involve a choice board and will require students to synthesize their learning and understanding of the theme of identity in relation to the novel and themselves.
All assessments will be modified to meet the needs of the students. They will have options to record, write, or create visual representations of their responses. Also, the diversity of assessments used will also help support the needs of the students.
Considerations for Common Concerns
Attendance: Attendance seems to be a common concern across all divisions and among educators. My building is no exception. This past year, we have seen students’ regular and consistent attendance drop for various reasons – physical illness, mental illness, family obligations, vacations, snow days, inability to get to school (ie. bus cancellations), etc. Providing content and communication online gives students the opportunity to access the content, lessons, and communications while away. Most students have the ability to access Teams and online resources through a phone, whether their own or a parent’s. This will help students stay in the loop and be prepared for our face-to-face interactions. It is my hope that providing an online component to our class will help address the issues of absenteeism in my class.
Tech Issues: Our school is due for a refresh next year, and we should be able to maintain a one-to-one ratio for access to computers. However, I always find there are issues with technology – from computer batteries not maintaining a charge, to not being able to access online learning tools because of our division’s restrictions for students. While this is improving, it is something that needs to be considered when moving students to an online format. Because I have chosen to offer a blended learning environment, some of these issues can be dealt with and mitigated face-to-face with students. But, these issues can take time away from our valued instructional and discussion time in class.
Student Independence: Working online requires a level of independence on the part of the students – from navigating the technology to working through, analyzing, and synthesizing content independently. There are diverse levels of abilities and expertise among the students, and it will be important to recognize, support, and capitalize on these. It will be important to establish expectations for students when working independently and online and vital to ensure students have networks of individuals they can access for technological and content support such as peer experts. Students will also be made aware of and encouraged to use tools to support their independent learning such as Immersive Readers and speech-to-text tools. I am hoping that multiple ways to access content (ie. print novels and audiobooks) and demonstrate their learning will support the diverse needs of my students and foster the independence they will need to work online. Furthermore, I am hoping that using an online platform familiar to my students will also help students navigate the content with some ease and independence.