In English, our Year 9 students had a choice of a few books to read : Kitchen, the Curious Incident of the dog in the night time, Jane Eyre and the Maze Runner. Most of the students chose to read the Maze Runner. I was invited to participate in the culminating literature circle activity where the students would look at setting, characterisation and relationships. I had up to, and probably over 45 students to work with over 80 minutes.
Whatever I planned had to be engaging, related to the book, engage them to interact with each other and be heavy on the group work low teacher input for class management.
Each group of 5 students was given a large piece of paper and they were to discuss and draw the layout of the glade (and the Maze if they so desired, but the Glade was the main activity), placing the items of the Glade in places they thought they would be.
This was interesting to watch as the students argued over where they believed different buildings and objects were in the glade, there was much cross referencing with the book with them trying to find evidence to support their arguments. Interestingly, not every drawing was identical. It also took at least 40 minutes to complete this task.
The second task was to list / mind map the characters on another large sheet of paper and allocate adjectives to them (we started with the IB learner profiles and worked out from there). For each characteristic they gave to a character, they had to supply a supporting piece of evidence such as an action or speech the character did that could found in the book. Then as an extension of this, the students had to draw links to the characters who had relationships in the book, and identify what type of relationship it was. For example "Minho and Thomas have a relationship that includes trust, respect, mentor, equal friendship shown through the problem solving they go through and the first test they had to beat the grievers. "
This took another 40 minutes of discussion (and arguments) and consistent referral to the book to complete, however the feedback from the students was that it was a great activity where they could talk about a book they all loved, fulfill the english criteria and they felt more prepared about being able to discuss the characterisation and relationships that were in the book for their assessment on relationships. They also appreciated the group interaction and not having to write a whole lot. The students who relied on only seeing the movie were unable to contribute as much to the discussion, and that was very apparent to all the students when it came down to details and understandings.
For myself and the teaching, it was a testament to the use of the humble paper and marker pen tools to help draw out knowledge and make the learning truly visible. No computers or devices or permitted to be used in this activity. This was repeated with 2 different classes, and all students in both classes were equally engaged and always on task with very little teacher input required. This to me is a sign of a robust and repeatable activity!