Overview (American Literature 11th grade dual enrollment): I implemented this lesson during a hybrid learning situation due to the pandemic, but it can be done with in-person learning as well. I have noticed over the course of the semester that students demonstrate their learning in a proficient manner through small-group activities with instructional scaffolding followed by independent tasks. Engaging in close observation and analysis, higher-order questioning, and evidence-based writing as a group through academic conversations replicates the face-to-face learning environment as closely as possible to promote student social-emotional wellness while navigating a dual enrollment course.
In this lesson, students participate in all-class discussion and debriefing on "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes. Then, they work in small groups to engage in project-based learning: to analyze and interpret the explicit and inferred meaning of the poem, including determining matters the text leaves uncertain, supporting their analysis and interpretation with strong and thorough evidence from the text through two tasks.
All-Class Setting: I use video in the all-class setting as a warm-up to orient students to The Harlem Renaissance with "African American History in Two Minutes" and the poet Langston Hughes (Biography on YouTube), and to explore the poem “Mother to Son" (video of images narrated by Viola Davis). Students in the brick and mortar classroom view the content with me; students at home view the content through Canvas. Students have time to reflect on their learning and record their observations and/or questions in the warm-up. Then, in all-class and small-group settings, students can communicate verbally and/or provide their contributions in the chat. In the all-class setting, I ask students to note at least one observation and/or question in the chat and provide time for them to note their own observation and review classmate observations, adding a positive reaction to any that appeal to them. Students in the brick and mortar classroom provide their responses when we debrief as a class and have the opportunity to choose one or more chat responses that appeal to them, justifying their choice(s).
Small-Group Workshop Activities:
For Task #1: Students will engage in small-group academic conversations on their observations and/or questions about the poem, choose their top three (three being the least important, one being the most important) and find at least two examples from the text to support each observation on their list. Next, they will use their discussion of questions and observations on the poem to inform their analysis and interpretation of the poem through How to Make a Poem Fit (noting Facts, Interpretation, and Theme), using guiding questions. They will engage in academic conversation, close observation and analysis, evidence-based writing, and higher-order questioning.
For Task #2: Students will engage in small-group academic conversations, close observation and analysis, evidence-based writing, and higher-order questioning. Through these four focus areas, they will create a social media post to provide linguistic and non-linguistic representations of their analysis and interpretation of the poem. Next, they will engage in small-group academic conversation to create a reflection to support their social media post by analyzing and interpreting the stated and inferred meaning of the poem through a) writing their own poem or rap of at least five lines to summarize the poem “Mother to Son”; b) communicating their three most important observations and/or questions about the poem, including matters the poem leaves uncertain, with at least two examples from the text to support each question and/or observation (taken from Task #1); c) a discussion of at least two literary techniques Hughes uses in “Mother to Son” with at least two examples from the poem for each technique and its impact on the meaning of the poem; d) the group’s theme statement for the poem with a rationale/justification for the theme and at least three examples from the poem to support the group’s theme.
All groups present their social media post and reflection at the subsequent class meeting to present and justify their choices.
After presentations and debriefing in the next class meeting, students complete a ticket out to summarize the poem and provide their own theme statement, including at least three examples from the text to support their theme. Through a Google Forms survey, students rate themselves on a learning scale related to the standard for the lesson and communicate their feedback on learning in small-group activities and academic conversations.
I found that 100% of my students demonstrated proficiency on the ticket out aligned with the learning goal and 90% of students demonstrated mastery. Results of the Google Survey: 82% of students rated themselves as a Practitioner on the learning scale, and 15% of students rated themselves as Experts on the learning scale. Only 1 student 3.7% of respondents rated themselves as an Apprentice. The majority of students responded that they preferred working in their assigned groups the remainder of the year.