soul strikers

powerful moments in education

The Literacy Workshop: Scaffolding Choice

The liveliest discussion bubbled from the circle table today around a trio of books I never dreamed would ignite such passion. I WISH I recorded it.  Note to self: Have recording devices at the ready!

The scene: 4 girls around a table holding Sarah, Plain and Tall and the subsequent stories Skylark and Caleb’s Story, all by Patricia MacLachlin.  Debate and questioning ping-ponging across the table and I just sit and absorb the match: “What creates a barn fire?, wait- Whose point of view is telling the story? Look at the cover, see? It’s a charcoal drawing like Sarah’s. But don’t you remember? Here, wait, I marked it with a sticky. Here it is.  Did you find out what a Skylark IS yet? It’s the title, so it must appear soon…” This continued for 20 minutes and I barely said a word.  I just inhaled every refreshing minute.

My typing rant does not even do the conversation justice but I will tell you one thing: These 4 students completely know themselves as readers, as learners, and they are completely aware of their barriers.  But 2 of them did not want to read this trilogy when I first presented it. Not at all.

I struggle with those moments. I live for choice and I live for making the days fun, relevant, and productive for my students. But I knew something that I am glad I did not ignore- that these readers needed some confidence building and some lively discussion, sharing literature in a way they are clearly ready for…and I had just the story.  And I had to go with my gut.  Sure, the cover of another book was glittery and thicker, but I made the sales pitch that, with their books? A trilogy! And who doesn’t love when there is one more episode?

The point? When it comes to deciding to what degree you as an educator should provide choice, ask yourself: What is the ideal goal for this/these learners right now? What can they achieve that I can provide? Sometimes, we have the answer, when students are blinded by glitter and page numbers.  Choice is key, but scaffolded choice is even better sometimes.

So, where is the choice? As 10-year-old Literacy Workshop pros, they met each day to plan out the pages to be read, whether independently or together, they posted discussion topics and vocabulary on Edmodo, they differentiated for each others’ reading speed, and they enjoyed and shared literature.  Following the journey, they will choose how to share the experience. What more can I ask for?


3 comments on “The Literacy Workshop: Scaffolding Choice

  1. conversationeducation
    May 23, 2012

    I am not sure I have even seen this movie! Love the beginning as Sarah Plain and Tall was one of those books that so many of my 3rd grade girls loved! Love the cast.
    This makes me think about all of the different ways to ask kids to think deeply about their reading and how the images and opinions they make matter and then to compare it to someone else’s interpretation makes that knowing even stronger.
    It also makes me think of Matt Kish. He wrote a book on Moby Dick where he drew a picture for every page in the book.Check it out!

    An amazing High School teacher I know is using this as a model for American Literature as a way for her students to think more deeply. Art, music, film…the possibilities are endless!
    Which reminds me…what are your thoughts about this summer and working with the High Schoolers?

    Keep writing! And hey, would you mind if I featured your blog on our Learning Through Teaching Facebook page? Might also help you to get more readers!! Let me know!!


  2. soul strikers
    May 22, 2012

    These are awesome questions to ask and I for SURE will share them with my students. I love exploring the depth of literature and they will soooo enjoy seeing the movie clips. Thank you for enriching their reading experience!


  3. Jack Haubach
    May 22, 2012


    saw Sarah, Plain and Tall and my mind immediately went to the Hallmark movie of the same name. Why? I have the book on my shelf.

    I found clips of the movie and just re-viewed one, the 10 minutes of the first act. Screen play is done well, yet I think this short segment was about 2 and a half chapters. Still, it was full of richness and images of what took pages to describe.

    Have you thought about using clips like this for discussion? Questions: What did you miss in the book after seeing the movie clip ( a leading question because the movie was done AFTER the book obviously); what did the movie miss from the book? Were the children older/younger in the film than you imagined as you read the story. Did Maine appear to be realistic? Did the farm in the mid-west seem different than farms you know? You know these and more.

    Did you see your cousin Matt Edward’s post on the Half Blood Prince? I think he missed the creativity that both offer as separate pieces of art. Do your students see the art in both?



What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on May 22, 2012 by in education, Literacy Whatnots.

ExpandED Consulting

Please visit my educational consulting website to find out more about what I do.

Click here to visit ExpandED!

%d bloggers like this: