Here is how I've done it at the start of this new unit on Indian Country by Philip Caputo.
Getting students to read a long text (419 pages) in a short-ish unit (3.5 weeks) and not punishing them for being behind in the reading. Giving every student the ability to complete the classwork to some degree, even if they are behind. Focusing on the things that are really important from the novel, and not on the minutia that is unimportant.
A mixed ability 11-12th grade English elective that lasts one semester. The course is American Literature I, and is one of many options for how to fulfill English requirements at Redwood High School. Most students report struggling with assigned books because they are either being asked to read something they don’t relate to at all, or they are being Close Read’ed to death in class. They have read one novel and one play for this class, and this is the final unit. Nearly all students completed the reading for the last two units, but many reported not finding it super-engaging at times.
My goals for this unit:
- Analyse and trace a variety of themes through a long, complicated text
- Engage students’ love for reading
- Examine the way war changes Chris and what the long-term ramifications are on his psyche and on the relationships around him
- Discuss ways in which loneliness can be dealt with and ameliorated
- Respond critically to a variety of passages that illuminate the motivations and desires of a character, as well as how those push them to interact with others
- Make them see that there are certain things that just make us human and that we all share
Here’s the way this looked in class:
Tuesday (11/20 - 50 minutes): Quiz 1, review/clarify misunderstandings, time to read
Monday (11/26- 50 minutes)): Quiz 2, review/clarify misunderstandings, time to read
Tuesday (11/27- 50 minutes)): Activity #1, #2 and #2.5 with discussion of responses
Wednesday (11/28 - 90 minute block): Activity #3 to accompany Vietnam: A Homecoming
Friday (11/30 - 50 minutes): Activity #4-#5 and time to read
If you want to see the actual assignments with rationale for why they were created and what the purpose was, you can see them after the break.