have said this or that.


I chose to analyze this lesson because it did not have the flow and coherence that I would have liked. I did not have a specific theme to focus on. If I had to teach this lesson again, I would have asked the students to only read chapter 4 and focus on the dialogue Lyddie wished she could have had with her brother, and the frog metaphor. I would have filled the additional time with discussion about how Lyddie's life is changing, about how industry is affecting her family, and what different characters' views on freedom are. I believe this would allow for more coherence in this and the following lesson, allow for more book talk, give students class time to write their reader responses, and allow me some breathing space.

The second lesson I chose to focus on was chapter 22, Lyddie Lesson 15. I had rewritten the lesson based on previous learning, and what I wanted to focus on. The lesson followed the rewritten plan as far as themes and discussions, but had one additional activity: I decided in the last minute to include a dramatization of one particularly climactic scene. This change was based on a comment from my mentor that the students might be able to really step into the mind of the character by being able to act out a scene. I selected an important passage in which Lyddie, now unjustly fired from the mill for "moral turpitude," goes to her accuser's house with a letter she has written, addressed to his wife, telling of all his inappropriateness with the factory girls. I paused the student reader as Lyddie stepped up to his doorstep and I ask two students to come to the front of the room to act out the scene. (The game is called Freeze, where two students improvize the scene, and then another student, or the teacher, can pause the acting and put another student in. Students love this game.) The students were engaged in dramatization. MU yells and expresses anger, pretending to be Lyddie. JK tells Lyddie to go away. Goldie reveals she thought Brigid was dismissed, and some students chime in that she has misunderstood the text. Goldie states that Mr. Marsden is vile. Several students are able to participate in this acting activity, and I offer some tips, such as" "Remember to act it out as you think it would have happened" or "Remember he's a very stubborn man." Although it was a bit tough to get the students back in their seats and focused, the activity really livened the lesson, and showed student understanding of the character and her stubbornness. After the dramatization (the last student pair to act this out were very different in size), I say that I liked how the pair showed the difference in size between Lyddie and Mr. Marsden. The students are quick to correct me, and AB even finds the part in the text that states Lyddie was almost as big as Mr. Marsden.

After this acting activity, the students read the rest of the text, and I wrap up the lesson by asking students to compare and contrast how Lyddie felt after being fired from the tavern versus being fired from the factory. The wrap up discussion was very successful for several reasons: Firstly, it took a step back from the specifics of the story and asked students to think from a larger perspective. I asked students to compare and contrast the two times Lyddie was fired. I asked them to think about how Lyddie felt in each situation. The responses were very insightful, such as "She was happy and excited when she was fired from the tavern because she wanted to go work in the factory." I asked another student if he wanted to add to that, and he added "Like MU said, she didn't really like the tavern--she didn't get paid much or at all..." Goldie added that when she was fired from the tavern, she knew where she was going to go, and she was hopeful that with the money she made at the factory, she would be able to reunite her family. However, the second time she was fired, she has lost several family members, the farm, and she doesn't know where she is going to go. Before she had something to hope for, now she doesn't." Second, I felt like my teacher talk really facilitated diverse opinions and predictions, and pushed students to think and respond to one another. I sued phrases like "Does anyone want to respond to that?" and "Would you like to add to that?" I asked broad questions (Compare and contrast the two times Lyddie was fired) with narrowing questions (How was Lyddie feeling when she was fired from the tavern? from the factory?). Third, I was very aware of student misunderstandings and worked to correct them. I asked one student to name the two times Lyddie was fired. He hesitated, and I asked him to think about the story in general, where are the two places Lyddie has worked? He was then able to answer. When AB asked about another part of the story, I took the opportunity to ask who in the class would like to respond so that I could see if other students had the same misunderstanding.

If I were to change this lesson, I would change the lesson plan to include the dramatization. I would even like to select other passages in the book that students could act out. I think the most successful reader response prompts were the ones that allowed students to write a scene or dialogue. This lesson showed that dramatization can be used to clear up misunderstandings, and can be fun and engaging. The activity lasted for 5 minutes, and was greatly successful.

Student learning
What did students learn from the unit? What evidence supports your assessment? I chose to focus on six students from a broad range of learners throughout the unit (related to a research question), but will only discuss three of them here: Goldie (a hit-or-miss reader, she sometimes jumps to the first thing that came to mind and sticks stubbornly with it, but generally a good, fluent reader with excellent comprehension), Hannah (needs scaffolding with some comprehension—including basic plot elements, struggles with abstract concepts but can manage with help from teacher or other students), and Bernie (needs scaffolding with comprehension, including comprehension checks and story explanation, sometimes needs help with abstract concepts but can also handle some of these concepts very well).

The most surprising student was Goldie, who showed deep understanding of the story, the setting, and especially the main character. Her responses showed empathy toward the character, and she was able to accurately represent the character's thinking, even in hypothetical situations. For the final assessment, I asked students to write a letter from Lyddie to another character, Diana, following a prompt. The students could choose a hypothetical future situation, but had to include Lyddie's thinking, based on previous reader response work and textual evidence. In a letter about the role of hope in Lyddie's life, Goldie wrote: "If I hadn't had hope, I'd probably not have had the courage to go to college and marry Luke Stevens. Hope has gotten me far in life. When Rachel had left me, that's when I started to give up on hope, I felt empty and worthless (p. 148). I started to think about why I was working when there wasn't anything for me to work for (p. 148)." She later writes: "I think that a person should always have hope no matter what... I don't think that a person can get through life without hope." Her response showed that she was able to take the events in the novel and bring them all together to propose a lesson to be learned from the story.

A lot of students chose to respond to the final prompt about what freedom means, and if Lyddie really had free choice when she ended up working at the factory. Hannah writes that it wasn't really her choice to go to the factory. When she was fired from the other jobs, it was her only option to go work for the factory. She states that Lyddie was less free than most other girls her age, because most other girls did not have to work as hard as she did. Slavery, she states, could manifest in the form of children working in unfair factory conditions. This response showed good understanding, but lacked concrete examples, and clear explanation of her thinking. Her textual evidence was either unrelated or not explained. Hannah is the kind of student that might some concepts explicitly explained, and sometimes does not pick up on some of the more abstract concepts. I thought this response showed insight and learning on her part.

I was also satisfied with the response of another student, Bernie, who often could use support in reading comprehension, but can be opinionated on some of the more abstract concepts, such as "What makes someone free, or not free?" He chose to respond to the prompt about the effect of the Industrial Revolution on families and individuals. He wrote: "The Industrial Revolution made my life dreadful. If I had never left the farm, maybe Mama and little baby Agnus might not have died." He predicts: "Since society is using machines now for factory work, people's work load will be easier, but I bet there will be more injuries." He uses an example from the book as textual evidence. The tone of his letter, the flow and the textual evidence were all acceptable, and I thought that his overall understanding of the concept came across.

Overall assessment
What were the strengths and weaknesses of the unit? What changes would you recommend for the next person who teaches it? What did you learn about yourself as a teacher? About planning? About students and their learning? What questions do you have now? Be specific.

I would say that the strength of the unit was the thought and effort put into developing probing discussion questions. I think most of the discussion questions really took off. Questions focused on going into the thinking of the characters, examining their motives, proposing hypothetical conversations and scenes, and comparing and contrasting characters, events, motives. My favorite question asked students to compare Lyddie's single-minded focus on making money with the broader concerns of those around her. Students were really able to take Lyddie's actions and put them next to the other characters' kind actions. It just deepened and extended the text in a way that I don't think students would have done unprompted. I also think that prompting students to write a hypothetical letter from Lyddie to Charlie, from someone to Uncle Judah, acting out the scene between Lyddie and Mr. Marsden, and finally, writing hypothetical future letters between Lyddie and Diana added a critical dimension to the unit. Students were not only asked to understand the text and concepts in the novel, but were asked to extend these concepts to hypothetical situations. It was a very effective way to assess if these concepts were transferring to other situations, or if students were only able to understand these concepts within the context of the novel.

What I learned about planning
Plan flexibility into your lessons. Even though I felt like I had developed a great outline for the unit, the success of the unit depended on staying on track with the schedule. I focused on some chapters and not on others based on which chapters would be accompanied by reader response work.

Structurally include everything you want to teach the students. Never assume it will be implicitly learned. I had hoped to infuse this unit with Jewish values. I thought that I would bring the Jewish piece into our discussions, or push the students to think about Jewish values. This never happened, and in the final assessment, not one student chose to respond to the Jewish values prompt. The prompt came across as awkward and contrived.

Overplan your lessons. At times I felt that I had not given enough thought to a particular part of the novel or to a particular chapter. There was one lesson where I had planned on assigning independent reading and two in-class reader responses. I didn't plan any sponge activities beyond the two responses. One student, AJ, finished before the lesson was over, and I found myself at a loss. Students often work at very different paces.

What I learned about teaching
Stay away from whole-group instruction for a challenging novel when the group is quite diverse. I found it difficult to teach a literary unit to 17 students for several reasons. First of all, it was hard to track every student's progress. The range of readers was broad, and it would have made more sense to break into two or three reading groups by reading level. I feel like I completely lost track of the progress of at least one student (ES), and couldn't give the right amount of attention to other students (Bernie, JK).

Real-world or believable assessments are the best assessments. The students gave their best responses and participated the most when the prompt was life-like and engaging, such as writing a letter to another character, writing a hypothetical dialogue or letter, or acting out a scene.

Overall, I feel that this unit was successful. The big ideas were made explicit through the inquiry questions, the pre-reading activities, the class discussions, the reader response questions and the final performance assessment. My measure of success was that students could state the big ideas and find evidence in the text to give reasoning. The students were challenged in vocabulary, concepts, and philosophy. I came away with great respect for the level of discussion and writing that I encountered with the students.