Working with English/Language Arts teachers on developing highly engaging and intentional inquiry units of study, one of the concerns I hear most often is, “We don’t have TIME to allow for student discovery and inquiry.” Educators absolutely want to provide the conditions for students to construct their own understandings, to explore their own questions, and to approach learning with curiosity. Unfortunately, many also feel immense pressure to “cover” all the standards legislated, intervene for students who haven’t yet mastered previous grade level standards, enrich for students who are ready for more, meet the social and emotional needs, and of course build strong and authentic relationships. Naturally, educators can feel overwhelmed.
One way to meet the demands of 21st-century ELA education and accomplish helping students master all the standards is to braid all learning goals together in inquiry units of study. At the elementary level, this can include bundling content area standards with ELA and SEL goals. To see an amazing example of this from my friends in Pennsylvania, please enjoy this free edWeb webinar: Integrating Social-Emotional Learning into Your Instructional Programs.
For today’s example, let’s look at a secondary book club unit where English/Language Arts standards, Learning for Justice standards, and a few goals from CASEL’s framework for social and emotional learning are bundled together.
Let’s begin with the overarching question: How can literature serve as a vehicle for social change? This question allows us to provide choice for students and help them explore more specific areas for social change through literature.
Next, we select some books for students to choose from and provide a more specific essential questions each student group can explore. When choosing book club books, we want to be sure a range of reading levels are provided so students are able to access their choice independently. Providing an audio version as well can be a helpful scaffold if necessary. Be sure to solicit the help of your media specialist who KNOWS BOOKS.