Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.07.14On Planning for Reading, Part 2–Colleen Driggs on Maggie Johnson

In Part 2 of this slated-for-three-parts series on planning for reading lessons, ace reading teacher Colleen Driggs takes you through the lesson materials of fellow ace Maggie Johnson, explaining what’s so effective and how she does it.  It’s a bit like Georgia O’Keefe taking a few minutes to walk you through what’s so good about Mary Cassatt’s technique.  You couldn’t really ask for more. At least until part 3 rolls around.

So here’s Maggie’s lesson, which is on a chapter form  Elie Weisel’s Night 130828_N_14-21.   And here are Colleen’s observations.

Lesson Plan: The exemplary lesson material comes from Maggie Johnson’s eighth grade novel unit on Night by Elie Weisel. The “plan” you’ll see is the packet that students use during class to record notes and written responses. The comment boxes are notes Maggie has for herself-and you’ll notice that they primarily focus on the target responses she’s planned in response to her questions. In addition to the materials you see here, Maggie notes questions she’ll ask students to verbally respond to during reading directly into a copy of the novel itself.

Highlights of Maggie’s Lesson Plan

Reading Specific:

  • Maggie’s Objective:  SWBAT analyze the evolving relationships amongst the Sighet Jews.

Through this objective, Maggie requires students to practice character analysis, a portable skill, by asking them to apply it to the interactions and relationships of characters within the context of the novel. Not only is it more rigorous to ask students to apply the skill to a complex novel, but the skill also becomes more of a means to an end—understanding a story students care a lot about–and this makes it more compelling.  You’ll also notice that the questions in her packet demonstrate non-exclusivity as the writing prompts throughout target a variety of reading skills, some in support of the objective but others that are simply rigorous questions included to help students unlock deeper meaning of the text.


  • In the Terms and Vocabulary Section, Maggie directly and briefly introduces/reviews crucial vocabulary and then asks students to practice using that those terms through analysis of short excerpts from the novel. The time she sets aside for applying the vocabulary is critical for students’ long-term understanding of the words and phrases.


  • Maggie’s plan is based on three clear cycles of Read-Write-Discuss (-Revise) denoted by page numbers in the student packet, each including approximately two pages of reading followed by prompt(s) for written response that she and her students discuss after students have written. Within these cycles, Maggie has clearly planned which questions she will ask students to revise following their discussion. On page 5 of the student packet, you’ll notice that question number 3 is followed by several blank lines that students will use post-discussion for revision (!) of their original response, which sends two important messages: 1) revision is normal and  2) you (students) for listening carefully and processing our whole class discussion.


  • Accountable Independent Reading: Maggie relies on Control the Game as her primary system for reading the novel with her class, but she deliberately inserts a daily dose (or two!) of Accountable Independent Reading. Her students are required to read independently in one of the Read-Write-Discuss cycles (pages 16-18) and are assigned pages for  reading as homework. In both cases, she has accountability measures in place—written response questions that help students focus on crucial ideas in the novel and allow her to check for comprehension.


  • Evidence Based Questioning: Anyone who’s watched Maggie’s lessons knows that she habitually requires students to support their answers with evidence from the text, and in the student packets, she reinforces this several times with explicit directions to “cite at least two examples from the text.”


  • Maggie includes multiple opportunities for students to deeply analyze short excerpts that she’s lifted from Night, which helps to prepare them for Close Reading.[CD1]


General Planning:

  • Planned her target responses to questions—helps her efficiently Check for Understanding, uphold Right is Right, and Break It Down (when students struggle).
  • Writing task planned for “Early Finishers”, which supports Pacing and ensures all students are maximizing their Independent Practice time.
  • She has more questions planned than she anticipates students will be able to finish (again in support of Pacing and maximizing practice time). She prioritizes most important questions by sequencing them first.
  • Her multiple choice questions are consistently followed with directions to elaborate on or explain their choice in writing, which prevents students from simply guessing and forces them to them to more think more deeply about the question.



, , , ,

No Responses to “On Planning for Reading, Part 2–Colleen Driggs on Maggie Johnson”

  1. April 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Is there a site where teachers could gain access to Maggie Johnson’s Night unit plan (free or something like Teachers Pay Teachers)?

Leave a Reply