Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

08.20.20Whaaat??? Susie Kim Brings Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ to Life

The Jungle: Complete and Unabridged by Upton Sinclair by Upton ...
Difficult reading about difficult lives…

Just wanted to take a minute to share some fantastic video of Susie Kim’s 7th grade Social Studies class at Achievement First’s East New York Middle School. It’s a great example of a lot of good teaching things, not least strong Ratio and Checking for Understanding

Susie and her students are reading a passage from teaching Upton Sinclair’s the Jungle (1906) to study reforms in labor and public health brought about by early ‘muckraker’ journalists. If you haven’t read it, it’s a complex text using language that is archaic to many modern readers- a tough read, and as you’ll see, Susie’s students struggle. They get the gist; they miss the key moment.

The clip opens as Susie asks her students to read a particularly important section on their own. Then she asks them to write a response re. how Sinclair’s word choice and imagery impact the reader. This causes everyone to answer a challenging question in writing. They have to craft a careful response. They’re required to engage. First they write it in their own personal google sheet where they take notes and which Susie can collect Then she asks them to paste it into a separate classroom thread that allows Susie to see everyone’s work in one place to assess and potentially to share…

Which she does. And as she shares, we, like her students, can read everyone else’s work and study it. We see there are some good ideas but they’re incomplete. And there are some very specific misunderstandings. As a result Susie takes her students back to the text. They re-read. Her Cold Call of Darius makes it clear that students got the gist of the passage but missed the most important part. Angel does a beautiful job of explaining what they missed.

Making writing visible has not only helped students learn from each other it’s helped her Check for Understanding

Notice how critical–and priceless!–their facial reactions are when they figure out what becomes of the fertilizer men! Amazing to see how critical to understanding students’ experience the expectation of ‘face visible/camera on’ is. Without it this lesson just doesn’t come to life.

Now that students understand the text, the work is not done though. Susie wants her students to think deeply about what this means and how readers might have reacted so she sends them to breakout rooms to process.

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