How We Planned the Unit
We wanted our unit plan to integrate the literacy skills our students needed to acquire in 4th grade independently and provide a space for social and emotional growth. A main focus of the unit plan was helping our students build literacy independence. We explored how to release complex texts to students, and shift from teacher directed to student directed discussions. In the past, we have struggled with knowing how to dismantle the scaffolds we so carefully created to help our students decode and comprehend texts. For past read aloud units, we would create many, many graphic organizers and vocabulary powerpoint presentations to help them acquire academic vocabulary.
Past read aloud units had been successful because students understood the books well, and acquired academic skills such as learning new vocabulary words. However, we had guided them throughout the entire process. If we wanted this read aloud unit to encourage independence we would have to change some aspects of our unit plan. We saw this inquiry as a time to challenge our belief that we should help our students gain independence.
We also believe that part of our job as teachers is to help our students learn and grow socially and emotionally. We had many conversations about how to discuss inclusion and ableism with our students in a honest and real way without trivializing the issue. We arrived at four essential questions that we wanted our students to explore throughout the study.
- Why is it important to be aware of differences?
- What constitutes a difference?
- Does everyone have a difference?
- Why are some differences treated differently?
Here is a video of a student discussing her view of inclusion after reading a book about an inclusive classroom:
This project came to encompass a large part of our literacy unit for a few months. We included our parents by assigning students to research an academic or physical difference over the February break. In class we brainstormed a list of academic and physical differences the students could research and then we visited the public library to find research material. The students were given the option to present their findings in English or Spanish and were asked to work with a parent on the project. Below is a letter we sent home to parents explaining the project.