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Carla Wellborn EPS 541 3/24/13 Planning Commentary and Concept Map Drs.

Salmon and Knauth Reinforcing Literacy Instruction through Teaching The Odyssey

Throughout this paper, I will be discussing the planning process involving the unit on The Odyssey that I just completed with my 9th grade Survey of Literature course. The Odyssey came as the conclusion to an 8 week unit on Greek mythology. The students LOVED it. My largest goal while teaching The Odyssey was that students would develop a love for the ancient epic, but that students would also be able to put into practice their understanding of reading skills so as to increase their overall fluency and comprehension of difficult texts. One of the major standards for reading in the 9th and 10th grades is that students, by the end of the year, would be able to comprehend and read (fluently) higher level texts (stories, poems, dramas, etc) associated with their grade level. Before this is even possible, it is necessary that students be able to metacognitively identify when they are utilizing good reading practices. Therefore, it was essential that we teach them about reading skills and what good readers do BEFORE they began practicing these skills on a higher level text like The Odyssey. At the beginning of the year, we did an entire unit on reading skills and taught students what it looked like to be a good reader. We discussed concepts like main idea, supporting details, generalizations, authors approach, meaning of words, and sequence of events. Therefore, in an effort to reach this standard in a meaningful way, I designed a unit on The Odyssey that would allow for students to practice their fluency through utilizing the reading skills by reading a complicated text like The Odyssey. As my concept map communicates, my goal was to reinforce our overall literacy instruction through the Odyssey unit. While reading The Odyssey, students would be practicing their fluency, which includes pacing, prosody, and accuracy (terms they have already learned), through a strategy called reciprocal teaching that we will discuss later in the paper. By using this routine, students will inevitably be forced to practice their reading skills and use them in order to increase comprehension of the text together with minimal assistance from the teacher. In fact, the routine often forces students to analyze the literary aspects of the texts in a meaningful way that aids to higher levels of comprehension around the text. While planning this unit I was confident about my understanding of reading skills and making that transparent to the students. I have been teaching them these skills all year long so I am quite comfortable with their knowledge of the skills. However, I was not sure how to transfer their memory knowledge of these reading skills in a way that would aid them in applying the skills in a meaningful way while analyzing an actual difficult text. I was nervous that students would know that the main idea of a

text is the topic and what the author wants you to know about the topic. However, I was nervous that they would find it difficult to actually find the main idea in a real text. Because of this challenge my mentor and I developed daily test prep questions that were designed to give students practice in using the reading skills in a way similar to what would be asked of them on an ACT styled test. Once they began to practice in this minor way, The Odyssey was shown to be an effective and appropriately scaffolded challenge to them that was still within their ZPD. I was also worried about my own familiarity with The Odyssey because I had not read the epic since college. However, during the planning process, I forced myself to focus on the skills and strategies necessary for their understanding of the text. I read the text again through the lens that I wanted them to use and it made the task of analyzing the epic much more feasible within the timeframe that I needed to work within. Before beginning this unit, my students were familiar with using the reading skills they learned previously in the year to analyze smaller texts. By doing the daily test prep questions and analyzing smaller stories and poems the students have become comfortable with analyzing a piece of literature within a class period with their classmates. Most of the literature is beyond the majority of their fluency level, but, with the appropriate tools, the students are able to effectively challenge themselves. However, the biggest distinction is that they were only working with material that they could analyze and comprehend the entire text by the end of the class period. One of the major challenges the students, and therefore I , faced before beginning The Odyssey was being able to analyze a longer text over the course of several weeks without giving up or losing interest. This was actually a much bigger issue than Id initially anticipated. Attendance is such a major issue in CPS. One of the more difficult things to figure out logistically is how to carry a learning segment over to another day without leaving a large portion of your class clueless because of poor attendance. In order to keep them engaged, I had to organize the text in such a way that we always left off on a particularly engaging and epic portion of the epic. I also showed visual versions of the text to keep their interest. We watched clips from the History channel, from the film version of the story, and images from the internet that would aid in their comprehension and visualization of the material. Another challenge was the language used in the text. My students are urban African American kids who live on the south side of Chicago (for the most part). Therefore, the language used in The

Odyssey is not language they are accustomed to reading or hearing. Because of this, it was imperative that I get them interested in the story right away. If I could accomplish this, the language would be in spite of a good story instead of directly influencing how they enjoy the entire epic. After a while students actually began to appreciate the language itself, because of its descriptive and eloquent nature. I chose to use the method of Reciprocal Teaching in order to facilitate their reading of The Odyssey. I chose this strategy because it is incredibly student centered and gives them the tools they need to make meaning of the text with minimal assistance from me, the teacher. The strategy allows for students to read portions of the passage and summarize, analyze, and make predictions as an entire group. Students are split into groups of four and each person is given a job. They are responsible for either reading the passage, summarizing what was read, asking analytical/clarifying questions, or making predictions based on the information provided in the text. This strategy actually relates to the information we read in the metacognitive module that dealt with moving information from your students short term memory to their working and long-term memory. Reciprocal Teaching causes students to remember all of the reading skills that we have discussed as a class and put them into practice. As they are putting them into practice, especially while reading a complicated and long text like The Odyssey, students are placing the skills into their working memory through use. The more they practice identifying the main idea and supporting details (through summarizing), the more that information and skill set will move into their long-term memory. In order to ensure that students were comprehending the text I did a number of formative assessments like listening to their group discussions during reciprocal teaching specifically analyzing their understanding, giving mini sequence of events activities, and conducting general assembly group discussions that tested their ability to make connections, use the text as evidence to support their conjectures, and speak logically and eloquently about the high level text. I also gave a summative assessment at the end of the unit that tested their knowledge of the themes related to the text as well as their ability to analyze the sequence of events, which was a major focus in The Odyssey. The students did very well. The assessment is below.

The Odyssey Test Section 1: Sequence of Events Questions 1-10: Put the following events into the correct order.

1. _____ 2. _____ 3. _____ 4. _____ 5. _____ 6. _____ 7. _____ 8. _____ 9. _____ 10. _____

A. He spends 7 years with Calypso B. The Trojan War begins C. Odysseus pretends to be a beggar D. Zeus destroys the rest of the crew E. Eris is not invited to the wedding F. Odysseus and Penelope reunite G. The crew is drugged in North Africa H. Odysseus builds the Trojan horse I. Odysseus kills all of the suitors J. Odysseus strings his own bow

Section 2: Short Answer Questions 11-15: Use details from the story to support your answers.

11.) What is Odysseuss hamartia? Give at least 2 examples from the text that support your answer.

12.) It took Odysseus 10 years after the Trojan War to get home to Penelope. Whose fault is this? Be sure to use at least 2 examples from the text to explain your answer.

13.) Odysseus withholds vital information from his crew several times throughout The Odyssey. List 1 example of this and explain the ramifications for his actions. Would you have lied if you were in charge of the crew? Why or why not?

14.) How is Odysseus similar to or different from the other Greek males (men or gods) we have encountered (All of the gods, Menelaus, Paris, Perseus, Achilles, )?

15.) Consider Odysseus involvement in the Trojan War, his journey home, and how he reclaims his house and his family. Is Odysseus a good leader? Give evidence from the text to support your answer.