Carole Underwood
St. Thomas More School
Grade 6
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Number the Stars


Using literature circles is my favorite way to teach literature to my 6th grade Honors Language Arts class.  Though they have not been exposed to this method before coming to my class, they take to it easily because they enjoy working together in small groups. 

For our study of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, I divided the class into discussion groups of 4 or 5 students.  I did not assign roles to the students.  Instead, they came to discussion groups with Post-it notes marking their questions, Golden Lines, and comments they wanted to share.  I usually monitored each discussion group by sitting slightly apart from the group and making anecdotal notes about each studentís participation.  The rest of the class worked independently on their literature response journals, reading and marking the novel, or completing other assignments including online work (see the Number the Stars page at www.mrsunderwood.com).

One interesting variation I tried this year was to require that all independent reading for Accelerated Reader (SSR) be about World War II.  This gave them many different reference points that often surfaced in their discussions (text-to-text connections).  They gained a broader view of WWII and a better understanding of the historical significance of Number the Stars.

Students this age love to work collaboratively and to make their own choices.  After completing the novel, I allowed them more freedom:  they could create an extension project from a list of suggestions or come up with their own ideas.  They could work alone, with a partner, or in a group of three students.  Work was done outside of class.  Their amazing projects included a series of illustrations for the book, a mobile, CDs with adapted and original lyrics, board games, two websites, and a wonderful Readerís Theater script/performance of a scene where Annemarie and Ellen met again as teenagers in Sweden.

 Students are now beginning non-fiction research on WWII to pursue related topics of their own choosing (concentration camps, true Holocaust stories, military campaigns or weapons, political leaders, life in American during this period, Allied and Axis powers) in the process of writing a research paper.  They will continue to meet in groups to share new knowledge and assist each other in the research process. (For more information, see the Research Links and Research Assignments page on my website.  These pages will change frequently as we progress through the unit.)

Student websites: 
http://www.freewebs.com/number_the_stars/links.htm and      http://www.freewebs.com/number-the-stars/home.htm

Our Rubric

Board Games

These kids went all out - they even learned to sew. The game pieces were bandannas sewn around film canisters - the object was to rescue the Jews in hiding.

Escape from Copenhagen map

Board Game Photo
 

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©  Susan Silverman - Literature Circles Extension Projects