BRAIN-TARGETED TEACHING UNIT

Teachers: L. Bluth and C. Grizzard
Dates: Sept. 2004
Unit Topic/Title: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Grade Level: 5

Brain Target #1 - Setting the Emotional Climate

Personal Connection. Students and teacher share the book by reading aloud and discussing ideas generated by both. The goal is reading for pleasure. Students make a personal connection with the main character as they are led through a visualization exercise in which they imagine themselves stranded alone in the wilderness. Students will interact with their natural environment as they seek common ground with the main character. Students will keep a journal as a means of connecting with their inner voice.

Trust and Acceptance. Students are taught by modeling how to respectfully praise and critique each other's presentations and how to question one another. Diverse and unique solutions to open-ended questions are encouraged.

Predictability. Each class begins with Yoga breathing and stretching postures for relaxation and focus. This is followed by a vocabulary warm-up, reading aloud, related discussion or drama and structured writing. There are established routines for distributing materials, housekeeping and storing of materials and work.

Music, art, dance and theater. Students role play scenes from the book and play “vocabulary charades.” Students create portraits and observational drawings. They illustrate their guidebooks and construct an art box to hold their final products.

Control and Choice. Students design rubrics to evaluate their products; they also design exhibit space.

Safe environment. When needed, students are brought back to focus with an unobtrusive signal or by teacher proximity.

Celebration. Student art is exhibited throughout the school. Guidebooks are displayed in the library. Student of the Week is displayed in the main hall.

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Brain Target #2 - Creating the Physical Learning Environment

Background sound. Classical music plays softly as students enter and get ready to work. Students learn to value and take ownership of a calm environment, absent of unnecessary noise.

Visual Stimulation. Large ferns hang in the windows. There is a changing display of fine art. There are changing displays of students' art and written work. Graphics used in teaching are bold, colorful and well maintained. Students create a shelter in the classroom made of natural materials collected on a nature walk. This can be used as a reading nook and for display of student artwork.

Room Arrangement. Small group seating for discussion groups is easily arranged. Materials and supplies are well organized and accessible.

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Brain Target #3 - Learning Design

Content Standards Reading: Students will use a variety of strategies to understand a literary text and be able to answer questions that demonstrate their ability to comprehend, interpret, analyze and evaluate the text.

Writing: Students will use the writing process to write to persuade by taking a position and supporting it with relevant evidence from the text.

Art: Students will create symbols and images to express feelings; select and organize art elements and principles to create a visual composition; identify and use problem solving processes to extend and refine works and reflect on the results; and use appropriate sequences and procedures in a variety of art media and processes.

Learning Goals Reading: Through reading the novel, students will develop an understanding of how the main character was able to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness. Writing: Students will be able to write an essay that identifies and explains the theme of the novel. Art: Students will create drawings based on observed and imagined forms. They will create a journal, a guidebook and an art box as a response to nature and to Hatchet.

Introductory “Big Picture” Activity/Assessment of Prior Knowledge Teacher will ask students to close their eyes and visualize being stranded alone in the wilderness where there is a forest and perhaps a lake. What might they see and hear? Keeping this in mind, ask how they would use the things they identified and what their mental activity would sound like. The map on which this brainstorming is collected is a precursor of the Big Picture Map. (See Table 1.) The Big Picture Map is used throughout our reading to collect details that support the theme. (See Table 2.) Icons are used to represent the three aspects of the theme. (See Table 3.)

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Brain Target #4 - Teaching for Mastery

As we read the novel, students will take notes to collect details related to each of the three aspects of the theme. They will draw the relevant icon for each detail.

Instructional objective #1: Students will know the definitions of new words and be able to explain how they are used in context.

  • Activities: Students discover the meanings of new words in their context through discussion. They play “vocabulary charades” and Who has…? I have… game to review new words. Vocabulary warm-ups and quizzes require them to use new words in meaningful sentences.

Instructional objective #2: Students will know how Brian used his natural environment and be able to describe this in brief constructed responses.

  • Activities: Reading aloud, note taking, class discussion, written descriptions and nature walks for collecting natural objects.

Instructional objective #3: Students will identify Brian's inner voice and be able to explain its purpose in the unfolding of the plot.

  • Activities: Small discussion groups are given a specific passage with the task of identifying an example of Brian's inner voice and evaluating how it contributed to his survival. Each group reports their findings to the class. Small groups dramatize a given passage which involves identifying Brian's inner dialogue and portraying this as a “voice-over”. Students write brief constructed responses in which they identify a feeling expressed in Brian's inner dialogue and cite from the text to support this inference. Students record their inner voice in a journal. Students create expressive portraits and discuss Master Art Exemplars.

Instructional objective #4: Students will identify examples of how Brian became a different kind of observer and be able to explain how this contributed to his survival.

  • Activities: Each student has an icon (feather) for this aspect of the theme and raises it as we identify examples of it in our reading aloud. Discussion and note taking continue.On a nature walk, students make field sketches. They discuss naturalist artists and make observational drawings. They use a reflection worksheet on drawing strategies.

Instructional objective #5: Students will know what a theme is and be able to write an essay identifying and explaining the theme of Hatchet.

  • Activities: Class and small group discussion and review of scoring key. Rough draft, peer editing and revision, final copy.

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Brain Target #5 - Teaching for Application

Students will write and illustrate a guidebook for wilderness survival. They will design and construct a box out of natural materials in which to house their guidebook, journal/sketchbook and collection of natural objects.

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Brain Target #6 - Evaluating Learning
  1. Students receive immediate peer feedback during drama presentations and charade games. Students design rubric upon which their feedback is based.
  2. When students work in small discussion groups they are asked to evaluate the productiveness of their conversation.
  3. Anchor papers are used to demonstrate the use of a 3-point rubric for brief constructed responses. Students grade a partner's writing using the same rubric.
  4. Reflection worksheets on each art phase are used. (See Tables 4 and 5.)
  5. Students are given a scoring key prior to writing the final essay. (See Table 6.)
  6. Students will design a rubric for their guidebook for survival and for the box construction.

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SCORING KEY FOR PERSUASIVE ESSAY
CONTENT Points
  • A reasonable theme is identified. (10 pts.)
_____
DEVELOPMENT AND ORGANIZATION  
  • A topic sentence clearly states the position or theme. (10 pts.)
_____
  • Supporting details are organized and developed with a clear beginning, middle and end using transition words. (20 pts.)
_____
  • Essay ends with a summary of the theme and details that support it. (10 pts.)
_____
  • Essay stays focused on the theme at all times. (10 pts.)
_____
CONVENTIONS  
  • Correct capitalization is used throughout. (5 pts.)
_____
  • Words are used correctly throughout. (5 pts.)
_____
  • Correct punctuation is used throughout. (5 pts.)
_____
  • Correct spelling is used throughout. (5 pts.)
_____
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