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Teacher to Teacher: Trade Book Teaching Ideas from the OLRC Reading Group: "Baby"

Author: Patricia MacLachlan

Summary. A family (parents, daughter, grandmother) living on an island in New England finds a baby on their doorstep with a note asking them to care for her temporarily. They begin to love the baby, even though they know they will have to say goodbye, and through the process of becoming attached to the child they are able to deal with the grief of having lost their own child.

Introductory Notes: This is such a powerful little book. There's a lot here to work with instructionally. These suggestions are kind of "minimalist"-- I really think the book must be read and reflected upon mostly personally and individually. If I were reading this book as a student, I'd be annoyed by too much intrusion.

Nancy Padak

Teaching Ideas

Chapters I and 2: Teacher reads aloud; students read along or just listen (student choice). Then do one (or more, but don't overdo it) of these:

Chapters 3 and 4: Do as a Directed Reading-Thinking Activity.

[Note: See attached explanation.] Stopping points: (1) p. 2 1, middle (right after "This is Sophie. She is almost a year old and she is good."'); (2) p. 22, near bottom (right after ... Call the police,'he said.'); (3) p. 23, bottom of page; (4) p. 25, end of chapter; (5) p. 28, middle (right after "I followed him."); (6) p. 30, at square; (7) p. 3 1, near end (right after "Lalo saw Papa!s expression and his smile faded."); (8) p. 32, end of chapter.

Chapters 5 and 6: Students read silently or orally, if they have had the chance to practice first. Then do one or more of the following:

Chapters 7 and 8: Students read silently or the teacher reads orally (or a combination). Then ask pairs or groups of three students to (a) read the following statements, (b) decide if they agree or disagree with each, (c) discuss the reasons for their opinions, (d) make notes of the discussion, and (e) be prepared to share their thinking with others in the group.

The family did the right thing by taking Sophie in. The family is doing the right thing by not talking about the baby who died. Lalo is a good friend for Larkin. Words are all we've got.

Chapters 9 and I 0: Students read silently. As they read, ask them to underline (or write out) sentences that seem very important to them. When students have finished reading, ask them to form groups of three and share these important sentences with each other. As group members listen to the sentences that others have chosen, they should respond by indicating agreement/ disagreement, elaborating, etc.

[Note:Thisis Terry Horste's"Linguistic Roulette"strategy.]

Chapter 1: Teacher reads aloud. Do Bleich's heuristic with the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem (p. 85). Ask learners to develop individual responses to these questions and then to share their ideas with others. A whole class sharing session can also be added, if desired:

Remainder of Book: Students read by themselves. Culminating activities might include:

Field Testing: These teaching ideas were field-tested in a rural ABLE program with a small group of learners who had neither worked together as a group before nor read a novel in their ABLE class. Both men and women were in the group. Reading and activities took place twice each week for 30-45 minutes per session. The book and related activities took 14 sessions.

Teacher's Changes: The teacher read aloud a bit more often than the plans above indicate. Some learners asked to read aloud, so volunteers did, after adequate time to practice. Learners became interested in the characters and the plot line, so discussions about what was happening in the story and about the characters were interspersed with other teaching activities. The teacher also noted that learners were initially unsure about working in groups and that they needed "continuous encouragement and assurance that they were doing the activity'correctly."' This insecurity diminished after a few sessions.

Finally, the teacher noted that several learners expressed some concerns about writing, especially writing complete sentences and spelling properly. The teacher attributed this to lack of opportunity to write. She encouraged learners to jot down ideas in words or phrases as a way to prepare for writing sentences. Throughout the book, learners'oral contributions were more elaborate and thoughtful than their written contributions.

Readers' Responses: Learners enjoyed the story from first chapter to last. They also enjoyed discussing the plot; several related story elements to their own experiences. The teacher commented that the DR-TA (and a chapter read as a DL-TA) was very successful in promoting discussion and encouraging learners to make predictions. The "agree or disagree" activity (chapters 7 and 8), Linguistic Roulette, and the activity with the poem were also very successful.

Several times throughout the book, the teacher asked if learners were enjoying the story and related activities. Responses were always enthusiastically positive. In fact, several learners asked to take the book home. The teacher's final comments were, "Ever,/one really enjoyed this story. They are looking forward to reading another book."

The teaching ideas were also field-tested in an urban program, with a tutor and her student, a woman in her mid-30s, working one-on-one. Reading a novel was also unfamiliar to this student, whose previous work with the tutor had involved use of Orton Gillingham techniques for dyslexic students. In this case, too, both the book and the teaching ideas were resoundingly successful. What follows are excerpts quoted from the letter that the tutor sent to the OLRC, except that we refer to the student by initial rather than name:

Jarvis, P. (1983). Adult and continuing education: Theory and practice. Second edition. New York: Routledge.

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