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Examining Island of the Blue Dolphins through a Literary Lens
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Unit|
|Estimated Time||Twelve 50-minute sessions|
Rochester, New York
In this lesson, students connect with Island of the Blue Dolphins by looking at the text through three literary lenses: a mirror that allows them to find themselves in the text world, a microscope through which to understand the text’s literary elements, and a telescope that helps them see beyond the text. Students first reflect on the meanings of courage and adversity through journal writing and skits. They then read the novel with a focus on Karana’s character, setting, and vocabulary. Next, students reflect on the story by imagining how they would have reacted in the same situations faced by Karana. After sharing journal responses, students look outwards to their community for people who have overcome adversity with courage, and brainstorm ways they could recognize these people. The lesson works well with English Language Learners (ELLs) and includes strategies for working with students at all levels of English proficiency.
Story Map: Using this online tool, students can complete and print a character map, conflict map, resolution map, or setting map after reading a story or as they plan their own piece of writing.
In many classrooms, teachers are faced with the challenges associated with teaching literature to students whose first language is not English. These English Language Learners come to us with a range of English language skills and often struggle with literature instruction. Pamela Sissi Carroll and Deborah J. Hasson state that ELL students "feel their confidence crumble when they enter language arts classrooms." Moreover, they assert that "Many ELLs will be reluctant to use personal language to discuss or write about their initial reactions to literary texts, since they may be uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to sharing personal ideas in a public forum." While ELLs with more advanced English skills are able to communicate in social situations, they often falter when they are faced with in-depth discussions of literary themes and elements.
Carroll and Hasson describe a literature-based process that takes the needs of ELLs into account by asking students to explore a text in three ways: connect with the text world as if looking into a mirror, understand the elements of literary arts by looking at the text as if through a microscope, and apply ideas from the text to broader social considerations as if looking through a telescope (p. 22). This approach, which welcomes all students into the literary community, can be modified for all levels of English proficiency while addressing students' "sociocultural needs."
Carroll, Pamela Sissi and Deborah J. Hasson. "Helping ELLs Look at Stories through Literary Lenses." Voices from the Middle 11.4 (May 2004): 20-26.