Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Multiple Readings with Multiple Purposes

Part 1
For the last two years, I have worked with my students on identifying the subtle differences between speeches and other types of writing.  ReadWriteThink (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/battling-liberty-tecumseh-patrick-72.html) introduced me to a lesson using Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" and Tecumseh's "Sell a Country? Why Not Sell the Air?"  I used these speeches with my first group or two of students but focused almost exclusively on Patrick Henry's speech.  

What is so neat about the way the lesson is structured is that students look at the speech multiple times and read for different purposes each time.  This model can (and has in my classroom) been used with a variety of texts.  We first listened to an audio recording of an actor (too bad there's no way to get a recording of Patrick Henry’s original) and noted words, phrases, people, and places that were unfamiliar.  We took the time to look them up.  Then we discussed rhetorical devices and how they fit into speech making.  The students identified and highlighted in different colors similes and metaphors, alliteration, repetition, and allusions.  They also kept a color-coded key with the definitions for these various devices in their folders.  His speech is especially full of allusions, which makes it a great piece of literature to use for this activity so that I can explain allusions using a variety of examples.    Finally, we listened to the speaker one more time and noted tone, volume, and mood.  We compared the tone and volume at different points in the speech, and particularly when Patrick Henry used different rhetorical devices.  All of this on each student’s single copy of the speech.

Each student marked his or her copy of the speech with these annotations as we worked through the speech multiple times.  The margins were full.  There were three and four different colors marking phrases and words.  Words were underlined.  I think some students actually submitted their copies of this speech as writing-to-learn entries for their writing folders because they had so much of their own writing on them.  And their post-reading entries stated what research said would happen:  they gained a profound insight into the meaning of the speech after listening and reading it multiple times.  I decided to change the speech that future classes read but did not change the activities because I believed in the power that multiple readings would have in my classroom.

Fast forward to other groups and this other speech:  Maya Angelou’s words at Coretta Scott King’s funeral.  Because it was much more current (2006), and because my students would be familiar with the Civil Rights Movement that she spoke of, I was excited to substitute this for Patrick Henry’s speech and work with the same lesson model.  And it doesn’t hurt to enjoy the speaker when the listening count rises over forty with preparation for class and the actual activities.  It has been a great experience to listen to these speeches with fresh ears each time with a new class.  That alone should tell me that something is right about rereading texts in the classroom. 

Read Part 2 for more on the story.

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