After reading Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman and an article on community gardens, my students prepared themselves to navigate "Antaeus" by Borden Deal. We briefly discussed the mythological connections to the title of the story. If Antaeus, the giant, maintained his strength by touching the earth, why then is his name used in the title of this story? What allusions can be found about earth creating power in the individuals or in the gang? We also discussed vocabulary. What if the definition were not conveniently located at the bottom of the page? Whatever could we do to decipher the meaning of the word, the sentence, or the passage? Therefore, context clues became our second focus for the activity. Interestingly enough, many vocabulary words the students documented could also be used for as allusions to earth and power.
With two levels of focus in mind, students equipped themselves with the textbook, a stack of sticky notes, and their small groups of three. Their goal was to tag the textbook with the sticky note when they found a piece of evidence that could answer either the allusion or vocabulary question. They needed to make notes on the post-it about their thinking and what prompted them to tag that passage, sentence, or word.
There may be a few disadvantages to having only a class set of literature textbooks, but I haven't really discovered many. First of all, we don't use them as readers in the classroom. My department selects various stories, some from an older, beloved literature book, a few from our newer one, and many complementary materials from our own searches. Secondly, this activity would not have been nearly as effective if the students each had his or her own book. You see, the final step of the evidence-gathering process was to remove the sticky notes from their books and place them on a piece of notebook paper. Before removing the note, the group members needed to check their notes for completeness (page numbers, quotations, etc.). As class ended, I collected the sticky note-laden papers.