Education pal Emily Mofield and her colleague Tamra Stambaugh have created a series of books of ELA lessons for gifted middle schoolers. I was sent a copy of the books from Prufrock Press and here are my thoughts.
I’m giving my copies away, too. Read to the bottom for directions.
The books are based around the Integrated Curriculum Model, which means they include:
- accelerated content (through more advanced common core standards)
- Advanced process models/organizers
- Abstract concepts and generalitaztions
You can see the overview of the series here:
What I Love
My favorite thing about these books is their organization around abstract themes and their use of classic literature and art to support the theme. Fantastic use of differentiation strategies that go broad as well as deep.
Each of the four books has a clear theme:
- Individuality vs conformity
- Truth vs Perception
Within each book are a dozen lessons that support the theme and each lesson begins with text or visual art. I love this technique. It immediately widens the lesson’s scope, exposes students to an important work, and integrates advanced content. Plus I love the selections Emily and Tamra have chosen. So many are personal favorites or made me think, “Why hadn’t I thought of that!”
For example, within the theme of power, lessons begin with:
- Dali’s The Persistance of Memory
- JFK’s In Pursuit of Disarmament speech
- Susan B. Anthony’s On Women’s Right To Vote
To explore Individuality vs Conformity, they use works such as:
- Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day
- MC Escher’s Day and Night
- The Mayflower Compact
Then, each lesson includes:
- a general introduction
- specific alignment to common core standards
- introductory activities to set up the lesson
- pre-planned questions
- in-class activities to support the lesson
- explicit connections to the larger concept/theme
- differentiated products based around choice
- formative assessments
You can tell that Emily and Tamra not only have expertise in connecting standards to larger themes, but have teachers in mind when developing the supporting materials. Lots to use here. In fact, that may be the most challenging thing about these books…
21 Games for Paper and Pencil
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What I Didn’t Love
Primarily, I found the pages difficult to read. Not in terms of content but the visual layout. This is common in books built around lesson plans: there is so much text packed into each page that I feel intimidated to get started. Without enough white space or visual elements to break up the text, it makes it hard to jump in and try a lesson.
Of course, this is really a limitation of the physical book format. I frequently found myself wishing these lessons were presented as videos or in an interactive format – especially with the great art and writing embedded. I actually attended a session led by Emily and Tamra at 2016’s national conference and had a much clearer understanding of the lessons because of the multi-media format of their presentation.
This series is packed with high-quality ELA lessons for advanced middle schoolers. Emily and Tamra have crafted material that seriously ups the expectations. I absolutely love their choice of classics to build their lessons around.
If you’re willing to wade through a lot of text, I think you’ll find some really valuable ideas here to challenge your middle schoolers.
You can find the series on Amazon:
- In the Mind’s Eye: Truth Versus Perception (If I had to pick one, this would be it)
- Finding Freedom:
- I, Me, You, We: Individuality Versus Conformity
- Perspectives of Power
Thanks to my friends at Prufrock Press for sending me copies of the whole series!
Want one of my books? Tweet me @IanAByrd, name your favorite piece of classic art/lit/music/etc to use in a lesson, and include #byrdclassic so I can find it. I’ll pick four random winners next Friday: April 21st, 2017. This has ended! Congrats to the winners.