As I looked over the next selection in my Houghton Mifflin Teacher’s Manual, I saw the upcoming comprehension skill was “cause and effect.”
For my gifted 6th graders, simply teaching a direct instruction lesson about identifying causes and effects is a recipe for boredom and, as a result, behavior problems.
Upleveling Rigor Using Depth and Complexity
I ended up deciding to explore the big idea that “causes can lead to unexpected effects.” While this still conforms to by district-mandated base program, it also meets the higher intellectual rigor I want for my students.
Hooking Students With A Classic
To launch our exploration of causes and their unexpected effects, I decided to bring in my own love of The Beatles. I structured my lesson around the fact that The Beatles stopped touring in 1966. The causes of this event included:
- lack of amplifier technology to combat screaming girls (this is a fun one to demonstrate for your kids :) )
- fear for their personal safety
- fatigue brought on by their own fame
I then played two songs representing the time periods prior to and following this event: “Love Me Do” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
We listened to and discussed the lyrics, instrumentation, and general feel of the song “Love Me Do.” I explain some facts, including the limited recording technology (ie, Paul had to sing the line “love me do” by himself because John had to have time to bring his harmonica to his mouth – naturally now they would simply overdub to fix this).
We then listen to the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” and discuss the same topics. Students are quick to note the difference in instrumentation, the strange lyrics, and even pick up on the subtle effects on John’s vocals. I then explain some behind the scenes information about the recording (it was a combination of two separate takes in two different keys, sped up and slowed down to sound like the same key).
I explain that although The Beatles stopped touring because of three reasons, the effects of this event were completely unexpected, and included:
- incorporation of orchestral, ethnic, and experimental instruments into pop songs
- experimentation and advancements in recording technology
- increasingly complex lyrics and song structure
I then ask students to identify causes and unexpected effects in the base program reading story “The Great Wall.”
What interesting ways do you hook your gifted learners while staying true to a mandated reading program? Share in the comments!
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