Jump-starting a reading and discussion project
To kick off its schoolwide read of The Revealers, Rutland Middle School in Rutland, Vermont performed the opening chapter—in which an eighth grader punches and taunts a younger boy—in front of a startled assembly of 400 middle schoolers.
"That was the interest-getter," says Jennifer Enzor, the language arts teacher who organized the project with a team of colleagues. "We wanted the kids to know why we were reading the book."
Jen began the assembly with a brief introduction. "I told them that bullying is a troublesome issue for all of us—and although this book is fictional, it's very realistic, and it can give us a good way of looking at the problem."
Next was shown a student-created video. A group of students had interviewed others, asking "What is a bully?" The video showed their answers.
"If you don't have a video," Jen says, "you could have a panel on stage, or just ask kids in the auditorium what is a bully, and please no names."
Next, the school's dramatization (see the First chapter script) featured a student narrator and two boys playing the key characters. The bully's punch was done in slow motion, to minimize any exciting effect. Afterward, an adult noted to the students that this was one type of bullying. What were others? That led to a lively, fruitful discussion.
In the weeks that followed, homeroom teachers read passages of the novel that had been selected by the organizing team. The team also designed and provided a series of discussion prompts and activities (see Materials for a reading project).
For example, a "word splash" activity highlighted a number of words from the opening chapters, and asked students to use as many as they could in sentences. The students worked in small groups, brainstorming together.
Another activity took a "what if?" approach to scenes in the novel. Students who were learning new life skills—using "I" statements, for example—were asked to role-play how a scene might have unfolded differently if the characters had used those skills.
The project's organizing team included two teachers, the school librarian, and the guidance counselor. The members pooled their resources and expertise in designing the project and its activities.
"That's why we were such a good team," Jen Enzor concludes.