Small Group Lesson Plans for the Common Core

The day was winding down. I had borrowed a lesson plan from Mr. Worksheetgive who had borrowed a lesson from Mrs. Makelitboring and it was not going well. Casualties were mounting: 16 students had suffered concussions after their elbow, which was holding up their head, slipped in the drool that had accumulated on their desk, causing their head to slam against the desk; 11 had to be rushed to the school nurse when they nodded off with a pencil in their hand, leading to a punctured eye ball; 7 had intentionally punctured their eyeball to get out of class; and five had died from boredom.

I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up the room was empty, except for a talking statue of Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid, who while capturing a fly with chopsticks, handed me a small group lesson plan involving literature discussion questions and ela common core standards.

Since I was fired for boring five students to death, I gave Miyagi’s lesson plan to my replacement who told me it went well.

I now share it with you.

Speaking of boring, let’s get the common core objectives out of the way.

RL.9-10.1 – Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
SL.9-10.1 – Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
SL.9-10.1a – Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
SL.9-10.1b – Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
SL.9-10.1c – Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
SL.9-10.1d – Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

Class Discussion Rubric

Let’s throw together a rubric.

Here’s a generic rubric I use for class discussions. The rubric covers the Speaking and Listening portion of the common core standards. Here’s a printable pdf version of the below rubric: Class Discussion Rubric.
MasteryGood  OK    Not Good
PreparationPreparation assignment is done thoroughly (above and beyond the requirements) and is used to stimulate discussion.The preparation assignment is done thoroughly and is referred to during the discussion.The assignment is done.The assignment is not complete, but effort was made.
Discussion ProceduresStudents follows agreed upon classroom discussion rules.Student neglects to follow classroom discussion rules on one occasion but accepts correction gracefully.Student doesn’t participate in the discussion.Student breeches classroom discussion procedures more than once.
Discussion PointsStudent speaks intelligently on the topic, asking thought-provoking questions and giving thought-provoking answers. Student’s responses take into account other students’ perspectives.Student speaks intelligently on the topic, but comments and questions don’t go beyond the basics OR don’t take into account other students’ perspectives.Student demonstrates some knowledge of the topic during the discussion.Student attempts to discuss the topic but is either off point or lacks adequate understanding.

Let’s get to the lesson already.

This is simple.
  1. Read something.
  2. Assign discussion questions. These could be from the back of a chapter, questions you make up, or something you find in a study guide.
  3. Divide students in to groups of four.
  4. In groups, students must answer the questions with the following requirements: (1) The answer must include at least one direct citation with the page number in parentheses; (2) The answer must include an insight/analysis/interpretation/opinion; (3) The answer must be written in complete sentences.
  5. Make a numbered chart, assign groups a number, and have them list their names in the appropriate box.
  6. After sufficient time has been allotted for satisfactory group discussion, the class discussion will begin. Each group must do the following to receive points for the assignment (I make group discussions a formative grade. If I wish to make it a summative grade, I require all students to participate as individuals): (1) Contribute at least one answer to a discussion question that follows the format; (2) Respond to another group’s answer, intelligently.
  7. Mark the box and your aforementioned grading chart to track answers and assign grades.

No need to collect papers. No need to read answers to questions 8,000 times.

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