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Investigating Characterization: Author-Study Book Clubs with Trade Pack

By Mary Ehrenworth, Katy Wischow, Edited by Lucy Calkins

Part of the Units of Study in Teaching Reading, Middle School Grades, this unit strikes a delicate balance between encouraging readers to hold on to the magic of reading, allowing them to slip longingly into the pages of a compelling story, and presenting readers with opportunities to engage in meta-analysis, fostering an appreciation of the craft of the text as well as the story.

 

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About the Unit

This unit of study focuses readers on studying not just characters, but characterization, or how authors create multifaceted characters replete with weakness and strengths, complex relationships with others, and life lessons they learn and teach. The unit strikes a delicate balance between encouraging readers to hold on to the magic of reading, allowing them to slip longingly into the pages of a compelling story, and presenting readers with opportunities to engage in meta-analysis, fostering an appreciation of the craft of the text as well as the story.

Throughout the unit readers will:

  • come to apprentice themselves to characters they discover in realistic fiction
  • explore how authors use perspective, point of view, and the management of time across the story to control readers’ sympathy and experience of epiphanies
  • consider moments or scenes in narratives as windows into characters
  • learn to think and talk like readers who are also writers with their own checklists of authorial techniques
  • develop the ability to reread and rethink as they examine stories through multiple lenses

Note: This unit is recommended as a way to launch your reading workshop practice in the beginning of the school year when taught in grades 7 and 8 as it pays particular attention to building readers’ habits in addition to their interpretation skills.

About the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Middle School Grades

We want our middle grades students to become flexible, resilient readers, we want them to have a toolkit of strategies for dealing with difficulty, and we want them to read broadly and deeply, alert to the intricacies of texts and to the power of language. To accomplish such ambitious goals, we need classroom structures and resources that support this kind of explicit teaching and learning. The reading workshop offers a simple and predictable framework for teaching strategies and for giving students feedback while they are in the midst of the ever-changing, complex reading work they will do across the middle school grades.  

The Units of Study for Teaching Reading series saves teachers hundreds of hours of planning, freeing time for analyzing student work, working with individuals and small groups, and for studying with colleagues. The series provides teachers with the tools and support they need to move students quickly and efficiently toward grade-level expectations, while also helping kids become proficient, lifelong readers.

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