I begin today's class by showing a one-minute clip from the film 42.
Ultimately, if I ask "Why is that?" enough, someone will happen on the word "slavery." I ask the class if anyone can describe slavery. I always shock my students when I tell them it's more than having someone work for you and not paying them. It has to do with owning another human being, like one owns an animal.
I then explain that our nonfiction unit is going to give us an understanding of how this country went from accepting slavery, to ending it, to Jackie Robinson having to fight to play Major League Baseball. Reading different types nonfiction texts will tell us everything we need to know.
Our first text is quite difficult, so we're going to talk about some of the vocabulary before we read.
I hand out the graphic organizer and talk about the idea of "divide and conquer." My goal is not to have them spend an entire class period with their nose in a dictionary looking up words; my goal is for them to learn what the words mean, so we can read a difficult text.
I have students count off by 8, and I assign two words to each number. I ask them to only write the definition of the word and not to worry about the other parts of the graphic organizer.
Once everyone has looked up their two words, we begin sharing out.
This is one of my favorite activities because we get to talk about word meanings and different nuances of those meanings. It's also fun to try to connect the words to literature and ideas that they know about.
During this class period, I am usually only able to get through 8 words. We will do the rest of the words tomorrow and begin reading a section of People in Bondage: African Slavery Since the 15th Century by L.H. Ofosu-Appiah.
The assessment piece today is formative and verbal. These conversations are a great time to have a real dialogue of word meanings. If I feel like students are off in their understanding of a word, I try to bring it back to an example they know about. It's fun and mentally challenging for them and for me too!
I have them keep this assignment in their binders, so that it is available for use when we begin reading tomorrow.