Novel Study: Peak (by Roland Smith)
Using this video, I introduce the concept of a thirteen year old climbing Mt. Everest. Students are then asked to respond to group discussion questions about Mt. Everest: 1) Should children be allowed to compete in such strenuous activities? 2) What is it like to climb Mt. Everest? 3) What do you think someone should pack for this trek? 4) Who is Jordan Romero, and why is he an important figure?
After the discussion, students are given time to explore the Google Treks of Mt. Everest base camp. This might also involve a teacher-led conversation about what base camp is and why there are so many of them along the trail to the summit.
All discussions and important links are posted for students to interact with on Edmodo or a similar class management system.
2 Direct Instruction (Reading)
Using the program LightSail, students will interact with the text. Half of the story should be read at home, while the other half might be explored in class. Students should respond in regular intervals to program-created short responses. By using the features within LightSail, teachers can see in real-time where their students are, whether they are reading closely for understanding (demonstrated by appropriate scores on the built in cloze assessments), and whether they are answering the short answer questions with valid evidence.
Students should also regularly post their personal connections and text interactions to Edmodo. Most notably, students should regularly respond to the character overarching theme question: "Who is Peak?" and "Who is the most important person to Peak" It is also important to note how the answers to these two questions will change throughout the novel.
3 Direct Instruction & Independent Practice (Vocabulary)
There are several climbing-specific vocabulary terms within this text that students might need direct instruction and practice with (like gamow bag, high-altitude pulmonary edema, etc). We use Quizlet to practice these both on a digital device or through a web browser. Students can link these within their Edmodo accounts as they are collecting information to prepare for the formative assessment at the end of this novel study.
4 Guided Practice: Non Fiction Reading
Using a leveled online news source (such as Newsela and ThinkCERCA) I would incorporate non fiction articles about major themes in the story: rock climbing, Mt. Everest, Tibet, New York, HAPE, sherpas, etc. I would have students highlight using the Chrome Extension, CiteLighter, for the main idea. Using the content they've highlighted in their LightSail app for Peak, I would have students compare the story with the information they've found in the non-fiction article. Students might also complete the article quizzes and critical thinking questions within the Newsela or ThinkCERCA content.
Typically, I would then assign an essay asking students to connect the themes from Peak to the non-fiction texts. This would be one of two 5-paragraph essays I might ask a student to write over the course of the novel study.
5 Assessment (Novel Comprehension)
LightSail provides reading comprehension assessments within the text of the app. I would use this feature to test student comprehension of the novel.
6 Assessment (Character)
For this culmination project, I ask students to create a diagram of how Peak has changed over the course of the novel. With my lower kids, I begin this project early on in the reading and return to it at designated intervals. With my higher kids, I ask them to utilize their recall skills to create the project independently at the end of the reading.
Students can create still images of what they think Peak would look like by using Pixton or Comic Life, but they should also include words or phrases to describe each piece (as evidence). For some, I require page numbers linked to the evidence.
Students can also create video descriptions of each change by using Animoto or iMovie. In either case, they might include quotes that Peak may have said or things he did (to include textual evidence).
Key Standards Supported
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.
Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.
Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
nalyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.