3 Engaging Ways to Start Any Literature Unit - EB Academics

3 Engaging Ways to Start Any Literature Unit

Batch Planning EB Lesson Planning Approach

Hopefully, you caught last week’s blog post where we laid the basic foundations of our EB Lesson Planning Approach (and touched upon the life-changing concept of batch planning!), but if you haven’t, be sure to head back there before diving into today’s post where we’ll cover 3 engaging ways to start any literature unit.

This is what we call an Into Lesson.

With an Into Lesson, your #1 goal is to grab your students’ attention. That’s it – get them interested from the get-go!

There are three important aspects to keep in mind when thinking about your Into Lessons for your units:

  • A quality Into Lesson sets your students up for success in the upcoming unit.
  • It is typically one lesson that lasts no more than 1-2 class periods (it could even last for half of a class period).
  • This is where you might want to provide background knowledge, introduce key vocabulary, or simply set the scene for your unit of study.

The ever-important thing to remember though is that this lesson should be super engaging to get student buy-in!

So, now that we know what an Into Lesson is, let’s talk about 3 different (and super engaging) into lessons that you can use to start any literature unit!


Popcorn Predictions

I LOVE popcorn predictions. In fact, it’s one of the easiest activities to use to introduce a new concept. Popcorn predictions works really well when you’re introducing novels, short stories, or poems.

I wrote a whole blog post about this a while ago that you can read here, but here are the cliff notes of how this works:

  • Comb through the literature piece you’ll be teaching and search for quotes that are relevant to the text (but don’t give too much away).
  • Aim for one quote per student, but if you have to repeat some quotes, it’s totally fine.
  • Type up the quotes, print them out, and cut them up, so each quote is on a separate strip of paper.
  • Each student gets one sentence strip (and a recording sheet) that they will read and make a prediction about the text based on that quote.
  • After writing their first prediction, they will then “pop” around the room, switching quotes with a classmate and making a second prediction.
  • Students will do this anywhere from 3-4 times, after which, they will make a final prediction about the text to share with the class.

Five Word Wonder

I’ve used this particular activity so many different times with a wide variety of grade levels, and every time, without fail, students love it! They get into heated discussions about what they believe the text will be about and creates easy excitement about the text before we start reading!

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose five unique (but important) words and/or phrases from the text you will be reading. For example, if you were reading “Thank You, M’am” by Langston Hughes, you might choose:
    • Thank you, M’am
    • run
    • boy
    • blue suede shoes
    • Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones
  • Without telling students anything, simply write these on the board or display them somewhere in your classroom.
  • Place students into groups of 4-5 and explain to them that they will be writing their own anticipatory paragraph explaining what they believe the story will be about. No hints allowed – just the 5 words/phrases.
  • After students have written their paragraphs with their group, have students share with the class and lead a whole class discussion.

You’ll love hearing about the predictions they come up with!


Visual Image Analysis

You’ll notice a theme here as we get to idea 3 … keep it simple! These Into Lessons are incredibly simply, yet powerful and engaging for students.

And something that you will always hear us preach: rinse and repeat! If your students loved Popcorn Predictions, do them again with your next text! Just because you’ve done it once doesn’t mean you can’t do it again.

Alright, Visual Image Analysis … here’s what you’ll need to know to get started with this Into Lesson:

  • Choose an image that connects to the time period, historical context, theme, character, setting, or topic in the text you will be reading or unit you will be analyzing.
  • Display this image somewhere in your classroom and have students analyze the image through the following lenses:
    • Scan: What do students first notice?
    • Observe: Students should make observations about the image.
    • Predict: Provide students with 4-5 questions that have them making predictions about the text based on the image.

We hope you love using these ideas in your classroom with your students!

And if you’re looking for an incredible into lesson to kick off your Argumentative or Persuasive Writing Unit, grab our Free Whodunnit Detective Lesson and get your students stoked to find evidence from a mystery story and illustration to support claims and justify their reasoning.

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