For the past two years our health teachers have embraced using YA literature in their classroom. I can’t take credit for this brilliant unit. I heard about a few years ago from two literacy coaches at another school. But when I brought it back to our health team, they were willing to jump right in and try this with their students.
The Unit Description:
One goal in Health is to try to help students manage the challenges of becoming an adult, physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. The units in their Health course include Mental and Emotional Health, Fitness, Nutrition, Substance Abuse, and Lifecycles. Many of the themes in Young Adult literature often focus on the challenges of youth transitioning to young adulthood. Teens are trying to figure out their place in the world and doing what they can to assimilate to all the challenges and feelings that come with becoming an adult. The themes of these novels fit into the Health units.
Our high school has been pushing literacy in all of the content area courses so this project tied well into their next goal. The health teachers also work to inspire students to read — and to keep reading! For this project students have the opportunity to select their own book that they want to read and talk about in a small group of students. After the book talks, the teachers hope that their students have heard about at least one to two new books that they would be interested in reading.
The Project Tasks:
- Read your book by ______________________.
- Fill out the bookmark as you read (to be used in your small group discussion)!
- Participate in small group discussions with your classmates sharing about your book.
- Fill out the listener journal as you hear about books your classmates have read.
- At the beginning of the term, each health teacher brought their class up to the library for an introduction to the unit, to learn about Destiny (our online catalog), and to check out a book that connects with the themes of health. Our wonderful librarian created a visual tab in Destiny to help students find books that they are interested in reading:
- For the next several weeks the students were given time in class to read their books and complete their bookmark. The sole purpose of the bookmark is to help the students reflect on what they have read, make connections to the themes of health, and prepare for their small group discussions.
- The health teachers and I scheduled a date for their classes to come to our district meeting room, where they were able to sit in comfy chairs in small groups and talk about the books they read. I do randomize the groups (each student receives a notecard when they walk in the room with a number on one side and a letter on the other side.)
- Once in their groups, I review the book talk procedures:
- Each student will talk about their book for two minutes. They are encouraged to use their bookmark as a guide to summarize the story and share connections they have made to what they learned in health class. (To help keep this moving, I set a timer and walk around encouraging them.)
- If the student who is book talking finishes early, I have a cheat sheet of questions on the table available for group members to ask to continue the discussion.
- While one student is talking, I ask that the other students put their pencils down, just listen and ask questions. When the two minutes are up, the listeners get 1-2 minutes to write down what they have learned about the book in their listener journal. Then we repeat the process with the next student in the group.
- Once all of group members have shared their books, I have the students switch groups and repeat the same process a second time with new students.
- In the end we bring everyone back together to share out new books they have learned about that they would be interested in reading and how they connect to health.
The health teachers and I worked together to create a simple rubric that they use to assess their students on this project. Students are given this on the first day to help them understand our expectations.
My favorite part of this project is that students are reading books in ANOTHER content area class beyond English! They are also hearing about new books from their classmates and I always get a few who want to exchange books with a classmate when they are done. I also love that our teachers have accepted the challenge and are reading with the students in their Health classes. They come ready for the book talks with their own books to share and walk away with new books to add to their own to-read lists.