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Teaching Gianna

Teaching Gianna - Part One
Chapters One and Two

Today I began teaching The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner, a mid-grade novel about a girl who is trying to juggle her school project, sports, and a problem at home. If she doesn’t get her project done in time, she won’t be able to participate in the upcoming major cross-country meet. Throw in a running rival, a pesky brother, and a father who shows up in a hearse to pick Gianna up from school and you have funny scenes that will speak to teens.

In this (and some future posts), we will follow the 7th grade English class as they read The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. If you have used it in your class, please share what you’ve done. Those of you who’ve read the novel can submit discussion questions for the students and I’ll let you know their responses. Come on in – I have an open classroom policy!

The class opened with some JOURNAL writing in their binders. Since my students are in the midst of working on the exact science project as the main character in the novel, that was the focus of their writing. The annual leaf project is legendary in our community, and both of my own children worked on it years ago, so I have my own project stories to share with my students. After I shared about my daughter’s extremely organized presentation and son’s last-minute madness, the students began writing. Here is what was displayed on the board: Write about your leaf project…ideas include: How is your project coming along? Where did you get most of your leaves? Is anyone helping you or do you have to go it alone? What do you find to be fun (or difficult) about it? Are you having trouble getting started? What’s getting in your way? Do you plan on turning it in early for extra credit? Can you identify some leaves without the guidebook now?

Students volunteered to share their musings (which I will post tomorrow).

We then began reading the novel, plunging right away into Gianna’s self-created dilemma. The students were sympathetic to her procrastination and understood her feelings watching the clock s-l-o-w-l-y ticking by the minutes of her class. I loved hearing them spontaneously laugh aloud at Messner’s humor. They would nod in understanding at parts familiar to them. A few had traveled to the site of one of the scenes in Chapter Two, and I told them I would bring some photos from there for the next class.

Prior to the lesson, I had downloaded the Study Guide on the Teacher & Librarian link at Kate Messner’s website. I saved some time at the end of class to have the students break into small groups and discuss the first three questions. I would read and then post each one, allowing them enough time to talk amongst themselves. They had some energetic discussions. The best comment of the day: “We get to read more Gianna next class, right?”
 

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