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Engaging Students in Collaborative Academic Discussions

Students in Erin Daly's fifth-grade class at PS 36 in Bronx, NY, engage in a jigsaw protocol to deepen their understanding of the novel Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In this video, students and teachers are engaged with EL Education's grades 3-8 ELA curriculum. This video accompanies the book Transformational Literacy: Making the Common Core Shift with Work That Matters.


- The last time we read Chapter 12 of Esperanza Rising and what was the title of Chapter 12?

- Asparagus.

- So at first I started the lesson by asking the students what was the chapter mostly about and also to make a connection to the chapter title. Fami?

- In this chapter, Esperanza found Marta and helped her out and told her to carry the asparagus and put on an apron so that she’ll look like a worker.

- Why would Marta need help?

- Because Marta was striking.

- Marta was striking, interesting. What does that mean?

- They don’t pay you enough, so you’re fighting for more money.

- They’re rights, they’re human rights that we’ve been learning so much about really aren’t being fulfilled. How our unit started off is we study the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to work. We’re moving on with that knowledge to Esperanza Rising asking them to connect the ideas from literature to the lessons that we learned from human rights. Think about what we just read. Think about the chapter. How are those things connecting for us?

- Some of the workers stay to work because even though they weren’t getting paid enough money, they’re still grateful for what they have.

- Which kind of ties back into our learning targets. We reviewed our learning targets and the second learning target was about inferencing.

- I can make inferences from a text about the characters in Esperanza Rising.

- So today, what we’re going to do is we’re going to get into our triads and we’re going to choose one character that we’re interested in going a little bit deeper with. I then asked the students to transition into their triads. Once they were in their triads, I asked them to choose one character to focus on either Marta, Miguel or Esperanza.

- Well, I’m gonna choose Esperanza because she has a lot of details.

- Now that you’ve decided who you are going to be, we’re going to be doing a jigsaw activity. So many times throughout the year, we use a jigsaw protocol which is where the students break off into different groups and they become responsible to learning a small piece of text. Bringing it back to their original triad and becoming an expert on that text. I want to make sure that I answer the questions with evidence and that I’m able to share that with the other people in my group. So we’re gonna ask you to move to your character’s table. So now that you’re at your character table, I want you to find the page that matches the character you selected. There were three text-dependent questions for each character. You are going to be looking in the text for evidence to support your answers to these questions. When you find evidence or details that you could use in your answer, I want you to use one of the evidence tags that’s placed around the table, to mark exactly that spot. So what I want you to do right now is we’re gonna have a group discussion about the answers, the evidence and the details that you found from the text. You want to make sure that you’re really being an active listener. You are building off of their ideas and if you needed help, what posters or charts do you think might be able to help you when you’re having your group discussions?

- Textual evidence.

- Sure. So you want to tell your friends, “Well, on page 100, it said,” and we always want to make sure that we’re using the text and the details to support our thinking. You may begin.

- I have a question. I don’t get why Mart just can’t just go to Mexico with her mom. I like working with the other students. It helps me because you get see them from different perspectives.

- They want to feed their children, they want more healthcare.

- [Teacher] The reason that triads are so helpful and so effective is because it really creates a great dynamic for the kids to play off of each other. They can try to create groups that they can really model for each other and help each other become better learners.

- She wants to strike for more better conditions.

- Once they share together for a few minutes, we present to them the challenges and responses graphic organizer. So I want you, for your character, to come up with at least two different challenges and different responses to those challenges.

- For my response, Marta went on strike.

- [Teacher] When you implement the jigsaw protocol, you have to be able to trust that they’re gonna stay focused on the task and make sure the students know their purpose for being there and that they’re able to accomplish it.

- My response is Miguel ran in. You have to become the expert. You have a lot of responsibility because you have to learn about your character to teach other people.

- Esperanza didn’t want Marta to be separated from her mother.

- ‘Cause like it said in the book--

- [Teacher] We’re asking them to have an opinion, but we’re also asking them to use the text to support their thinking at the same time.

- I couldn’t imagine them being separate from each other.

- Okay, so now you have learned your puzzle piece, but now it’s time for us to come back together as a triad and to put all of our puzzle pieces together. And I’m gonna ask whoever in the group was Miguel, to go first.

- Miguel might have a hard time trying to get a job on the railroad.

- He decided on the job at the railroad because there’s no discrimination so Miguel is not going to be treated badly over there.

- So if you are Esperanza, I would like you now to begin your discussion on what you learned about her as a character.

- She’s had to stay strong. She’s had to take charge for herself. She’s actually working to make the bills.

- I think she decided that she wants to make things better.

- So what I want us to do right now, I want you to think would you strike or would you continue to work? And I want to know why.

- People can’t survive on such low wages and if they don’t start demanding better money soon, they might starve.

- Okay, now I want to see the other side of the opinion. Who would continue to be a worker?

- You’re still at least getting something, but they right now have nothing ‘cause they’re on strike.

- [Teacher] So this is the second year that I’ve been using the modules. It’s important not to get overwhelmed and try to rush through everything. It’s something that’s difficult, but I think it’s important to stick with it because I have seen success in every single one of my students.

- They do need better wages.

- I have found that the level of student engagement has gone through the roof because it’s not a lot of teacher talk, it’s really more centered around the students and they’re the ones that have to be responsible for their own learning and they love it. I want to just take a minute or two to reflect on our group work. So who can think about something that you could say, “You know what, I’m proud because my group did this.”

- Every time we answered a question, we kept on looking into the text and finding evidence to support our answer.

- Excellent, that’s something really good group members do. Good, so absolutely, I think there’s always things that we could do to make our lesson even better and our group work even better, but I was really proud of the work that you did today. I think you all deserve a round of applause. So could we please give ourselves a round of applause?

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