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Middle School Feature - Miscommunication Dialogues

The Curriculum Showcase celebrates thoughtful, well designed lessons that are being taught in District 95.  Here we are showcasing what is being taught, how it exemplifies our District 95 mission, and how it ties the curriculum objectives to active learning. Read the summary below the slideshow to learn more.

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Jennifer Lippert, Karen Jaffe, Erin Metaxas

Grade Level, Content Area
Seventh, English Language Arts

Mission statement traits addressed
• Pursue and engage in learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom
• Embrace challenges and opportunities; take risks
• Actively listen
• Work well with others to achieve goals
• Display positive interpersonal and problem-solving skills
• Offer and accept constructive feedback

Local or state objectives addressed
STATE GOAL 1: Read with understanding and fluency.

STATE GOAL 2: Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas.
STATE GOAL 3: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.
STATE GOAL 4: Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.
*For a complete list of the state standards that were addressed during this unit, see the end of this article.


Three teachers at Middle School North put their minds together to create a cross curricular collaboration to bring reading, writing and drama together for a group of seventh grade students. Jennifer Lippert, an English teacher, Erin Metaxas, a reading specialist, and Karen Jaffe, a drama teacher took a writing lesson and transformed it into an interactive, cross curricular learning opportunity. The project began with students watching and reading Bud Abbot and Lou Costello’s famous comedy routine “Who’s on First” which is in the seventh grade language arts textbook. Students discussed the communication problems and how miscommunications can occur. Students wrote scripts in which there was a miscommunication problem. Then they turned their script into a performance in which they applied what they learned about comedy and performance. Mrs. Lippert reflected, “We took it one step further and synthesized the text into something new. We took Abbott and Costello’s premise and turned it into a unique piece of writing and later a performance.”

Each teacher played a crucial role in the development and implementation of the lesson. Mrs. Lippert introduced reading and language arts lessons which included comprehension strategies, pronoun usage, and the writing process from pre-writing to publication. Mrs. Metaxas, the reading specialist, assisted with reading strategies and fluency instruction while the students were performing their scripts. Mrs. Jaffe, the drama teacher, taught lessons on public speaking and comedy as a performance genre.

Mrs. Lippert said, “We spent time talking about how readers would be a different type of audience than a viewer would be. We also discussed what is funny on paper, may not be funny in performance and vice versa. We spent a lot of time talking about humor and what was funny. Karen did a nice job of explaining high brow and low brow humor and that we needed to think about our middle school audience and what is appropriate for it. I was impressed with how the students used more high brow humor and didn’t resort to silliness or vulgarity. Their pieces were intelligent comedy.”

After each performance the students provided descriptive feedback to the performing groups. “They responded to one another’s work using what we had taught them about performance and comedy. I was impressed with how well they used the vocabulary. They talked about liking reversals and the use of irony whether it was verbal, situational, or dramatic. They made suggestions for improvement. The “ah hah! Moment” came when they as actors wished that they had told more of this as writers.”

Mrs. Lippert explained that the best part of the project was an opportunity to collaborate. “It started with the same assignment I’ve used for years, but it gave me a chance to see another teacher in action, gain some new perspectives, and allow for a paradigm shift. By making the project a cross curricular endeavor, it allowed more writers to shine. The kids were more willing to take risks. It was more fun for the kids.” Mrs. Jaffe echoed those ideas when she said, "It was a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the connection between reading, writing, and drama. To watch students discover that these areas are inextricably linked and not three separate entities was amazing! They weren't working to get a good grade. They were pursuing the quest for excellence!"


STATE GOAL 1:  Read with understanding and fluency.
B.  Apply reading strategies to improve understanding and fluency.
1.B.3d  Read age-appropriate material with fluency and accuracy.
C.  Comprehend a broad range of reading materials.
1.C.3b  Interpret and analyze entire narrative text using story elements, point of view and theme. 1.C.3b  Interpret and analyze entire narrative text using story elements, point of view and theme.
1.C.3e  Compare how authors and illustra­­tors use text and art across materials to express their ideas (e.g., foreshadowing, flash­backs, color, strong verbs, language that inspires).
STATE GOAL 2:  Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas.
2.A.3a  Identify and analyze a variety of literary techniques (e.g., figurative language, allusion, dialogue, description, word choice, dialect) within classical and contemporary works representing a variety of genres.
2.A.3b  Describe how the development of theme, character, plot and setting contribute to the overall impact of a piece of literature.
2.A.3c  Identify characteristics and authors of various literary forms (e.g., short stories, novels, drama, fables, biographies, documen­taries, poetry, science fiction).
2.A.3d  Identify ways that an author uses language structure, word choice and style to convey the author’s viewpoint.
B.  Read and interpret a variety of literary works.
2.B.3a  Respond to literary material from personal, creative and critical points of view. 
2.B.3c  Analyze how characters in literature deal with conflict, solve problems and relate to real-life situations.
STATE GOAL 3:  Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.
A.  Use correct grammar, spell­ing, punctuation, capitalization and structure.
3.A.3  Write compositions that contain complete sentences and effective paragraphs using English conven­tions.
B.  Compose well-organized and coherent writing for specific pur­poses and audiences.
3.B.3a  Produce documents that convey a clear understanding and interpretation of ideas and information and display focus, organization, elaboration and coherence.
3.B.3b  Edit and revise for word choice, organization, consistent point of view and transitions among paragraphs using contem­porary technology and formats suitable for submission and/or publication
C.  Communicate ideas in writing to accomplish a variety of purposes.
3.C.3a  Compose narrative, informative, and persuasive writings (e.g., in addition to previous writings, literature reviews, instruc­tions, news articles, correspondence) for a specified audience.
3.C.3b  Using available technology, produce compositions and multimedia works for specified audiences.
STATE GOAL 4:  Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.
4.A.3a  Demonstrate ways (e.g., ask probing questions, provide feedback to a speaker, summarize and paraphrase complex spoken messages) that listening attentively can improve comprehension.
4.A.3b  Compare a speaker’s verbal and nonverbal messages
B.  Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.
4.B.3a  Deliver planned oral presentations, using language and vocabulary appropriate to the purpose, message and audience; provide details and supporting information that clarify main ideas; and use visual aids and contemporary technology as support.
4.B.3c  Develop strategies to manage or overcome communication anxiety and appre­hension (e.g., sentence outlining, note cards).
4.B.3d  Use verbal and nonverbal communi­cation strategies to maintain communications and to resolve conflict.
C.  Apply acquired information, concepts and ideas to communicate in a variety of formats.
5.C.3a  Plan, compose, edit and revise docu­ments that synthesize new meaning gleaned from multiple sources.
5.C.3b  Prepare and orally present original work (e.g., poems, monologues, reports, plays, stories) supported by research.
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