For this paper, I observed an eighth grade special education language arts lesson. The class consisted of ten students with various types of learning disabilities. Although they did not suffer from developmental disorders, these students had long histories of academic difficulties and reading levels three to five years below their grade levels. Prior to the lesson, the teacher explained to me that the students had been introduced to the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" by watching the film the day before. After watching the film, the students had also discussed the events and the themes of the story.
During the actual observed lesson, the teacher stated that the students would further familiarize themselves with the story by breaking down the film into individual segments, according to specific themes such as money or power. For the next task, the students were to select a meaningful scene of their choice, identify the relevant theme in the scene, explain their reasoning and conduct an analysis of the characters in the scenes, in three different groups. The groups were also given the choice of determining how they wished to present their findings to the rest of the class.
When watching the students performing these tasks, I noticed that each group of students assigned different roles to each member of the group. For instance, one student was responsible for operating the TV/VCR equipment by rewinding and forwarding the tape. Another student jotted down the ideas raised in the group discussions. The third student played the role of the leader by facilitating the discussion. During these discussions, the teacher circulated among the groups to assess their progress and respond to requests for assistance. When one of the groups did not appear to be making progress in their discussions, the teacher provided the group with a list of questions that were effective in providing a sense of direction to the group of students.