Making Connections

Working with my 8th grade Middle School English teacher this year we borrowed resources from a High School AP World History course to create a Middle School project. The 8th grade students all read The Old Man in the Sea. The English teacher and I wanted to help students build a bit of background knowledge before they read the novel. We thought information about Cuba, Hemingway, etc. could help students build connections when they then started reading the book.

Using a general spice_chart_organizer from the High School AP World History course, we created a research project tailored just for The Old Man and the Sea. With the general SPICE chart students explore areas such as social, political and economic in order to learn more about a culture or civilization.

We applied this to Old Man and the Sea; however, we created our own SPICE categories and divided students into groups for each category:
S was for Social (family life, social classes)
P was for People of Importance (the author, people mentioned in the book)
I was for Interaction with Environment (marine life)
C was for Culture (language, fashion, religions)
E was for Economy (fishing, commerce)

TOMATS Spice Mini-Research

Some categories were definitely easier to research than others; however, the students all created unique group presentations that taught their classmates a bit about Cuba and Hemingway before they started reading the book. My personal favorite presentations involved facts and videos relating to the marine life. 🙂

Since the students will use SPICE in high school, we liked introducing verbiage and a format the students will see again and again. We also appreciated the cross-curricular nature of the project with the project’s English and history ties.

We plan to continue this project in the future, and I am always looking for new and creative ways to work with Middle School English classes that don’t involve (just) checking out books! If you have any ideas or suggestions please do let me know. Thank you!

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