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One of the struggles students have with reading literature, especially in high school, is close reading. Students often read for details of plot, or to answer simplified study guide questions, but few students take the time to focus on reading for depth, especially with themes or important questions. The Envelope Assignment is a great close reading strategy for helping students stay focused on one or more themes throughout their reading. When paired with Storyboard That, it makes sharing their information more interesting and fun, even though they’re still doing a lot of work!




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Envelope Assignment

The close reading envelope assignment is a great way to get students from all levels to focus on important themes, ideas, and character developments within a novel. Storyboarding the results can help take this strategy to a whole new level!

Teachers should hand out an envelope to each student that is only identified by a number (or create a Google Doc that is only accessible to you and the student). Inside the envelope, there should be index cards and a slip of paper that tells the student what his or her assigned topic is. (The topic can also be placed in a Google Doc and the student can fill in the document as they go along.) This topic will be the student’s responsibility to track and report throughout the course of the chosen novel. The student will write a quote or a summary of where the example of their topic appears, and then an explanation of how the quote or summary relates to the topic.

With Storyboard That, the students can keep track of their findings visually, too. For each topic, have students visually depict a scene of their chosen example from the novel, and underneath, explain how it relates to their topic. Have students report out to the entire class or to their groups once a week using their Storyboard That creations – the class can take notes on the different themes and important questions, and have fun looking at other students’ creativity!


*Teacher Note*

I was introduced to this assignment a few years ago, before all of my students had Chromebooks. Before the Chromebooks, it made sense to give this assignment in individual envelopes and have students report on index cards. Now that my students all have access to Google Drive, I create a special folder with a Google Doc for each student and place their topic inside. Then, that student uses that Google Doc to track their topic, and I can keep an eye on their progress daily. They then use this Google Doc to create their storyboards! Students are far more interested in sharing their work that has illustrations, rather than just using index cards!

Below is a template for students to use and an example of an envelope assignment from A Thousand Splendid Suns.



Create Envelope Assignment

Envelope Assignment Presentation Template

Create Envelope Assignment

Assignment Text for Students

As enjoyable as this novel is to read, it’s also important to become a great close reader. What is close reading, you ask? Close reading is carefully examining a passage of literature to recognize theme, conflicts, and many other literary elements. For that purpose, and to prepare you for some serious college writing skills:

Each student will be given a Google folder with one close reading topic in it; throughout the novel, copy passages into this folder with a page number and brief reasoning of how it relates to the topic.

In your Google Docs:

  • Provide the quote and page number
  • Discuss why the passage was selected
  • Discuss the effect of the quoted passage on the meaning of the work so far/as a whole

Your Google Docs will be checked for homework grades along the way, and your final product will count as a quiz grade.


In your Storyboard That accounts:

  • Depict each passage in a cell, and provide your brief reasoning of how it relates to the topic below it
  • DO NOT INCLUDE QUOTES
  • Groups will meet once a week and share and discuss the contents of their findings using their storyboard presentations.

All storyboard presentations will be shared with the class, and it will count as a test grade. These topics will be used for various activities over the course of the novel, and you will be utilizing these to write an analytical paper on the novel at the end.


AP and Advanced Learners Option
Have students read through the novel and come up with their own essential question or theme to track along the way.


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Common Core Standards

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text

  • ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence



Index Card / Google Doc Rubric

The Envelope Assignment- Google Document/Index Cards
As enjoyable as this novel is to read, it’s also important to become a great close reader. For that purpose, and to prepare you for some serious college writing skills:

Each student will be given a Google folder with one close reading topic in it; throughout the novel, copy passages into this folder with a page number and brief reasoning of how it relates to the topic.

In your Google Docs:
Provide the quote and page number;
Discuss why the passage was selected;
Discuss the effect of the quoted passage on the meaning of the work so far/as a whole. Your Google Docs will be checked for homework grades along the way, and your final product will count as a quiz grade.


These topics will be used for various activities over the course of the novel, and you will be utilizing these to write an analytical paper on the novel at the end.
Proficient
33 Points
Emerging
25 Points
Beginning
17 Points
Requirements
Quotes/summaries of important passages are included. Explanations of these events and their relationship to the prompt are included. There is a sufficient amount of cards for this topic.
Quotes/summaries of important passages are included on most of the cards AND/OR most cards include explanations of how these passages are related to the prompt AND there is a sufficient amount of cards for this topic.
Quotes/summaries are missing on most/all of the cards AND/OR explanations of how the passages are related to the prompt are missing on most/all of the cards AND/OR there is not a sufficient amount of cards for this topic.
Content
Events/examples chosen are relevant and show important connections with the prompt. Explanations of these examples reflect careful thought, reflection, and insight.
Most events/examples chosen are relevant and show important connections with the prompt AND/OR a few explanations or events may be vague, disconnected, or confused AND explanations reflect adequate insight in relation to the prompt.
Some examples chosen are relevant to the prompt, but too many are irrelevant AND/OR explanations are vague and unclear, or they do not relate to what the prompt is asking AND/OR explanations are basic and lack insight or reflection in relation to the prompt.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.


Storyboard Presentation Rubric

The Envelope Assignment-- Storyboard Presentations
As enjoyable as this novel is to read, it’s also important to become a great close reader. For that purpose, and to prepare you for some serious college writing skills:

Each student will be given a Google folder with one close reading topic in it; throughout the novel, copy passages into this folder with a page number and brief reasoning of how it relates to the topic.

In your Storyboard That accounts:
Depict each passage in a cell, and provide your brief reasoning of how it relates to the topic below it;
DO NOT INCLUDE QUOTES;
Groups will meet once a week and share and discuss the contents of their findings using their Storyboard presentations. At the end, all Storyboard presentations will be shared with the class, and it will count as a test grade.

These topics will be used for various activities over the course of the novel, and you will be utilizing these to write an analytical paper on the novel at the end.
Proficient
33 Points
Emerging
25 Points
Beginning
17 Points
Content Scenes Depicted
Scenes depicted reflect a direct connection to the assigned envelope topic. The scenes are neat and eye-catching, and the art chosen is accurate and appropriate to the novel. There is a sufficient amount of cells provided for this topic.
Most scenes depicted reflect a direct connection to the assigned envelope topic. There may be some inaccuracies or confusion in some of the cells. The scenes are neat and eye-catching, and the art chosen is accurate and appropriate to the novel. There is a sufficient amount of cells provided for this topic.
Some scenes depicted reflect a connection to the assigned envelope topic, and/or key events from the novel are missing. There may be some inaccuracies or confusion in some of the cells, or some of the information is missing altogether. The scenes may not reflect time, care, and effort, and the art chosen may be inaccurate or inappropriate for the novel.
Reasoning and Discussion
Discussion of the chosen scenes' relation to the assigned topic reflects careful thought, reflection, and insight.
Most of the discussions of the chosen scenes' relation to the assigned topic reflect careful thought and important connections. Some discussions may be too limited or may be inaccurate.
Discussions of chosen scenes' relation to the assigned topic are vague and unclear, or they do not relate to what the prompt is asking. Explanations may be basic and lack insight or reflection in relation to the prompt. Some explanations may be missing altogether or too limited to assess.
English Conventions (Including Dialogue!)
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.



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