By Tom White
This is a fun one! We get permission to do something I used to think was unthinkably lazy: read a story with my class and then show them a video of the same story. And then discuss the similarities and differences.
First, the standard itself:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.7: Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
The first part of the standard seems pretty straightforward: our fourth graders need to make connections – similarities and differences – between a written text and the dramatization of that text. The second part is less clear; they’re supposed to identify differences in descriptions and “directions.” I’m not entirely clear on what is meant by “directions.” My guess – and that’s all this is – is that we’re talking about where the text or the dramatization goes with the story. In other words, our kids need to figure out which parts of the story are emphasized in each version. At least that’s what I think is meant by this standard; please correct me if I’m wrong.
Given my understanding, how will I teach it? There’s a temptation to have my class read a full-length novel and watch the corresponding book. Because of Winn-Dixie, for example, or Holes. There’s no reason why I couldn’t do that, of course, except for the enormous amount of time it would take. Reading either of those books would take weeks; the movie another ninety minutes. Besides all that time, it’s doubtful that either book would be at the correct reading level for everyone in the class. What about using one of those books as a read aloud? That’s probably a better choice, but in my experience not every student actually attends to read alouds. Read alouds are great for auditory learners who love books. They aren’t so great for kinesthetic or visual learners who don’t.
What I’m going to do is use Pecos Bill. That’s right, the tall-tale cowboy. I have a set of the books which I’ll have my class read and discuss in their reading groups. I also have a set of reader’s theater versions of the same story. We’ll read it and discuss how it differs from the narrative version. (Hopefully they’ll come to realize that a drama is driven primarily by dialog rather than description.) Then we’ll watch any one of a multitude of animated versions of Pecos Bill available on YouTube. At that point they’ll be ready to “identify where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.”
Most people would place Pecos Bill below the literary quality of Because of Winn-Dixie or Holes. So would I. But that’s not really the point. Teaching this standard doesn’t necessitate high-quality literature. But learning this standard readies students to appreciate the different treatments given to high-quality literature by different media. And obviously in the course of our study we’ll discuss the difference between film and written versions of a variety stories. Without reading and watching all of them.