Designing an Immersive Reading Experience in the 6th Grade English Classroom

In our newest Middle School blog post, English teacher Cherie Boss describes how elements of the book, Okay for Now, were used to design an immersive experience for her 6th grade English students. We appreciate this unique opportunity to “virtually” visit Ms. Boss’ classroom, and her creative use of artifacts to support our students’ development as lifelong readers!

Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt, is a highlight each year of the sixth grade experience. The story takes place in 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War and as astronauts are preparing to land on the moon for the first time. The main character, Doug, feels like an outsider in his new town but, with the help of some unlikely friends, he is able to adjust and discover new sides of himself. Prior to reading Okay for Now, my students participated in a mini research lesson about the Vietnam War. To help introduce this turbulent time, we referenced information from the books Eyewitness Vietnam War and the highly acclaimed Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge. Next, we watched a video about John James Audubon’s masterpiece, The Birds of America. The following day, we played a game called “What’s in Doug’s Bag?” As I pulled item after item from a brown paper bag (a bicycle pedal, a periodic table, and a rocking horse, to name just a few), the students made predictions about the story and tried to decide how all the artifacts would finally connect. Finally, I utilized my classroom bulletin boards to help my students engage more deeply with the story. For instance, one board is covered in replicas of Audubon’s paintings, another shows the Dewey Decimal system, and on the third board I pinned all the artifacts from “Doug’s Bag” to remind students of their predictions and to foster excitement as the importance of each item is revealed. Though Okay for Now takes place a half century before they were born, my sixth graders are eagerly reading each day and exploring this fascinating historical era.