How to Personalize Learning (Book Study Guide)
A Practical Guide to Getting Started and Going Deeper

This chapter is about developing a project referring to the book, "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred Taylor. 

You can determine their prior knowledge of the time period and their understanding of the concepts in the story of an African-American family in 1930s Mississippi with the activity around questions. You can share that this story is historical fiction and is a tale of the struggles they face in racism, and of the strength they find in family. It is also a tale of how staying true to one's values can involve pride, but also sacrifice and risk.


How can we motivate learners and encourage deeper thinking in our classroom?


To understand the concept of deeper learning, we want you to consider John Dewey’s theory of education that begins with inquiry and the curiosity of the learner. Inquiry is about seeking knowledge, information, or truth through questioning.


Driving Questions

  1. How did you dissect the questions around the qualities to come up with deeper questions that you can choose from for the driving questions?
  2. Which new question that meets the quality sounds like a driving question? Why?
  3. Did you come up with a better driving question? If so, share out.
  4. What worked well when learners designed the driving question?
  5. What concerns do you have about learners creating the driving question?
  6. What would you like to try next and do you have any questions from other teachers?


Design Thinking Process


Use the design thinking process to brainstorm themes from the book, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” individually and in groups. This activity has two purposes: one to come up with a topic or theme for their project that they are interested in researching and the other is to develop the partnership level in learner voice as part of the process. We will use Reading Literature (RL) Standard 2 for learners for this activity.

RL Standard 2:
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.


Have learners work in small groups to discuss for two to three minutes with each other their topics or themes about the book. Then have them review the topics they came up with post-it notes considering these questions:

  • Do you see anything missing? Do you still have some ideas for more topics?
  • Did you get any new ideas from reading other topics from the post-its?

Give each group color sticky dots so each person in the group has two of each color and places them on the post-its that are:

  • Most controversial (Green)

  • Most I can relate to (Yellow)

  • Most interesting or exciting (Pink)

Have each group put all the green dots together, yellows together, and pinks together at the top of the flip chart. Tell them to discuss the topics they selected and then prioritize the top three topics. Make sure everyone in the group has a voice in the process.



Questions for review:

  • What worked well when learners brainstormed together?

  • Did all of the learners participate? How can you encourage learners that held back?

  • Were any of the groups not able to summarize why they chose the topic and articulate the standard? What could you do different to make sure they understand the process?