Reading Guides to Support Reading Comprehension

Reading guides help develop students’ comprehension. Teacher-created reading guides provide prompts as students read an assigned text. These Guides help students to comprehend the main points of the reading and understand the structure of a text. Reading guides do not just have to be questions about the events in the book but can incorporate reading strategies to help students practice the habits of proficient readers. For example, reading strategies include visualizing, activating schema, questioning, inferring, determining importance, monitoring for meaning and synthesizing. A student might stop and sketch a vivid image from a scene in the text or make an inference or prediction of what is going to happen next. Students can benefit from close reading strategies (involving slowing down and re-reading difficult passages) to help monitor comprehension.

Reading Rockets provides ways to differentiate reading guides for second language learners or students with disabilities:

  • Vary the difficulty of questions on the reading guide. Modify the quantity of questions.
  • If the student struggles as a reader, allow access to an audio copy of the text.
  • If the student has trouble with working memory, provide a note-catcher to highlight and or record the key information in the text, so they can refer back.
Ransom of the Red Chief Reading Guide
Reading Guide for O’Henry’s Short Story Ransom of the Red Chief

Reading guides are a strategy that allows students to read a text independently but with coaching that does not require the teacher to read alongside the student. Students can work with a peer to read and complete the steps in the reading guide.

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Short Story Hyperdocs

I am a huge fan of hyper docs, a student-facing lesson designed to scaffold instruction. It is more than a doc with links, packaging and aesthetics are key. A hyperdoc allows students to first explore, explain, and then apply new learning. Holly Clark @hollyclarkedu has a great visual to showcase the elements and scaffolds on a hyperdoc.

@HollyClarkEdu created this visual to showcase the elements of a hyperdoc

This month in my 8th grade classroom, students are reading short stories around themes of identity to study and practice literary analysis. I have created three short story hyper docs to help students read, write, think critically, collaborate, and create. At the beginning of the week, students have access to the hyperdoc and they work through the lessons and assignments during the week. Each hyperdoc is differentiated and personalized for the diverse learners in my classroom. Consider these learner roadmaps for inquiries of study.

To get started creating your own hyper docs for your students utilize the basic HyperDoc template with the fundamentals of effective lesson design (engage, explore, explain, apply, share, reflect, and extend) in mind, but in no way does it reflect everything you can do. You can also get a copy of my short story hyper docs to use and or adapt with your students (note some links are not shared like Flipgrids due to privacy). Feel free to check out the array of playlists I have shared on this blog.

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Teaching with Graphic Novels

I love reading graphic novels. They are visually appealing, engaging, entertaining, and a rich teaching tools. They are a doorway for struggling and reluctant readersGraphic novels provide rich teaching experiences for critical thinking, inferring, visual literacy, and close reading. Here are five different ways utilize graphic novels with students.

  1. Graphic novels are Text. Teach these novels as a text for an all class read or in book clubs. You might consider having a genre study in graphic novels. Graphic novels come in all different genres and many are award winning texts. Here is a copy of a graphic novel reading unit I created for middle school students and a choice board with rubric for follow up activities.
  2. Close Reading of a Scene. Just like we chunk the text of a piece of literature, students can read closely a particular scene or chapter of the novel to analyze the key ideas and details, then focus on text structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas. Professor of English, Dr. Michelle Falter states, “The tasks and thinking skills required to read a multimodal text are actually higher level than if reading a print-based text alone. You have to see images and words work together, and when and why authors chose to put them together in a frame.” When I was teaching Shakespeare, I would pair a scene with the graphic novel scene for students to work in small groups to analyze and interpret how the scene and characters are portrayed, what is emphasized and what is left out. These close reads help students observe and analyze for a deeper meaning in the text.
  3. Build Visual Literacy Skills & Vocabulary. Graphic novels are visual texts and there is a vocabulary to talking about the structure and details of the text. Panel, frame, speech bubble, close up, long shot, wide shot, aerial shot are all terms used to discuss the visual elements of the text. Provide students with the vocabulary and they are able to talk about the structure and details of the visual text. Students can consider the impact of the artistry to covey meaning of the text. How does this close up image affect our understanding of the character? What did the author choose to say in this frame that the illustrator left out? What did the illustrator choose to showcase in this panel? What is not said and inferred “in the gutters” (the spaces between the panels)?
  4. Caption This. Graphic novels are both visual and print texts. Both stand alone and yet work seamlessly together. When we take away the words, what are our inferences and understanding? Matt Miller describes one of my favorite activities on his website Ditch That Textbook called “Caption This.” You can omit the dialogue and speech bubbles in the frame or panel and ask students to write their own. He describes four ways to utilize this activity with students on his blog.
Shaun Tan’s The Arrival has no words. Students can write the dialogue and story after closely reading the text.

5. Parallel Texts. So many graphic novels have been adapted from contemporary and classic literature, students can read both texts. Then, compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.5). How does reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver in print and graphic novel form impact the meaning and messages in the text?

Graphic novels are not just for English class and readings for pleasure, they can be utilized across the curriculum. My students reading of George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy was an entry point to introduce and discuss Japanese Internment during World War II. Additionally, I have amassed a collection of graphic novels to teach about the Holocaust beyond the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus I and Maus II.

What information can you learn from this image/text?

Why do you think the author included this image?

What are some possible themes in the text? What evidence led you to that?

How do the illustrations impact the meaning of the text?
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Movie Mondays for Close Reading Practice

In my book Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018) I write about supporting reluctant readers with visual texts as an entryway for close reading practice. Reluctant readers can may be struggling readers or they might be simply students who have had negative experiences with reading.

If Readicide as Kelly Gallagher (2010) coined the term – to kill the love of reading – in his book by the same name should not be a right of passage for young people when the wealth of wonderful words is infinite. Seven years after Gallagher’s text, many students would agree that schools are killing the love of reading the way teachers are teaching text. Still, many students post graduation boast of never reading a book throughout their secondary school career. reluctant readers need aren’tto be hooked on the first page of the a book. If they are not, they are quick to abandon a bookit like I was. Motivation and choice is are the key with reluctant readers. To help them, we educators must stop inadvertently committing “readicide” (Gallagher, 2010) and focus on what Steven Wolk (2009) describes as a “living curriculum,” a place where students and teachers use books and other resources and experience to drive classroom inquiry. One of our goals as educators is developing critical thinking, stamina, and life life-long readers among our students. 

Personalized Reading describes, “To accomplish these goals for teaching reading takes all forms and activities to tap into all the diverse readers in our classrooms, we must look up from the printed page and tap into all forms of text. Since we live in a visually rich environment, teachers can use visual texts—photographs, movies, and animated shorts— to first pique a reluctant reader’s interests, Using animated shorts, photographs, and movies, enables students to build visual literacy, and to practice the skills strategies of what proficient readers do. Images and movies serve as a bridge for to print texts when it comes to reluctant readers. Once students are reading, honing in on the “during reading” skills of making predictions and inferences helps keeps students active as readers. Students also need practice discerning the important parts of what they read in order to more effectively write or create responses to their reading.”

This year I am instituting Movie Mondays to practice these close reading skills using short feature film. At the beginning of the week students watch a short film: TED Talk, animation, documentary and then we discuss, write, and reflect on the story presented in the visual texts. Using graphic organizers and scaffolded notes help to guide students viewing/reading of these texts.

Below are a few of the movies we are starting off with and the follow up questions to guide student’s close reading.

Take note of the beginning of the film. What is the setting? What things do you observe in the setting that are important to Zuri? – What does the director’s plant in the beginning of the scene that provide details for the character and plot?

How does Zuri’s Dad feel about trying to get her hair to look like she wants? How do you know this is how he feels, even though there is no dialogue?

In the “battle” scene, why do you think Zuri’s hair becomes a character? How does this “fantasy” or personification help to emphasize his character and reactions?

The act of braiding means bringing things, like hair parts, together in order to unify them. What are three parts of the film that seem like they are weaving together components of the relationship for the family?

Hair love first seems like a light hearted film about a father helping his daughter with her hair but then suddenly shows there are deeper meanings in this short. How does the film tug on the viewer’s heartstrings? What does the director do to get an emotional response from the viewers?

How doe the color choices impact the film’s deeper messages? (You might want to research the meaning of the color choices in the film)

What elements of irony exist in the story? How do they serve to move the story forward and how do they assist in illuminating the story’s theme?

Get a Copy of this Organizer HERE

As students are listening to Gillette’s TED Talk they can take notes and pull out a central idea from his speech. Students are asked to find specific evidence that supports the central idea selected. This graphic organizer can be used as a note catcher and help students track Gillette’s presentation.

Films are a text and the way we teach them in our class should be taught in a way that mirror the way we teach close reading and critical thinking. Just as print text is layered with words, images, inferences, and evidence, so is film. When teaching with videos as or printed text, teacher and author, Kristin Ziemke (2016) calls on teachers to model and scaffold to support your students so that they can, as teacher and author Kristin Ziemke (2016) says, “interact, respond, and think to read the world differently.” If students are to develop deep understanding of texts, teachers need to model close reading skills to film too.

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Short Films to Teach (and Promote) Social Emotional Learning

I use films and the media as a text in my classroom for reading, discussion, and teaching points. Social emotional learning is at the forefront these days to help students develop as human beings. There are many tenants of SEL and four overarching themes include: promoting growth mindset (self awareness and self management), supporting mindfulness and building relationship skills, responsible decision making, and promoting social awareness.

Here are some of my favorite films that address themes within social emotional learning that can be utilized in the classroom as a teaching tool

Being “different” and accepting others who are different:

Perseverance:

Mindfulness

Examining Prejudices and Biases

Courage, Kindness, & Compassion

Designing a “Better World”

Emotional Regulation

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10 Strategies and Tools to Activate Knowledge

Understanding what your students already know is key to building initial knowledge that they need. Activating Prior Knowledge is important in students understanding, because it allows them and helps make connections to the new information. Using what students already know, helps teacher assist students with the learning process.

Most teachers utilize a K-W-L Chart for activating knowledge and in 2012 I wrote a blog post Beyond KWL Charts describing eight different strategies, I thought it was time for an update with some new strategies and tools that help “honor what students bring to the classroom and provides them with necessary context and connection to the purpose and payoff of what is to be learned. It is essential to culturally relevant pedagogy,” according to Jeffery D. Wilhelm, Adam Fachler, and Rachel Bear are the authors of the book Planning Powerful Instruction: 7 Must-Make Moves to Transform How We Teach–and How Students Learn.

KWHLAQ – These updated charts extend the range of a basic KWL chart to incorporate more metacognition, and follow-through towards continuing learning and related action. This chart includes How, Actions, and Questions alongside of the traditional what do you already know, what do you want to know, and what have your learned.

BRAIN POURS/BRAIN DUMPS – Brainstorming comes in many forms and asks students to write down everything they remember about a topic or subject. This is similar to a free write where students write all the things that come to their mind or they are thinking about without worrying about spelling, punctuation, and proper usage.

CAPTION THIS – One of my favorite activities from Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook, the teacher selects an image and students annotate, comment, and even write a story to describe what they see in the image.

PADLET – This platform is great for collaboration and curation of ideas and activities. I use Padlet with my grad students and middle school students to share ideas, explain concepts, and collaborate in the brainstorming process.

ANSWER GARDEN – Another great online tool to post a question to the class and have students respond in 140 or 170 characters, what is great about this platform is that it creates a word cloud of all the responses with the most repeated words larger than others.

ANTICIPATION GUIDES – An anticipation guide is a comprehension strategy in any content area that poses statements or questions for students about the larger themes and ideas presented in the unit. I use anticipation guide often prior to a reading unit to gauge students thinking about themes connected to the unit of study. You can preview the one I created on Google Forms on WW2 and the Holocaust

GALLERY WALK – During a gallery walk, students explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room. I use this strategy for students to respond to a collection of quotations, images, and textual excerpts. This strategy requires students to physically move around the room, it can be engaging to kinesthetic learners. Texts should be displayed “gallery style,” in a way that allows students to disperse themselves around the room, with several students clustering around each particular text. Texts can be hung on walls or placed on tables. The most important factor is that the texts are spread far enough apart to reduce significant crowding. Students walk around the room to read or view the texts around the room and then respond or comment on poster paper, a graphic organizer, or later during a large class debrief.

GAMES like Kahoot, QuizletLive, Quizalize, Quizizz – Test what students already know about a topic or idea by asking a series of questions on a game platform. Students love these games and they are perfect to access prior knowledge with low stakes or can also be utilized at the end of the lesson to see what students learned.

SURVEYs/QUESTIONAIRES – Make a list of 10-15 statements related to the subject content, including commonly held misconceptions. Have students mark “true” or “false” next to each statement.

WORD WEBS – Provide students with a word web of key words and concepts related to the topic or concept to be learned. Ask students to circle the words they already know or write a sentence using a 4-5 of the words that explains the connections between the ideas presented in the word web.

Have more ideas that work well with your students, share in the comments section for our readers.

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8 Activities to Help Students Understand & Experience the National Parks

I recently took a family trip to Maine for a week and during our trip we visited Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. Visiting the park that was breathtaking, the gorgeous views of the ocean and surrounding Maine Islands. We travelled up to Cadillac Summit, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard – note I am afraid of heights so this was scary and it took me awhile to get out of the car as my kids jumped around on the rocks! We drove down to Jordon Pond, a glistening 187 acre pond formed by the Wisconsin Ice Sheet during the last glacial period. Driving around Park Loop Road we stopped to take in the incredible rock formations, cliffs, ocean, and tried to hear the waves crash at Thunder Hole.

Our excursion made me think about the research reports that students have to do about the park and does that really give them an immersive experience to the awe-inspiring beauty of the National Parks. Not really, so here are some alternative activities to help students see the beauty of our planet, maybe become rock nerds, and experience the gems of nature.

  1. Take A Virtual Trip to a National Park – Many of the National Parks like Yellowstone and Channel Island National Parks allow people a 360 Degree Video of the geological features in each national park. Some parks provide videos and virtual tours for students to immerse themselves in the rich marine life underwater at Channel Island National Park or watch the sun rise over Garfield Peak in Crater Lake National Park. Check out this virtual tour down to Jordan Pond in Acadia.

2. Geology Connections – America has a rich geological legacy and the National Parks help us understand the Earth’s history and formation. Students can study rocks and minerals, plate tectonics, land forms, geologic time. Ask students to look at the rocks in their neighborhood and community as an entry point to understanding larger geologic fundamentals. Or students might create a chocolate Rock Cycle model.This topic is also lends itself to a lesson on weathering and erosion.

3. Learn About Indigenous Land – Maine is the homeland of the Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn. At the beginning of the trail to Acadia National Park is the Abbe Museum, which showcases the history and cultures of the Native people in Maine, the Wabanaki. All of the land in the United States and Canada was the homeland of Indigenous people and we need to recognize that and teach students about the people who came before us. There is a history before the “explorers founded and settled on American soil. This can include lessons on deconstructing stereotypes, Colonization, and Human Rights.

4. Observe & Respect the Wildlife – Our national parks is home to incredible wildlife. Wildlife Webcams allow students to observe the incredible wildlife in our National Parks. From bear cams to ocean cams, and eagle cams, students can see these animals in natural habitats. Watch, study, and research more about your favorite animal living in the National Parks to share with others.

5. Let’s Play Games and Challenges – What do you know about our National Parks? The National Parks Service has curated a page of games and challenges that any students can play. Test your knowledge of wildlife and bird calls, draw, design, or create something inspired from the parks, or play virtual national parks bingo. Students can try out one or many of these games and challenges or create their own game. If you love games, Underdog Games created a fun game that I have played with my family called Trekking the National Parks board game to learn more about the National Parks and makes you want to visit all of the 60 National Parks across the U.S.

6. Literature & Poetry – Through America’s history, writers and poets have found beauty and inspiration in nature. After taking a virtual tour of the National Parks or sharing images from different parks around the United States, students can write their own poetry and writings inspired by the landscapes. Forest Poetry, POV piece from a Grizzly living in the park or coyote climbing Bubble Mountain, write a narrative based on the people who first lived on the land, these are three different writing activities to inspire students creativity and learn more about the National Parks.

7. Read Literature and Writing Inspired by Nature – There are many writings about nature that students can read and analyze or use as mentor texts for their own writing. The National Parks Service has a lesson plan deconstructing Carl Sandburg’s Poem “Fog.” Here is Book Riot’s curated list of 33 poems on Nature that Honor the Natural World.

Fog

BY CARL SANDBURG

The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 

It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.

8. Conservation is Key – Conservation is the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of natural environments and the ecological communities that inhabit them. According to the recent United National Climate Report, Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.” It is imperative that we take bigger steps to helping reduce this window to climate crisis. Students can use this report as a catalyst to conducting projects and reports to show ways we can all make a difference to slow down climate change. Educators 4 Social Change publishes articles, lesson plans, videos, and informational sites to help teach climate change.

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The Benefits of Physical Notebooks

Even in this digital age, the benefits of a physical reader’s and writing notebook outweigh the paperless ideals. Yes, interactive notebooks can be messy with all the glue and paper scraps, but the ways in which paper notebooks aid in learning and understanding, I am adamant to bring them back into my classroom after a year of going 1:1 and paperless.

This past year with the pandemic our school issued every student a Chromebook. Going 1:1 reduced my paper consumption in the classroom tremendously but at the same time and I moved into utilizing digital notebooks for students to access content and showcase their learning. Throughout the school year I noticed aspects of digital notebooks did not meet the same prosperity the paper interactive notebooks in English Language Arts had in the past.

Interactive notebooks help students’ process information, study and review for assessments and personalize the content knowledge being presented. In my own English class I allow my students to use their notebooks on assessments because I am not testing them on memorized information but helping them grow as readers and writers. If they need to access the foldable and notes on different ways to start an essay or follow a guide to writing a body paragraph, then they have that support in front of them. Writing helps students process their thinking. Yes, there are benefits to digital notebook too like multimedia and the fact that students cannot lose their notebook in the cloud. At the same time, the actual tangible notebook is what is key. Students need to touch, see, read, reread in order to help them learn deeply.

On the blog Minds in Bloom it states, “An interactive notebook works as a textbook for students that is theirs. Not only are they taking beneficial notes, practicing, and reflecting on material, but they are also using that information as they work on future activities. Students are going back and reviewing the prior pages repeatedly and therefore building exposure to the material each time.”

◈ The purpose of the interactive notebook is to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers. 

◈ Interactive notebooks are used for ALL class notes and other activities where the student will be asked to express his/her own ideas and process the information presented in class.  

◈ The interactive notebook is a resource for students to build throughout the school year, refer back to during assessments, essays, and quizzes.

This year I created a hyperdoc that helps students set up and organize their notebook so we are ready to learn with them the first week of school. I am excited to get back to physical notebooks with students and observe how using them along side of their Chromebooks help to support learning in a blended environment.

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Creating Immersive Experiences in the Classroom

We are one month away from the start of school and after experiencing Van Gogh’s Immersive Experience and walked through the ultimate sensory exposure to Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.

Upon entering the experience, the expansive open rooms are rooms are dark until the Van Gogh’s paintings appear along the 20,000-square-foot room featuring two-story light projections and animations that bring Van Gogh’s paintings to life in front of your eyes. The paintings bleed into each other and music carries the story of his paintings, life, and struggles through his art work.

The images barely tell the story, because they only capture still images when this exhibit moves and changes shapes throughout the 40 minute experience. Overall, the experience was breathtaking and I walked away with a new appreciation of Van Gogh’s work. I was also interested in knowing more about him. The immersive experience heightened by understanding, gave me a strong sense of background knowledge, and encouraged me to ask more questions by peaking my curiosity.

How do we create similar immersive experiences with our students to teach our content areas: provide necessary background knowledge, deepen understanding, and ignite inquiry?

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Invite all our senses. I am reminded of Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate who says, “Provide a classroom environment that will allow your students to interact with the lesson and with their peers.” In order for all members of the classroom to be engaged and learning, students need to feel the learning experience and content being presented in your classroom. This might include props, music, and full on immersive experiences. Learning does not just include sitting at one’s desk, but can be kinesthetic and hands on.

2. Create a Gamified Experience. Gamification immerses students into the learning experience and game by sustaining playfulness with challenge and purpose. In gamifying you classroom you need to choose a theme, create epic learning experiences, and set up the game mechanics. You might use current games like Kahoot and Booklet or life size Scrabble to great a gasified experience. You might even turn your entire class and unit into The Great American Food Truck Race like Tisha Richmond describes in her book Make Learning Magical. I love starting a unit and lesson with a fun game to get everyone involved in the activities and learning. I might even layer the elements of the games like with my Legends of Hidden Courage game I created based on 1990s Nickelodeon game show Legends of Hidden Temple to kick off a unit on social justice. You can read more about this game here.

3. Problem Based Learning & Project Based Learning. Include problem solving and collaborating on activities that require speaking, critical thinking and analyzing to spark interest among students. I am talking about hands on, student driven learning that challenges them to engage them in the learning experience. Put your students in the drivers seat and ask them what they want learn about, research, create, and solve. Immersive experiences support real-world connections to lessons and help students develop life long skills.

4. Immersive Technology. I am talking about AR and VR – augmented and virtual reality. As Discovery Education highlights, “Immersive technologies add layers of powerful impact to learning. Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality have the power to astound and engage learners while helping educators present complex concepts more easily, and with a depth of understanding that other technologies cannot always achieve.” Providing these AR and VR experiences with students allows them a front row seat around the world, under water, walk into history, and do so much more. If you are a Nearpod user, you can access the AR available in their platform or use an AR or VR platform like Discovery Education, Google Expeditions, Merge Cube, and more.

5. Teach with Passion. Passion is enthralling but it can take so many different guises. Again, I am going to refer back to Dave Burgess because he invites teachers to think about their Content Passion, Professional Passion, and Personal Passion. If you are not passionate in any of these three places than why would your students be passionate and curious to learn with you? Identify what you are passionate about and embed these passions into your teaching. Be present for your students and help them see the power of curiosity and learning.

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A Curated List of Hyperdocs, Playlists, & Choice Boards Presented at #ISTELive21

Playlists, Hyperdocs, & Choice Boards . . . What’s the difference?

Playlists are a series of activities focused on specific content and matched to student needs. The intent of playlist-based instruction is to differentiate instruction while providing students control over various aspects of learning, including path, pace, or modality. 

Hyperdocs are interactive digital documents where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle.

Choice Boards or Learning menus as Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning defines “are a form of differentiated learning that gives students a menu or choice of learning activities. It is simply a menu of choices from which students can choose. Student choice is the big idea behind learning menus and choice boards.”

Here is a list of different playlists, choice boards, and hyperdocs I have created in the past three years for middle school students (and showcase at edtech conferences). Feel free to make a copy of these and adapt for your own classroom use. Please be sure to credit those whose materials you are using, adapting, and borrowing. 

Humanities:

Anti Asian Hate Now & Then: Parallels W/Japanese Internment & WW2 

WW2 & The Holocaust

World War II Military

The History & Fiction of Hunters on Amazon Prime

19th Amendment Centennial

Literature & ELA:

Animal Farm Week One & Week Two 

Raymond’s Run Hyperdoc

Ransom of the Red Chief Hyperdoc

Poetry Choice Boards

Mystery Writing

Social Justice Choice Menu

Movie Viewing & Media Literacy:

Black Panther Origins (Pre-Viewing Guide) & Viewing 

Black Panther Movie Analysis Choice Board

Twilight Zone

Getting to Know Your Students:

Get to Know You Think Tac Toe (Choice Board)

Link to Slide Deck

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