All Depends On the Skin Your Living In: Building Text Sets & World Knowledge

This past March I attended the Long Island Language Arts Council Spring Conference and was able to sit in a great session on Writing About Reading. Kate Gerson, a senior Regents Research Fellow for Educator Engagement and the Common Core of NYSED,  presented the shifts in writing demanded by the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy; specifically how the Common Core writing connects to volume of text read, knowledge about the world and knowledge of words.  She mentioned that writing equals expertise and expertise is informed by language (vocabulary) and knowledge. Vocabulary is built through a person’s knowledge of the world. The more a person knows about something, they can read about it, begin to make sense of it, and acquire knowledge and vocabulary about it.

Not knowing words on a page is debilitating and slows a reader down. For ELLs and students with disabilities this can be a even harder challenge. Thus, if we want students to be strong readers with world knowledge and robust vocabulary, teachers need to expose students to information about the world and have the language to discuss it that is accessible to our students diverse needs. Consuming information about the world works best in chunks. Language and vocabulary is acquired over time. A steady growth of knowledge comes with daily reading, writing, and speaking. Teachers can use text sets and build their own text sets that are accessible and consumable for their students. These text sets can also help build student knowledge about the world and expose them to rich information.

Here is a text set that I have started to compile on race and racism in connection with all the racially driven police brutality present in the news. The text set includes a music video, poetry, and a short film that can then be paired with current newspaper articles and young adult novels. The key is that I am continually build text sets around the literature my students are reading and additional domain knowledge.

Poem “BLINK YOUR EYES” by Sekou Sundiata

I was on my way to see my woman
but the Law said I was on my way
thru a red light red light red light
and if you saw my woman
you could understand,
I was just being a man.
It wasn’t about no light
it was about my ride
and if you saw my ride
you could dig that too, you dig?
Sunroof stereo radio black leather
bucket seats sit low you know,
the body’s cool, but the tires are worn.
Ride when the hard time come, ride
when they’re gone, in other words
the light was green.

I could wake up in the morning
without a warning
and my world could change:
blink your eyes.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in

Up to the window comes the Law
with his hand on his gun
what’s up? what’s happening?
I said I guess
that’s when I really broke the law.
He said a routine, step out the car
a routine, assume the position.
Put your hands up in the air
you know the routine, like you just don’t care.
License and registration.
Deep was the night and the light
from the North Star on the car door, deja vu
we’ve been through this before,
why did you stop me?
Somebody had to stop you.
I watch the news, you always lose.
You’re unreliable, that’s undeniable.
This is serious, you could be dangerous.

I could wake up in the morning
without a warning
and my world could change:
blink your eyes.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in

New York City, they got laws
can’t no bruthas drive outdoors,
in certain neighborhoods, on particular streets
near and around certain types of people.
They got laws.
All depends, all depends on the skin,
all depends on the skin you’re living in.

French Rapper Stromae’s Music Video “Papaoutai”

KWA HERI MANDIMA – Short French Film/Memoir (Can Connect with other texts related to Violence in Sudan & Rwanda such as Linda Sue Park’s Long Walk to Water)

New York Times Articles “Thoughts on Race in American, a Backdrop to Ferguson” by Nicholas Kristof 11/25/2014

“Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist” by Nicholas Kristof 8/27/2014

To find out more about the National Text Set Project or attend one of their training programs, check out their website.

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Writing Lessons from Rolling Stone & Buzzfeed’s Faux Pas

Rolling Stone Magazine retracted an article it published about a gang rape at a fraternity at UVA last month for “numerous flaws and errors in the reporting.” The online magazine Buzzfeed recently took down older posts because of “a lack of journalistic standards.” These egregious errors on the part of these popular online and in print media can be used as lessons to teach writing to our students.  Students need models to help understand what to do and not to do when it comes to writing.

1. Check the Facts – The biggest issue with the Rolling Stone article is that the facts were “incorrect.” As a writer, one loses all credibility without accurate and factual evidence to support one’s claim. Make sure evidence (examples, statistics, and testimony) comes from reliable and credible sources.

2. Not All Evidence is Equal – Some evidence is stronger than other evidence. Choose the strongest evidence that is going to support the claim. Make sure that all information and support material shared holds it’s weight.

3. Author’s Purpose – Is the author trying to persuade, inform, or entertain? Identify the author’s purpose to understand the intention of the essay. The intention helps identify meaning. Know one’s intention before starting to write.

4. Everything is Slanted – There is no such thing as an unbiased perspective. Everything has bias, things are left out, omitted, or silenced. As a writer one needs to be aware of one’s biases and be upfront about them for the reader. Help the reader uncover the slant, offer counter claims within argumentative papers.

5. Learn From Other’s Mistakes – The wonderful thing about writing is that one can edit and revise to make writing better, stronger, clearer, and more concise. Look at models and exemplars to know what is effective and what is not.

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Delight, Wisdom, and Illumination: Poetry Activities for All Ages

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That is what poetry does.”

— Allen Ginsberg

Poetry is a multifaceted tool that can provide students opportunities to reflect on literature, content area subjects, or their own feelings, while increasing their understanding of the material being covered within classroom instruction. Poetry supports  language and reading development. Poetry brings aesthetic connections to topics and provides a personal relationship with content material. Robert Frost once wrote, “a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” (1973)  Sharing poetry with our students offers both delight and insight of the power of words.

Here are a few different types of poems that fit into any content area classroom for reading and writing.

An ODE is a poem in praise of the ordinary things in life. The ode was originally a Greek form of dramatic poetry. Some odes follow a specific rhyme scheme and stanza pattern, but it is not necessary. Think about having your students write an ode for a specific time or event in history, a scientific concept, or an ode to celebrate a famous mathematician.

A BIOPOEM or a histopoem provides students with the opportunity to create a biographical or historical summary about a topic or person. Each line of a biopoem or histopoem has a prescribed focus which guides students to summarize the information from a variety of perspectives. Biopoem and histopoems are great to use in social studies, science, and with literature.

Students can write HAIKU based on visual images for a unit on the environment or create haiku about something they are studying in your content area. Haiku are 17 syllable poems that are usually about nature and don’t rhyme. Haiku are three lines that follow 5-7-5 form.

Poet and educator, Georgia Heard, writes “Anger is a tremendous source of creativity.” In social studies class students can examine the poetry written about the past wars. Sidney Keyes, a British poet, wrote about WWII. Both Wilfrid Gibson and Siegfried Sassoon fought in the front lines during WWI and later wrote poems about the war.

Without using any words, only sounds create a musical poem or SOUND POEM. Have students write a sound poem about their mother. Then, go around the room and have people read aloud their sound poem

A FOUND POEM is shaped from a collection of words or phrases found in one text. A found poem may be created by students after a test has been read, in part or in whole. To create a found poem, readers select and combined memorable words and phrases from a text to create or “find” a poem. Annie Dilliard’s Mornings Like This is a collection of found poems to share with others. Whether students use a textbook, article, or a piece of literature, a found poem helps to understand the text deeply and make meaning.

SAY IT BUT DON’T REALLY SAY IT POEM In Eve Merriam’s poem New Love she expresses love without ever using the word love. How then do we know that she is talking about love? Have you students write a love poem (or a poem about anything) without saying or using the word it’s about.

New Love
by Eve Merriam

I am telling my hands
not to blossom into roses

I am telling my feet
not to turn into birds
and fly over rooftops

and I am putting a hat on my head
so the flaming meteors
in my hair
will hardly show.

RESPONDING TO POETRY As students listen to a poem being read aloud, have students make a list of the things that “snap, crackle, and pop in their ears . . . words, sounds, rhythms, and phrases. Students can draw a picture (realistic or abstract) of whatever the poem is saying. Maybe the poem reminds you of a song or the sound of a specific musical instrument. Students can describe the sounds and songs. Describe a memory or person the poem might evoke. Does the poem remind you of something? Make a connection. Or just respond to the poem in any way you wish.

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Book Review: Kelly Gallagher’s In The Best Interest of Students

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About eight years ago I had the opportunity to take a one day workshop with educator and author, Kelly Gallagher. It was write after he wrote Deeper Reading and since then, I have devoured every book (Readicide and Write Like Us) he has written. His writing resonates with so many ELA teachers and the classroom practices he offers throughout his texts are trustworthy and build literacy in rich and meaningful ways. Gallagher’s newest book, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in ELA Classrooms (2015, Stenhouse Publishers) is no different. In this book Gallagher takes a closer look at the pros and cons of the Common Core Learning Standards specifically for reading and writing and offers 20-30 literacy building activities to support the readers and writers in our classroom. He reminds teachers, “teaching is not an exercise in checking items off a list of standards . . .good teaching is grounded in practices proven to sharpen our students’ literacy skills.” (Page 7) Here is a list of the good that has come out of the Common Core and where the Common Core learning standards are lacking.

The Good of CCLS:

Students are being asked to “do deeper, closer reading of rigorous, high quality literature and nonfiction.”

Essential reading skills include answering – What does the text say? What does the text do? What does the text mean?

Students must  read like writers – examine techniques used by the writer, the writer’s “moves,” and what makes something an effective piece of writing. Reading and writing is recognized as interconnected.

Recognize audience and purpose to clearly decipher the text’s meaning.

Writing is seen as a process and narrative, informative, and argumentative writing are valued the most. Students need to collect data, research, and see lots of models to write well.

Speaking and Listening are key skills students need to be working on always.

What’s Missing with CCLS:

Connections – Nowhere in the standards does it address making connections – text to self, text to text, or text to world connections. Students need to apply what they are reading to their understanding of the world.

Scaffolding – Students need to wrestle with the text but not at the expense of them losing interest and or getting lost. Students need important background knowledge and essential questions to frame their reading.

Reading for pleasure is nonexistent. There is nothing written about how much a student should read and the breakdown of how much  informational text versus literary text to be read is not equally distributed.

Differentiation is ignored throughout the standards

Argumentative writing is overvalued and narrative writing is undervalued. Students need to be able to write in other formats and go beyond the five paragraph essay.

Gallagher Text

As the state tests loom over so many teacher’s evaluations theses days we need to remember that we are not teaching to a test, but we are teaching young people. Our classroom activities should help students build their reading and writing muscles in order to help them succeed throughout their schooling and life outside of school. Gallagher’s book gives a wealth of ideas to support the good and add the skills needed based on what’s missing within the ELA CCLS. Here are a few of the strategies I will be trying out with my students this month.

17 Word Summaries – Before teachers have students peel back the layers of a text, students must be able to decipher what the text says and clearly articulate their “literal understanding” of the text. Gallagher chooses one student to pick a number between ten and twenty and based on that number, all the students must write a summary using only the number of words the student decides. This requires students to think about writing a lot in a short amount of words for everyone to understand.

Analyzing Photographs to recognize Audience and Purpose. Gallagher asks his students to read photographs. First students share what they see (literal understanding) and then he gives some background about this photographer and what was going on in history the time the photo was taken place to then ask, “What was the purpose for sharing this photo?” Lastly, he asks, who did the photographer hope to see his or her photo? (Page 44) Gallagher talks through this activity using Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother.

6 Things You Should Know About . . . & Other Writing Activities to practice more informative writing. Modelled from ESPN Magazine’s “Six Things You Should Know About . . .” students write their own.

Blending Story & Argument Together. A personal experience can strengthen an argument and Gallagher models how to weave a narrative into an argument paper through think alouds, LOTS of modeling, and text exemplars. Students collect data and then write their papers blending narrative into the paper to increase the effectiveness of the argument.

Writing Groups to Develop Young Writers. Gallagher has his students meet in writing groups once a week. The  writing groups includes five students of mixed writing abilities. Each week students bring a piece of writing (new draft or old piece that has been significantly revised) to share with their writing group. Each group member gets a copy of the writing piece to read and respond to. The group members have to “bless,” “address,” or “press” the writing marking up the draft that has been shared and write comments to the writer on note cards based on things marked up on the writing. The group members share their thinking aloud with the group while the writer listens.

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Twitter in the K 12 Classroom: A Collaborative Tool For Learning ISTE Webinar

As part of the ISTE Professional Learning Series I hosted a webinar on Twitter in the K 12 classroom. Below are the slides to my presentation. Here is a link to the archived webinar. I have compiled additional resources on a Google Doc Some people have requested to see the Parent Permission and Code of Conduct that I sent home for parents and students to sign before beginning the twitter book chats with my middle school students.

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Propaganda & The Language of Persuasion: An Interactive Foldable

We live in a world of persuasion. When we turn on the television, we are bombarded with commercials and infomercials trying to convince us that our lives would be better if we used a certain product, drove a particular car, or followed a specific diet.  The Media Literacy Project identifies 27 techniques used by media makers to inform and persuade consumers. Whether addressing media literacy, public speaking, or literature, persuasion is the ability to convince people to agree with a particular point of view and or to persuade people to take specific action.

But where does persuasion end and propaganda begin? Many of the persuasive techniques identified by the Media Literacy Project are propaganda strategies.

My students are reading Animal Farm by George Orwell, the timeless fable and allegory depicting a society based on blind loyalty and corrupt power of its ruler. In the story, propaganda is used in a variety of ways to manipulate the animals into believing the flawed ideas presented by their corrupt and greedy ruler. I created the interactive foldable below to give my students some background on propaganda techniques so they might better identify these strategies used by Napoleon and Squealer throughout the text.

Propaganda Techniques:

1. Bandwagon – Doing Something that everyone else is doing. It appeals to a person’s need to belong.

2. Fear – Making one afraid that if we don’t do something or buy something, something bad can happen to use, our families and friends, or our country.

3. Scapegoating – Attributing problems to a particular person or group without regard to the truth of the accusation.

4. Unapproved Assertions – Asserting that something is good or the “the best” without using reasons, statistics, examples, or the recommendation of competent authorities to support the assertion.

5. Slogans – Simple, catchy words and phrases that stick in people’s minds but often without giving all the important details of a person or product.

For a copy of the foldable click here.

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Get Your Game On! #ISTELitChat Talks #Gamification with @BeGeeky 3/39/15 8:30 PM EST

#ISTELitChat Talks #Gamification w/@BeGeeky 3/29/15 8:30 PM EST

After attending EdCampSWCT this past March I was enamored by a session led by Matthew Dandola (@BeGeeky) sharing how he turned a tedious Wordly Wise vocabulary practice workbook into an intriguing story driven, role playing game that seems more Game of Thrones meets Dungeons & Dragons for his middle school students English Language Arts. After extensive research, Dandola chose Classcraft as a platform to create a world outside of his classroom where students craft the stories of their characters through weekly journaling and for bonus points adding Worldly Wise vocabulary for robust narratives about how characters are working together, and sometimes against each other, to earn powers win the game — or face consequences.

As described on Classcraft’s website, to play, each student must choose a character from three different character classes: the Healer, the Mage, or the Warrior. Each has unique properties and powers and is designed for different types of students. These are customizable as the game progresses and can be accompanied by pets. Classcraft is played in teams of five or six students for the duration of the year. This encourages students who might not normally socialize to work together to win the game. All team members benefit from cooperative efforts and learn to consider the needs of others before they take actions in the game. Powers and consequences are customized by the teacher. Participation in class activities is a must to survive.

Whether you are big into gamification or not, you need to join the next #ISTELitChat where we will talk all things #gamification. Learn more from Matthew Dandola’s and other #gamification tools for your classroom.

Questions for #ISTELitChat on #Gamification 3/29/15 8:30 PM EST:

Q1: Introduce yourself, where you are from, and your role in education.

Q2: What does #gamification mean to you?

Q3: What does #gamification look like in your classroom?

Q4: What #gamification applications or tools are you utilizing now to support learning in your content area and students interests in gaming?

Q5: What does one have to keep in mind when designing a game for content area learning?

Q6: How do you get all students to buy into the #gamification aspect of classroom learning?

Q7: What are ways that you envision using #gamification with your students?

Q8: What advice do you have for someone just starting out and interested in bringing #gamification into their  class and content area?

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Storytelling, Discussion, & Analysis: Twitter As a Classroom Tool for Middle School Students

This past week ISTE’s Literacy Special Interest Journal published its third issue. I contributed an article on using twitter for book chats with my eighth grade students. I have cut and pasted the article below to share. To check out the entire journal with lots of great articles that address different technologies and literacy I have pasted a link at the bottom of this post.

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In 140 characters or less, meaningful conversations can occur. In my four years of using Twitter as a personal professional development tool, I have learned from amazing people on Twitter and collaborated with many educators around the world in order to improve my teaching and strengthen my students’ learning. As result of my experience in utilizing this social media tool for professional growth and learning, I knew that there was an opportunity for me to share this technology with my students to empower them as readers, writers, and global citizens.

Twitter is a powerful online social media tool that allows people to engaged in conversations and discuss topics that are relevant to their lives. Ninety eight percent of my students are already using social media and have personal computers, tablets, and or mobile devices. Twitter was a technology tool that some were using socially, in addition to Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. As their teacher, and a person who embraces technology in her classroom, I wanted to show my students how we can utilize Twitter as an educational tool for learning and also promote positive digital citizenship.

It all began when I read a blog post on The Nerdy Book Club blog by young adult author, James Preller in November 2013 on the power of story and how “stories are essential to our lives.”  I was so moved by the blog post, I immediately bought his book Bystander, a fictional story about bullying at a middle school in Long Island.  As a middle school teacher, this topic is pertinent to my teaching and my quest to promote empathy within school culture. As I devoured the book, I realized that I wanted all my students to read Bystander and the power of its story as it relates to our school and culture where bullying is a daily occurrence.  Hence, I assigned Bystander as a required reading for my eighth grade English students for their outside reading requirement.  In addition to reading the book, I wanted to engage my students in authentic discussions about the book and share their responses, connections, and questions about the book.  A huge proponent of Twitter as a professional development tool, I required my students to participate in four Twitter book chats after school hours to address the complex characters and issues raised in the book. Since our lives are so packed with activities, homework and family time, I knew designating a time to a Twitter-based conversation about the book would gain more participants in the outside reading assignment.

My eighth grade students are required to read one outside reading book each quarter and complete an assessment project on the book. My students who are interested in taking Honors classes in High School are required to read two outside reading books each quarter and complete two projects. I offer students a list of recommended titles the beginning of each quarter based on genre (non fiction, graphic novels, memoirs, etc.) or theme (World War II and social injustice texts to align with Social Studies) for students to choose an outside reading book.  Although, bullying is a topic that students are bombarded with in school with special assemblies and Health classes, it was never a topic in our English class readings and discussions. I was so moved by James Preller’s Bystander  and bothered by the covert bullying throughout the school I might see or hear about that I decided that it would be an all grade read for my students. There were a few complaints and groans when I introduced the book as a book about bullying in a middle school. For the most part, the majority of my students enjoyed the book and the Twitter book chat discussions even more.

When I introduced the assignment to my classes I included a reading schedule with set dates for the Twitter chats meetings and a Twitter Permission Letter/ Code of Conduct to be shared with their parents and guardians,  to be signed and returned to me. I organized the Twitter book chats weekly for forty five minutes  for five consecutive weeks to discuss the text, share our thoughts, make connections, and ask questions. I really wanted students to talk with one another about the text, rather than just answer my questions I posted about the book.  The Twitter permission letter to families addressed my intentions and objectives in utilizing Twitter for this assignment. To confirm that parents received and read the letter, I required parents and guardians and my students to sign the letter and return it  to me prior to the first Twitter book chat. Out of ninety-three students, I had over sixty students participating in the Twitter book chats.

The week before our first Twitter book chat I held a meeting after school to introduce Twitter to the students and offer a “how-to” demonstration in setting up a Twitter account and using Twitter. Each student was given a cheat sheet that covered the Dos and Don’ts of Tweeting and explained an anatomy of a Tweet. I recommended students who already had a Twitter account to make a new account specifically for our class project so that I do not have access to their pictures from the weekend parties and other social media sharing they do with their friends. I was clear in reminding students that we were using Twitter for educational purposes and that my own account is for that, I do not share pictures of my family and food or discuss personal matters online.  For me, Twitter is strictly professional and used in a positive manner.

Students used a hashtag to follow the Twitter conversation and be included in the book chat. Google defines a hashtag as “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Our hashtag was #RMSBystander and with each new book and Twitter chat we included a hashtag that included the book title and “RMS,” the initials of our middle school.  Every time a student tweeted, he or she included the hashtag in their tweet.

Everyone had a voice on Twitter and no one was able to hide during the discussions. During the Twitter book discussions students shared their own stories, made connections, and critically addressed the issue of bullying in our school and society at large.  I was impressed by their honesty and keen awareness.  I did start off the Twitter chat by asking questions for students to respond to throughout the Twitter chat but that always lead to deeper conversations and comments posted by my students responding to one another. The students weren’t just answering the questions that I posed during the Twitter book chat but were also talking with each other in an online environment, supporting and responding to each other’s ideas. I noticed that students who might not talk to each other in class, face to face, were responding to each other online and offering constructive discussions piggy-backing on each other’s ideas. Students learned that a retweet was like a high five, pointing out an insightful comment and students looked forward to me retweeting their comments or looked for one another to retweet in agreement or support. Positive communication was modeled throughout the Twitter discussions.

Student conversations on Twitter weaved in and out of the text with comments and side conversations about our own school. Students admitted that bullying is a huge problem in many schools across across the United States, and our own school is not immune. Social media sometimes becomes a means in which bullying takes place.  But, by facilitating the Twitter chats, I wanted to promote Twitter as a social media tool in a responsible and educational manner.  I was impressed by my students honesty about bullying in our school and shared the archived chat with my school principal and school social worker to highlight the conversations that one teacher and a her students were having about bullying and one book about bullying. My students were excited about the Twitter book discussions and asked for more book discussions online. As one of my students replied at the end of the chat, “This chat allowed me to think of the reading in new ways.”

After the series of Twitter Chats on Bystander, our second Twitter book chat was with the book The Wave by Todd Strasser. Written in 1981, The Wave is based on a true incident that occurred in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969. A high school teacher introduces a new “system” into his classroom to promote learning and success and  illustrates how propaganda and peer pressure help Nazism rise in Germany in the 1930s. Students were studying World War II in their Social Studies class and Strasser’s text helps to extend the conversations about injustice and history outside of the classroom. Currently, my students are reading and tweeting about I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick. With each of the books read and discussed students make connections and judgements across texts, drawing conclusions, and sharing big ideas that surface from reading and conversing about the text. In our Twitter chats the students are engaged and responding to one another. The Twitter book chats help students monitor comprehension, merge their thinking with new ideas, react to, respond to, and often question the information.

Twitter is one digital media tool that can be used effectively for discussing stories and the powerful impact they have on our lives. Twitter also allows space for students to critically discuss topics that are relevant to their lives and share stories,  images, and other links to meaningful texts that address the same topics.  Twitter helps extend classroom discussions outside the classroom and for students to deepen their thinking through tweeting about reading. Through my experiences using Twitter in the classroom, I have been able to capture the “richness” of conversations and the “complexity of experiences” when sharing stories.

 

Twitter Resources for Teachers

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything Twitter

A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter (Edudemic)

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom via TeachHUB

EDUHACKER’s Teaching with Twitter

To read through the entire ISTE Literacy Special Interest Journal (3rd Issue):

http://literacyspecialinterest.blogspot.com/2015/03/literacyspecialinterest-issue.html

I will be leading a webinar on Twitter in the K12 classroom for ISTE on 3/26 at 4 PM PT.  The webinar is free for ISTE members. To register for the webinar click here.

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Attaining Common Core Reading & Writing Standards with Interactive English Notebooks: LILAC/NRC Conference

The topic for this year’s LILAC/NRC (Long Island Language Arts Council & National Reading Conference is “Literacy Matters For Every Learner.” Key note speakers include Richard Allington and Pam Munoz Ryan. I will also be presenting along with 12 additional teachers and literacy coaches addressing topics related to literacy. My session will addressed specific foldables I created for my students to support reading and argumentative writing. I have embedded my slide show for the presentation below.

The foldables and supporting graphic organizers I have included in my presentation include:

 

Interactive Foldables Anchor Standard
Stop and Notice & Note CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10

Introductory Paragraphs: BLT Strategy CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

Writing A Thesis for An Argumentative Essay CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

Ways to Start An Essay CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

TEXAS Body Paragraphs CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

Writing A Conclusion CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.E
Transition Words & Phrases CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.C
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Getting Students to Revise & Reflect on their Writing

What are we asking students to do when we ask them to revise and reflect on their writing?

I am of the philosophy that in order to become a better writer, one needs to write daily and look to examples of great writers as models and mentors. When it comes to writing essays in my English class, I have my students writing one essay each quarter. It is not enough if you ask me, but in this current climate of high stakes tests I continue to find a balance between teaching reading and writing.

I have my students write their essays in class and after I read through them, I allow students to revise and improve their essay for a better grade. After reading through the recent compare and contrast essays students wrote in response to  Melba Patillo Beal’s memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry, and Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” I planned a revision workshop to help students reflect on their writing and pinpoint areas where I found many students needed additional support. Reading through ninety five essays I found three places to “teach back” and help improve student writing: Writing a solid thesis or claim; Choosing the strongest evidence to support one’s claim; and Using better transition words.

I created a Revision Passport to guide students throughout the revision workshop and allow students to move around the classroom visiting different stations to help revise and reflect on their writing with the objective to nudge students to revise their writing and produce a stronger essay. After completing the work at a station I checked their work and gave them a stamp on the passport. Students had to complete four different stations.

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Station 1 – The Exemplars

I pulled out two student essays that I felt were exemplars for the entire grade. I retyped the essays and removed the student’s names from the essay for the rest of the class to read through. Students had to write down two things the writer did well in the essay and then record a “writing move” they wanted to steal or borrow from the exemplar.

Station 2 – The Thesis/Claim

Although I have created interactive foldables and taught lessons on writing a clear and solid thesis, this is still a struggle for many writers. The thesis or claim is the heart of the essay. English teacher Ray Salazar has a great blog post on writing a thesis in three steps which  showed my students. I made a graphic organizer for students plug their thesis into the 3 steps Ray describes and then figure out what is missing or what needs to be added to help write a revised thesis that is specific, debatable, and significant to the essay prompt.

Station 3 – Textual Evidence

Not all evidence weighs the same. Students need help finding the strongest evidence to support their claim. At this station I had students look at the evidence they provided in their essay and rank the evidence from strongest to weakest on a graphic organizer. In addition, students had to explain why the evidence is weak or strong. What makes the strongest evidence and why?

Station 4 – Writing Reflection

Looking back at their essay and the work they did during the revision workshop students completed two reflection tasks. Students had to rewrite, in their own words, the comments I made throughout their essays and what I wanted them to improve on. Then, students were to give an example how they were going to make their writing better based on teacher’s comments and the work they did in the revision workshop.

Below is a copy of the revision passport I created and used with my students.

Revision Passport WDC

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