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Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) and Writing Instruction

I am currently participating in a study to understand more about Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) as a model for struggling writers. The goal is to teach the strategies that students need in order to write clearly and concisely. 

According to Graham, Harris, & McKeown, 2013, the SRSD approach consists of explicit teaching of:

  • general and specific writing strategies, such as:
    • using the right vocabulary,
    • being mindful of the intended reader,
    • creating interesting introductions and conclusions
  • the knowledge required to use these strategies;
  • ways to manage these strategies;
  • the writing process; and
  • one’s behaviour as a writer
    • self-regulation
    • self-instruction

Just like we teach students the habits of proficient readers, teachers need to articulate the habits of good writers. Writing researchers identified what good writers do: plan, monitor, evaluate, revise, and manage the writing process. These strategies should be taught explicitly for learners to apply them to a writing task. 

Elements of SRSD Instruction

Instructor modeling of strategies is essential to SRSD and must explicitly show learners how to create meaning. Graham and Harris (2005) describe a five-step process. By completing the following scaffolded instructional sequence, teachers can help learners gain confidence in the strategy and learn to use it automatically for more independent learning.

  1. Discuss It. Develop and activate background knowledge. Discuss when and how learners might use a strategy to accomplish specific writing tasks and goals. Talk about the benefits of becoming a more proficient and flexible writer. Address any negative self-talk or negative beliefs the learner holds, and ask the learner for a commitment to try to learn and use the strategy. Discuss how the learner should track progress to document the use and impact of the strategy.
  2. Model It. Model the strategy using think-alouds, self-talk, and self-instruction as you walk through the steps. Discuss afterwards how it might be made more effective and efficient for each individual, and have learners customize the strategy with personal self-statements. Ask students to set specific writing goals. Model the strategy more than once with various sample texts; for example, use a graphic organizer to demonstrate how to comprehend various texts of a similar genre (persuasive arguments or editorials). The Modeling stage is a key component for students. When students can read strong and poorly written writing and discuss it they are able to name and identify elements of good writing. Similarly, when teachers demonstrate writing and think aloud throughout the process, students are able to monitor their own thinking and improve their own writing.
  3. Make It Your Own. Strategies are composed of multiple steps, similar to a checklist. When steps are captured in a mnemonic or acrostic sentence, they are easier to remember. Paraphrasing or re-naming the steps in a mnemonic or creating a new mnemonic is fine, provided that the learner is able to remember the steps that the names represent. Customizing the checklist or mnemonic helps learners make it their own.
  4. Support It. Use the strategy as often as possible, in as many ways as possible. Instructors and other students can be supports, offering direct assistance, prompts, constructive feedback, and encouragement. When you introduce a new type of application (a new genre or writing frame, for example), it may be appropriate to model the strategy again. Learners can rely on charts and checklists too, as they learn the strategy and make it their own, but all of this should fade as learners become familiar enough with the strategy to set their goals, monitor their use of the strategy, and use self-statements independently.
  5. Independent Performance. Learners come to use the strategy independently across a variety of tasks. For example, learners may begin to draw graphic organizers without being prompted as a means to help them comprehend and plan.

Strategies like Acronyms are also helpful for students to remember the steps of the writing process and can act as a guide or checklist for students to write well. For example, the POW+TREE strategy helps writers approach an essay-writing task and check their work as they become more independent (Harris, Graham, Mason, & Friedlander, 2008).

POW, represents and emphasizes the importance of the planning process: 

Pick my idea and pay attention to prompt 

Organize

Write and say more

The TREE acronym is a memory and visualization tool that helps writers structure their essays: the Topic sentence is like the trunk of the tree that supports the whole argument; Reasons (at least three) are like the roots of the argument; Explain is a reminder to tell more about each reason; and finally, Ending is like the earth that wraps up the whole argument. Think sheets or graphic organizers shaped like stylized trees that learners write in as they brainstorm and plan can prompt the internalization of this strategy.

References

Graham, S. (2006). Strategy instruction and the teaching of writing: A metaanalysis. In C. A. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 187–207). New York: Guilford Press.

Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2005). Writing better: Effective strategies for teaching students with learning difficulties. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools – A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Available at http://www.all4ed.org/files/WritingNext.pdf.

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Book Review: 4 Essential Studies by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher

What are the core units of study that you teach in your English Language Arts class? Essays, Literature, Poetry, maybe argumentative writing? In Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s newest book 4 Essential Studies: Beliefs and Practices to Reclaim Student Agency (Heinemann, 2021), there is a deep dive into teaching essay writing, poetry, book clubs, and digital composition.

Now for a disclaimer, I am a HUGE!!!!! Kittle and Gallagher fan. Ever since I participated in a workshop 18 years ago with Kelly Gallagher at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York I was hooked. I have read every one of his books, adopted Article of the Week in my middle school classroom, and even use many of his texts in the college classes that I teach. If I am at NCTE or ILA, I will go to a Gallagher and Kittle workshop because I know that the information they provide is practical and timely. So, this book was something that I was eager to dive in. Let me highlight the key points presented in each section.

The Essay

How do we as teachers bring students’ voices to the forefront of essays. So much of essay writing that is taught in school is bland, rote, and formatted in a constricting five paragraph essay. But that is not the types of essays that we read outside of school. Check out Sam Anderson’s essay in The New York Times, “I Recommend Eating Chips.” or John Green’s collection of essays in The Anthropocene Reviewed. These writers write compelling and insightful essays that make readers pay attention to the insight, perspective, and point of view. Teachers want to provide opportunity for students to write meaningful essays that honor and amplify their voice and agency. We might need to experiment with form — while throwing out the five paragraph essay template to write authentic essays that blend forms and hone in on craft and structure.

Some teaching moves one can make to help students with their essay writing include providing lots of model and mentor texts and have students complete a WRITE AROUND to notice and name the writing craft moves. Additionally, providing students with lots of TIME TO WRITE and low stakes opportunities to develop their writing and voice. Kittle and Gallagher write, “A volume of ungraded practice gives them opportunities to play with their ideas – some which they will develop into polished essays using craft moves they learn in this study. We know that the quantity of writing will move more writers towards proficiency.” (page 13) Teachers must MODEL THE WRITING PROCESS for students and write along side students. Have students read, analyze, and IMITATE WRITING PASSAGES, Kittle and Gallagher call this writing activity, “kidnap the structure and style”. Don’t forget to allow time for students to conference, work in writing groups, and opportunities to revise, reflect, and evaluate their own essays.

Book Clubs

Similar to writing, volume is key when teaching reading and readers. Kittle and Gallagher write, “Book clubs motivate us to read. They deepen our understanding of not only the book but how others read and interpret the same text. Books stretch out thinking, and they expose us to books and authors we may not have otherwise missed.” (Page 45) Students practice the habits of life long readers when they engage in book club conversations, books encourage readers to talk about the topics addressed in these texts. More importantly, “rigor is not in the book itself, but in the work students to understand it.” (pg. 47) It requires teachers to choose books that are relevant and provide opportunities for students to reflect and by writing daily in their Reader’s Notebooks.

Excerpt from Penny Kittle’s Notebook in response to reading. There are so many more beautiful notebook excerpts from student’s notebooks pages 65-72.

Poetry

“Professor Thomas C Foster notes, poetry “offers a window into the human experience.” (page 80). Kittle and Gallagher call poetry, “little mysteries.” There needs to be a balance in poetry analysis and poetry writing. Inviting students to create and write their own poems and “start with playing, wondering, free writing, reading and listening to poems, creating notebook lists and phrases, and imitating. ” (page 82) Again, volume is key when teaching poetry. For poetry lists you can find more on Penny Kittle’s website.

Here are two poetry writing exercises to try out with students and lots more in the book:

Spine Poems – students collect books from the classroom library or their own personal library and stack in combinations so that the titles on the spines make poems.

Crowd Source Poetry: Using a Google Form, a teacher can crowd source poetry lines to build a community driven poem about an event, person, theme, or central idea.

Additional poetry lessons and activities include teaching figurative language, having students emulate a poetry form, host a poetry tournament to immerse students in a poetry study by theme or genre. Host a poet of the day – I actually do something similar to this with my poetry playlists providing students with a menu of poets, poems, and poetry forms.

In terms of assessment, Kittle and Gallagher created an “Excellence in Poetry” Grading Menu where poems are not graded individually but students are provided with choices and each student turns in a poem for inclusion in a classroom anthology. There were also six different poetry analysis assignments/exams.

Digital Composition

We live in a digital and visual saturated culture and to think that literacy and texts does not blend digital media. Kittle and Gallagher state, “Digital composition is not just engaging, it is necessary.” (page 117) Let’s put our students interest first and support them as content creators and creative communicators while practicing digital citizenship. Possible digital composition assignments include: designing public service announcements (PSAs), create a movie from a notebook entry, make a podcast, and analyze digital texts.

If you are looking for practical ideas to implement in your English Language Arts classroom tomorrow than Kittle and Gallagher’s book with give you four unit of study that support deep students learning and at the same time help students to practice essential skills needed to be critical thinkers and consumers of information while at the same time honoring student voice, choice, agency, and creativity.

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12 Movie Shorts, Animations, and Documentaries

 For Teaching and Promoting Social Emotional Learning

I have taught a media literacy elective to seventh and eighth graders for fifteen years. During that times, movies were a fuel for reading, writing, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Students analyzed Disney films for their portrayal of sexism, ageism, classism, and racism. Students took on a cause that they were passionate about and created public service announcements and short documentaries to raise awareness and call to action.  Students analyzed the features of the classic Twilight Zone episode and the current Stranger Things to identify elements of suspense and storytelling. But you do not need to be teaching an academic class specific on media literacy to bring movies into your classroom as a teaching tool for social emotional learning. Utilizing short films in any classroom can provide mini lessons and conversations to address social emotional learning with children and adults. 

Currently, I am kicking off the week with “Movie Mondays” in my middle school literacy lab where students view a short film and extract themes and key ideas the first fifteen minutes of this academic support class. These films become teaching tools to support close reading skills, critical thinking, and social emotional learning. 

Here is a list of a dozen short films available on Youtube, TedEd,  and Vimeo that promote SEL themes and topics. Be sure to preview the films before you show them with your students. You know better than I do what is appropriate for the students in your classroom. 

Being “different,” Accepting Others who are Different, and Building Empathy

1. I Have a Visual Disability and I Want You To Look Me In The Eye – NYT Opinion – This short documentary is part of the New York Times Op-Doc series and was created by James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine He uses his personal experiences to shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions. “Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes.” This video is a powerful essay on  seeing and being seen, how we treat others who look different.

2. A Conversation on Race – New York Times Series – Started in 2015, The New York Times created eight videos that included testimony of people talking about race, ethnicity and gender. These short films focus on identity in America.

Perseverance & Promoting Growth Mindset

3. One Small Step by TAIKO Studios – This animated short film tells the story of a young girl and her quest to become an astronaut. Viewers see her perseverance, dealing with set backs, and then reaching her goal.

4. Hair Love by Sony Picture Animation – Hair Love, an Oscar®-winning animated short film from Matthew A. Cherry, tells the heartfelt story of an African American father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time. The movie also addresses cancer and how a family copes when a parent is sick. There is no dialogue and the images themselves are powerful for making inferences.

5. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – University of Pennsylvania professor and author, Angela Lee Duckworth describes her job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

6. The Boost Students Need to Overcome Obstacles TED Talk by Anindya Kundu – How can disadvantaged students succeed in school? For sociologist Anindya Kundu, grit and stick-to-itiveness aren’t enough; students also need to develop their agency, or their capacity to overcome obstacles and navigate the system. He shares hopeful stories of students who have defied expectations in the face of personal, social and institutional challenges.

7. Pip Goes to Guide Dog School By Southeastern Guide Dogs – In this animated short, Pip enters canine university in order to become a guide dog. Although he does not meet the guide dog standards, he shows grit, diligence, and tenacity to become a guide dog. Despite not passing the guide dog test, once outside in the “real world” Pip shows his strengths and ability to be a lead dog.

8. Instructions for a Bad Day – Shane Koyczan – Shane Koyczan is a powerful Canadian poet. His poems address topics of bullying, self regulation, cancer, death, and perseverance. Also check out these other poems, “To This Day Project ” and “How to Be a Person.”

Designing a Better World + Encourage and Guide Positive Social Activism and Social Awareness

9. Man vs. Earth by Prince Ea – Prince Ea is a spoken word poet and his videos on YouTube address key themes of acceptance, social action using the power of language to communicate his message.

10. Plastic Bag directed by Ramin BahraniPlastic Bag is a short film where a Plastic Bag goes on an epic journey in search of its lost Maker, wondering if there is any point to life without her. The Bag encounters strange creatures to be with its own kind until it ends up in the North Pacific Trash Vortex.

Communication, Emotional Regulation, Compassion

11. Modern Love, A Kiss Deferred (Animated)The New York Times – A 12 year old girls life and love are turned upside down during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Learn the joys and challenges faced when the war breaks out.

12. How to Be Alone by Sindha Agha New York Times Op Doc – How do you handle being alone? This documentary was created during quarantine and COVID. The director shows viewers how she is dealing with isolation and loneliness, her longing to interact others and lessons learned from arctic explorers.

Have a favorite animation, movie short or documentary that promotes social emotional learning? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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Intentional Word Work

I have written about teaching vocabulary often on this blog and share different ways to help students become word learners. Recently, my eighth grade students started reading nonfiction historical graphic novels with social justice themes and there are two dozen words that my students might not know. Some are specific the to historical events like legions, furor, and internment. Whereas other words provide vivid vocabulary like scrupulous and flabbergasted. In order to be more intention with student’s vocabulary building, I created a hyperdoc to help bring word work to forefront of the classroom.

When students do not understand an author’s vocabulary, they cannot fully understand the text.

Good vocabulary instruction emphasizes useful words (words students see frequently), important words (keywords that help students understand the text), and difficult words (words with more than one meaning).

In improving vocabulary instruction teachers can help students by:

  • Activating their prior knowledge
  • Defining words in multiple contexts
  • Helping students see context clues
  • Helping students understand the structure of words (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots — SPROOTS)
  • Teaching students how to use the dictionary and showing them the range of information it provides
  • Encouraging deep processing — integrating new words into working vocabularies
  • Giving multiple exposure
  • Focusing on a small number of important words

Janet Allen, author of Words, Words, Words(1999), states, “Children and adults need to see and hear a word in meaningful context multiple times in order to know the word, somewhere between 10 to 15 times.” And with middle school and high school, variety is the key. Teachers cannot teach vocabulary the same way every time.

Reading is perhaps the most important element in vocabulary instruction. 

So, how do I teach vocabulary in my English class?

I use interactive foldables with my students and early in the school year I give them a foldable to remind them of effective word detective strategies. These strategies include:

Context Clues – Read before and after words that might help explain the words

Word Parts (SPROOTS) – Look for word parts that are recognizable. Students can decode words by knowing prefixes, suffixes, and root words

Connotation & Tone – Take the word and apply it to the character and what the character is doing in order to understand the passage. Does this word offer a positive or negative tone?

Outside Connections – Have I heard this word in a song, movie, or maybe world language? Connect the word with what you already know. 

In addition to the foldable that students have in their notebooks to refer to throughout the school year, I mix up the different ways that I teach vocabulary. Here are five additional ideas to teach vocabulary in any content area classroom:

1. Take a Poll – Using an online polling website like Polleverywhere.com I poll my student about a definition of a word. Students use their mobile devices to select the best definition for a word.

2. Idea Completions – Instead of the traditional “write a sentence using a new word,” provide students with sentence stems that require them to integrate a word’s meaning into a context in order to explain a situation.

3. Questions, Reasons, Examples –

What is something you could do to impress your teacher (mother, friend)? Why?

What are some things that should be done cautiously? Why? 

Which one of these things might be extraordinary? Why or why not? 

-A shirt that was comfortable, or a shirt that washed itself? 

-A flower that kept blooming all year, or a flower that bloomed for 3 days?

-A person who has a library card, or a person who has read all the books in the library? 

4. Making Choices – Students show their understanding of vocabulary by saying the word when it applies, or remaining silent when it doesn’t. For example: “Say radiant if any of these things would make someone look radiant.”

-Winning a million dollars. 

-Earning a gold medal. 

-Walking to the post office. 

-Cleaning your room. 

-Having a picture you painted hung in the school library.

5. Act It Out – Add some theater in your classroom and have students present a scenario or tableau that represent the word.

There is no one method for teaching vocabulary. Rather teachers need to use a variety of methods for the best results, including intentional, explicit instruction of specific vocabulary words. Teachers can also encourage creative approaches to spark enthusiasm.

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Integrated Thematic Hyperdocs

Integrated Thematic Instruction offers students a chance to learn in an environment where lessons in all subjects are woven around compelling themes that are expanded and explored throughout the year. This method of learning helps students connect lessons to real-life experiences. For students to be fully engaged, the content must have an application and be meaningful to their world. The standards are presented in theme-based units that allow for frequent connections.

I am currently teaching a college course titled Literacy in the Content Areas with pre-service teachers and current teachers from all different content areas. ALL content area teachers must play an active role in teaching students disciplinary literacy skills. The purpose of this course is to help teachers and teaching candidates learn how to integrate literacy (reading, writing, viewing, and communication) into content area classrooms so students can construct meaning in discipline-specific ways. Emphasis is on helping candidates acquire an integrated and balanced approach using literacy as a discipline-specific tool –  for supporting reading, writing, speaking and doing – as defined by the New York State Next Generation Learning Standards. 

Helping students to think about supporting students as writers, add history and bring in aspects of sports, I created this hyperdoc to help students learn about the segregated history of baseball and then make connections to athletes as social activists today. Below you can see the different aspects of the hyperdoc to allow for cognitive skills such as reading, thinking and writing in the context of real life connections that also allows for creative exploration.

Integrated thematic units can result in a lot of thoughtful conversations about the interconnectedness of the disciplines we teach.  There are so many reasons why using integrated thematic units can benefit your learners.

  • Helps students engage with the content being taught
  • Allows students to apply content throughout curricula
  • Learners are able to make connections
  • Draws from past experiences and prior knowledge
  • Develops vocabulary and comprehension skills

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Jumpstart Your Lessons With Some Movie Magic

This past weekend was the ISTE Creative Constructor Lab where educators gather to tinker, try and create media-rich projects with cutting-edge technologies. I am honored to be part of the amazing educators presenting during this virtual lab to share ideas that inspire creativity, innovation, and invention.

The last day of the conference I presented about the power of incorporating short videos and movie making to promote student engagement. Educators were encouraged to try one of these fun movie magic projects and make a quick video to share with the CCL community! Here are some of the movie projects shared:

I. CLONE YOURSELFEver wanted to know what it would be like clone yourself multiple times and do fun things together? 

Materials:

  • iPhone or iPad
  • Ghost Lens app 
  • A tripod or a place where the camera can be propped up and not moved AT ALL.
  • Tape or something to mark the floor
  • A person or very cooperative pet

Directions:

  1. Plan out your split screen by taking a piece of paper and splitting it into two. Assign what one clone will do on one side of the frame and what the other clone will do on the other side.
  2. Practice and time it out to see how long it will take. You will need to do both sides, film it at different times, it will look like it’s happening at the same time.
  3. Place the camera on a tripod or propped up where it won’t be moved!
  4. Divide the frame into two or three by placing markers on the floor (tape is a good idea). We recommend starting with one marker in the middle of the frame to divide the image in two. *Note: Marker is there so the subject knows where not to cross. If you cross, you will disappear so be careful!
  5. Open up the Ghost Lens app.
  6. Choose the template where it divides the image in two vertical sections.
  7. Film yourself twice.

Idea Starter:

  1. Start sitting on one side of the frame reading or doing an activity. 
  2. Look up at one point frustrated and go back to doing your activity. 
  3. Now film the second half by coming in from the other side of the frame being noisy and trying to get the attention of your clone. You can either walk out or stay in the frame giving up.

Helpful tip! Go behind the scenes of The Parent Trap (1964) using the split screen technique to clone the actor, Hayley Mills, as identical twins. Watch it HERE.

II. BOSS BATTLE VILLANSIn gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. 

Materials:

  • Digital Device
  • Snapchat app 
  • A tripod or a place where the camera can be propped up and not moved AT ALL.
  • Any necessary props

Directions:

1 . Plan out who is your boss battle character. You can choose to browse the different filters on Snapchat under “Explore” to find a “boss” students will battle.

Need more inspiration, check out @thebesteducator on Instagram to see the awesome bosses he has created for his 5th grade students. 

2. Collect necessary props or costumes to create an engaging profile.

3.Practice and time your boss introduction. 

4. Film and and share your intro boss video when students compete in their next boss battle. 

Gamification Note – Boss Battles are fun ways to prepare your students for tests and quizzes and assess their learning. They are meant as a way to review for formative assessments during class, and students answer questions out loud in the classroom.
Boss Battles can be created as a whole class game on Google Slides or Powerpoint or can be individualized self paced Google Forms set up as a Quiz. 

III. MOVIE MAKEUP MAGICEver want to learn movie-make-up magic to create fake bruises and more? Check out this tutorial to learn how to create bruises, cuts, and gashes that will scare your friends and family. Try them out on your yourself or your family members and create a portfolio with four or more examples of your work. 

Here are some other videos to help you with your own makeup special effects: 

  1. Black Eyes
  2. Bruises I & Bruises II
  3. Zombie Tutorial

IV. BACKWARDS MAGICSome of the best special effects are done just by reversing movie footage without any CGI or green screening. Using this trick of showing footage in reverse creates some of the most jaw-dropping moments you will ever see. How would you like to defy gravity? Make an object fly into your hands, or have your hair instantly dry after being totally wet?

Materials:

Directions:

  1. Plan out a movement where the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end. *Check out the “Backwards Movement Ideas” below for some ideas.
  2. Grab a prop(s).
  3. Open up your app, film your movement, and then reverse it.

Backwards Movement Ideas:

  • Shake off a hat from your head and make sure to film the hat landing on the ground. *The hat will fly from the ground onto the head.
  • With parents observing, jump from a low stool to the ground *You will look like you are floating up onto the chair.
  • Film a few seconds of yourself with dry hair looking into the camera then have someone, or yourself, pour water over your head. *It will look like the water is pouring back into the container and you become instantly dry.
  • Write something on a piece of paper *The pencil will “eat” up the words or drawing.
  • Now come up with your own!

Backwards Magic in Action!

Watch this lovely story about a lonely man trying to connect with someone in a backwards world in the short film, Love in a Backwards World

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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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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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