Tag Archives: CCLS

Is All Evidence Equal: Weighing Textual Evidence

This week I gave my students a short response prompt based on the propaganda presented in their dystopian texts. Students are reading Animal Farm, The Giver and Unwind. The prompt was as follows:

A variety of propaganda techniques are used throughout the fable in small and incremental measures to confuse, influence, and keep the other animals on the farm under control, as well as to make outsiders think that Animal Farm was successful.

There are six types of propaganda that are commonly recognized: 1) Bandwagon, 2) Scapegoating, 3) Unapproved Assertions, 4) Slogans, and 5) Fear.

Which type of propaganda did those in control use to their advantage most effectively?

Why did that type of propaganda work so well on the members of the community?

In your short response be sure to identify the type of propaganda used effectively with two or more examples textual support. Also include why this type of propaganda worked so well on the others.

Whereas my students know to include direct textual evidence in their writing, the question remains: Is the evidence students are selecting the strongest evidence to support their claim? 

This year I am requiring students to organize textual evidence using graphic organizers I create to use in tandem with the foldables that go in their Interactive English Notebooks. But is not just about students mastering the ability to pull any evidence from the text, it is necessary  students also weigh and debate the evidence selected so that it is the strongest in supporting their claims.

Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen address this same topic in their book Teaching Interpretation Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning (Heinemann, 2014).

small-group-work-rank-the-evidence-presented-in-the-envelopes-which-is-the-strongest-evidence-and-why-be-prepared-to-defend-your-answers

Based on the ideas presented in their text, I have created a foldable for my students to remember that not all evidence is equal. To reiterate this idea about evidence, I have taken various quotes about fear from each of the three dystopian texts for students to work in small groups and rank the evidence for use in the short response prompt above: Which is the strongest evidence? Why? Which is the weakest evidence? Why? What makes the strongest evidence the strongest? What makes the weakest evidence the weakest? Which evidence tells? Which evidence shows?

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Shawn Young, CEO Classcraft Games

During a week long trip with my family to Quebec this past week, I was able to meet up with Shawn Young, CEO and Co-Founder of Classcraft Games in Sherbrooke, Canada.

Shawn’s insight into gamification in education helps inform my classroom practices and use of games with my students. As I continue to plan for this upcoming school year, I share the the knowledge Shawn divulged about technology, building (life long) skills, and the future of gamification in education.

classcraft

Michele: What does gamification mean to you?

Shawn: Gamification has become a bit of an umbrella term in the last few years – people apply the term to anything where you can gain points or badges. Not surprisingly, seeing gamification  from this lens leads to experiences which can feel stale, boring or lack meaning.

For me, gamification is much more than that. In fact, I prefer the term ludicization : “To create a situation from which play can emerge”. In this sense, gamification becomes the art of crafting experiences in which many of the components of games can be applied (autonomy, competency, social relationships, randomness, feedback, etc.) to create a state of playfulness. Using these components leads to genuine fun (with a purpose) from which intrinsic motivations can stem. Simply put, good gamification is applying extrinsic motivators that will be internalized to produce intrinsic motivation.

Michele: As a former teacher, what do you see as the benefits of gamification for teachers and students?

Shawn: This depends on the approach, really. With Classcraft, we help teachers gamify the experience of coming to school, rather than gamifying content, like you would see with math or language games. From that perspective, the benefits on classroom culture are huge: students are taking ownership of the way the classroom is run and are significantly more engaged, even with the rote day-to-day tasks that occur naturally from class life. The game is very collaborative, so they gain a team that’s looking out for them and face challenges together. They also get much more positive reinforcement than they are used to, which has a big impact on their perception of self-worth. Obviously, this is great for teachers, who feel like they are working with students, not against them.

Michele: How did you first get involved in gaming for education? When and how did Classcraft come to fruition?

Shawn: Classcraft stemmed out of my own unique background as grade 11 physics teacher, web developer and gamer. I have been playing board games and video games since I was kid and that continued on into my adult life. As an educator, I was able to relate culturally with my students – indeed, we were playing the same games! I had a poor school experience growing up, often feeling like I was wasting my time, so my main focus as a teacher was making sure that coming to school was pertinent for students and that they felt that it was.

It dawned on me that the experience of coming to school would be much more satisfying if it was like an RPG, so I made a quick prototype and started playing with my students. I fine-tuned the game over the course of 3 years before making a little website to share with other teachers what I was doing. Overnight, the website attracted 150 000 visits – seems like a lot of other people were interested in doing the same! I then teamed up with my brother, Devin, who is a designer, and our father Lauren, who has 35 years experience in business and accounting, and Classcraft was born. Since then, the platform has evolved tremendously!

Michele: What are the elements from (classic) video games that can benefit teachers and students for gamification purposes?

Shawn: When thinking of this question, people tend to look for tropes – ”Should I use XP + levels?” “Do students need an avatar?” or “Should I lay this out on a map?” are typical questions that come up from these types of questions. At Classcraft, our focus is more on the fundamental psychology of self -determination theory and how it applies to video games. There is a reason gamers are willing to spend hours repeating the same boring task to complete an objective, but aren’t willing to spend 5 minutes doing math homework: games fulfill 7 fundamental motivational needs (autonomy, competency, relationships, discovery, surprise, feedback, storytelling). These are the elements we lifted from games to design a playful experience and they are outlined on our blog.  

 

Michele: What life skills and Common Core Standards does Classcraft and gamification address?

Shawn: Classcraft is very customizable: it can be used to develop any “soft”-skills by identifying behaviors that show mastery and giving points for that. For example, if you want to develop grit in your students, you’ll identify behaviors that are indicative of grit, like persevering in the face of adversity, and give students points for those behaviors, thus encouraging explicitly to internalize them. Because all of these behaviors are logged in the game, you’ll be able to assess development of these skills by looking at the per-student behavior analytics in the platform. That being said, Classcraft explicitly foster meaningful teamwork, ownership of learning, prosocial skills and perseverance. In terms of CCS, Classcraft doesn’t gamify curriculum, it gamifies the experience.

Michele: You have said that “when playing video games, kids feel a sense of empowerment.” Can you talk more about this. What do you mean?

Shawn: In a video game, the player inherently knows that they can succeed. Even in the face of the most difficult challenges, they can try as often as they like and develop their skill. Often times, they can tackle problems in several ways and make meaningful choices about their trajectory within the game. All of this leads to a sense that the player can shape their destiny and build mastery for success.

Compare this to the school experience: kids often have only one set way to complete their journey through a course and only get one chance to demonstrate mastery of given piece of content.  It doesn’t feel very empowering.

Michele: As the Gamemaster for Classcraft, what are you dreaming up and working on now for teachers to benefit from you gaming platform?

Shawn: We’ve got a lot of things coming 🙂 One thing we’re focused on is integrating with more platforms and partners. We’re already integrated with Google Classroom and Microsoft’s Office 365 and we want to create more opportunities for teachers to be able to gamify the entire student experience, no matter which platforms and tools they are using. We are also looking at building more game features, like self-correcting quizzes students can complete for XP and storylines they can play out throughout the year.

Michele: What has the best thing about creating Classcraft and sharing it with teachers all around the world?

Shawn: This may sound hokey, but it’s been really great for everyone on the team to see the profound positive impact we have had on teachers, students and parents. Every day, we receive videos, pictures and testimonials from people using Classcraft telling us how it has changed their lives for the better. From the shy fifth-grader who wrote us to tell she had finally been able to make friends because of Classcraft, to the burned out teacher who has found the love of teaching again, to the parent who is raving about how motivated their child is, all of these testimonials act as fuel to keep us imagining new ways to make the classroom a better place.

Michele: Since gaming and gamification is continuously evolving, where do you see it going? What do you see as the future of gamification for educational purposes in the next year, 5 years, and even 10 years from now?

Shawn: Who knows!? 🙂 It’s definitely an exciting time for the field. Tech is changing faster than we can anticipate and opportunities like VR and augmented reality will definitely have an impact on the field. I’m certain we’ll see it become much more prevalent than it is now, as educators see success stories and jump on board.

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Qualities of Great Speakers: Building Student Speaking Skills

What are the qualities of a great speaker?

Who are the great speakers we can model?

If you mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr., what makes his a historic speaker? What are the qualities that he exudes in his speech writing and public speaking? What are some of the aspects of his public speaking we want our students to model?

What were the words or phrases that stuck with you throughout the speech?

How does King use his voice and body language to captivate his audience?

How does MLK utilize repetition in his speech to leave an impression on the listener?

What other “moves” does MLK use in his speech to make a lasting impression on his listeners?

Check out a list of Rhetorical Devices and Strategies that King uses throughout his speech.

Now, let’s look at John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Speech in January 1961.

Whereas MLK wrote his own speeches, JFK wrote his speech with the help of his speech writer, Ted Sorenson. The phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country” was taken from JFK’s headmaster at Choate School when he was a student. He headmaster was known to say, “Ask not what your school can do for your; but what you can do for your school.”

What public speaking skills does JFK bring to the conversation?

How are JFK and MLK similar and different at orators?

The majority of famous speakers today draw inspiration and borrow devices from great public speakers of the past like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.

The voice is unique in its ability to communicate. There is no one good speaking voice, but most audiences agree that a pleasant, expressive voice has certain pleasing qualities. A good speaking voice is not born, but developed through training and practice. Through proper use of breathing, resonance, articulation, and pitch we can communicate more effectively.

Your voice and the way that you speak says a lot about you.

Your voice is your most influential tool in a speech situation.

Similar to reading, students are expected to learn public speaking in secondary school. But many of our students are not comfortable speaking in front of the whole class and do not understand that listening requires a person to give their undivided attention to the speaker (eye contact, body at rest, mouth closed, all distractions put away).  Many of us will teach or are already teaching ELL students or students with limited English speaking skills along with student who are proficient speakers. How do we support all of our students as public speakers? 

Speaking and Listening is part of the Common Core and starting by the first grade, “students are expected to know and be able to do the following during small- and whole-group discussions: follow participation rules, build on others’ comments, and ask clarifying questions.” By middle and high school the conversations and group work is more demanding. Speaking and listening must go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” opportunities we offer students during class activities. Students must also be able to present information to small groups and large audiences. Students can utilize technology and podcast or video their presentations too.

 What are creative ways that you can have students practice speaking and build their communication skills?  

Our job is to excite students about the world, to help them see the role that they can play in making society a better place, to express their ideas powerfully, to see that our content area is about real world problems, issues, and possible solutions. Our content areas should show students the world, not just tell them about it. Our curriculum needs to include role plays, simulations, debates, formal speeches, and demonstrations. Screen-casts, podcasts, and video projects are all great venues that allow students to utilize speaking and listening skills.

 

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Speak Up: 12 Informative Speech Ideas to Promote Speaking and Listening in the Classroom

Speaking and Listening is part of the Common Core and starting by the first grade, “students are expected to know and be able to do the following during small- and whole-group discussions: follow participation rules, build on others’ comments, and ask clarifying questions.” By middle and high school the conversations and group work is more demanding. Speaking and listening must go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” opportunities we offer students during class activities. Students must also be able to present information to small groups and large audiences. Students can utilize technology and podcast or video their presentations too.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4

Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.5

Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.6

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/SL/8/

One of my most popular blog posts is 50 persuasive speech and debate topics. I wanted to come back to this topic of speech and debate topics to catalogue informative speech topics that students can complete to practice speaking and build their communication skills.  Below are 12 different informative speech topics that creatively tap into research, writing, speaking and listening skills.

  1. The Letter Lecture – Students take turns “lecturing” to the class by reciting the alphabet or counting to fifty. Without having to think about what you are saying, you can concentrate on making eye contact, gesturing for emphasis, and other elements of great speakers. When lecturing students can put inflection on the letters or numbers as though they are really saying something, and meeting each classmate’s eyes at least once. This activity is more to help students understand inflection, emphasis, tone and volume, rather than focusing on a specific topic.
  2. Create an Imaginary or Mythical Creature – Describe the following: What does it look like (size, fur, scales, nose, claws, color, tail)? Is it a mammal, reptile, amphibian, marsupial, alien? What does it eat? What eats it? Why kind of habitat does it live in? Does it make a sound? What survival characteristics does it have (flies, swaims, runs, digs, camouflages, flights)? Present an informative speech on the creature.
  3. Splendorous Persons Award – We have all seen the award shows —  VMAs, the Oscars, the Tony’s, the Emmys, and the Grammys — the award shows that celebrate and highlight people’s achievements. Find someone in class and interview them in order to find out what makes them so splendorous – ask them about their achievements, strengths, and what makes them unique, why they deserve this award. Write a short speech to introduce and present the award (think lifetime achievement awards) to the recipient. As the recipient, you also need to come up with your thank you speech. Who are you going to thank and why? What lasting words do you want to leave your audience with?
  4. Personal Icon Presentation – Students are to build a visual representation of themselves (a personal icon). Students can use their icons to share as much or as little about themselves they are comfortable with using any objects, scale models, photos, memorabilia, drawings, jewelry, cut-outs, or collections that they choose (Do not include names or photographs that would identify you to the rest of the class.) This can be a collage, a grouping of found objects, a piece of artwork, your imagination is limitless. Concentrate on the overall message about yourself that you would like to communicate through the choice of symbols.
  5. “I Have a Dream” Speech – In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. students come up with a topic for their own “I have a dream” speech. In the speech students can talk about a dream for yourself and/or the country. The dream can range from the simple to the grand. The speech should include what the dream in, why it is important to them personally, and one thing they can do to accomplish the dream.
  6. Speech of Introductions – Begin by identifying a major, defining characteristic of “you,” a personality characteristic or a value which you believe in very strongly. Then, write a “personal statement,” a statement that defines the essence or a defining characteristic of you. The personal statement must be a positive statement about yourself; it cannot include negative words. Your personal statement will serve as the central idea of your speech. Develop one or two examples to illustrate what you mean and how this is true. Make yourself and your speech interesting by beginning with a question or anecdote. Provide an initial summary of the three or four defining characteristics you have selected to communicate about yourself. Discuss each of the three or four characteristics, offering examples or explanation to illustrate why your characterization is appropriate. Conclude by summarizing the three characteristics.
  7. Best Selling Authors – Ask students to speak clearly and forcefully by organizing thoughts and using their imagination to create a believable monologue. Act as an expert author on one of these subjects: Alternative Housing: Living in Tree Houses, 1,000 Useful Items Made from Spaghetti, Alternative Transportation: Roman chariots and horses, The Joy of Being Invisible: A pill that works, Changing Lifestyles: Rent a Mom or Dad.
  8. Teacher Travel Agency – You have just been hired by the Teacher Travel Agency as a travel agent. It is your job to present an informative speech on a specific travel destination to the rest of the class. The goal is to inform future travelers about this destination and why it is worthwhile for them to visit. Remember to include information that will be helpful to prospective travelers: weather conditions in the country, passport regulations, interesting tourist attractions, things to do there, places to stay, and additional information that is necessary for planning a wonderful excursion.
  9. Legends – A legend is a person, group, movement, or event which has influenced the way we think, the way we perceive our world. It may reinforce values we already hold or it may force us to reexamine our current values and establish new values. For this speech, students will inform the audience about a legend that has significantly influenced our world and or community. Thus, the legend might be a person, group, movement or event which has influenced the fields of Education, Business, Science, Art or Music. Or the legend might be a person, group, movement or event which has influenced American culture – Barack Obama to Jimi Hendrix, MTV to Google, Hillary Clinton to Madonna. The goal is not to outline the life of a person, group, movement, or event – the goal is to tell the audience how the legend changed things forever.
  10. Willy Wonka – You have invented a new candy. A meeting has been arranged with the president of Nestle Candy Company, the largest candy company in the world. At the meeting you will have a chance to inform the corporate executives of your candy invention. Write an informative speech to present to the president of Nestle about your candy invention.
  11. News Reporting – This assignment gives students the opportunity to see what it would be like to work as a member of a news team. Students choose a popular topic today and prepare a news report based on research and interviews.
  12. The Pet Peeve Speech – Express your frustration and anger about something that upsets you – a pet peeve. For example, a person who constantly interrupts or someone who is always on their cell phone. Voice your anger and illustrate what about the occurrence gets you so upset. What can people do to stop this annoying habit?

Have additional speech ideas? Please share in the Comments section below.

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Close Reading Lessons Learned From Star Wars & Game of Thrones Diehards

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Images from http://blastmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/star-wars-1.jpg

My colleague has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens four times over the past three weeks since opening night. During our daily lunch duty we have been talking about our interpretations and thoughts on the movie. Intrigued by his diehard interest in seeing the movie four times, I asked him what he looks for with each viewing. Here is what he told me:

First Viewing – Get the Gist of the Story, Make Connections, Ask Questions

Second Viewing – Dig Deeper, Make Inferences and Predictions

Third Viewing – Pay attention to Editing, Color, Symbolism, Foreshadowing

Fourth Viewing – Listen closely to music for more symbolism, foreshadowing, and confirm predictions for the next film.

The more he talked about his different viewings I realized I do the same thing with Game of Thrones. I watch the episode the night it first airs for understanding, making connections from previous episodes and the books, and posing questions. The next day I talk about my first viewing with all my colleagues, and then between the night the show airs and the next episode, I might watch again or even twice for a reread. In my second and third reading I pay closer attention to match on match edits, colors, and catching events and mannerisms I might have missed in the first read. I guess I can credit HBO with helping me to hone my close reading skills.

Close reading is a buzz word that has bombarded every English teacher since the introduction of the Common Core Learning Standards. The reality is that many Star Wars and Game of Thrones diehard fans are close reading experts who our students can model and mentor.

In Grant Wiggins’ blog post on close reading (May 17, 2013) he defines close reading as a “disciplined re-reading of inherently complex and worthy texts.” Wiggins goes on to includes Nancy Boyles’ definition, “Essentially, close reading means reading to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension.” He includes a quote from Tim Shanahan why close reading is necessary, “Because challenging texts do not give up their meanings easily, it is essential that readers re-read such texts.”

So here ELA teachers are trying to get students to peel back to the layers of the texts utilized in classrooms and many students might already be doing this with their fan favorite texts whether it be The Regular Show on Cartoon Network or the entire Star Wars collection. We must tap into our student’s fan favorites and identify the close reading habits already mastered. Then, teachers can introduce additional thinking habits that will uncover new information, inspire the desire to learn more, and allow students to become Jedi Knights of interrogating texts.

 

 

 

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Unpacking Race in To Kill a Mockingbird and A Raisin in the Sun in Response to Ferguson and Baltimore

This week I presented at the annual Critical Questions in Education Conference in Baltimore, MD. I presented with my esteemed colleagues, Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle, authors of Using Informational Text to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird (2013) and Using Informational Text to Teach A Raisin in the Sun (2015). 

Texts like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Raisin in the Sun are widely taught in language arts classrooms throughout the United States.

But how are these texts being taught? What kinds of questions are students being asked to think about in relation to these texts? How can we use these seminal literary works to unpack and uncover the difficult “hidden history” of race in the United States? How, using text pairings with informational and other literary texts, can we support our students in engaging in difficult but informed conversations about race in our classrooms? This panel will offer specific strategies and assignments developed in relation to best practices, research, and classroom experience.

With Raisin, for example, we offer strategies to incorporate readings on the violence associated with housing desegregation and on restrictive covenants and duplicitous housing practices like redlining and contract selling to underscore the kinds of obstacles families like the Youngers faced. We also offer strategies to incorporate readings about the current state of housing discrimination and research about the inequalities of opportunity in order to underscore for students the ways in which the issues in Raisin continue to resonate and impact society today.

With Mockingbird, we suggest ways to think through the troubled racial politics of Harper Lee’s 1959 novel, allowing students to explore the ways in which Atticus is not a hero and the blindspots in young Scout’s unreliable and incomplete narration of the events in the novel. Working with material about lynching and about African-American maids and nannies, for example, students can unpack Mockingbird’s complex racial politics. Sections from the new Go Set a Watchman can be used to further complicate our understanding of and the continuing relevance of both works.

In addition to these two iconic texts, we will share contemporary titles like The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2010) and Jason Reynold’s When I Was the Greatest (2014) that offer poignant glimpses into urban America. Participants will walk away with a list of more than a dozen contemporary Young Adult texts to expand classrooms libraries and build text sets that support units on race, ethnicity, and identity.

Events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere demand critical conversations in our classrooms about race and ethnicity in the United States. Teachers need to expose young people to diverse texts that help them understand the troubled history that produced the segregation, the urban blight, the hopelessness, and the abuses of power that characterize these troubling events. Our students need to have conversations about these issues that are grounded in historical facts and texts. Literary masterpieces, like Mockingbird and Raisin, are the ideal places to begin these difficult conversations, but only when these texts are thoughtfully conjoined with other contemporary and classic, fictional and informational texts and resources that allow our students to be informed thinkers.

Below are the slides for my presentation and a link to the valuable information from Audrey & Susan’s power point.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/dasdiouypyp0twe/Baltimore%20presentation2015%2010-31.pptx?dl=0

How are you using these texts or others to engage in critical conversations with your students?

I would love to know. Post your comments below.

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Think Tac Toe Reading Response

The Common Core Standards identify reading competency for students and teachers (based on the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) as someone “capable of proficient, close, and critical reading that reflects, wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with a range of high quality, complex informational and literary texts.” Students and teachers must demonstrate “command of evidence found in texts and use cogent reasoning to analyze and synthesize information, and structure for a given task, purpose, and audience.” (NY State Education Department, 2014)

 

I have implemented an article of the week with my 8th grade students. I adopted this reading strategy from Kelly Gallagher, to help my students practice reading and read a wider array of texts to build world knowledge. Students are to read a selected article each week and show evidence of their reading by marking up the text. After reading, students are to write a response to the article using our Google Classroom. The reading response is a multi-paragraphed reflection that shows his or her understanding of the text. To tackle the Common Core reading skills I have created a Think Tac Toe response activity to help scaffold how to respond to a text. Students are to complete THREE squares. They must complete a Tic-Tac-Toe, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Students must go in a straight line; a student cannot just choose any three random squares. Students are practicing the Common Core reading skills, build prior knowledge and knowledge about the world.

 

Determine what the text says explicitly Make logical inferences based on textual evidence Draw conclusions based on textual evidence
Determine the central ideas or themes of the text and analyze the development of the central ideas or themes of the text Free

Choice

Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of the text
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in the text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings Analyze how specific word choices shape meaning and tone in the text Determine the author’s attitude, opinion, or point of view and Assess how point of view and purpose shape the content and style of the text
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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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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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Text Dependent Questions

I want to continue my post from last week with a closer look at how to create text dependent questions that scaffold students’ reading and understanding of a text. I just finished reading Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey’s TDQ: Text Dependent Questions Grades 6-12 (Corwin, 2015) and it is filled with valuable resources for all content area teachers.

tdq

Close reading has been a buzz world in the realm of education since the introduction of CCLS. Fisher & Frey go into depth illustrating what close and critical reading lessons LOOK like and SOUND like in the classroom. The authors define close reading as, “an instructional routine in which students are guided in their understanding of complex text.” (p.1) Incorporating close reading practices into the classroom teachers must select short, complex passages that promote multiple readings and challenge the readers thinking.  Students are required to annotate the text: underlining, recording codes in the margins, circle key words, and writing in the margins. Most importantly, close reading requires collaborative conversations about the text, including argumentation. Close reading is not an independent act. Collaboration and discussion is key in helping students to think critically about a text.

Fisher & Frey state, “Close reading is not one and done reading. Rather, it is purposeful, careful and thoughtful. Complex text does not often give up their meaning quickly or easily. Instead, readers learn to look for different things as they interact with a given text during a series of successive interactions.” (p.5)

The authors identify four levels or phases of close reading:

What does the text say? — It is important to address the literal understanding and basic comprehension based on explicitly stated information in the text.

How does the text work? — Examining the author’s craft, vocabulary, and structure (Connects to CCLS Reading Anchor Standards 4, 5, & 6).

What does the text mean? — Look at the “layers of meaning” in the text, the hidden meanings, inferences, and the author’s purpose.

What does the text inspire you to do? — Create action oriented questions and tasks. Fisher & Frey write, “All writers hope to transform the thinking of their readers. . . Learning advances when students are able to transform information into products . . .learners to transform knowledge into something that is meaningful.” (p. 139)

These habits of thinking and inquiry help students collaborate, speak, listen, think critically, question, infer, synthesize, make connections, revise, and draw conclusions. These are life long skills that are not only part of the standards but necessary for academic success and apply in the world outside of school.

As I craft text dependent questions for my students in my English classroom I am more aware of asking Fisher & Frey’s four layers of questions so that I can help my students understand complex texts and push them to learn to ask questions themselves.

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