Tag Archives: common core

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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Helping Students Build Better Introductory Paragraphs

I always begin the school year with my students writing an argumentative essay connected to their summer reading text.  I do not grade this first essay, but use it as a pre-assessment to gauge my students’ writing strengths and plan the lessons I need to  teach them to become better writers. To help my students understand the expectations for Common Core writing demands,  I spent three consecutive days in writing workshop mode to help my students rethink and revise their first essay for eighth grade.

Each day the workshop began with a ten mini lesson and interactive foldable about an element of the introductory paragraph and then the remaining twenty five minutes was used for writing workshop, revision, and individual conferences. The writing went from general and casual to specific textual details and elaboration with strong academic language. Below are the slides I used for the mini lessons and a handout that I created to help students break down the elements of the introductory paragraph.

 

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Using the Common Core Standards to Inform Instruction

The Common Core Learning Standards cover this much:

I ——————————————————————————————————————————————————— I

The Common Core aligned assessments cover less than half of the CCL standards:

I ———————————————————– I

And, the state releases a small amount of the test for teachers and administrators to analyze:

I ——————– I

Also keep in mind, what gets tested is not always the most important.

This afternoon I attended a research seminar led by Dr. Brenda Myers, Superintendent of Valhalla Schools and former Superintendent of Groton Central School District both in New York State. Myers is an applied researcher in the areas of teaching, learning, and leadership development. The aim of the research seminar was to analyze the New York State English Language Arts test items to determine (1) the cognitive demand and instructional implications of the test; (2) the predictability and alignment of the test items to the Common Core Learning Standards; and (3) effective learning strategies for using the score reports and sample items to improve instruction.

Here is what I will do as a result of attending the seminar:

Teachers need to understand the standards in order to apply the standards in their classrooms. It is one thing to give teachers a copy of the CCLS and have the Core App on an iPad, it is another thing to ask teachers to create their own cheat sheet for the standards by grade level work. First, I will have teachers go through the standards and record the standards that they are already covering in their classrooms and what are the standards that they have been ignoring. Second, I will require that teachers create their own one page document of the grade level standards relevant to their classroom instruction.

During departmental meetings teachers need to have grade level conversations about what we want students to know and do, how teachers will teach and how students will be assessed. Teachers need to make sure they are covering all the standards including speaking, listening, and collaboration. Many teachers are teaching to the test, and teachers must be careful of how much of their understanding of the standards is based on the state aligned assessments.

Look at the New York State released ELA test questions aligned with the CCLS: What are students expected to know? What are students expected to do? Where might they find difficulty within the reading passage or the question itself? Identify the standard that the test question is addressing, the distractors in the questions and answers, and the skill being tested. Collaborate with other teachers to create a toolbox of instructional practices to help support our students as readers, writers, and critical thinkers.

Try giving students three questions about a text and have them write out their answers. Then, the following day, give students the same questions as multiple choice questions and let them use their original answers to help them answer the multiple choice questions. This strategy helps students do their own item analysis and identify the plausibility of distractors.

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Building a Better Body (Paragraph)

This week I am holding a writer’s workshop in my eighth grade English classroom to help my students understand and apply the elements of effective argumentative essay writing.  I began the week with an interactive foldable on Ways to Start an Essay which addresses six different strategies for to start any kind of essay.

Ways to Start an Essay Foldable

Ways to Start an Essay Foldable

For my students, the two hardest parts of essay writing are the claim/thesis and the analysis of textual evidence that supports the claim. In a post earlier this school year I created a foldable for writing a thesis or stating a claim.  Once my students have their thesis complete, we move on to the body paragraph.

The body paragraphs are the meat of one’s essay. The body paragraphs must include specific textual evidence to support one’s claim and provide analysis of the textual evidence describing how it supports the claim.  Stating, “This quote proves . . .” is not enough. One’s analysis needs to hold the reader’s hand and walk them through the connection between the textual evidence and one’s claim. The body paragraphs should include three or more examples of textual evidence to really prove the claim is valid.

I created a graphic organizer for my students to record the textual evidence, summarize the evidence, and describe how and why the evidence is significant to the claim. In completing the graphic organizer, my hope is that it will be easier for my students to craft a body paragraph that explains, proves, and supports the claim.

In addition, there is a great Writer’s Checklist on essay writing from Read Write Think that I adapted and had my students include in their Interactive Notebooks to help guide my students in the essay writing process.

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Are We Asking the Right Questions? Common Core Aligned Questions

This school year I have been spending time studying the most recent New York State ELA assessment that was created to align with the Common Core.  Looking at the question stems for the multiple choice, short answer, and extended responses, it is obvious that the assessment is not asking basic comprehension questions. Rather, students are expected to read for understanding and answer questions related to vocabulary in context, inference, figurative language, and author’s purpose.

Questions like:

Which detail would be most important to include in a summary of . . .

The author uses the simile in the passage below to emphasize . . .

This passage is an example of what literary device?

What effect does this sentence provide the reader as the story develops?

Based on the passage, what is the meaning of the word . . .

Based on the passage, it can be inferred that . . .

All of the assessments that I create for my students include these question stems so that my students are familiar with the vocabulary on these assessments.  Students are required to go back to the passages selected and read around the text in order to make inferences and understand vocabulary in context. Many of the questions focus on the author’s craft and utilizing context clues.

I do not believe in workbooks for test preparation. If we want to prepare students to succeed on these tests, we need to embed the test vocabulary and question stems into our daily lessons.   Since September I have been utilizing these questioning techniques and teaching close reading strategies so that students are able to read, understand, and respond to complex text.

Click here to see a sample of the most recent reading quiz I created for To Kill a Mockingbird and align with the Common Core.

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Unpacking NCTE 2013

Last week I spent four days at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Boston.  The convention was inspiring, informative, and a great opportunity to address current trends in English Language Arts today.  Throughout the convention I heard from resourceful teachers and engaging authors, brought back multiple bags of books for my classroom and professional development, and reflected on my teaching. Below are the top trends I took away from the conference and ideas worth sharing.

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1. Close Reading

Students do not have to read closely all the texts that we give them, but depending on task and the passage, students need to be able to read critically and closely to comprehend, analyze, and discuss text. Part of the Common Core, close reading requires students to slow down their reading and be able to make inferences and synthesize their understanding of the text. There are so many valuable professional resources that address this topic: Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives by Fisher, Frey, and Lapp, Note and Notice by Beers & Probst, and also Lehman and Robert’s Falling In Love with Close Reading.

2. Informational Text

The Common Core requires that on the secondary level young people read 70% informational text. That does not mean throw out the literature you are teaching, rather, supplement great informational texts that connect with what you’ve been doing in class or because the texts are topically interesting. There are great resources available on the web to help teachers find relevant informational texts. The New York Times Learning Network is one resource to check out, especially their new “Text to Text” feature that pairs timely informational text with novels currently being taught in schools. For example, Romeo and Juliet’s Montagues and Capulets as Shiite and Sunni is an interesting perspective to use as a lens for reading this classic conflict ridden love story.

Another new book soon to be released spring 2014, Using Informational Text by Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle offer nine informational articles to pair with To Kill a Mockingbird. The text includes the informational articles from a thematic perspective and scaffolds the reading of the text to support students’ reading and thinking. Sample chapters include speeches, interviews, newspaper articles, and medical documents.  Sample texts are available on their website.

3. Dystopia is Our Future

The hottest trend in publishing for young adults is dystopian fiction. With the success of The Hunger Games, there is a plethora of new novels, as well as renewed interest in older ones. I attended a session on dystopian literature and social theory (Derrida, Foucault, and critical race theories) in the English classroom. The presenters addressed how social theory offers an opportunity for students to think critically about the realistic and futuristic worlds presented in the fiction. The dystopian novels presented in the session included Brave New World by Aldous Huxley to address issues of  power, Chaos Walking series to address language, and Octavia Bultler’s Parable of the Sower to address race and ethnicity. As a 8th grade teacher who will be using dystopian novels for a literature circle unit this winter, this session gave me possible book titles and an idea to help my students critically engage with the text.

Neil Schusterman, author of the dystopian series Unwind and UnWholly, was  a key note speaker for middle school teachers. He spoke about where all the ideas for his recent book series emerged from, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit together to create a larger picture.  I was mesmerized by the different stories in the news that Schusterman pieced together to create a gripping tale about a world that is pro life, but between the ages of 13 and 18 parents may choose to retroactively get rid of their child through a process called “unwinding” and transplanting their organs into various other recipients. I cannot wait to read this book.

4. Common Core: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

There were teachers and workshops who embraced the Common Core and a few that were in opposition to the CCLS.  The bottom line is that the Common Core is here now and teachers must effectively address the standards to help their students succeed.  All of the workshops made connections to the Common Core addressing reading, writing, literacy, vocabulary, and assessment. I do not think that teachers need to reinvent what they are doing in their classroom right now, we need to pay particular attention to what we are doing right  and include classroom experiences that teach skills necessary for reading complex texts and tasks that require higher order thinking.

5. Technology Integration in the English Language Arts Classroom

Whether we are talking about gaming or QR codes, technology is an amazing tools to support our students as readers, writers, and creators.  I presented a poster that included more than three dozen technology based projects that I have had my students complete. Projects like creating movies, wikis, blogs, glogs, and more.  It is not about the technology, but the skills that students are utilizing when accessing technology.  Technology just adds a more contemporary and digital component to the assignment.

NCTE Poster 2013

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Eye of the Tiger Roar: Intertextuality & Katy Perry

In the Common Core Standards, students in fourth grade and higher are expected to “Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.”  This is a lot different from the “find one similarity and two differences” that has been the expectation up to now.

To help my students compare and contrast themes presented in multiple texts I have come up with this lesson addressing intertextuality using Katy Perry’s new song “Roar.”

intertextuality photo 1

Purpose:

Introduce students to the meaning of intertextuality and provide them with a few  examples.

Technology/Resources:

Katy Perry’s music video Roar:

Survivor’s music video for Eye of the Tiger:

Queen’s music video for We Are the Champions:

Procedures:

  1. First, play for the student the Katy Perry Video Roar and ask the students what the song is about.  Ask the students what the line “eye of the tiger” means in Perry’s song and if they have heard the saying before.
  2. Show students Survivor’s 1980s music video Eye of the Tiger.  Ask students, “How does this video inform your understanding of Katy Perry’s song Roar?  In what ways does this song change your understanding of Katy Perry’s song? “
  3. Tell the students that intertextuality is when a text ‘s meaning (story, book, article, song, video, movie) is influenced by another text.  Intertextual references can be subtle or obvious.  The key idea is that these intertexual references allow for a deeper understanding of the text.  Katy Perry’s music is a great example because she references so much music history in her songs – from Radiohead to Johnny Cash.
  4. Next show the students Queen’s video We are the Champions and ask students the connections between the previous songs.  “What are the messages all three of these artists trying to communicate?” Tell students, “Intertextual thinking can also be looking at patterns of events across stories, or looking at how authors have chosen to convey ideas about the same topic in different ways.”
  5. Break students up into small groups and have them look at the lyrics of all three songs to look across the texts for commonalities and reoccurring patterns. Students can share their findings with the large class after 6-8 minutes of small group discussion.

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Additional Thoughts About Intertextuality:

Charles Bazerman of University of California Santa Barbara writes,  “We create our texts out of the sea of former texts that surround us, the sea of language we live in.  And we understand the texts of others within that same sea. Sometimes as writers we want to point to where we got those words from and sometime we don’t. Nonetheless, the sea of words always surrounds every text.  The relation each text has to the texts surrounding it, we call intertextuality.”

We want our students to be able to make connections among texts so they are able to understand the jokes and parody involved with television shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Regular Show. Students also need to decipher intertextuality so they might understand the components across texts and identify bigger themes communicated in the stories we read.

For a copy of the intertextuality interactive notebook file and lesson plan you see in the pictures above click here.

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Writing a Thesis: An Interactive Foldable

This summer I have become obsessed with interactive notebooks. We know that in the real world scientists, writers, mathematicians, and historians all keep notebooks to collect their ideas, hypotheses, artifacts, and notes related to their interests and studies.  Why not have our students keep a notebook for the same purposes.  Interactive notebooks or journals are a place for students to house notes, ideas, and understandings. What makes an interactive notebook different from a journal is that interactive notebooks are three dimensional, colorful, include both teacher and student generated notes, and are a resource for key concepts and ideas.

There are some amazing teachers online who have created interactive notebook templates that are informative and engaging.  My FAVORITE interactive notebook ideas and lesson for reading literature and non fiction text come from Erin Cobb, middle school teacher and blogger.  If you are looking for interactive math journal ideas, teacher and blogger, Jen Runde, creates many ideas that pop off the pages of her students’ journals.

This summer I have been using the interactive notebooks with my summer school students and I am excited to start them with my middle school students this September.  Inspired by all the interactive notebook ideas that I have been pinning and reading  online, I have created my first interactive notebook foldable for my students on writing a thesis for a persuasive essay.

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Click here for a free copy of the template and lesson created on writing a thesis for a persuasive essay.

 

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