Category Archives: text sets

Critical thinking across multiple texts – Part I

In a 7th grade social studies class I visited a few weeks ago, the students used an evolving definition of “honorable” as a lens for reading multiple texts on warriors – ancient and modern. In the image below, the blue text was our original definition. As the students engaged in discussions about what it means for ancient and modern day warriors to be honorable, we added to the definition. Our ultimate goal was to get at the complexity of what it means to be honorable. What are abilities, qualities, achievements that demand honor? What training or life experiences are necessary? What is the role of codes of conduct? Is it possible to be perfectly honorable 100% of the time? What is tricky about this? What are sacrifices involved in pursuing being honorable?

Honorable anchor chart

Here’s an outline of the lessons we gave:

  1. One day interviewing a veteran – The class interviewed a modern day warrior, a veteran who works at their school. The students were asked to fill out an anticipatory set in advance. This was a very powerful experience that would launch their thinking as we moved forward.
  2. Two days on knights – The teacher and I modeled and then encouraged individual and partner close reading of multiple passages on knights in the medieval period – training and code of ethics. modeled annotations knightsDuring this close reading, the students underlined and annotated information in response to the question, “What are you learning that might help you think about how this warrior is honorable?” We provided lots of opportunities for 2-3 minute student-led conversations around what students were thinking regarding “honorable” and the content they’d just read and regarding how they were adding to their thinking as they read each additional passage. I quickly modeled having a conversation with a student as my partner (referring to our notes & thinking about what a partner had said before responding). Below is one student’s annotated texts.Student 1 annotated notes
  3. Two days on the samurai – A similar routine. Knight and Samurai texts
  4. Two days on modern day warriors – the marines. Students visited http://www.marines.com/operating-forces/strategic-warrior – a website that describes marines as strategic warriors and then they also visited a site that discusses posttraumatic stress disorder and includes videos (primary sources) of veterans talking about their PTSD.Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 6.44.55 AMScreen Shot 2016-06-03 at 6.58.11 AM
  5. Time to write in response to what they’d learned – Students were given a menu of options for responding – poetry, illustrating/creating art, writing a letter of appreciation to a veteran. In the future, we’re planning to encourage students to submit to http://www.teenink.com for publication.

Throughout all of these lessons, we continued to refer to the definition of “honorable” as a way to help students articulate what they were learning.

I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM THESE STUDENTS. In my next few blog entries, I’m going to write about what the students revealed in their annotations as well as how we determined which texts to use.

And a BIG THANK YOU to CHRIS, the classroom teacher who co-planned and taught with me!

Hope this helps.

Sunday

 

Writing with Mentor Texts – App Reviews in Grades 6-8

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Is anybody else sick of the five-paragraph essay? The book Writing with Mentors (Marchetti & O’Dell, 2015) was so refreshing to read as I ponder how to keep students excited about reading and writing analytically. The authors provide insight into how we can engage students in writing for authentic purposes in a variety of non-five-paragraph essay formats that align with the Common Core Standards. The key is using authentic texts – book reviews, restaurant reviews, etc.–as mentor through throughout the entire writing process. While the book is geared towards 9-12 grade, the authors’ approach is very appropriate for middle school students. I was inspired to try out a lesson as a result. (Depending on your students, you might be able to pull this off in even lower grades!)

Okay…heads up. I tried this out with one 7th grade student–my daughter– but having taught middle school and demonstrated lessons in lots of middle school classrooms, I can make the case that there’s room for this series of lessons with entire classes and with students at all ability levels.

My daughter is seriously into technology and has started a YouTube account with the purpose of “reviewing” apps. Sound familiar? So I designed a series of lessons that included critically reading published app reviews and then writing a review. Based on what I learned, here’s a set of lesson procedures—that will take multiple periods and can easily be blown into a longer series of lessons as well.

  1. In preparation for teaching, develop a text set of published app reviews for students analyze. Marchetti & O’Dell encourage teachers to read authentic texts for themselves, determining which texts might be mentors and developing text sets. I hunted for good app reviews and quickly realized that app reviews have common types of details–purpose, explanations of how to use, benefits, analogies, even counterarguments! I chose several to read during the lessons. I’ve attached the App reviews and the links if you’re interested.
  2. Start with what the students know by engaging in a shared writing of what they would include in a review or expect to see in a review. Scan 336
  3. Closely read multiple reviews and annotate for the types of details authors include–together, with a partner, independently. Below is a copy of my daughter’s annotations — these were heavily scaffolded to start and then as she read additional reviews, she started recognizing the types of details we’d already discussed. Scan 338
  4. During the close reading, maintain a list of the types of details that might be included in an app review. This is the trick-we have to provide students with the academic vocabulary they need to explain what an author is doing. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I’m a big fan of living, breathing anchor charts. I’d make a list of the types of details we were noticing in the reviews on a big piece of chart paper for all students to reference as I gradually release responsibility. This is the list I made as I read and annotated with my daughter and then as she read independently. Scan 339
  5. Challenge students to “try out” some of the types of details in their own review of an app. (BTW- this assumes the students are familiar with or have chosen at least one app to review which may be another lesson or a homework assignment.) The responsibility for writing an app review may need to gradually released–you might write part of one together and the students finish with a partner and THEN they write their own. Below is the review that my daughter wrote–she is a fairly strong writer so I was able to release responsibility quickly. I required her to use a counterargument (a simple that addresses why users might argue against using this app) and she independently chose to include figurative language. There’s definitely room for growth (in revising, editing, etc.)–which also makes the case for asking students to write multiple reviews over a unit of study.

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Embellish Your Photos With Stunning Graphic Designs And Typography With Font Candy

Easy Tiger Apps is a developer known for creating photo editing based apps, such as Split Pic, Animal Face, and Moments, so it is no revelation that they have released another amazing editing app.

Font Candy is meant for adding graphic designs and typography to your photos in the form of quotes. When you first open the app, you see your photo library, but you can also swipe at the top of the page to get more photo options, such as importing from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, or simply the internet. Once you select a photo, you are able to scale it for Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, and then decorate it with over 50 fonts.

Some might argue for a different app such as Pic Collage, because you can filter, blur, draw on and add text to your photos. However Font Candy still has many more capabilities. It is compatible with all photo collecting apps that exist on your phone, including less popular ones such as Boomerang and Flipagram while Pic Collage only carries Instagram, Facebook, and web searches. Creators of Font Candy were also able to zero in on one feature, fonts, carrying 84 free fonts, plus more available for purchase. Pic Collage has less than 40 fonts available.

Being a teenager in the twenty first century, pen and paper to me is like an air book mac to an elephant, i.e, of no use whatsoever. I can create art of all types on my phone, whether it is in video form or picture. But with smartphones dominating over the original flip phone, everyone can take a picture and Instagram it. However not everyone has the time and patience to turn their photos into quotable designs. So Font Candy offers an advantage to creative Instagrammers, to spice up photos with an abundance of fonts.

Hope this helps. If you try this out or have experienced similar lessons, please let me know how the lessons go!  AND BTW – this lesson experience opened my eyes to some easy ways to teach introduce counterarguments—more on this soon.

Sunday

 

Reading ACROSS Texts- Contemplating the “Value of”

Recently I taught a lesson with sixth grade students reading two texts on the topic of Hurricane Katrina. While the authors of both texts had the same purpose–recounting events that occurred when the storm hit land, the authors used different text structures to convey the content. The first text was primarily a timeline of what happened including statistics like wind speed and so forth. The second was a first-hand account by a journalist who barely escaped the destruction of her office when the storm hit. The author’s tone in the first text is “I’m giving you the facts” with a little bit of language that implies “this was a powerful storm that did a lot of damage.” The author’s tone in the second text is “this was a dangerous, life-threatening situation” and “this changed my life and how I view the world.”

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What is the value in reading both texts? For me, reading and thinking about both deepened my understanding of what happened and helped me develop a stronger perspective on how hurricanes impact the environment and humans.

How to convey to students that there’s value in reading multiple texts? When I asked the students to write about the “value of” reading and thinking about both texts, one responded, “In case I ever need to compare texts.” Not really what I was aiming for, you know? But I think over time–through conversation, this student’s perspective might change.

I write this because I’m thinking about how we can teach students to value reading multiple texts. I want them to see “reading and thinking across texts” as an opportunity to develop knowledge, as an opportunity to deepen their understanding, as a critical step anytime they are learning about a topic or issue. The Common Core attempts to get at this in standards like:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.6 –Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

I would add, though, that the standard doesn’t get at the value of doing this and that’s what I really want for students.

I’m thinking about this and will continue to share more 🙂

BTW – I’ve attached a doc that includes both texts. I found both texts on-line and chose to excerpt one page of each. I think this is enough text for 6th grade students to grapple with at one time. I’m aware that by excerpting, I might have changed each author’s overall purpose for the whole text. This was a worthy sacrifice for me as I was trying to make the reading and thinking manageable for students. I believe the excerpts are still powerful enough to provide room for critical thinking.

Hurricane Katrina Text excerpts

Hope this helps.

S

8th Grade Text Set & Prompt for Written Response, Part 1

Kudos to my ELA colleagues in a middle school who developed this appropriately rigorous text set and prompt for their 8th grade students studying the Holocaust. Together with the 6th and 7th grade teams, we analyzed several students’ written responses to this prompt. More on that in the next post 🙂

TEXTS:

Source A (entire article):

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/world/europe/holocaust-survivors-ever-dwindling-in-number-gather-at-auschwitz-for-memorial.html?_r=0

Source B (pages 9-12 only):

http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002186/218631E.pdf

Source C (video and transcript)

http://www.ushmm.org/remember/days-of-remembrance/why-we-remember

holocaust museum

PROMPT:
One of the important central ideas in the texts/video is the importance of “Remembering the Holocaust”.  Write an essay that compares and contrasts how the authors present this central idea.  You only need to compare two of the sources. Use textual evidence to support your comparisons, and you may refer to the sources by their actual titles or by Source A, Source B, and Source C.