I'm going to have to download these wonderful resources for teaching and grading annotation.
Link to the Erwin/CPHS Vertical Team Google Docs
Please contribute your best grammar activities to our GoogleDrive:
I'm always hitting Google to find instructions for particular literacy strategies (yes, they're on the school's shared drive, but...well, let's just say that it's easy to get lost in there, and I'm not always at home.) This post is a holding cell for useful links.
Lupo's Literacy Lounge
Not the most comprehensive, but links open up editable word docs on your computer with the instructions - great for last minute planning when you need to throw instructions on the board, edited to fit your particular lesson. Also breaks strategies into Before/During/After columns. Does NOT explain each strategy before the click-through, so you need to already know what you're looking for.
I had forgotten about this marvelous article from the New York Times about how the brain processes what it reads. I wonder how students would respond to it?
Oy. The dreaded thesis statement. It's not easy to write, and certainly not easy to teach. The great news is that nowadays there are many GREAT resources out there to help us in both teaching and learning. Today, as I was putting together my notes on thesis statements, I developed a Cornell Notes outline (to support my struggling learners). I'm including that here, as well as a link to a great resource: It's a straightforward but pretty thorough checklist for writing a thesis statement. Thanks to John Tagg, over at Palomar College for his Handbook on Writing Essays.
Lexile scores are something that a LOT of people misunderstand and misuse. They are ONE measure of a book's complexity and should only be used as ONE factor in determining a book's suitability for a particular student or group of students. Like anything else, Lexile is just one tool. And there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to use it. If a teacher is using Lexile only as a way to generate a reading list ("Our 8th graders can ONLY read books between 800 and 1000L") that is an inappropriate use of the tool. The answer, though, is not to remove the tool, but to train the teacher. After all, If someone is using a hammer to pound their thumb, the answer is not to take away the hammer, but to teach them how to hit the head of the nail.
Here's how I would use Lexile appropriately. Take Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." It has a low Lexile score because the sentences are all fairly short and simple (typical of Hemingway) and his vocabulary is also short and simple (also typical Hemingway).
As a teacher though, I also know that TSAR is an incredibly deep and complex book when it comes to the content and the ideas it contains. This would make it a GREAT book for a high school student who is reading below grade level - he would get to read a book that is suitable for his age, but within his reading comprehension range.
Similar thoughts for "The Grapes of Wrath" - the text itself is pretty straightforward, but I would NEVER give that book to an 8th grader - whereas the Hunger Games I could.
Conversely, just because a book has a high Lexile score does not mean it is just for upper level students. Depending on content, it may be appropriate for a younger student who is reading at a higher Lexile.
Another way I might use Lexile is this: Say I have a student in the 9th grade reading below grade level. He ought to be able to read things with a 1000L, but he's only reading at 775L.
To improve his reading comprehension, he needs to read text that is at or just above his current level- enough to challenge and grow but not leave him lost or overwhelmed. So I suggest The Hunger Games (810L). It will be challenging for him, but I know it's a high interest text- he will be motivated to keep reading even though it is difficult. A few months later, maybe we'll try a book at 850L, then 875L. By the end of the year, he won't be at grade level, but he'll be a LOT closer than if we hadn't help him gradually step up with high interest, appropriately leveled text.
I didn't know all this about Lexiles even a year ago. I've learned through exposure at Professional Developments, reading conferences and self-guided research. Parents who are worried about Lexile scores being used wrongly should be advocating for better professional development for their teachers and time for teachers to identify student's current reading levels and plan for reading remediation with Lexile measurements as one guide, NOT for removal of Lexile as a tool.
I looooooove the idea of a flipped classroom, but have been really struggling over how that would translate in an English classroom. Today, I found this excellent post over at Cheryl Morris's site "Morris Flips English." I am officially INSPIRED! But, inspiration is nothing unless it results in action, right nation? (Thank you, Stephen Colbert) See the challenge I'm giving myself after the break.
My students are still struggling with annotating a text. It's a pretty straightfoward skill, but requires practice and reminders. It seems like an excellent candidate for something I could explain and demonstrate on video. I hearby pledge to create a lesson on annotation by...when? Next week? This weekend? The sooner the better, I think - after all, if it isn't something I can do quickly, then it won't be useful, amirite? Hold me to it, nation. Please, harass me. Mock me. I dare you. :D
First I have to admit that I am still learning how to teach, and by "learning to teach" I really mean "learning to plan." I am sitting here, reflecting on a lesson I taught today about organizing paragraphs when you are writing literary analysis, and realized that I had missed something pretty vital back last week when I first presented this information. For my formative assessment at the end of class, I asked my students to do a "3-2-1": Three things they learned or practiced about writing paragraphs, Two questions they still had, and One reason why good organization was important in writing.
Now, what hit me was that I had missed the target on stating a learning objective last week. The "3" and the "1" above are pretty vital, and I should have been explicit in stating those points. I did COVER them, but that's not the same as saying at the start of a lesson "today you are going to learn x,y and z and why x, y and z are important." I did have learning targets for that lesson, but they were fuzzy. I knew they were fuzzy and I knew today's lesson was fuzzy. It wasn't until I was writing down my 3-2-1 that I really understood what the point of the lesson was. And if I wasn't sure, I know darn well my students weren't sure.
Teaching English...teaching writing... is a fuzzy task. It's complicated, it's messy and it's very difficult to pin down something concrete: THIS is what I want you to learn. THIS is why and THIS is how. (I think that's why some teachers like grammar and vocabulary so much; it's concrete, discrete, and testable!) As I was writing my 3-2-1 prompt, it became clear to me that when I'm writing lesson objectives it is not enough to know the small objective for that lesson, but to understand how that objective will tie into the lesson three days down the road. That seems obvious, I guess, but as I said, I'm still learning.
What I learned: 1. It really is vital to start your lesson plan by writing your ASSESSMENT. It forces you to clarify, to make CONCRETE, the learning targets. 2. I have got to, got to, GOT TO get back to where I was at the start of the year - planning a week or more at a time. Doing lesson plans the night before does NOT cut it.
Ms. Bishop is a teacher and actor. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and son.