Links from the webinar:
Interested in finding out how one school restructured their 9-12 ELA curriculum to meet the Common Core State Standards? Want some ideas for adding project based learning to your lessons? Here is a link to a webinar from edWeb and ePals explaining how my school, Burlington County Institute of Technology, facilitated the transition from the NJ Core Curriculum Standards to the CCSS. It also features some ideas for implementing the CCSS into the middle and elementary grades.
Links from the webinar:
Here is a vocabulary lesson plan that went particularly well with my freshmen students. We are about to study a unit on the Coming of Age novel. The summative assessment is for the students to write a personal narrative about their own "moment of knowing." After they write the narrative, they will create an iMovie telling their story.
Before they wrote the narratives, I wanted them to expand their vocabulary with regards to emotions. This is the lesson I created.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4b Identify and correctly use patterns of word changes that indicate different meanings or parts of speech (e.g., analyze, analysis, analytical; advocate, advocacy).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5b Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.
Each student was given a notecard with a word on it. Each word was a synonym for Love, Hate, Shame, Sadness, or Happiness. Using an 8X10 sheet of paper, students wrote the denotation, the connotation, part of speech, a symbol, at least three forms of the word, and two sentences using the various forms of the word.
I placed large sheets of paper around the room. Students were then instructed to gather around the sheet that contained the synonym of their word. They had to share the denotation and rank the words from most positive to most negative connotation. They finished by presenting their words and rankings to the class.
It went great! The students were engaged and really intense in their discussions on the nuances of the words and their meanings. It exposed them to a wide range of words for their writing and the understanding that language is rich and varied.
I attended an excellent workshop today at the Delaware Valley Minority Consortium. The presenter was from Rockville Centre in Long Island. At their South Side School District, they abolished tracked classes. All students are now in honors level classes.
Their position is that all students deserve the best curriculum.
Though this program was initially met with resistance and even some animosity from both faculty and parents, it has achieved great success. They have virtually closed their achievement gaps with regards to the number of students graduating with a Regents Degree. Though there was initially a 60 point variation between their white/asian and their black/hispanic population, the gap is now less than 3%. How many districts can make claims like that?
Additionally, their highest and middle of the road students increased in academic completion.
To what do they attribute this great success? A variety of things, including teacher training, improvement in overall best practices, and a rigorous and relevant curriculum.
This is a revolutionary idea. Honors for all? Imagine the difference if lower achieving students were no longer placed on a trajectory that virtually ensured failure in educational endeavors? Imagine the difference in the life of a child if we truly believed that all students could achieve academic success?
For more information, read here.
I wanted to share a lesson plan based on the Common Core Standards, grade 9 ELA.
I'd also like to see if another classroom is willing to participate in an online discussion at the conclusion of the lesson.
EQ: What does it mean to be alienated in society?
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
1. Read (as a class) "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Briefly discuss.
2. Distribute lyrics to "I'm Just a Girl," by No Doubt. Listen.
3. Have students (in pairs) do a close reading of both texts. Using highlighters to note and annotate similarities and differences in subject among both texts. (We will be using google docs for this).
4. Prepare 3 levels of questions for Socratic Seminar (see seminar blog post).
5. Participate in face to face (or online) Socratic discussion of the texts and their relation to alienation and equality.
We would like to complete this lesson plan and, if possible, hold an online discussion with another class during the week of November 12-16th, between 9:45 and 11:00 EST.
Silent Chalk Talk is a classroom activity that I picked up at the most excellent Educon conference last year. Since the conference, I have used this method in my class several times, each time with great success. I have found it to work best as an introductory activity, allowing students to explore their background knowledge and perspectives on a given subject.
It works like this:
1. Using a white (or chalk) board, or a mural size paper, write a few "big ideas." The last time we used the activity, our topics were Alienation and Inequality.
2. Students must remain absolutely silent. The free write their ideas around the big ideas on the board. I encourage the students to circle ideas and connect them to other ideas where relevant.
3. I allow my students some time for this activity. The step up, write, step back, think, step up, connect, etc.
4. Finally, we use the notes as a springboard for our discussions, especially noting the connections made. For more information on this activity, click here.
The Common Core State Standards (rightly so) place a high emphasis on vocabulary and vocabulary strategies. Knowing that this is one of the harder things to teach well, and knowing that our students struggle with text complexity due to this, we came up with some strategies to assist our students in learning new vocabulary.
Here are the standards related to vocabulary:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
What are our strategies?
1. Vocabulary Strategies Graphic: We created this graphic (with assistance from Standards Solutions) for each student. Every day we have the word of the day. A word is put on the board either in context, defined, or examples. Students use their strategies graphic to assist them in figuring out the denotation and connotation of each word.
2. We do activities where the students look at vocabulary patterns of changes or commonly confused words.
3. We have students revise writing to replace common words with more colorful words from the thesaurus.
4. We have students brainstorm all of the possible words related to another word, and then as a group, we make a list based on connotation. For example: Love
And so on. This allows students to use a common word (love), and examine how connotation plays a large role in word choice and meaning.
5. We look at the evolution of language through newly added dictionary words, and words no longer in use (groovy, huh?).
6. And, yes, we are hitting them hard with grammar. Most of the mistakes in usage come from not understanding the part of speech. We are working to make this an every day activity for them so that they can quickly use a word correctly.
I use the Socratic Circle method in class often. I find that when I use it with a fiction or non-fiction reading, the students cover everything I would cover and more, provided they have properly prepared for it.
First, I have students complete a reading (usually outside of class). For the first few circles we hold, I have the students create their questions in class, as it is difficult for them to understand the levels. They create three types of questions:
Level 1: Literal- A literal question’s answer is in the text. It is explicit and fact based (fully and clearly expressed, not implied). For example:
Who is Friar Lawrence? Is Benvolio a Montague or a Capulet?
Level 2: Analysis/inference- The act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true. Ask how and why, require analysis of text, reading between the lines, hidden meaning. For example:
Why does the nurse agree to assist Romeo and Juliet? What does Friar Lawrence think about the marriage?
Level 3: Synthesis- Questions that reach beyond the text and inquire into the value, importance, and application of the information presented. For example:
Can fate be defied? Are teenagers capable of true love?
I have students pair up, with one partner evaluating the other while they are in the circle. This allows them to gain skills both in speaking and listening, and evaluating. I created the following hand out and rubric (based on the Common Core State Standards) for use in class. Feel free to use and or modify them to suit your needs.
Socratic Circle Instructions
CCSS Speaking and Listening Rubric
After two days of training on Teachscape and the Charlotte Danielson method for teacher evaluations, I thought I would share my thoughts on the system.
Overall, I give it two thumbs up. I'm really excited about the comprehensive and equitable criteria. They are well researched and mesh with what I consider good teaching. Here are my favorite components in no particular order:
1. I love that this model mandates teacher feedback. There is ALWAYS room for improvement in pedagogy. I prefer that it is the norm to receive constructive criticism. I know that my lessons are not perfect and welcome another set of eyes to assist me in my quest to be the best I can be. I also welcome the chance to open discussion between myself and my administrators. The fact that both the evaluator and teacher rate the lesson allows for and encourages communication. Often, when an admin explains why something was or wasn't right, I'll think, "Wow, I never thought of it that way before." Which leads me to the question, why aren't teachers required to take a supervisory course as well? It might improve their pedagogy.
2. I love the fourth quadrant. It revolves around teacher reflection, professionalism, and individual growth. The suggestion is that teachers who are truly distinguished from their colleagues are the ones who network and seek to further their education and skills. I would imagine that Twitter will receive a large influx of teachers seeking to reach proficiency in this category.
3. I love the fact that we "live in effective, but visit highly effective." I'm not type A; I'm type AA. If I was told I had to be highly effective all of the time, I'd probably bow out rather than set such unrealistic expectations for myself. Teaching is such a difficult profession and it requires many components to come together for a "highly effective" lesson.
4. I like Charlotte Danielson. I've seen quite a few video interviews with her at this point, and I find her trustworthy and genuine. I like what she proposes, and I'm pleased that we have adopted her model of teacher evaluations.
Over the years, I have learned a lot of tips on how to make the beginning of the school year progress smoothly. Though my classes definitely start more smoothly now, some of that, I know, comes from age. One of the benefits of aging in education is that you command respect more readily from the students. You still have to work hard to keep it, but some of those initial "testing" days are not quite as intense.
Here are some of the things I have found to be helpful:
1. I always book the Mac lab for the first day. No one else ever wants it, and nothing gets a classes attention more quickly or makes them more receptive to your class than technology. Once, we skyped with a class from Texas our first day. Wow! The kids were floored. Instant engagement. More often, however, I have them create avatars using Voki. The kids love introducing themselves in this manner, and it really gives insight into their style. I add all of the Voki's to our class website. You can see last year's here under the avatar tab.
2. Another thing I do the first week is gather a writing sample from my students. I then create a spreadsheet with common areas of difficulty (spelling, comma rules, agreement, etc.) and chart each student with S or W for each area. I immediately get a feel for each student's level and I can target problem areas quickly and efficiently. I can't tell you how much this helps. I always collected writing samples, but until I started charting, it wasn't nearly as valuable as a formative assessment.
3. The last thing I will share is my rule list. I have one, Be Respectful. It is really all you need to run your class. I don't get bogged down in 10,000 rules and regulations like I used to. I expect students to be respectful to me, each other, themselves, and classroom materials. In turn, I always show them respect. There is nothing more important for a classroom than mutual respect.
Literacy and Technology Specialist, English Teacher, Learner, Integrationist.