Friday, February 27, 2015

Historical Fiction/Information Text Unit - Civil Rights Movement (Post 1)

Our 7th grade team started a new unit this past week, as we aim to overlap research, reading and writing informative texts, reading literature, and historical fiction narrative writing with a powerful movement in history - the Civil Rights Movement. To start the unit, we told our students that we weren't going to tell them what our new unit was about until later on in the day. They were totally weirded out by that concept, but I think it hooked them early on. (Also, please note that we see our students twice in a day for two 43-minute class periods.)

During our first hour classes, we told students we were going to read a text to learn more about the Greensboro Sit Ins. We read Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford. (We did NOT read the author's note at the end.)

After we read the historical fiction narrative, students took a Google Form survey about the text. The five questions students were asked were:
1. What are the main ideas of this text?
2. Who were the main people in this text?
3. What is the author's purpose for writing this text?
4. What words BEST describe this text?
5. How is the information in this text organized?

In our second hour class, we took the same approach in not telling our students what our new unit was about but we did tell them we would be reading a text about the Greensboro Sit Ins. To this class, we read the author's note from Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-Ins on the doc cam. (We copied it and cut off the words "Author's Note" from the top of the copy we made, just so students wouldn't make the connection that it was the author's note to a historical fiction narrative. We did NOT read the historical fiction narrative to this class of students. After we read this informative text to students, they also took the same exact survey with the same exact questions that our first hour students took.

*Let's recap: At the end our first two classes each class had read a text about the Greensboro sit-ins. One class read the historical fiction narrative about the sit-ins; the other class read an informative text (the author's note) about the sit-ins. Both classes took the same Google Form survey after the read aloud.

The next time that we saw each of the classes, we explained that we read a text about the Greensboro sit-ins to both of our morning classes and that each class was asked the same questions. We then pulled up the survey results from each class and compared them. Here are the results from one of the questions that asked students how the text they had read was organized. Results on the left were from the class that read the historical fiction narrative; the results on the right are from the class that read the informative text.

As we analyzed the results to each of the questions, we recorded our discoveries on an anchor chart. We then held a discussion about how it was possible for the survey to yield these results when BOTH classes read a text about the Greensboro sit-ins. Eventually, students came to the conclusion that each class read a different text - that one was more "story like" and one was "just the facts". We categorized these by what they are REALLY called - historical fiction narrative and informational text, and that the informational text was actually the author's note/partner text to the historical fiction narrative. We then read the text to each class that they had not read yet and pointed out how the characteristics on our anchor chart lined up with each. It pulled together the whole picture of how the two texts were very related but their characteristics were very different, aside from the overall main ideas.

The next day, we revealed to students that our goal over the next three-week unit was to write a historical fiction narrative with an accompanying informative author's note related to an event during the Civil Rights Movement. The best way to start the process of becoming writers of historical fiction is to study real historical fiction writers. Who better to study than the author of Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-Ins - Carole Boston Weatherford. We read some of her biography, watched a short video clip, and recorded some of her words of wisdom on an anchor chart we titled "Advice from Real Historical Fiction Authors".

We also fell upon five tips from historical fiction author, Tanya Landman. We discussed and summarized the main ideas and added them to our Advice from Real Historical Fiction Authors anchor chart.

Here is the anchor chart we co-constructed. When we asked students to look for themes in the advice we learned from real historical fiction authors, students discovered the word 'research' appeared often. This was exactly what we hoped they would discover! Doing research about the Civil Rights Movement was where we needed to start our journey! By researching several of Civil Rights Movement events, students would eventually pick one to feature in their historical fiction narratives/author's notes.

On the third day, we accessed our background knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement. We asked students to divide their notebook page into three sections - people, events, ideas. A student asked if we could add 'places' to the page - a great idea! After reflecting independently, we shared out about our background knowledge, and we recorded students' answers in green. We were then ready to start the research process.
We taught students about a reading strategy called 'close reading' that our department recently learned about during a professional development session with our literacy coach. 'Close reading' does NOT mean holding a text close to our face; it means a reader carefully and purposefully rereads a text to deepen his/her comprehension. 
In the first read of the text, we wanted students to GET THE GIST - to ask "What is the text all about?" We used the multimedia source "A Time for Justice" as our first source. (There are actually three parts to this video series, so be sure to find all three!) We teachers modeled how to do a first read of the first 8 minutes of the video source and recorded the big ideas we teachers discovered on our Civil Rights Movement anchor chart below. You can see on our background knowledge chart in blue we added Emmett Till's murder and Montgomery and added a blue check next bus boycotts to confirm those were ideas we found in our first read. For guided practice, students watched the last 8 minutes of part 1 of the video, and we shared out the big ideas. You can see those in blue below too, with check marks confirming the background knowledge we had listed.

For students' SECOND READ, we wanted them to dig deeper into each event we had discovered in the first read and "re-read" to record specific details about each event. The advice we had learned from real historical fiction authors revealed it is important to learn everything you can about an event. This is beneficial for when it comes time for us to write our author's note, even if we only end up revealing a little bit of what we know in our narratives.

I modeled how to do a second read of the introduction, listening carefully and pausing to type details to support my learning about the Civil Rights Movement. For guided practice, students did a second read of the Emmett Till murder case and the Montgomery bus boycotts, which were the events that came next in the video. We shared out about what we found, creating a detailed notes sheet for the first three segments of the video (intro, Emmett Till murder, bus boycotts).

In our next session together, we divided students into groups of four. We color coded the rest of the events we had listed in our first read and assigned each student a color which corresponded to two events each student was responsible for doing a second read/digging deeper into their assigned events. Students worked collaboratively within the same Google Doc, recording the details that defined each event. By the end of the day, every student had detailed notes for event event in the video.

This student used the split screen feature to complete his portion of the assignment - Google doc notes to type in on the left; video source to watch and pause on the right.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment

All year long, we have been learning various skills on how to be stronger readers and writers. In the beginning of the year, we also introduced the Smarter Balanced Assessment and began preparing students for what it is, how it's organized, and how to do well on it. These are the charts my students and I co-constructed in September as I taught them about the Smarter Balanced Assessment. 

In addition to explaining about the assessment, we also broke apart a sample Smarter Balanced performance task. We used highlighters and annotation to really help students understand all the parts that make up a performance task.

These were the focus areas and descriptors that we pointed out to students as we helped them understand the assessment. There are a LOT of directions, so we wanted to point out how much information is IN those directions and why it's so very important not to skim/skip over them!

We also brainstormed good test-taking strategies. Each strategy was added to this chart. You can see how each mini-lesson focused on a different strategy to help students be successful on the performance task.

In September, we had students take a sample Smarter Balanced performance task and as a school we collected baseline data to assess areas/Common Core standards where we needed to focus our instruction to help students increase their achievement. This data was also our baseline data for our School Learning Objective. In January, our students will be taking a second practice Smarter Balanced Assessment. We will compare the data to our beginning of the year data to see where students are making gains and where to continue to focus our instruction. The good news is that many of the Common Core English Language Arts standards overlap with ones students need to apply on the assessment. Our curriculum is directly related to the skills students are being assessed on and it continues to help them feel more comfortable with such a strange, new assessment!

Last week, I reviewed the performance task charts we created at the beginning of the year. To help prepare students for the mid-year Smarter Balanced Performance Task, I had students read a sample performance task and identify the topic, audience, purpose, and format of the task. The performance task asked students to read several sources about various winter holidays. Two of the sources they had to read were online articles. Student received a note-taking sheet to help them organize their notes.
Here is one student's notes sheet after having read the performance task and the first online article about Hanukkah.

We also had them practice the split screen feature to help become familiar with how the real Smarter Balanced Assessment will be organized on a computer. Text on the left - questions on the right.
Students problem solved with the best ways to take notes. We provide graphic organizers for students' beginning-of-the-year and mid-year practice tests so students can easily create something similar on their own when it comes time for students to take the real Smarter Balanced Assessment in May. On that assessment, students will only get scratch paper or an electronic notepad called "Global Notes".

Here's another look at the split screen feature with questions on one side and a source on the other. Two scroll bars enable students to scroll through two different documents on one screen.
Common Core stresses the importance of students knowing how to 'read' various kinds of texts. This includes being able to listen/watch a video clip to gather information. Two of the sources for my students' performance task on various winter holidays were videos. We discussed the best ways to take notes from a video clip - mentioning how important it is to pause and re-listen to parts that may seem important to the task. This is similar to what students will likely be asked to do on the real Smarter Balanced Assessment in May.
Here is one of my students completed graphic organizers. At the top, you can see she identified the topic, the audience, the purpose, and the format that was laid out in the performance task itself. She also identified that the task asked her to take notes on the symbols, traditions, and cultural beliefs of the four winter holidays discussed in each of the sources. She also recorded the source titles which will enable her to correctly cite her sources when she drafts her longer explanatory speech later in Part 2 of the performance task.
When we return from break, I will help students use their notes to answer short answer questions and draft their informative/explanatory speech as is outlined in the performance task.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

L.7.4b - Using Greek/Latin Roots to Determine the Meaning of Complex Words

With an understanding of Greek and Latin roots, students can determine the meaning of difficult words - or at least get closer to what those difficult words might mean. I started by connecting this skill to real life. I found two online texts that had words in their titles that were complex and had roots in them that we would study in our lesson.

This online text had the word benevolent in the title. Most students don't know what this word means when they encounter it, so I explained that I would be teaching them a strategy to help them get closer to its meaning.

I then showed students the following slide that had the word malice in the title. We discussed how the word malice is a complex word for most middle school students, but with knowledge of Greek and Latin roots, students can get closer to its meaning!

I used the following SMARTboard presentation to help me introduce the concept of using Greek and Latin roots as a word-solving strategy.

As a seventh-grade team, we decided on several roots that we felt were prevalent in complex words middle school students typically see in texts. The root 'bene'/'bon' was one root we decided to teach.

Students took notes on each word in the Language section of their Thoughtful Logs, and as I revealed each definition, students started to notice a common pattern - all of the words had something to do with GOOD.

We also decided that the root 'mal' was an important root to teach.

Again, students took notes on each of these words and recorded their definitions. There was definitely a common pattern to their definitions. They all had something to do with BAD.

Here is one student's notes from the lesson.

We returned to the two articles from the beginning of the lesson to relook at the words benevolent and malice. In addition, we watched a video clip of the "Malice at the Palace" to see what 'bad' took place during the incident. It was clear that players and fans fighting, throwing food, cups, and drinks at one another, and rushing onto the court supported the fact that 'malice' is not a good thing!

For guided practice, students completed this activity to start identifying roots in complex words.

The second part of the activity asked students to find a word in the dictionary with each of the roots and an appropriate "good" or "bad" definition (depending on the root they were looking up).

The next day, students wrote each of their dictionary words and their definitions on two different post-its. We looked at each word and definition under the doc cam and discussed them. Several students came up with the same words so we grouped them. It was easy for me to see who understood this skill and who didn't. Some students wrote down words like 'mallard' - a type of duck. This was the perfect opportunity for me to discuss that not ALL words that have 'bene', 'bon', or 'mal' in them are related to the root, but many words are. 

I recorded each of the 'bene', 'bon', and 'mal' words students had found and put them on large chart paper to hang in our room for easy reference. Students are encouraged to find words with these roots in them in the books/texts they read on their own and in other subject areas. If they find a word, they are to let me know, and they'll get a smelly sticker in return for sharing it with the class. This is a wonderful way for students to independently identify words with roots outside of our classroom. (It's also amazing how much tweenagers love smelly stickers!!)

During a different week, we studied the roots 'man', 'manu', and 'corp' using these slides during the lesson. Again, students took notes and noticed patterns in their definition to infer the meaning of each root. 

Afterwards, students practiced identifying their new roots, in addition to the roots we learned the week before to spiral students' learning.

They also looked up 'bene', 'bon', and 'manu' words in the dictionary for each root and recorded the definitions, so long as the words' definitions had something to do with 'hands' or 'body'.