Thursday, June 28, 2012

Post for the week of June 25, 2012

Three Ways to Read the Standards (Part II)
The summer is a great time to study the new Common Core standards. I would suggest that we study them three ways:

1. Follow a standard
2. Read the whole thing
3. Compile a list by grade level

Another way to read the standards is to read the whole thing.  I know that doesn't sound very fun (c'mon, it's perfect for the beach!), but there's a lot more to the Common Core than just your own grade's standards.

For example, there's an introduction that explains why there are unique MA standards, some commentary on their construction, and some "Key Design Considerations."  There are also writing on what is NOT covered by the standards and some guiding principles.  Lastly, the introduction documents what being "college and career ready" means and an explanation of how the book is organized.  At the end of the green book are lists of authors and a useful glossary.  Studying these pages is an excellent idea before you dive into the standards themselves. 

I would also check out Appendices A, B, and C online for other additional info, including the research that went into the standards, sample texts and authors for the new text complexity strands, and student samples.  I have been studying Appendix B a lot recently, and it's an excellent resource: lists of authors and samples of their work PLUS sample performance assessments.  The language used in these assignments will be helpful as you write your own assignments.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Post for the week of June 18, 2012

Three Ways to Read the Standards (Part I)
The summer is a great time to study the new Common Core standards.  I would suggest that we study them three ways:

1.  Follow a standard
2.  Read the whole thing
3.  Compile a list by grade level

1.  Following a standard from Pre-K to 12 is a good way to see how the standard evolves over time.  See this example of Writing Standard #1.  What do you notice about how the standard changes over time?


Pre-Kindergarten  MA.1.    
Dictate words to express a preference or opinion about a topic (e.g., “ I would like to go to the fire station to see the truck and meet the firemen.”).

Kindergarten                        
Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is . . .).

Grade 1                                 
Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.

Grade 2                                 
Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

Grade 3                                 
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.  a. Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.

Grade 4                                 
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.  a. Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose.

Grade 5                                 
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.  a. Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.

Grade 6                                 
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. a. Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.

Grade 7                                 
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

Grade 8                                 
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

Grade 9-10                           
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

Grade 11-12                         
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. a. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

See how "opinion" becomes "argument"?  When do students need to spend time considering "alternate or opposing claims"?  How does structure become more important as students get older?
I'd suggest cutting and pasting out a standard or two from Pre-K to 12 and discussing it with the whole faculty or district when planning.  If teachers from different levels discuss, it will become more clear who is covering what and when and why and how.  It's easier and fairer to hold each other and ourselves accountable when we have a clear path and agreed responsibility.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Post for the week of June 11, 2012

End of the Year Clean Up

At the end of the year, it's important to clean your room in a way that when you return at the end of August, you'll have some sense of organization (and not sheer panic in rushing to get ready for the first day of school)!

I had my students complete posters occasionally.  I always wanted to keep them but never had the space.  Last year, I started making videos of them.  With a flip camera (or your could use a regular video-recording camera), I'd pan down the poster and give a little talk about why the poster was a good example.  Now I have all of these "posters" as video files!  It makes it so easy to show students models and keep my closet clutter-free.  You could do the same with dioramas or other three-dimensional classroom projects.

It's also a good time of year to take English Department inventory.  Make a list of the texts your school currently has.  I bet there's something in the book closet you forgot your school owned! 

It's also a good time to check the lexile levels of the books in your curriculum (http://lexile.com/).  Check to see if your books are at the levels suggested by the CCSS (http://lexile.com/using-lexile/lexile-measures-and-the-ccssi/text-complexity-grade-bands-and-lexile-ranges/).  Once you know the lexile levels of your texts, you can have a discussion with your district about the grades in which the text is currently taught and where it might otherwise go.  You could also start to make recommendations for new informational texts your school might need.

Save the Dates!

The annual NEATE conference in the fall is on November 2 and 3 in Mansfield, Massachusetts.  The annual NCTE conference is November 15 to 18 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The annual MRA conference is April 4 and 5, 2013 in Quincy, Massachusetts. 

Please feel free to let me know of other important literacy dates at aldick@doe.mass.edu.  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Post for the week of June 4, 2012 (can't believe it's June!)

Using Visuals and Media to Spark Writing

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/jeongmee-yoon_n_1432203.html?ref=arts#s878418

I saw this story and thought it would make a terrific writing prompt.  As part of the Common Core, students should be able to analyze texts and make conclusions about the author's argument, but no one said all the texts have to be words! 

If students examined this set of photographs, I wonder what they would say about the author's purpose.

I used to use baby cards as a writing prompt: what do these greeting cards assert to their audience (new parents) about the new baby?  Try using images and SOAPSTone to analyze visuals for media and write about the experience.  We know that visual learners find these activities engaging, and they can pay off too!

Summer Reading for YOU!

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/blogs/thenextgreatgeneration/2012/02/7_book_recommendation_websites.html?p1=Well_MostPop_Emailed1_HP

This Web site lists a bunch of book recommendation Web sites.  The summer reading lists are set for the students; now let's focus on what WE want to read!  I am going to tackle Sharon Taberski's Comprehension from the Ground Up, Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This, and Jeff Wilhelm's You Gotta BE the Book.  I also have to finish The Hunger Games trilogy.  What a great summer!

Let me know what you're reading or any interesting teaching or fun text I should read!--aldick@doe.mass.edu.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Post for the week of May 28, 2012

Eight Math Practices (I promise it relates to literacy!)

Many people see the changes to the math section of the Common Core as even more significant and transformative than the new literacy standards.  I recently learned that the math standards have a special part that the literacy standards do not—they are helmed by the eight "standards for mathematical practice."

The eight math practices "describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important 'processes and proficiencies' with longstanding importance in mathematics education." They serve as "habits of mind" that students should have when approaching math work, K-12 and beyond.

I've been thinking of ways these "math practices" apply to our literacy work:

1.   Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

As literacy teachers, we want students to make sense of the reading and writing tasks they are being asked to complete and persevere in getting them done.  When they face a difficult book, we ask them to embrace the struggle and work hard to get through a text.

2.  Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

            Poems are abstract, themes are abstract, and some books are long and require concentration. 

3.  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

            Students should be able to argue their assertions clearly and analyze the work of others with precision.

4.  Model with mathematics.

            Students should be able to "model" with literature—they should apply the lessons of texts they've read to what they’re reading in the future (text to text, text to world, text to self).

5.  Use appropriate tools strategically.

            Literacy students should be able to use both physical tools (highlighters, Post-Its) and metacognitive tools (questioning, predicting, context clues) to self-monitor their comprehension.

6.  Attend to precision.

            Write neatly, use good penmanship, and say what you mean!

7.  Look for and make use of structure.

            It's important for student to know the text structures of their reading: Web site?  Poem?  Novel?  Textbook?  Knowing structure helps the reader decide how to read.

8.  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

            Identifying rhetorical modes helps students comprehend.  Where have I seen this sort of compare/contrast work before?  How did I previously understand it?  This repeated reasoning helps readers productively struggle with texts.

I think it would be an interesting idea for a school district's literacy teachers (read: EVERYONE) to come up with a succinct list of "literacy practices" they will stress with their students.  If everyone adheres to similar values, it would help students see literacy more clearly.



Article from NPR on reading to pre-schoolers

This story shares how researchers cut the achievement gap by asking pre-schoolers questions about the text during guided reading.  Check it out!




People to follow on Twitter

Twitter is a great way to stay informed about literacy topics.  Here are just a few of the people I follow:

@edutopia
@alansitomer
@englishcomp
@CarolJago
@writingproject
@NCTE
@KellyGToGo

Please feel free to send me who you follow at aldick@doe.mass.edu.