Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Post for the week of August 27, 2012

Post for the week of August 27, 2012

I just read this great article, titled "Two Common Core Blunders to Avoid--and How to do It" (thanks to Darren Burris for tweeting it--look for him on Twitter).

This post makes some great points.  Don't miss-read the 70/30 split as the English teacher's problem--a whole school need to get involved to promote informational text appropriately. 

I would suggest that school leaders collect and start to analyze how much reading is taking place in all courses.  Once you have that data, start to re-plan what is read and when and why and how.

We have to work together to make the literacy goals of the Common Core visible in our schools.

Monday, August 20, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: PARCC's Drafted Testing Items Online Today

BREAKING NEWS: PARCC's Drafted Testing Items Online Today

PARCC released sample testing items online today for public comment!  There are questions, notes, and rubrics.  Check it out! 

There's also a place to sign up for email updates so you can stay on top of this news!

Post for the week of August 20, 2012

Post for the week of August 20, 2012

If part of your "back to school" process is refreshing yourself or your school or district on the Common Core State Standards, here's a list of a few links (only four links, and the reading is short!) that might help.  The links are about the shifts that are important to know.

I put this list together on which is a great site for me.  It's a place to make a list of links and then share the list.  This site helps me avoid lots of cutting and pasting of links when I want to share them.

Please feel free to send me feedback in the comments area or at  Thanks!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Post for the week of August 13, 2012

I've been writing about annotation, so I thought I'd take some time and write about practical applications.

What is annotation? Annotation means taking notes when you read, either on the work itself or on post-its or on a separate sheet of paper

Why annotate?

1. It makes you pay attention and stay awake.
2. It encourages you to ask questions while you read and understand new ideas.
3. It helps you to have something to say in class.
4. It helps you remember ideas for quizzes.
5. It saves you a lot of time when you have to write a paper on a book.

Post-It Note Annotation Activity (one approach to active reading)

Please provide at least one post-it note for every five pages (or more or fewer, depending upon the activity and the student).  Students who prove they read very well without stopping for "strategies" shouldn't stop!

Information on the post it:
1)  A page number (so you know what page you were on when you have to move the post-it)
2)  A symbol (a little picture)
3)  A comment (a few words or a sentence)

Exclamation Point—Something that surprised you
Smile—Something that made you laugh
Question mark—Something that confused you
Star—Something you thought was important
Forward Arrow—Something that seems like foreshadowing
Backwards Arrow—Something that seems like a flashback
Clock—Shows a tense shift (goes from past to present, for example)
Skull and Bones—Something bad happens!
V—Means there’s a vocabulary word here that you need to look up

Also Google “annotations on Web pages” for some good free digital options!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Post for the week of August 6, 2012

Post for the week of August 6, 2012

The Joys of Summer Vacation

One aspect of ELA teaching that is emphasized by the Common Core is the reading and writing connection.  Deemphasize open writing prompts with no reference to a text.  Instead of "what did you do on your summer vacation?" find a writing passage about a summer vacation and ask students to 1) summarize the main ideas and 2) compare and contrast his/her summer vacation to the passage.  Then the assignment becomes both writing AND reading practice!  Instead of narrative, turn the assignment to argument.

Here's one book for younger students:

Here's an essay for high school students:


Another important aspect of comprehension that will have to change because of Common Core is improved teaching of annotation and note-taking strategies.  Taking a more active role in reading promotes comprehension.  While it's great to read for fun (this week is a great time to read poolside!), school reading should take place sitting up in a chair with a pen or pencil in hand.

Here's a cool lesson from The New York Times:

I have also found that if you collect a student's "notes," he/she will write anything on a page to make it look like he/she took "good notes."  What are "good notes" anyway?  Ever see a book completely highlighted?  That shows a lack of comprehension.

I would argue that you can get a sense of a student's note-taking abilities by assigning writing that the student could complete with the help of his/her notes.  Or have a one-on-one "reading conference," where students talk with you about what they annotated and why.

It's not the notes that matter; it's the attention and focus accorded to the task while reading.