Category Archives: Teaching

Day 1: How do I read a poem?

Students really struggle with making meaning of poetry. With a lack of prior knowledge and limited analytical and critical thinking skills, poetry is a difficult concept. In keeping with the scaffolding of the gradual release model, I decided to break down the process and add one step with each chunk of the lesson.
1. Preview the text of the poem by looking at the title, picture, caption, or other text features. This is actually a school-wide strategy, but I really believe it has been helpful in reading prose, so why not give it a try?
2. Read the poem for literal language. Students will read the poem and then paraphrase every few lines to track the surface level meaning of the poem. Have students complete SOAPS on the text of the poem.
3. Read the poem for figurative meaning. Students reread the poem and look for possible figurative meaning including symbols, tone, and mood.
4. Annotate the poem while looking specifically for the figurative language. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the possible meaning of the vocabulary used.
5. Annotate the poem with a different color and look specifically at the sound devices. Try to list the example, provide the name of the specific device, and jot down the way it affects the poem.
6. Notice the form of the poem. What is it?
7. Review the title and your notes. What is likely to be the theme of the poem? How do you know?

Between each step, I will model and teach key vocabulary to help increase understanding. Also, by building on the steps of the lesson the students will be practicing each step regularly to help internalize the process.

So how did the first day go? With the first day, we were able to get through the preview of the text and both literal and figurative meanings of selected poems. This was done in more of a discussion manner with a few very general stems to get the students thinking. Without having to look for specific devices, students were able to get to a deeper meaning and justify their thoughts even if it was different from what I was looking for.

Next, we took notes over figurative language including simile, metaphor, paradox, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, pun, and idiom. Not only did the students take notes of the definitions, we looked specifically at examples of each and tried to verbalize the function of the device and the impact it had on meaning. Assessing this on the exit ticket shows that students can find meaning and back it with other parts of the poem if they know what the device is. However, if given a line and asked to identify the figurative language, they look for “like” and “as” to mark simile and the very obvious elements, but they do not recognize more complex examples or examples which are not in direct proximity. We will have time to work on this.

For tomorrow, I’m going to reteach figurative language in the context of the poem and then move into sound devices. Right now, I’m looking to model with “Rose in Concrete” which I had them complete individually. This will be great to go over the figurative language but I can also use it to model finding sound devices and tracking the effect they have on the text as well.

Ideas? Love to hear them.

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Twelve Angry Pigs

With so much success accessing prior knowledge of drama, I have decided we can effectively use one play to go over dramatic elements and then review plot a little. This sets us up to move into poetry, a section which typically takes a bit longer than one might expect, relatively quickly. I’m jumping ahead there though.

For 12 Angry Pigs, I started out by using the Common-Core story preview task I have talked about before. Hopefully, by the end of the semester, the students will be able to preview following my steps but without me guiding them. After previewing the text, I gave a short bio on the author, Wade Bradford, and we started reading. To pick roles, I had cards made for each pig. Students picked their role based on the pig they liked the best, and we then set the classroom up as a jury room with the desks in the center. The first time, students were instructed to just read. Since it is short, we were able to reread for questions and discussion. It was nice having the ability to take the time to do that because it allowed us to do more critical thinking and analysis of the text.

At the close of the section, I gave students a short cloze-style quiz. This mini-unit was more memorization that anything else, but the students did well on the quiz. We will revisit a few of these concepts in a few weeks when we prepared for the unit exam. All of our unit exams are cumulative, and the students will have a short play to read and interpret on their own for the real test of the knowledge.

And we will bring drama back around in the weeks following the EOC to look at Romeo and Juliet so I’m feeling pretty confident about this set of skills.

Now… to prepare for poetry.

Files/Resources:
1. Drama and Archetype with Twelve Angry Pigs can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Drama-and-Archetype-Twelve-Angry-Pigs-with-keys-adaptable-doc-and-ppt.
pigs 1

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Introduction to Drama

In my experience, students do well with most skills pertaining to drama. They recognize the visual form of a script and the importance of stage directions. For that reason, I use this as a moment for plot reteaching.
To make sure the students are familiar with elements of drama, I start with having students look at the prose and drama version of a text. We then use observation to compare the two literary forms. The students loved “Thank You M’am” (Hughes) so I rewrote it as a play. This allows reteaching of plot because they created plot maps and characterization of TYM and can pull from those experiences. Plus, it is relatively quick to read dramatically, so it fits in the same day as the Intro to Drama lesson.
My power points are generally set up to be able to skip information or go deeper when needed, and I have given images to help student visualize theaters and types of discourse. I admit it has become one of the lessons I enjoy much more than many others because the students really get into it.
With the new text, I had the students complete C-notes and we used that as a starting point. In all, pacing worked out perfectly. Our Exit Tickets showed students were able to at least define all major elements pertaining to drama with only minor confusion between soliloquy and monologue. Here’s the trick to that: Soliloquy = Solo on stage. Monologue = dialogue for the mono.
For content, we will read two short plays: Bloody Mary and 12 Angry Pigs. (Where is Romeo and Juliet? We actually save that one for the two weeks of school after the EOC. This works because we are in an area with much gang activity, and we use the Jedi mind trick of intentional ink colorations to get students interested. Works EVERY time.) Under the PARCC Model Content, our extended reading is To Kill a Mockingbird. 12 Angry Pigs goes well thematically, but Bloody Mary is just fun.

Files/Resources:
To be more user-friendly, I have decided to list these items individually and with a bundle. For now, here is the introduction. drama 1
1. Introduction to Drama: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Introduction-to-Drama-Elements-of-a-Play-Adaptable-doc-and-ppt

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Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Well, we did it. I’m not sure if it will stick, but I just saw the best results ever with teaching Inductive and Deductive Reasoning. How? Aren’t you just dying to know!
First, I started out with presenting the students with two arguments from the same conversation. I asked students to tell me the difference between the two, and they easily recognized one as “from personal experience” and the other as “a scientific principle”. Nice start.
Next, I presented a situation in which someone was robbed and the police detective came in to gather evidence. This was presented in a paragraph narrative, and then we broke down the argument in terms of the conclusion and the evidence leading to the conclusion. One amazing student connected to the previous lesson and pointed out the text structure as chronological.
From here, I stopped the discussion and transitioned into student notes on inductive and deductive reasoning. We recapped each reasoning with a fill-in-the-blank paragraph summary of the logic before looking at examples.
Here comes the newbie of the instruction. At a training over the summer, a wonderful lady (I’m so bad with names) who works for the state said, “Lots of teachers say they struggle with inductive and deductive and can’t teach it. But I think they miss the key step pf having students create the arguments first.” So that’s what we did. Students created the arguments and we then evaluated an argument. They knew what type it was, but they had to justify why it was that type and identify the conclusions and premises. After doing this with both inductive and deductive, I modeled looking at an argument, identifying the conclusion and the premises, and then determining whether it was inductive or deductive.

inductive 1

Files/Resources:
1. Teaching Bundle with PPT and Exit Ticket with EOC-Swag can be found at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Inductive-and-Deductive-Reasoning-in-English-Language-Arts-Adaptable-with-Key
2. Room Display Word Wall is available at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Logical-Fallacy-Terms-and-Categories-Word-Wall-Poster-Printables
3. Trading Card Logic Strand Review Game is located at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Essential-Vocabulary-Trading-Cards-Activity-Bundle-Logic-Edition

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Text Structures – Minimal Teaching Involved

text 1Why is it that four day weeks can seem so long???

This week we had tons to do to prepare for the Writing Basics Unit Exam. Considering the content, this means mostly review with a slight zone in on Inductive and Deductive Reasoning.

Text structures is something which students have been expected to learn all throughout middle school, and I think I have readdressing it about down to a science. Or, at the least, doable in a 100 minute block with focus on the more troublesome aspects for the students.

Based on my teaching experience and student conversation over the years, I lumped the testable structures into categories. I gave notes on each structure and modeling analysis of a sample text. Then, they had a task to complete on their own. Yep, it’s that gradual release thing again.

Anyway, I think the lesson worked because the class average score on this assignment was 92%, above the goal of 85%.

How was it lumped?
Students tend to think chronological and sequential structures are the same thing, but by pairing them together you help students see their differences. We have been looking at roots, and one of the students remembered chrono- as time. From there we linked sequence as steps. Students recognized that the two may have the same key words, but they are actually quite different and serve different purposes.

Next, we looked at compare-contrast because students typically can easily recognize that as well. We went over key words and looked at text samples. Students were solid, and it was a good thing I was experienced enough to expect to be able to skip a few slides in that area.

Finally, we got to cause-effect and problem-solution structures. By putting these together, it has the same effect as having the students look at sequential and chronological together. We reviewed cause-effect first and talked about key terms and that the key strategy is to look for two questions: “What happened?” and “Why did it happen?” I modeled and had them identify key terms and we moved over to problem-solution. Here, I gave the simple strategy of seeing if the students could track the problem and find the proposed solution, or call to action, to address the problem. For this structure especially, students need to be able to pick up implied information as sometime the problem is not directly stated. Again, I modeled and had them find the key words. Then they had to look at text samples and identify which of the two structures the text met. Again, pretty successful for the students who identified the key terms first.

When I think back on the lesson, I think I would try more to include grouping – maybe a carousel in which I have model texts on the wall for students to identify. Maybe try a teaching section where students have different passages and have to identify the key terms and structure and then teach it to a partner. And most definitely, we will hit this skill again when we are looking at thesis statements and topic sentences.

Ideas? Suggestions? I’d love your feedback.

Files/Resources
~ Text Structures PPT and Student Tasks – Find it online at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Text-Structures-Teaching-Bundle-Adaptable-PPT-and-DOC-files

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Unit: Liking the Logic

Every single person in the whole world likes to get what he or she wants. I’m using that as the bait for the logic unit.

We have started out this unit by a review of persuasive techniques. Students took notes and we viewed commercials (intentionally planned to happen after Super Bowl Sunday) to see the examples in the format. We also looked at sample magazine ads for students to have that experience. One fun thing to do was to have the class split in two groups and create to “Carousel” rotations around a circle of advertisements. I had a worksheet for students to use to track their thoughts on the devices used in the advertisements. Now, the class was grouped in two, but I went through rotation 1 as more of a teaching technique. We returned to whole class instruction and discussed what we learned or realized in the first phase of the task. The second step was intended to be to rotate through the second group as a quiz, but we ended up doing more practice instead.

Students were then given all terms from persuasive devices/propaganda and logical fallacy and asked to sort the words in some way. It was interesting because I did not give the extra category title because I wanted to see what they would come up with, and that was a struggle. With lose guidelines some students did alphabetical order, some did “I know” and “I don’t” piles. Only one group did the grouping of persuasive devices (learned) and logical fallacies (not yet taught at the time of the sort) that I was hoping to see. This served as a good introduction and transition into the logical fallacies, so I am glad we did it.

With a quick review of the persuasive devices, we transitioned into the logical fallacy notes with the same format where students take notes, we view and discuss a commercial, and we view and discuss an advertisement.

After looking at persuasive devices and logical fallacy, we went over the rhetorical situation in terms of the basics and the appeals. We talked about speaker, subject, and audience in detail and moved into ethos, logos, and pathos. For here, I wanted to stop to create a logical assessment for mastery of the persuasive devices and logical fallacies in text formatting as the material should be taught in the manner it is tested. Students were able to demonstrate mastery of the visual examples, so we needed to transition into the elements of text. By reviewing the rhetorical triangle first, students would be able to identify the appeal and help narrow down the choices of the rhetorical appeals in order to identify the most prevalent device in the test. So, we did a word sort and arranged the persuasive devices and logical fallacies into ethos, logos, and/or pathos.

We looked at text examples of all devices – persuasive and logical fallacies – and identified which were present and which were most prevalent. We also looked at the effect of the

Then, I gave the test. I preach that 85% is the “Proficiency Percent” we aim for as individuals and as a class. How was the success rate in the standards-based assessment after all of this effort? I’d address that but I better cut short so I can go make the cupcakes.

Files/Resources:
1. I have loaded the full lesson plan with all ppts, handouts, and assessments to Kirk’s Corner. Find it at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Persuasive-Devices-and-Logical-Fallacy-Lessons-and-Materials-Customize
1a. If you have plans and only need an assessment for this section, you can find the test itself at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Persuasive-Devices-and-Logical-Fallacy-Quiz-and-Answer-Key-doc
2. The walls for the room were changed to include terms from Logic and Connumication standards. Find the printable posters at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Logical-Fallacy-Terms-and-Categories-Word-Wall-Poster-Printables
3. Students created trading cards for homework using the same formatting as with the Literature Review strand activity. Those materials are available at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Essential-Vocabulary-Trading-Cards-Activity-Bundle-Logic-Edition

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Test Mode

Okay, I admit. I’m in test mode. So here’s the deal…

When I first started teaching, I was in a district and school where the expectation was to gather data. I believe this is vital to the success of the student, and over the years at my current placement I have worked hard to identify elements to help students be successful on the test. I’ve been using RUNNERS for about eight years, and I feel it is a huge part of the success my students have seen in terms of reading comprehension. So, I’m teaching RUNNERS to my students. If you are interested, I have placed it where you can find it at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/RUNNERS-Reading-Strategy-Teaching-Supplies. I teach this slowly at first, but we use it on passages throughout the semester. Starting next Friday, we are going to be working on one RUNNERS Reading Comprehension Drill a week. I don’t have all the details worked out, but I’m looking at trying to find current events articles that thematically relate to what we are using in class. Common Core? You betcha.

Next, I think there are test questions which can be answered based on the question itself and the answer choices. All the students need to do is understand what they are being asked in order to answer it. When I interview students after not testing as well as they would like, I get to the specifics of questions. I would say 99% of the time, the student says they did not understand what the question was asking. I tried using what I called Poe (like Edgar), but really that was just fancy for “process of elimination.” I was not seeing what I was hoping, so I was relieved when visiting another school a science teacher was using RAMS. Now, I have not a clue where this came from, and I have visited so many schools that I can’t even be certain in which school I saw this. Never the less, I started using it two years ago and have seen great gains with it. So, we’re going to use it in conjunction with our Friday RUNNERS.

Other idea for test mode? Testing Tuesdays. Each Tuesday we are going to look at a sample stand-alone EOC question for the purposes of analyzing RAMS and, hopefully, improving student ability on those questions on the actual test. I will use the gradual release in looking at a model to show my thinking process, a we do for me to guide them, a we do take two for them to guide me, and then two questions for them to do alone. Hopefully this will help with teaching skills and test strategies at the same time.

I have testing ideas for the other days, but I am thinking I need to wait and roll out the newbies slowly so as to not rock the structure we have in place. I’ll give you more on those ideas as they come, but I’m thinking about one specific test-related task a day…

Our objectives also have this weird standard asking about foreign words and phrases, so I am going to create short films – one minute each – to teach an assigned foreign word or phrase each day. I envision this beings something like the old “The More You Know” commercials from my childhood. Creating the videos will take some effort, so I’m going to start with doing two a week. Since we do SSR three times a week, I can use the other two days on foreign words and phrases to help students master them.

I will post all of this stuff out there, but this is the start of test mode and the steps I am planning to take starting Monday. So, with 10 weeks to the EOC, I will keep you posted.

Files/Resources:
I’m working on this. I promise. My goal for the weekend is to get these files posted at Kirk’s Corner.

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A note on pacing…

With the first week and the first snow days behind us, we will return to school knowing the honeymoon period at the start of all semesters is officially over.

Students have had nearly two weeks to get used to the course, and expectations have been taught, prompted, and rewarded. We have used brain breaks regularly, and behavior has not been a real issue – until they all received the text messages about the early release. We gained four new students this week, which has made the continuum of skills assessments challenging as one lesson has built on the previous lesson.

Academically, I must admit I’m relieved to have the snow day combined with the MLK holiday to revamp my planning and pacing. I learned the students struggle with basic literary elements vocabulary, the desire to complete homework is lower than I have even seen before, and writing is… just as excited as teaching and assessing writing.

Based on my assessments and student surveys, next week marks moving on to Writing Basics. This unit has been designed to teach students writing while working on logic and communication. By teaching rhetoric and reasoning early, it is my hope to be able to readdress these skills as we move through the remainder of the semester. My estimate here is about three weeks, give or take a snow day. And, thinking about pacing is the point of today’s entry.

Pacing is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of designing instruction. When I attended Maryville College, Dr. Simpson, Dr. Lucas, and Dr. Orren all touted the brilliance of over-planning a lesson. After all, chaos ensues when structure is lost and students have nothing to do. Starting out in education nearly ten years ago, this was acceptable. What wasn’t finished one day fluidly became the next day. When we finished early (as rare as that was/is), I extended the learning with an enrichment activity. Here we are, however, eight years and the teaching profession under more scrutiny than even before and pacing seems key to student achievement and teacher evaluations.

The first thing I have learned about pacing is that a solid teacher will teach bell to bell with all lessons starting moments before the bell. I addressed this in my Ten Minutes post, so I won’t go much further on that right now.
Next, I learned that pacing needs to move quickly through the lesson in order to address attention spans. For example, some research suggests students maintain focus for about fifteen minutes. To keep attention, try to plan you lesson in a manner where pacing is broken up between direct instruction (notes), guided practice, and individual task work. I aim for a shift in activity every fifteen to twenty minutes even if it is something as simple as a partnered shoulder discussion to process what we just went over or check a task we just completed. Try to have a coherent structure that is somewhat predictable overall but will keep students guessing about what you will have them do next.
If you are addressing attention spans appropriately, you are going to have to worry about differentiation for individual students who progress at different rates. One easy method for that is a “challenge” question or task an early-finisher can work on while the rest of the class works. This technique will also help with monitoring behavior, but you will have to find a way to keep students motivated to complete the challenge. Most students are not going to fall for the “This IS your job” or “You win by getting an education” argument. You’ll have to do better than that. One technique I have used to address that is by adding required independent reading in the class. Students are required to do SSR three days a week, and when they finish early they can work on that. During our grammar component, I copy a back side to the daily skill. Students who finish early can complete extra practice for one extra point a piece if the answer is correct. This may sound like a lot of extra points, but daily grammar practice is only 10% of the total student grade. A third idea I have used with early finishers is to assign a skill reinforcement packet based on the student’s individual weaknesses (from some data source to get parent and student support). Track this in your grade book as an extra grade opportunity, not extra credit.
While those ideas will help you with students finishing early, there are, inevitably, those who will work at a much slower pace than anticipated. This part was harder to learn to manage than dealing with the early finishers. Part of it was my fault because I was so desperate to see student mastery before moving on. Well, some of my students were in another class bragging about how they could intentionally fail a quiz or act like they did not know answers and I would go back over the same thing over and over, thereby decreasing the work they actually had to do. Hearing this was an eye-opener because it was true. When your students progress slowly, you really have to find out why to help them. For example, is he/she just a perfectionist? Is it a sick/sleepy child? Can he/she really do it? If not, where, exactly, is the dilemma happening? Rotating around the room can help you assess the situation better, but the bottom line is you have to figure out the problem and help the student reach mastery. Extending the deadline and talking with the student and parent both are good strategies.
Finally, pacing must be adaptable for the students within the class block. I can’t put to words how important this is because I am still working to master it. I’m much better at the end of the semester when I have better knowledge of my students, but the start of the semester is much like a guessing game because I need to be well-planned enough to scale back and reteach or skip ahead and move on at a second’s glance. To accommodate this need, start by breaking down the steps of any skill you plan to teach for the day. When I taught plot, I created slides for every single step – plot, character types, setting, components of various settings. Then, when I see students know setting, I just blow through it and tell them how smart they are as I pass through the slides. Typically, I am able to do this on drama and some persuasive devices as well. If the students know it, don’t be the teacher who reteaches it just because that is what was on the lesson plan.

So, pacing is tremendously important. So much so that I am still trying to work it out in my own class. Hopefully these ideas will be helpful to you or you can make additional suggestions for my classroom.

Now… back to reevaluating my pacing and planning my instructional delivery. The EOC is coming May 7.

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Ten Minutes Can Make or Break Instructional Delivery

The first ten minutes of class are vital to the success of the lesson. Students enter the room and prepare to start class while the teacher is doing a variety of “housekeeping” tasks designed to keep the documentation, behavior, and academics aligned toward success. So when you are planning for your own class, you really have to think about the first ten minutes.
For the semester, the students have grown accustomed to a very set structure: a Bell Ringer Focus, Lesson Overview, Recap, and then the actual lesson of the day. Today, I shuffled the structure.
When students enter, they know a few things:
1. The door is the point of no return.
2. When you enter, be seated and begin working.
3. Bell ringer work is intended to anchor your butt to the seat.
4. Attendance must be entered within the first fifteen minutes of class.
The change was actually rather simple, and it was a gentle introduction to what happens next. We start each day with a specific task, and previously it had been the Caught ‘Ya warm-up. (This GUM task, designed by Jane Bell Kiester, is similar to DOL except that is works by using paragraphs rather than sentences. Students do not know what to look for but must also master MLA formatting. BRILLIANT!) Now that the students have the structure mastered, I raised the bar by changing the bell ringer to be a grammar worksheet. Now, this is not designed to be the traditional boring thing I did when I was in school. Basically, I have a lovely worksheet from Prentice Hall which is divided into three parts. Students read the instruction (1) and complete section A (2) while I rotate. I’m looking at papers and trying to help students master the information with one-on-one teaching as needed. We go over these answers and either complete section B (3) or not based on class needs. After that mini lesson, we transition into the Caught ‘Ya where students are required to demonstrate further mastery of the grammar skill from the mini lesson. So what’s the point?
While the students are working on the Caught ‘Ya, I use this time to take attendance, hand out anything needing to be handed out, and talk to students individually. Students come in focused and stay focused. It sends an amazing message to the students.

As we close the learning cycle, those final ten minutes are a vital pulse check to help the teacher prepare for a successful day the next day. Students have learned some skill which will be built on tomorrow, so it is imperative the teacher knows where the students are in planning for the next steps of instruction. In the final few minutes, I use SCARE to help me end the lesson with focus.
S – Summarize. Teacher should summarize the learning. This might include asking students questions to require a personal reflection on the learn that occurred.
C – Connections. Either the teacher or the students should connect the day’s learning to some grand idea. Additionally, the teacher can use this time to connect the day’s learning to future learning.
A/R – Assess/Reflection. This would be an actual closure task such as an exit ticket. Usually, we use the Interactive Notebook for this, but some days we are not taking notes and we use an exit ticket of some sort. Ask students not only to show you they can master the objective but to reflect on how they feel about their own ability to have mastered the content. Place some accountability on them.
E – Evaluate. The teacher should look back over the student evidence as to whether or not the objective was mastered. By evaluating the student tasks, the teacher can adequately plan for instructional delivery tomorrow.

This week, I want to focus on making sure the students have mastered the structures of the opening ten minutes and work to refine my closure as we are working on writing the plot analysis essay from Begging for Change. Follow along and work on your openings and closures as well.

I welcome your feedback.

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Recapping and Review the Literature Strand

Academically, the mission for this week has been two fold: recap literature objectives and review typical EOC-styled testing stems. What did we do and how did we pull it off? Here’s a summary of the bundle. While this plan originally was to take three days, I felt I needed a fourth day to make sure the students had a very thorough understanding of the skills and the text itself in order to write the essay.

We started out by completion of the Common Core Story Preview. As I learn more about Common Core and compare that to the more specific objective we currently use, I feel like I need to stick with some combination of both. I also feel like I need to continue to try to find additional information and resources on implementing CC in terms of meshing the skills and developing the content to hit as much information as possible.

The lesson started with a Common Core Story Preview activity. By using this, I did not tell them what to expect or what would happen. Instead, I used a guiding worksheet and timer to have students preview the text and text features for characters, setting, conflict, and any other story information. I also provided some words from the text for students to use in making a 25-word GIST statement of their story prediction. Students then shared their predictions.

Next, I gave an introduction to Richard Connell. First, we looked at a photo of him with the dates he lived. I planned to have students judge him and tell me about his life based on his picture and the story preview in order to work on life skills, but given the time constraints I decided that would be too much of a side bar to entertain. Instead, I gave a bulleted list of facts and included the tidbit about use of the same set to film the original “MDG” and “King Kong” in studios in order to save money. I connected this information by showing a video clip of the island in the more recent “King Kong” to get students to visualize the text.

Our data shows we really need to work on vocabulary, so I have come up with a vocabulary strategy to try to help students see how to use context clues. I’ve noticed they know words when they hear them, but they may not be able figure them out just by looking at them. Basically, they look at the word and I have them raise hands if they know it. Someone says the word and we see who knows the right definition to the term. Next, we look at the sentences and make a prediction about the meaning. I have students give evidence and justify their thoughts using the sentence. Some sentences are not helpful, and I modeled using the previous or following sentence in those cases. Then, I show the real definition. While this takes a lot of time, I hope it will help the students be able to do this on their own on other texts as well as the EOC test.

Finally, we read the text and use a reading guide. I always have students track the story with a story guide which requires the page number on which the answer can be found or inferred. This helps hold them accountable for using the text to provide evidence from the text as well as acts as a resource for gathering information in the event we are going to write an essay on the text later. At first, they hated this. When the first essay rolls around, I know they will appreciate having those pages to go back and get quotes for the paper.

After reading, we discussed the story in terms of the plot. I had two versions of the story analysis form for the students. In an inclusion class, I had guiding questions through the plot map itself and we talked through each component of plot as we can to it in the text. At some parts, we would talk through it and I used questioning to help the students come to the correct answers. This was challenging because my goal was not to give them a single answer. All in all, I think I did much better than normal at this. One of the students called me out and said he was frustrated because other teachers will just give them the answers if they ask enough and I would not give in and give it to them. He said he hated me for this, but when I called his mother for a positive call that afternoon, she told me he told her about the situation and she respected my position on not giving answers.
In a standard class, I gave graphic organizers to guide the analysis of the Focus Five (plot, character, conflict, setting, and theme). I planned to have students complete this in stations with me rotating around to help the students, but they were incredibly confused over the vocabulary and style in which the text was written. This made analysis of the plot difficult for them. Instead, I redrafted the plan and took the plot component out of the stations. I modeled the expectations by completing one step for the character and setting sections. Students completed that much more successfully, and then we came together as a class to review those parts and work through the plot together. Then, students completed SWBS and Theme Statements individually as homework.

We did not have time to assess the story on Friday, so we will review the story, share our SWBS and Theme Statements, and then move into assessing the reading with an EOC-Style Reading Quiz next week. I designed the quiz using possible EOC-stem multiple choice questions. I will update this entry after giving the test, but I anticipate a much higher level of mastery of plot after this plan for reviewing the elements of plot the students were expected to have mastered in eighth grade. Of course, I will have lessons to recap these skills, but at least I now know where the students stand in these skills. Also, to get a writing diagnosis, I have created a CC writing assignment for the students to complete.

UPDATE UPON COMPLETION: Students did decently with analyzing the plot, setting, conflict, and characters of this text. I think all five key elements are sort of “in your face” with this example. I am interested to see what students know when looking at another text because the data from the testing was not as great as I had hoped. I have come to a few conclusions which will greatly affect my future testing: 1. students do not seem to know simple vocabulary; 2. students do not appear to be able to break down complex test questions. As we move on to the writing assessment, stick with our journey to academic excellence.

Now that I have updated what I did with this one, I will get back to planning for the rest of the story. Any suggestions?

Files/Resources from this entry:
1. MDG Bundle – Now available is the MDG Bundle at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Most-Dangerous-Game-Teaching-Bundle-with-Common-Core-Writing-Task. This is a huge file, but you can see what I did with it over the course of a week. Plus, the way it is set up, teachers can pick and choose which parts of the packet to use.