Tag Archives: teaching

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

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

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

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

Tagged , , ,

Logic Continued: The Rhetorical Situation

This week is for teaching the rhetorical situation including the rhetorical triangle and the rhetorical devices of parallelism, repetition, hyperbole, simile, analogy, and metaphor. We close the week with the next installment of Common Core Writing Assessments and immediately close out Writing and Communication the following week with Inductive and Deductive Logic and the unit exam.

First, students are going to take notes over the rhetorical triangle, create a foldable, and then sort text examples into categories of ethos, logos, and pathos. We did this using Obama’s address announcing the death of Osama bin Laden. This sounds incredibly depressing in reflection, but it worked well for our purposes. I will say that, to accommodate my need for test mode, we opened the article with previewing and annotating the text. Students then moved into looking at ethos, logos, and pathos within the text. For homework, students will review the test and create an overall summary of the message and the impact of the specific appeals on the message. Overall, I would say this was an effective lesson and served as a solid introduction since we are looking at the more specific rhetorical devices tomorrow.

Next, we looked specifically at rhetorical devices. For this steps I had the students take notes on the devices and provided an example of each device. To raise the level a bit, I required students to really think about the example and have them identify the part and explain its impact on message of the example. This was a challenge for them, but I think it helped. We ran out of time for the task (lovely drills and unexpected things a teacher has to do), but the next day I revised the PPT to include several examples and video clips of each device. We talked about the examples and discussed the video clips. Then, students were better prepared to explain the impact of the device on the message itself.

All in all, I would say the students are prepared for this strand… I think… Next week we will review text structures and inductive/deductive reasoning before taking our unit exam. Then I will be able to tell you for sure.

1. Introduction to Rhetoric – The entire bundle including the worksheets and PPT files is located at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Persuasive-Devices-and-Logical-Fallacy-Lessons-and-Materials-Customize
2. Rhetorical Devices – I will get this loaded asap but I have tons to do to prepare for next week… including making revisions to the test.

Tagged , , ,

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.

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

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

Tagged , ,

Writing Basics – Finally Finished!

Alas, we come to the close of yet another essay! I think all teachers of high school students grow tired of the writing process just in time to get a pile of papers to take home and read over the weekend.
When I was in school, we graded using the Harbrace. This time, I will be getting to use PARCC rubric just as soon as I can find a printer-friendly version. Anyway, so how did the essay end?
When I left off with my last post, we had just blown up an essay only to put it back together in looking at the order of sentences within a paragraph.
Our next step was to complete a peer review process. I have played around with a few different things, and I find students tend to think the essay is “fine” and make few corrections or suggestions. This time, I created a worksheet to guide the process in which the students had to find the key parts of each paragraph, rate them 1-5, and complete the frame of “One thing I really liked about this paragraph was…” and “One suggestion I have is…” I explained that N/A, IDK, and nothing were not options for the task, and I found the students actually did decent on this. The writing was so much better it was amazing!
Another idea to consider for the peer review is a group of 4-5 students. One student focuses on the thesis statement with a specific color ink, one on topic sentences, one on citations, one on whatever other element the student was expected to complete. They then sit in a group and literally pass the paper around with a timer to see that each essay has been reviewed by a group of peers, each with a very specific task.
When we finished the peer review yesterday, I told students it was time for a dose of accountability and reality. See, any teacher who has ever assigned an essay and tried to make parts of it homework knows there are kids who know the next day they cannot move forward without the previous part so they drag it out as long as possible. Not this time. I explained the dreaded BLUE BOOK we all saw in college. I had them raise hands to show me who was not going to have the revised draft completed by the start of class today so I knew how many to purchase. Then, I stuck to me guns. Students without the entire outline and essay were not allowed to get on the computer. Additionally, they had to sit separated to encourage focus and drive.
Then, I made a deal with our amazing librarian so that I could use a conference room attached to the library computer lab and set it up like a break room. Students who finished the final copy were admitted to take a break in the break room with some celebratory cupcakes and beverages. I also created and presented “SWAG” awards to the students to take home and show their parents. They were so excited it was worth all of the work.
In the end, I received all but three essays. Successful end to Writing Basics? I think so.

Files/Resources used during this lesson plan:
1. Expository Writing Pack is available at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Common-Core-Expository-Writing-Task-Teaching-Bundle-ADAPTABLE-to-ANY-text. This bundle includes adaptable .doc and .ppt files for use in working through an Expository Common Core Writing Task for mood in plot, but you could adapt it to any text you desire.
2. Peer Revision – I will post this as soon as possible. I have a few deadlines at work and several essays to read.
3. SWAG Awards – Students Working to Achieve Greatness. I posted the certificate at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/SWAG-Awards.

Tagged , , , ,

Writing Basics

After completing the prompt analysis and gathering a diagnostic writing sample, we began teaching the writing process. There was a time when we were supposed to focus on 6+1 Traits of Writing, but I have the sneaky suspicion the focus on those elements left much to be taught in consideration of structuring a paragraph. Next, we were to look at WICR with the AVID focus on writing. After seeing what the students had, we decided to break it down to writing basics.

First, we looked at MLA formatting for an outline. Believe it or not, this seemed like the first time the students had seen an outline. I anticipate they would not see the point of an outline because most students hate using them. After looking at outlines, creating an outline on how to create an outline, and using “Bath Time” to create an outline, the students saw how using an outline would help them to focus their writing and not leave any steps out in the process. You see, “Bath Time” is about giving a dog a bath but the writer forgets the key step of actually getting the dog in the bath. While readers can infer this has happened, we talked about how vital that step would be if it were changing the breaks on your car or setting the beat when laying some freestyle.

Next, the students took their writing diagnostic papers and tried to create an outline based on what they did. This was an amazing step because the kids were able to see the missing components for their own writing and identify steps for revising the essay to better address the prompt. I had them complete the missing steps of the outline, but I did not let them make changes to the papers yet. That would come later…

Our focus was support and elaboration, so I had the students create an essay from a series of sentences. I took an essay and cut out the sentences one by one for the body paragraphs. I knew the activity would be tricky because it tested so many objectives rolled into one: writing, organizing ideas, having a solid introduction, topic sentences, and conclusion just to name a few. They were asked to read the sentences to identify the subject of the overall essay. From there, I had them look for the thesis statement, but that evolved into looking for topic sentences because the students used the topic sentences to find the thesis statement. Next, the students used the sentences as a word sort by topic, and then they used transitions and context clues to arrange the sentences. I had a prize for the first group finished, making it game-like in nature.

All in all, I would say the focus on support and elaboration was a success. Our next steps will be to finish edits on the essay, complete a peer review, and type the final essay on Friday. Then, we get to move on to the rest of the communication standards – rhetoric, persuasive devices, and logical fallacies.

Tagged , , ,

Expecting the Unexpected

This entry comes with a heavy heart as we have experienced something that happens everywhere. The first draft I saved because I needed to think on it before posting it. Then, at the close of the day, I decided to post a version of the original post.

We enjoyed the snow day, and I spent tons of time reworking the plans to make sure we could meet the objectives and district expectations of the essay without getting too far off pacing.

But last night, someone did something dumb – made a dumb choice – and we suffered a tragedy. I assure you when the unexpected happens, your best-planned lessons go out the window.

You see, teachers are more than teachers. We are teachers by our paperwork, but in reality our job description is limitless.
We are the instructors, giving your child a chance at competing in a global society.
We are the police officers, redirecting those who go astray when you aren’t there.
We are counselors, pointing out the importance of today on tomorrow’s successes.
We are the nurses, handing out simple things like band-aids, cough drops, hugs, and kind words.
We are the mothers, modeling compassion and all those social skills you have to have to live a productive life.
We are people, fighting each day to show how much we sincerely care.
And in our classroom, we are family. A family in mourning.

So what of instruction today? How does one implement Common Core in light of tragedy? Can it be done? I didn’t think so. I had to lead class the way it went – as close to structure as possible with open heart and open head and open box of tissues. You can’t plan for this and, God knows, no one should have to fluff through it. So, dealing with tragedy in a close-knit high school classroom is today’s thought.

I can’t tell you what the right thing to do is because an exceptional teacher does what he or she believes to be best for the students. When this catches you off guard, you gotta think on your feet. But here’s what we did…

I began class with the grammar, bell ringer, and vocab as normal. It was dreadfully quiet with secret tear and sniffles presiding. No one wanted to share the answers, and using our talking sticks was pointless because how can you call on a kid knowing words won’t come out when choking back strong emotion? Painfully, we made it through a normally 15 minute game-like activity in nearly thirty minutes.

I could tell we needed a brain break, and we transitioned with, “Well, guys, here’s what we were going to do. This sucks, huh?” I heard muffled agreement and an, “Amen to that.” We moved into, “You’re not feeling this crappy mood essay, are ya? What’s on your mind.” Mostly, they just wanted to make sure I knew. I said I did and that it sucked and that I didn’t know what to say or do to make any of it any better on anyone except to be there if I was needed. A few spoke up and one asked if they could “just write” for a minute. I agreed and walked around and talked to a few of the students one-on-one. One called me out from across the room for looking like I was going to cry. Amazingly, as close as I know we will be at the end of the semester, they could not believe I would cry over a student. In all, maybe thirty minutes of mostly silent sniffles and blank stares passed before one of the students made an announcement to break the silence: “So it’s like when Raspberry found her mom with a pole to her heard because of the neighborhood bully, huh?” And with that, we used the text and talking through the mood of the plot to process all that had occurred and to address the fear of what might happen next. When this happens, you expect some behavior problems. The kid’s not being mad or bad – I don’t believe in bad kids – they are dealing with emotions even adults struggle to put to words.

At the end of the block, we did not have a written essay. Pacing got a little off. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

And today, that’s all I have for you.

My assessment of Common Core Implementation today:
Speaking and Listening – All standards addressed.
Writing –
9-10.W.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
9-10.W.1 – Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
9-10.W.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
A – Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings) to aid comprehension.
B РDevelop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

Will we revisit these concepts? Yeah.

Tagged , , ,

Writing: Diagnostic Assessments in Common Core Style

Getting students to write is challenging enough, but throw is a typical state writing assessment prompt and all chaos ensues. One thing I have noticed in eight years, two states, and three schools is that, for some reason, behavior and attendance suffer during writing. When it comes to research papers, it is even worse. With Common Core, though, we want to try to include the citations and text-evidence of the typical research formatting because this is what will help them more in college. Knowing how to back up an argument, even verbally, is going to help them in all aspects of life, so it can’t be ignored.
I started the year by having students take a survey of their past experiences in ELA. Two questions stood out when thinking of what to do to assess their writing:
1. What activity to you like least in an English Language Arts class?
A: Of the 16 students present, 13 students said writing.
2. What do you hope Mrs. Kirk does differently to help you this year?
A: Of the 16 students, 9 said some version of “Help us write better.” One student said, “Don’t assign essays you don’t teach us.”
Clearly, these students have a strong hate for writing. So what am I to do? I know I can increase motivation if I can get them to believe in themselves and see me as a resource, but getting to that point will be a challenge.

Thus come the next week of instruction: Chunking a Writing Assessment.

Step 1: I wanted to give the students a writing assessment, but I quickly realized this might lead to a revolt without proper scaffolding. First, I asked students what they hated about essays. Students agreed the prompts “never make sense,” and that gave the starting point. First, I used the gradual release to model how to break down a writing prompt. I looked at a prompt and broke it down for the students. I modeled by reading it, rereading and annotating it, paraphrasing it, and listing starter ideas. Next, we did one together. Finally, I let the students choose between two prompts to analyze with the knowledge they would be expected to actually write an essay on the prompt they chose.
> Interesting realization: Not a single student in the class knew what “expository” meant, so I did a scale back and had students take notes on the four modes of writing.

Step 2: I didn’t want to give students too much help with the essay, but I needed to make them feel they could be successful. I reviewed thesis statement with the students, and we broke it down to topic+argument/opinion=thesis statement. Students then wrote a proposed thesis statement to guide their writing. At this point, student had to commit to writing the essay on one of two texts. While the content and assignment was the same, the story could be chosen by the student in order to create higher motivation and provide a better assessment of student ability prior to teaching a thorough writing unit.

Step 3: Verbally, we reviewed the basic structure of a five paragraph essay. With this fresh on their minds, we looked back at the prompt to plan what we might need to use as main ideas for each body paragraph. As the prompt was reviewing the mood as reflected in the plot, students determined they were going to break the story into beginning, middle, and end. Students then reviewed their plot maps of the proposed texts (both stories) to see which one they understood and could explain to a partner the best. This was helpful because 4 students ended up deciding to switch to the other text before getting too far along.

Step 4: Looking at the evidence they gathered from the beginning, middle, and end of the text, we went back to our prompt analysis to see if we were ready to write the essay. Luckily, students reread their annotations and noticed they needed to include the mood aspect of the writing. Students were using words like “sad” and “happy” on their evidence, so I did a short version lesson of using a higher-level of vocabulary. I also found out I needed to do a short teaching of what mood actually is.

Step 5: Students were given a generic outline suggestion to serve as a checklist for writing the essay. For example, under “Introduction” students were reminded to “Have a hook to get your readers interested,” “Include the TAG (Title-Author-Genre) when writing about literature,” and “Did you have a solid thesis statement?” Students were then released to write the essay in one hour as that was the time which matches the actual assessment.

The student reaction to the CC writing prompt was intense. Part of me felt like breaking down the prompt and creating a writing plan was cheating, but the purpose of this semester is to help make Common Core accessible to our students. If they shut down, they won’t learn anything. In order to raise the bar successfully, it is my job to help scaffold the material in a manner which students can understand and feel they can master. I wanted this lesson to take one class, but it ended up taking two classes to help the students properly. They will have to take a district assessment next month, so hopefully the time taken in this activity will stick and prove helpful on their assessments.
As much as I freak out about pacing with my students this semester, I feel for the teachers and students who will be implementing CC as a directive next semester when the stakes are much higher than they are right now. I feel my students’ frustrations, and I hope they believe me when I tell them this will be helpful to them next year. While I support the idea of a common curriculum to put all students at the same level of academic expectations across the country, I worry about teachers leaving students behind in the fury of the year. Also, I worry about how the teachers will break down the objectives and what skills will be a part of the objective and what skills will be forgotten. I wonder if this was a plan we needed more time to plan for in terms of having students prepared for the jump, and I wonder how scores will look with the first round of CC Achievement Testing. Other vocal spokesmen of CC have said implementation with result in a lower score for students, and I wonder how this will affect the students and the teachers.
When entering a round of increase academic standards, I guess there is no perfect way to bring about such educational reform in a manner that does not hurt anyone involved. As I continue my struggles for this semester in terms of implementing CC and doing that which is best for my students, I will have to put forth more effort and work harder than ever before. We can do this. I know it.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , ,