Recently I have been collaborating with an incredible group of ELA supervisors and coordinators from across the county regarding the professional development needs as a result of school closures and the subsequent shift to online instruction. Even though curriculum throughout the county may be different, while discussing best practice, we could all agree that a gradual release model was essential in any classroom, but especially in a virtual setting.
No one knows what school will look like come fall, but for the rest of this year and being proactive for next year, this is the best place to start to reflect on the instruction we have been releasing to students and focus our efforts on strengthening best practice.
Step One: Learning Objective
Learning objectives can come straight from the anchor charts we are using to guide instruction. In this example, I am focusing on examining character speech to determine themes.
In this writing example, however, the focus is on the ways to generate story ideas starting with thinking about moments of trouble.
Step Two: I Do – Modeling
Once the learning objective is determined and communicated, the second step is to model the strategy or content. This is where the students watch you do this work with a mentor text. I chose to use a video. I created a mini unit recently that maps out all the ways readers can determine theme by examining character. I then went on a hunt looking for video clips and short films, and as I watched each one, I made notes about the possible lenses (from the anchor chart) that could be modeled and practiced using them. This is a nice way to use a nontraditional text in order to focus on the strategy and help level the playing field for student access. Not to mention, a nontraditional text is also often shorter and keeps the modeling down to a small chunk of time.
Step Three: We Do – Guided Practice
Something that may be missing from our instruction is the guided practice, and this is such a critical piece! In the classroom we have students turn and talk and practice the strategy together step by step. This is when we eavesdrop and coach in. This is the real teaching and students need that time to collaborate and construct meaning together while receiving support and feedback.
Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Guided Practice
In an asynchronous environment guided practice could extend over the course of a couple days. It is slow! It could be a guided practice video like the one below followed by a discussion question on the learning platform (Schoology or Google Classroom)
Students are also invited to read the responses of others and comment on at least three ideas using the following prompts:
- What confirmed your thinking?
- What challenged your thinking?
- What changed your thinking?
These discussions in the learning platform are a great way to formatively assess and provide feedback. You might even pull some and share “Shout Outs” for high quality thinking! Similar to the the eavesdropping and sharing we do in face to face instruction.
While we want to be sure that all students have access, it is possible to have some live opportunities using a tool such as Zoom. This may be ideal for the kids who are struggling with navigating the materials independently or who need additional support.
I’ve been working with some middle school students in an after school program using synchronous instruction. I invite them to the Zoom and do the same kind of work but live. I share my screen so they can see the slides and the video and I walk them through the strategy. I switch the chat settings so they can only send chat messages to me, the host. At different points, I ask them guiding questions and they type their ideas in the chat. I take the best ideas, along with some of my own and add them live to the slide. For example, I may ask what pattern they noticed and will label buckets in my slide using their ideas. Then continue to guide them with questions and sharing in this way.
This method is great for providing instructional feedback in the moment. If I ask what can readers learn, for example, and I get something about what the characters learn, I can guide them to restate it in a way that is bigger than the character.
The students I work with are getting very used to this model, and I am now starting to give them some more space by putting them in and out of breakout rooms to “turn and talk” and come up with combined thinking to share with everyone else.
While synchronous instruction like this cannot be the only mode of instruction, it is a great idea for conferring, small groups, and WIN time.
Step Four: You Do – Independent Practice (Formative Assessment)
Students are using their independent reading to practice using the strategy by adding post-its to their reader’s notebook or are completing an assignment using the practice from their independent reading on the learning platform. This is formatively assessed to see who needs more support or more maybe more guided practice in a Zoom session. This is the work that lets us know when they are ready for the last step and demonstrate learning.
Step Five: Demonstration of Learning (Summative Assessment)
This is when students use the strategies to show what they have learned. Many teachers are worried about cheating, but the summative assessments should be much higher on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and require students to produce.
One of the reasons I love reading along side kids is because it provides me with so many ideas and connections. This week we saw videos with Will Smith’s speech shifting from negative to positive patterns. While reading my book, I too was seeing a lot of shifting. This is showing how characters are complicated! I also read in my book, right around the same time, an essay my character wrote in class about how Nicki Minaj is misunderstood just like I noticed Will Smith is misunderstood. I then had students look back at the patterns they were noticing in their independent reading when examining character speech and think about how their character is complicated and also misunderstood and what the reader can learn (theme) when examining the character this way. I even wrote my own based off the character Xiomara in my book, The Poet X. This serves as a model, but it also can act as a way to sell this book as a future choice for students.
Take some time to look back at your ELA Reading and Writing lessons. Are you following the model for best practice? Which steps are you a shining star, and which steps do you need to rethink?
One more think to keep in mind. All 5 steps are not expected in one day. Since online class times in our district are shorter than the 50-60+ minutes allotted to a face to face setting, the I Do, We Do, You Do may take place over the course of a week. How you roll out the week may look different from class to class; however, the model should still follow the same steps.