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Reading and Writing Workshop 301: A Professional Development on Accountability and Student Equity in the Workshop

A Focus on Individual Growth

We know from Reading and Writing Workshop 201 that instruction during the independent time of the workshop focuses on the individual and small group needs. This is when teachers meet needs by moving readers and writers from where they are, thus providing differentiation.

By moving readers and writers from where they are, teachers are also focusing on equity vs equality. Instead of everyone getting the same instruction and being expected to do the same thing, we provide the instruction they need to make growth and hold them accountable for that work.

Often times unfavorable behaviors, disengagement, and lack of motivation in the classroom can be attributed to needs not being met, instruction not being differentiated, and expectations that are unrealistic compared to needs. These behaviors can look different in every reader and writer from avoidance and shutting down to more aggressive behaviors that create workshop disruptions.

Shifting from equality based instruction and assessment to equity based instruction and assessment means re-framing our focus as teachers.

Accountability in the Workshop – Part 1 “Why”

This video explains the philosophy of grading with equity in mind and why this shift is necessary.

Accountability in the Workshop – Part 2 “How”

Now that we have established the why, these videos focus on how we go about this shift in both reading and writing workshop.

Reading Workshop

Writing Workshop

Writing Workshop 201: A Professional Development on Intentional Instruction within Conferring and Small Group Instruction

While balancing the structure of Writing Workshop is often a focus in the the early stages of becoming a workshop teacher, teachers need to next look next to the intention behind their instruction during the independent work time. This is where your strongest tools- conferring and small group instruction- are being used. It is during conferring and small group instruction that we are differentiating instruction and preparing writers to grow their own writing skills and craft because we are teaching them the strategies they need now and can draw from not just in one piece of writing but any time they write.

Think about this time with writers while conferring and pulling small groups as providing the right kind of support for individuals. The skills taught with your own writing in the minilesson are on or even slightly above grade level. It provides opportunities for exposure to higher level skills and rigor. But expecting mastery or even growth from this level for every student is unrealistic. They still need the exposure to the on grade level work and rigor, which is why the minilesson is such a small chunk of time. Once they move to the independent work time, they need differentiated instruction and time to practice and grow from that place. Think about it in terms of weight training. If doing curls with say 25 pound weights is considered “on grade level” does that mean it’s appropriate to hand 25 pound weights to every student and say, “Have at it!” Of course not. Some will need to start with learning form and building up from 5lbs, others, 8lbs, others 10lbs, and some may even need 30lbs. That is the power and beauty of conferring and small group. It is meeting writers where they are and providing the specific instruction they need to grow from that point.

.What does this look like and how do teachers prepare for this work? These two videos focus on bringing intentional instruction to conferring and small groups.

Conferring with Intentional Instruction

Small Group Instruction with Intentional Instruction

Additional Resources

Reading Workshop 201: A Professional Development on Intentional Instruction within Conferring and Small Group Instruction

While balancing the structure of Reading Workshop is often a focus in the the early stages of becoming a workshop teacher, teachers need to next look next to the intention behind their instruction during the independent work time. This is where your strongest tools- conferring and small group instruction- are being used. It is during conferring and small group instruction that we are differentiating instruction and preparing readers to be independent thinkers because we are teaching them the strategies they need now and can draw from not just in the book they are reading but in any book.

Think about this time with readers while conferring and pulling small groups as providing the right kind of support for individuals. The grappling with skills and text in the minilesson are on or even slightly above grade level. It provides opportunities for exposure to higher level skills and rigor. But expecting mastery or even growth from this level is unrealistic. They still need the exposure to the on grade level work and rigor, which is why the minilesson is such a small chunk of time. Once they move to the independent work time, they need differentiated instruction and time to practice and grow from that place. Think about it in terms of weight training. If doing curls with say 25 pound weights is considered “on grade level” does that mean it’s appropriate to hand 25 pound weights to every student and say, “Have at it!” Of course not. Some will need to start with learning form and building up from 5lbs, others, 8lbs, others 10lbs, and some may even need 30lbs. That is the power and beauty of conferring and small group. It is meeting readers where they are and providing the specific instruction they need to grow from that point.

What does this look like and how do teachers prepare for this work? These two videos focus on bringing intentional instruction to conferring and small groups.

Conferring with Intentional Instruction

For more on conferring, check out the Heinemann Blog for posts written by Jennifer Serravallo and Carl Anderson.

Small Group Instruction with Intentional Instruction

Includes a peek at two videos produced by Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

Additional Resources

Examining What’s Below the Surface to Think Deeply about Character

I’ve been working with some middle school students trying to push their thinking about character by using the lenses to look for patterns that help us make more inferences about character. At the time we were watching parts of the movie The Blind Side. As students were examining Michael Oher, the main character, even when looking at patterns through lenses, their thinking about Michael was very obvious.

Image of Michael Oher from the movie

While students came up with lots of ideas about his character, they just felt confined to the left side of the learning progressions.

Learning Progression for Inferring about Character

While it’s good to notice that Michael is quiet, shy, and lonely the reasoning behind it fell flat for me. He doesn’t have family or friends so he’s lonely. He doesn’t do well in school so he’s quiet. He’s different from everyone at school so he’s shy. I wanted more depth. More of what we see in the 6+ column of the progression, so I started thinking about issues and conflicts. The movie is full of them. He’s a teenage boy whose basic needs are not being met. Needs not being met are often at the the center of issues and conflicts.

I tried to have kids examine what the character really needs, and if the need is being met or not being met, what reaction do we see in the character? It took me back to my kids when they were little and finding the need behind their behavior. One of my children, for example, would become very angry and inconsolable at times. We could have ignored it and hoped it would go away, but the behavior was during times when his world was not predictable. He was a kid who needed order and structure and when that need was not met, he would act out because he didn’t feel safe. So why was Michael really so quiet, shy, and lonely? What need was not being met?

I started playing around with tools to help push this thinking while leaning a bit on some basic Maslow. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.

First attempt

I consulted with Brandi Hamnett, our SEL Instructional Coach, and she helped me lean on the work of Nonviolent Communication, which is about seeking to understand while building connection and empathy in conflict. This work is not only important as teachers who seek to understand our students without judgement, but for kids to to use in their own relationships as well, and what better way to practice this work than with characters!

I revised the tools, and we got back to work.

New strategy
New tools to support the new strategy

Let’s Try This Work…

Watch this short clip. Examine Michael during this conflict with his football coach.

Think to yourself, What does Michael need or value here?

You might have thought he needs connection and in particular to be understood.

His coach does not understand him and gets frustrated and that leads us to ask, “What do you see as a result of the need to be understood not being met?”

Michael reacts to not being understood or having a connection by being confused and overwhelmed. He’s stuck making mistake after mistake.

Then we see Leigh Anne step in. She shows that she understands him and gives him direction that meets this need. After the need is met, what do we notice?

We could look at the conflict between the football coach and Michael and say that in the beginning of the scene Michael is confused and overwhelmed. We see this in the continuous mistakes he makes which only further frustrates his coach. Michael is confused and overwhelmed as the result of his need for being understood not being met. We can infer that Michael doesn’t respond well to criticism. Later, when Leigh Anne, who takes the time to understand Michael, explains to him what he needs to do, we notice a change in Michael. We see his facial expressions changed and his body language relax. He looks more at ease and looks hopeful and encouraged. When he goes back to practice we see his confused actions are changed to confident and powerful ones. We can infer that Michael is someone who needs connection and understanding in order to respond positively.

By really examining why Michael responds the way that he does, we are thinking deeper about his character as he faces conflicts and issues which pushes us to the right side of the learning progressions.

This is really challenging work and needs a lot of modeling and peer discussion in the form of turn and talk. But with persistence, I am seeing that the work is paying off. The inferring about character has grown deeper than the obvious surface level thinking and there is plenty of room to scaffold this work.

I may still tweak the tools as I continue to experiment, but I thought it was worth sharing for the upper elementary and middle school grade levels who might want to experiment with this work as well.

If you try this work with your students, I would love any and all feedback and would be happy to plan with you. Additionally, Brandi Hamnett was a wealth of information on this subject and a valuable asset for all SEL needs. Thank you, Brandi!

Writing Workshop 101: A Professional Development on Structure

Writing Workshop 101: Structure

The Mini Lesson

The Independent Work Time

Independent Work Time – Conferring

Featuring a conferences by Carl Anderson and a teacher from FCPS ISD Language Arts

Independent Work Time – Small Group Instruction

Featuring a small group lesson shared by TCRWP

Additional Resources

Reading Workshop 101: A Professional Development on Structure

Reading Workshop 101: Structure

The Mini Lesson

The Independent Work Time

The Independent Work Time – Conferring

Featuring conferences by Jennifer Serravallo

The Independent Work Time – Small Group Instruction

Featuring a small group instruction video published by AldineISD Broadcast Network

Additional Resources

Increasing Engagement in Virtual Learning

In the past I would use some gamification to improve things that were an issue in the classroom. It is not uncommon for middle schoolers to come to class unprepared and struggle with transition time…they are gifted time wasters! I would establish competitions between class periods to battle it out each marking period for the prized donut breakfast with table cloths and everything. Cost me some money, but for me the investment was worth it.

I noticed this year, with my after school Reading Clinic being virtual, that kids were still coming, but I was getting smaller numbers and the active participation was a challenge compared to in-person learning of the past. So, I used two things that I’m pretty good at (patting self on back) and got to work.

First, my kids get a kick out of my over the top reminders and announcements. I enjoy making them…it’s like crafting for me. I post them each day in the Schoology Updates.

More examples…

Since I was already using my advertising skills and it was working…I started to add in some gamification to help with attendance too…enter Battle of the Teachers!

enhance

Each night the kids in clinic were dying to know who was winning, and I would post updates in Schoology. I don’t know who got more competitive, the teachers or the kids! More and more started showing up so their teacher could win bragging rights and a sweet morning treat.

While more and more kids were showing up, we all know that that is not enough. I needed them to be active participants as well, so Battle of the Students was born. Students were given a point for showing up, a point for each thoughtful answer to a question in chat, and two points for posting live on our Jamboard which we used for discussions. The more points you earn, the more entries you get in a drawing at the end of the week for a $10 gift card. Since I always brought snacks to in person sessions (a student favorite) I decided to use the money I normally invested into a variety of gift cards. At the end of the week a name is randomly selected!

enhance

The idea of working towards a prize was motivating for sure, but what I noticed was it opened the floodgates to some very thoughtful conversations and chats.

One example from a seventh grade chat they initiated on their own.

In this excerpt from a chat, I asked them to look through a particular lens for our text and they were responding what they were noticing along the way.

These chats and discussions then led to more participation on our Jamboard that opened even more discussion.

I’m still thinking of ways to keep the kids not only coming but engaged and actively participating and will continue to share as I learn, but I wanted you to see how novelty and some competition can help us achieve our goals.

If anyone has some great ideas to share, please do!

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Text Dependent Analysis: A Training on Steroids!

Two years ago three of the instructional coaches went to a training at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit that was meant for coaches and leaders to turn around in the district. It was three full days packed with new information and lots of practice pertaining to text dependent analysis (TDA), but we learned so much that we were able to turn around and train small groups of teachers over the course of 3 half days. This post is dedicated to providing asynchronous training and exploration of all things TDA for teachers who are new, have changed grade levels, or just want some refreshers.

As always, I am available to our Bensalem teachers for planning and instructional coaching. In addition to four training videos, I have included some previous blogs that showcase the work I have done in classrooms last year.

Training Session #1 – What is Close Reading?

In this first session we looked at the definition for TDA that was provided by the Department of Education that shows the need for close reading, what that actually is, and how to use a framework for close reading to do the work necessary for analysis as defined.

Using Images…What Does That Look Like in the Classroom?

A Close Work at Why We Teach Analysis summarizes some of the basics around close reading and analysis.

TDA: Starting with Images provides a way to get started using pictures. Any picture will do, but here are some examples!

Approaching Analysis with Non-Traditional Text is an extension of using images in any reading workshop unit.

TDA: Students Take on the Images shows more student work and thinking!

Listen, Learn, Trust, and Expect reminds us that over-scaffolding can lead to more problems not less.

Close Reading Anchor Chart

Close Reading Glasses (recommended to be copied on 11×17 size paper)

Training Session #2 – How Does the Framework for Close Reading Work with Fiction?

The second session was spent looking at the challenges of PSSA prompts and how the Close Reading Framework we’ve adopted, as recommended by the Bucks County IU, along with the use of a Close Reading Menu can assist in providing instructional support for teachers and students as they grapple with this challenging work.

Using Short Texts and Even Independent Reading to Model and Practice This Work

How to Find the Time to Work on TDA shows teachers how to fold in the work of close reading and analysis by using our reading worksop units and the learning progressions.

Moving from Pictures to Text…Oh My! not only looks at the transition to more challenging texts but the diversity in thinking that must be celebrated so kids know they can make inferences and come to new understandings without the worry of “being right”.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter One shows what is discovered and where to go next when examining preassessment data from TDA.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter Two walks readers through some guided practice using a common text with choice still available to students in their partner work.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter Three show the use of small group instruction and conferring within guided practice of the thinking work associated with close reading and analysis.

At the Corner of Active Engagement and Analysis reminds us how valuable student discussion is for doing this work.

What’s the Deal with All These Sticky Notes shows how the work of close reading can be used within the independent portion of the workshop, but it requires a lot of teacher modeling. I recommend using books from your classroom library as this will serve as double duty and sell books to kids too!

Training Session #3- How Does the Framework for Close Reading Work with Non-Fiction/Informational Text?

Session three was actually a bonus session provided during an in-service day that resulted from many questions asked about how is thinking about nonfiction and informational text different. We used the same framework for close reading but a different close reading menu based on the kinds of elements that pop up in our standards and eligible content as well as our learning progressions and bands of text complexity for reading nonfiction and informational text.

Supporting This Work Across Content Areas

Active Reading Beyond ELA shows that this work can also be practiced in other content areas that use nonfiction and informational text.

Training Session #4 – How Do Learning Progressions for the Units and TDA Inform Instruction?

Learning Progressions are meant to inform instruction and allow for differentiation based on strengths and needs of individual students. This final session took a deep dive into how the learning progressions for our units and for TDA are similarly designed and serve similar purposes. The progressions for TDA are broken down into three underlying components: Reading Comprehension, Analysis, and Essay Writing. Each component addresses specific criteria.

Moving On from Thinking Work to Organization and Essay Writing

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter Four focuses on organizing the close reading and making a claim before writing.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter Five focuses on using a structure for writing.

The Adventures of TDA: The Final Chapter takes a look at text dependent analyses written by sixth graders as well as the details of the post assessment on this mini unit.

Avoiding the Panic Associated with TDA shows the value of doing the work yourself in order to better support students.

Sample Anchor Chart for Writing

TDA Student Friendly Learning Progressions for grades 3-5

TDA Student Friendly Learning Progressions for grades 6-8

Text Dependent Analysis Toolkit from PDE contains lots of resources to support your understanding and instruction including annotated student responses for grades 3-8.

Moving Ahead

As we learn and grow in our practice, more may be added to this post. It is certainly not meant to be tackled all in one sitting. During the actual trainings, teachers left each session with tools and homework to practice the work back in the classroom before returning for the next session. I recommend that this post be used in a similar way. Watch each video, explore some of the supporting resources under it, and try the work out in your classroom before moving onto the next video. If there is something specific you would like to see more of, leave a comment or shoot me an email. And as always, I am here to support Bensalem teachers.

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Graphic Novels: Part 3

Do the Strategies for Close Reading Work in Graphic Novels?

  

So far we have explored the strategies for navigating graphic novels in order to improve comprehension and even specific strategies that can be used for analysis that is specific to graphic novels. But the question I get more often is how can the students do the work of the units of study if they are reading graphic novels? The assumption is that graphic novels are just bags of chips and do not lend themselves to the deep thinking about big ideas including character and theme, so I decided to put that notion to test.

Close Reading Menus

In the TDA trainings a couple years ago, we learned that the strategies and anchor charts in our units can be translated into lenses for close reading. Here is a typical menu of the kinds of lenses that lend themselves to close reading in order to think deeply and come to new understandings.

The idea is for readers to be active readers who zoom in on elements that authors use to do things like develop characters and themes in order to look for patterns. Readers can then use those patterns to come to a new understanding. Authors may use some element more than others; therefore, a menu provides differentiation for readers to determine what they are noticing in the independent reading they have chosen.

Genesis Begins Again – A Traditional Novel

Let’s examine an excerpt from Alicia D. Williams’ debut novel Genesis Begins Again a powerful story centered around a thirteen-year-old protagonist. Read this excerpt to get the gist while keeping in mind the lenses for close reading (blue post-its) on the menu.

Excerpt from Genesis Begins Again

Now look at the menu again. Which lenses (blue post-its) did you notice?

  • Did you notice the actions of Genesis and the girls with her?
  • Did you notice what the characters were saying or how they were saying it?
  • Did you notice Genesis’ thinking?
  • Did you notice the conflict between Genesis and her “friends” or her internal struggle?
  • Did you notice how the characters were reacting?
  • Did you notice the setting descriptions?
  • Did you notice the relationship between Genesis and the other girls or even a possible relationship between Genesis and her father?

Some of these lenses may have been more prevalent than others, but all of them were there. Students reading Genesis Begins Again can easily read actively using any of these lenses to look for patterns in order to come to new understandings (pink post-its).

Let’s Try It Out: Examining Character Actions

Look at the actions of the girls who are going home with Genesis that day. What pattern do you notice in those actions?

You might say the actions are mean-spirited, judgmental, and unsupportive. And what do these patterns show?

When thinking about character, you might think that Genesis is the kind of person who surrounds herself with people who are not really her friends and you might even make a theory about why she might do that. Maybe she’s the kind of person who surrounds herself with people who are not really her friends because she wants to be part of a particular crowd and thinks that is more important than surrounding herself with people who respect her for who she is.

You might even look at those same patterns and start thinking about themes by asking, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about these judgemental and unsupportive actions?

Class Act – A Graphic Novel

Now let’s look at the graphic novel, Class Act by Jerry Craft. This is a companion to the graphic novel, New Kid by the same author. Both novels feature three middle school aged boys as they navigate the struggles of adolescence. Read this excerpt to get the gist while keeping in mind the lenses for close reading (blue post-its) on the menu.

Excerpt from Class Act

Now look at the menu again. Which lenses (blue post-its) did you notice?

  • Did you notice the actions of Jordan and his dad?
  • Did you notice what the characters were saying or how they were saying it?
  • Did you notice Jordan’s thinking on the black and white pages?
  • Did you notice the conflict between Jordan and his mom and his internal struggle?
  • Did you notice how the characters were reacting?
  • Did you notice the setting descriptions?
  • Did you notice the relationship between Jordan and his dad?

Some of these lenses may have been more prevalent than others, but once again all of them were there. Students reading this graphic novel can easily read actively using any of these lenses to look for patterns in order to come to new understandings (pink post-its).

Let’s Try It Out: Examining Character Speech

This time look at the dad’s words to Jordan. What pattern do you notice in his words?

You might say Dad’s words are concerned, full of advice, and trying to relate to his son, Jordan.

When looking at these patterns, you might think more about Dad’s character. You might say Dad is the kind of father that takes the time to put his son at ease by trying to relate so that Jordan feels safe enough to open up and even possibly consider his advice. We know he is a caring father because he invests his time in building a positive relationship.

You might use those same patterns to think about possible themes by asking, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about these words that are full of concern, advice, and attempts to relate?

In conclusion…

There is a lot of concern that graphic novels are not as valuable as traditional text and are easy reading, otherwise known as a bag of chips. But while reading up on the value of this type of text and putting it to the test alongside a traditional novel, I see that they can be very valuable as independent reading choices. A lot of what we are teaching is how to think about reading and graphic novels 100% provide an engaging way to practice those skills.

Graphic Novels: Part 2

Analyzing Craft Moves

We know that graphic novels are all the rage, and they are incredible opportunities to engage reluctant readers, but they are also valuable tools for practicing those analytical skills by studying craft choices.

This post will share several strategies for examining craft to push readers to analyze the choices creators (authors) make when developing the plot, characters, themes, and even the effect on the reader.

The Strategies

Strategy 1 – Looking at the Height

One of the moves that a creator makes is utilizing the height or type of view from panel to panel. Readers can examine the height or type of view in a series of panels in one scene to determine the effect the scene has on the reader. The creator begins this scene with the reader having a bird’s eye view to show the setting but leaves the reader disconnected. This is followed by a series of eye level views that create a sense of feeling part of the scene and joking among friends. The scene then takes a sharp turn with a worm’s eye view making the reader feel as threatened as scared as the two joking boys who are about to experience a real problem.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 2 – Considering the Distance

The type of shot is examined when considering the distance of the subject from the camera in a panel. Each shot serves a purpose. By looking at a scene closely and examining each shot, the reader can determine what each shot is doing and why it was chosen.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 3 – Noticing Color Choices

Creators use color, much like authors use word choice, to evoke a feeling, mood, or atmosphere. On this page it’s the first day of school. Notice the absence of color of the students around the friends who are seeing each other for the first time after a long break. Even though the friends seem excited to catch up, there is a sense of dread in the air and the author evokes a feeling of doom and gloom. In just one page we are experiencing both the excitement and dread of going back to school.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 4 – Paying Attention to a Series of Panels

This strategy has readers examine the passage of time by determining the type of camera and why the creator chose it for the scene. The panels on the left show a static camera that slows down the story to emphasize the emotions in this important conflict between friends. The panels on the right, however, speed up the scene to show the drama and even evoke the anxiety that the character is experiencing.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 5 – Zooming Into Each Panel

Reading graphic novels includes a close reading of the pictures along with any text. Readers can determine a lot about characters, struggles, mood, atmosphere, etc. by asking not only what do I see but what don’t I see. In this scene we see up close a picture of a man and the boy, but what you may not know is that this is not the boy’s father. What we see (the picture of this man) and what we don’t see but hear arguing with his mother (the father) tells us that this son is disconnected from an absentee father and we will want to pay attention to how this impacts this character. .

In conclusion…

These strategies are more specific to graphic novels than traditional text and are good to have in your toolbox when conferring with readers who are enjoying this type of text. These strategies can be used by graphic novel readers to focus reading and set a path for studying craft, identifying what patterns they are seeing, and determining what the patterns show to develop the plot, characters, themes, or even effect on reader. The next post will focus on the reading strategies that both graphic novels and traditional text share.