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.

Graphic Novels: Part 1

Why Graphic Novels

I remember a time when my middle schoolers were told that graphic novels were like a bag of chips. They are to be enjoyed, but is there really any thinking involved? Since then the world of graphic novels has exploded and kids who generally don’t like to read gravitate toward them. While reading into the subject and looking through some graphic novels myself, I have zero concerns that graphic novels are merely a bag of chips. First of all, if kids who don’t like to read are reading, what’s the issue? Secondly, like many novels and even informational text, the same thinking about reading work can still be applied and practiced, but I will leave that to another post…Coming Soon! This post will focus on helping kids navigate this type of reading and the vocabulary associated with reading graphic novels.

Basic Vocabulary

There is specific vocabulary associated with graphic novels that differs from traditional text. Using and teaching kids this lingo will be helpful when they read and/ or talk about the text.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategies to Coach Readers – Navigating Graphic Novels

Like any kind of reading, small group and conferring can be opportunities to coach into navigating and making meaning of graphic novels for those who are choosing them.

Strategy 1 – Reading Panels

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 2 – Reading Dialogue

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 3 – Choosing What Works Best

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 4 – Adding the Actions in the Gutters

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 5 – Making Connections to Construct a Continuous Story

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

In conclusion…

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Graphic novels may not be your cup of tea, but if they are what kids are reading, let’s use them to engage kids and teach comprehension strategies. Coming next we will compare strategies for traditional texts with graphic novels. Then we will explore the strategies teachers can use to coach into the inference and analytical work specific to graphic novels.

Feel free to make a copy for yourself of the anchor chart and strategies for navigating graphic novels found here!

Virtual Teaching Techniques for Vocabulary

I recently attended a webinar with the Aim Institute for Learning and Research. Having attended several professional development opportunities in the teaching of vocabulary, this one was packed with researched activities that teach vocabulary in the context of what we do.

Why Is Teaching Vocabulary Important?

According to research, vocabulary is a strong predictor of reading comprehension. For those who teach ELA, let me present Scarborough’s Reading Rope. There is so much that goes into skilled reading, but the endgame is for readers to not only comprehend but make meaning. Each strand works toward this.

If one strand becomes frayed it will have an impact on the end game. The depth, breadth, and fluency of vocabulary interacts with other strands including academic vocabulary. This is where ELA meets content area teachers. Through direct instruction across content areas, students can access 300-400 words each year, but what they need to acquire in order to be successful is 2500-3000 words each year!

Direct instruction refers to systematic and intentional instruction within any curriculum. The remainder of the words needed each year will come from the use of intentional independent word-learning strategies that also require direct instruction as well as indirect language experiences met through teacher and student talk, read aloud, and the structured independent reading already achieved in a reading and writing workshop.

The strategies included in this writing lend themselves to intentional instruction that can be used in any subject area and aid in the acquisition of 300-400 words each year.

Word Choice Approaches

There are three approaches to choosing words. When word lists are not already provided, we can fall on the tiered approach and the guidelines.

One way to use the guidelines is to utilize a shared text such as a mentor text, read aloud, or vocabulary for a particular content area unit.

Once you have a list, it’s best to start with a kid-friendly way to preview the words. Jamboard is a great tool for students to use when previewing vocabulary words in a virtual setting. Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard and part of G Suit. Students move each word to the appropriate category. Stranger words are words the students never heard of before; acquaintance words students have heard of but don’t know what they mean; friend words are words the students know; and BFF words are words the students not only know but uses regularly in speaking and writing.

Once students are able to provide a baseline by rating their familiarity or knowledge of each word, the systematic direct instruction can begin through work with word meaning and relationships that use visuals as well as repetition.

Using Definitions

One activity to teach definitions and provide opportunities for visuals and repetition is to use a four-square. This does not need to be done for every word, but might be a good idea for those words that are strangers or acquaintances thus providing differentiation.

This can also be done in a Jamboard using the add text and add image tools. What is great about Jamboard is that the tools are very limited which allows the focus to be more on the word work and less on the many bells and whistles a student would need to navigate through in other applications.

Using Semantic Relationships and Connections

Students can continue to experience opportunities for visuals and repetition while exploring relationships and connections.

Once again Jamboard is a great no-frills tool for students to make associations and utilize visuals.

An added bonus would be for student to justify their choices verbally through Zoom breakout rooms or in writing.

Another way to explore relationships and connections is through scaling/semantic gradients. This is similar to the shades of meaning we often use in reading a writing.

Using Jamboard students can move synonyms for overused antonyms (fast/slow) onto the gradient in the order of intensity according to them.

Students can also justify verbally or in writing why they chose the order that they did.

Using Visuals

Sentences from the text can be pulled for students to illustrate what they visualize in order to make meaning.

Word walls are another way to visualize using the parts of speech.

Speaking and Writing

While speaking and writing can be used throughout it can be the activity as well. In the virtual setting students can use tools such as Screencastify, Loom, Flipgrid, etc. to explain their thinking or can continue to use live discussion using breakout rooms in Zoom.

In this activity words and pictures are added to the Jamboard for students to match before explaining their reasoning.

Reasoning can also be shared in writing.

There may be multiple interpretations so like many things there is not always one right answer.

Where to Start

Start with a text that you are using as a mentor text, read aloud, or shared reading. Pull the words that you would like to have students explore and begin with the preview to determine the needs. From there you can create many opportunities for students to visualize and learn through repetition.

Just remember that whatever you do, provide opportunities for students to think, speak, and write. If they can think it, they can talk about it, and if they can talk about it, they can write it. The more they think, speak, and write, the better the chances for the acquisition of vocabulary and less opportunity for that essential strand to fray.

Resource:

Vocabulary Activity Templates for Jamboard

Jamboard for Student-to-Student Interactions

Getting Started

There is a great Facebook page with lots of how to ideas and troubleshooting for any subject area. It’s call “Teachers Using JAMBOARDS.”

Like anything else in the classroom, you will need to begin using Jamboards by laying down the ground rules and establishing norms. This could even be it’s own partner or small group activity. One of the complaints is the scribbling some students will want to do. It might be a good idea to give them a minute to get the scribbling out of their system on a blank frame or incorporate drawing at times.

Discuss each post it and move to the correct side. Add two of your own ideas too.

There are lots of great ways to use Jamboards for the whole class, small groups, and even partnership collaboration.

Student Check-Ins

One place to use Jamboards is for a student check-in. Whether it’s to check-in on emotional state, check for understanding, or simply to get a pulse on student thinking, Jamboard is a quick way to get the info you need.

Drag an image to cover the entire frame
Content check-in
Pose a question and see where students fall at different times

Share Thinking About Read Alouds or Content Area Texts

Jamboards can be used to share thinking and collaborate using a common text. Again this can be worked on as a whole class, in small groups, or partnerships.

Thinking About Setting
Comparing and Contrasting Characters
Pros/Cons or Positive/Negative Aspects of a Character
Maybe how a character approaches a conflict or solves a problem
Character moments of choice
What caused the problem and what effects does it have on the characters?
Examining complexity of character

Differentiate Based on Choice

What starts off as a whole class stop and jot can quickly be used to determine most popular responses to move students to a smaller discussion based on their thinking.

Whole class shares thinking
Sort and send off to small group discussion

Notice, Wreck-It, and Imitate Mentor Sentences

Mentor sentences are most useful when students can share their thinking and build on ideas with peers. Jamboard can provide that platform to zoom in on what authors do, deconstruct it to see exactly what the author did, and imitate it before going off to use it in their own writing.

Notice
Wreck it
Imitate

Annotate Text (Small Group or Partnerships)

The beginning of a unit is generally a great place to look at a type of text and notice what authors do when writing. Before writing an informational writing or a realistic fiction piece, readers can study a mentor text for the moves authors make when crafting this type of text.

Strategy Lessons and Guided Practice

Any strategy in The Reading Strategies Book or The Writing Strategies Book can be turned into a Jamboard for a small group collaborative space for guided practice with you.

Based on a strategy from The Reading Strategies Book for theme
Based on a strategy from The Reading Strategies Book for character
Based on a strategy from The Reading Strategies Book for character

Small Group Progression Lessons

Progressions can also be posted for students to evaluate themselves and determine their next steps or to examine a particular progression in a mentor text.

Students share their writing about character, discuss where they are based on learning progression and determine their own next steps
Small groups or partnerships can determine what this author did to develop characters, setting, and plot before do the same kind of work in their own writing

The Possibilities Seem Endless

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Student-to-Student Interactions in a Blended Learning Classroom

As we transition to a hybrid model, we need to consider one of the necessary interactions that could be missing from our instruction. The student-to-student interaction often done through turn and talk and partnerships was a huge part of our instructional practice prior to March 2020, but it may have gotten lost as we were thrown so quickly into remote instruction.

How Do We Bring It Back?

Students who are in person can still turn and talk even though we will be 3-6 feet apart. It will just be much louder, but what about those at home or when the discussion is too complicated for such distance?

The Slow Chat

There is the option of the slow chat which is a discussion in the learning platform (Schoology for secondary teachers and Google Classroom for elementary). A discussion question can be posted and students can respond, read the responses of others and respond to them as well. This is called a slow chat for a reason. It’s not the quickest of turn and talks, but it does provide the student-to-student interaction that is crucial in learning.

Zoom

The breakout room feature in Zoom is a great way to incorporate the student-to-student interaction that is a quicker than the slow chat. During synchronous instruction, those who are in the Zoom can be put into breakout rooms with a partner for a quick turn and talk opportunity while those in class can physically turn and talk.

Jamboard

Another option is Jamboard which is a Google App and collaborative whiteboard space.

A Jamboard can be worked on by an entire class or slides can be assigned to partnerships. Here’s a video that shows the basics of getting started.

More information and ideas to come using Jamboard!

Reimagining the Workshop in a Hybrid Model

As a parent, teacher, and instructional coach, I am saddened by the turn education has taken in a few short months. Frustration and anxiety are at an all time high for teachers, students, and parents. Many of us are just trying to survive on a daily basis. As teachers so much of this is outside of our control. We certainly are not responsible for the pandemic or the decisions districts make to keep our communities safe, but we are responsible for committing to best practice. In the last two months I have personally seen so many great teachers rise to the occasion, learn new and innovative ways to deliver instruction, and continue to hold close the fundamentals of best practice in reading and writing workshop. As we move toward a new hybrid model, I encourage everyone to do the same. The simplicity of it may be just what we need as we enter another new chapter that no doubt feels overwhelming.

The fundamentals of reading and writing workshop never change no matter the model– synchronous, asynchronous, full remote, hybrid, or 100% in person, but they do need to be reimagined.

The Minilesson

In a hybrid, synchronous model, the minilesson is still mini. Whether you use the UOS virtual learning videos or give the minilesson yourself, a minilesson will fall somewhere in the 7-12 minute range, build an anchor chart, and include explicit modeling and even some guided practice.

In the hybrid model, one cohort in in the classroom receiving the instruction in person. The other cohort is in the Zoom where you may be sharing your screen.

So far we’ve done this…

Today, I’m going to teach you this…and model what that looks like using the mentor text or read aloud.

But What About Guided Practice and Turn and Talk?

To keep students actively engaged in minilessons we utilize brief moments to turn and talk about our own thinking. In this particular lesson, I am thinking about the characters in my read aloud and I need to determine who has the least to greatest amount of power before I can model my thinking about how a character responds to power. I might in a normal classroom say, “Here are the characters we’ve learned about so far. Turn and talk about the order you might put them in from greatest amount of power to least and what makes you say that.” But how does that work for the students at home? How does that work in the classroom with 6 feet of distance between turn and talk partner?

Well, it could be a turn and shout. Or it could be everyone at home is put into a breakout room for one minute with a partner to discuss while we turn and shout in the classroom. But something tells me that won’t be preferable to some. Maybe instead my in class students have white boards they can write on then turn and show. Turn and talk might instead be in the classroom, “Partner A – write down who you think has the greatest amount of power so far and why. Partner B – write down who has the least so far and why?” and after one minute they turn and show their thinking. The cohort at home can still use the breakout room to chat or you might say to those at home, “Jot your thinking in the chat”. After the minute you can share some thinking from the chat and the whiteboards you can see to avoid the close contact of the typical eavesdropping. If this is a system you use daily, it will be clunky at first in the beginning, but like everything else will smooth out as you and students become familiar with the procedure.

Now I’m ready to model how to think deeply about dystopian characters by using the next strategy of thinking about how characters respond in different ways to power. I might model my thinking for how Luke responds to power and provide more guided practice. I might send students back to the chat box or to the breakout room to discuss a different character while my in person students return to their whiteboard.

Even though students can’t lean in and discuss, it does not mean we abandon such an important practice. Utilize whiteboards, a piece of paper even, the chat box, and the breakout rooms so students can still participate in guided practice and conversation that is so essential for growing readers and writers. As you reimagine a practice, it will be clumsy at first for both you and kids, but when it becomes a part of what you do daily, it will quickly become second nature, much like the words, “turn and talk” do within a week of it being a norm in your typical classroom.

Independent Practice

Once the minilesson is complete, we will continue to provide the sacred time of reading and writing independently. We will remind them of the kind of work they can do today by referring to their anchor chart and send them off.

If I have the ability to use multiple devices I might keep a timer going on one or set a timer on my phone to keep track. I live by my timers, and they can help some kids with time management and keeping focused. They can even be added inside student notebooks for students by inserting a video!

But What About Small Group and Conferring?

The minilesson exposes students to the rigor, but the real magic happens in small group and conferring. This is time where you are using your best tools in the shed to grow readers and writers. We may not have our small group table since furniture has been removed from classrooms to space student desks six feet apart, and we may not feel comfortable sitting along side a student to properly confer, but that does not mean we abandon our best tools! Much like turn and talk and guided practice, we need to reimagine what this will look like. This might look different from room to room depending on just how many actual students are in the room, but keeping six feet apart and trying to run a small group in person could be a challenge. The volume of your projected voice alone would be a distraction to the independent readers and writers in the room. What I might do instead is pull small groups from the cohort that is working from home into a breakout room. I’d let those in the classroom and at home know that during the independent reading and writing time, I will be pulling certain students at home into a breakout room. From there I will work on what kids need based on data from running records, performance assessments, and what I am seeing in reader’s and writer’s notebooks. I have the ability to open any students notebook if it is a digital one and confer — compliment, teach (what does this student need next?), send off to practice. This time is so incredibly sacred as it provides the differentiation for students and allows relationships to be built. This time cannot be put on the back burner.

Share

A lot of times the last 5 minutes of reading workshop is a time to write fast and furious about what we noticed and our thinking. This doesn’t change in a hybrid setting. What may change is the share time. I may even use this 5 minutes to do my own writing based on the mentor text, read aloud, or my own independent reading.

Since we may not be able to end the class every day with turning and talking about what we worked on, we can at the very least utilize Zoom for those at home in the final minutes. We can use the breakout rooms to partner up students to talk about what they worked on today, what they noticed, and what it made them think. In writing, they might talk about what they worked on today, how it worked for them, and what they still need to do.

Avoid the Pitfalls

  1. Instead of trying out every single digital tool that’s being thrown out there, choose maybe one or two and get good by doing them. I am a super simple online teacher. I use my slides, digital notebooks, and features in zoom like chat and breakout rooms. Even my notebooks are simple, much like the composition books I used in the classroom for years. I include the anchor chart right on the page for easy access for students, maybe some post its depending on the unit, and rubrics or guides when and as needed.

2. Avoid the scavenger hunt. Teachers don’t mean to do it, but this one I learned while trying to help my own children. If there are too many directions, too many links, too many things to open and try to find, it is exhausting and even I start to shut down. That is why I love the digital notebook and putting everything they need in one spot.

3. Not everything needs to be done through a screen. The independent time in reading, for example, is a solid 30+ minutes (unless the child is pulled for a small group that day) to read a book. Synchronous instruction for those in the remote cohort are not watching and listening to you all period. They are getting the minilesson and doing the independent practice. Avoid returning to an entire period of the sage on the stage. It was not best practice before and it’s not now either.

In other words…keep it simple. Consistency and the basics will be your friend now more than ever!

How Have YOU been Reimagining the Workshop?

I would love to hear your ideas. Comment here or shoot me an email. We are all in this together and can benefit from the thinking of our colleagues,

The Power of Performance Assessments in Reading

The Purpose of the Performance Assessment

While the running record assesses the reading comprehension of a child through snapshots that indicate a just right reading zone, performance assessments assess an independent ability to think. Often times teachers will say to me that all of their students comprehend far below grade level, and I will look at the running record data and find a majority are actually reading on or above grade level. The students don’t necessarily need reading comprehension strategies or lower level texts; they need support to strengthen their thinking about reading. Those are a completely different set of skills.

I have heard many times that pre assessments are a waste of time. However, the purpose of the performance assessment is to guide decisions about small group instruction, additional minilessons, and even read aloud choices.

Using the Learning Progressions to Differentiate

A performance assessment will focus on a small number of specific skills like inferring about character. By matching the thinking to the learning progressions, teachers can determine at what level individuals are thinking about reading for 2-4 skills at a time and use that information to determine what strategies students need to grow their thinking.

We might also find through the performance assessment that a student’s thinking level is higher than their independent reading level. It is just as crucial to take this into account when meeting needs. That’s where read alouds and guided practice come in. These readers can still be given opportunities for thinking about reading and practicing these skills with a text they may not have been able to access independently, and they need these opportunities.

When we look only at independent reading comprehension or at independent thinking without also looking at the other, and we do not provide the differentiated instruction and opportunities to meet readers where they are, we are doing a huge disservice to them.

That is why using performance assessments to inform instruction is a powerful tool. One note of warning, however. Learners need a space for approximation. Don’t feel the need to assess and grade everything. Practicing skills can be clumsy, but we want kids to know that it’s okay to not have perfect notebook entries every day as they practice skills. Feedback not evaluation is important for growth.

Taking Ownership of Growth

One strategy to help learners take ownership of their growth is to invite them into the process. If they are writing about character, for example, use the learning progressions to show the good, better and best and determine where their current thinking sits and what they need to do to grow their thinking.

Bottom Line

When you understand the purpose of any assessment and how it can work for you and your students, it becomes more valuable. Performance assessments provide us with very clear data that shows us exactly where kids are in their thinking and what they need next. While we want our students to be strong readers, we also need them to be strong readers who can think.

Running Records: What’s the Point?

Take Note of Behaviors and Look For Patterns

In order for any assessment to be of value, it’s important to know what you are looking for and make sure the tool and protocol match. The approach is meant to be from a place of inquiry not inquisition. It’s a time to get to know readers and their reading behaviors.

If a fourth grade student, for example, is retelling and summarizes by telling about every single event and detail from beginning to end, teachers can make note that this is a student who could benefit from some small group or conferring work using a strategy that focuses on characters, setting, what’s most important in the beginning, then the middle, and the end.

Using the Narrative Reading Learning Progressions from the RUOS and resources like The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo.

By noticing reading behaviors and matching them with the Learning Progressions, teachers can map out a plan for individuals and small groups in order to differentiate instruction. Once the student is able to show growth using this strategy then look for what’s next in terms of complexity to teach.

Using the Narrative Reading Learning Progressions from the RUOS and resources like The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo.

In the above case, the next teaching point will add problem, solution, and lesson learned. I might use this strategy and tweak it to add a component for what the character learned from the problem or the solution before moving into the next teaching point found in the learning progressions.

Using the Narrative Reading Learning Progressions from the RUOS and resources like The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo.

Above we see the next step emphasizes retelling using a cause and effect or problem and solution structure with more nuanced work in theme. At this point I might also refer to the Learning Progressions for theme.

While studying the reader during the running record, you might notice a pattern in the types of words that are mispronounced or a struggle. Maybe you notice a pattern of stumbling over multi syllable words. That can then be a note for what this student needs next to be successful and look for a strategy to use to support this reader.

Using resources like The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo.

Behaviors during a running record can provide so much information. It might indicate what could be getting in the way of comprehension. Maybe the student can only remember that last part read and focuses on that as the retelling. While making training videos for running records several years ago, I found that my own child went back and reread the first sentence in each paragraph to retell. Somewhere along the way he learned the first sentence makes the main point for a paragraph, but does that work outside of informational texts? This was a behavior worth noting to determine what he needed for a narrative text.

Take Note of What’s Next to Prepare and Support Readers

If we give running records in order to merely check a box that we have completed them each testing period, then it’s possible we don’t see their value.

Running records provide a snapshot into a student’s approximate reading comprehension and the the information we gather from it informs us of the work required in their just right reading zone as well as into a more complex reading zone, what comes next.

A student who is reading within a band of O/P/Q who is ready or soon to be ready for R may need some support with something like keeping track of long strings of unassigned dialogue and being able to infer story action in these parts.

F & P Text Gradient Levels

A student who is reading within a band of S/T/U who is ready or soon to be ready for V may need some different supports including switching settings, flashbacks, and words used figuratively that could pose a challenge.

F & P Text Gradient Levels

With that said, students may choose to read a text that is considered outside of their just right reading zone because maybe, for example, it’s historical fiction and they love to read historical fiction and have a lot of background knowledge in the time period and events of the the setting. It’s okay to read within a band of text complexity or even stretch themselves with a book outside their just right zone, but knowing where they are in their most recent snapshot to determine the kind of support they may need, maybe support with multiple plot lines or quick perspective changes, would be a valuable tool.

Bottom Line

It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of stop, drop, and test–checking off a box 5 times a year. However, using running records to examine reading behaviors and inform teaching practices in order to differentiate instruction and meet individual and small group needs is the point of running records. And that information, approached from a place of inquiry, can provide the most valuable data that can grow readers.