Speaking of Grammar…

Recently I have been working with teachers on using mentor sentences to look closely at conventions and style in writing, and some teachers want to teach the parts of speech. Is teaching the parts of speech wrong? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

My experience with the parts of speech included the little grammar book that I remember as a student and later as a teacher. What I noticed, as both a student and a teacher, was that learning and teaching the parts of speech was like throwing a bunch of paper balls at a student and hoping something stuck. But it didn’t. So does that mean it’s completely useless to teach? Not at all, but it depends on how you teach it.

It never seemed to stick!

If you are using that little grammar book of lessons and practice, assigning worksheets, or even digital slides that are essentially worksheets, you may not be getting much to stick. That is because drilling out of context has been proven to ineffective. However, if you are using mentor texts and examining how the parts of speech impact writing and allowing students the time to go into their own writing, you are teaching grammar in context and you may find more success.

What Does This Look Like?

First, introduce a student-friendly definition. In this case, we are thinking about adjectives. Then allow students time to brainstorm. Whether they are in person or remote they can pick something in the classroom or in their home to describe coming up with as many examples as possible in a specified period of time.

They can also play tennis with the item they are describing. In person, name back and forth until the first person can no longer leaving it up to the other partner to keep going unit they can no longer think of any as well. In a hybrid classroom, breakout rooms can be used to partner up students.

Step one is quick…few minutes at most!

Find a mentor text to read to students and then examine just a piece of it looking closely for adjectives–words that describe people, places, or things.

Then remove the adjectives. Again this is just within a few minutes.

Ask students what effect the adjectives had on the text. Why did the author use the adjectives?

In informational text adjectives add precision and clarity to help readers understand

After studying this wrecked version of an informational text, we are showing not telling our students that adjectives provide precision and clarity in order to help readers understand. This would then lead to an invitation to revise.

If we are teaching the parts of speech in a way that teaches writers then we are more likely to improve writing, and isn’t that really the goal? Being able to name and identify parts of speech is not a life long goal; however, becoming a writer is. The research forever has proven that teaching grammar in isolation does not have positive effects on writing growth. In fact, it can cause more harm. Not only does it not stick, but the time wasted takes away from valuable writing time. Teaching grammar and the parts of speech in context of writing and using it as a means to transfer to student writing is a more effective approach.

Where Do I Start?

Think about the genre you are in. What are the parts of speech and conventions that will be important to learn and apply? The work is meant to transfer right into the current writing. For example, opinion and informational texts that need that precision and clarity will lend itself nicely to adjectives while strong verbs and strong nouns are necessary in narrative pieces. It might be useful to examine a mentor text for the genre and type of writing you are working in to determine what kids need. Studying realistic fiction, for example, might show me that strong nouns, strong verbs, paragraphing dialogue, and punctuating dialogue will be a helpful start. Think to yourself, what do they need now that they can go in and write or revise today.

Writing Workshop: Focusing on What’s Really Important

First!

Use the Viewer’s Guide in the Virtual Units of Study. It is such a powerful tool get yourself grounded in what is most important.

The Viewer’s Guide can be found in the introduction of the virtual unit.

When you open the Viewer’s Guide, you will get a session by session glance of what the teacher is teaching and what the students are doing.

The first three sessions of sixth grade personal narrative

By reading through what teachers will be teaching and what students will be doing, you will see a clear roadmap of where students are headed as well as patterns for what is most important.

Here’s a road map of what I noticed in the sixth grade personal narrative unit.

Prior to beginning any unit, it’s helpful to use the Viewer’s Guide to create your own roadmap to ground yourself in what’s ahead and to find the patterns that are most important because we can’t teach everything but the kitchen sink and hope it’s going to all stick.

I noticed when creating the roadmap for this unit that what was truly at the heart was craft and elaboration.

Second!

It would also be helpful to study student writing from past years or from the online resources for your units.

This unit, as many do, offers examples of student writing. By reading these examples, you might get a better picture of what to expect. It would also help to share these student samples with students. Let them know you are about to begin an exciting unit exploring personal narrative, for example, and share what previous students have written.

The start of one student sample

Ask them, “What do you notice about personal narrative?” and for each example, “What do you notice this particular student did when writing his/her personal narrative?” Let students make discoveries and have opportunities to discuss them. Then share the road map of the unit with them. This will help them to see what they are doing and why along the way.

Third!

You will also need to fold in some additional work based on what you notice students need based on their pre-assessment writing.

Determine the additional work you will be adding in based on what you notice in student writing that will serve as critical areas in conventions that need to be developed. This may become a secondary road map for you and students.

This work is blended in using mentor sentences. We want to develop their skills of paying attention to what writers do, why they do it, and the effect it has on the writing. Read more about that here in “Where Does Grammar Fit Into the Workshop?” We want to use our mentor sentences and what students notice to create anchor charts and use that work to revisit their own writing pieces and revise with this work in mind.

Fourth!\

Keep what’s most important front and center. In almost every writing unit I have looked through I’ve noticed that what is at the heart of each unit is being a writer.

Each unit, no matter the type of writing, focuses on writers who set goals and make plans to achieve those goals; studying a great deal of mentor texts to notice craft moves and determining which moves to try out and use within their own writing; reflecting on goals, plans, craft choices, and growth as a writer; and determining new goals and new plans.

The idea is to teach the writer more so than the type of writing. That is not to say that the type of writing is not important, but it is secondary to teaching writers to become independent. Teaching them to set goals, create plans, use resources, and reflect. If you are able to foster that independence, then your writers will be able to succeed in anything they need or want to write.

Digital Notebooks: How Do I Grade Them?

Digital notebooks are amazing tools, especially now with the Slip In Slide add-on which allows you to incorporate different tools like anchor charts. This same add-on can allow teachers to also slip in checklists and scoring guides as well.

One of the biggest questions I’ve received since sharing more about digital notebooks and using the Slip In Slide add-on is, how do we grade digital notebooks?

First, let’s revisit the purpose of the reader’s and writer’s notebooks.

Playground

The notebook, whether it’s digital or an old-school composition book, is a playground for student thinking and writing. As they are exposed to strategies, they decide what they will practice using their independent reading or writing. Depending on where they are in a novel or writing piece or how comfortable they feel with any given strategy, for example, will determine their work. What they focus on each day is just as much a choice as what they are reading or writing.

Anchor charts provide options

Because the notebook is a playground, they will messy and even a bit chaotic.

Formative Assessment

Since the reader’s and writer’s notebooks are used daily, they are a continuous record of growth and provide valuable information for teachers in order to meet the goals of individuals, small groups, large groups, and to differentiate based on those needs.

Individual Differentiation

Teachers can look at notebooks and notice patterns with an individual notebook and provide specific strategies within conferring. What does this student need next?

Small Group Differentiation

Teachers can look at notebooks and notice patterns that will separate students into small groups in order to provide specific strategies and meet each group where they are. What does this group need next?

Large Group

Teachers may also see something across the board that is an indication that the class might benefit from scaffolding or additional modeling before moving on.

Summative Assessment

When it comes to the reader’s and writer’s notebook, it is important to note that if you are trying to grade every single entry they write every single day, then you are grading formative assessments that are not meant to be summative. Not to mention, you have got to be super overwhelmed with such a task! And if you are able to easily grade everything they write every single day, then they are not writing enough. However, every few days or so, teachers should provide options for a summative assessment. An entire writing piece (for example, the entire personal narrative) does not have to be read and scored. Students can choose what they want to showcase for a grade based on the work that they have been doing using the current anchor charts.

Choice, Checklists, and Scoring Guides

Whenever something is going to be graded, students should continue to choose the work they want to showcase. Remember, the notebook is a playground and not all entries will be worthy of being showcased, and we want students to feel comfortable to take risks and be okay with stumbling through their practice until they grow.

Students should know in advance what specifically a teacher is looking for when grading. Checklist and scoring guides are a part of preparing students. Teachers can Slip In Slides using the add-on for checklists too!

Teach Students to Determine What Is Graded

In the classroom, it was simple. We would give the kids a certain post it and have them mark the entry that was to be graded. Or take an entry of their choosing to write the “long write”. In the digital world, you could add a star to the page you slide in with the checklist and scoring guide (see image above). Students can copy and paste that star onto the page they want scored (see image below).

Another way to get students more involved in the grading is to have them highlight each part you are looking for (determined in the scoring guide) in a a different color. If they are unable to highlight a part, that’s an indication that it is missing. Or if they highlight something that does not match the expectation, that is a teaching point.

The teacher would have the scoring guide to copy and paste into the identified page and would use it to score. See the example below.

Finally, and this part is crucial, feedback can be added to support the student and to provide a record or expectations for the future.

Looks like a lot of work, right? Actually think about the feedback you provide. How often is it the same comment over and over? You can do the work on the front end and have a page of common comments already prepared (see below). You can even color code them to what students highlighted to keep yourself focused. When you copy and paste a prepared comment in, you can customize it if you choose. Notice how the comments added to the notebook page above were customized to provide a bit more feedback compared to the generic one created in advance below.

This work continues to allow for choice and puts the ownership on the student. It also provides specific feedback that would need to be applied in the future.

Student chooses this page to showcase the work on elaboration
Teacher pastes in scoring guide and feedback
Clientmoji

If you have any questions, feel free to email. Common questions determine future posts!

Where Does Grammar Fit Into the Workshop?

The best way to teach and learn grammar, mechanics, conventions, style, rules, or whatever you want to call it, is to study and practice it in context. In our district, we support writers with the works of Jeff Anderson, Jennifer Serravallo, and the lessons found in the Units of Study, particularly in the If…Then…Curriculum of the Writing Units. While doing this work, we can pull mentor sentences from our read alouds, independent reading, and any other example of great writing.

What can we learn from great writing and great writers?

While reading the first chapter of Jason Reynolds’ Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, I was blown away by some of the great mentor sentences I could pull that reflect not only the elaborate style of “show not tell” but also the use of punctuation. Just look at this incredible example right on page one!

There are so many lessons that can be pulled from here, but sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. For example, look at the mentor sentence below.

By presenting a sentence and asking what they notice, it invites students to look at not just what authors do but also why they do it? What impact does the comma have on this sentence? What about the hyphens? Can we create rules for these or start an anchor chart? This is done best when students can talk it out with one another. In a remote setting it may be a slow discussion in Schoology or Google Classroom if not live.

Building an anchor chart over time

How about the comma in the mentor sentence below ? What do we notice? What impact does this comma have on the sentence? Can we continue to add to the anchor chart?

Not only are we focusing on the rules of punctuation, but we are examining beautifully written sentences that emphasize the magic of elaboration and “show don’t tell”.

Now how about this one? There are multiple commas. What do you notice about the commas? What impact does each have on the sentence? Can we add another rule to the anchor chart?

Jason Reynolds is my hero!

Look at more of the beauties I found just in chapter 1, focusing on similes, sensory details, commas, hyphens, dashes, italics, contractions, possessive nouns, types of sentences, dialogue, quotations, ellipses, and so much more!

Sentence stalking

Once you have students noticing and examining what authors do and how the writing is impacted, you can invite students to imitate and look into their own writing to use or correct.

You can also encourage students to pay attention to their own independent reading books for mentor sentences they can collect or even share with moves they can try to use within their own writing. Here’s one I found last night while reading.

What about grammar exercises?

There are many who learned grammar the traditional way with grammar textbooks, worksheets, and sentences to diagram or those who look to sites that are the modern version of those same things, but the research behind the effectiveness of that approach is very telling.

Teaching grammar will not make writing errors go away. Students make errors in the process of learning, and as they learn about writing, they often make new errors, not necessarily fewer ones. But knowing basic grammatical terminology does provide students with a tool for thinking about and discussing sentences. And lots of discussion of language, along with lots of reading and lots of writing, are the three ingredients for helping students write in accordance with the conventions of standard English*.

NCTE National Council of Teachers of English

For more on this, here is a short podcast/blog post “How to Deal with Student Grammar Errors” from The Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales.

How do I know what to teach?

The best places to look include:

  1. The Writing Progressions for each genre found in the Units of Study online resources under the title Writing Pathways.
  2. Student Writing for patterns and needs based on pre assessments, post assessments, and entries in the writer’s notebook.
  3. The Eligible Content found in the PA Standards.
  4. The Scope and Sequence recommended by PATTAN (click here). Look to see when skills should be introduced, reinforced, and mastered. The development of a skill and the need for reinforcement is generally spread out over several grade levels.
any questions

Remote Workshop: Gradual Release of Responsibility

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.

The Model

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.

In this video, I share the learning objective and model using the strategy with a mentor text.

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

Asynchronous

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)

Guided Practice with a Common Text

Students are also invited to read the responses of others and comment on at least three ideas using the following prompts:

  1. What confirmed your thinking?
  2. What challenged your thinking?
  3. 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.

Synchronous

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.

Let’s Reflect

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.

Remote Workshop: Staying True to the Model

While learning a whole new way to deliver instruction during the quarantine, it is possible to accidentally take a wrong turn and shift the focus away from the fundamentals of the workshop model. So now that we’ve had some time to make the shift to remote learning, let’s take some time to reflect and evaluate our instructional practice.

Fundamental #1 – Modeling

We need to remember that we must model and do the work in front of students. The tool you choose to capture that modeling is the vehicle. Now you can get the fanciest vehicle in the showroom using all kinds of fancy tools and add ons, but without modeling, we can easily lose our way. So with every lesson ask yourself, “Am I using a mentor text and doing the thinking and writing work myself?”

Fundamental #2 – A Clear Focus

Just like in the brick and mortar classroom, the online classroom needs a focus. What is the skill you are teaching, and what strategies are you modeling to develop that skill?

Recently with a group of seventh and eighth graders I have been focusing on the basic yet very challenging skill of active reading. I determined in advance each strategy I would model.

Here is a video of one such lesson. Today I am teaching active readers to examine how characters react. The strategy follows the basic model for analysis. What do I notice? What patterns am I seeing? What do these patterns show? You will see today’s focus and you will watch me model using a mentor text.

Fundamental #3 – Active and Authentic

It is so easy with the introduction of all of these flashy online tools and resources to start assigning. But ASSIGNING is not one of the A words we should be holding dear.

We want kids to be active in their reading and writing. And we want the work to be authentic. Just as the modeling is authentic, we want to send them off to do the thinking work in their actual book or writer’s notebook. It’s easy to be attracted to cool looking assignments, but are they anything more than glorified worksheets and packets?

Ask yourself, “Am I sending my kids off to think in the book or text they chose? Am I sending them off to create? Am I sending them off to do real things in the real world?” If not, what can you do to move closer to supporting ACTIVE and AUTHENTIC readers and writers?

Fundamental #4 – Choice

Notice when I send students off to read, I am sending them off to their independent book. And even though I modeled being an active reader who examines character reactions today, when I send them off, they can choose to practice any of the four strategies I’ve modeled so far.

Fundamental #5 – Growth

When we are focusing on the fundamentals of the workshop, we are keeping in mind that every product is a formative assessment that shows us where kids are and what kids need. This information is used to drive our instruction. While I already have a focus of the skill and strategies I plan to teach, model, and expect students to practice within their own reading and writing, I want to use their products to gauge what other strategies they may need.

At the very end of my minilesson, I tucked in something I was noticing from recent responses. Sometimes those lessons, like reminders to use specific evidence, can be tucked into a planned minilesson, and sometimes we need to pause and present an additional strategy lesson because we don’t have the conferring and small group time that we do in the brick and mortar school. But this work comes from what we notice within their authentic work.

So I encourage you to reflect on and evaluate your online ELA instruction. Are you staying true to the workshop model and the fundamentals of the workshop? Are you using the online tools and add ons as a vehicle to drive your workshop instruction, or are you accidentally veering off onto the wrong road of assigning?

I am here to help with whatever your needs are in this new remote learning while holding onto best practice.

The Adventures of TDA: The Final Chapter

This adventure began with concerns from one sixth grade cohort at the elementary level. An unplanned extended leave of absence with a rotation of guest teachers created a challenge. While I firmly believe in embedding this work into what we already do with the Units of Study, the extenuating circumstances led us to create a short mini unit that wrapped up in time for the return of the teacher who is now continuing the work within the units.

After minilessons with modeling and time for independent practice with embedded conferring and small group lessons based on need, we wrapped up our writing pieces. What made this mini unit so successful was student engagement. Based on my observations, I would attribute the high engagement to the following:

  1. Choice – Students read and did the thinking work for several stories, but they chose the one that they wanted to take through the writing process.
  2. Partnerships – Students had very strong partnerships throughout the entire process which provided support and investment.
  3. High Interest Text – It’s so much easier to do something really hard with something that is intriguing.
  4. Gradual Release of Responsibility – They watched a teacher do some heavy lifting, then they practiced with their partner with support, and when they felt confident, they were able to do the heavy lifting too.

The independent writing wasn’t perfect, but students grew and developed as they learned and applied their learning to their writing and it was worlds better than the preassessment. Below is a slide show of a selection from the independent writing.

Since we began with a preassessment, we ended with a post assessment as well. Students were actually excited to show how much they could now do. The confidence they felt was incredible to experience. We looked at the evidence of their close reading, their planning before writing, and their writing and compared the data from the preassessment to the post assessment. We also were able to determine who still needed guided practice in small group as well as other needs. Overall, the post assessment showed that 61% of the sixth graders in the morning class and 70% of the sixth graders in the afternoon class wrote analytically using at least two lenses and looking for patterns in order to come to new understandings. That is compared to 4 students overall who attempted but did not use at least two lenses in the preassessment. The exact data can be found at the very end of the post.

Below are some samples from the preassessment compared to the post assessment. The first example shows a student who understands the idea of examining the author’s craft; however, she only uses one lens in the prassessment and focuses more on the beginning, middle, and end of the story than on determining patterns. In the post assessment she was a super star! She was very grateful for all of the feedback she received throughout the entire process.

This student wrote a summary of the story in the preassessment which was very typical of the group as a whole. In the post assessment, you can see she made huge strides!

This student was one of my favorites. He struggled a great deal. He needed a lot of support and was one of a few who I conferred with every day and pulled into small group regularly. He was not nearly as confident, but he was persistent. He even chose to spend the time for independent writing at the small group table even when he wasn’t in small group so support was nearby. I was most curious about his post assessment because he relied so heavily on me that I worried I had done him a disservice. He asked to sit completely away from everyone during the post assessment because he knows he can get easily distracted. He received zero guidance and support on the on-demand post assessment. For the preassessment his writing was very neat and even in cursive, but he only wrote a summary of the story. He killed it on the post assessment. Clearly his concern was not on his handwriting because he put all of his time, energy, and focus into his thinking. I. Was. Blown. Away! Is it written perfectly? No, but the thinking has to come before the writing every time! Who cares if it’s beautifully written if there is no thinking…no content…no analysis!

Below is another student who struggles, and he is an English language learner as well. He wrote a summary on the preassessment. He was unable to finish in the time given as the post assessment was an on-demand timed assessment, but if you look at his annotations and his graphic organizer, you can clearly see he is on the right track. Fortunately, in state testing he will have the extra time he needs. Again I was so proud.

Something I have always believed that was proven to me time and time again is our kids CAN! Don’t discount any one of your students as kids who can’t because with the right support, they certainly can and will be successful!

One thing I see often in my travels are graphic organizers and worksheets created for kids by teachers. All I ever did was give kids blank paper. Kids need to learn and have the experience to create their own graphic organizers that make sense for them. Below are some samples of the graphic organizers students created for their post-assessment. They chose the lenses to determine how the author revealed a theme, and they chose how to organize their thinking before writing. They need to be in the driver seat more because they will not always have those crutches that when used too often can actually hold them back.

The sixth grade teachers are planning to continue this work while embedding it into the units of study they already use. As promised the data from the pre and post assessment can be found below.

How Do We Find the Time to Work on TDA?

This has been the biggest question I’ve been asked recently. Here’s the thing. We don’t stop teaching our core curriculum to work on developing these skills. They should be embedded in the work you are already doing using the Units of Study. The idea is to continue to use the strategy for analysis that was recommended by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and shared during the TDA trainings last year and be more explicit about it when teaching. The strategy can be used in almost every minilesson, small group, and even in conferring!

Strategy for Analysis

How can the work be embedded? Look at the Learning Progressions from the Units of Study. They are full of lenses that can be used to look for patterns and determine types of understandings. By using the common language all throughout the year and from year to year, students will have a better chance for success because of the consistency.

The Learning Progressions for Inferring about Character show us in each grade level how we can look closely to determine a type of understanding like character traits, for example. The lenses can continue to be used in subsequent grade levels.

Let’s look at the Learning Progressions for Theme.

In addition to the Learning Progressions that drive the teaching points for the units, we use anchor charts that also show us the lens work within the minilessons.

Even the tools we use with students within the Units of Study show us the lenses and types of understanding we can use.

The work of analysis and strengthening skills related to text dependent analysis does not require us to fit in one more thing that we don’t have time for. It’s about marrying the work we already do with the strategy for analysis and the language we learned within the TDA trainings. It’s about looking closely at how authors use their craft to develop characters, reveal themes, construct central ideas, and any other type of understanding. This is not new work. We are fortunate that the strategy the Bucks County Intermediate Unit recommended for analysis came from the work outlined in Falling in Love with Close Reading which is authored by two people who have worked for many years as staff developers with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, the birthplace of our reading and writing units and an institution that values the reading and writing workshop which our district has embraced as an instructional model.

If there is anything I can do to support you in the marriage of this work with our units, please let me know.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter 5

Now that writers know what they need to prove, it’s time to draft. I approached this work by inviting students to notice, much like the work of Jeff Anderson.

While students turned and talked with their writing partners, I listened in for what they noticed about the structure of the introduction that I wrote for “Feathers”

These invitations to notice were very brief so over the course of a couple days, we were able to use the minilesson time as well as the midworkshop interrupt to look at the different parts of an essay that students could use as a mentor text for their own writing.

While students worked independently, they were able to confer with their writing partner when needed so that I could pull small groups. To determine small group instruction, I looked in their writing folders for patterns of needs. For example, on this particular day, I noticed four big patterns.

  1. Two students who used the introduction to retell the story
  2. Three students with unnecessary details and one with no background information in the introduction
  3. Two students who need to explain the evidence in the body paragraphs
  4. Five students who were struggling with writing a claim.

I was able to meet with all four groups and begin conferencing with individuals. For small groups I pull on the fly I like to use a giant post-it to quickly write out the strategy. If it’s one I know I’m going to do ahead of time, I might do the same thing or take the extra minute to create the strategy tool in slides so I can print it or use it electronically.

By having strong writing partnerships, students have support from their peer so that my time is free to pull groups.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the writing so far!

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter 4

Students, for the most part, wrapped up their reading, noticing, and noting for the three texts and we moved on to the next minilesson. This lesson was to help them organize their thinking and push it a bit further, in order to determine their claim, what they had to prove in their essay. Each student chose the story they wanted to use to write their TDA and even though they have strong partnerships, they did not need to choose the same story as their partner. They know enough about all three stories that they can still be a support but have the choice that keeps them engaged.

I realized after the first class that I made a huge mistake by showing them the final product of my thinking work and not modeling the work. To say they were lost and confused is an understatement and I realized I was spending way too much time conferring with kids who were off task because they did not know what to do.

So I did what I should have done the first time and did the work right in front of them and the results were much better!

Here is a selection of graphic organizers created by kids in order to prepare their claim and how they will support it. Notice that they created their own organizer in order to determine what they would use and what they needed to prove. Next we will be ready to start writing!!!