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…

Bitmoji Image

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!

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

Clientmoji

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.

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

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter 3

On Wednesday we began a new story. The story “Charles” by Shirley Jackson intrigued the sixth graders as they read about Laurie, a kindergartner who came home for lunch daily to tell his parents all about Charles, the bad kid who caused all kinds of trouble and chaos in the classroom. The twist ending caused explosive conversations!

Students turned and talked about possible lenses that would work well with this particular story. I love having students determine the possible lenses and am always excited when they come up with one I didn’t even think about! One student who typically struggles asked if repetition would work for this particular story. I asked what he meant and he was able to give several examples of different kinds of repetition. YES! Not only did he come up with a great lens, his idea was used by a lot of partnerships as their focus…what a confidence builder!

I reminded students of the work we needed to do before moving into writing because if they don’t take the time to do the thinking work with the strategy I taught them last week, then they would not be able to successfully and confidently write their text dependent analysis. Partnerships made a plan for the lens work they were going to tackle that day and then they got to work.

While students worked I pulled up to partnerships and coached them into finding examples of the lens they were examining. Some needed specific direct instruction, for example, to determine who was saying what when they were examining dialogue between multiple characters.

After class I looked through their work and noticed a lot of identifying but not a lot of annotating. Without the annotating I knew they would struggle to see the patterns. So I knew they needed more modeling of this work.

I showed them how I notice something, immediately pause, and annotate with my thinking. This definitely helped move many students to combine this work instead of only underlining evidence of their lens thinking they would go back and annotate after. Once students made a plan for the independent work, they went of to do the work in their partnerships. I was able to conference with every partnership and pull two small groups.

The next day the students continued to examine with one lens and move onto a second, and some even a third, but first I wanted to push their thinking about coming to new understandings. Students were feeling super confident in their thinking about character at this point, but I wanted them to use that confidence to push theme work, which was not an area they had strength.

I continued conferring with partnerships and pulled a small group that needed coaching to make the their theme universal.

Friday we moved into our last story, “Into the Rapids” which I snagged from www.commonlit.org. The idea of using three texts in the past week was twofold: to provide students with ample opportunity to practice using the strategy while using a variety of lenses to focus their reading and to provide choice when it’s time to begin writing a TDA. Each student will choose the text from the three they will use to practice using the writing strategies for TDA,

Since we were on our third text, students felt very comfortable digging right in with their partners and were all engaged in the lenses they chose. By the end of today, I was overwhelmed by the level of thinking they were bringing to the text. One particular student who struggles and receives EL support has grown so much in the last week. His partner was absent on Friday and while he was only able to finish one lens during the independent time, his thinking made me so proud.

While moving around to confer with partnerships, I was coaching one group into theme when we realized that we needed to tweak the strategy. This was a great opportunity for a midworkshop interrupt and ended up helping many other partnerships too. Midworkshop interupts are great when coaching students through a strategy and realizing something that others may need to use too!

They will have some time to finish up their thinking work, but many will be ready to move onto choosing and organizing their best thinking to begin writing. We will continue to use the anchor chart created at the start of this mini unit to drive our minilessons. I did add writing in third person to the chart as that is what is expected based on the learning progressions for text dependent analysis! Here are more examples of the thinking that came from Friday’s work.

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter Two

On Thursday we started the class with a read aloud of Gary Soto’s short story, “Seventh Grade”. The sixth graders, who are anticipating their move to middle school in a few months, loved the story about a boy named Victor who was starting his first day of school in seventh grade.

After the read aloud, students turned and talked about what the story was about while I listened in. Since they had a solid understanding of the events, I presented the teaching point.

Then using the text, I modeled by looking through the lens of inner thinking.

I then asked partnerships to make their plan for the day. They could choose to examine the text through the lens of Victor’s actions or through Victor’s speech. Once partnerships had a plan they got to work using one color to underline all evidence of either speech or actions and looking closely to find patterns.

On the second day partnerships turned and talked about other possible lenses and then chose a second lens to look through from the list.

The sixth graders did amazing work in their partnerships. While they worked, their teacher and I moved about the room sitting with partnerships to coach them through the strategy.

We were flexible with each partnership. Some were only able to accomplish one lens, many two lenses, but one partnership got the hang of it quickly and was able to practice looking through three lenses by the time we finished day 2. All partnerships finished day 2 with more of an understanding of the strategy for analysis.

Notice that students did not need to write the TDA to show their thinking. This is HARD work and HEAVY lifting for the students. Before they can write TDA essays, they need the time to gain their confidence in using the strategy for analysis.

Students Need

  • A lot of modeling of the strategy
  • A lot of time practicing using the strategy in partnerships
  • A lot of time being coached through the strategy
  • A lot of choice in what they are looking closely for
  • A lot of time, opportunities, choice, and talk to gain confidence

Notice the students engage with the text by doing all of their work on the text. They do not need graphic organizers created for them or worksheets to fill out. They need the strategy, the text, their partner, choice, modeling, and coaching.

On Tuesday we will put “Seventh Grade” aside and look at a new text. I am so excited to see how they tackle this next short story with confidence!

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter One

The Backstory

I was recently asked by one sixth grade team to help determine student needs around our favorite topic, text dependent analysis. The TDA is naturally on many minds as we approach testing season. I decided to begin this work by finding out what kids can do and what they need to know before moving forward.

After giving two classes of sixth graders a preassessment which included a short text and a TDA prompt, I read all the responses and determined the strengths and needs., and from there the first chapter of The Adventures of TDA began.

What We Know vs What We Found

What we know from our TDA trainings is that readers need to look through two lenses in order to make inferences and show a new understanding. What we found was that half of the sixth graders wrote a summary of the story when asked to analyze how the author developed the theme. A large number wrote a summary then tagged a theme at the the end. A small number wrote the theme and tried to support it with text evidence in the form of quotes. And only 5% of the students attempted to use one lens but did not take what they noticed to a new understanding.

What we did discover, and this will make so many teachers happy, was that of the 45% who determined a theme, all but one had a theme that worked for the story and none of the themes were one word! That is amazing!

Now What?

After seeing what students needed, I pulled all the resources around TDA including the Student Friendly Learning Progressions we created based on the Learning Progressions released from The Center for Assessment and PDE. From there I created an anchor chart that would focus the learning as we moved forward.

Before beginning any instruction, I rolled up my sleeves and took the preassessment myself. This way I had even more insight into the challenges of the work and what strategies I used myself that may help kids.

I think before starting anything new, it’s so important to let students preview the kind of work we will be doing. I copied my TDA, and we looked at one paragraph at a time. I read the paragraph aloud and instructed students to turn, talk, and jot about what they noticed.

The sixth graders were awesome and noticed a lot! After each paragraph we regrouped and I shared what I heard them say in their partnerships, adding in some of the things they did not notice. After examining all of the paragraphs, I showed them the anchor chart to highlight what they would be learning in the next couple weeks.

Tomorrow we begin the real work. As we move forward, I will share what we did and what we noticed. I’m looking forward to taking on the Adventures of TDA with these awesome sixth graders and their teachers and sharing our learning and planning with all of you!