At the Corner of Active Engagement and Analysis

While visiting classrooms, I’ve seen time and time again the effective use of my all time favorite teaching tool, turn and talk. The beauty of this tool is that it can be used in any classroom at any time and provides an opportunity for 100% student engagement.

Students, like grown ups, have a need to talk. By channeling student talk into instruction, that need is being met and students are less likely to lose engagement as they are when students are instead being cold-called on to speak. We all know we can leave it to the same three hands to do all the work for us.

Time is often saved using this effective tool because the teacher can listen in and know exactly who to call on to share with everyone or can even share some possible responses based on what he or she heard while eavesdropping.

My rule of thumb…every time you ask a question and find yourself scanning for someone to answer, STOP! This is the perfect time to instead say, “Turn and talk with your shoulder partner,” then listen in.

While visiting one particular fourth grade class, I was blown away by the amount of time students were actively engaged in the lesson. In fact, in close to 17 minutes, students had so much opportunity that the teacher only talked for a total of 6 minutes!

But this teacher took it to a whole new level when she provided a book club discussion within the lesson too. Sara Hearn discovered in a writing unit, prior to this year, that when students had the time to discuss a text in a book talk fashion that their writing of analysis grew exponentially. She has embedded this method into her minilessons at times to provide students with the opportunities to dig deeper by talking it out in a whole group. This is very similar to the spider web discussions we have been experimenting with in the middle school, also to push thinking and provide additional opportunities for analysis.

The thing is…and we all know this…ANALYSIS IS HARD! If we leave all analysis to writing, it’s even harder. The more opportunities students have to share after independent reading with their turn and talk partner, push their thinking during minilessons with their turn and talk partner, and participate in whole and small group book discussions, the more they can develop their analytical skills. If they can think it, they can say it, and if they can say it, they can write it, but they need time and opportunity to talk a whole lot.

Check out how Sara uses the tools of turn and talk and book discussion within a 17 minute period. While some parts may be difficult to hear, notice the level of engagement throughout the lesson as well as how the discussion is student-led.

Even though not every student had the chance to speak in the whole class discussion, Sara did provide an additional opportunity afterwards for a turn and talk with a shoulder partner.

To see how advanced this type of analysis work can get, check out how Diane Murray, who in four short years will have many of these fourth graders, uses student talk. With one open-ended prompt, these students led their own discussion that included characterization, changes in character, how parts affect the whole, symbolism, and theme without any additional prompting.

https://wondertwinworkshop.com/2019/06/03/digging-deep-with-discussion/

Student-led discussion and turn and talk are essential components of developing analytical thinking skills. We know that we can teach students to write TDAs until we are blue in the face, but if we are not taking the time to provide opportunities to discuss and develop their analytical thinking, the work will no doubt fall flat.

If you would like to experiment with this work with your students, you know where to find me!

Active Reading Beyond ELA

This year the fourth through eighth grade ELA teachers went through three days of training in text dependent analysis. The general idea is that students read through lenses in order to notice patterns and come to a new understanding.

In the reading workshop, students choose the lenses they are using to notice and note while reading their independent reading novels and book club books. As a result of the training, we have begun to put together menus of lenses and types of understandings that best work with each of the units.

Here is an example of a basic menu of lenses and understandings for one particular unit. As teachers model additional lenses, these too are added as options.

In content areas such as social studies, students can read historical fiction through some of these same lenses in order to get to a new understanding such as theme to determine our takeaways as readers– what we now know, think, feel, or believe as a result of what we notice in historical fiction.

Students choose two lenses to actively read.

For example, what do I notice about the psychological setting (lens #1) and the actions (lens #2) of the characters.

Students jot what they notice while reading or at the end of reading depending on preference.

Students use their notes to look for patterns within the lenses they are noting. Maybe a character acts differently in different settings depending on who is there or the mood the setting creates.

By looking at what they’ve noticed and the patterns they are seeing in their observations, students can use that to come to a new understanding such as theme by asking themselves, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about that?

The same work can be done with nonfiction text using lenses that are specific to that genre. Below are examples of the lenses and types of understanding that can be used with nonfiction text.

Below is an example of my notes while looking through the lens of word choice while reading an article.

Specific lenses and understandings can be used for historical fiction reading in the social studies classroom. See some examples below.

Below is a short story annotated using the lenses of character actions and speech.

When students cannot write directly on the text, they can stop and jot in their notebook as seen below.

Much like discussions, noting is driven in student choice. Students in one book club can each choose two from a menu. There may be some overlap, and that it okay. After a few days to a week, students can switch out and read through new lenses, too.

By actively reading through lenses in order to notice patterns that lead to a new understanding, students are thinking deeply about what they are reading, able to have better discussions, and have the evidence to cite in writing.

Digging Deep with Discussion

Diane has been working very hard in the last few months to engage her readers. One of the ways she went about it was through the use of spiderweb discussions. They were rough going at the start, but each week the students reflected and determined what they did well and what they should do moving forward to deepen their conversation and include everyone.

Recently we videotaped one particular book club that was reading the historical fiction novel, Between Shades of Gray. Diane gave the students a very open-ended prompt to think about first, and that was all they needed to begin their discussion.

How do you think the challenges the characters have faced in the book influence their life after deportation?

prompt
Students discuss after they are given a prompt to think about first.

The discussion was timed and continued until the timer sounded. The teacher documented the discussion by creating the spiderweb while listening. Students can also document discussions as we have done in the past through the fishbowl. The web (shown left) was the one documented during the discussion (above). Notice how students were able to facilitate for themselves and keep the discussion moving.

Compare the discussion with the rubric (below). It is clearly evident that the students were successful in all aspects of the discussion.

I wish we had thought to record their reflections after, it was incredibly reflective of how they have done in the past to now. However, a few things did stand out when asked how they liked book club discussions compared to work they have done in past reading classes. The group quickly lamented the use of teacher-created questions and packets that meant nothing to them. They expressed how much they like to have real conversations about their own thinking that doesn’t feel like a waste of their time.

For more background on the spiderweb discussion, check out previous blog posts.

Approaching Analysis with Non-Traditional Texts

Diane and I recently attended the PIIC Professional Learning Opportunity, a three day conference for instructional coaches. The focus was on reflective practice with opportunities each day to participate in break out sessions to support our own professional growth. One of the sessions we attended was titled, Using Non-Traditional Text to Support Analysis. This session in particular really made our wheels turn and drove some of our conversations around engagement in the reading workshop.

Past Learning

We were already familiar with the New York Times’ What’s Going On in This Picture? and how this resource could be used to close read and analyze text. Those teachers who attended the TDA Trainings in our district will remember this well.

New Learning

PIIC presenters Diana Hubona and Stacy Ricciotti brought a different spin to this kind of work.

They started with 4 images that related to Harry Potter and challenged us to discuss what each meant, how they connected which led us to discussing themes.

Why Pictures?

Using non-traditional texts such as pictures has its benefits.

  1. Less Threatening- Students (and adults for that matter) can be overwhelmed by the more traditional texts even before adding such a complex skill such as analysis.
  2. Leveled Playing Field – Even if students read below grade level, are English language learners, or struggle with comprehension, using pictures makes the text accessible for everyone.
  3. Increased Engagement – Pictures provide a low-risk opportunity that increases student engagement.
  4. More Opportunity – Students need many opportunities on a regular basis to close read and analyze. Pictures provide not only access but make it possible to provide many experiences which students need to develop and hone these skills.

Marrying the Old with the New

Diane and I decided to do something similar with the historical fiction book clubs but put it a bit more in the hand’s of the students.

The Mini Lesson and Active Engagement

Diane started with the connection, sharing how she learned something new while at a conference at Penn State which made her think differently about analysis. undefined

Using the mentor text Patrol by Walter Dean Myers, Diane modeled how she thought about images that came to her mind while reading and shared their significance to the story.

She then challenged students, with 5 minutes on the timer, to think about their historical fiction book club book and the images that came to mind. Students added four images to a google slide.

Once students chose their four images they turned and talked about what they chose and why it was significant to the story.

Once they shared, Diane went back to her four images for the mentor text, and again went to modeling through a think aloud how the images could be connected.

She noticed that all four images could be connected through the soldier’s sacrifices and then she was able to think to herself, What does Walter Dean Myers want me to takeaway from the text about the sacrifices that soldiers make? which was the scaffold she used to move towards talking about theme.

Once Diane modeled her think aloud, she had book club members do the same using their four images. This experience provided students with the opportunity to not only identify symbols within the text but also allowed the time to think about connections among the symbols and how those connections develop various themes.

Independent Time

Students were then able to leave their book club discussion and take the time to write to explain their thinking about takeaways related to theme using the four images they chose.

A Workshop Fit

Modeling

Diane typically uses mentor texts to model her own thinking about reading. The students do not use the mentor text to discuss but have opportunities to apply the same strategies to their own independent reading. Diane did not ask her eighth graders to explain the significance of her images or how they were connected to determine a theme. She modeled that thinking first, and then challenged her students to try that same strategy with their book. Modeling is an important principle of reading workshop. Diane broke the modeling down into two short parts with active engagement in between each.

Time

Another major principle of the reading workshop is time to read and respond to literature. Diane’s students have large chunks of time each day to read their book club book and have opportunities to both discuss and write about reading.

Choice

The workshop also allows students to have choice. Not just choice in what they are reading. Every day students read books they have chosen, decide what they will focus on while reading, and in many cases what they will discuss. This particular lesson provided choice because students were not given the symbols but chose the ones they felt were significant. In our experience, students with more opportunities to choose are more engaged and willing to push themselves to think deeper about reading.

Community

Students have many opportunities to turn and talk and gather in book clubs to share and discuss thinking, which is another principal of reading workshop. Today was no different and the amount of talking about the text and their thinking supported the goal of providing many experiences to analyze. The support of a community promotes deeper thinking and students need as many community opportunities as possible to strengthen this skill and provide a more solid foundation before writing.

Structure

The reading workshop has a unique structure that allows for more independent and community time than teacher on the stage time. This lesson provided the brief modeling in the mini lesson, many opportunities for active engagement and turn and talk, as well as time to work independently responding to the book they are currently reading. The class ended with time to share.

Our Spin

We were inspired by the work of our colleagues at the PIIC Professional Learning Opportunity and put our own spin on it to bring some more engagement and analysis experiences into the workshop. We are looking forward to trying this out over the summer with some of our own colleagues as we get ready for next year. We would love to hear about your spin on a great approach.

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Feel free to share in the comments!









The One Pager

I’m going to be honest. When looking at any Facebook group for teachers, it’s typical to find a teacher ask, “What should I do after reading (fill in the blank with any book)?” The thread following the original post would include one response after the other, “one-pager”. I had no idea what a one pager was and assumed they meant a one page reflection of the book or a one page analysis.

While looking for different ways to incorporate thinking about reading without writing the dreaded TDA essay, I was reminded of the one pager by Theresa who used them last year now and again (I didn’t make the connection last year) and was planning to do something similar for the dystopian book clubs. Theresa has seen a lot of engagement around this work and generously shared her work.

Various ways to use one pagers

One Pagers as a Get to Know You

One Pagers for Book Analysis

Samples from Independent Reading Books

Samples from Historical Fiction Book Clubs

Samples from Dystopian Book Clubs

Moving Forward…

I’d love to see something like this with a focus on one or two of the lenses to show a type of understanding and really zero in on analyzing author’s craft.

Thank you for sharing so much great student work, Theresa!

Do we have to…?

TDA Essay Overkill

There has been so much talk and professional development around text dependent analysis this year, so it’s not a surprise that kids and teachers for that matter are over it!

Diane and I will be working together to bring you some moves you can make in your classroom that provide the many opportunities students need (because they need MANY) to close read and analyze while taking out the redundancy of writing one TDA after the other.

But as Diane and I began to brainstorm, Danielle dropped on my desk the most beautiful graphic essays created by her students, so I had to share!

Graphic Essays

Danielle outlined the expectations (seen above) and provided time for students to organize their ideas before they began. The result? Beautiful graphic essays that included thematic statements (thesis), evidence to support the statements, and an analysis of each piece of evidence. She also challenged them to incorporate symbols that related to characters, setting, theme, or conflict.

Student Work

Take Away

Students can close read and analyze as well as use creativity in a way to show deeper understandings of text without always writing an essay. We can find lots of ways to practice skills without the overkill of the dreaded TDA essay.

Coming Soon…

More Ideas and Celebrations!