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!

Moving from Pictures to Text…Oh My!

Why do the images work so well and then when we present a text, we feel like we can’t get past the blank stares? Images are a great way to practice using the strategy for analysis with something relatively easier. Until the strategy feels comfortable, we may need to use a lot of pictures. After modeling and doing a couple with guided practice, continue to use the pictures at transition times while encouraging partners to talk it out. I’ve modeled with a few different images, but this has been a fun go to recently.

After modeling, I guide students through the process one step at a time, but relying on them to do the heavy lifting with their turn and talk partner. This image has been great for differentiating between evidence I notice and inferences I’m making (buckets). For example, as students turn and talk, if I hear in step one, “I notice a protest,” I will ask them to show me how they know. They will inevitably point to the signs, the gathering of people, the megaphone, the hashtags, and the open mouths. I will congratulate them for already noticing a pattern/bucket and they can jot that down, but they need to list everything they can explicitly and not implicitly see. The same goes for, “I notice a city.”

Students need so many opportunities like this when the stakes are lower to practice using the strategy. Once you take the time to model and do a couple guided practices, you can use these in shorter periods of time for students to talk through because they need to be able to talk through them to reinforce the skill but to build on ideas. Then when you send them off to do their independent reading, encourage them to pay attention to what they notice while reading and what patterns they may be seeing. Maybe they notice a series of character actions. I might think of Dallas Winston in The Outsiders, for example, and notice how each action is rude and vulgar in a particular chapter. I might think, what can this pattern show me? Well, maybe I can make a theory about the kind of person Dallas is. Dallas is the kind of person who pushes people away because he’s afraid he won’t be accepted or deserving of a real friendship or maybe it’s to make himself feel more powerful over others because he doesn’t feel very powerful inside. I might start to think about how this pattern of actions speaks to the theme. Maybe the author is using a series of rude and vulgar character actions to show the reader that people who don’t feel confident may push those around them away before they can be rejected. We can learn that what we see on the outside are the effects of the hurt that is on the inside.

We want to encourage students to use the strategy while they read and think deeper than the summary of what’s happening, and we have to model using this strategy as much as possible too. You can use your real-alouds to model too!

Moving to Texts

When I started revisiting classrooms after they had some time with images, I didn’t bring a long, giant text with me. I brought something super short yet meaty.

from The House on Mango Street

I read paragraph one aloud and asked them to turn and talk about what they thought it was about. I walked around and heard the same thing over and over again. It’s about what kind of hair people in this family have. What a perfect moment to encourage kids to break it down and think deeper because it’s about so much more than hair. I started thinking aloud about paragraph one and breaking it down more and more right in front of them.

I showed them what I noticed and how I was seeing patterns of descriptions and comparisons using figurative language. By looking closely at the figurative language I discovered that maybe it wasn’t the hair that was being described but the personality of each family member in paragraph one. I then ask myself, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about this? to think about theme.

After modeling, I read the second paragraph aloud and gave some turn and talk time to get, “Her hair smells like bread!!!!” out of their system. Then using the strategy kids noticed a lot, saw many different patterns, and came to new understandings.

Like the images, kids need many opportunities with texts to use the strategy and to have time to talk through it with a turn and talk partner. They can use their independent reading book, but another idea is to share excerpts from time to time that they can zoom in, look for patterns, and come to new understandings. This may be another way to share a book from the classroom library shelves. Let’s look close at a key scene in Ghost by Jason Reynolds, for example. Not only a great way to practice but to advertise a book!

Some Important Shout Outs!

I love going into classes and learning from kids as much as they learn from me. That’s why talking it out regularly is so important…we learn and grow from the perspectives of everyone around us!

When analyzing this image, I had a discussion with a group of sixth grade boys at Belmont Hills Elementary who noticed the repetition of orange, black, and white. They were wondering aloud if the colors represented the colors of prison jumpsuits and how that may relate to the message. I found that thinking pretty fascinating. Way to think beyond the literal!

When a partnership in sixth grade at Cornwells Elementary saw the pattern of the same colors, they didn’t know what to make of it. I told them about the discussion the boys at Belmont had. Another partnership overheard and shared they too saw the pattern, but they were thinking the colors represented the school colors of a recent school that faced gun violence and the protesters were using those school colors to show support.

A fourth grade class at Rush Elementary pointed out to me that the first paragraph was all about everyone in the family except mom. They all shared that one paragraph, but Mom had an entire, and even longer, paragraph all to herself showing the reader that Mom is the central and most important person. They noticed the author’s use of the structure to share a message!

Back at Cornwells Elementary, two fifth grade girls were discussing the second paragraph about mom and how maybe mom was not necessarily a person who is the comforting, nurturing, and safe person we need, but a place. A metaphor for the place we feel most safe and secure and how everyone needs that. WOW!

If you have great work, you’d like to share or would like support, you know where to find me. A special thank you to the amazing kids who have been teaching me in the last couple weeks!

A Close Look at Why We Teach Analysis

Ask any student what analysis is and why we do it, and the responses are pretty telling. I know this because I’ve been doing just that lately. Asking kids.

Kids seem to think that analysis is just a school thing that we have to be able to do on the state testing, but outside of school, it’s not important. My conversations with kids have been makeing me wonder. We complain that kids don’t see value in the state testing, but do we take the time to communicate what analysis is, why it’s important, and what can be analyzed?

I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves and get state testing out of the forefront. State testing is a reality, and sadly is used to determine teacher effectiveness, but it should not be the primary reason we approach this work with kids.

I do not believe analysis is something we hurry up and teach kids before a test. In my mind, it’s a spiraling concept that helps us to understand something deeply. It takes us from getting the gist of something to breaking it down and looking at all the pieces to see how all of the moving parts create a new and deeper understanding.

That was pretty heavy! But think about it…anything could be analyzed and it’s all around us.

When people talk on social media or in the faculty room about the current season of say Game of Thrones. They are breaking it down and coming to new and deeper understandings. They talk about how the writers use things like symbolism and foreshadowing that encourages them to go back and re-watch previous seasons for a closer look. That’s analysis.

When all of America was shocked when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, viewers looked back to figure out how the coaching staff’s decisions and the plays that were used brought the underdogs to victory. That’s analysis.

When we look at our students or even our own children and ask ourselves, why is she behaving this way? What is the root cause? What patterns are we seeing that lead to this behavior or outcome? That’s analysis.

When the latest installment of Star Wars was released in theaters, blogs and articles were immediately shared about how this movie was written and if it lived up to the story originally created by George Lucas.

When I watch reality tv and especially my guilty pleasure, The Real Housewives, which my husband refers to as “The Screaming Show” I immediately go on social media after to see how others have analyzed and interpreted the big dramatic moment and how editing is used to twist and confuse perspectives.

A few things stand out to me in all of my thinking recently about analysis.

  1. Analysis is not easy — It’s is not cut and dry. It can’t be taught in a quick activity or in one essay nor can it be a weekly essay assigned, which is what my own daughter experienced last year. It’s something that should be constantly spiraling in what we do.
  2. Analysis is social — In real life we talk out our thinking whether it be after watching a sporting event, movie, or a decision that was made at work, we often talk about our thinking and dive deeper with people.
  3. Analysis is not about what happened so much as it’s about how and why it did — It’s about looking closely and coming to a new conclusion or a deeper understanding. It’s the act of not accepting something at face value.
  4. Analysis needs to be modeled and modeled and modeled some more — The more you model, the more you put in the work, because it is work, the more you will see how you can scaffold the work for kids and determine what they need and next steps. Kids also need to see that it is a struggle for you too. Analysis doesn’t just magically happen. It takes time and a lot of thinking!
  5. There is not one answer when it comes to analysis — What I love so much that continues to prove why it is a social act is how much I learn and notice when hearing other perspectives. On more than one occasion I have been blown away by what others notice that I did not see myself. Just last week Mrs. Barats’s fourth grade class at Rush noticed how a text we were looking closely at was structured. My mind was blown. It was a brilliant way to look at what the text was really about that I did not see myself!

I will be sharing some work I’ve been doing recently with teachers around analysis and look forward to learning from my own work as well as the work of some really awesome students and teachers! But if you have not taken the time to really look at why analysis is important aside from state testing, I encourage you to analyze the way you go about this work with kids and how your work does or does not grow deep thinkers who have solid understandings…because, in my honest opinion, that is what is most important.

TDA: Students Take on the Images

This is a great time of year to work in a lot of analysis work using images so students have lots of opportunities to talk and talk and talk!

I’ve been visiting some great fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classrooms this week and love the excitement kids get when doing this work. They don’t even realize they are working and the engagement has been incredible.

Here’s the gist of what I’ve been doing to model for teachers using their own students. Sometime after break I will revisit these classrooms and begin using lenses for close reading and texts, but in the meantime these teachers will be trying lots of image work with them.

The Modeling

Teaching Point + Strategy

Today I am going to teach you that readers come to new understandings when reading by looking closely for patterns. Watch me while I read this image by looking closely at the details I notice, the patterns I see, and then ask myself, “What so these patterns show?”

Active Engagement

Students work in partnerships not groups. Students are more actively engaged and on task when working closely with a shoulder partner. This time is just as quick paced as the modeling. I use timers, model fast and furious, and expect students to work fast and furious as well. The active engagement was not longer than 6 minutes and could have been condensed.

Invitation to Practice Independently

Students were invited to try this work in their independent reading books. Whether they use post-its or a readers notebook, they are encouraged to stop and jot what they notice while reading and identify patterns. Then they can do some deep thinking work and ask themselves what the patterns show.

The work that students did today included what they noticed about the lenses of repetition, setting, and even tone. When they noticed patterns they were able to discuss different aspects of the image including central idea/theme, the author’s purpose, and the effect it had on the reader.

After the break we will move from pictures to short texts, but in the meantime, students will have lots of opportunities to practice with images with a partner, try the work in their independent reading, and receive specific lenses in small group and conferring to notice.

Everyone can try this work! This image for Juicy Couture was a fun one to try with sixth graders.

Click here and try as many as you can!

Let me know if you would like support too!

TDA: Starting with Images

Last year we had a pretty intensive training on text dependent analysis for ELA teachers in fourth through eighth grade. One of the things we learned in the training were the three steps to get to analysis that helped us focus on the craft of the author. Often we want to start with the big idea and ask something like, “What’s the theme and what in the text makes you say that?” While we have been doing this move for a long time, it does not encourage close examination of craft and intentional moves an author may have taken to push a particular message through.

The anchor chart

Instead of starting at the bottom and determining a new understanding such as character traits, theme, effect on reader, central idea, and author’s purpose, we start at the top and teach readers to pay attention by asking what do you notice? What do you explicitly see?

Once we have noticed a lot, we want to look and see if there are any patterns. When it comes to patterns, we are thinking about buckets. What do we notice that could all go into one bucket, and what would we call that bucket?

After seeing a pattern or even multiple patterns, we want to look at those patterns and determine a new understanding. If we are looking for theme, for example, we may ask, “Based on the bucket(s) and what’s inside, what does the author want us to know, think, feel, or believe? What message(s) is the author pushing through?”

Analysis takes a lot of practice and scaffolding!

Before kids can write, they need lots and lots of opportunities to discuss with partners. Analysis is hard stuff so many times we can use images to get us going. Jackie, a sixth grade teacher at Rush, showed me what she was using and I LOVED the idea. During the training we shared lots of images from a series by the New York Times called, “A Picture a Day”. Jackie decided to also incorporate advertisements including this one below.

I decided to try one out myself. Look at this add for Camel Lights.

You could model using one and then provide some guided practice with another. I might have turn and talk partners try this one next as they are guided through step 1, then 2, then 3.

How one teacher supported students

Jackie noticed her students were struggling with noticing patterns, and so she created a scaffold which she will soon take away just to give them a nudge. She gave them some possible buckets to fill for the Heinz Ketchup advertisement and now that they have had some experience, she will have students determine the patterns they are seeing moving forward.

Jackie’s sixth graders then wrote their thinking while supporting their ideas with specific moves the author/artist made. The student example below proves her thinking by including how the author/artist used color, words, and even formatting.

If this is all new to you or you haven’t gotten your feet wet with this process, click here to use some of the pictures we’ve compiled and try it out yourself!

And if you would like some modeling with your students or simply would like to plan with your current unit, you know where to find me!

One rule of caution! There is not one “right” answer and there can be different patterns noticed. We want to celebrate and push for individual thinking.

Coming Soon!

Once you get your feet wet with the images, I will share out the use of the lenses to look through while reading.

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.