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The questions I refer to in this post are from a preview of a Middle School Guided Reading by Genre: CCSS Aligned, a product for 5th-8th grade teachers available at Teachers pay Teachers. What I appreciate about the product is that Kiehl (the teacher-author) distinguishes between the genres in the discussions. For example, she clearly notes that each genre leads readers to think in a way that other genres may not and the questions reflect that distinction. Further, the questions provided do offer teachers an effective template from which to work.
The essential questions, though, the big questions, the ones that would help students understand why we’re asking all of these other, rather random questions, can't be put on this template for obvious reasons. There are just too many possibilities.
However, my fear is that teachers, particularly those who are either too new, too fearful, or too apathetic to personalize the templates purposefully and thoughtfully, will over-rely on the offered questions, using them verbatim and nothing else. Again, don’t get me wrong—the questions will work, and Kiehl is to be lauded for creating a clear, cohesive document.
But what these questions cannot do is inspire any sort of motivation to read other than to answer the questions. The motivation is the grade that the student will get from answering the questions (possibly for a simple participation grade or maybe for accuracy, depending on the teacher).
Without any reason to want to answer these questions about a text or a character within it, why should the student bother exercising his or her brain to use the skill?
Without that desire, the questions, much like the ones answered on a standardized test, the goal is just to get the right answer by demonstrating mastery of the critical thinking skill. But is that all really what we want? Don’t we want more? Don’t we want students to either LOVE reading or LOVE reading the particular novel, short story, text, or poem?
How can we encourage and instill that love for reading in any genre if all we want them to do is plough through questions to demonstrate that yes, Johnny can infer, synthesize, predict, and connect?
We have to take a crucial initial step.
Let’s use one of the recommended inference questions from the template to create a quick example from Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear, a text within the historic fiction genre:
What can you infer about Creb based on what Ayla has to say about him in the text?
(From the template: What can you infer about (insert character's name) based on what (insert character's name) says about him/her in the text?)
I dearly love this book, and I’ve read it over and over again. I have to wonder, though, what question I could ask before this one that might inspire a student to want to care about what Ayla has to say about Creb. Why should the student care what Ayla thinks about the Mogur? What question can I ask to get the student to even bother to desire to make this inference and respond to it?
That compelling question, whatever it is, must be asked first.
There must be a compelling reason for students to want to understand other than just practicing inferences because it’s something that students have to do because it’s a standard they have to know because we’re being evaluated on how well our students perform on that standard because that’s how our school is graded and plays a part in how much funding we get.
Are we asking these initial, compelling, driving questions?
Does it matter what daughters think about their fathers or father-figures? Why?
From this over-arching question the follow-up inference question would flow quite nicely.
Does it matter what children think about their fathers or father-figures? Why or why not?
Based on what Ayla says about Creb in the novel, what kind of a person and father do you think he is? (for the girls)
Based on what Broud says about Brun in the novel, what kind of a person and father do you think he is? (for the boys)
Actually, from that initial question, several others would naturally flow, particularly those under the category of connections. Further, the distinction of gender provides an even greater connection for students. (You’ll notice that I changed the wording of the template question somewhat, but the meaning and underlying skill is the same.)
When we offer students a compelling, clearly connective question BEFORE we have them analyze from a text, we can instill a greater intrinsic motivation to analyze, but we also move the emphasis away from the grade and the test and the standards. We make it real. We make the story mean something to them. Figuring something out has a purpose that might make a difference in their lives.
Try it once and see. Create that compelling, connective question that will drive the rest of those aligned questions on that worksheet and discuss it with students, first. If you’re really adventurous, try it with one class but not the other, and compare the final products. Let us know what you find out!
Mirror Site: Joyful Collapse
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Reviewers have called it gimmicky, but we’re confident that even your most reluctant readers will stand by Patrick Carman’s multi-media Skeleton Creek series.
Engaging reluctant readers with a multi-media reading experience
Strange things have happened on an old dredge in the woods and best friends Ryan and Sarah are determined to unearth what people in town are hiding. Forbidden to see one another after Ryan is injured during an earlier misadventure, the duo continues to communicate through email.
The “book” portion of Skeleton Creek, a Mead-style, handwritten journal, is Ryan’s contribution to the story. Here we find his musings along with a series of links and passwords taking us to Sarah’s field videos. Following in the footsteps of films like the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, readers accompany Sarah as she’s forced to confront several unsettling truths: That those closest to her may be linked to murder; that Ryan’s “accident” might not have been an accident; and that there’s a specter of a ghost haunting a wreck in the woods.
If you’re looking for a few more tips for engaging your reluctant readers, check out one of our recent blogs, Teaching Reading Means Teaching Students to LOVE Reading or download our free Reading Comprehension Best Practices guide.
Well, just as I suspected I got swept up in the hustle and bustle of the semester and was carried right away, leaving my poor little blog behind.
I've had so many exciting classroom experiences, events, and ideas, yet I have fallen quite short on my ability to blog about them. My apologies.
Since last checking in I have started and finished a four-week field placement in a local middle school, where I was able to plan and teach my very first lesson to a real class from start to finish. I also taught a mini-lesson to a college class, and just this morning I turned in a 10 lesson unit that I created with 4 other classmates for a hypothetical ELL classroom.
There was also Halloween (one of my favorite holidays), a hurricane, and two show performances thrown in there. Plus about a million other assignments, meetings, and events, but those are the highlights.
I suppose the most important thing was my field experience. For four weeks I was able to shadow a teacher in a 6th grade English classroom at what would probably would be considered a rural middle school. My co-op was great, the school was great, but most of all the students were absolutely wonderful.
6th grade, in this school anyway, was the perfect age. All of the kids were in the process of developing such unique, strong personalities, yet their strong personalities didn't mean strong attitudes. They were excited to see me every time I came in, even though I was only there twice a week until around noon. Although I can't say I'll miss the 5:40 am wake up time or the 35 minute commute, I will miss those kids. It warmed my heart when students gave me notes, cards, and little presents on my last day as they begged me not to leave them. It also broke my heart a little bit to have to say good-bye.
While at the school, I was able to plan and teach a lesson all on my own. My co-op teacher cave me a few suggestions for lesson topics, but was very open to my ideas. I chose to do a lesson on the plot diagram, not the most exciting topic, but I was determined to make it work.
After thinking about my lesson for about two weeks, all the while getting to know the kids and their needs better, I wrote up a plan for a physically and mentally engaging lesson. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy put a little dent in my plans by causing the schools in my area to close for two days. Luckily, however, my area was not hit nearly as hard as places like New Jersey or NYC.
So, my lesson was pushed back a few days. As fate would have it, my co-op also happened to get a flat tire on the way to school the morning I was scheduled to teach. I was disappointed that my lesson, which I was all ready for, might be postponed again. Apparently my co-op had a lot of faith in me though, because the assistant principal came into my class that morning to let me know that, on my co-ops suggestion, I would be leading the class for the morning. A teacher from the building was sent to essentially baby-sit me, and for legal purposes, of coarse. For the most part, though, I was on my own!
Although I was a little caught of guard, it was really fun to get the chance to be the lead teacher in a class for once. The lesson went of without a hitch, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with kids grades 4-6 who want to teach about the plot diagram. By having the kids "hike" their way up plot peak, they got to move around and be a little silly, but learn at the same time.
If you would like to see the whole lesson plan, plus the power point, worksheets, and a Hollywood squares power point review game that I made for the lesson click on the following link:
Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the "Pen Pal" story that we read, but the stop and jot could easily be modified to fit almost any short story.
Below is the video Alma, which I showed my students. They LOVED it. It's a little spooky in my opinion, but that is what they liked about it so much. The students I was working with all seemed to be really into suspenseful books, and I gave my lesson right around Halloween, so this ended up working perfectly. The kids all got into groups and each group wrote a piece of the plot for Alma, then we put the pieces of the plot all together and read the full story.
Hopefully, I will be able to check in again soon! Until then, happy teaching and learning to all! :)
Over the past several weeks, I had the chance to read Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams, Will Richardson’s Why School?, and reread Dan Pink’s Drive to better understand the fundamental changes our nation is facing in relation to the motivation of learners. The common denominator of all three works — the industrial education system has a definite expiration date.
At younger and younger ages, students are more disengaged in school because they see that it does not tap into who they are, does not connect to what they are passionate about, and does not value them as powerful change agents.
Consider the traditional model of motivating learners via “carrots and sticks.”
The Carrot (reward-focus)
The Stick (penalty-focus)
While this may have worked in the 20th century economic model — IF employees followed preset directions and the chain of command, THEN individual success could be reasonably expected. However, it does not work in a 21st century economy where the world is increasingly interconnected, unpredictable, and fast-paced.
The industrial education system as we know it cannot be saved, nor should it. But how do we deal with the messiness of moving from a world where knowledge was scare to a new world where abundance is everywhere?
So many major initiatives that have cycled through schools over the past several decades will once again be resurrected (e.g. creative problem solving, differentiation, inquiry-focused curriculum, portfolios, project-based learning, reading and writing across the curriculum, outcomes-based education, professional learning communities, rubric development, school within a school) as we try to walk out of the 20th century cave into the daylight. The voices are getting louder that what school is for needs to be reconceptualized from the ground up. Welcome to the unknown — an education where anything is possible.
For more information, ideas, interviews, and inspiration, visit http://just-startkidsandschools.com/
First, I need to state that David Hutchens' Shadows of a Neanderthal is a lively, humorous adaptation that I do appreciate. Additionally, Gombert's illustrations are appropriately quirky and fun. I have no issue with this short text as a reader. For anyone seeking a quick grasp of the need to be flexible and open-minded, it's a wonderful choice. In fact, it would probably work nicely as a choice for high-school students, given its ease of accessibility to the morals.
My issue is that it is required reading for a graduate level Education course.
It's Plato's "Allegory of the Cave".
Why not just have us read Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", perhaps followed by Hutchen's analysis of the principles within the text?
Maybe I'm over-thinking this and shouldn't feel that my intelligence has been insulted. Really, it's as though I've been told that I'm incapable of grasping the point from The Republic. Maybe an undergrad course,sure. Maybe an organizational/leadershippy sort of course, sure. By all means, everyone should read and understand these principles.
Teachers, however, particularly those working at the graduate level and no matter their content area, need to be able and expected to grapple with a seminal text.
Project RESPECT, initiated by Secretary Duncan,calls for a rebuilding of the profession of teaching. I humbly suggest that one building block be avoiding the quick and easy way to one of the most powerful messages ever written.
Mirror Site: Joyful Collapse.