Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking It Says, I Say, And So Strategy On-Line

I discovered a brilliant idea today in a classroom walkthrough of Mrs. Harmon's English 10 class. She was using the It Says/I Say/And So strategy with Google Docs. Here's what she did and why I think it's brilliant.

What, exactly, did Mrs. Harmon do?
Her students, since last week, have been reading three one to two page texts (one an image) all related to 9/11. They've been reading each text closely and discussing. Today, she had students generate questions--thought-provoking, meaningful questions (another lesson she's taught previously on the three levels of questions) that would stimulate conversation and lead to writing topics. She arranged students in groups with the texts in hand, pointed each group to a Google Doc with a three-column table inserted in each with headings It Says, I Say, And So. Each group had to generate meaningful questions, pull evidence (in the form of short quotes) from the text, and then add commentary in the And So column (she's preparing to teach them next how to embed textual quotes in their own sentences). As groups worked, she projected the Docs on the LCD, switching from group to group, pointing out strong questions/evidence/commentary, and prodding students to improve their work. She questioned one group's evidence, pointing out that they had not quoted directly from the text but had paraphrased. She asked another group to elaborate on their "And So" statement, using questions to spur them to think deeper.

Why is this brilliant?
First, the students are doing what we as a faculty (and Schmoker) are trying to have our students do more of--they're reading closely (annotating, underlining, re-reading), thinking, discussing, and writing about texts. Next, they're using a graphic organizer as a strategy to harvest evidence from the text. By putting the organizer online, students can see lots of models, judging their own ideas against their peers, and Mrs. Harmon can use the organizer as formative assessment, reading--right in class--what students are writing, giving them immediate feedback and judging whether students are understanding the concept of formulating strong questions, pulling specific related evidence from the text, and adding thought-provoking commentary.

Bravo for Mrs. Harmon and for all of you who are having our kids READ CLOSELY, THINK, DISCUSS, WRITE about texts. If you have a strategy or activity you're using, I'd love to share it with everyone. We can be much more effective sharing our ideas, working as a team than being isolated in our classrooms.

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