Monday, January 12, 2015

Designing Reading and Writing Tasks

Teachers at my school are working to design reading and writing tasks that mimic the ones students will undertake on the PARCC exam, which will engage students in three kinds of reading and writing tasks:

  • literary analysis task
  • research simulation task
  • narrative writing task.
I'd like to share some resources that may help teachers select appropriate texts for students.

Determining the Reading Level

When finding online texts (such as speeches, articles, journals), how can teachers determine the reading level? Here's one simple way:
  • Copy and paste the text into Microsoft Word.
  • Enable readability statistics (see instructions in photo below).

  • Use the chart below to determine if the Flesh-Kincaid reading level falls within the appropriate grade level band stipulated by Common Core State Standards.

Changing the Reading Level

How can teachers change the reading level of a text?  Check out This FREE site allows teachers to change the reading level of a text, create vocabulary lists, and do some other pretty amazing stuff.

Hopefully, teachers will find these resources helpful.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Arkansas ASCD

Arkansas ASCD is launching a book study September 1, 2014, encouraging educators in Arkansas to read and discuss Tony Frontier's  Five Levers To Improve Learning: How to Prioritize for Powerful Results in Your School.

I am proud of my colleagues at BHS for committing to join the state-wide study and encourage other educators to join us! Learn more at the book study wiki.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shanahan on Literacy: Planning for Close Reading

Shanahan on Literacy: Planning for Close Reading

Close Reading

Yesterday, I attended a session with Timothy Shanahan, author of the first draft of the CCSS Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. He was awesome, and I learned a great deal. I'll limit my sharing to small chunks to avoid overwhelming you! 

I thought I knew the standards (We've torn them apart enough times!), but he pointed out something crucial I had missed and perhaps you have too.

The CATEGORIES are important. 

There are ten standards in reading and ten in writing. They are broken into four categories:
  1. Key Ideas and Details 
  2. Craft and Structure
  3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
  4. Range and Complexity of Texts
Why is this important? 

Shanahan noted most people "don't know how to read the standards" because they are arranged differently than our previous standards. 
  • We can't read each standard as a single skill/concept students are to know. Rather, we must read the standard in the context of the category (and in the progression across grade levels) to really understand what learning goal it is asking of students.
  • Also, the categories show how to approach close reading, in what order and manner we should lead students to read and reread:
    • Category 1--What did the text say? 
    • Category 2--How did text say it? 
    • Category 3--What does text mean? What is its value? How does this text connect to other texts? 
    • Category 4--Do this over and over with students on lots of different kinds of challenging texts.
 Read Shanahan's blog post, "Planning for Close Reading" to hear his own explanation and view his slides below (republished with his permission):

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teaching PREfixes

One of our SMART goals at BHS this year involves teaching students strategies for deciphering the meaning of words. An easy strategy is to teach students to look at the parts of a word--prefix, root, suffix.

Video Resource

Teaching students the meanings of common prefixes and suffixes can help them unpack meaning when they encounter a word they don't know. Here's a great [2:45] video you might use to introduce this strategy to students:

Common Prefixes

Which prefixes should students learn? Start by having students notice prefixes they encounter in your class. Consider creating an anchor chart or word wall to display prefixes and their meanings. Add to it has students encounter new prefixes. Periodically, engage students in quick activities that have them "play with" these prefixes:  work with a partner to make a list of words that start with a prefix; draw a pic to illustrate the meaning; stand with a partner and in 10 seconds see how many words you can name with a given prefix. The more students work with these prefixes, the more likely they are to really learn them and retain in long-term memory.

As students encounter words in your class with prefixes they've been learning, have them try to figure out the meaning of the words.

Here are more resources you might find helpful:

If you find other helpful resources, please share via comments.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Blogs As Tools for Response to Text

I'm teaching a workshop Monday on Text-Centered Discussions. I'll be using this post to let participants post one sentence responses that sum up Billy Collins' point in "Marginalia." 

Participants, here's a way to start your sentence (which works for any text):

  • In "Marginalia," Billy Collins [insert verb]...
Post your sentence by commenting on this post. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Lesson: Using Signal Phrases To Introduce Evidence

This mini-lesson is one in a series of upcoming lessons on teaching students to write arguments that integrate evidence from multiple sources to support their claims.