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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Melissa A., Art Teacher at Jay H.S., November 18, 2009

On Wednesday I ended my day with a visit to Melissa, a art teacher at Jay.  Melissa is an enthusiastic participant in our literacy initiative and has found many links.  Today, she decided to have her students work on textures.  She was helping students make the link between textures they feel and textures represented in drawings, painting, etc. 
Melissa introduced the idea of texture and explained to the students why this lesson was important to their next unit on drawing.  Students felt different textures on the table and described them.  Next, they were asked to find three textures in the room and reproduce them by making rubbing of them on the paper.  Students then took the textures and created collages.  At the end of the lesson, the students debriefed with Melissa and she displayed examples of texture in drawings.  This was an excellent example of frontloading a concept and building a baseline understanding of key vocabulary word.  Bravo!

Sherry H., Science Teacher at Jay H.S., November 18, 2009

On Wednesday, I visited Sherry during a biology class.  Sherry is an experienced teacher who reflects on her students' needs.  During this lesson, she was working with her class on muscle names and had been thinking about a way to help students make sense of the names, providing a hook for them to remember (meaning is always the most powerful hook).  By reflecting on her own understanding and process, she decided to create a three level study guide, as follows.

   She presented the new graphic organizer and explained her purpose and thinking.  Next she asked her students if they would like to do this as a group or separately.  The students opted to do both.
Sherry modeled the first part of the lesson and then had students try it, providing them with guided practice.  The class worked their way through the first two levels of questions within this framework, as Sherry moved around the room adding clarifying questions and comments.
   What I noticed about the class, was their ability to interact collaboratively within the group.  They were focused, used resources (including their textbooks), and purposeful language as they built a clear understanding of the concept.   Bravo!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mike H., Jay H.S., November 18, 2009

On Wednesday of this week, I visited Mike H. during a history class.  The previous day, the class had been given a list of topics and were told to pick three.  After researching them, on the internet, they were to write a summary for each one.  
Mike began the class by explaining the assignment to his students.  He told them he would pair them up and wanted them to share (tell) their summaries with their partners.  The partner would then be expected to briefly summarize one of their partner's topics for the rest of the class.  Finally, the partner who had written the original summary would evaluate the retelling.
Throughout the lesson Mike embedded purposeful language when he:
  1. explained the importance of summarizing
  2. explained the importance of listening
  3. explained the importance of speaking
  4. suggested students act as teachers when sharing summaries
  5. shared his own story of an embarrassing moment when he had to choose to continue his theatrical performance
  6. modeled think alouds and added information following summaries
  7. asked students what was most difficult with the assignment
  8. asked students why that was the most difficult part
  9. asked students how they could address that difficulty.
The entire class responded favorably to this session and learned a great deal.  The integration of reading, speaking, and listening is crucial for students regardless of the grade level.  Bravo!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kristel A., Jay H.S., November 17, 2009

On Tuesday, I visited Kristel A. at Jay H. S. during her English class. 

Kristel was introducing a new book, Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah. 

Kristel had spent a great deal of time, looking at this book through the eyes of her students, identified challenges the books presented for them, and then formulated supports to assist them in their reading/comprehension.  The class began with a quick write dealing with any type of abuse students had experienced at the hands of an adult.  Kristel modeled, after students wrote, sharing their experiences with their classmates. This was linked to the main character in the book, providing a way students could relate - building a bridge between two different cultures and beginning to develop a universal theme.

Next, the class moved to the end of the book and the historical context for the story.  Each student was given a different event from the story and asked to place it in the correct chronological order in a timeline created on google documents and displayed on an LCD. This helped students clarify the sequence of the story in order to navigate the heavy historical element and later link the two, providing a springboard for inferring.

Finally, Kristel introduced a double entry journal for students to use in order to highlight key points of the first part of the story.

The pace was brisk and moved from group to individual work seamlessly.  The frontloading and support offered to the students certainly made the book more accessible while increasing the engagement of the students.

During our debriefing, Kristel and I discussed her choice of text.  She spoke  passionately about her desire to instill in students the love of reading and the necessity to get them hooked on "good stories" with universal, accessible themes.

Bravo, Kristel.  You have clearly achieved your goal.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hattie D., at Mt. Blue, November 16, 2009

     Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting Hattie's class in the morning.  She was doing some frontloading with her students to prepare them for reading the novel, Monster.  
   The class began the period with SSR.  I saw a marked difference in these students.  I had observed them last year.  They were focused and highly engaged.  When Hattie checked on their progress, they had all read a good number of pages - silently and focused.  No goofing!   Last year they read 6,000 pages, this year 9,000 so far!

   Next, students continued to listen to a NPR tape on ghetto life.  This was a tape with two real ghetto children who were honest and realistic about their lives.  Hattie chunked the tape into meaningful sections and paused to ask clarifying questions and help the students make meaningful connections.  Life in this urbane setting is difficult for our students to grasp.  Mores of this culture is also difficult for them to understand.  However, Hattie's questions and modeling connections opened the door for her students.  After listening to the tape, the students filled in a Venn diagram comparing Urbane and Rural settings.

   As Hattie and I debriefed from the session, we discussed how the shift had been made with this group between this year and last year.  We kept coming back to the concept of "real" - audiences for writing, issues that are part of their lives, and reading they can relate to.  This seems so simple, and yet if you look at our curriculum - it is often loaded with topics students may or may not every need to know.  Language Arts tends to have more than its fair share.  How many of us have asked our students to pretend to be ___ and tell why___?  What investment is there for our students who have so many real issues in their lives and surrounding them?  Aren't we sending them a message - they are too young or too "limited" to deal with their own lives?  How do we help them transfer the strategies we teach them as they "pretend" in various roles?  Would it not be more useful to have our students use strategies on real situations and leave our schools prepared for life?  Does this connect to Wilhelm's essential questions?
    Something to think about!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sam D., Mt. Blue High school, November 16, 2009

I spent the day at Mt. Blue High School, coaching teachers in year two. As always, it was a treat.

I started the morning by visiting Sam D., a geography teacher. He was working with a ninth grade A.P. class.  They were working on the concept of poverty in the U.S. 
Sam began the lesson by having students use the frayer model to formulate a definition of poverty.  They were asked to choose their characteristics, examples and nonexamples from the materials they had explored so far: a video, lists of facts, and essays written by each of them.  Sam also suggested they could visit the web if they wanted further information.  Students engaged in this activity easily - having used it before.  After an appropriate amount of time, the students reported out as Sam asked clarifying questions and helped them make connections.

Next students were asked how the government could assist families.  While students brainstormed, Sam recorded responses using inspiration and an LCD.

Finally, Sam passed out a article that coordinated with the theme of government help.  Sam asked the students read the article and then write a GIST.

Throughout the lesson, students were highly engaged and Same kept the class at a good pace.  Students offered eagerly.  Poverty is a complex concept and this lesson helped build groundwork for the rest of the units.  Bravo!

Reflection on the Literacy Fair at Mt. Blue

Priscilla C., a high school teacher with 44 years of classroom experience shared this comment with us as she reflected on Mt. Blue's Literacy Fair at the end of October.


The Literacy Team's presentation at last week's Early Release was impressive.  The Early Release activity provided me with useful tools to implement NOW in my classes.  It was nice to be made aware that the activities are similar to what I am currently doing but known by a new title.

All participating members were so eager help and share.  Hattie really impressed me!  I liked her strategy with the pebbles!!!!   I have already begun walking around my neighborhood collecting pebble and I recently purchased various jars of paint.   Dan's tools can easily be adapted to my subject area.  Jo showed me how I could link her creation to my Accounting 1 class.  Meadow and Melody extended affirmation on an idea I developed to include literacy in classes.  Thanks friends.   Jake, Jim and Dave Ronald were so willing to share developed forms with me.

The entire afternoon proved to me that you really can teach an old dog new tricks!
Please convey my thanks and appreciation to each team member.  I look forward to more sharing regarding Literacy.  This day was wonderful.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Priscilla!