Category Archives: Close Reading

Numbers Mania Instructional Sequence

This post will describe an instructional sequence using the Numbers Mania EduProtocol, a corroboration activity, and a rhyming game to formatively assess student’s knowledge of the French Revolution. Numbers Mania is a lesson frame from Marlena Hebern and Jon Corripo’s book The EduProtocol Field Guide: Book Two where students create an infographic to demonstrate their knowledge of your subject. 

French Revolution by the Numbers

In this case, students used numbers to tell the story of a historical event. I use this lesson frame to motivate students into reading the textbook more closely than they would if they were just taking notes.  

French Revolution by the Numbers (1)

Here they are specifically looking for numbers that can be pulled from the text and used to tell the beginning, middle and end of the French Revolution. 

French Revolution by the Numbers (2)

For this assignment, my students had one class period to pull numbers from their textbook in order to tell the story of the French Revolution. This explains the lack of variation in their infographics. You can see an entire class period of Numbers Mania infographics HERE. On average my students created five stats for their story in one class period. There was a high of ten numbers and a low of 1 in the sample.

In the past, I have extended this activity by adding an annotated bibliography assignment. To evaluate the efforts of my students, I “graded” them on the number of statistics they included and the number of sources they used. Thanks to Ryan O’Donnell aka @creativeedtech for giving me access to his great templates

Corroboration

On the second day of this unit, students were given a lengthy Sparknotes reading on the French Revolution and asked to corroborate facts from that reading with events in their textbook. 

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I ask my students look for areas of agreement in two separate texts. They document them in a Fact 1, Fact 2, Implication format. This helps high school students learn to analyze texts critically and to improve their explanations of quotes they select as textual evidence.

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In one class period, my students could identify a low of two corroborations to a high of 16 corroborations of varying quality. The class average was five.

Rhyming Couplets

On the third day of this unit, students were asked to retell the story of the French Revolution in rhyme. They were allowed to work in groups or as individuals. Twenty-nine poems were created in two class periods. 

French Revolution in Rhyme

I have removed student last names in order to publish the poems. At this point, I can turn them over to my ELA teacher colleagues and they will follow up with helping the students review their rhyme scheme, improve their drafts, and polish their prose. Interestingly, when I asked students which activity they felt them learn the most about the French Revolution (numbers, corroborating, or rhyming) — they overwhelmingly chose the rhyming activity. It helped them remember more historical details.

Conclusion

The EduProtocols book series has helped my transition to a 1:1 classroom by making the learning in my classroom visible. This allows me to give students discrete skill builders that I can remix for coherence and consistency. This has helped me get off the lecture and test treadmill. What protocols or skill builders are you using in your classroom to help students demonstrate they understand the content you are teachng them?  

Mix Iron Chef Into Reading and Writing

Students in my 11th grade US History class typically read four non-fiction books in addition to their History textbook. I have noticed that their note-taking skills, attention to detail, and recall of historical figures in the text need to improve. As students advance through upper-division work text complexity increases, yet the amount of reading instruction decreases. This can result in real problems in college where professors expect their students to do three hours of reading in the subject-area for every hour they spend in class. This post will describe an instructional sequence that helps students focus on the historical characters in a nonfiction reading using an Iron Chef protocol, a Who Am I? narrative writing technique, and a video response system that improves student speaking and listening skills.

Iron Chef

Eduprotocol authors Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo developed this tool to help students flex quick research reps in 15 minutes or less. For this pre-reading activity, I listed the historical figures in The Professor and the Madman and assigned them via number on my class roster. Students research the individual, note key details and page number(s) they appeared on in the book, and for the secret ingredient add what we should know/remember about this person. The slide below is an example of what a student can create in less than one class period. Students build their own study guide that they can refer back to and add to as they read.

Iron Chef Pics

Who Am I? A First Person Protocol

The next step is to have students turn their slide research into a first person narrative. Even if students mostly copied information from Wikipedia into their Iron Chef slide, now they have to do the literary heavy lifting of converting it from the third person into the first person. This student has done an excellent job with a minor historical figure from The Professor and the Madman and has even slipped her own confident personality into her script. I can’t wait to see what she does with her video.

Iron Chef Pics (1)

Flipgrid – Engage Your Students in Speaking and Listening

The last step involves using Flipgrid, a free video-response platform that helps students learn via their own videos. For this assignment, the students have to speak for one minute giving the viewer clues as to the historical figure’s identify. As the grid populates with videos, students can view them, take notes, and learn who is who before they take a quiz made up of ten randomly selected videos.Screenshot 2019-09-21 at 5.17.58 PM

This video shows how students can be creative and have fun when engaged in this instructional sequence. Flipgrid tracks the analytics for each grid, which allowed me to see that my students viewed each others videos a total of 2,764 times prior to the quiz. That adds up to 43 hours of study time on the characters in a book they haven’t read yet. What do you think will happen when they encounter each character in the text?

Big Takeaways

What I like about this instructional sequence is that each day builds on what students created the day before. If they didn’t try very hard with the research they put into their Iron Chef slide, then they will struggle to write a Who Am I? speech. If they didn’t put some effort and creativity into their script, then they will have trouble making an interesting video. If they didn’t review their classmates’ videos, then they probably won’t do very well on the quiz.

Teaching students to show up and work hard every day is the most important work we can do as teachers. I have used this instructional sequence to help my students learn about Historical Eras, Enlightenment Philosophes, and people in the Civil Rights Movement. These activities have increased effort and engagement in my classes. Feel free to remix them for your class and subject matter. All I ask is that you leave a comment or tag me in a tweet @scottmpetri and let me know how they work for you. 

Great Terror Tweetathon

Steve Graham and Michael Herbert (2010) conducted a meta-analysis of the literature on reading and writing called Writing to Read. Part of this work, reports the results from nine studies that demonstrated how having students respond to a text in writing has a large effect (0.77) on their reading comprehension. This research suggests that writing personal reactions and/or analyzing/interpreting texts can increase reading comprehension. Therefore, I asked my students to use textual evidence to create rhyming couplets about the Great Terror. They were given a document about Stalin and the Great Terror from The DBQ Project’s excellent materials and allowed to use their cell phones to access an online rhyming dictionary.

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A few students turned in rhymes that did not reflect understanding of the material. In a future iteration of this project I will add some peer review and quantify the results. Many students, however, were creative and demonstrated strong understanding of The Great Terror. The following couplets represent their work:

As a Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin made his enemies pay
His secret police would kill 1,000 people every day

The Russians launched mass arrests and forced labor
At times it seemed by killing you, Stalin was doing you a favor

Between 1937 and 1938, the Great Terror only lasted for two years
During this time, the Soviet people lived with many fears

The Great Terror eliminated people considered an enemy of the state
A history book would conclude that this time period was not great.

Russian intellectuals were broken and corrupted
Their contributions to society were disrupted

Mercy and dignity got in the way of survival
If you valued freedom, you were Stalin’s rival

The Great Terror tried to instilled fear in a citizen’s mind and soul
Constant threats from authority added up and took their toll

Soviet History books were just another propaganda tool
Until Roy Medvedev wrote one critical of Stalin’s rule

Joseph Stalin had a huge amount of power
Which made all of his citizens tremble and cower

This quick activity aligns with what Lopez (2011) terms culturally relevant pedagogy, which emerged in response to the need for increased engagement and educational success for all learners. Many teenagers aspire to be rappers and songwriters. This exercise allowed students to work in pairs and collaborate on a task with high social capital and improve their academic vocabulary and reading comprehension. Please make a comment and let me know how you could adapt this activity to your classroom.

References

Lopez, A.E. (2011). Culturally relevant pedagogy and critical literacy in diverse English classrooms: A case study of a secondary English teacher’s activism and agency. English Teaching: Practice and Critique. pp. 75-93. December, 2011, Volume 10, Number 4. 

Was Eugenics Science or Racism?

Reviewing my exams at the end of my WWII unit made me realize that my students didn’t really understand why Hitler easily rose to power in Weimar Germany. They had no inkling how he used popular science to advance many of his racial theories, nor that Hitler stole most of his theories on racial purity from American scientists in the eugenics movement. These students did not understand that eugenics was the 1900s equivalent to climate change, widely accepted by the mainstream, but vilified by extremist groups.  I blame this, not on my usual frantic sprinting along the historical coverage treadmill, but on our textbook, which doesn’t even mention the word eugenics anywhere in its 793 pages. Instead of re-teaching all of WWII, I put together a quick three-day unit and argumentative writing assignment on eugenics, starting with this wonderful lecture from 15 Minute History.

The next day, my students opened class with a Do Now: (quick write) that asked: Did the eugenics movement benefit or harm society? Then, I gave a short demonstration on how to use a Vee Diagram when writing an argument. After writing their initial argument, the students participated a gallery walk where they collected at least six pieces of evidence. The idea of the gallery walk was to see if their minds changed after examining the evidence. All of the materials in the gallery walk were collected from the Eugenics Archive.

American Eugenics Movement

For their Exit Ticket, students discussed which pieces of evidence they had collected with an elbow partner and described how the evidence supported their claims. That night for homework, they were asked to fill out their chicken foot and organize their evidence, so they could write their essay in class the next day.

Chickenfoot

For their in-class essay, students were asked: Was the eugenics movement positive or negative? They were asked to include a brief background on eugenics, as well as their definition of eugenics, and instructed to write in the third person. Lastly, I asked them to use MEAL paragraphs to explain how their evidence supports their claim.  Click here for additional information on MEAL paragraphs.

M – Main Idea: Topic sentence

E – Evidence: Proof found in research

A – Analysis: Describe how the evidence proves the main idea

L – Link: Explain how the paragraph fits into what the paper is trying to argue.

The students (N=142) who completed this task, wrote an average of 292 words with 2.7 claims and 1.6 counter claims. At this point in the year, they should be writing between 300-400 words in a class period. To my horror, I discovered many examples of the Jane Schaffer method thriving in my class after a whole semester of trying to break them of the habit. I suppose I should be grateful that they had some writing instruction in middle school, but in high school and in college this type of writing doesn’t work.

Jane Schaffer Method

My next post will show students how to use the third person and help them learn how to turn bad writing into good writing.

Close Reading Demo

Coronation of Napoleon

Jacques-Louis David, The Coronation of Napoleon

CA Hist/SS Standard 10.2.4 Explain how the ideology of the French Revolution led France to develop from a constitutional monarchy to democratic despotism to the Napoleonic empire.

Objective: Students select textual evidence of Napoleon’s despotism by selecting quotes from his Account of the Internal Situation of France speech given before the Legislative Body aka The Consulate on December 31, 1804.

CCSS Reading Standard for Literacy in History/Social Studies:
Grades 9 & 10.

1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information. 2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary source and provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Student Handout

Students will think/pair share in groups to collaborate on simplifying paragraphs of this speech used as a historical primary source document. Students will present their work to the class via a document camera and projector. Then leave a post-it copy of their work on a master document for the whole class.

Instructor will circulate and ask groups specific questions to assist students in comprehending this college-level primary source reading.

Annotated Instructor copy with questions

Students will be given a chance to turn and talk with an elbow partner to practice academic language in a small group prior to presenting before the class. To enable differentiation for diverse populations, students have been placed in mixed-ability groups by their scores on previous subject-matter quizzes. Each group has a high scoring student, a low scoring student, and two average students.

Each student will be given a chance to display their collaboration and critical thinking skills when presenting their translation-simplification. The teacher will check for understanding during the presentations. Students will complete Do Now & Exit Tweets that demonstrate their understanding.

Twitter Template

At the conclusion of the lesson, the teacher will model a simplified document. Prior to leaving class, students will be asked to provide a thumbs up/thumbs down to reflect their opinion on whether Napoleon was a Dictator or Democrat.

Teacher Master Copy

Students will have handouts of the primary source and be provided with dictionaries to help understand the academic vocabulary. Students with electronic devices may use them to access online resources such as www.rewordify.com.

Close Reading Procedures

Close reading is thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc (Burke, 2014). It  includes: Using short passages and excerpts; Diving right into the text with limited pre-reading activities; Focusing on the text itself; Rereading deliberately; Reading with a pencil; Noticing things that are confusing; and Discussing the text with others.

FIRST READ: KEY IDEAS AND DETAILS
The first read should be without building background; students should be integrating their background knowledge with the text as they read.

Nap IASF 1

SECOND READ: CRAFT AND STRUCTURE
After rereading, students discuss the text with partners or in small groups, focusing on the author’s craft and organizational patterns.

Nap AISF 2

THIRD READ: INTEGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND IDEAS
The third close reading of a text should go even deeper, requiring students to synthesize and analyze information. They may record their ideas on sticky notes, graphic organizer, or a thinking sheet.

Nap AISF 4

Nap AISF 3

Reference

A Close Look at Close Reading: Scaffolding Students with Complex Texts. Beth Burke, NBCT.