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.

Twitter TeachWriting Chat

interdisciplinary

Tuesday, November 18 at 9:00 pm EST/6 pm PST, please join us on Twitter for a  #TeachWriting chat on Interdisciplinary Writing.  I will be your guest host @scottmpetri .

For tonight’s chat, we will use the following definition for “Interdisciplinary” – applying more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience – adapted from (Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, 1989).

Here is an example of an interdisciplinary Mock Trial I did with an English teacher a few years ago with To Kill A Mockingbird. She taught the book, I taught the Jim Crow era and we culminated with an in-class trial judged by real attorneys who had coached the students on making opening and closing statements. The students thought it was…, oh, what’s the word I am looking for… FUN!

I hope you will show up with loads of experiences and examples of interdisciplinary teaching from your school.  This year, I did a great project with two of my English teachers getting students to write an 800 word essay for the Bill of Rights Institute’s We the Students scholarship contest. (My previous three blog posts describe this process.) The students were motivated because they got credit in both classes for doing the same assignment. I feel that if we can get more teachers to integrate instruction and collaborate, we can increase student engagement. Here is a sneak peek at the questions I will be lobbing your way.

Q1 Can you describe a successful interdisciplinary writing project you have participated in?

Q2 What are some barriers to implementing interdisciplinary writing?

Q3 How can non-ELA teachers approach writing in their subjects?

Q4 What types of writing instruction PD should be offered to non-ELA teachers?

Q5 Why should teachers be required to teach argumentative, explanatory, and narrative writing in all subjects?

Q6 How can Math, Science, and other subjects increase the amount of writing in their courses?

Q7 What type of feedback do you give students on their writing?

Q8 How can revision memos and peer review be included in non-ELA classes?

Q9 What are your thoughts on automated essay scoring tools? Could they help increase the amount of writing assigned in K12?

If you want to learn more about interdisciplinary writing, please consider signing up for my MOOC, Helping History Teachers Become Writing Teachers, which starts on January 12, 2015.  

If you are attending NCSS in Boston, I am presenting on Innovative Teaching Strategies in Social Studies, come see me in room 310 of the Hynes Convention Center on Friday, November 21 from 8:30 – 9:30 am.

Providing Effective Feedback

This post will be devoted to reporting the results of my students’ participation in the Bill of Rights Institute’s We The Students Scholarship contest. I focus on providing feedback on the general trends I see in student writing, as opposed to detailed feedback on individual essays. On this assignment, I saw problems in addressing all aspects of the prompt, providing sufficient background on the Declaration, connecting current events to the ideals in the Declaration, and coming up with interesting titles.

After several days of pre-writing activities, 87% of my students turned in first drafts that averaged 229 words in length. These results were 54 words less than the previous assignment, however, the cognitive and organizational skills needed to address this prompt were much more demanding than previous essays. In my previous writing tasks, I gave students a choice between three different writing prompts (argumentative, explanatory, and narrative) I found that students who chose the narrative prompt wrote significantly more than students writing to argumentative or explanatory prompts. The table below displays the word production range from this prompt.

We The Students

Addressing the prompt

In order to fully address the prompt (Since you were born, has America moved closer to or further away from the ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence?) students needed to separate their answer into three parts (1) explaining the background of and the ideals in the Declaration of Independence; (2) describing their political beliefs; and (3) interpreting events that happened in their lifetime to argue whether the US has moved closer or further from the ideals of the Declaration.

Address Prompt

This student attempts to rephrase the prompt in their own words, which is essential, however, they miss the point of the essay, “Is the United States moving closer to or further from the ideals in the Declaration?”  Instead, this student focuses on his/her political beliefs and does not take a stand that answers the question. The second sentence goes further off track and talks about unfairness in our community instead of our country. Many students have not fully addressed the prompt in their first draft. Failure to do this in the first paragraph or two of their final essay will guarantee elimination from the competition. This correlates with students lacking practice in developing complex thesis statements for written assignments. Teachers can help by asking students to provide three supporting statements for everything. Once students are trained to understand there is more than one correct answer, they will write more thoughtful and layered essays.

Providing background on the Declaration

In order to win this contest, students need to demonstrate not only that they understand why the Declaration was written, but how and when it was written. Here, contest judges look for specifics like: it was written by Thomas Jefferson, fifty-six men signed it, and all of this work was done in Philadelphia. Advanced students might mention that the complaints or grievances in the Declaration have become standards or ideals by which democratic governments are judged. As demonstrated in the writing sample below,

Background Knowledge

many students did not provide sufficient background or history on the Declaration. This student makes a poor word choice with “adopted” instead of “approved” or “ratified” in their first sentence, which may make a judge question whether or not the student has sufficient background knowledge on the Declaration.

Connecting ideals to contemporary issues

Another common mistake was failing to connect an event from the student’s lifetime to the ideals in the Declaration. Students were able to come up with events or issues, but struggled in making a direct link to an ideal in the Declaration.

Connecting Ideals

This student communicates a great deal of knowledge on gun control issues, but fails to connect this issue to a grievance or ideal in the Declaration. Gun control issues could be interpreted as “waging war against us,” “has torn up our towns and killed our people,” or “caused fighting to break out among us.” Making an explicit link and explaining how current issues connect to the ideals in the Declaration will be key to getting an essay into the competition’s final rounds.

Provocative titles

Lastly, students are still failing to create a high quality title that would make a reader want to pick up their essay.The judges for this contest will be reading through hundreds of essays that will essentially make the same basic arguments. One way to make your essay stand out is to give it a funny, clever, interesting, or provocative title. The most popular titles from this project are listed below.

Best Title

The next steps in this project are to take the students through a peer review process and teach them how to use revision memos to plan their second drafts.  To guide them through this, I asked them to consider five recommendations:

  1. Provide background on the Declaration.
  2. Define five ideals in the Declaration.
  3. Interpret three events from your lifetime that argue we are moving closer or further from Declaration.
  4. Explain how these events relate to your personal political beliefs.
  5. Consider what would be needed for the US to realize the ideals of the Declaration.

Engaging All Students

Authentic Writing Tasks continued.

The next step in my We the Students essay contest assignment was to increase my students’ awareness of contemporary problems in the US and their links to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence. I divided the students into groups and gave each group a short article or reading about an issue. They had a day with laptops to research topics on their own, but there were many technical problems and that time was not used wisely.  Groups found short articles on:  (1) Ferguson or other militarized police actions; (2) Marriage equality; (3) Marijuana legalization/decriminalization; (4) Edward Snowden and government surveillance of electronics; (5) Immigration laws; (6) Death penalty; (7) Restrictions on voter IDs; and (8) Obamacare requirements that everyone purchase health insurance. Presenting the Dec

After that, we had class discussions where students argued whether current government actions were in or out of line with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. A chart was put up on Google Drive, so that students could do more research at home. The purpose of the chart was to help students connect the issue back to the exact wording in the Declaration. After each issue was summarized, students asked a few questions. Extensive modeling was done in showing how issues were tied back to the Declaration.

Students created a T-chart depicting which ideals we were moving closer to and which we were moving further from. Students struggled with this higher level thinking activity. They were required to take notes on each topic, so they all had multiple issues that could be related back to ideals of Declaration.

Declaration House

 

Next, they had a day to research events that had happened in the US during their lifetime. I was surprised how many students selected events were totally irrelevant and did not happen in the US. I don’t think these students are used to a teacher who reads things and they probably think that as long as they write something down, they will get credit. Boy, are they in the wrong class! I asked them to collect 7-10 events from their life time and relate them to the ideals/grievances. Then they had to pick 3-5 events and explain whether they suggested we were moving toward, or away from the Declaration.

Lastly, students took a political typology quiz to determine where their views on social issues put them on the political spectrum. After finishing these prewriting activities, the students were ready to attack the prompt and write a draft as an in-class timed essay. When I charted all of the first drafts, we would move on to a peer review activity and then the revision process.  More on the results soon.

Authentic Writing Tasks

As a 9th and 10th grade World History teacher, sometimes I struggle with making history relevant to my students.  This year, thanks to the Bill of Rights Institute’s We the Students Scholarship Contest, I didn’t have to, the $5,000 top prize was more than enough to motivate my students. They were eager to struggle with questions like: What are the ideals in the Declaration of Independence? What are the ideals of America? What are some of your personal ideals? The vast majority of my students wrote two hand-written drafts before typing three pages double-spaced to meet the early bird deadline of November 15.

BOR Inst

The essay prompt: In 800 words or fewer, please answer the following question: “Since you were born, has America moved closer to or further away from the ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence.”

Dr. Strojny helped me brainstorm some prewriting tasks that would make this assignment easier for students. First, what are the ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence? For this class activity students were split into 13 groups of three or four where they had to close read the Declaration and translate what it actually said. Each group then brought their “translation” up to the document camera, projected it to the class and explained it. Then we compared them to a simplified list of grievances. The students copied the 22 grievances into their binders before leaving class.

For homework, I asked the students do a 15 minute quick write about which ideals, or grievances they thought would be most important, or easy to relate to issues today.  We had a quick discussion that went like this:  Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness – they have all heard about this —but don’t  know what it means? Examples to think about: Right to Life: Death penalty, abortion rights/right to life, food assistance for poor families, access to healthcare aka Obamacare.

Liberty:  Civil rights, such as right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, freedom of movement and freedom from government surveillance (think about Edward Snowden, the internet), incarceration rates and three-strikes laws for non-violent offenders such as drug users, freedom to vote and new voter ID laws.

Right to Happiness: What does it mean to be happy? Access to employment, secure jobs, student loans, drug laws, expansion of marriage laws to same-sex couples.

Writing the Dec

That government derives its powers from the just consent of the governed: Do our voter turnout numbers suggest that we consent to being governed by today’s leaders? What about Scotland’s recent referendum? What would happen if people in the U.S. wanted to secede, like the anti-Obama secession petitions in Texas?

Do students understand that the framers were morally compelled to violent revolution because all men have the moral duty—the OBLIGATION– to rebel against governments that do not fulfill these natural laws—the Occupy movement, School Walkouts in CO, acts of civil disobedience.  Do we have a moral duty to rebel against bad laws? What does it mean when we don’t vote? When we don’t attend protests? Etc. Do young people today feel this obligation?

It was an exhilarating assignment. Could I keep the excitement going through numerous drafts?  More in my next post.

History Assessments of Thinking

Joel Breakstone wrote that two of the most readily available test item types, multiple-choice questions and document-based questions (DBQs), are poorly suited for formative assessment. Breakstone and his colleagues at SHEG have designed History Assessments of Thinking (HATs) that measure both content knowledge and historical thinking skills. HATs measure disciplinary skills through engagement with primary sources. Teachers using HATs must interpret student responses and enact curricular revisions using their pedagogical content knowledge, something that may prove difficult with new, or poorly-trained teachers.

SHEG

To use HATs, teachers must understand the question, be familiar with the historical content, evaluate student responses, diagnose student mistakes, develop remediation, and implement the intervention. Teachers must possess an understanding of what makes learning easy or difficult and ways of formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others. In designing HATs, Breakstone sought to collect data on cognitive validity, or the relationship between the constructs targeted by the assessments and the cognitive processes students use to answer them. This would help teachers interpret student responses and use that information to make curricular changes. Formative assessments in history depend on teachers being able to quickly diagnose student understanding. Assessments based on historical thinking represent a huge shift from the norm in history classrooms. For formative assessment to become routine, teachers will need extensive professional development and numerous other supports.

Sipress & Voelker (2011) write eloquently about the rise and fall of the coverage model in history instruction. This tension has been revitalized as educators eagerly anticipate which testing methodologies will be used for the “fewer, deeper” Common Core assessments and what I call the “Marv Alkin overkill method” of using at least four items to assess each content standard. This results in end of year history assessments that are 80 questions or more. Breadth vs. depth arguments have existed forever in education, Jay Mathews illustrates this by asking if teachers should focus on a few topics so students have time to absorb and comprehend the inner workings of the subject? Or should teachers cover every topic so students get a sense of the whole and can later pursue those parts that interest them most?

Something that may settle this debate is one of the more interesting developments in ed tech. The nexus of machine learning and student writing is a controversial and competitive market. Turnitin recently demonstrated that it is looking to move beyond plagiarism detection and into the automated writing feedback market with a recent acquisition. If my wife allowed me to gamble, I would bet that one of the testing consortiums, either Smarter Balanced or PARCC, will soon strike a deal with one of the eight automated essay grading vendors to grade open-ended questions on their standardized tests. Lightside Labs will pilot test their product with the Gates Foundation in 2015 and get it to market in 2016, just a little too late to be included in the first wave of Common Core assessments. I wonder if HAT assessments would be able to incorporate some automated scoring technology and settle the depth versus breadth debate in assessing history?

Writing Historical Narratives

storytelling-copy

The Common Core’s addition of narrative writing is likely to challenge many History/Social Science teachers that are unfamiliar with this type of writing. Students are now expected to write narratives that develop real or imagined experiences, and/or events using well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Since only six percent of my class or eleven out of my 183 high school students chose to write a historical narrative on our last formative assessment, I created a task that would increase their storytelling abilities about the principles of Judaism. Instead of outlining, I asked them to cluster or bubble map the main ideas from the textbook chapter. We use the 2007 California edition of World History: The Modern World (pp. 28-32) by Pearson Prentice Hall. Most students had one to two pages of events and people that they could use to create their narrative. Prior to beginning their writing, they also had a full day of instruction on period-specific vocabulary. For homework the students also viewed the Crash Course video series segment on Judaism. Lastly, students viewed a short, online video on narrative writing tips and techniques. The video was played once in class and posted online so students could view it again from home.

The prompt and directions were:

You have a 53 minute class period to write a Historical narrative about the Jewish people. Use your cluster map to provide details. This task requires you to tell a story about a historical time period, blending facts with imagined characters and situations.

  • Use one person’s point of view (a central character)
  • Use chronological organization and transitions
  • Describe people who actually lived and events that actually happened. However, you may include fictional people and details.
  • Show you have an accurate understanding of historic events and details of actual places

I use word count as a proxy for student effort and as a goal-setting strategy. Thus, I always like to display the number of words each class period writes.  I then compare each class mean. I try to generate some competition between the classes. Why do you think period three wrote almost 150 more words than period 1?

Word Prod Means

The chart above compares the average number of words written by each of my five classes.
Number 6 is the average of all five means. A total of 176 essays were turned in.

The factors I looked for in these narratives were: 1) a creative title; 2) word count; 3) main character point of view. During my readings, I discovered that a small group of students had misunderstood the assignment and had made their historical characters into outlandish fictional people doing things that had no relevance to the historical period. In my debrief with the students, I will remind them that the purpose of the assignment was to show an accurate understanding of historic events and details of actual places.

The majority of my students picked a historical character and remained in that character for their entire writing assignment. One or two students misunderstood the assignment and wrote one or two paragraphs from the perspective of each Moses, Abraham, David, and Solomon. I attributed this to students not listening carefully enough to the directions. The charts below compare student performance on my last two writing tasks.

Word Prod Means by Period