Corbin Moore and I taught an online class called Improving Historical Reading and Writing over the summer. We learned that one of the major barriers to non-ELA teachers assigning writing in their classes is simply that they don’t feel comfortable providing feedback on that writing. They are also concerned about increasing their workload. Our experiences as classroom teachers have led us to include more writing in our daily practices. We hope this chat encourages other teachers to do the same.
I operate a flipped classroom where my content lectures are delivered online, this allows my World History students to spend class time reading Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. Four days per week, we have 30 minutes of sustained silent reading (SSR) where students maintain an unfamiliar word log, then one day per week, we have small group discussions where they practice using the words in their logs. To master Common Core speaking and listening standards, my students will need to give a three minute speech on (1) Marie Antoinette’s childhood, (2) her marriage to Louis XVI, (3) her role as a mother, (4) her performance as Queen of France, or (5) her overall historical legacy. Students will be divided into groups at random and assigned one of these general topics. Speeches will be given over the next month as we complete the book and study the French Revolution.
This post covers how students will brainstorm in small groups to choose a topic, a purpose, and create a roadmap for their speeches. The advice comes from a combination of our school’s Academic Decathlon coach, the awesome Ms. Kerry Sego and the inspiring work of Erik Palmer and his excellent book Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking To All Students.
Topic: This is the subject of your speech. In this case, it is about Marie Antoinette. Will it focus on her relationship with her father, mother, siblings, husband, children, her subjects, or other royals? Will the speech be about growing up a Habsburg, Marie Antoinette’s schooling, or the role of music in her life?
Purpose: This is the point your speech will be making. Was Marie Antoinette was a victim of her mother’s ambitions? Do you want to call attention to her philanthropic gifts? Should she be remembered as the greatest Queen of France? Or for never maturing beyond her selfish, teenage indulgences?
Provide a Road Map: Give your listeners an overview of your topic and purpose. Make sure your main points are clearly stated. Use transitions such as first, another example, next, and finally. Refer back to your main point so the examples seem connected to it. This is where you demonstrate that you can move beyond merely possessing knowledge to creating something meaningful that can inspire an authentic audience.
Introduction: Does it state your topic? Does it clearly state your purpose? Do you begin with an attention-grabber?
Body Paragraphs: Do you have interesting examples? Quotes? Statistics? People? Does your speech progress from point to point clearly? How can you move evenly from one idea to another?
Conclusion: Does the ending of the speech summarize what you have said rather than merely restate or repeat it? Does the speech end with a strong or interesting point? What should the audience do with the information you have given them?
Tone: Your speech is not a formal expository essay. Spice it up with stories, imagery, humor, and background knowledge that your audience will appreciate. There are sensitive and fascinating insights in this book that offer a thoroughly nuanced picture of the queen. How do you want them presented?
After you have written your speech:
- Read it aloud, slowly, pausing for emphasis (remember your audience is listening, without being able to read what you have written), so you must present your information slowly.
- Time your speech. It must be between 2:30 – 3:00 minutes.
- Type it (if you can) double-spaced.
- Save it on your computer. This way you can make changes easily.
- Memorize your entire speech. This is a must.
- Present your speech, do not read it, or act it out. Use a senator’s voice.
- Look your audience in the eyes, glancing now and then to your written copy.
- Stand still. Do not play with your papers, sway back and forth, or twirl your hair.
- Revise your speech. Make necessary changes for an easier delivery.
Biancarosa & Snow (2004) outline 15 elements of effective literacy interventions. Subsequent research should focus on identifying an optimal mix that will increase the literacy of middle and high school students while simultaneously building their knowledge base. The following fifteen elements are research-based best practices aimed at improving middle and high school literacy achievement:
- Direct, explicit comprehension instruction, which is instruction in the strategies and processes that proficient readers use to understand what they read, including summarizing, keeping track of one’s own understanding, and a host of other practices
- Effective instructional principles embedded in content, including language arts teachers using content-area texts and content-area teachers providing instruction and practice in reading and writing skills specific to their subject area
- Motivation and self-directed learning, which includes building motivation to read and learn and providing students with the instruction and supports needed for independent learning tasks they will face after graduation
- Text-based collaborative learning, which involves students interacting with one another around a variety of texts
- Strategic tutoring, which provides students with intense individualized reading, writing, and content instruction as needed
- Diverse texts, which are texts at a variety of difficulty levels and on a variety of topics
- Intensive writing, including instruction connected to the kinds of writing tasks students will have to perform well in high school and beyond
- A technology component, which includes technology as a tool for and a topic of literacy instruction
- Ongoing formative assessment of students, which is informal, often daily assessment of how students are progressing under current instructional practices
- Extended time for literacy, which includes approximately two to four hours of literacy instruction and practice that takes place in language arts and content-area classes
- Professional development that is both long term and ongoing
- Ongoing summative assessment of students and programs, which is more formal and provides data that are reported for accountability and research purposes
- Teacher teams, which are interdisciplinary teams that meet regularly to discuss students and align instruction
- Leadership, which can come from principals and teachers who have a solid understanding of how to teach reading and writing to the full array of students present in schools
- A comprehensive and coordinated literacy program, which is interdisciplinary and interdepartmental and may even coordinate with out-of-school organizations and the local community
Since educational research has not identified an overall strategy for directing and coordinating remedial tools for students at risk of academic failure, teachers are encouraged to experiment with these elements and report out any effective combinations. The authors recommend that three specific elements: professional development, formative assessment, and summative assessment be included in order to ensure instructional effectiveness and measuring effects.
Rise of The Robo-Readers
July 13 @ 4pm PST/7pm EST #sschat
co-mods: @scottmpetri & @DavidSalmanson
A primer on auto essay scoring
Q1 What is your definition of AES, robo-reading, or robo-grading? #sschat
Q2 What is greatest hope and/or your worst fear about technology-assisted grading? #sschat
Q3 When is it ok for a computer to assign grades on student work? #sschat
Q4 How can classroom teachers test & evaluate a robograder without disrupting learning? #sschat
Q5 What would parents think if Ts required Ss to use robo-graders before submitting work? #sschat
Q6 What would school admins say if you used a robograder in your classes? #sschat
Q7 How would you use a robograder in your History-Social Science class?
Q8 How could robo-readers help teachers gamify the art and process of writing?
Shameless plug: https://www.canvas.net/browse/ncss/courses/improving-historical-writing has a module on writing feedback & AES. Course is free and open til Sept. 22. #sschat
Teaser Tweets (to promote the chat after Monday – 7/6).
Are robo-graders the future of assessment or worse than useless? http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Robo-readers are called Automated Essay Scorers (AES) in education research. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
In one study, Ss using a robo-reader wrote 3X as many words as Ss not using the RR. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Robo-readers produce a change in Ss behavior from never revising to 100% revising. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Criticism from a human instructor has a negative effect on students’ attitudes about revisions. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Comments from the robo-reader produced overwhelmingly positive feelings for student writers. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Computer feedback stimulates reflectiveness in students, something instructors don’t always do. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Robo-graders are able to match human scores simply by over-valuing length compared to human readers. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
None of the major testing companies allow open-ended demonstrations of their robo-graders http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
Toasters sold at Walmart have more gov. oversight than robo-readers grading high stakes tests. http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
What is the difference between a robo-reader & a robo-grader? http://wp.me/4SfVS #sschat
To join the video-chat follow @ImpHRW, sign into www.Nurph.com. Enter the #ImpHRW channel. Note you will still need to enter #sschat to your tweets.
Promo Video for a forthcoming Turnitin.com product
A longer paper by Shermis & Hamner
Perelman’s full-length critique of Shermis & Hamner
If you are really a hard-core stats & edu-research nerd
National Council of Teachers of English Statement
For Further Research
Williamson, D. M., Xi, X., & Breyer, F. J. (2012). A framework for evaluation and use of automated scoring. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 31(1), 2-13.
A study from The Concord Review found that 62% of teachers never assign a paper of 3,000-5,000 words in length, and 81% never assign a paper of over 5,000 words.
Cold War Research Paper
For this project, students combine three of their in-class writing assignments into a five-page (1,250 word) paper that argues: (1) which side was most responsible for the Cold War, (the Soviets, or the West); (2) elaborates on which events defined the Cold War; and (3) describes how the Cold War should be remembered in textbooks. Students will support their positions with evidence from the documents provided and independent research.
Use parenthetical citations, i.e., (Cold War Causes, Handout 1), (Soviet Textbooks DBQ, BGE), or (Containment DBQ, Doc. A), and include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper. For your final grade, you will provide a one-page revision memo, a typed final draft on top of the original drafts, and four www.PaperRater.com reports all stapled together. Save this project in your Google Drive and use it for your senior portfolio.
Which side was most responsible for the Cold War, the Soviets or the West? Include an introductory paragraph that contains background on the Cold War and a thesis statement that takes a position. Explain the three main underlying causes of the Cold War and who was most responsible for the Cold War. Justify this decision by explaining who was least responsible. Include evidence from at least three documents to support your ideas and explain how the evidence proves your point. Lastly, provide a concluding thought that reconnects with your thesis.
How did the United States prevent the Soviet Union from expanding communism? After reading about multiple Cold War events (Long Telegram, Berlin Airlift, Korean War, and Cuban Missile Crisis), define the US Cold War foreign policy and describe three instances where containment was used. Choose which example was the most significant and explain your reasoning.
Describe how the Cold War should be remembered in future textbooks. Which Soviet accomplishments and which US accomplishments should be included in future history textbooks? Explain your reasoning. Conclude the paper with some final thoughts on what lessons the global community should learn from the Cold War between the US and the Soviets.
The one-page revision memo should explicitly report how you addressed the feedback from your PaperRater reports. For example, “PaperRater gave me a 63% on Academic Vocabulary. I went back to the background essay, found five more vocabulary words and defined them in my introductory paragraph and my next PaperRater Academic Vocabulary score was a 71%.”
Next it should highlight significant changes and point out where the final essay improved from the first drafts. The purpose of revision memos is to help you become better at revising your writing. When you write a revision memo, the following points must be included:
- It is addressed to me.
- It points out what your focus was on this draft.
- It lists the strengths and weaknesses in your previous drafts.
- It details the changes you’ve made from one draft to the next.
- It describes your overall impression of the revision (strengths and weakness).
Each of these points must be in the memo. Typically, memos run anywhere from one to three pages in length.
The final paper should include page numbers on the bottom right-hand side of the page, be formatted in Times New Roman 12 point font, double-spaced with one-inch margins. The final document should contain a cover page and be turned in before the end of school on Friday, May 15, 2015. This entire project, which began on March 20th is worth 700 points of your final grade.
CA State Standard: 10.9.2 Students analyze international developments in the post-WWII world. Analyze the causes of the Cold War with the free world and Soviet states on opposing sides. Describe the competition for influence in Germany, Korea, and Vietnam.
Common Core Writing Standards: 1. Students will write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. 5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. 10. Write routinely over extended time frames with time for research, reflection, and revision.
Educators are familiar with the phrase “college and career ready” but few are able to articulate what determines this readiness. This is because there has been little empirical analysis on the literary skills required in community colleges. Being college and career ready means students are able to communicate clearly—to speak grammatically, write well and read the required materials with understanding. A May 2013 study from the National Center on Education and the Economy asked what kind and level of literacy is required of a high school graduate for success in the first year of a community college program? They collected data from seven community colleges in seven states, serving rural, urban and suburban populations with enrollments from 3,000 to 30,000.
The reading and writing required of students in community colleges is not very complex or cognitively demanding. The reading complexity of college texts is between 11th and 12th grade. Successful readers of information-rich texts should have the ability to read complex texts in unsupported environments. The capacity to process, retain and synthesize large amounts of new information must be increased. Significant reading experiences must occur in a wider range of content areas. The skills in comprehending statistical tables, charts, maps, lists and other documents in college texts need to be improved.
Reading for in-depth subject matter comprehension is not formally taught in our high schools. This disconnect between high school and college reading demands suggests a need to reexamine what is taught in high school. What are we asking our students to do with what they read? College students are rarely asked to do complex analyses of texts, except in English Comp classes. One third (33%) of the courses examined used multiple choice or true/false exams and assignments exclusively.
Most introductory college classes demand very little writing; when it is required, instructors have very low expectations. Community College writing typically takes the form of informational writing or collecting evidence for a course of action. Complex writing plays a minor role in community college student exams. Even so, a large number of high school graduates cannot meet the low expectations that community colleges have of them.
Community College instructors do not expect their students to read at the level of their texts or to write much. The majority of essays were argument or informational, only one college contributed narrative essays. Agreement between scores was significant at the lower end of the grading scale with notable disagreement at the mid-range of the scale One-fifth (20%) of essays that the panel considered college ready were scored not college ready by the instructors. Almost half (48%) of essays considered college ready by the instructors were given scores of 2 or below by the panel.
Over 75% of the essays given a B by the instructors were marked 2 or below by the panel. Argument essays often received Bs without including well-supported claims. No pattern emerged to suggest why the panelists graded the writing aspect of the subject matter essays more harshly than instructors.
Community College students are required to learn college writing in English Comp and then rarely asked to write again. When they are asked to write outside of English class, the acceptable standard is considerably lower. Many of the deficits of HS school ELA instruction are being replicated rather than remedied in community colleges. Students clearly need better instruction in constructing arguments and in laying out their thinking logically and persuasively.
We need high schools and community colleges to concurrently raise their standards for reading and writing. This doesn’t just happen in high school, but needs to be a collaborative effort when implementing Common Core State Standards throughout the PK-12 curriculum.
Students must have the ability to read information-rich texts in unsupported environments. Teachers must increase the capacity of students to process, retain and synthesize large amounts of new information. Students must have significant reading experience in a wider range of content areas. Teachers must increase the ability of students in reading and understanding tables, charts, maps, and lists that supplement the prose in many college texts.
We are not teaching our high school and community college students to be proficient writers. The limited writing skills that we do teach, we do so ineffectively. Many high school graduates cannot meet the literacy demands of community college programs. Complex writing tasks need to play a larger role in both high school and community college student exams. History teachers may increase their writing instruction skills by signing up for this free online class.
Tucker, M. (2013). What does it really mean to be college and work ready? The English literacy required of first year community college students. The National Center on Education and the Economy. May 2013. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.ncee.org/college-and-work-ready/
The Common Core State Standards call for teachers to emphasize argumentative, explanatory/informative, and narrative writing into all subjects. Many teachers across the content areas are unsure how to respond to these new standards. Should teachers stop delivery of subject content to explicitly teach spelling, vocabulary, and sentence construction? Should professional learning communities (PLCs) devote a specific amount of time to writing instruction in each subject? How many writing projects should be delivered in each subject? Educators will struggle with these questions as they implement the Common Core writing and literacy standards, however, this website will present methods for how can teachers begin improving writing instruction in History-Social Science classes immediately.
There is concern that a majority of adolescents do not develop the competence in writing they need to be successful in school, the workplace, or their personal lives (Graham & Perin, 2007). Other researchers (Bissex & Bullock, 1987; Calkins, 1994; Graves, 1983;) have noted a connection between increased reading and writing and higher levels of academic achievement. Hence, Common Core and an increasing number of assessments, including the ACT, NY Regents Exam, and CRWA, employ writing-from-sources tasks that integrate reading and writing.
Under Common Core, all teachers need to be writing teachers. Unfortunately many History/Social Studies teachers have not had significant instruction and/or practice in historical writing. Worse, very few teacher professional development seminars focus on this topic. As a first step toward becoming writing teachers, Social Studies teachers can increase student literacy skills by incorporating writing from sources, or document-based questions (DBQs) as formative assessments. Goal-setting strategies may be well-suited for guiding and motivating students as the introduction of historical writing increases the rigor in your instructional program.