Notebook Time

Introducing Students to Ralph Waldo Emerson with Gallery Walks, Notebook Time, and Speed Dating Discussions

We are coming down the home stretch of the semester in a fast and furious manner.  Because time is limited, I am being selective in the pieces of literature I want my juniors to read as we explore the key transcendentalist writers in American literature.  I first introduced students to Emerson with a gallery walk that invited students to read, reflect, and interpret 20 different quotes from Emerson.  Students had the opportunity to record their noticings about the quotes and what they felt the quotes meant; they also were asked to record themes of importance on their graphic organizer (a menu of themes was provided).  We did the gallery walk in the hallways just outside of my classroom:

Once students had completed the gallery walk, we used notebook time to record patterns of noticings and reflections on the quotes we read.  Some classes did this indoors with a nature video playing on the board (thank you YouTube), but the weather was nice enough last Tuesday for me to take one class of juniors outdoors for our writing time:

When we returned inside, students had the opportunity to read an excerpt of the first chapter of Nature, annotate that text, and do some quick notes on a graphic organizer to prepare for the upcoming next class session and our class discussion about the text.

Because we are on a modified block schedule, my classes meet either T/Th or on Wed./Fri.  For the second class session, I originally planned on doing a concentric circles discussion to help students engage in meaning making about the text.  However, after my first two classes, I realized that format wasn’t quite working, so I punted on Thursday during my planning period.  I rearranged the desks in my room and organized the students into “speed dating” interview/discussion groups.  This version of the activity (which I learned years ago from Dr. Bob Fecho at UGA) basically was accomplishing the same goal as concentric circles, but it worked MUCH better for my remaining three classes on Thursday and Friday.  I threw out questions based on the text, their gallery walk, and their writer’s notebook responses; while some students did not engage in discussion as much as I hoped, many really got into the activity and got as much out of the learning experience as they put into it.  Students were required to take notes during the discussion so that they could capture the ideas of their discussion partners.

When students finished, they began working on four post-activity reflection questions that asked them to not only reflect on the text itself and its connections to principles of transcendentalism, but they were also asked to reflect on their understandings they gained from the activity as well as their best discussion partner.

Because we had to give a performance final exam the first three days of this week, we will use the last two days of this week to bring it all together and share out our key ideas and understandings.  Though I had to do some fine tuning in progress and not all students engaged with the activities, those who did shared how much they enjoyed everything and how the learning activities connected and built upon each other.  I would definitely introduce Emerson in this manner again in the future, and I love the simplicity yet power of student talk and thinking instead of me being the “sage on stage” doing all the work and thinking for them.  Some students are not used to these activities and push back because it is easier to be lectured to and to answer some low level  thinking questions on a worksheet.  I’ll continue to encourage those reluctant to engage in critical thinking as well as those who love engaging in higher level conversation and meaning making with unfamiliar and challenging texts.

From Notebook Time to Student Talk and Share: It’s Easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3

Many of us like to incorporate share time for students to share what they are thinking and writing during notebook time.   I’ve shared some ways I encourage students to speak up or interact during this share time because I have found most are reluctant to do so.  Another strategy that is easy to do is what I call ABC partners.  If you are providing a structured or guided prompt, simply break into three logical sub-prompts. As students write, I quietly walk around and give them a ticket that says, A, B, or C.  When writing/thinking time has ended, you can either instruct students to find a partner with the same letter or you could even form small groups by letter.

Today my seniors were asked to read two short articles on ways language evolves (article 1 and article 2).   This prompt was designed to activate/frontload some thinking prior to work they’ll do next week to explore the time period background for our first unit of literature study of British literature.  After roughly 20 minutes of time to read, reflect, and write, students found “like” partners by letter (again, A, B, or C).  They then worked together to talk, discuss, and craft a collaborate response to these questions around their assigned letter prompt:

I provided students chart paper and markers; they could create their responses in any way they wanted to organize their ideas.  After talking and writing for about 20 minutes, each pair of students then did an informal, low-stakes share out.  The questions they generated will now become questions they can explore as move into our first unit of British literature.

  • Why does it take longer for written language to evolve than spoken language?
  • Will people in the future think we talked in a weird or strange way (just as Old or Middle English sounds to us)?
  • What words might be most likely to change or evolve in the future?
  • How will changes in society, culture, and technology influence the way language evolves?
  • How exactly do languages form and begin?
  • How have other languages influenced the English language over time?
  • What kinds of words are most likely to stand the test of time?

I have been more intentional this year about finding ways to mix up share time and strategies for getting students talking about their ideas and responses from notebook time prompts.  Cris Tovani, author of No More Telling as Teaching, has influenced this professional effort to elevate student talk in meaningful and authentic ways.

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Notebook Time + Research Metacognition=Vocabulary Yoga with Mari Andrew

For the last few months, I have been inspired by the ways Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell have used the art of Mari Andrew with their students for notebook time.

 

I’ve already used one illustration as a notebook prompt with my seniors earlier this year, and the students loved her work.  With these things in mind, I decided to use this illustration as a “mentor text” for my students to help them rethink a vocabulary word or concept from their research around their self-selected “future of work” topic.

With the hopes of engaging my students in some meaningful metacognition, I asked my students to think of an important vocabulary word or concept from their research and see if they could recast it in the spirit of Mari Andrew.  For groups who didn’t have colored pencils, I distributed packs of supplies to help students craft their work.  Though a few students originally got a little confused and picked a random word, most jumped right in and those who had wandered a bit got back on track with a little redirection as I walked around and “eavesdropped” on their work.

  

This was definitely a creative stretch for students, but I think the value was that it gave them an opportunity to really think through the qualities of the word or concept from their research they selected.  Students had an opportunity to share out their work and thinking with their peers.  Because students will create a multimedia or performance product to accompany their written paper of their research, students have the option of refining, revising, and adding to this work on a poster as part of their project portfolio.

I plan to incorporate more of Mari’s work as inspiration to help us engage in “vocabulary yoga” and think of alternate ways to represent meanings and connotations associated with words.  What other artists do you like to use for notebook time and how are you using them with your students for notebook time?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Notebook Invitations, Annotation Statements, and Sketchnoting for Introducing and Navigating Challenging Nonfiction

Like many of you, I have found Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to be a challenging text for students in terms of both content and vocabulary.  Most 11th grade teachers find this be an especially tedious text to teach; several of you on Twitter shared it has been a struggle to engage students with this text.  As I worked on my lesson plans for the selection, I wondered how on earth I could help students navigate the text in a meaningful way.  I decided in both my Honors level, team taught, and college-prep level junior classes (5 total sections) that we would work through the text over two days with these activities during our block instructional time:

  • A Writer’s Notebook Invitation (#6) to get students thinking about the words in the selection and what predictions they could make about the text based on a word cloud of the sermon without knowing the title of the work or that it was a sermon.
  • A Reader’s Theatre performance to introduce Puritan values and the Great Awakening to students.
  • “Chunked” reading together of the selection with “pause and reflect” time after each time to annotate, sketchnote, and identify unfamiliar and/or strong vocabulary from that specific section.

We first began with our Writer’s Notebook Invitation in which students were presented the following visual prompt and questions for thinking:

Students had a copies of the prompt and image at their table group areas in the neon ticket pouches I use to share information with students so that they could examine the word cloud  more closely.  Students could then volunteer to share all or part of their entry with the class during our share time; as part of our notebook process work, students who volunteer to share get a neon orange sticker on their notebook page that reminds both of us the student has shared and will get bonus points on their self-selected notebook assessment we do monthly.  This sharing time is important because students get to hear each other’s thinking aloud, and the ideas shared in this session helped us think about strategies for making predictions based on word choice and making inferences based on the word cloud. Some students even made connections to other texts they read last year in 10th grade like Greek myths or Dante’s Inferno.  This activity took roughly 30 minutes or a third of our ninety minute block time.

We then got up and moving around with the Reader’s Theatre performance.  Before jumping into the text, I provided students the first page of a two page graphic organizer we’d need for our annotating and sketchnoting activity.  We numbered each section or chunk 1-4; I then explained to students this graphic organizer would provide us a way of reading and thinking actively about the text and help us navigate this most complex text of our unit of study.  I explained that we do three things with the active reading graphic organizer during our “pause and reflect” time:

  1.  We would compose two annotation statements as part of our noticings and reflection on that section.  I provided students annotation codes and sentence starters to help them compose their reflections; these codes are based on Cris Tovani’s work in Chapter 5 of So What Do They Really Know? and annotations as formative assessment.
  2. Sketchnoting:  we created a graphic or visual representation of what we “saw” in our minds as we read that section.
  3. Vocabulary: we recorded unfamiliar vocabulary; we also captured words that were strong or vivid word choices that appealed to our emotions.

In each class on this first day of the activity, we were able to finish anywhere from 2-4 sections in class (4B lost time due to an unexpected fire drill).   Students had copies of the annotation codes and sentence starters in their neon pouches, and I repeated the instructions during each “pause and reflect” session after we read a chunk or section of text.

Students could read ahead if they finished early, and students could take their work home if they needed to finish their work that evening.  I was truly astonished by the thinking I saw in their written AND in their visual representations across all classes.

 

  

 

Many students shared they liked this process, especially the sketchnotes; several made it a point to use their colored pencils or to put extra time and effort into their written and visual work.

We repeated this process for the remaining sections that we read and reflected upon on Day 2 (Thursday, August 31 and Friday, September 1).  Students received the second page of the graphic organizer upon arrival, and we finished up our reading and reflection work.  They then had the remainder of the period to finish their graphic organizer work if needed before completing a self-assessment of their self-selected best “section” or chunk.

Students completed this self-assessment ticket and stapled it to their work; I’ll collect these next week because students need their graphic organizer work for a creative mini-lit circle poster activity they’ll do in self-selected groups next week as we bring closure to this text before our unit test at the end of the week.  I plan to collect the hard copies of their work, but I plan to introduce Seesaw this month and use this tool for student portfolios and all of their self-assessment work.  In closing, we ended class time with some review questions; those who need extra time for either learning task could finish up at home over our long weekend.

One observation of note:  many students needed me to re-explain the instructions for self-assessment even after we reviewed them together.  I get the sense that this is not because they didn’t understand the instructions, but because many of them have had few opportunities to reflect on their work and explain what they did well in their work.  Some of them would even ask me to read what they wrote and ask me, “Is this good?”; I would read aloud what they had written and then ask them, “What do you think? How do you know?”  As I have blogged earlier this semester, I think it is really important for kids to engage in metacognition about their work and be intentional in evaluating their work and learning how to articulate when they have done something well instead of always looking to me the teacher as the final validation of “good.”

Based on my observations and what I read of the self-assessment as students showed me their work during class, I think this was a successful and meaningful learning activity for all my classes.  I definitely want to do more sketchnoting with students and was inspired by work I read from Shawna Coppola this summer as well as the pleathora of tweets from Tanny McGregor’s session at ILA this past July.    This was honestly my first attempt to introduce it to students, and I intentionally kept it simple for our initial efforts, but I hope to do some more intentional mini-lessons in the future.  These resources are my starting points, and I think you’ll find them helpful as well!

Last but not least, the video recording of Shawna and Tanny’s presentation:

Are you annotating and sketchnoting with students?  What are your best practices and tips?  I hope you’ll share here in the comment space below!

Introducing Early American Literature Time Period Background Information with Writer’s Notebooks, Doors of Wonder, and Station Rotations

If you teach a high school course that has traditionally leaned toward a survey type course of a particular canon of literature, you know that getting students interested in the background information can sometimes be a challenge. After only a few days with my students, I knew that a traditional lecture or time period overview even with engaging visually oriented slides was not a good fit for my learners, especially not this early in the academic year (this is week 2 for us).   In addition, my school is on a modified block, so mixing things up and giving students a chance to move about the room, collaborate, and providing them with both quiet times and active times of learning are essential to keeping students’ learning energy up for 90 minutes.

Because our Writer’s Notebook time is already a fixed part of our learning routine, I decided to give students an opportunity to read a map from our textbook that provided a snapshot of where different Native American nations lived on the North American continent.  I wanted to give them space to:

A.  read or interpret the map and make inferences

B.  make connections to prior knowledge

C.  ignite curiosity:  wonder and ask questions

Take a look at our notebook invitation

Because of the detail of the map, I projected the image on the board and provided students with a copy to look at more closely; once again, my beloved neon ticket holders are a great tool for delivering materials to students.  Once students in both my 11th ELA Honors and “on level’ courses had 10-12 minutes to write, students could volunteer to share something from their notebook.  While I am not a huge fan of extrinsic rewards, the reality is that at 7:30 AM, some students need a little incentive to speak up, so I offered bonus points on their work for the day if they chose to share.  With the exception of one class, the level of participation was excellent and may have encouraged some of my shyer students to speak out.  I was truly impressed with the depth and range of their thinking in their responses, and I think the students enjoyed hearing from each other as well.

We then put our notebooks aside, and students received a second graphic organizer.  I then explained that I had summarized the background information for our first few selections that we’ll read this week and next; I also explained that I had broken the information up into “chunks” with 8 different reading stations (also housed in the neon ticket holders/pouches).

Their job was to read the information and decide what the three most important ideas/concepts/facts were to record in their notetaking graphic organizer.  They could write more, but three was the minimum.  When they finished all eight stations, they were to re-read what they had recorded and then write what they felt were their three big takeways from all the readings.

  

 

Students worked approximately 35 minutes on the stations; they had the option to work alone or with a partner. Students also had the option to snap photos of each station so that they could work wherever they were if a station was crowded.

Only one class had time to do our Door of Wonder activity, inspired by Matt Griesinger at Moving Writers.  Our wonderings came from notebook entries; publishing our wonderings was important, especially since so many students chose to share them with the class during our share out time earlier.  For many students, these wonderings will be a path to a mini-inquiry project we’ll do after Labor Day.  The rest of my classes will publish to their door or wall of wonder tomorrow and Friday.

I love that our room is quickly filling up with learning artifacts from the students!  Stay tuned for the next post as we infuse Post-It notes, new reflection stations after we read three short Native American works of literature, QR codes, and more!