#studio409

Deconstructing Mentor Texts for Our Own Writing: Research-Based Informational Writing In the Wild

My seniors have completed their research on their self-selected topics related to the Future of Work (see blog for previous posts); we have gone deep with our inquiry work as we have worked on this for the most part of the first nine weeks of the semester while sprinkling in some other writing studies and work before we shift gears to literature study at the end of the month.  Last Friday, I organized students into eight “Think Tanks” and gave them the following materials in a folder:

  • An informational article (I pulled from a variety of sources); you can message me if you’d like a copy of the text set.
  • A copy of Kelly Gallagher’s chart of purposes for writing
  • A sample of a kernel essay with the markups from Gretchen Bernabei’s Text Structures from the Masters.
  • A handout outlining effective leads for expository essays from Essay Writing Made Easy.

Inspired by Writing with Mentors How to Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging Mentor Texts by Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti, various posts over at their Moving Writers blog, and some personal Tweets from Rebekah, I gathered a series of eight mentor texts that I felt were good examples of research based informational writing “in the wild” or from the real world.  I wanted my students to have some models of how we might break out of the traditional five paragraph essay structure to compose and share their research findings.  Deconstructing and completing “noticings” about mentor texts is still a relatively new experience for my seniors, so I provided some scaffolding to help them organize their thinking and to create a poster to share out with the class:

We reviewed the instructions and some options for how groups or “think tanks” could go about their collaborative inquiry work.  Then I turned the groups loose to begin their deconstruction of the informational texts.  I walked about the room observing, answering questions, and supporting anyone who seemed to be struggling.  We worked roughly 35-40 minutes before it the class period ended, so we continued our work taking about 45 minutes to finish our endeavor.

We then reviewed procedures for sharing our posters as well as ways to show love and support as listeners.  Students also received a graphic organizer to take notes or capture “take away” ideas from each group poster session (see Gallery Walk Poster Share Notetaking Sheet 12th ELA for Deconstructing Informational Essays October 2017 ).  As each group presented, I reflected back what I heard and asked clarifying questions as needed; students could also ask the presenters for clarification or to repeat anything they needed to hear again.  The period flew by, and all groups finished but one, so our final group will start us off on Friday.  Once we finish, students will then complete a self-assessment of themselves and their group (see Poster Presentation Self Assessment Informational Text in the Wild Noticings) before beginning to develop a writing plan.  We’ll collaborate as we begin to draft the pieces of our essay, so stay tuned for more on that approach to our writing process!

It was interesting to see how each group worked together in terms of how they attacked the activity as well as the interaction (or challenges with working together).  Groups that communicated clearly and did the annotating/marking up “a la Gretchen Bernabei” style were the ones whose posters were the strongest finish product in terms of content depth and completeness.  Overall, I am very happy with the design of the learning experience and how my students handled this because it was definitely a challenging learning activity.  They have demonstrated growth since the beginning of August and took on this challenge in a way that they could not have done only nine weeks ago.  I am also excited that their work can now serve as anchor work to showcase in the classroom.

How do you support students in engaging in noticings about mentor texts?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Visualizing Our Research with Sticky Notes

My seniors, who have been researching  their self-selected topics under the umbrella of “The Future of Work,” have completed their first round of research.  We had roughly four days (we meet for 90 minute blocks) to delve into our research guide.   Students formed Birds of Feather groups by interest and designed their research questions as well as inquiry project jobs for each member.

This past Wednesday I felt students needed an opportunity to assess the information they had collected so that they could see what information they had (or didn’t have!) and what they still needed, especially since roughly 1/4 of the class has struggled to use class time given for taking notes. We have used a range of notetaking tools:  an assortment of graphic organizers and even Google Forms (I ran a mail merge and printed these out for students).  After returning all notes to students, we used this past Wednesday to look at our work and break out each note onto an individual sticky note.

Once students had completed compiling their notes onto the sticky notes, I asked them to look at their work and group “like” ideas together. They then were asked to come up with a label or category for the notes.   Students then received a large oversize poster sticky note and did the following steps:

  • Wrote their research question and name at the top.
  • Drew a t-square grid.
  • Wrote each category of notes.
  • Taped/stuck the notes into the appropriate square on the grid.

Once the posters were completed, we hung them together by groups; I created colorful placeholders for each group along with a copy of their research plan to anchor each gallery of work.

Once students finished this part of the activity, they completed a self-assessment of their progress on their inquiry so far:  Post Research Round 1 Reflect and Assess September 20 2017 Period 1B 12th ELA Honors .

As part of the self-assessment, students were asked to reflect on what information they had and what they still needed after they had reviewed their visual poster of their notes.  This part of the activity was helpful because I was extremely impressed by students’ assessments of their progress and next steps for finding the information they still needed.  In addition to being a meaningful and reflective exercise, this activity  has generated interest from students and teachers traveling in our hallway!  How do you build in self-assessment opportunities into your inquiry projects?  How do you help students reflect on the information they are gathering and then determine what they still need and how to move forward?

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!

Inquiring into the Future of Work with a Reading Frenzy and Speed Dating Share Time

Essential Questions:
• What trends and technology are shaping the future of work?

• How might the future of work impact the decisions we make today?

Warm-Up:
Writer’s Notebook #3  

Standards for Learning/AKS:

Reading Informational Text
LA12.B.19: read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range, by the end of grade 12 (I)

Writing

  • LA12.C.28 draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (I)
  • LA12.C.29: write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (I)

Speaking and Listening
LA12.D.30: initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (e.g., one-on- one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively (I)

Learning Activities
• After composing in our writer’s notebook on a chart/list-based prompt about the qualities employers desired in 2015 and in the future 2020 for work, we did a lightning round share out; anyone who volunteered to read something from his/her entry today will receive bonus points on the daily work assignment for today (our reading frenzy graphic organizer).
• Each table group received a folder of articles related to the future work; each table group also had access to the Google Drive folder of all articles via a QR code. Students received a graphic organizer and were asked to try and read four articles; as students read, they recorded publication info, important ideas, reactions, significant facts, unfamiliar terms, and questions. Most students were able to complete 2-3 articles.


• We then moved into “speed dating” interview in the hallways. We divided into two groups face to face and students shared 3 ideas/pieces of information from their favorite article with a partner. We rotated through 3 partners with 2 minute segments for sharing.


• We returned to the room and brainstormed a list of important topics/themes/concepts we got from the articles; this article is housed in our shared Google Drive folder with the articles from today.

Closing

• We did a preliminary four corners activity to get an idea of areas of interest for further inquiry and research. Students will continue browsing and reading the articles online through our shared Google folder between now and the beginning of class. We’ll take a second pass at forming birds of feather groups Friday morning.

Assessment

• Observation of student work throughout the entire class period.
• Students will turn in their reading notes graphic organizers on Friday; they took them home in case they wanted to review them or add anything to them before class Friday.

Getting to Know You: Six Word Memoirs

This past spring, I was inspired by a post from the wonderful Moving Writers blog that gave me the idea to begin my school year with six word memoirs.  This past Wednesday, my 12th Honors ELA seniors were introduced to the writer’s notebook purpose and protocols.  Our first writer’s notebook invitation asked students to look at a set of roughly 11 sentences that served as our mentor texts (six word memoirs, which was still not known yet to students) as I want my students to begin reading like writers.  Students were asked to record their noticings about the sentences; they could focus on length, structure, mood, word choice, style, punctuation, and topics.

Our writing prompt was a springboard to small group discussions and then a lightning round large group share.  I then asked students to count the number of words in each sentence since no group noticed they were all six words.  This prompted noticing elicited surprise from the students and was the springboard for us watching a TEDxvideo about six word memoirs from the founder of the genre, Larry Smith (https://youtu.be/jR1V7lxsOu0 ).  Students then did a follow up post in the writer’s notebook reflecting on the video; many were impressed that so few words could make a difference, and we had a class discussion about how we might use this medium of writing as a possible class writing project to make a difference in our Lanier High community to create a space for student six memoirs and their stories.

We then went to work drafting and polishing our six word memoirs.  Once finished, students their six word memoirs on the bulletin board in our classroom to share and celebrate our writing.

If you are interested in buying sentence strips, I use these from Amazon (they were a good bit cheaper when I purchased mine); these Pacon sentence strips might be a good alternative.

Below is my slideshow I used to guide our lesson as well as a copy of the mentor texts I culled from the Six Word Memoirs website.

 

Gwinnett County Schools AKS (standards) In This Lesson:

Reading Literary AKS

LA12.A.5: analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact (I)

Writing AKS

LA12.C.29: write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (I)

LA12.C.28 draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (I)

LA12.C.22: write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences (I)

Speaking and Listening AKS

LA12.D.30: initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (e.g., one-on- one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively (I)