Using Dialectical Journaling to Foster Reader Interaction

Recently, I had my students reread a story that they have now read 3 times.  We have taken Cornell Notes on the story, replied to a constructed response on the author’s use of characterization, and identified making inferences 

journal

as the strategy of choice to make meaning of what we read.  But I still felt that they really didn’t get the deeper meaning of the story – the impact that poverty had on the life of the main character.  I turned to my AVID English Language Arts Write Path book for help and found exactly what had been missing from my instruction – a framework for students to interact with the story.

After I quieted their groanings about having to read this story yet again, I explained to them that they were going to interact with the text a little differently this time.  I reminded them of how we had focused on vocabulary and the ways the author made the character more believable.  I then shared with them two words I’ve learned in a class I’m taking – efferent and aesthetic.  I wrote both words on the board and explained the difference – efferent reading has the main purpose of gaining information from the story to answer questions.  We were pretty good at that.  But aesthetic reading dealt more with how we interacted with the text – how we responded and reacted to what the author had written.

aesthetic efferent

The students were told to divide their papers into two columns (I’m not really a fan of the whole hot dog/hamburger fold thing, so I just told them they needed two columns and let them use their own judgement).  The left column was entitled What I Read – the right column was labeled My Response.  I copied a few of the sentence starters from the AVID book, modeled an example for them, and let them work quietly and independently for about 15 minutes.  As I walked around and reviewed their work, I was impressed – these kids were able to gain much more insight into the main character’s life and challenges than I would have been able to teach them!  (You can find a sample handouts for use in your classes here).  I’m sharing  a few examples from my class below.

dialectical 3

WHAT I LEARNED 

It was really important to me that each kid get a chance to share what they had learned, so we went around the room and allowed each of them to share their responses.  Time was getting away from us and we still had to take our end of year STAR360 test, so I skipped a boy who had reacted to a classmate’s response.  This kid has not willingly completed an assignment all year, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But as the next student shared, I literally saw him shrink into his seat and slowly begin to disengage.  When the student was done, I apologized to my boy and allowed him to share.  The transformation was incredible!  He sat up tall, grinned a little, and proudly shared his reaction with his peers.  I learned to value each voice in my room – they are all learning, whether I can see it or not!

Have you used this strategy in your classroom?  How’d it go?

Duane Garrett – Video Productions

Inside Mr. Duane Garrett’s class at the Conyers Middle School Center for Technology Education, students are buzzing about the history of television.  Mr. Garrett encourages students to bring and use their own devices to collaborate on and create presentations on a variety of topics.  Students are given the freedom to select from digital tools that fit their learning styles and interests.

Our History of Broadcasting project tracked the progress of broadcast technology starting with newspapers in the 1700s and ending with our current technology.  I have another project coming, “The Future of Broadcasting”, where the students will have to research new and emerging technologies and create a similar presentation.

Take a look at some of the these outstanding student projects below.

Video by T. Mondragon – The History of Broadcasting

Prezi by Z. Tucker – History of Broadcasting

 

iPad – How to Make It Read the Text To You

iPad – How to Make It Read the Text To You

This is a wonderful post from iGameMom on how to use one of the assistive technology features on the iPhone/iPad.  I used it last night with my daughter while she read one of her Fancy Nancy books on my iPad so it would pronounce the words that gave her trouble, and so that she could hear certain sentences read fluently for her.  You can buy books that will read aloud to your child but if they are like my daughter, they would rather try it for themselves first.   Great for reluctant or struggling readers and FREE with your device!

Happy Teaching!

OneNote for Learning Support

In a previous post, I mentioned the use of OneNote as a tool for helping students manage classwork.   Since that time, I have been able to work with several teachers in implementing the use of OneNote with their students.  One of these classes is a self-contained class for students with learning disabilities.  This teacher is responsible for the case management and instruction of all self-contained students in grades 6-12 (yes, you read that correctly!).  Needless to say, this presents a major challenge for her when it comes to providing quality instruction for all of her students.  We met to discuss ways that she could leverage the technology she has in her room to assist her with managing all that she is responsible for on a daily basis, and she selected OneNote as one of the options. Her use of this tool far exceeded my expectations.  Below is her first-hand account of that experience, as well as a few words from one of her students.  Happy Teaching!

“In teaching students with various needs, disabilities, and accommodations, I strive to find a way to keep their interest in class. Each year, administration pushes the use of technology in classes, but I am not the typical technology person.

I have always utilized classroom notebooks, but it has gotten increasingly difficult to keep up with the lessons, assignments, and other materials for the multiple grade levels and subject areas I teach. I have students that find organization to be a difficult task; students that think “writing” is hard because of physical/occupational therapy deficits…there was just one problem after the next.

When introduced to OneNote, I thought it would be great to have my students complete some activities on it. They enjoyed being on the computer. They were excited to type and even draw things instead of writing. Soon, this once in a while thing turned into using it daily, for every subject. I am able to add information (notes, grades, comments) in real time, while students are actively working on the page! Their work is in one place. Instructions are easy to get to. I am even able to embed links directly on their pages to cut down on extra internet surfing. When I want to add a new subject area, it’s as simple as clicking “new”.

My students are able to access it easily and they enjoy the feel of working independently while still having one on one assistance. I see what they are doing from my desk, sitting next to them, or even in another classroom in the building. OneNote is an awesome and easy way to use technology in the classroom!” – Learning Support Teacher and Case Manager

“I like this because you can go back and see what you did. U can look (at what) the teacher put on there.” – Student

The Road to 1:1 – Rules for the Homefront

There is a ton of research out there about the 1:1 initiative, in which students are issued devices by their school district in order to enhance learning.  Our district began hinting at this change several years ago and as I began to take a look at all the research, I have to admit to being extremely overwhelmed.  If it’s a ginormous (what a fun-sounding word!) idea for me as a veteran educator, I can only imagine what it will do to the minds of our parents.  So I have decided to chronicle our adventure and share the ups, downs, and realities of this experience here.  Look for periodic posts on this topic in the coming months.

 

My hubby and I have discussed the idea of our 4th and 5th graders bringing home devices, and frankly, we have quite a few concerns.  I can’t get them to put their shoes in their room or remember where they put their library books (this marks the 3rd year we have paid lost book fees!).  A device?  Pretty scary stuff.  This made me think about a few ground rules that we need to put in place at home, so I thought I’d share them here – use what you can and toss the rest!

 

Rule #1 – Device stays in a designated place.

Our house has been known to occasionally ingest items with no warning – socks, DVDs, library books…so having a place set aside for certain items has been essential in the survival of our stuff.  I have a small case with shelves near the rear entrance of our home for stray shoes and papers that need to be signed and returned to school.  This will probably be the resting place for any device and all of the pieces parts that go with them.  That way, we save time looking for things in the morning and always know where they are.

Rule #2 – Device stays away from little sister.

I love my tiny human (a.k.a. Buddy), but she can do an incredible amount of damage in a short amount of time.  So she will not be allowed to touch the devices her sissies bring home.  Ever.  Not even when she pushes out that bottom lip and fills those big, brown eyes full of tears – we all have to stay strong.

Rule #3 – Device does not travel with us.

We are constantly on the go – like, our home is more of a rest stop on most days than anything else.  Whether it’s a quick trip to the store or a trek to church service somewhere, I’m going to insist that they leave their school-issued devices home.  (Sometimes the car gets a little hungry for our stuff too!)

Rule #4 – Device stays away from the dinner table.

I’ve seen it happen and done it myself – the classic E.W.T. (Eating While Typing).  It makes for sticky, nasty keys and screens that spread germs and bacteria from person to person…definitely keeping these away from food or drink of any kind.

I’m sure we’ll think of many more as we roll along, but these are the Big 4.  Are your kids brining devices home from school this year?  What rules have you put in place on the homefront?

Data Driven Dialogue

no judgementMath was never my thing. In fact, I had a real phobia of all things math all during high school. Eventually numbers and I developed a sort of mutual indifference toward each other – they didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them.
Fast forward many, many years later. What started out as a career in education has now evolved into the role of both technology and data specialist. (Data specialist? Really? God definitely has a since of humor! ) So I’ve had to work really hard to overcome my fear of numbers in order to meet the monthly deadlines that arrive with the administering of various classroom, district, and state assessments.

I recently did a session with teachers in my building on analyzing data from our most recent benchmark tests. I shared my perception of data – a huge monster made of tidbits of information, with no clear beginning or ending in sight. One lifeline that I have found particularly helpful is the Data Driven Dialogue protocol, developed by Nancy Love and the Teacher Development Group with the Harmony Education Center. This is a step by step, practical guideline to analyzing data and taking the scariness away by approaching it in 3 phases. A copy of the protocol can be found here.

Phase 1 – Predictions
In this phase, dialogue takes place before you even look at the data. During this time, teachers were asked to activate prior knowledge, look at their assumptions, and make predictions in order to create readiness to examine and discuss the data. The teachers reflected quietly on thought starters such as “I assume…”, “I predict…” “I wonder…”, then share their thoughts with the group. It’s was a great way to look at the overall mindset and attitudes towards both the test and the students.

Phase 2 – Observations
Next, teachers silently reviewed their data and notated their observations about the data – trends, surprises, etc. It’s important that teachers not make any assumptions during this phase, although that is easier said than done. It was funny to see the wheels turning in the heads of our teachers as we looked over the data! We again shared our notes and resisted the urge to draw conclusions just yet.

Phase 3 – Inferences
This was the easiest portion of the Data Driven Dialogue, I believe in part because it’s typically our first reaction when we see data. We honored the rule of No Judgement during this session, and teachers were able to gain some valuable insights both from their own observations and those of their colleagues. By ensuring that we were in a “safe” place to share, teachers were able to see more clearly and objectively some of the root causes of the data, as well as instances where they needed to know more. We were even able to evaluate some of our teaching practices, and come up with action plans for the next benchmark period.

Our plan is to use this protocol during our bi-weekly grade level meetings and after school-wide benchmark tests for the remainder of the year. My expectation is that we will begin to have rich, meaningful conversations that will evolve into strategic plans to drive student success.

Happy Teaching!

Helping Students Manage Classwork

“I can’t find it.”  “You didn’t give that to us, Mrs. Harvey!”  Can I get another copy?”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these and about a hundred other excuses when asking students to take out a handout I gave them in a previous class.

Managing their materials is actually a life skill for students.  (Think about the mail nook [messy pilethat most of us have in our homes, and you’ll see what I mean.)  Students are notorious for being disorganized.  In fact, most adults have the same problem. According to keyorganization.com, “43% of Americans categorize themselves as disorganized, and 21% have missed vital work deadlines. Nearly half say disorganization causes them to work late at least 2 or times each week.”

You can use these tips to help set your students up for success.

  • Plan ahead – Think about what you may want your students to keep.  Will you be giving out handouts that they’ll need to refer back to later?  Are you going to have students create foldables (student-created graphic organizers) which they’ll need for remembering vocabulary or math strategies?  Do you tend to sketch items or write things on the board for students to copy?  Try to anticipate the many ways that you will be sharing and/or requiring your students to manage information, and then think about how they will need to keep up with those items.  For example, flash cards and foldables may require pockets in the binder/folder.

laptop      Handouts that are on your computer could be shared electronically with students via a flash drive or shared network on your school’s server.  Electronic notebooks are also a great idea, but remember that students will have to be provided with a means to access them during class if needed.

  • Brainstorm your supply list – Based on the types of information your students will need for class, create a supply list.  You want to be sure and get this to students as soon as possible, either as part of the list your school sends before school starts  or on your teacher website.  Are you willing to provide supplies?  If not, try to keep the supply list generic and allow for flexibility.  Insisting on fuschia colored plastic folders with prongs and pockets may result in a huge amount of frustration for you, the students, and the parents who end up driving to every Wal-Mart within a 50 mile radius of their home to find them…  (Sorry – I was having a flashback – I’m back now!)
  • Create and teach a procedure to manage notes – Procedures aren’t just for elementary school.  Assuming that your middle and high school students know how to manage their materials could be a big mistake.  Spending a few days at the beginning of the year on this can save you lots of time later in the year from recopying and redistributing items.  Be sure to clearly define your expectations for the notebook.  Provide students with a simple rubric so they’ll know what each section should contain.  This example of a Physics Lab Notebook shows not only what the teacher requires, but what a page in the notebook should look like.  I also like Barbara Robeson’s Pinterest on Reader’s Notebooks.   You can modify this to fit your grade level and subject area.  These Pinterest Establish a periodic notebook check, or tie the notebook into the grades for added accountability.  Decide if the materials can go home, or if you’d rather students keep them at school.  Prepare for storage of notebooks kept in class, and teach students how to retrieve them at the beginning of class and return them before they leave.
  • Create a sample notebook – This should be created based on your rubric.  Having a sample will allow your students to have a visual of what you’re looking for and cut down on misconceptions.

laptopIt could be a hard copy or an electronic version like those used in OneNote  a Microsoft program that allows you to maintain your ideas in virtual notebooks.  You set up a notebook, and assign tabs with page inserts just like you would in a real notebook.  Read this article to learn more about setting up a new notebook in One Note –

  • Teach note taking skills – You can model note taking for classwork, for tests/exams, etc  while teaching your lesson.  Simple think aloud statements like, “This is something I would write down to help me remember (fill in the blank)” can serve as verbal cues for students who aren’t sure what to capture.  Be sure to provide examples for different learning styles.  In the book Differentiated Literacy Strategies for Student Growth and Achievement (Corwin Press, 2005), authors Gayle Gregory and Lin Kuzmich cite these research-based summarizing and note taking strategies that resulted in 34% percentile gains on standardized tests:
    • mind maps
    •  concept webs,
    • jigsaw activities
    •  reciprocal teaching, and
    • templates/advance organizers.

laptop Websites like Edutopia and  teAchnology are great places to learn more about these.

(BTW, I initially entitled this post “Helping Students Manage their Notebooks” but when I started researching  tips online,  approximately 90% of them were about managing laptops!  Boy, have times changed!)

Happy Teaching!