Sunday, September 2, 2012


Here is a fifth grade teacher doing an incredible job at fully implementing common core standards with informational text.

The techniques used here work equally well in upper grades (middle school and high school).  Further, ELLs are fully engaged in the lesson and the teacher scaffolds them without watering down the content.  In fact, her ELLs worked on the SAME questions as the other students.  This approach satisfies any equity issue. 

The next three videos move from one stage to the next and arriving finally at the writing stage.  Like legos, each "block" adds to another until a final product is created.  Notice the classroom and the heavy student engagement with the teacher guiding, scaffolding, supporting students as needed.  She does not dominate the discussion.  Rather, she lets the students interact with the text and each other in sharing their individual understanding of it.

ANALYZING TEXTS:  BRAINSTORM BEFORE WRITING  In first segment, the teacher has students talk within their small groups about what the text made them think about.  Students had written notes on post-it notes, in their journals, or just remembered what interested them (probably auditory learners).  With these ideas, they discussed their findings with their table groups.  Small groups are not intimidating for ELLs.  They can safely share their ideas and also listen to their peers without distractions.  Further, it is a safer environment for them to ask clarification questions of their table group members than to pose similar questions to the whole class.  Also, through discussion, ELLs and others are speaking and listening to accomplish the class objective (preparing to eventually write about their findings).  The stronger the speaking and listening skills, the better the reading and writing will be.

TEXT TALK TIME  Students have previously brainstorm ideas about the text with their peers.  Now, they begin to make connections to it.  They are interacting with the text.  They are revealing with the text told them.  The teacher asks many open-ended questions to allow a wide range of responses.  Students want to share their thoughts and are eager to provide evidence from the text to back up their sources.   This is a goal of common core to have students not be spoon fed information only from the teacher.  With common core, it is expected that students be able to read a text and pull information from it.

ANALYZING TEXT:  PUTTING THOUGHTS TO PAPER  Now, after steps and and two above, students are now ready to start writing.  The questions they are writing on are not new.  It is important to stress this.  Students are now putting to paper the thoughts they have already been working on through brainstorming and text-to-text activities.  Further, the teacher pulls the ELLs aside to scaffold their attempts to answer the SAME questions that the rest of the class is working on.  There is no watering down of the task for them.  By not bringing in writing topics that students had never seen before, they are not being set up for failure.  Common core wants students fully prepared to demonstrate their knowledge in writing by pulling together all the resources that they had accumulated over the lesson.  Students are set up to be successful with their assignments this way.

I hope you find these approaches useful for you and your students:)



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