Weekly Reflection (Jan 24, 2009)

Hopefully I keep up with this because it is a very good habit to start. Like I stress to the kiddos, if you don't reflect on your learning then it is as fleeting as trying to remember what you ate two weeks ago for lunch.

Right now we're studying how to Unlock Difficult Texts, so I'm revisiting active reading strategies we studied earlier, and I'm trying to show students how to know when they're actively reading versus merely looking at words. Active readers converse with text and interact with it, while passive readers see words, and while they may know some of those words, they are not making meaning.

I used a strategy from Cris Tovani's I Read It, But I Don't Get It to help show students how to monitor their reading. In it, Tovani provides a class text that features two students playing hooky and going back to one their homes to goof around. The text offers information about tall hedges hiding the house, thus cloaking it from view. The house is also miles away from the next house, has recently had new plumbing installed and has a dining room full of expensive china, silver and cut glass.

To show students the importance of knowing whether they are making meaning, you ask them to look for and mark important information in the text. This is deliberately vague and meant to underscore how readers need purpose when reading. Readers need to have some idea about what they are looking for before and while reading if they are to pull meaning out of it.

The next step is to have students look for information a burglar would think was important and information a homebuyer would find important. With this purpose, students see that a burglar would think the expensive items in the house are noteworthy, as well as it being secluded and far away from other houses. Then you have them look for information a homebuyer would find important, and students note the new plumbing, the size of the rooms and fresh coat of paint. Sometimes, both a burglar and homebuyer could find the same piece of information important, like its seclusion and distance from other houses.

This activity worked well for me. It was concrete for students, and it emphasized the importance of purpose for reading. It also inspired dialogue because nearly all students found ample amounts of information to add to the discussion.

The "House" text also emphasized how if we don't have purpose, we as readers are a bit aimless and don't know the relevance of what we are reading or how it connects to meaning.

P.A.S.S.I.V.E Reading

Building on the above, I started introducing strategies that are designed to offer students purpose. I attempted to be clever by creating an acronym that offers readers strategies for creating meaning by first establishing purpose. Thus I urge students not to be passive readers, but rather P.A.S.S.I.V.E readers. (Admittedly, this was and still is confusing for many students, but I plan on reinforcing the distinction).

P.A.S.S.I.V.E stands for Predict, Ask a Question, Stop and Think, Speed Up or Slow Down, Infer, Visualize and Establish a Connection. Again pulling from some of Tovani's ideas and strategies.

We rounded out this week focusing on Prediction. I used a video from YouTube to show how predicting while we are watching a short film can help us guess what is going to happen next and give us a purpose while viewing.

I showed the video below and stopped it at 3:00 and 4:34. Both times I asked them to predict what was going to happen and why they thought that.

Most students were able to predict that the trees would get married, and that the evil tree would attempt to cause havoc but that the good trees would win in the end. This activity allowed a great opportunity to show students the importance of predicting because through it they guessed what was going to happen next and was looking for it while they watched. We also were able to discuss how we build certain expectations given what we know about the text (or in this case film) before we read it. For example, many students noted that in Disney films the good guys always win, so we were able to discuss how previewing text helps us create meaning as well. It helps us make our predictions.

I then read aloud part of a book and showed them how I made a prediction, and I handed out post-it notes and had students make predictions in their own text.

However, while I think the activity worked well, my next challenge is to assure that students transfer this into their reading and don't make predictions without following through. Meaning, they have to actually look for parts in the text that confirms or negates that prediction. And it is important to emphasize that whether they got it "right" or not, prediction gives them purpose with their reading and offers them a path to making meaning.

At this point I notice many students still aren't seeing how prediction does this. Thus, my goal for this week is to follow up on the predictions I made earlier in my text and show them how it helps me make meaning.

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Slideshow of Our Classroom

You can expand it by clicking the arrows at the bottom right corner,
and you can click "Show Info" at the top right for information describing
each picture.

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I am

By Elnora Thomas
3/4 Block

I am awesome and gorgeous
I pretend I am a bubble-gum vomit pink Barbie
I feel warm like a Teddy Bear who accidentally got put in the dryer
I touch your heart with my love
I worry about tripping like a lifeless zombie
I cry like there's no tomorrow
I am awesome and gorgeous

I understand summer before winter
I say hello and you say goodbye
I dream of dancing on the stars with angels
I try to scare little kids who are brats and really deserve it
I hope to fly into the summer sky
and see the world outside my box
I am awesome and gorgeous!

Nori wrote this from a poetry frame (click on I Am ... in the left box) we used during freewrite -- she obviously revised it and changed it to suit her needs!

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My Master's Project: Learning to a Different Beat

To continue with my archiving flood, here is a link to the online version of my Master's Project. In it I make a case for using music as a way to foster a critical literacy among resistant students. While so much has changed in my views and experiences since I wrote it two years ago, I am still proud of the work I did and hope you find it useful.

My main target audience is teachers, but I imagine anyone interested in how music shapes our lives might find it somewhat interesting. I tried to balance some serious and complicated theory discussion with project and activity ideas and narratives and anecdotes.

I would be remiss if I didn't offer my thanks to my friend and mentor, Louann Reid, for her support and guidance -- not just with this project, but throughout my time in graduate school.

Louann, you are simply a wonderful person and a great mentor and I am eternally grateful for all you've done for me.


Also, I've linked a multigenre project I completed during one of my final semesters in grad school. I plan on posting an argument for multigenre projects, and some assignment sheets and examples in a later post, but for now here is one I did.

I post it because it makes a case for bridging the "digital divide" and might also be interesting for my teacher readership! I hope anyway...

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Power Point for Week of Jan 5

Here is a new feature that I hope to keep up with. In our class I use powerpoints to post daily Learning Targets and writing prompts. I've been wanting to post these because they might be handy for parents and students if the student missed an assignment. I also figure it is good to archive these sorts of things.

You will either need powerpoint or a powerpoint viewing software in order to view these files. You can go here to download the viewer.

I hope you find this a useful resource.

PP for wo Jan 5 (The link will also always be available in the title)

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Unit Learning Targets (01/05-01/30)

•I can define “revision” and why it is important for good writing
•I can use “writer’s craft” to appeal to my readers
•I can polish and revise a choice piece
•I can “unlock” difficult texts
•I can compare texts and find their similarities and differences


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