Friday, October 26, 2012

Flipping The Instructional Design In Core Subject Areas

One of the highlighted additions to the Common Core Standards is the focus on informational text. Students are required to demonstrate comprehension of such text as well as the ability to produce written text  grounded in research, analysis and argumentation.  In order to develop these skills and to prepare students for college and career readiness a paradigm shift must occur in many of our content areas. In many schools the approach to addressing this shift has been the integration of literacy instruction and application into core subjects such as social studies and science.

The design process looks something like:

What do we want our students to learn?

What content must we cover?

How can we integrate literacy into this process?

With the help of the Literacy Design Collaboraive teachers can now Flip this process in order to have a more focused approach to literacy instruction without minimizing the content. In  fact, teachers who have implemented the "template tasks" developed by the LDC have discovered students develop greater and deeper content knowledge.

This model involves:

Select a Literacy Based Template Task

Select a topic from your curriculum

Fill in the blanks in the task from the topic

Select the content/ text students will read

Select the text the students will write.

The task templates are available for download on the LDC website. The tasks are designed to be integrated into LA, Science or Social Studies.

An example task is:


[Insert question] After reading _____ (literature or informational texts), write _________ (essay or substitute) that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text(s). L2 Be sure to acknowledge competing views.

Sara Ballute and Timothy Lent in New York City used that template to create a teaching task for high school world history:

Were the achievements and growth of the Industrial Revolution Era worth the cost to society? After reading secondary and primary sources pertaining to the British Industrial Revolution, write an argumentation essay that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the texts. Be sure to acknowledge competing views.

Monica Cressman, Sean Houseknecht, and Alex Shubert of the Elizabethtown (Pennsylvania) School District used the same template for middle school science:

Should animals be kept in zoos? After reading the information texts provided, write an essay that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the texts. Be sure to acknowledge competing views.

The integration of the template tasks provided by the LDC represent a paradigm shift in core content instruction. While this model has proven to be effective it requires significant PD for all. This is a great opportunity in high schools for interdisciplinary PD. Having English teachers host PD on writing instruction for content area teachers, developing common writing rubrics and developing PLC's with a focus on this topic are some ideas worth exploring.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Students Use Social Media to Analyze Rhetorical Strategies in AP English Course

Social media has found a place in the classrooms of Chatham High School.  With the growth of social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google +, schools have been seeking out best-practice approaches to utilizing these platforms with students. Mrs. Heather Rocco, Supervisor of Language Arts, recognized the value social media can have in the classroom. She introduced Today’s Meet, a private micro-blogging platform, to her department. Ms. Falkner, a member of the English Department, was first to jump on board and integrate this tool in her classes. Recognizing the powerful impact that such tools have on instruction and the need to integrate them in a safe and effective way, Ms. Falkner worked with Mrs. Rocco to introduce this private micro-blogging tool in her classes.

The students in Ms. Falkner’s AP English Language class have been utilizing Today’s Meet to integrate Back Channeling in their classroom.  Back Channeling is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time, online,conversation alongside live spoken remarks. Today’s Meet is a free tool for developing  such a Back Channel. It allows teachers the opportunity to develop a private online forum for real-time discussions. Think of it as a private Twitter feed that is available to you and your students.  The service is free and does not require students to sign up or register to join the conversation.

Today’s Meet can be used in a variety of settings including presentations, workshops, movie viewing and class discussions. It encourages the room to use the live stream to make comments and ask questions . The feedback gathered can be used as a method to check for understanding, tailor your presentation, sharpen your points, and address audience needs. Ms. Falkner has been utilizing this tool to develop an active learning environment in her classroom. She is using Today’s Meet as a tool to teach the skill of analyzing rhetorical strategies.

Ms. Falkner discusses how she uses Today’s Meet below:


“My AP language students are very strong at identifying rhetorical strategies in a text, but they struggle to be able to articulate how a particular strategy functions or what effect it has in the text. In short, they struggle to analyze rhetorical strategies, but they can identify them with ease. In using Today's Meet while viewing a documentary, I'm attempting to separate out the two skills: students identify the strategies as they watch and note them in 140 characters, and then they work in small groups, after the film ends, to select a few of the strategies noted in the conversation and analyze how the strategies function and for what purpose(s)/to what effect(s). This division of "tasks" enables students to differentiate between what it means to identify and what it means to analyze.

The "backchannel" conversation also provides students a lens through which to view the film - they are watching each scene with the intention of identifying a strategy to "tweet" out to the class, so there's active viewing vs. passive viewing of the film text. The students are motivated to write thoughtful comments because they have an authentic audience of their peers (whose opinions are often far more valuable to them than that of their teacher!).

The activity requires that we teachers "let go" of our control of the lesson and turn the reigns over to the students to dictate the direction of the discussion following the film. With that said, I could always interject a "tweet" of my own if I felt that the students were missing a key rhetorical strategy in the film”

How have you used micro-blogging in your classroom? Please share your experiences by commenting on this posting.

Image Source:
Social Media Band Wagon:

Today's Meet: