Inside the ELA Classroom

January 2019

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Adding Rigor

22 Ways to Add Rigor to Your Classroom


By: Jacqui Murray


Let's start by clearing up a misconception: Rigor isn't unfriendly. Adding it to your class doesn't mean you become boring, a techie, or an overseer of a fun-free zone. In fact, done right, rigor fills your class with Wow!, those epiphanies that bring a smile to student faces and a sense of well-being to their school day.


Rigor provides positive experiences, is an emotional high, and engenders a pervasive sense of accomplishment students will carry for years--and use as a template for future events.


Rigor is NOT lots of homework, projects, resources, or rules. When those four nouns are used to define rigor, the teacher is flailing, thinking quantity is quality. Rigor is not about adding a column of data or remembering the main characters in a Shakespeare play. It's seeing how knowledge connects to life, to circumstances, and to daily problems.

Simply put, adding rigor creates an environment where students are:


  • Expected to learn at high levels.
  • Supported so they can learn at high levels.
  • Cheered on as they demonstrate learning at high levels.


It also helps students understand how to live life using brainpower as the engine. Sure, it will ask them to collect evidence and draw conclusions with which their peers may find disagreement. But it will insist they defend a position or adjust it to reflect new information, and it will often move them outside their comfort zone. It will also prepare them to solve the problems they will face in the future.


How do you as a teacher add rigor? Here are some ideas from my PLN colleagues:

  1. Make it easy to decode words by adding an online dictionary or a back channel that students can access with unknown words.
  2. Build grit in students. Let them know they are capable, competent, that thinking hard does not mean they didn't understand. It means they want to understand.
  3. Expect inquiry. Be prepared. Make time for it.
  4. When you ask a question, pause. Let students think before answering. This wait time isn't delaying your lesson. In a rigorous classroom, it is the lesson.
  5. Expect rigor -- don't allow students to be satisfied with a superficial answer. Build habits that look for understanding.
  6. Face unknown questions with a smile. Make the classroom a safe, non-judgmental learning environment where students can practice their critical thinking skills.
  7. Require students do projects with a high degree of precision and skill.
  8. Make it normal to invent solutions that haven't been thought of before, but satisfy requirements.
  9. Expect students to double check both the approach and result (according to Grant Wiggins -- great article).
  10. Create an environment conducive to personal growth. Know what that means for each student.
  11. Focus on exceptional expectations.
  12. As students participate in class conversations, expect them to use academic and domain-specific vocabulary. If they use words like “something,” “you know,” “that,” or “like,” prod them to come up with specifics. Like what? No I don't know. This immerses them in learning, discovering, and thinking critically.
  13. As students answer questions, expect evidence to support their answer. This can come from personal experience, but more often will find relevance from learning resources.
  14. Listen to student answers. Pay attention. Challenge them to be thorough.
  15. Don't draw conclusions for students. Present them with evidence. See where it takes them.
  16. Expect students to build on classmate comments and understand their perspectives.
  17. Support students so they can reach high expectations. If they are thinking outside the box, don't pull them back in. Ask questions: Is this approach going to meet expectations, solve problems, achieve desired results? If it is, let them do it!
  18. Provide a way for each student to demonstrate learning even if it isn't a way you've thought of. Applaud them if they devise an approach that works for them.
  19. Differentiate for student needs. If you have a project that seems to fit everyone, it doesn't. How do I know that? Because no project does.
  20. Expect students to analyze data during reading. Ask why -- determine if the author provided proof or simply made a statement -- and know the difference.
  21. Expect problem solving. Don't jump in to solve problems. Provide students with strategies they can use and let them try them.
  22. Remind students that “easy” occurs through hard work. Discuss this -- how they excelled at soccer, piano, or the violin through tenacity and drive. Have students share their experiences.

For more on higher-order thinking, check out NWEA's education blog. As I researched this post, I kept running across Barbara Blackburn's name. You might want to check her out for more in-depth materials.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years.

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Renaissance STAR - 6 Minutes

Can a small increase in daily practice make a significant impact on student achievement?


Discover the surprising answer in a webinar with Dr. Jan Bryan. You’ll also learn how to make time for focused reading practice during the school day.

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Reading Across the Curriculum Initiative

ECHS targeted literacy as a focus area in the Fall of 2017. We planned a series of staff development presentations focusing on reading and writing across the curriculum, starting with educating the faculty on the following:

  • What is Lexile?

  • How do I find a student’s Lexile?

  • How do I choose appropriate reading material for students? (based on Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development)

  • How can I provide scaffolding for texts that might be more complex than normal?

We introduced the faculty to several resources they could immediately take and use in their classrooms--sites like ReadWorks, NewsELA, and CommonLit, which allow users to control the Lexile level of the passages they choose to assign to students. We also talked about how the different subject areas could incorporate more writing and showed the faculty how to teach their students to use the C-E-R method when constructing short answer responses.


As a second step, we worked with each department individually to choose appropriate materials and incorporate a sample lesson into their own classrooms. We then provided support when student work was turned in on how to score the C-E-R short answers. This year, in the Spring of 2019, we’re presenting faculty with data from our last set of EOC scores, demonstrating the correlation between a student’s lexile and his/her EOC score. We hope that seeing this strong correlation will increase teacher buy-in and demonstrate how raising Lexiles through research-based practices can benefit everyone!


Micki Byrnes, English Department Chair

ELA Curriculum Coach / Data Analyst

East Coweta High School


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Proposed Blueprint for English Language Arts

Update from the ELA Advisory Council Quarterly Meeting


Click the graphic above or HERE to access the ELA webinar. The topics of discussion include:

Proposed Blueprint: English Language Arts 2019-2020 (forward to 5:00)

*Potential changes are under consideration.

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Text Compactor

Text Compactor is a free online summarization tool created to help struggling readers process overwhelming amounts of information. The program disclaimer states that this program works best on expository text (textbooks and non-fiction reference materials). The results may be skewed if the original passage has only a few sentences. Text Compactor is not recommended for fiction.
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Five Reasons Why Students Should Write Every Day

Why should students write every day?


Are your students writing as much as they should be? Classroom writing, done with willful focus and daily diligence, remains an essential part of educating students of all ages, including adults. Here are five reasons why classroom writing is still a must:


1. Writing improves communication skills.

First and foremost, writing provides a vehicle for expression and communication. No matter the age or grade level of your students, diligent writing practice will boost both their skill and comfort level with revealing and relating their own thoughts and feelings.

2. Writing helps students review and remember recently learned material.

Isn't it always easier to remember a household task or a website to visit later if we write it down somewhere? A brief writing assignment at the end of class, focusing on the day's lesson and discussions, is a great way to reinforce the material, support long-term recall of the key lesson points and help build writing skills all at the same time.

3. Writing helps educators assess student learning.

Probably the most common use of writing in the contemporary classroom is for a given student to demonstrate that he or she knows and understands x or y concept. Whether the assignment is, for example, an intensive compare-and-contrast essay at the secondary level or writing and illustrating a haiku in the primary grades, writing assignments help teachers see what material students have mastered and where there may be gaps.

4. Writing encourages creativity and exploration.

Daily writing encourages a creative flow that can help students use their imaginations, explore possibilities, delve into problem solving, and engage in storytelling. In addition to "serious" writing assignments which are reviewed and graded, it is important to assign "free" or "creative" writing time, so that students can explore vocabulary, concepts, and writing styles that they wouldn't risk in a formal essay or heavily graded assignment.

5. Writing is essential for self-understanding.

Even a cursory search online will reveal a plethora of diary-like blogs, filled with entry after entry of highly personal content. In the same way that these blogs serve their authors, classroom writing can help students understand and make sense of their own experiences, locate contexts, and make (sometimes surprising) discoveries about their own thoughts and feelings.


Classroom teachers will find that reading through their students' writing assignments can give them great insight into each student's personality, style, and comprehension level of the material being presented. When a high value is placed on consistent writing in the classroom, it's a win-win all around.


So, write on!


Taken from http://www.scilearn.com/blog/5-reasons-students-should-write-every-day?utm_content=buffer16260&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Writing in the Content Area

Although writing can be scary, it is important for students to write about their learning. The learning process isn't complete until the learners share their thinking with others. Writing is a way for students to review their own learning, organize their thinking, and evaluate how well they understand what has been taught.


Writing, even in brief formats, can help students reflect on what they have learned. (Marzano, 2012). Exit slips are a quick and easy way for students to maintain involvement with a lesson even as it ends. It only takes a few minutes to engage students in a summarizing activity where they jot down their thoughts, re-frame their learning, and formulate areas to review.

There are many reasons for asking students to write:

  • To clarify their thinking about what they've learned.
  • To think deeply and clearly about the subject.
  • To communicate what they have learned.
  • To explore, extend, and cement ideas.
  • To record learning.
  • To evaluate the learning process.
  • To explain ideas.
  • To apply what's been learned to new situations and problems.
  • to evaluate what they have learned.
  • To organize new information.
  • To make connections between what they know and what they are learning.
  • To build confidence about their knowledge of the subject.

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Leslie Walker Writers of Promise Contest (3rd - 12th grade students)

Teachers are invited to submit up to 20 of their students’ most interesting pieces to our contest.


Entries are judged in three categories:


Grades 3-5

Grades 6-8

Grades 9-12


Submission Dates: February 10 - April 14


Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project

Leslie Walker Writers of Promise

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Promising Young Writers Program (8th grade students)

2019 Themed Writing Prompt



Welcoming Unexpected Guests

The poet Rumi writes that being human is like being a “guest-house”: joy, depression, or meanness may arrive like “an unexpected visitor,” but we should welcome them all with grateful hospitality, for they are there to guide us to deeper understanding. Writing is a powerful tool for welcoming that which might otherwise seem overwhelming. This year, we invite you to we invite you to write about instances in your life when you made a conscious choice to welcome or show hospitality to an experience, feeling, or person. Follow this link for more details.


DEADLINE for All Submissions: February 15, 2019*

2019 Poet Laureate's Prize (9th - 12th grade students)

The Poet Laureate’s Prize contest is open to all Georgia high school students, grades 9 through 12. A winner and four finalists will be selected by the Poet Laureate and announced in early April 2019. The winning poet and finalists will meet the Governor and the Poet Laureate when they are honored at the Georgia State Capitol in the spring.


The winning and finalist poems will be published by Atlanta Magazine.


2019 Poet Laureate's Prize Entry Form

Guidelines

Achievement Awards in Writing (11th grade students)

2019 AAW Prompt: The Human Chorus (#humanchorus)


Student and teacher invitation from the Achievement Awards in Writing Advisory Committee



Purpose: To encourage high school juniors to write and to publicly recognize the best student writers.

  • Schools in the United States, Canada, Virgin Islands and American Schools Abroad are eligible to nominate juniors. Nominating schools must be US accredited.
  • Participating students submit two types of writing: themed writing and best writing.
  • Electronic submissions only. Deadline February 15, 2019
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Professional Learning Series - Multi-Sensory Instructional Strategies

If you would be comfortable sharing your best practices in multi-sensory instructional strategies please add your information to the list provided HERE. I am looking for elements to be redelivered for elementary and secondary-remediation professional learning sessions.

ELA Professional Learning Sessions

ELEMENTARY


Tuesday, January 15, 9:00 - 3:30, West GA RESA

Teaching Our Youngest Readers, K-2

This professional learning session focuses on research based-strategies for developing the foundational skills that young children need to become proficient and independent readers. Participants will explore instructional activities for shared reading, intentional small-group work, word study, and meaningful independent practice. Lunch will be provided. Follow this link to register. Registration costs will be covered at the school level.


Wednesday, January 16, 9:00 - 3:30, West GA RESA

Inside the Reader's Workshop, K-6

In this professional learning session, teachers learn effective instructional practices for teaching reading comprehension and vocabulary. Participants will explore and experience culturally responsive approaches that build student independence, encourage inquiry and collaboration, and support all learners. Lunch will be provided. Register here. Registration costs will be covered at the school level.


Thursday, January 17, 9:00 - 3:30, West GA RESA

Inside the Writer's Workshop, K-6

In this professional learning sessions, educators learn effective instructional practices for teaching writing. Participants will explore and experience culturally responsive approaches in which teachers use high-quality literature to guide students through the writing process. Through video demonstrations and conversations, participants also examine the role of authentic feedback in helping students develop a sense of audience, purpose, and the writer's craft. Register here. Registration costs will be covered at the school level.


Tuesday - Friday, January 22 - 25th, Google Classroom

The Writing Revolution Book Study

In this professional learning session participants will read and discuss The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades as it relates to the district SMART Goal and ELA Writing initiative. Participants will discuss theoretical and pedagogical frameworks and best practices to enhance writing instruction. Email Dr. Baker to receive the Classroom code in order to participate in the discussion - Introduction: How to Lead a Writing Revolution in Your Classroom - and Why You Need One


Monday, January 28, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., Werz

5th Grade ELA Teacher: Assesslet Data Dig

In this professional learning sessions select school representatives will begin a review of the Assesslet data from the November 2018 administration. Participants are asked to bring technology and ensure they have GCA login credentials.


Tuesday, January 29, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., Werz

4th Grade ELA Teacher: Assesslet Data Dig

In this professional learning sessions select school representatives will begin a review of the Assesslet data from the November 2018 administration. Participants are asked to bring technology and ensure they have GCA login credentials.


Wednesday, January 30, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m., Werz

3rd Grade ELA Teacher: Assesslet Data Dig

In this professional learning sessions select school representatives will begin a review of the Assesslet data from the November 2018 administration. Participants are asked to bring technology and ensure they have GCA login credentials.


Thursday, January 31, 2019 - Werz - PLC, 4:00 - 5:00

GoFormative Training: Instructional Technology Training

Training session on using GoFormative in your classroom to assess students in an effective way to collect data and item analysis. Want to learn more? Join us on Jan 31st. Please bring a charged chromebook and a short assessment (about 5 questions).

Register here.


Monday, February 4, West GA online class

Strategies to Improve Reading and Writing in the Content Areas

Teachers will explore research-based strategies to enhance reading comprehension and writing skills across the curriculum Participants will learn and implement ideas to improve student achievement in reading and writing in the content areas. Register here. Registration costs will be covered at the school level.



MIDDLE


Wednesday, January 16, 9:00 - 3:30, West GA RESA

Inside the Reader's Workshop, K-6

In this professional learning session, teachers learn effective instructional practices for teaching reading comprehension and vocabulary. Participants will explore and experience culturally responsive approaches that build student independence, encourage inquiry and collaboration, and support all learners. Lunch will be provided. Follow this link to register.


Thursday, January 17, 9:00 - 3:30, West GA RESA

Inside the Writer's Workshop, K-6

In this professional learning sessions, educators learn effective instructional practices for teaching writing. Participants will explore and experience culturally responsive approaches in which teachers use high-quality literature to guide students through the writing process. Through video demonstrations and conversations, participants also examine the role of authentic feedback in helping students develop a sense of audience, purpose, and the writer's craft. Register here. Registration costs will be covered at the school level.


Tuesday - Friday, January 22 - 25th, Google Classroom

The Writing Revolution Book Study

In this professional learning session participants will read and discuss The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades as it relates to the district SMART Goal and ELA Writing initiative. Participants will discuss theoretical and pedagogical frameworks and best practices to enhance writing instruction. Email Dr. Baker to receive the Classroom code in order to participate in the discussion - Introduction: How to Lead a Writing Revolution in Your Classroom - and Why You Need One


Tuesday, January 22, 4:00 p.m., Werz, SD-1 & SD-2

Secondary ELA Department Meeting

The District and School Connect is a comprehensive educational platform designed to meet instructional and assessment needs of our schools. In this professional learning session participants will continue the discussion on the GCA item bank and Assesslet data. As time allows the participants will discuss the integration of Edgenuity MyPath. Participants are asked to bring a Chromebook.


Wednesday, January 23, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m., Madras Middle School

Middle Grades ELA Department Meeting

All middle grades ELa teachers are invited to participate in the month middle grades department meeting. Discussion topics will include strategies to support instruction and inform pedagogy based on district trends found through the Assesslet Data Digs. Participants are asked to bring a Chromebook

Jan 31, 2019 - Werz - PLC, 4:00 - 5:00


Thursday, January 31, 2019 - Werz - PLC, 4:00 - 5:00

GoFormative Training: Instructional Technology Training

Training session on using GoFormative in your classroom to assess students in an effective way to collect data and item analysis. Want to learn more? Join us on Jan 31st. Please bring a charged chromebook and a short assessment (about 5 questions).

Register here.


HIGH


Tuesday - Friday, January 22 - 25th, Google Classroom

The Writing Revolution Book Study

In this professional learning session participants will read and discuss The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades as it relates to the district SMART Goal and ELA Writing initiative. Participants will discuss theoretical and pedagogical frameworks and best practices to enhance writing instruction. Email Dr. Baker to receive the Classroom code in order to participate in the discussion - Introduction: How to Lead a Writing Revolution in Your Classroom - and Why You Need One


Tuesday, January 22, 4:00 p.m., Werz, SD-1 & SD-2

Secondary ELA Department Meeting

The District and School Connect is a comprehensive educational platform designed to meet instructional and assessment needs of our schools. In this professional learning session participants will continue the discussion on the GCA item bank and Assesslet data. As time allows the participants will discuss the integration of Edgenuity MyPath. Participants are asked to bring a Chromebook.


Jan 31, 2019 - Werz - PLC, 4:00 - 5:00

GoFormative Training: Instructional Technology Training

Training session on using GoFormative in your classroom to assess students in an effective way to collect data and item analysis. Want to learn more? Join us on Jan 31st. Please bring a charged chromebook and a short assessment (about 5 questions).

Register here.

College Board update regarding Advanced Placement

January 2019

  • The GaDOE will follow up with tips and tools for you and your colleagues in the state department of education.
  • The AP Program will provide free resources – including an online toolkit – to help schools prepare.


Click on the graphic below or here to view a short video that outlines the upcoming changes to the Advanced Placement Program.

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January Activities

January 1 (New Year's Day)

January 2 (Science Fiction Day)

January 6 (Thank You Month)

January 7 (Youth Mentoring Month)

January 8 (Earth's Rotation Day)

January 18 (Thesaurus Day)

January 21 (Dr. Martin Luther Kin, Jr. Day)

Analyze Dr. King's I Have a Dream Speech

January 23 (National Handwriting Day)

January 27 (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

January 29 (National Puzzle Day)

January 29 (Oprah Winfrey Birthday)

January 30 (Great Kindness Challenge)

January 31 (Jackie Robinson's Birthday - 1919)

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Research based instructional strategies positively impact student learning. Each month new strategies will be featured. Remember to share the strategies with your colleagues in other content areas. We are all in this together!


When using any strategy, teachers should (1) ensure students understand why the strategy is useful, and (2) describe explicitly how the strategy should be used. Demonstrate, model, and follow-up with independent practice opportunities.

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Syntax Surgery

Beers, Kylene. When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003 (pp. Syntax surgery (Beers, 2003) is a literacy support tool that helps students understand sections of confusing text. Syntax surgery slows down the reading process and examines the punctuation, words, and phrases that are critical to understanding the text through notation. During syntax surgery, students might consider the following: Why did the author use a semicolon instead of a period? What is the antecedent to a pronoun? What part of speech is this unknown word? Students can circle punctuation marks, draw arrows from nouns to pronouns, and make notations in the margin about unknown words. When paired with a think-aloud, syntax surgery is a way for teachers to provide notation of their thinking about selected skills or elements of the text. As students are listening to the think-aloud, the students can also see the thinking as it is mapped out on the text.

Beers, Kylene. When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003 (pp. 135-6).135-6).

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Because, But, and So

This sentence expansion exercise found in The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades (Hochman & Wexler, 2017) forces students to think critically, strategically and deeply about the content. Within the power of writing, students not only become more familiar with syntactic forms, they must recall facts in order to complete the task.


Click on the picture to see the Because, But and So sentence expansion activity in a 5th grade classroom.


This activity comes from Judith Hochman and The Writing Revolution.

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Activating Prior Knowledge

Prior Achievement/Knowledge Effect Size: 0.63


By activating prior knowledge, students determine the validity of their past personal experiences and learn from the different experiences of classmates and teachers. Students with limited experience gain knowledge when working in small groups. The KWL-activities, Mind Map, and Venn Diagram Organizers are beneficial for this strategy.

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Compensating for Missing Prior Knowledge

Prior Achievement/Knowledge Effect Size: 0.63


When previewing units of study, provide students with an outline of content, a list of key points and vocabulary. Encourage students to annotate the text by jotting down their thoughts for class discussions.

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DECEMBER STRATEGIES

Probably Passage

Building Stamina

It Says - I Say


NOVEMBER - REVIEW MONTH


OCTOBER STRATEGIES

Reciprocal Teaching

UR TOPS

The Whole and Teeny Tiny Details


SEPTEMBER STRATEGIES

Add up facts to determine the main idea

Read, Cover, Remember, Tell

V.I.P. Comprehension Strategy

Scan & Plan

Sticky Notes


AUGUST STRATEGIES

Plan & Label Non-fiction Strategy

Questioning

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Contact Dr. Paula Baker, ELA/Literacy Content Specialist with any questions, comments, or concerns.


Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

~Nelson Mandela

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