ACE Literacy Newsletter

Middle School Literacy | April 2018 YEAR 3: VOL. 4

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In this Edition:

Ready for STAAR: Brain Boosters and Soothers to reduce test anxiety

Balanced Literacy Focus: Skill-based Mini Lessons

Instructional Resources: 6th Six Weeks Instructional Calendars

Engagement: Stop and Jot

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Can you believe STAAR is already here?

We cannot wait to see the impact of your work and the growth students will demonstrate as a a result of your instruction. We thank you for all of your hard work and dedication that has brought us here. You have been crucial in the work of delivering a College and Career Ready promise to our students, families, and communities. Your work is changing our world every day!

As we prepare for testing next week, we want to place a spotlight on a sensitive subject: test anxiety.

When athletes are called upon to perform in high-pressure situations many of them describe having peaked senses that they use to their advantage. They’re able to quiet their minds, zone out the audience, and make the catch. Kids with test anxiety have the opposite reaction.

“Anxiety also has the potential to shut you down,” explains neuropsychologist Ken Schuster. “When kids are having test anxiety they can’t think clearly, they can’t judge things the way they could if they weren’t anxious. All of your other abilities get clouded up by anxiety.”

To help students with test anxiety, try using these brain boosters and soothers during breakfast:

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Model the Skill

Whether you are teaching/reteaching with a passage or a read aloud from the library, be sure to clearly state exactly the learning objective for the day.

Set the purpose for the lesson.

  • Ensure the learning objective is clear and aligned
  • Hook the readers to the text and introduce or define the reading strategy
  • If continuing a book or story from a previous day- summarize the reading

Model the skill for students exactly as you would want them to practice it.

  • Think aloud using precise language
  • Use an anchor chart to show thinking
  • Break down each step into replicable thinking that students can follow

(Model thinking about the content in the text and the process to build understanding)

  • Give students a clear listening/note-taking task
  • Debrief the model with students:
  1. What did they see & hear you model?
  2. What are the key things to remember when they are doing the same in their own work?

Guide them through Practice: Guided and Independent

As students begin to practice the skill as you just modeled, use this time to check for understanding. This is an excellent time to monitor for any misconceptions and address them directly with the student or with the whole group.

High engagement with intense aggressive monitoring is key!

  • Have your exemplar prepared to provide feedback that will support students to rise to your level of exemplar expectation
  • Provide opportunities where students can replicate the thinking from your model
  • Utilize turn and talk or a stop and jot for high engagement
  • Aggressively monitor the classroom to identify misconceptions and re teach in the moment
  • Use show call technique to model exemplar student work that the entire class can emulate
  • Students may practice the skill in the same text or a different short text
  • Practice could be open ended- For example- If students are working on comparing across texts (fig 19F), students could be completing a T chart with details from passage 1 and passage 2 which will be a strategy they can directly apply when answering future multiple choice questions.


End your lesson with a demonstration of learning (DOL). This important final check for understanding will help to guide your instruction the next day. Use the language of testing in your DOL to further align learning for the students. As students complete multiple choice questions aligned to the learning objective, hold them accountable to use the strategy they just observed and practiced.

See below: multiple choice question with strategy from direct model applied.

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Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Instructors who adopt a student-centered approach to instruction increase opportunities for student engagement, which then helps everyone more successfully achieve the course’s learning objectives.

Use the videos below to learn a few strategies teachers can use to increase student engagement.

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Hot off the press: 6th Six Weeks curriculum calendars (click title above)

When reviewing these calendars, pay close attention to the genre for the week. Select a great mentor text in line with the genre for the week and practice the SE’s listed for each day with that model text. Also- use the STAAR aligned question stems in the document to write your DOLs and plan your questions during your lesson!

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Click the link below to browse the site....don't forget to access our ACE resources in the Learning Lounge-use the password "ACE".