The Book Fort

Instructional Ideas for Immediate Implementation

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Week Twenty Six: Building Strategic Readers (Pt. 3)

As you know if you checked out The Book Fort last week, I will be sharing some innovative strategies included in 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core: Increasing Rigor in Middle and High School (2013) over the next couple of weeks. If you’re one of my many elementary school friends, don’t fret! This text absolutely works for the lower grades and the strategies can be easily adapted. In fact, one of the authors, Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins, has also published several similar books that target K - 6 and has a background in both the classroom and the library.


This week, I zeroed in on the third section of the text, which is focused on Integration of Knowledge & Ideas, to pull out three literacy strategies for you. What I have provided is just a tiny taste of the what the book has to offer. If you find it useful, the whole text is available online in various places, including Amazon. Download reproducibles from Solution Tree here.


McEwan-Adkins, Elaine K. & Burnett, Allyson J. 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core: Increasing Rigor in Middle and High School. Solution Tree, 2013.
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Integration of Knowledge & Ideas: Anchor Standards 7, 8, & 9

Strategy 1: How to Interpret Political-Editorial Cartoons

Integrating knowledge of politics and history into reading instruction is a common way to encourage cross-curricular and world connections in English class. As such, using political and/or editorial cartoons is pretty common, especially in recent years. With students for whom English is not the first language, or those without sufficient background information, however, interpreting and understanding these cartoons can be even more challenging.


In Part III, McEwan-Adkins and Burnett offer a nine-step approach to "reading" political/editorial cartoons (230) that is quite helpful. It is featured in the image below. If you need ideas for political cartoons to use in the classroom, check out this collection published by the Maryland Bar Association.

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Strategy 2: Delineate - Evaluate - Explain

The logical evaluation of a writer's supporting evidence and the determination of the validity of an argument is extremely challenging for many students, no matter the grade level or necessarily the complexity of the text. Students simply struggle with following logic, in math, in English, in history, and in life. As such, this strategy offers a way to teach the skill in steps using a simple organizer that can make the thinking processes involved in evaluating and judging arguments a bit more clear. A sample graphic organizer about the costs of a college education (242) is provided below. The original article, "Radical Reform of Higher Education is Inevitable" by Ronald L. Trowbridge (2011), appeared in the Houston Chronicle and can be accessed here.
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Strategy 3: Re-Thinking the Analysis Paragraph

The third strategy in this section is just one part of a larger lesson on comparative analysis writing, but it is one that I know teachers are often hungry for -- a way to re-think paragraph writing. I have seen just about every acronym in creation, it seems, for students to use when writing paragraphs within essays and those certainly have a place as scaffolds or guides to writing. The problem is, they tend to become crutches for students and the writing never moves beyond the formulaic. This sample guide might just be a step in the right direction; it offers support and structure, but pushes students away from the typical sandwich approach -- topic sentence, evidence, reason, transition -- into more analysis. If they start with something like this, which provides awesome sample responses, then maybe they will eventually get to more authentic writing that contains all the necessary pieces of analysis. A sample (259-260), based on a comparative analysis of the styles of two writers, is provided below.
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Website of the Week

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Discovery Education Spotlight on Strategies

Discovered by a colleague at the TCEA Conference this year and reiterated in my most recent monthly gathering with Wonderopolis, Discovery Education has collected a treasure trove of instructional strategies with teacher samples that is completely free and available without any sort of account or login. Check out the website here and the Google Doc. You will see everything from "3 Truths, 1 Lie" to suggestions for journal writing and they are all free. Thanks to Matt Arend and Renee Cunningham, fellow Wonder Lead Ambassadors, for sharing!

EdTech Tool of the Week

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Google Forms for Assessment

The #Technoritas of Sigler Elementary in Plano, TX schooled me on three tools to use for student engagement and differentiation at the #TCEA Conference in Austin, TX. As such, I have been featuring one of these tools each week in the last several issues. The third is Google Forms, which is much more than a survey creation tool. Cali Hudson, 2nd grade teacher at Sigler, uses Google Forms to assess students' progress in a variety of ways. She's even setup the forms to include re-teaching when students get a question or task incorrect. Such a brilliant time saver that puts empowers students to continue trying until they can demonstrate learning! Check out Cali's presentation here and follow Sigler Elementary @SiglerStars and #SiglerNation. Connect with Ms. Hudson @CaliRHudson and if you are interested in doing this for your virtual classroom, check out the how-to video below.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqQp8LKCUeM

Book Recommendations from #KCTE18

This week marked my third year as Conference Chair for the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English (KCTE) and the third time I was blessed to offer exhibitor space to Kentucky authors. Just as I did after NCTE in November, I have included three recommendations based on my experience interacting with several authors this year at the conference.
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Kristie Hofelich Ennis, NBCT

In an effort to systematically study relevant research and stay connected to the teachers I greatly respect and with whom I have worked for years to successfully implement independent reading, this newsletter came about. It will offer research and practical ideas for quick implementation and may prompt further discussion or study with your colleagues. I hope you'll find it useful and thought-provoking; I also hope you will stay in touch if you implement any of the ideas with your students. They are, after all, why I do what I do!