Supporting ELLs in PBL Projects

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


students elementary language
We all have English-language learning students that we must support in our classrooms, and we can support these students through project-based learning. PBL projects can give students something to latch onto as they’re learning to use a new language. This can be more engaging than studying words and skills in an abstract way, as the language is being used for an authentic purpose. PBL projects should be used for giving language relevance and context. This does, however, have implications for project design. We need to make sure that our projects have specific pieces to support ELL students.

Analyze the Project
We know the PBL project design process is quite lengthy, and we get better at it the more we do it. Even veteran PBL project designers may not have considered the steps of analyzing the project through the lens of ELL:

What skills will students need in terms of the language?
What vocabulary instruction might they need?
What sort of speaking and listening skills should we scaffold?
What functions of the language must be considered?

These are the types of questions that teachers need to think about — and plan for accordingly — before launching the project.

Teach Academic Vocabulary
Although the driving question and even the project launch may not be full of academic language, academic language will appear in a project. This might be specialized vocabulary whose meanings change depending on the context, or it might be technical words that represent only one concept. Knowing these words ahead of time can help you plan instruction for teaching them to students inside the project. While all students will need this scaffolding, ELL students may require more targeted instruction.

Collaborative Group Work
It is critical that teachers demand collaborative learning within a project. This can be done through critique and revision, as well as collaborative products that students produce. There may also be smaller collaborative activities like labs and team builders. Why collaborative group work? It allows ELL students to be supported by their peers. It gives them opportunities to orally use and practice the academic vocabulary and other language structures and functions. Yes, you will need to build the culture for collaboration, but the payoff is that students are building their language skills more and more within the project.

Scaffold Structure and Function
Through your analysis of the PBL project, you will uncover specific functions and structures of the language that students will need in order to succeed in the project. For example, if you were doing a science project around genetics and traits, you might find that students will need to “justify” the answers in their final product. Or perhaps they’ll be required to use the “If _______, then _______” structure. You’ll need to give students these tools for showing what they know about the content. Provide sentence starters and stems, and make sure to create lessons that scaffold how to justify. Set these as specific assessment targets as well.

Assess and Differentiate
As mentioned earlier, it is important to assess not only the content, but also the language. As you scaffold and teach vocabulary, structure, and function of the language, make sure to assess these skills, too. Through assessment, you’ll be able to see what further scaffolds and instruction you should be providing. Again, I’m saying only assess, not grade. Through assessment of these students’ language skills, you can decide how you will differentiate, whether through products or process.

Leverage the Native Language
How amazing is it that many of our students can speak multiple languages? In your project, ask how you can leverage that asset. Can they create a product in both languages? Many of our PBL projects are authentic and reach real audiences to make real impact in the world around us. Instead of demanding only products in English, ask for products in both English and another language to broaden the project’s audience and impact. In addition, students could interact with audience members that you never would have imagined, whether this happens throughout the project or during the final presentation. Instead of seeing language as a barrier to the project, view it as an opportunity.

In many ways, all of our students are ELLs, and we need to think intentionally about how to support each one in learning the language. PBL projects can provide a relevant and real context to do this. However, through supporting ELL students, we need to treat all languages as assets, not deficiencies. Through this lens, we can develop literacy in all languages, not just English.

Taking Close Reading to the Next Level with Text-Dependent Questions

 

This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original >


Miller Close Reading
I remember some of the writing prompts I used to gives students as well as ones that were given to students in assessments from the state. They often looked something like this:

Imagine you were given all the funds and resources needed to go on a trip of your choice. Write a persuasive letter to your parents to convince them you should be allowed to go on this trip. Use evidence to support your ideas.

This isn’t a bad assignment necessarily, and, in fact, it could prove to be a great scaffold if I were teaching students persuasive or argumentative writing. However, we are all in the process of adopting rigorous standards and curriculum, and the rigor of this assignment, as it stands, may not cut it. Our students deserve to be appropriately challenged with the curriculum. Our students can do better, and one way we can challenge students to read the text more closely and write from their critical analysis is through text-dependent questions.Text-dependent questions, as the name implies, require that students read the text in order to answer the questions. There is no “faking” an answer. Such questions require students to dig deep into text in a variety of ways. Some text-dependent questions might be more surface level, while others may require analysis. Here are some tips teachers should consider as they craft text-dependent questions.

Scaffold the Level and Type of Questions: While you might be tempted to immediately demand high-level analysis questions, consider using a scaffolded process: begin with simple comprehension questions, then move on to questions that require inference skills, and finally build up to deep-analysis questions. This will help students gain the necessary knowledge to answer the more challenging text-dependent questions. It will also help students gain confidence, which will encourage them to persist when more challenging questions are posed. These scaffolds can also allow you to assess for gaps in reading skills and plan lessons accordingly.
Know What the Text Does Well: What does the text that you selected do well? Is it a poem that really brings to light the power of metaphor? Is it an article that shows a strong argument? Is it a novel that really highlights character development? Knowing what the text does well can help you pick and craft the best questions for student learning. It will also allow you to align the text-dependent questions to standards more clearly in both literary and informational learning targets.
Use Questions for Both Formative and Summative Assessments: Remember these text-dependent questions can serve as either formative or summative assessments. In your planning, you should begin with the end in mind and determine what you truly want to summatively assess. You can also choose to spiral assess a reading standard or skill to ensure retention and allow you to differentiate if needed. Also, remember to be flexible. While questions may be planned as a summative assessment, you have the power as the teacher to adjust and shift them to serve as a formative assessment if you notice your students need more instruction.

Great resources include the Literacy Design Collaborative, which specializes in full literacy modules for all grade levels that include text-dependent writing assignments. Also, Achieve the Core has many resources related to the Common Core State Standards, including materials on text-dependent questions and professional learning modules to use with teachers.

Common Core in Action: How One Art Teacher is Implementing Common Core

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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Last month, I wrote about two science teachers who are implementing the Common Core Standards to teach their course content in conjunction with the literacy skills called for in the Common Core. These teachers gave a great context for the implementation, plus some great tips for those of us who are just getting started on that journey. We know that the literacy standards are content neutral. In fact, the content can be vehicle for learning critical reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. What if that content was art?

Art and Literacy
Cheri Jorgensen is an art teacher who is part of the Battelle STEM Innovation Network, and who also learned how to use the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) approach to implement literacy in her art instruction. She decided to refine a lesson she had done in the past when she wrote the module for content in her Visual Art 1 and Advanced Art courses. The writing task she created for students was:

After researching the Analysis stage of Feldman’s Steps of Art Criticism on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design, write a 14-point bulleted list that analyzes how each of the Elements and Principles are used in an artwork from your Keynote presentation, providing evidence to clarify your analysis. What conclusion or implications can you draw? A bibliography is not required. In your discussion, address the credibility and origin of sources in view of your research topic. Identify any gaps or unanswered questions.

In addition to addressing the Visual Arts standard for elements of art and principles of design, she developed an art criticism module to work on these specific Common Core standards:

Common Core Anchor Standards: Reading
R.CCR.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

R.CCR.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

R.CCR.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

R.CCR.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

R.CCR.10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Common Core Anchor Standards: Writing
W.CCR.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.CCR.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.CCR.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

W.CCR.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

W.CCR.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Finding the Right Fit
Cheri reflected that building this intentional literacy module into her instruction was not a huge stretch:

“I think art teachers by nature include literacy as well as other academic subjects into their lessons because they are a natural fit . . . Reading and writing within your own subject area is the easiest way to incorporate literacy.”

Here Cheri was very intentional with her choices of literacy standards and scaffolding, and she found the right fit.

“I have always included both reading and writing in my art class. Students write artist’s statements with each major assignment and research and study art history and art criticism. The difference in using LDC is that there is a more specific focus on literacy already built in to the lesson.”

Cheri implemented this art criticism unit near the end of the school year after students had learned the elements of art and principles design, including color, color harmonies and balance. However, she built in specific scaffolding activities that helped revisit the art content and build the specific reading and writing skills. She had students journal on the seven elements of art and seven principles of design, analyze Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and participate in presentations and discussions on the content. She also scaffolded the writing process for students, recognizing the reality of implementing literacy standards in the content area — it needs to fit and be purposeful.

Although literacy is important to every subject, teachers are still responsible for covering their own subject matter, and that has to remain the focus of the lessons.”

Do you or your colleagues incorporate ELA into art curriculum? Which Common Core standards do you bring to the process?

Common Core in Action: How Two Science Teachers are Implementing Common Core

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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While math and English language arts teachers have a much more direct call for Common Core implementation, teachers in other content areas are also being called to implement the Common Core State Standards. This may be a challenge for some. In my work with teachers across many states, I find that non-ELA and non-math teachers aren’t as familiar with the CCSS, nor with implementation. In the next couple of blogs, I’d like to share the stories of science and art teachers implementing the CCSS — their processes, reflections and advice. We’ll start with science.

Biofuel vs. Fossil Fuels
Katie Abole teaches science at Bronx Leadership Academy in New York. “I had never thought about using literacy so intentionally and even having started my teaching career with LDC [Literacy Design Collaborative] as a model, it took a couple of years and a really great literacy coach before I really understood how to tackle literacy,” Katie told us. She shared that it was easier to focus on the content than paying attention to literacy skills, but with the Common Core, she knew that she would have to take some responsibility rather than let the ELA teacher be solely responsible. In fact, she said, “science literacy is different and requires different skills.” To start this implementation, Katie was trained by the LDC to create modules for her science class that would work on targeted CCSS standards. LDC modules have the Common Core hardwired into them, and focus on reading text to write about those texts. Katie created a module about biofuels and fossil fuels. Her task and question was:

Which is a better energy source: biofuels or fossil fuels? After reading articles and potential energy diagrams, write a report that compares the reactions of hydrogen biofuel vs. fossil fuels and argues which is a better energy source.

Reading Standards

1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Writing Standards

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audience.

Implementing the Standards
Katie scaffolded literacy skills from reading and writing standards in a variety of ways. She used graphic organizers, drafting and outlines, revision, and direct instruction to have her students write an argumentative piece on the question. “Because we looked at an actual journal article for the fossil fuels vs. biofuels module, students felt proud that they were learning college-level skills,” said Katie. “I think the authenticity of the task leads to a higher student engagement, and the ability to write something gives students a voice, especially in an argumentative essay.”

She balanced literacy instruction with traditional science activities and lessons. “For example, when we would spend one day reading an article, the next might be an activity or lab, which kept students engaged in the overall unit.” This helped to ensure that the “stamina” to read and write wasn’t a major concern. In addition, the reading and writing was about the science content itself. Although some of the instruction for traditional science content was taken away, Katie’s approach allowed for depth in a specific area of science content using literacy skills.

Nuclear Power vs. Fossil Fuels
Christopher King, who teaches at West Bronx Academy in New York, developed a similar LDC unit about nuclear and fossil fuels. He used the same task frame as Katie, but his focus was on ninth and tenth grade science content. In the unit, students would read a variety of texts that provided both the pros and cons for using nuclear and/or fossil fuels. His task and question was:

Should electrical energy be generated from nuclear power or fossil fuels (natural gas or coal)? After reading informational texts on how electrical energy is generated from these fuels, write an essay that compares the chemistry behind the two methods to generate electricity, and state whether one is the better method for production in an urban environment. Be sure to consider alternate viewpoints and support your position with evidence from the texts.

Because he used the same task as Katie, Christopher targeted the same built-in reading and writing standards. Not only did he scaffold it with strategies, he also included a Socratic Seminar to scaffold argumentation and evidence skills. He used sentence stems to help students quote articles and readings effectively as well as work on counterclaims.

Reflections and Advice
Both Katie and Christopher learned a lot from their experience. Neither had previously included much literacy instruction in their content area classes, but they said it allowed them to cover science content as well as intentionally work on literacy skills. Because of the nature of the prompt, students were willing to engage in academic conversations. They wanted to argue because the topics were interesting and relevant to them.

So what should you think about before getting started? Christopher suggests:

I think the easiest way to get started is to start small. I mean, really small. Like have students look at a graph and make a claim about what the graph is telling them. Then analyze the structure of the claim they make. Then, when they have the hang of that, move on to the next step. Taking everything at once is a recipe for disaster.

Katie’s recommendation is similar:

The best thing I can say is to think of where you want students to be skills-wise by the end of the year and build in opportunities to have students practice to reach that goal . . . Starting small allows you to develop a path to guide them on and build them up so their confidence as scientists/writers will be sufficient to carry them through the module!

Uncovering “Complex Text” in the Common Core

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 

One of the critically mentioned components of the Common Core is the complex text. This need for complex text came out of studies that students were not arriving at college ready to read college-level texts independently. The Common Core documents also indicate other reasons and rationale. One of the most startling claims is: “Despite steady or growing reading demands from various sources, K–12 reading texts have actually trended downward in difficulty in the last half century.” Overall, the common core believes our students are not only ill-prepared to read complex texts, but also not receiving exposure and instruction coupled with complex text.


Credit: Common Core State Standards Initiative

One of the challenges of the “complex text” is gaining a real understanding of exactly what it is. When reading the prefaces and explanations in one of the Common Core appendices, the case is made for students to read increasingly complex texts, as it has been found that when students reach college they are not as prepared to understand the texts required at that level. Often our students are required to read these texts independently, so it makes sense to arm students not only with the skills to read these texts, but also give them practice in doing so.

But what exactly is a complex text, and how can you ensure that you are using age appropriate texts in the classroom?

Standards of Measurement
The Common Core measures complex text with three aspects.

Qualitative
When examining a text qualitatively for text complexity, you consider a variety of factors. You examine the text to see how much of the language is conversational and how much is academic. In addition, you should examine the language to see how much is literal and how much is figurative. When looking at literary texts specifically, you examine whether the text demands singular to multiple themes or themes that are complex. You should examine the text for singular to multiple perspectives. You also should consider if the text requires everyday or familiar knowledge and/or cultural knowledge outside of the familiar. These are some of the indicators to look for qualitatively. A text may rank high in some and low in others, but higher indicators overall are a good sign that a text is more appropriate for educating your students.

Quantitative
In terms of quantitative texts, there are many things to consider, and the Common Core acknowledges there is no perfect method for examination, rather there are many effective methods. Methods such as the Flesch-Kincaid and Dale Chall are mentioned as possible measurement standards. Although this data might be researched, there is no specific way for teachers to “score” a text independently. Rather, teachers should consider how these factors mentioned next might create challenge for readers. You should examine the text for syntactic complexity, sentence structure and word length. You might also examine for level of vocabulary and Lexile level. One of the most interesting points brought up from the Common Core is that we must demand appropriate Lexile scores to College and Career Readiness standards, as articulated by this chart:

Credit: Common Core State Standards Initiative

Readers and Tasks
To me this is all about instructional design; that we teachers are demanding rigorous and complex tasks for the work we ask our students to do with the text, while creating tasks that are appropriate for their learning objectives. The Common Core emphatically states that students must be engaged in complex texts, but — no matter how rigorous — this is not enough. We must scaffold the learning and reading skills needed, and demand high quality, authentic tasks for students. Educators also need to consider when it is appropriate to remove the scaffolding so students can read and perform independently, hopefully by the end of the year.

A Work in Progress
It is critical to note that the Common Core document states: “The Standards presume that all three elements of the complex text will come into play when text complexity and appropriateness are determined.”

However, I would push back on the idea that all texts need to have them equally at all times. Yes, we need to make sure we are arming students with the skills and stamina to read texts that are complex; where the task assigned to students is rigorous, the quality level of the text is high, and the Lexile levels and other quantitative indicators are high as well. But I know texts requiring rigorous reading that may be low on the quantitative score. Consider the poem Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins, a text I often gave my secondary students. The vocabulary is not too complex, nor is the length of the text too long. Yet it measures high in the qualitative area, because the thematic aspect and the figurative language in which it’s written require critical reading. In addition, it would be crucial to give my students a task for this poem, whether formative or summative, that is rigorous and requires critical thinking. Make sure you are intentional in your choice of texts, regardless of how they measure up in terms of the indicators of a complex text.

Other documents on the Common Core site go into further detail on the ideas explained, and also give examples and contexts. In the Common Core document, texts are also suggested for grade level. These can be used as a guide, but only just as such. As our students come to us with different reading abilities, grade levels and cultural backgrounds, we must differentiate instruction through the texts we pick as well. As the Common Core is implemented more and in more in districts and schools, we as educators need to understand what the “complex text” is both in terms of what is good for our students and what the Common Core might dictate. We must not only carefully choose what they read, but also carefully choose what we are asking in terms of tasks and objectives when students read.

Regardless of whether not you are implementing the Common Core, these considerations and framework can help you intentionally pick texts to challenge your students. I hope this blog helps you to weed through the complexity of complex texts (pun intended)!

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