Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Theory of Cognition Course

St. Louis Park teachers Rose Korst and Mary Norris will premier a new course spring semester at St. Louis Park High School entitled "Theory of Cognition." The course has been designed as the bookend course for the school's International Baccelaurette (IB) capstone course--Theory of Knowledge.

Students in Theory of Cognition are sophomores who want to accelerate their skills in order to be successful in IB classes as juniors and seniors. Rose and Mary are keeping with the NUA philosophy of "Do not remediate kids--accelerate them."

Rose and Mary have extensive NUA and Thinking Maps training, so this pre-IB course will involve the explicit instruction of thinking skills and concentrate on the metacognitive processes involved in reading, writing and math.

The ultimate goal for the students will be for them to see a problem and be able to tell themselves: "These are the thinking skills that I can use to solve this problem." In other words, the teachers will help the students to learn how to "mediate their thinking for self-directed learning."

Besides using Thinking Maps ad other written forms of metacognition, students in Theory of Cognition with employ Socratic dialogue. For example, students will use Socratic defense with math problems. If two students have different approaches to solving a math problem, each will defend his or her approach with reasons why.

Mary and Rose invite area teachers to observe their class and provide them with feedback. They can be reached at or

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Writing and Thinking

Jane Buckner in David Hyerle's Student Successes with Thinking Maps states that "writing is actually thinking written down." Buckner makes this claim because she believes that many educators feel "writing is just talk written down" (page 78).

That statement equating thinking and writing started me on my quest to explore writing connections in the books that I had received from NUA. Although I had used or seen many of the strategies modeled, I had not scanned the books with a "writing and thinking" lens. I got some great ideas that I could pass on to teachers who had specific questions about teaching writing. Below is a summary of my findings:

Student Successes in Thinking Maps

Buckner's chapter in Student Successes in Thinking Maps called “Empowering Students from Thinking to Writing” specifically addresses how to help students write a non-plagiarized, authentic research paper. Buckner advocates the use of the tree map or flee map for note taking. English 10 teachers had great luck with the flee map last year during the research paper unit to help students organize their research findings before writing their paper.

In addition to tree or flee maps for note taking, Buckner states that teachers can help students with disorganized papers through a process of “reverse mapping.” Basically, students cut apart their paper and try to fit their sentences into a flee map. Reverse mapping also allows students to see any holes that they have in their paper.

Thinking Strategies for Student Achievement

Denise Nessel’s book, Thinking Strategies for Student Achievement, has a wealth of writing strategies. Here is the briefest of summaries of writing-relevant chapters:

Cubing (p. 39): Chapter 5 describes this strategy which allows students to think about a topic from multiple perspectives (describe, compare/contrast, associate, analyze, apply, and argue for/against). This strategy increases students' fluency on a topic and helps them learn the cognitive clues that are often used in essay questions.

Freewriting (p. 67): Chapter 9 discusses a long-time favorite strategy for English teachers that involves students writing for a sustained period of time without stopping. This technique is a great tool for generating ideas and overcoming writer's block.

I-Search Reporting (p. 81): Chapter 12 includes a number of follow-up questions that teachers can ask students to make research paper topics relevant to their lives by having students formulate questions that are related to their concerns and pursuits.

Imitation Writing (p. 87): Chapter 13 outlines this strategy which involves taking a known work or famous quotation and substituting words while maintaining the text's structure.

Journal and Learning Logs (p. 101): Chapter 15 includes a number of journal writing prompts not only for English teachers but also for math, social studies, and science logs.

Key Word Notes (p. 109): Chapter 16 details this strategy that many Edina teachers use for lectures, readings, films and classroom discussions. Key Word Notes is a quick and efficient information gathering strategy if students need to write an essay after a reading selection as part of an exam. To learn about more applications of this strategy, click on "Key Word Notes" under "NUA Topics Discussed on This Blog."

Paraphrasing (p. 141): Chapter 21 discusses how teachers should start students with paraphrasing of texts that students can’t copy—e.g. videos, the teacher reading aloud. Then students can progress to reading, putting down the text, and taking notes.

Saturation Reporting (p. 171): Chapter 27 discusses this eye witness written report based on intense observations of a certain location and/or event. These reports become detailed, sensory descriptions.

Writing Frames (p. 187): Chapter 30 of Nessel's book summarizes the strategy of using frames (text structures with blanks to be filled in) that is detailed in Writing as Learning by Andrew and Evelyn Rothstein.

Sample Descriptive Writing Lesson: On p. 171, Nessel outlines a writing lesson that incorporates a number of strategies previously mentioned in her book.

Thinking Maps: Tools for Learning

David Hyerle's Thinking Maps binder has many ideas for prewriting and essay organization. The "Teaching" section of the binder shows how each map can be used for prewriting an essay, and an essay prompt is included. Also, pages 3-17 and 3-24 have writing starter patterns.

If students learn cognitive clues in essay questions, they will be able to select the appropriate Thinking Map for organizing their ideas. For example, Thinking Maps are associated with the following expository text structures:

1) sequence is flow map

2) double bubble is compare and contrast

3) multi-flow is cause and effect

4) circle map or bubble map for describing

5) problem/solution involves multiple maps (circle map to define, double bubble to compare to possible solutions)

Writing as Learning

Andrew Rothstein, Evelyn Rothstein and Gerald Lauber's book Writing as Learning includes a number of strategies to assist with writing across the curriculum. The book discusses how the A to Z Taxonomy can be used both to engage students and to help them organize their ideas for writing. Chapter 7 "Profiles and Frames: Organize Your Writing" and Chapter 9 "Reasons, Causes, Results--The Basis of the Essay" appear to be the most relevant chapters to assist teachers with high school essay writing.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Circle Map in Elementary Science

After the LINKS Thinking Map training for new teachers, an elementary science teacher, Josh Bettes, sent me the circle map below that his students had completed. Josh used the circle map as a student reflection piece to assess how much they had already learned about levers in the middle of the unit.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Instructional Flow Map

NUA has introduced the Instructional Flow Map this year as a tool for curriculum planning. I have seen the presentation on the instructional flow map three times: 1) at large group with Carlton, Alexis and Norman, 2) at EHS's site visit with Alexis, and 3) at Cornelia's site visit with Stefanie. Each presentation has brought me closer to a full understanding of the power of this curriculum planning tool.

The boxes of the instructional flow map follow this order:
  1. Introduction
  2. Concept Development
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Skill Development
  5. Teach The Lesson (Guided Practice)
  6. Mediate for Mastery
  7. Teacher (self) Reflection
  8. Release the Lesson (Independent Practice)
  9. Review
  10. Student Reflection
  11. Concept Confirmation
  12. Assessment
As I have begun to use the instructional flow map in planning my lessons and coaching other teachers with their lessons and units, I have had these initial reactions:

Teaching the lesson does not occur until a lot of priming has happened for the students. In the introduction stage students need to be informed explicitly at the beginning of the lesson what are the goals, standards, strategies, and assessment for this lesson. Lately, I have been more careful telling students the what, why and how of each lesson, and specifically, I write the "explicit strategy instruction" on the board when students will be learning a new strategy.

Another priming observation that I had with the instructional flow map is that teachers need to front-load vocabulary. When Scott, the math coach, and I were discussing ways to introduce the ray, segment, and line unit for geometry students, we kept the instructional flow map in front of us so that we realized that the time taken for vocabulary development before teaching the lesson would be time well spent. So Scott planned to have students create a tree map or use defining format for the terms.

Next week before my World Literature students read "The Infant Prodigy" by Thomas Mann, I will spend a lot of time on vocabulary development before reading since the short story includes a number of musical terms that will be unknown to many students. During the vocabulary development stage of the instruction, I will employ the "Possible Sentences" strategy in Denise Nessel's Thinking Strategies book.

Another part of the instructional flow map that I felt has been neglected in my lessons in the past is the student reflection component. Stefanie pointed out that students need to be included in the equation when deciding if they are ready for the assessment. The day after Stefanie's instructional flow map presentation at Cornelia, I implemented this student reflection step by using the red light/green light approach that Stefanie had discussed.

The red light/green light strategy is simple yet effective. I gave students three cards--yellow, red and green--to keep on their tables as they prepared for a group fishbowl discussion on an assigned sonnet. If the group did not feel that they were ready to discuss their sonnet, they had the red card displayed. If they felt that they were close to being ready, they put out their yellow card. And if they were 100% ready to have their sonnet discussion assessed, they put out their green card.

My seniors were sceptical at first because they didn't understand why they couldn't just tell me when they were ready to present. I informed them that the visual display of cards around the room would allow other groups to also keep an eye on the progress of others, and if they noticed that many groups were going "Green," they would have to pick up their pace. The other benefit of the red light/green light strategy was that on-task time seemed to increase. As I circulated around the room, if I heard a group with a red card displayed talking about something unrelated to the assignment, I could flip their card to yellow, saying, "You must be close to being finished." I only had to do that to a few groups to keep everyone focused.

The instructional flow map has immediately impacted my curriculum design in the ways mentioned above, and I am sure that it will have an even greater impact as I use the tool even more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Reading in Chemistry Foundations

The chemistry foundations class for sophomores includes reading about relevant, real-world connections to chemistry. In fact, their textbook, Chemistry in the Community, includes many stories about the real-world applications of chemistry.

In preparation for the sophomore state reading test, Chemistry Teachers Chad Nyberg, Dana Weiland and Mike Roddy used some NUA strategies in a lesson as part of the introduction to the heavy metals unit.

The lesson began with an anticipation guide listing statements that would be discovered in the readings that day. The lesson involved four articles for a group jigsaw, so a few statements were made from each reading. Upon reflection, however, the cumulative amount of statements was too large for the time allowed. Around five statements total would have proven sufficient to start the discussion of the impact of heavy metals on people's health.

After the students shared a few responses to anticipation guide statements, they formed groups of four, and each student read a different article. Two articles were on lead poisoning, and two were on mercury poisoning. As students read their assigned article, they completed a 4-Square writing that required the students to find three main ideas and supporting details for each main idea. The fourth square was where students recorded the author's purpose for writing the article. Although the fourth square is typically for a conclusion statement, we changed the box to purpose since we felt purpose was close to a student's final thoughts on an article and since the GRAD reading test often asks the question: What is the author's purpose.

After reading and writing about their articles, students shared the information with their groups, and then the groups re-visited their anticipation guides, discussing and correcting any of the statements.

The format for 4-Square Writing looks like this:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thinking Maps in Art of Film

Rachel Tholen's Art of Film students, mostly seniors, used Thinking Maps to review the Westerns that they had studied in class prior to the Western unit exam. Students selected three maps to complete and present to the class. Rachel said the final discussion day with the map presentations went very well.

Rachel gave her students the following possible maps and tasks:

Circle map: Define the elements of the Western genre, typical characters or one aspect of the film.

Bubble map: Describe the film, a character or the genre.

Double Bubble Map: Compare and contrast two films, two characters within a film, two main characters from different films, or two directors' styles.

Tree Map: List details about the literary, dramatic and cinematic elements of a film and in the frame comment on their effects on the viewer.

Brace Map: Break down the setting of a film into its subparts. In the frame, answer the question: How does the director use set direction to enhance theme?

Flow Map: Sequence the main events of the film and include important substages of that event.

Multi-Flow Map: Analyze the causes and effects of a main conflict in the movie. The frame should answer the question: How do cinematic elements enhance conflict?

Bridge Map: What analogies can you make between this movie's characters and events and pop culture of other films and books?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dancing Definitions

After the first NUA Large Group Sessions, a few teachers in cohorts 4 and 5 decided that they would try the Augusta Mann dancing definitions strategy that was modeled. Claris Springob noted that world language teachers often use similar strategies because they need to bring the vocabulary to life for students.

Here’s the summary of the dancing definitions strategy:

1. Teacher writes a rhythmical definition on a poster to display during the teaching. The poster also includes a tag sentence that uses the word in a way that connects to youth culture. The teacher should also consider adding a differentiation word to the definition for those students who already have a strong vocabulary.
2. Teacher recites the definition (repeating the key words of the definition) and tag sentence. The recitation also involves memorable movement(s).
3. Students recite the definition and tag sentence and do the movement two times with the poster visible.
4. The teacher then puts the poster down, and the students recite, from memory, the definition and tag sentence while doing the movement for the fourth time.
5. The poster should then be hung on the wall. Depending on wall space in your classroom, you may have to rotate words every few days.

Here's an example of a definition of a vocabulary word from The Crucible:

arbitrate: To arbitrate is to judge or decide, judge or decide, a dispute. The umpire will arbitrate the play at first. (motion: the baseball out signal with thumb coming out).

Teacher Responses to the Strategy:

Within a few days of the large group, KC West had incorporated the dancing definitions strategy into her English 10 class. The first time that KC taught a word, she told the students that they may find the strategy funny, but that it would help them learn the definitions of their vocabulary words. KC reported that the students really liked the strategy, and she heard students comment: "Wow, I can't believe that I actually remembered that definition." KC also felt that the activity helped build rapport with her students. She felt that they respected her more for taking a chance on a strategy that took her out of her comfort zone.

Scott Woelber tried a dancing definition with volume in geometry class, and here's his report on how the definition went:

"I actually wrote the definition of volume on poster paper along with an association. Volume is the amount enclosed. Volume is the amount occupied. The volume of the Metrodome is enormous. The volume of an iceberg is enormous. I said it three times like a chant (but within my comfort level!). The students repeated it back once while looking at it, and then again but with the poster covered. Hand movements were included. This activity went well, but it takes a little convincing that chanting a definition isn't just for little kids!

Some American Literature teachers are planning on trying dancing definitions with the vocabulary words from The Crucible.

To read more on the strategy, visit this website:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Multiple Maps for Deeper Meaning

As the culminating U.S. History project, Ruth Mary has her students go through a complete problem solving process using thinking maps. Students pick a problem that they think the world is facing, like AIDS or environmental issues, and they work through the maps to come to a solution.

The steps in the process are described on page 4-21 in the Thinking Maps: Tools for Learning blue binder.

The problem definition stage involves creating a circle map to define the problem and a bubble map to describe the attributes of the problem.

The collect and organize data stage involves the students classifying details that they found during the research process in a tree map.

The brainstorm solutions/options stage has students brainstorm possible solutions to problem with a circle map and then use a flow map to prioritize options.

The evaluate consequences stage has students create a multi-flow map for each possible solution to analyze the causes and effects.

In the choose a solution stage students complete a double bubble map that compares and contrasts the two best solution possibilities, and then their final solution is expressed in a bridge map to make an analogy for better understanding.

Tree Map to Organize Writing

Betsy's World History students created tree maps after completing research on a person of historical influence. The papers had to address three areas of influence for their historical figure, so a tree map with the influences as categories was a logical way to classify details to use in the paper.

Betsy provided her students with the following sample tree map as a model.

More Math Thinking Maps

Scott and Lizzy have really embraced using Thinking Maps in math classes this fall. Below is an example of how they have used the flow map to show the sequence of a variation problem.

Here's an example of a multi-flow map to prove a theorem.

Comparing Math Equations

As part of their math exam, students in Lizzy's class had to compare and contrast two equations by creating a double bubble map. Here is one student's answer:

Algebra Problem Takes Three Thinking Maps

Scott and Lizzy have been working this fall with Algebra students and using thinking maps to solve problems. The students went through a process of defining the problem with a circle map, classifying known information about the problem in a tree map, and then putting the equation steps into a flow map.

The teachers prompted the circle map creation with the question, "what do you need to define to solve this word problem?" "What distance" was the essential question, so that became the center of the circle map, and students defined "what distance" with all the details they knew from the word problem.

The second step was to classify the details into a tree map. Lizzy and Scott did not tell the students the categories, so many students struggled with this step. Upon reflection, Lizzy and Scott felt that the tree map categories should be worked out in a full class discussion so that students are not led too far astray. Here are the resulting tree maps:

List Group Label

KC's sophomores completed a list group label activity to analyze the props in Arthur Miller's All My Sons. KC had her students list all of the props that they could find in the play, then the students grouped them into categories on a tree map. Finally, they had to label the categories. The activity got the students thinking about the significance of Miller's props, and they realized that the detailed stage directions are included for a symbolic reason. One of the more interesting tree maps had the categories of positive, negative and unimportant props.

Click here for a full description of the strategy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Question Stages for Reading

In preparation for the GRAD reading test that all sophomores will take next April, I have begun working with the Chemistry Foundations teachers to add more reading to their sophomore class. If the science teachers use the same reading terms (e.g. literal, inference) when discussing articles read for class as appear on the GRAD reading test, students, hopefully, will have a better grasp of what the test questions are asking.

I developed a sheet for the science teachers that list the three stages of questions. I modeled the sheet after the one English 10 teachers are using for even more consistency across the curriculum when discussing reading. If both classes employ a similar framework with common GRAD test terminology, the students should start seeing connections. Enriched English 10 used a similar three-stage question framework for poetry analysis this week, and I'm confident that standard English 10 will be able to implement the question stages during a poetry unit just prior to the GRAD reading test.

Below are the stages for science that have many of the question stems that are on the Minnesota GRAD reading test.

Science Stage 1 Questions (Literal)

Summarize the article.
Paraphrase the article.
What are the main ideas and supporting details?
What do words mean in context?
What is the text structure?
What is the point of view—first person or third person?

Science Stage 2 Questions (Inference)

What is the purpose of this article?
What tone does the author establish in the article?
What are the connotations of words?
What figurative language, such as metaphor, simile or symbol, is used?
How does the structure enhance the meaning?
What are facts and what are opinions in the piece?
Is there any bias in the text?
Is the information in the article credible, or is it contradicted elsewhere in the text or does it contain logical fallacies?
Is there any satire in the piece?

Science Stage 3 Questions (Constructed Response)

What connections did you make between the article and science class?
What personal connections can you make with the piece?
What connections to the world today are you making?
Compare the ideas from the piece to other books, films and pop culture.

Below is the list of poetry questions by stage with questions that correspond to the wording of the Minnesota GRAD reading test questions.

Poetry Stage 1 Questions (Literal)

Paraphrase the poem.
What are the main ideas?
What do words mean in context? (Denotation)
Who is the narrator?
What is the text structure?
What are facts and what are opinions in the piece?

Poetry Stage 2 Questions (Inference)

What is the theme or life lesson of the poem?
What is the poet’s tone?
What are the connotations of words?
What figurative language, such as personification, metaphor, simile, imagery, and symbol, is used?
How does the rhyme scheme and structure enhance the meaning?

Poetry Stage 3 Questions

What personal connections can you make with the poem?
What connections to the world today are you making?
Compare the poem to other books, films and pop culture.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Final Word Timer

Jim Hatten used the final word protocol twice this past unit with his sophomore English class and felt it went well. His sophomores discussed an article on cheating and then an article on environmental threats. Jim's also planning on using final word with his senior journalism class.

Jim projects a timer on his screen so that students can keep track their talking time.

Click here for a free, classroom timer to use on your computer.

Teachers with Interwrite pads also have a classroom timer as part of their gallery teaching tools. Projecting a classroom timer has a variety of uses to assist with classroom management.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Outside Reading Thinking Maps

Jim Hatten created a comprehensive assessment using Thinking Maps for his sophomore English class. His students create four Thinking Maps on the memoir that they read outside of class. This activity replaces a traditional literary analysis essay.

Jim created a website to help his students understand ways that they could use each Thinking Map to show their understanding of the book that they read. Since students were able to choose which four maps to use, the website helped students explore their options.

Click here to explore Mr. Hatten's website.

Character Development with a Double Bubble Map

English teacher Kristin Benson submitted the following assessment that her eleventh graders in American Literature will complete as the final test on a choice book that they read outside of class.

Outside Reading Quarter 1 -Young Adult Literature

One of the trademarks of young adult literature is that the protagonist or main character is typically a teenager who comes of age. That is, he or she is faced with challenges that result in some sort of change, learning or growth. Here is your chance to show what you’ve learned about your main character.

Part I: Create a Double Bubble Map

Create a double bubble map comparing your character at the beginning of the novel to your character at the end of the novel. (See board for example). Fill the bubbles with phrases or words that describe his or her attitudes, ideas and beliefs. You should offer a minimum of 3 similarities and 3 differences. You may also exceed expectations and do more.

Part II – Explain the ideas in your double bubble map

In a well-organized paragraph, explain how your character grows, matures or comes of age in this novel. You should provide at least two specific examples from the text to support your ideas. If you brought your book to class you may use it to provide direct quotations with page numbers. Remember to include a topic sentence, context for your quotes, examples from the text, analysis that connects to your topic sentence and a concluding sentence that sums up your ideas. (You may write on this sheet or on lined notebook paper, if you prefer)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Advanced Placement and Final Word Discussion

Lonni Skrentner, retired AP history teacher, submitted the following information about using the Final Word Discussion with her advanced placement students.

My favorite NUA strategy in Advanced Placement was “Final Word Discussion.” In that strategy, students read an article (something biased or analytical works best). While reading, they highlight sections (no more than two or three lines each) that they think are important, interesting, about which they have questions. I tell them to number the highlights they want to share – 1-2-3, so they have at least two back ups when someone in their group shares their highlight before it is their turn.

Using a deck of cards, “deal” your students into groups of no more than four. You decide which “suit” starts (you’ve culled your deck to include just enough cards for your class – so a class of 12 would only need aces, twos and threes – for an odd number choose a joker and let them pick a group to join). Tell groups their goal is decide on one highlight and a back-up to share with the whole class. Then the strategy works as follows:
  • First person shares a highlight with their rationale or question
  • Each other person in the groups reacts to that person (I don’t get what you mean, I highlighted the same thing but because... etc.)
  • The speaker gets the “final word,” a reaction to what their peers have said.
  • Next person goes and so on.
  • They decide which highlight they want to share in the large group – who will read, who will explain etc.
  • Bring the class back together as soon as you realize most groups are finished sharing (with adults this strategy needs a timer because they will go on talking, but teens will probably be able to go twice around the group in 15 minutes or so!)
  • Have each group share one highlight (make sure they say page number, column and approximate spot so students can follow along) – as teacher ask some clarifying, analytical or further descriptive questions.

    Got questions? Want to brainstorm? Get a coach or colleague to sit down with you. Call Lonni Skrentner, retired EHS social studies teacher (952-946-1173, and she’d be glad to come in on an off day during your prep.

Advanced Placement and Thinking Maps

Lonni Skrentner, retired AP history teacher, submitted the following information about using thinking maps with her advanced placement students.

Thinking Maps

Most folks see NUA strategies and maps as tools for use with struggling students. I discovered they were phenomenal for use in Advanced Placement. The maps can be used for analysis, review and essay creation. A useful idea is to allow students to choose a map to use whatever the assignment. It seemed that students had “favorite” maps that they used well.

For analysis, you choose the concept or question and the students (usually in pairs) choose a map. Most students are tech savvy enough to draw a map in Word, Paint or PowerPoint programs. The maps can be emailed to the teacher one day in advance of class use or brought on a memory stick to load. So you make the due date one day early essentially. Create a folder within your documents and save by hour or just as a jumble together. When you put the map up on the screen, students “present” their ideas.

Good questions to use with class are:
Is there anything on this map that is outright wrong?
Why is it wrong? Creators – what led you to put it there?
Are there things you would add to this map? What? Why?

You probably won’t have time to use all student maps, and some may not be worth using. To grade this type of assignment, make sure you use a student’s map sometime within a unit and grade them for that presentation – that way you are not grading everyone each time.

For review, the field is more wide open. The most thoughtful review I found, simply puts the Unit in the center of a Circle-Frame Map. Some students began dividing the descriptive circle into arcs and putting topics like “political, economic, social” in them with specifics. The most important piece was the presentation of the outer frame – with the following question:

What forces created the specifics of this unit? (Obviously, you would make the question more descriptive to the unit!)

I also told students that they could combine maps in order to describe the unit. Sometimes you could use “Mapmaker Man” (See Jackie Roehl if you haven’t met “him,” though I don’t think there is an electronic version.) Again, electronic submission is the key to being able to use them in class – you save the maps (a day early!)

Essays are the toughest “gig.” I created maps for the two types of AP World History essays and they really helped some students. I never really figured it out for APUSH, though. I had students map the topics for essays – which worked well. Someone needs to figure out the “stems" for APUSH essays and then map templates could be created.

Now – will this work for all students? – NO! Will all students do the assignments? – NO. Is there a way to differentiate so that students who benefit can get credit from this while others get review, analysis, and essay credit some other way? – YES! BUT, that takes some grading creativity on the teacher’s part. I’d create a Grade Quick assignment simply titled Review, or Analysis or Essay Review and make it worth a certain number of points. To simplify grading, I’d probably use the column for a unit or a quarter, thus having to think about each student only once.

Got questions? Want to brainstorm? Get a coach or colleague to sit down with you. Call Lonni Skrentner, retired EHS social studies teacher (952-946-1173, and she’d be glad to come in on an off day during your prep.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jabari Mahiri: NUA Culture Consultant

photo from UC Berkley

Jabari Mahiri, a professor at UC Berkley and former English teacher in Chicago public schools, presents culturally responsive strategies at National Urban Alliance workshops and conferences. Marhiri's book Shooting for Excellence: African American and Youth Culture in New Century Schools is given to NUA cohort participants and is an excellent starting point for discussing issues of race and teen culture in the classroom.

For a list of all of Mahiri's publications and for more biographical information, visit his Berkley home page.

The Edina CoP will discuss chapter 4 of Shooting for Excellence entitled "Changing Classroom Discourse and Culture" at their next meeting on Nov. 27.

Here is a brief breakdown of what is contained in the subheads of Chapter 4:

  • "Classroom Discourse" explains teacher talk and control
  • "Classroom Culture" discusses tracking and institutional structures
  • "Problems of Changing Classroom Discourse and Culture" includes information on the history of hatred and racism in schools and contrasts Ms. Jackson's World Literature class with her Ethnic Literature class, which is a tracked, low-level class.
  • "Possibilities for Changing Classroom Discourse and Culture" analyzes Ms. Park's classes and her emphasis on building relationships.
  • "Culture and Curriculum" discusses the need to connect with teen culture, and rap music is explored as one way to do this. Mahiri provides lesson ideas that do not involve listening to rap music, but rather reading and writing about text-based material about rap.

CoP Meeting Dates

Edina High School's NUA Community of Practice (CoP) will meet five more times this school year.

Here's the schedule:

October 17, 2007 at 8:30 a.m. in Room 271

November 27, 2007 at 8:00 a.m. in Room 271

February 26, 2008 at 8:00 a.m. in Room 271

March 21, 2008 at 12:00 p.m. in Room 271

April 8, 2008 at 8:00 a.m. in Room 271

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brace Map Helps Bring a Novel's Setting to Life

To help students with reading comprehension and bring the setting of a novel to life, I have students, working in groups, dissect an assigned portion of the novel to uncover all of the details. I assign each group a section of the novel that contains just one setting, and I even tell the students the setting that they will present to the class. This assignment worked well with Brave New World this past fall, and the American Literature teachers are planning on trying it with Huck Finn.

Steps of the setting assignment as given to students:

  1. After the lottery for setting selection, base group members will skim the assigned pages, jotting down all objects they encounter in those pages in their notebooks. This is similar to what we did for objects in Room 271.

  2. Then students will take all the sub-parts and work back to the whole of the assigned setting by organizing the details in a brace map. The brace map should be created in your notebook.

  3. The frame of the brace map should contain the most illustrative and visual quotation, in your opinion, that the author puts forth in your assigned setting pages.

  4. The frame of the brace map should also contain your thoughts about the author's intent for including the specific objects. How does the setting relate to themes, images and character development in the novel?

  5. The base group will create an artistic representation of the setting to use as a visual aid for the class presentation.

  6. Groups present their setting creations while discussing their brace map and sharing their key quotation and commentary on the author's intent.

  7. Students will reflect on their classmates' setting presentations on a Key Word Notes page, which includes a summary sentence at the bottom of the chart on the author's intent regarding his detailed settings.

More Notes on This Assignment

Setting Flow Map: After all of the presentations were made, I picked the best of each assigned setting to display on the wall of fame, so students were competing with the groups in my other hours for first place. Those hall of fame settings were displayed on the wall in a flow map so that students could have a visual flow of the first part of the book.

Key Word Notes Summary Statements: Summarizing each setting presentation to one word (that couldn't be the setting name itself) led to some very interesting student thoughts since I had a few students share their key words and explain as a transition between presentations. And the summary statements at the end of all of the presentations amazed me. Basically, students had created a thesis statement for an essay on the author's intent and how setting relates to theme.

Prior Experience With Task: During the first week of school, I reviewed the Thinking Maps in the context of getting to know each other, the teacher, the course syllabus, and even the classroom environment. Students completed a similar brace map activity with my classroom, so this setting assignment was not their first time with the activity. On that brace map day, students listed as many objects in my classroom that they could in two minutes. Then they organized the objects into a brace map. The frame of the brace map answered the questions: What does this arrangement tell me about the teacher? How will the contents of this room help me with my learning? What am I wondering about regarding the classroom environment?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Thinking Maps and Memoir

KC submitted this English 10 assessment involving thinking maps. Students completed the assessment after reading a selection of short memoirs, letters, and This I Believe essays from National Public Radio. Below is the assessment description in language for students.

Final Assessment

This group activity is designed to help you think about memoir as a genre – the tools the writers’ tend to use, the themes and conflicts that recur, the ways in which characters are drawn. Refer to your notebook as you work on these three tasks. Much of the information you need to complete the activities should be there. You’ll use it to draw further inferences and conclusions about memoir.

Here is a list of the memoirs we’ve read in the order we read them: An excerpt from Black Boy by Richard Wright, “We Are Each Other’s Business” by Eboo Patel, “A Duty to Heal” by Pius Kamau, “Be Cool to the Pizza Dude” by Sarah Adams, “Harper Lee’s Letter to Oprah” by Harper Lee, “I’ll Eat What He’s Wearing” by David Sedaris, excerpts from I Thought My Father Was God by various authors, and “A Perfect Day” by David Benjamin.

Part One: Author’s Style
Product: Double Bubble Map

Directions: Choose two memoirs and compare and contrast their styles. Style includes use of dialogue, descriptive techniques, figurative language, word choice, sentence structure, and tone. The two pieces you choose should have at least two elements in common – the writers use dialogue similarly, for example; or they both use personification. In addition to similarities, identify differences between the pieces on your double bubble map.

Part Two: Characterization
Product: Two Circle Maps

Directions: Choose two additional memoirs (other than the ones you used in Part One) and examine the ways in which authors use indirect characterization. I suggest you use the David Sedaris piece and one of the I Thought My Father Was God pieces, as you already have notes on characterization for these. In the center of each circle map, put the name of a main character from the memoir. In the inner circle, write characteristics of that person. For instance, if I were writing about the kid in “A Perfect Day,” I might include “incompetent” as one of his characteristics. In the outer circle, provide the specific examples (quotes are best) from the text that led you to identify the character as you did.

Part Three: Conflict
Product: Multi-Flow Map

Directions: Choose two more memoirs (other than the ones you have used already) and identify a common conflict that the characters face. Put the conflict in the center of the map. On the left, identify the common causes of that conflict in the characters’ lives. On the right, identify the common effects of the conflict. Be specific! You must have at least four causes and four effects. If you’d like to include causes and effects that one memoir has and the other doesn’t, be sure to make it clear which piece you’re discussing.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A to Z Taxonomy

An A to Z taxonomy in the first few days of a unit works well to activate students' prior knowledge and get them excited about the overall theme of the unit. Students love this creative and fun activity.

Strategy steps:
  1. The teacher gives the unit's theme to the students. The theme needs to be broad enough and real-life enough that students can use their prior knowledge and cultural background to complete the task.
  2. This tasks works best in groups to really build excitement.
  3. The group's recorder starts lettering a large sheet of paper with A, B, C, D . . . . X, Y, Z.
  4. Group members create a list of words that they think are examples of the main theme or illuminate the theme in some way.
  5. Students do not need to progress sequentially through the alphabet. They just fill in the blanks as they think of words or phrases that start with a given letter.
  6. If students have difficulty completing the list, the teacher may allow one member per group to wander around the room for one minute and "spy" on other posters being created.
  7. The teacher may or may not allow the use of a dictionary and a thesaurus.
  8. Once all groups are completed, then the teacher may have people share their lists with the full class or have the class come up with an agreed-upon word or phrase for each letter.
With Brave New World in my World Literature class, students made an A to Z Taxonomy of science and technology issues they felt the world would be facing in the future.

I’ve had equal success with this activity with the word “relationship” with Othello. At the end of the Othello unit, students revisited their A to Z Taxonomies to see if Shakespeare had addressed all of their relationship words. With a little creativity and successful use of synonyms, students found that they could find an example from Othello for each word in their A to Z Taxonomy. Students really learned that Shakespeare is timeless and universal.

I will have students revisit their Brave New World Science and Technology lists too. They will then evaluate just how much of a futurist Aldous Huxley really was.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tree Map For Peer Review

At the English 10 meeting, KC discussed using the tree map for peer review for the student's first essay. Each branch would be labeled with the six traits of writing--ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

Under each of the six branches, sub-branches for strengths (+) and weaknesses (-) would be drawn. As students read each other's essay, they list details under the appropriate + or - branch.

To facilitate this process, students exchanged notebooks with their peer review partner. The peer reviewer created the 6 Traits tree map in the author's notebook. That way, the author not only had the information ready for revision of this particular essay, but also the author had the tree map record in the notebook to review when writing subsequent essays.

This strategy reminded me of the time that I graded blue book essays by simply creating a strengths (+) and weaknesses (-) tree map on the front of each blue book. I then listed a few ideas under the - and a few under the +. Assessing essays this way was efficient since I did not write comments throughout the blue book, and the tree map was meaningful to students because they could see a quick summary of their strengths and weaknesses. Students also liked seeing that they did get at least one positive comment.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Key Word Notes Update

After Chris, KC and Sarah reported great success with the Key Word Notes strategy, I wanted to try it. I was amazed both times that I have used the strategy this week. The students were able to synthesize the information being learned into high level summary statements.

The first time that students completed Key Word Notes was Monday during setting presentations. Each base group presented information on the details of a different setting in Brave New World. Those presentations also included information regarding Huxley's intent for including such a detailed setting in terms of character development, symbolism or theme.

While a group was presenting, all other members of the class had to listen attentively and come up with a one-word summary of the entire presentation. Not only was I amazed that the audience was practically on the edge of their seats to cue into a key word, but also the words that were chosen were usually at the symbolic or thematic level. Words like sterile, brainwashing, unnatural, inhumane and conformity were captured on the Key Word Notes page of their notebooks. After each presentation, I asked a few students to share their words and reasoning, and again students displayed a high level of thinking during this synthesis activity.

In fact, the summary sentence at the end of the Key Word Notes chart was often a thesis statement for an essay on Huxley's intent regarding setting details.

The second time that I used Key Word Notes this week was during a classroom discussion. The last time that we had a full day of classroom discussion on the novel, I noticed that many students were tuning out, and I was kicking myself for not providing some type of formal reflection activity. So today, which was slated to be another full day of classroom discussion, I had students create a Key Word Notes chart. After about seven minutes of an open forum discussion (where students pose questions for other students to answer), I would say, "Timeout! Summarize the past seven minutes into one word."

After each reflection minute, I had a few students share their word and reasoning. I was disappointed that the words chosen were not as high level as the ones earlier in the week during the setting presentations. There was no unifying theme for the seven minutes prior to reflection time because two or three unrelated questions were posed by the students. I feared then that I had misused the Key Word Notes strategy in this artificial task.

I feared that the words were so disconnected that the summary sentence would not make sense or be too difficult to write. Before I had students write the summary sentence, I told them that this sentence should capture their closing thought of the day; what they had gotten out of today's discussion. I was pleasantly surprised that the sentences shared were as high quality as the setting ones earlier in the week.

I've concluded that the Key Word Notes strategy gives students the framework to make personal meaning out of classroom discussions, even when a number of various topics and questions are raised.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tree Map for Classroom Rules

During the first week of school, I had students create a tree map for the class rules. I provided the tree branch headings of Work--Respect--Belong. (Thanks KC for those headings.) Students then decided what those concepts looked like regarding specific classroom behaviors. Classifying classroom behavior details in this manner allowed students to see what types of activities they should engage in to be successful in my classroom.

This process allowed me as the teacher to give some direction as to the general code of conduct while allowing students to take ownership in how the general rules would play out specifically in the classroom.

Those tree maps are posted in the classroom, and I refer to them when a student needs a reminder.

Anticipation Guide to Engage Students

An anticipation guide is a set of true/false or agree/disagree statements that are presented to students prior to informational text (including math chapters), films, and guest speakers. The strategy sharpens a student's thinking skills while building curiosity. When information is memorable, student learning increases.

The steps:

  1. The teacher writes several declarative statements that are based on the upcoming reading, film, chapter, speaker, etc. The best statements are possible yet open for debate.
  2. Before the reading, students decide on their response. Students could complete the anticipation guide with just their own opinions and then check with a partner or group.
  3. The group discusses some of the statements as a whole class, having students tell the reasoning behind the response. The teacher can prompt: "Why do you think so?
  4. Students read the assigned material and change their answers so that they leave class with the correct answers to study.

Generally, anticipation guides are used with non-fiction texts so that students can reason with prior knowledge. With fiction, the author could take the reader anywhere. However, anticipation guides can be successful with fiction when the agree/disagree statements get at the big ideas or themes of the novel.

Here are some example fiction statements for anticipation guides:

Huxley's Brave New World--
A society's stability is hindered by people expressing their individuality.

Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--
A natural father's rights are more important than a child's welfare.

Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing--
Before deciding to marry someone, people need to agree with their parents' wishes.

This strategy is culturally responsive because students share their reasoning behind statements with small groups and the entire class. Since the reasoning is based on what students know, various cultural backgrounds will emerge. Hopefully, this leads to students appreciating other backgrounds and life experiences.

English 10 teachers used an Anticipation Guide during the first week of school where students agreed or disagreed with statements about life if high school. This activity worked well.

KC even created an anticipation guide of personal information as a way for students to get to know their teacher.

Math Thinking Strategies

Scott, the high school numeracy coach, and I have been meeting over the past few weeks to discuss ideas for Advanced Algebra. Since my math skills left me 25 years ago when I dropped Calculus II in college, these meetings have been a challenge for me.

However, my lack of knowledge may be paying off. Last week, Scott gave me a word problem to solve and asked me if I could use thinking maps to solve it. Being true to the belief that the brain thinks eight ways as represented by Hyerle's Thinking Maps, I set out on the task. I falsely started with a tree map and then realized I didn't even know the ideas to classify yet.

After backtracking to a circle map to define the problem, I felt much better about the problem. I then could make a tree map that classified the parts of the problem, which turned out to be the parts of the mathematical expression I needed to arrive at to solve the problem. The solution to the problem was just a quick flow map away.

I have to confess that it took me nearly 20 minutes to solve this one word problem from an Advanced Algebra sophomore class. Scott found my thoughts fascinating because I was talking out what I was thinking as I was making the Thinking Maps. Scott said that with students he never gets to hear the thought process; students usually just shut down and say, "I don't get it."

Scott and I came to the conclusion that my brain needed to go through the following three thinking processes to solve the problem:
1) a circle map to define
2) a tree map to classify
3) a flow map to sequence the stages of the mathematical expression

Since the problem solving process took so long (even with Scott asking me clarifying questions along the way), I wanted to test the idea that I had, in fact, learned something and could solve another problem. I wanted to show Scott that taking the time up front to get me to understand the process would pay off in the end when I made up time on future problems.

I went through the same three-step process with a second problem and arrived at the correct answer in only five minutes, and I had sketched out the three Thinking Maps. I was amazed at my ability to solve the second problem, and I was actually enjoying math.

After this session with Scott, I pulled out Hyerle's Thinking Map binder to look if he had addressed math problem solving steps. He had! I can't believe that I neglected to look there first, but in retrospect, I am glad I tried to construct meaning on my own. Hyerle proposed using the same three-step process that I had arrived at on my own--the circle map, the tree map and the flow map in that order. Arriving at that process independently further strengthened my belief that the brain does think in those eight ways.

Scott took my completed maps back to the math department. One teacher couldn't believe that I had thought that way to solve the problem. She felt I should have done it another way. Scott said that he realized then that people have different frames of reference when solving math problems and there are probably students sitting in the math classes needing to think out the problems with all the steps that I needed.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writing in Math Class

Scott's math students are writing their robot stories on his blog, I love that students are writing for math classes as part of their homework. Now if only I could figure out how to teach math across the curriculm.

For more information on Scott's work as the EHS Numeracy coach, visit his blog at

Levels of Questions

Students in World Literature create their own questions about the novels that they then pose to the class for open forum classroom discussions. To get students beyond simple content questions, I reviewed with them the three levels of questions that I learned both from an NUA session a few years ago and from Augsburg's Paideia Institute.

This is how I worded the types of questions for my students:

Stage 1 Questions: (Re-tell the story.) These are content questions where the answer is right there in black and white. These questions are similar to reading quiz questions. You may ask a stage 1 question when you feel clarification is needed regarding the facts surrounding the plot, settings or characters.

Stage 2 Questions: (Extend the story to themes.) These theme questions uncover the deeper meaning of a text. What is the author's central meaning or life lesson? Theme questions get at eliciting people's opinions that are supported with textual references.

Stage 3 Questions: (Connect the themes to personal experiences or world events.) These questions allow students to express their opinions about personal and world issues that they feel are relevant to their lives. Opinions and debate abound when these questions are posed to the class in an open forum. You will almost hear Socrates whispering, "good job," as you take World Literature: A Senior Seminar to this highest stage of discourse.

Soundtrack Assignment

As a final project for Catcher in the Rye, American Lit teachers will have students create a soundtrack of the songs that remind them of the books themes or characters. Each soundtrack song is accompanied by one paragraph that explains why the song was chosen. This assignment really allows students to showcase their teen culture.

Here's a full description of the assignment:

The Catcher in the Rye Soundtrack

Most movies today come with a soundtrack of songs and music heard in the film. These songs sometimes are incidental (i.e., not important) to the film, but other times they add meaning to the plot or highlight the emotional aspects of particular characters.

For this assignment, you must create a soundtrack for The Catcher in the Rye that represents theme, illustrates growth of character, and reflects the plot meaningfully. The soundtrack that you create should be appropriately and respectfully representative of the novel.

Here are specific criteria:

1. You must have a minimum of eight songs. You may choose any kind of music. You may want to think about having a “theme” to your music; that is, have all music be from one genre. (WWHLT? What would Holden listen to?)

2. At least three of these songs must be for specific characters. That is, find a song that best represents each character you choose. In essence, this should be the character’s “theme song.”

3. At least three songs must be meant for specific scenes of the novel. Focus on specific, meaningful scenes. Ask yourself: if this scene were made into a movie, what music would be played in it?

4. At least one song must represent a theme found in the novel overall.

5. Not all the music you choose must have lyrics. Instrumental selections are also appropriate.

6. For each song you choose, you must write a paragraph explaining your choice. Comment on the connection between the music and the novel. The song must fit the character/scene/theme well. For each song, use at least one quotation from the book as support for your choice. Also, you will probably want to quote specific lyrics in your discussion. Make sure you offer insightful reasons to justify your selections and connections.

7. You must either provide lyrics for each song or make a tape/CD with the music on it. You may wish to just present the lyrics that would be heard in the movie, or you may provide the entire lyrics since the full song would appear on your soundtrack.

8. Create the cover jacket for the CD soundtrack jewel case (front and back). The cover should include the name of the CD and at least one visual reference to the novel; the visual(s) should also connect to the characters/scenes/themes that you emphasize on the soundtrack. Other text that you may wish to include on the front or back: a list of the songs/performing artists, credits, recording company information, dedications, lyrics. Push your creativity here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Using Blogs

Many of our NUA CoP members have implemented blogs this year in the classroom. I have linked a few to this blog so that you can further see how NUA strategies are coming into the classroom. KC's blog even has photographs of the Thinking Maps on the white board. I need to pack my digital camera to start capturing class information like this.

Jim Hatten has developed this website to help students get started on creating their own blogs. Jim's site is awesome, and I'm sure it will help my students when they start creating their own blogs.

If you want to link your classroom blog to this site, just let me know the URL, and I'll add it as another way to keep our learning community going.

Key Word Notes

The Key Word Notes strategy allows students to restate information from readings and lectures in their own words to increase comprehension and retention.

Strategy Step by Step:

  1. Students make a chart of boxes (see above) in their notebooks.

  2. The teacher divides the reading into four sections.

  3. Students read the first section of text and then stop to reflect. During reflection, teachers may want students to discuss the reading with a partner or base group.

  4. After reflection and/or discussion, students write just a few words in the appropriate box. Alternatively, students could write the key words first and then discuss with a partner about why they wrote those specific words.

  5. Students repeat the process with the next three sections until the top four boxes all have key words noted in them.

  6. Then in the bottom box students write a summary sentence (two at the most) about what they learned in the reading. Students may or may not incorporate the key words from the top boxes in this sentence.

The Key Word Notes strategy also works with lectures. Students may be taking detailed notes on one page of their notebooks, but then on another page they have their Key Word Notes chart. This chart will provide for summary and reflection as the teacher pauses four times during the lecture to let students jot down and discuss their key words.

Key Word Notes also works well for students during a research paper or project unit. Students simply record a few key words from each source in a box. In fact, this strategy was devised from a high school teacher concerned with plagiarism during a research paper unit.

The number of boxes can also be varied if a reading or lecture fits logically into 6 sections, etc.

Chris Dalki, KC West and Sarah Burgess (nee Striffler) have all reported great success so far this year with Key Word Notes. Enriched Sociology students used the strategy with a nonfiction piece.

Enriched English 10 students used the strategy to share information from their summer reading journals with a partner. Students wrote down ideas after their partner sharing in a Key Word Notes chart set up with boxes labeled: main character, other characters, images and big ideas. After writing their summary sentences, students then discussed the themes that they saw in the book. KC and Sarah reported that this was an awesome lesson.

I will try this strategy in a few days during a discussion of Brave New World to give students a chance to reflect on the discussion occurring in the classroom and to capture those key ideas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

EHS NUA Cohort Calendar, 2007-2008

Cohort 4

Members: Arne Bolstad, Kim Caster, Natalia Kissock, Jeff Mace, Ellen Mundt, Chris Dalki, Claris Springob, KC West and Jane Yanda

10/25/07: Large Group at Adath, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
11/01/07: Site Visit at EHS, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
11/29/07: Site Visit at EHS, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
01/17/08: Large Group at Adath, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
02/12/08: Site Visit at EHS, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
02/28/08: Large Group at Adath, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
03/20/08: Site Visit at EHS, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
05/7/08: Large Group Celebration, site TBD, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Cohort 5

Members: Sarah Jarrett, Jenn Carter, Eric Nelson, Jenn Cordes, Elizabeth Neary, Amanda Koehler, Kurt Hunter, Scott Woelber, Rachel Tholen, Emese Pilgrim, Ann Little and Kristin Benson

11/01/07: Site Visit at EHS, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
11/8/07: Large Group at Adath, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
11/29/07: Site Visit at EHS, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
01/23/08: Large Group at Adath, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
02/12/08: Site Visit at EHS, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.
03/06/08: Large Group at Adath, 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
03/20/08: Site Visit at EHS, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
05/8/08: Large Group Celebration, site TBD, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Flow Map of Vocabulary Words

When teaching vocabulary words for Brave New World this year, I am going to try something new to bring the words alive and give the students a sense of the story's sequence at the same time. I will give them all 30 vocab words upfront--that's two a day for 15 reading days.

On day 1 of the reading schedule, the students will glue the vocab list in their notebooks. They will also make a 30-box flow map, spanning at least two pages of their notebook. I will make sure that students leave space below the boxes to have the luxury of space to add a few written details to the story sequence.

On day 2 of the reading schedule, I will discuss the two vocab words that students encountered as they read their assignment the night before. Then students will write one vocab word in each of the two first boxes of the flow map and then illustrate those words.

I hope this technique brings the vocab words to life for my students and provides them with a graphic review (like a comic strip) of the novel.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Thinking Map Frames

Every Thinking Map should have a frame around it. Some people think that the frame only goes around the circle map because the posters show only that one framed, but that is really an error in the posters. Last year, RuthMary drew frames around all of her posters to emphasize the point that EHS's first NUA consultant, Rick Olenchack, used to say, "It don't mean a thing if it don't have that frame."

The frame around the maps provides an extension of the thinking and helps the teacher understand the students frame of reference. Frames help bridge the culture gap because multiple backgrounds come across with references to personal and cultural experiences, values and belief systems. When a Thinking Map is done as a group activity, the frame can even be split into sections to indicate which portion came from which student. This emphasizes that each student brings a different frame of reference to the classroom activity.

Below is a tree map from Thinking Maps Inc., Training Manual on uses for frames of reference.

NUA Insights and Applications from the CoP

On the last day of the high school NUA CoP, people shared the following summary statements from their key word notes page to provide a quick review of the weeks activities:
  1. NUA strategies address culture, language and cognition and require students to think about their thinking.

  2. NUA and Thinking Maps address classroom management by bridging the culture and achievement gaps.

  3. NUA provides a variety of strategies to assist students in learning with particular attention to culture, language and cognition.

  4. NUA strategies provide a common language to foster equity in learning that sometimes doesn't occur.

  5. Thinking Maps connect all disciplines to all cultures.

  6. I have a better grasp of NUA foundations. The research with Gifted and Talented students has mixed results since 10% of students said their writing skills declined because of Thinking Maps, but students were self reporting.

In addition, CoP members shared the following specific strategies that they plan on implementing in the classroom in the coming weeks:

  1. Ann will use the multi-flow map with students to discuss the causes and effects of controlling their asthma and the double bubble map to compare and contrast rescue inhalers with preventative inhalers.
  2. Elizabeth will implement the notebook this year to cut down on photocopying and help students get organized.
  3. KC, and the other English 10 teachers, are using an anticipation guide for community building in the first few days of school. KC has teacher facts on one anticipation guide. Another one English 10 will use is "High School Anticipation Guide" with questions about academic honesty and high school concerns. Many of the questions will be answered in the syllabus.
  4. Jim is doing his anticipation guides on and linking to his blog.
  5. Betsy pointed out that blogger just added the poll option so that teachers could do a weekly poll on an issue.
  6. Jackie has a flow map of the semester units on her bulletin board to build interest. Heidi (not a CoP member but an NUA Cohort member who shared this idea) is building a flow map across her wall as a unit progresses. Scott will consider doing this in his math class on his back white board. He could have each day's outcome summarized with a Thinking Map which flows into the next day's map summary or items learned list.
  7. Jackie is also adapting many of Baruti Kafele's classroom management ideas. She has a vision statement on the bulletin board, a wall of fame in back, teleflip text messaging for positive comments, student goal setting on a multi-flow map, highlighting students through their Ipods, and putting an essential question of the day and agenda on the white board each day so that students know what they are supposed to get from each day.

Text Messaging Teleflip Tip

At the NUA CoP we discussed using text messaging to build relationships with students and bridge the gap between teen culture and teacher culture. Using allows teachers to use Microsoft Outlook to send text messages to students. All you need to do is type on the Outlook TO: line the phone

I'm planning on getting student cell phone numbers on the first day of school, and I will try to text a few students each day. I will use text messages to remind students of missed assignments or if I need to meet with them, but mainly, I plan on using text messages as positive reinforcement for something I witnessed them doing well in class.

My husband read about teleflip in PC World, and he reminded me that sending the messages in Plain Text from Outlook will make the messages easier to read on cell phones. To get to plain text, simply click on the drop down menu where the HTML default is located on your email message.

The Star Tribune had a story on text messaging using email today, and they said how easy it is to do if you know the recipient's cell phone service provider. I guess the reporter had not heard about which requires no provider information. It's even easier than the Star Tribune realizes. Sometimes it pays to have a Tech Geek, PC World reading husband.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Technology and NUA: A Perfect Fit

After Scott McLeod's staff presentation, the NUA CoP discussed the connections between Scott's philosophy of technology integration and the culture, language and cognition philosophy of NUA. The CoP decided that the two philosophies mesh well, and teachers working on closing the cultural and achievement gap would be served well by incorporating blogs into their courses.

Here's why . . .
  1. Students are engaged because they are happy to meet teachers in a communication forum very familiar to students, thereby closing the cultural gap between students and teachers.
  2. Students learn the ethics of the Internet and are able to police themselves.
  3. Students of all cultures have a voice on the blog, so students are more equal.
  4. Shy students have a place to express their opinions.
  5. Students can express opinions that they were afraid to bring up in class.
  6. Teachers are equipping students with a new literacy (language) for the 22nd Century.
The following question was asked in our CoP: "Do the relationships built online transfer to face-to-face classroom relationships?"

KC West, who just finished her Master's Thesis on blogs in the classroom, stated that the current literature on the topic does not claim that the relationships transfer to face-to-face friendships. KC's article on the new literacies is being published next month, so stay tuned for more information on this topic.

Anticipation Guide

The tree map above was created during the CoP's debrief after the didgeridoo anticipation guide and subsequent reading. Many people are planning to use an anticipation guide early in the year to spark student curiosity for reading from novels to math textbooks.

To watch the apnea-free Jeremy flex his neck muscles, click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thinking Maps with Gifted and Talented Students

Much of the research about the effectiveness of Thinking Maps has been conducted on underachieving students. However, The Thinking Maps Foundation does offer grants to educators who wish to study the effectiveness of the maps. One study, conducted on Gifted and Talented high school students, found that students involved in the school's Thinking Map project, did improve their SAT scores one complete level. A brief sampling from the study is below. The complete 34-page study is available from Thinking Maps Foundation.

"Fifty Gifted and Talented (G&T) learners from Birchwood Community High School were involved in the project, alongside five learners from year 3 G&T from years of Gorse Covert Primary School. Staff and learners from Birchwood Primary School
were also involved in the training and piloting of Thinking Maps although they removed themselves from the final research outcomes.

We identified G&T learners in line with our respective G&T policies (please refer to
appendices) Bob Burden’s NFER questionnaire Myself As a Learner Scale (MALS)
was used to base line the academic self concept of our G&T cohorts.

Birchwood Community High (BCHS) and Gorse Covert Primary school conclude that
Thinking Maps were an effective tool in raising the quality of pupils thinking and
planning. On average BCHS learners improved their SAT scores by one complete
level. Gorse Covert Primary School learners demonstrated that they were able to
organise and sustain their writing through the usage of Thinking Maps."

Monday, August 27, 2007

NUA EHS CoP Members

At EHS 43 staff members have studied NUA strategies through either a cohort or the Community of Practice. Many others have incorporated NUA strategies learned at staff development days or from teachers on their course-alike teams.

The following staff members make up the 2007-08 Community of Practice:

Elizabeth Barniskis
Chis Dalki
Rob Gardner
Ruth Mary Gens
Jim Hatten
Heidi Howard
Sarah Jarrett
Ann Little
Eric Nelson
Betsy Nimmo
Jackie Roehl
Rachel Tholen
Brian Simpson
Sarah Striffler
KC West
Scott Woebler

EHS NUA Cohort Members

Cohort I (at Valley View)
Pat Corcoran
Diane Daniels-Stromberg
Joel Nasset

Cohort II
Martha Cosgrove
Ruth Mary Gens
Josh Grenier
Mary Manderfeld
Colleen Raasch
Jackie Roehl
Dalen Towne
Meggie Trenda

Cohort III
Barb Anderson
David Boone
Elizabeth Barniskis
Heidi Mathers
Carolyn Ocampo
Bob Schneider

Cohort IV
Arne Bolstad
Kim Caster
Natalia Kissock
Jeff Mace
Ellen Mundt
Chris Dalki
Claris Springob
KC West
Jane Yanda

Cohort V (starting this year)
Sarah Jarrett
Jenn Carter
Eric Nelson
Jenn Cordes
Elizabeth Neary
Amanda Koehler
Kurt Hunter
Scott Woelber
Rachel Tholen
Emese Pilgrim
Ann Little
Jackie Roehl
Kristin Benson

Final Word Strategy Notes

During the debrief the Final Word on Baruti Kafele's "Managing Your Classroom," CoP members came up with the following ideas:

The Final Word strategy allows all students to speak, creating an equality of cultures. The strategy allows all ideas to be affirmed, and the sense of order is a classroom management tool itself.

Discussing Kafele's ideas sparked a lively discussion from "we resist rigid classroom management" to "we still struggle with managing a classroom." KC shared her three classroom rules: Work, Respect, Belong. The group liked the idea of keeping rules vague since teachers can't predict all of the infractions.

Jackie's Note: Although many folks were turned off by some of the specific ideas that Kafele proposes, the animated discussion and comments such as "I've always been afraid to talk about classroom management issues" and "The faculty needs to have a larger discussion of rules for consistency across classes" made the 25 minutes valuable for me. Thanks for your great discussion.

Closing the Gap by Connecting Culture, Language and Cognition

Below is a brief summary of "Closing the Gap by Connecting Culture, Language, and Cognition" from Student Successes with Thinking Maps. Click on "post a comment" at the end of this entry to comment on the full article.

Yvette Jackson, the Executive Director of the National Urban Alliance, hopes to change teacher perceptions about underachieving students. NUA also hopes to bridge the cultural gap between students and teachers. Jackson and NUA believe that a shift needs to occur from what has to be taught (content) to how learning happens (process).

NUA believes in the following equation:

Learning = (Understanding + Motivation) (Competence and Confidence)

NUA believes that Thinking Maps are "essential tools in bridging the cultural gap between teachers and students" because they address the inter-related nature of culture, language and cognition.

NUA does acknowledge that Thinking Maps are one tool to give teachers a language to address the needs of underachieving students because they help eliminate textual blockers, both semantic and structural blockers. This mediation happens because Thinking Maps provide a clear language to discuss metacognition, and the maps become external memory patterns for students.

Thinking Maps are a common language that can be transferred across disciplines and grade levels.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

List Group Label Strategy

The List/Group/Label strategy offers a simple three-step process for students to organize a vocabulary list from a reading selection. This strategy stresses relationships between words and the critical thinking skills required to recognize these relationships.

List/Group/Label challenges students to . . .
  • List key words (especially unclear and/or technical terms) from a reading selection.
  • Group these words into logical categories based on shared features.
  • Label the categories with clear descriptive titles.
Steps to List/Group/Label:
  1. Select a main topic or concept in a reading selection.
  2. Have students list all words they think relate to this concept. Write student responses on the whiteboard.
  3. Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4 students. Have these teams join together related terms from the larger list. Have the teams provide "evidence" for this grouping—that is, require the students to articulate the common features or properties of the words collected in a group.
  4. Ask the student groups to suggest a descriptive title or label for the collections of related terms. These labels should reflect the rationale behind collecting the terms in a group.
  5. Finally, have students read the text selection carefully and then review both the general list of terms and their collections of related terms. Students should eliminate terms or groups that do not match the concept's meaning in the context of the selection. New terms from the reading should be added, when appropriate. Terms should be "sharpened" and the groupings and their labels revised, when necessary.
An alternative use of this strategy is for the teacher to provide the list of terms or vocabulary words for the students to organize. Then students can speculate about the topic to be read. These word lists can be copied on card stock for easier manipulation.

The finished, labeled categories can be presented in a tree map since the tree map is for classifying details and grouping ideas.

Using the List/Group/Label strategy develops critical thinking abilities and uses motivation to increase comprehension. The strategy engages students by building their curiosity and allowing them to activate their prior knowledge. Hilda Taba created this strategy because of people's interest in inductive thinking, making generalizations based on specifics. This cognition strategy is also based on Jerome Bruner's research on how people learn, organize and retain information.

Some teachers may feel that they need to teach all of the word definitions for students to be successful with this strategy; however, not knowing all of the definitions also adds to a student's curiosity and guessing definitions may increase student enjoyment in the task.

Math teachers have found success with this strategy when they have students List/Group/Label various terms, expressions and symbols.