Friday, November 21, 2008

Vocabulary Trifold and Essay Adaptation

At the last NUA site visit, Cohort 5 members learned the vocabulary tri-fold strategy. Here are the strategy steps:

  1. Teachers create a list of words from the text that are somewhat familiar to the students but that need some elaboration for full mastery.
  2. Students select a vocabulary word from the list of words provided by the teacher.
  3. Students take a piece of paper and fold it hot dog (i.e. landscape) style. Then they fold the paper in thirds to create a brochure/booklet.
  4. On the front page of the booklet, the student writes the vocabulary word. (panel 1)
  5. Opening the booklet, the student writes a sentence defining the word on the left-most panel. (panel 2) If students need to look up their words in the dictionary, they cannot simply copy the dictionary definition here. Students need to make their own personal meaning and their own sentence.
  6. In the middle inside panel (panel 3), students draw a visual of the word and write a first person sentence using the word. This first person sentence makes the word culturally relevant to the student.
  7. On the right-most panel (panel 4) students write down as many forms of the word as they can to demonstrate their knowledge of morphology.
  8. On the two panels that would appear on the back of the brochure when opened up, students write synonyms on one panel (panel 5) and antonyms on the other panel (panel 6).
  9. Once students have finished their vocabulary tri-folds, they move around the room until the music stops. Then they pick a partner, and the partners take turns teaching each other the word.
  10. The teacher allows for several rounds of mixing it up during the music and teaching vocabulary words when the music stops.
Writing Adaptation

The English 10 teachers at that NUA site visit liked the kinesthetic appeal of the vocabulary tri-fold strategy and wanted to try it with essay instruction, so we adapted the panels to reflect the parts of an essay. As synthesis after instruction on each part of the essay, students wrote a few key ideas about that topic on the appropriate panel of their essay tri-fold.

Here's how we adapted the panels for a literary analysis essay on The Odyssey:

  1. Essay topic and title
  2. Introduction with attention-getter and The Odyssey by Homer (so they remembered to include that)
  3. Thesis statement
  4. Body Paragraph structure including transition, topic sentence, 2 PIEs (point, illustration, explanation), and recap sentence.
  5. Conclusion with circling back to attention-getter and a reason for the reader to care about the topic.
  6. Modern Language Association (MLA) essay formatting, works cited, and in-text citation information.

The students ended essay week with a visual that we called "essay in your pocket."

One student emailed his English 10 teacher, Rachel Tholen, and had this to say about the tri-fold, pocket essay.
"I really like the way you're approaching this paper. I found the little "5 Paragraph Essay" booklet helpful, and also just the sort of "I'll hold your hand" approach, because myself, along with many other of my classmates are... well basically clueless when it comes to essay formatting. Okay, not clueless, just not very well educated. So, to sum things up, thanks."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Paraphrase Passport for Reading

The protocol for the paraphrase passport strategy is as follows:

  1. Students pair up A and B, and they sit shoulder to shoulder, not facing each other.
  2. A reads to B for 30 seconds with both students looking at the text.
  3. Then B puts the text face down and paraphrases to A what was read.
  4. For the next 30 seconds B reads to A (starting where the partnership left off), followed by A's paraphrase.
  5. Rotations continue until the students finish reading the text.

Many teachers at last week's site visit were skeptical of the strategy because of the noise that might happen in the room and because the teachers felt comprehension would go down because students do not read at the same pace. However, Beth Neary tried the paraphrase passport reading strategy in her small, AP Spanish Literature class, and she sent this report.

Positives – 9 students want to do it many more times this year!
· If you missed part of the reading, your partner recaps/explains it to you
· It is a fun way to read
· It keeps you focused while reading as you have to keep switching roles
· “I know a lot more because we read it two times” – translated by Beth Neary

Negatives – 1 student did not like it that much, but was fine if we do it again
· It takes longer to read
· It loses a bit of the excitement as you have to keep stopping

Suggestions from students:
· Give 2 minutes to read and one minute to recap (I think that’d change due to the difficulty of the reading), but the short 1-2 minute periods were actually more effective than Beth thought they’d be.

Observations by Beth:
· The students were really into it and wanted to continue the whole hour to finish the story.
· While they recapped, Beth heard them actively analyzing. Examples heard: “I bet the apron represents the lower class.” “I bet the seƱora will do something crazy.” “He’s definitely criticizing class struggles – Neary’s going to make us write an essay on that.”

Basically, the observation Beth had was that the strategy helped students cue into what was important in the reading. Beth was quite surprised. She liked it!

Multi-flow Map for Character Change

Kristin Benson's student teacher Sean did a great culminating activity for The Crucible using the multi-flow map to uncover the central conflict for each of the main characters in the play. He assigned groups to focus on one main character like Abigail, John Proctor, Rev. Hale, Rev. Parris. Then kids were asked to find a quote from the beginning of the text as a cause, a quote from the end of the play as an effect and to write a paragraph of explanation summarizing their understanding of each quote. Then as the last step, kids filled in the central conflict for their character. He phrased it like this on his model map, “What causes your character to go from this person at the beginning to this person at the end?” The end products really yielded some higher level thinking.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A to Z Taxonomy

A number of English teachers have recently had great success with using an A to Z taxonomy to help students uncover the themes and symbols in a novel.

With Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver in English 10 the students went through the steps of creating a personal taxonomy, sharing ideas in a small group, reporting to the full class, and then composing with key words to get a start on their literary analysis essay.

To report a word for the taxonomy to the class, students used an oral speaking frame that stated: "I have a/an ____ to contribute to the "Search for Self Taxonomy" and it is _________ because Kingsolver believes ______________ about finding yourself, and this word represents _____________________."

The depth of the student reports when adding to the taxonomy were deeper than I have ever seen with the taxonomy, and many of the words that students shared were symbolic. In fact, the taxonomy finally allowed students to see symbols that they had been struggling understanding prior to the taxonomy.

The amazement with the taxonomy's success was reiterated by English 10 teacher Rachel Tholen, who reported: "The kids are creating their taxonomies. It’s amazing. It’s the best thing we’ve done with this book so far. I’m a total convert to the taxonomy."

Rachel emailed again after another successful class period, stating: "I know I’m a broken record on the taxonomy, but my sophs are finishing up our discussion on the search for self taxonomy today, and I can’t believe how well it works. It may be the perfect way to teach symbol. My second hour had some thoughtful things to say about the afghan, and how it represents comfort and safety for Codi, but also how it's woven together by Uda, and how the older women in the community weave together the relationships, past, and history of the town and the people in it."

Kristin Benson also reported that the taxonomy worked well to discuss the rebel theme in Catcher in the Rye.

Youth and Digital Literacy

A number of Edina teachers attended Jabari Mahiri's session on digital literacy on Sept. 30. We were able to discuss ways to improve youth literacy through digital mediation. Mike Walker, Edina's Technology Integrationist, blogged right from the workshop. So click here to read all about Jabari's workshop.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Science and Thinking Maps

Two science teachers recently shared with me some exciting uses of Thinking Maps in their classes.

Mike Roddy used a circle map to activate students' prior knowledge on cycles in his physical universe class. In the circle students defined cycles with synonyms, symbols, ideas and examples of cycles. In the frame they elaborated on why they included ideas. Then Mike used a second color marker and put astronomical in front of cycles, and students added words that defined the new concept astronomical cycles. The students were able to make lots of connections between astronomy and their prior knowledge of the term cycle. After they finished the circle map, Mike pointed out that circle appeared on the definition of cycle, and "isn't it cool that we did a circle map?" The joke bombed. I apologize to Mike because I had made that comment to him earlier when I realized the connection between cycle and circle.

Mark Harelstad has adopted the flow map in his biology class. Not only does he have the unit flow map posted in front of the room to keep his lessons flowing, but also he used a flow map to teach his students about the scientific method. Mark gave them the individual steps of the scientific process, and they had to construct a flow map that indicated the correct order of steps. Now, those steps are posted in the lab on posters, making a big flow map of the scientific method, and students need to follow the same steps for every biology lab.

Thanks science for sharing your stories.

Thinking Maps for Study Skills

High School 101 is a class designed for sophomores to explicitly teach them the skills necessary to be successful in high school and to improve their English and math skills. One teacher manages the class, contacting teachers and parents for information updates on the students. Other high school teachers work with the students one or two days a week on specialized topics. Two days a week the students work on language arts skills. Two days a week on math skills. And one day a week they work on general study skills.

I designed a unit to be implemented in a series of study skills days, and Doug Eischens, the school social worker, is team-teaching the unit with me.

During the Thinking Maps Unit students move from guiding questions on their lives in general to guiding questions that specifically deal with their academic habits and life as a student. Examining themselves as students will allow them to evaluate their study skills and school habits. The bridge map serves as the bridge between their lives in general and their lives in school.

Each map is presented in this sequence:

  1. Students learn the map by making one with personal information.
  2. Doug debriefs the personal information to blend the students' social/emotional needs with their academic needs.
  3. Students are taught practical ways to use the map for reading and lecture comprehension with content from their current English 10 course, social studies course, and/or science class.

Here's the lesson from the first day--

Tree Map

Jackie Teaches the Tree Map:

What was your youth culture like when you were in elementary school? (branches of tree map are recreation, clothing, and family traditions) Frame: Simultaneously jot down stories that go with the items. This map will be used first as a community builder since students will mingle and share their information. All students must share this information but will be told that ahead of time.

Doug Debriefs the Personal Information:

Introduction to the idea that sharing will happen after each map is completed, but students will only be asked to share what they are comfortable sharing. Doug plans to facilitate the after each map debriefs similar to how he runs his student support groups. The students really enjoyed this activity as a way to find out things that they had in common with other students in the room. Doug told them that a support network of friends at school is key, so this sharing of cultural backgrounds really helped that.

Jackie Makes Content Connections and Study Skill Applications:

I wanted to show the students some practical study skill uses for the tree map. I had the students make tree maps for the main character in their English 10 novel in their English notebooks. I have students in two different English classes, so I just did both novels on the white board at once. The English 10 students mapped Codi’s (Animal Dreams) clothes, recreation, and family traditions, and the boys in Guys 10 did the same three branches for Siddhartha. This activity helped students bring the characters to life and allowed them to make personal connections.

Then, I made the students pull out their history notebooks and look at their last lecture notes. I had the students create category titles for a tree map on Mesopotamia--and they came up with religion, literature, and government. They reviewed their notes and synthesized their notes in a tree map. Making a tree map for lecture reflection was hard for them to do, but the product was fascinating.

Stay tuned for future installments of how teaching the other maps goes in High School 101. The circle map is on tap for next week.

Friday, September 5, 2008

2008-2009 Cohort Calendar of Events

Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008. Site Visit #1 at EHS. Cohort 5 = 8:00 to 11:00. Cohort 6 = 12:00 to 3:00.

Thursday,October 2, 2008. Site visit #2 at EHS. Cohort 6 = 8:00 to 11:00. Cohort 5 =12:00 to 3:00.

Thursday, October 23, 2008. Cohort 6 has a full-day session off-site with all WMEP schools.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008. Cohort 5 has a full-day session off-site with all WMEP schools.

Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. Site Visit # 3 at EHS. Cohort 5 = 8:00 to 11:00. Cohort 6 = 12:00 to 3:00.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009. Site visit # 4 at EHS. Cohort 6 = 8:00 to 11:00. Cohort 5 = 12:00 to 3:00.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009. Cohort 5 has a full-day session off-site with all WMEP schools.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009. Cohort 6 has a full-day session off-site with all WMEP schools.

Thursday, March 19, 2009. Site Visit # 5 at EHS. Cohort 5 = 8:00 to 11:00. Cohort 6 = 12:00 to 3:00.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Site visit # 6 at EHS. Cohort 6 = 8:00 to 11:00. Cohort 5 = 12:00 to 3:00.

2008-2009 EHS Cohort Members

Cohort 5

1. Sarah Jarrett
2. Jenn Carter
3. Jen Cordes
4. Beth Neary
5. Amanda Schutz
6. Kurt Hunter
7. Rachel Tholen
8. Emese Pilgrim
9. Kristin Benson
10. Eric Nelson

Cohort 6

1. Jeff Mace, math
2. Lori Songstad, math
3. Lizzy Johnson, math
4. Steve Clarke, special education math
5. Jeff Krause, science
6. Steve Sanger, science
7. Page Kinner, science
8. Dana Wieland, science
9. Mark Harelstad, science
10. Kjersti Olson, social studies
11. Sarah Burgess, English
12. Beth Mohs, English
13. Amy Kampf, social studies
14. Principal Bruce Locklear

Scott Woelber, K-12 math coordinator, and Jackie Roehl, EHS Culturally Responsive Literacy coach, will attend events with both cohorts.

Synonym Triplet Quilts

I have selected two vocabulary words for each reading day of the unit on Brave New World. I will start each day by giving the students the two words and reading the sentence (or few surrounding sentences) where the word appears. I will ask students if they can figure out the word in context, questioning them on why they think that is the definition.

Then students can check their answers in the dictionary and/or thesaurus at their table, culminating their initial exploration of the vocabulary word my writing a synonym triplet in their notebook and drawing a corresponding symbol or picture next to the word.

Because of the illustrations, I am having students save two pages in their notebooks for the 22 words in the Brave New World Unit. That way all of the vocabulary words will be in one place to study for the test.

One day mid-unit, I will have students make a synonym triplet quilt for the room of the words learned so far. Partners will be assigned one or two words, and they can explore many student notebooks for their assigned words, selecting the best synonyms and symbol/illustration. Those partners will be responsible for creating quilt squares for their words.

Then at the end of the book, students will complete quilt squares for the rest of the words. This procedure will give them a few encounters with each word before the vocabulary test and also break up the study of their words.

Strategy Review Chart in Student Notebooks

My students set up strategy review charts as a glossary in their notebooks during the first week of school. It took about 15 minutes just to set up of two charts, but I am hoping that it will pay off in the long run with students using the strategies correctly and me not having to do as much re-teaching of strategies .

I reduce the columns to five, deleting the "best use" column since I did not want to get into a discussion about priming, processing and retaining for mastery with my students.

Students left the last page of the notebook for "Classmate Contact Information," and then they could set up their first strategy review chart on the first double-page spread in the back of the notebook.

On the left facing page, they made the columns 1) strategy, 2) function and 3) resources. On the right facing page they had the columns 4) remember to and 5) primitive. That way they had more room to draw the Thinking Maps, defining format chart, key word notes, etc. Plus, the remember to column contains a lot of information.

In a wide-ruled composition notebook, students left four lines per row, allowing them to get five strategies on each spread.

I had them set up two charts right away because I had them save space for all 8 Thinking Maps so that those strategies would all be together, even though they will not be learning some of the maps for a few weeks. After they set up the boxes, students who had time started copying the map primitives and writing the function. I told them that the remember column would be discussed as they learned/reviewed each map.

Since students had already learned the bubble map, they filled in that remember to column with adjectives only, support/prove adjectives in frame, and only use bubbles (no squares) so that you are communicating in a common language. As a sidebar, I told them that they wouldn’t start writing A’s as B’s, so why make squares when the language calls for bubbles. I also told them about the time a group of students last year made a bubble map with squares for a presentation, and I thought that I was looking at a multi-flow map for the first few minutes of the presentation. Talk about miscommunication.

Before students created their strategy review charts, I told them explicitly why they were taking the time to keep a glossary of strategies. Here are the reasons that I used:

If they are absent the first time that I teach them a strategy, they can learn how to use the strategy from a friend (who has it written in a chart).

Since we use so many different strategies in class, they may not see a strategy again for a month or two, but I will assume that they can implement it, so they need to look at the glossary. The resources column has the author’s name like Hyerle, Rothstein, or Nessel, but also the page # of their own notebook where the strategy first appears so that they have an example.

During the choice book unit, each student will teach his or her group for one full day, and they will be developing a lesson with all nine components of the unit flow map. I am actually making them complete a unit flow map lesson plan for one day of the choice unit.

If another teacher at the high school ever says, "today we are going to do such and such strategy" (defining format, for example), the student can pull out the glossary and be ahead of the class since they know how to use the strategy.

Thinking Maps in AP Government

During the English and Social Studies Community of Practice session last week, teachers explored how they could use Thinking Maps at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, especially the highest levels. Betsy, Heidi and Fred came up with the idea of using a double bubble map to compare and contrast Obama and McCain for AP Government. In the frame of reference, the students would take on the persona of a certain person, such as a soccer mom, a single mother living in poverty, or an Iraq War veteran, and the frame content would be reactions that the assigned persona might have when evaluating the information on the double bubble map. This activity incorporates analysing information from another's point of view and evaluating the candidate.
Bloom's Taxonomy

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jackie's Summer Academy Top 10

As I reflect on the week in Albany, so many new ideas have filled my personal frame of reference. Below is Jackie’s Top Ten List of NUA Summer Academy 2008 Highlights. I know that I am missing a ton of memorable moments, so I’d love to hear from you regarding what's in your frame. Simply click “comments” below this post if you would like to share your reflections and highlights. The blog comments section allows for an online dialogue of sorts, and I have used the comments feature with my students to continue a discussion on a certain topic.

Jackie’s Top Ten List

David Hyerle: David’s work has such a direct impact on my daily classroom instruction that I was honored to get the chance to talk with him at length on Wednesday night. Over the years my head has been filled with a list of questions that I would ask David if I ever got the chance, and I finally got that chance. Not only did the conversation with David provide me with a deeper understanding of the knowledge structures behind Thinking Maps, but also I was able to formulate a new game plan for promoting the use of Thinking Maps with my students and teachers. Thanks David for that great opportunity. You really were the WOW of my week.

Eric Cooper: My frame includes Eric as the spiritual center of NUA. Eric’s enthusiasm and beliefs that education is a civil right, and that when we teach for justice, we can really make a difference in people’s lives provide the energy that I need when I am bombarded daily with negative messages about public education. Eric reminded me of the power of positive thinking, and he really made me feel at home with NUA. Whenever I am feeling down at school, I can just think to myself, "What would Eric say?"

Yvette Jackson: When I reviewed my notebook entries from the past week at Summer Academy, I realized that Yvette and her ideas were everywhere. No wonder she is one of the main voices that runs through my head. I know that I will share Yvette’s triangle of fluency, construction and communication with my staff as a way of looking at literacy and high intellectual performance. Also, thanks Yvette for sharing Eliot Eisner's definition of literacy as “constructing, communicating, and creating meaning in many forms of representation.” I plan to use that quotation with my staff as a means into a conversation that all teachers use text and are literacy teachers.

Denise Nessel: Although I neglected to give credit to one of the inspiring influences for my creation of this Edina NUA blog during my presentation during the NUA Summer Academy, I really have to credit Denise Nessel for that spark. On the final day of last year’s NUA Summer Academy, Denise approached me after the Edina presentation and told me to consider capturing coaching stories and to consider writing a book about my experiences as a part-time classroom teacher and part-time NUA coach. Denise’s idea to capture my coaching notes was one of the early sparks for the blog. Besides being one of the blog inspirations, Denise's strategies have a profound impact on my classroom.

Evelyn Rothstein: The always entertaining and educational Evelyn Rothstein was back again this summer. Since Year 2’s didn’t have an Evelyn presentation on our agenda, some of us cornered her for private audiences. Nguyen, Deb, Kelly and I enjoyed her definition of cultural universals during a conference with Evelyn about our staff development plan. And Evelyn shared her personal story of getting her first teaching license in New York with a small audience of WMEP teachers. Thanks Evelyn for all of your cultural insights.

LaVerne Flowers: Although LaVerne was often in the background during workshop sessions this week, I always draw inspiration and security from her presence. LaVerne has been my key connection to NUA over the last five years, and she has had a huge influence on my confidence and competence as a teacher and coach over the years. Without LaVerne pushing me to be even better, I would not be the teacher and coach that I am today.

Frame of Reference: The frame became a common theme of the week, even getting its own hand gesture, and the insights gained from frame discussions will carry over to my classroom and staff development activities this fall. I am especially excited to try out the simultaneous frame on Thinking Maps to get teachers and students to listen to the voices in their head, an idea taken from David Hyerle’s session with Year 2 participants on Wednesday afternoon.

Networking: Collaboration and networking with people from other school districts is a great component of the summer academy. WMEP networking highlights for me this year include my usual breakfast talk with Wayzata educators, sitting with and sharing ideas with Karin, Shelby and Andrew from Hopkins during most of the sessions, Edina Year 1’s adopting Terri from Robbinsdale, and my Friday night spent in Chicago with Dominic, Beth, and Lisa from Eden Prairie. (United Airlines put us up at The Westin when our connecting flight to Minneapolis was cancelled since our plane from Albany landed shortly after a Mexican Airlines plan skidded off the runway at O’Hare.) Besides connecting with WMEP folks, another collaboration highlight of the week was the Edina Year 2’s working with Melissa and Peg from Albany on our taxonomy presentation with the serve it up, bump, set, spike, everybody rotate method of presentation. Peg and I left the week vowing to keep in touch.

Creating Staff Development Plans: During district meeting time and Year 2 planning time for a staff development seminar, I was able to take home plans that I can immediately begin implementing to promote culturally responsive strategies in Edina Public Schools. Nguyen, Kelly, Deb and I used the pedagogical flow map to finalize a seminar plan for our before school workshop week. And thanks to Carlton Long for giving us some great ideas for text from Jabari Mahiri to use with our seminar plan.

Music: From songs created in skits to formal gatherings, music energized the week. Eyka leading The Cupid Shuffle woke me up after dinner, and the NUA Trio with Stefanie’s lead vocals for Lean on Me was a fitting send off for the week. An outstanding find of the week was Jeremy Dudley and his original rap. Jeremy’s performance at the talent show Friday was so exciting that I have already ordered his CD from

Thanks to everyone for making family reunion week (Nanette's metaphor), aka NUA Summer Academy 2008, an enlightening and energizing experience. Also, thanks to the Edina adminstration for supporting our efforts at NUA. Thanks Jeff for sharing all of the photos online so that I could post a few.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Synonym Triplets

A favorite vocabulary strategy at the high school this past spring was synonym triplets. In brief, the strategy involves finding two synonyms for an assigned vocabulary word. Drawing a symbolic representation of the word further enhances the understanding of the word.

Most teachers simply modeled one synonym triplet for a vocabulary word and then assigned other vocabulary words to pairs or groups of students so that the synonym triplets would be student-generated. This also saves teacher preparation time.

Students only need a dictionary and a thesaurus to find their synonyms, but deciding on which synonyms will best help their classmates learn the word involves some great discussions. This is another reason to have students work in pairs or groups to create synonym triplets. And the symbolic representation is also a great discussion topic for groups.

In World Literature, I gave my seniors a list of the vocabulary words so that they had a place to record the synonym triplets generated in their class. Since I assigned vocabulary words at the beginning of each act of Othello, I wanted to vary the synonym triplet assignment each time. One time students drew a symbolic representation; one time they performed a dance or stood in a tableau that represented their vocabulary word, and one time they created a hand gesture. By the end of the play, I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of vocabulary words that I had given students, so I created just one list of vocabulary words for Acts 4 and 5 together. That day I assigned pairs their vocabulary word and told them to either create a synonym triplet or simply find the definition in the dictionary. Here's my recollection of the classroom discourse that followed my assignment:

Student 1: Are we supposed to draw a picture, create a hand gesture, or what for our word?

Teacher: You don't have to do anything fancy. Just find the definition.

Student 2: You're kidding us. Are we just doing vocabulary the old fashioned, boring way?

My students were not deterred by my simplified assignment. I saw many students discussing, "If we had to create a hand gesture or body movement, what would we do?" It was then that I realized the true power of this strategy. Students were engaged with learning new words, and I was trying to hurry them along.

Sarah Jarrett also had success with synonym triplets in her classroom. Sarah commented that her students were very enthusiastic during synonym triplet days, and some students even beat boxed during their vocabulary word presentations. Sarah observed that one student, who was very excited about this vocabulary strategy and the beat boxing, did so much better on the vocabulary test on the words from synonym triplet day than he done on previous vocabulary tests.

Beth Neary also noticed increased vocabulary retention with this strategy in her Advanced Placement Spanish Literature class. Beth reported that her advanced students could ace vocabulary tests just by memorizing lists of words and definitions; however, when she used the words later in the year, they couldn't recall the definition. In January Beth had students create a synonym triplet quilt (in Spanish) for the vocabulary words in that unit, and when Beth asked the students about the words in May, they could still recall the definitions.

The synonym triplet quilt idea was the brainchild of Jen Cordes, a special education teacher at the high school. She had her students create a quilt of words for Midsummer Night's Dream. Both Jen's special education English 10 class and Beth's AP Spanish class, created quilts of vocabulary words where students punched holes in their squares and tied the squares together with yarn.

Edina's NUA coaches used a similar quilt strategy in a teacher workshop this summer, but we didn't tie the squares together. Instead, Deb Stortz just made sure colors of paper squares were equally distributed and then hung in a quilt pattern. The finished quilt is shown below.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Displaying Student Work

The English teachers have increased their efforts this semester to display student work in the classrooms and the hallways. Through a Parent Council grant we received large rolls of construction paper and bulletin board strips for the halls. The big paper is great for group work and carousel brainstorming activities.

The teachers have noticed that when students realize that the work may be displayed in the hallway, they take greater pride in their products. And we often find students from other classes checking out the assignments. Overall, displaying student work has helped us with classroom management and building relationships with students.

Idealistic Leader Traits

KC West has been using the idealistic leader traits as community builders in her English 10 classroom. Each week she has presented a different trait and students have worked on defining the traits, either with a circle map or an A to Z taxonomy.

Not only have these discussions of idealist traits helped KC build relationships with her students, but also students have reported that they have used information from classroom discussions outside of class, even at job interviews.

The idealistic leader traits from Admission Possible are:

"Strive to be DELIGHTFUL!

ENERGIZE those in your presence.


CHALLENGE CYNICISM whenever you encounter it.

MOCCASIN the lives of others. Imagine life in someone else's moccasins.

Learn to be GRATEFUL.


Visit Admission Impossible for more information on the Idealistic Leader Traits.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Metacognitive Frames and Peer Support

KC West had great success having students explore a novel's characters and their motivations through metacognitive frames. The students found the frames engaging, and one student even commented, "These are fun--like Mad Libs."

KC was pleased with the assignment because is was naturally differentiated. One student could simply write a word in the blanks of the frames, while another student might write detailed phrases. All students could successfully showcase something that they new about the characters in the novel.

KC's Enriched English 10 students were analyzing the characters in Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, and here are the frames that students used:

Blevins is a ________ who __________.

Above all else, Rawlins wants ___________, and so he _________________.

John Grady values ______________, so he ________________.

I was so impressed with the student work that KC displayed after this exercise, that I tried a metacognitive frame in my World Literature class this week. As a priming activity for Shakespeare's Othello, I had students complete the following frame:

Relationship Advice

The important thing to know is that __________ screws up a relationship because ______________. When this happens, I feel ____________ and ____________. Therefore, to prevent this relationship obstacle I __________________.

After students completed the frame with their own ideas, I had them complete a second frame from another person's point of view. I used the peer support strategy where students chose a laminated picture of a famous person and then wrote their relationship advice on a speaking bubble. Since I wanted to give each hour the chance to use some of their favorite stars, I simply taped the frame bubbles to a "relationship advice" poster after the end of each hour.

During the gallery walk to read all of the famous people bubbles, students commented that they enjoyed the activity and hope we use the famous people more often. I wanted to introduce peer support with the Othello unit because I feel that the class will be able to have richer discussions about the racial issues that arise in the play when the feelings can be coming from Hilary Duff, OJ Simpson, Patrick Dempsey, Britney Spears, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Oprah, Barack Obama, Dennis Rodman, etc.

More information on metacognitive frames can be found in Writing as Learning by Andrew Rothstein, Evelyn Rothstein and Gerald Lauber.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who What When Where and How

The Who What When Where and How strategy engages students by tapping into youth culture and Hip Hop. Basically, students write a four-beat song to demonstrate their thinking on a particular topic.

Chorus: (all students sing)

Who, What, When, Where and How
Who, What, When, Where and How

Verse: (individuals or groups of students sing--see sample below)

In World Literature I employed this strategy to make their setting brace map come to life. Student groups were assigned a setting in The Handmaid’s Tale. They dissected the setting description to come up with people (cast), props (objects) and infrastructure (scenery). Those were the main brace map parts, and students dissected those main parts into the sub-parts of concrete nouns that would appear in those areas of the brace map if they were directing a play of the book.

From the brace map students easily wrote the Who What When Where and How song. Here’s an example of a verse hanging on my student Hall of Fame from The Handmaid’s Tale for Offred’s bedroom.

WHO: Offred Alone
WHAT: She lives simply
WHEN: Most of the time
WHERE: A Tiny Room
HOW: Forced to Remain

Each line has four beats. I lined up a singing volunteer from each group in front of the room so that the students could sing the story. The entire class sang the chorus between each verse. The chorus is just Who, what, when, where and how repeated twice. The entire class also did a call and response, calling out who, and letting the appropriate singer answer.

This day was met with mixed reviews from "one of the best classes ever" to "I am not going to sing."

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Bubble Map Was Just the Beginning

A recent American Literature assessment involved students using a bubble map as the first step of a character analysis assignment. The assessment extended the student's thinking beyond the bubble map to first a creative product and then to a written reflection.

Here is the description of the assessment from the student direction sheet:

Goals of the assessment:
  • To demonstrate a sophisticated, in-depth understanding of the relationship between character motivation and themes in The Great Gatsby.
  • To apply contemporary modes of expression to this novel of the 1920s.
  • To flex your creative muscles. This is your opportunity to express your ideas in a creative format.

Final Work Product:

You will create either character recipes, Facebook pages, postcard secrets, or web logs for three of the main characters in The Great Gatsby. Your creative representations of the characters should reflect in-depth analysis of each character’s development throughout the course of the novel. Consider how these characters have or have not achieved the American Dream. Make sure you do not focus all of your efforts on creativity at the expense of meaningful analysis.

You must complete the following pre-writing preparation:
  1. Select three main characters from The Great Gatsby.
  2. For each character, create a bubble map with at least 10 adjectives that describe your character. Consider social, emotional, psychological and physical aspects of the character.
  3. In the frame, for each adjective, provide a description of events or forces from the text that help to shape the character. Include at least 5 direct passages from the novel. For longer passages you may cite the beginning phrase and last phrase of the passage along with the page number.

Next, choose one of the following options for a final product:

Option 1: Character Recipe Cards

Writing the Recipe:
For each character, create a “recipe” that combines your character traits and bakes them into your character. The list of ingredients should include the character’s traits, and baking instructions should show how the plot events help shape the character. You must use at least 5 vivid, concrete verbs in baking instructions.

Revising: Stir. Add ingredients. Checks to make sure instructions are clear and in logical order. Stir some more and check appropriateness of verbs in baking instructions. Also, proofread recipe for spelling errors. Once you have it completely right, prepare your recipe for publication.

Write out the complete recipe on a 4 x 6 note card. Decorate the card with symbols and images appropriate for this character.

Sample Recipe: Tragic Romeo Rolls

1 cup passion
½ cup anger
5 tablespoons love
1 teaspoon regret
2 pints confusion
3 pinches of family feuding
¼ cup revenge
4 drops blood red food coloring

Gather all ingredients. Start with passion and love and mix family feuding deep into the middle of it. Beat until well blended. Heat the ½ cup of anger until it comes to a boil. Pour into the mixture. Next add the ¼ cup of revenge and stir until clumpy. Then stir confusion throughout the mixture. Pour into baking tins. Set oven at a searing 450 degrees. Bake overnight. After baking, top with seasoned regret, stain red with food coloring.

Result: One confused, and ultimately regretful, young lover.

Serves: Two wretched families who eventually learn to eat “Tragic Romeo Rolls” and “Passionate Juliet Cobbler” peacefully together.

Option 2: Facebook pages

For each character, create a Facebook page. As you create your page for each character, remember that you are trying to show your insights into this character’s development throughout the novel. Your page should portray an accurate overall representation of what this character would do, say, or think. What are the crucial conflicts and ethical dilemmas that this character faces?

Your pages need to show careful consideration of character motivation, relationships, and conflicts. Think about elements that will highlight personality well. Also think about appropriate symbolic images that you may wish to include.

Format these appropriately, either by creating the pages online and printing them or mimicking the format in your written work.

Option 3: Character Postcard secrets

Check out the website (Warning: There are some very provocative confessions on this website.) This is a website that allows real people to offer confessions and secrets anonymously. Your mission is to create a postcard secret for three of the main characters in The Great Gatsby. Each postcard must include images and text.
Here are the rules, as detailed on the Post Secret website: “Each secret can be a regret, hope, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, betrayal, desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything—as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.”

Create a 4 x 6 postcard but stick to one secret per card. Choose secrets that fit the characters as developed in the novel and that are appropriate for a classroom setting. Put your complete secret and image on one side of the postcard. Be brief, legible, and creative. On the back of each postcard, write a paragraph, from the perspective of the character, that explains how or why the confession of this secret is vital to your existence. Using passages from the novel would strengthen these paragraphs.

Option 4: Character Blogs

Create a blog that includes a dialogue among at least 3 of the main characters in The Great Gatsby. You should write from the first-person perspective of the characters. Your blog should include images and formatting that shows your understanding of deeper motivations and dilemmas.

Each character must offer at least two, 1-2 paragraph long entries to the blog. So, you will have at least six entries in your blog. You may pose different questions that relate to important issues throughout the book, or use the blog to allow a character to offer thoughts not revealed in Fitzgerald’s text. How might the characters react to current events of 2008?

Be creative; however, first and foremost, make sure that your entries are true to the characters’ motivations, actions, and language throughout the novel. Your blog entries may include direct passages from the text incorporated into the characters’ comments; make sure not to let these dominate the entries.

Written Reflection

Once you have created your items, you must also complete the following reflection on the creations:

Write a one to two page (typed, double-spaced) reflection that answers the following questions:
How does the creative creation for each character demonstrate an analytical perspective on the character? What thoughts or ideas are revealed through each creation? Connect these creations to specific aspects of the text, using examples and/or cited quotations as support. You may wish to consider themes revolving around the American dream, rebellion, or other significant ideas the novel raises.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thinking Maps for Independent Reading Project

Jim Hatten developed the following independent unit for students to complete outside of class for a book of their choosing.

Each quarter, English 10 students select one book to read outside of class. Though somewhat structured, the purpose of the outside reading project is to help students develop into independent readers by allowing them to choose a topic or title that is of interest to them.

During the quarter, students are expected to demonstrate proficiency at comprehension, interpretation, and evaluation of reading.

In Quarter 3 of English 10, the category for the outside reading project is a book that has won a significant publishing award such as the ALA, Caldecott Medal, the Pulitzer Prize, the ALA Alex Awards, and many, many others.

A parent must approve the book chosen by the student and needs to sign the cover to this packet signifying their approval and understanding of the project. Students complete projects spread throughout the quarter and hand them in on time or ahead of time to receive full credit.

The following Thinking Map assignments are part of the independent study. The descriptions have been taken right from the student assignment packet.

Circle Map Clue Search

Examine the book before reading and complete a circle map for their "clue search" for this pre-reading, prediction activity. Put the book's title in the middle of the circle map and define the book with words and phrases that you have found through examining the following possible sources of hints:

Cover illustration
Back cover/jacket
What others said
A quick glance at a few pages

In the frame of the circle map, write your predictions about the book.

Characterization Tree Map

Characterization is the process of conveying information about characters in a piece of fiction. Characters are usually presented through their actions, dialect, and thoughts, as well as by description. Characterization can regard a variety of aspects of a character, such as appearance, age, gender, educational level, vocation or occupation, financial status, marital status, social status, cultural background, hobbies, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, ambitions, motivations, personality, etc.

After reading one-fifth of your book, you should have a good idea of the development of the main character (or person of central focus in your non-fiction book). The author should be developing the main character – how he/she looks and acts. Complete a tree map using information from the first one-fifth of your book.

Four ways to learn about characters--Look carefully for quotations about the main character’s appearance and personality to collect on the tree map. Character development is done in four ways. The four branches of your tree map need to reflect the following four ways of character developement.

Narrator’s Description--The way the character is described by the narrator (what the author literally says about what a character is like);
Character’s words--what the character says to describe him/herself;
Character’s actions--what the character does (the actions and physical appearance of that character);
Other characters say--what other characters say or do to that character.

Cause/Effect Multi-Flow Map

Create a multi-flow map that analyzes the causes and effects of the central conflict in the book. The causes of the conflict are on the left, and the major effects of that conflict are on the right.

Double Bubble Comparison to Another Text

Using a double bubble map, compare and contrast your book, character or characters, events, issues, topics, motifs or theme to another book, movie, story, play or other work of literature.

--Jim Hatten, English 10

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Organizing Writing

Sarah Burgess submitted the following information about recent NUA strategies in her classroom.

My English 10 students are working on analytical essays based on their reading of Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. I differentiated the pre-writing process per my LINKS assignment this past month. After writing question papers and crafting thesis statements (that were differentiated per their ability levels), students were invited to select the type of outline they would most like to use. The choices included: a traditional written outline, an NUA thinking map (brace map), and a drawing for understanding outline (based on Linda Rief’s work).

Many students chose the brace map and completed their rough outlines of body paragraphs on large 11x17 sheets of paper. I was really pleased because those outlines are the easiest to share, and I was able to walk around with the thinking map outlines as models for other students.

In addition, I found that some students were using thinking maps as a brainstorming device before even beginning their outlines. Some were using bubble maps when trying to determine how they would characterize a particular sister. Others experimented with double bubble maps to compare two particular sisters in preparation for discussions of how they may have influenced each other.

One NUA strategy, “Read Draw Talk Write” technique, seems somewhat similar to the “drawing for understanding” outline that I have inserted below. Students have read the book, they are drawing their paper topics, they will talk me through the outline, and finally will write their papers.

I am also thinking about adding the 4-Square Writing graphic organizer as an outline option in the future. I like how this visual aid forces students to think about how their examples and supporting details relate to the topic.

--Sarah Burgess, English 10 Teacher

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pedagogical Flow Map

With the start of the second semester, I added a pedagogical flow map across the top of my white board so that students could track their progression through a unit and know where they were on the map each day. I made magnets that say "today" so that I can move those to the appropriate box of the pedagogical flow map each day. I can also write specifics on the white board about the area with the "today" arrow, basically making a flee map for the day's activities.
Some days involve more than one area. For example, the day displayed in the photo above has arrows pointing to both "concept development" and "skill development." Students were exploring the concepts that will develop into themes in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and students new to my classes this semester were developing their skills with Thinking Maps as they explored those concepts.
I reduced the pedagogical flow map to eight boxes by combining some areas so that it didn't appear too overwhelming for students. And practically, it now fits well across my white board. The eight boxes are concept development, vocab development, skill development, guided lesson, mediation & reflection, independent practice, review, and assessment. Since the unit will be working on vocab and concepts and reflecting throughout, I told students that the "Today" arrows would not be progressing exactly from one box to the next.
The pedagogical flow map is new this semester, but for the past two years I have kept a flow map for the daily agenda on the right side of my white board (see photo above). With the start of the semester I added just two simple magnets--a stop sign that says reflect and an arrow that says "We are here." Simply adding the arrow and moving it throughout the day allowed students to see that they were progressing through the day and allows them to know where they are at all times, even if they happen to daydream for a few minutes. My seniors were so impressed that I made magnets to keep them on track.
I hope that both flow maps will be a classroom management aid by helping students stay focused because they know what they are supposed to be doing at any given time. The pedagogical flow map also lets students know that I have a plan for each unit and that everything we do is connected and has a purpose.
Finally, the "reflect" stop sign reminds me and my students that their brains need a break throughout the daily agenda flow map. Yesterday, during 6th hour with my second semester seniors, I noticed that the noise level was picking up, so I moved the "reflect" stop sign to the middle of the white board and put the "We are here" arrow by it. Two minutes later, I simply moved the "We are here" arrow back to the appropriate place on the daily flow map. The students calmed down and got back to work. I couldn't believe how smoothly that worked.

Great Gatsby Introduction

Kristin Benson shared with me a few NUA strategies that she may use this week to introduce The Great Gatsby unit. Below are the ideas that she shared with her American Literature team.

I may use some of Rob’s quotes from the paper, write them on newsprint and have kids circulate around the room with them. I’ll ask kids to write a few sentences about the one quote that resonates with them. (Moving Quotes strategy)

Then I think I’ll do a circle frame map on the American Dream and ask kids to generate a 1-2 sentence definition after they've completed their circle map . Once they have their definitions I’ll ask them to draw a picture that is symbolic of their understanding of the American Dream. We can then post some of these.

For some background on the 1920’s/ Fitzgerald/ Gatsby: I think I’ll lecture a bit on Monday and then we’ll develop individually and as a class an A to Z taxonomy for this background information to review what they learned from the lecture.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thinking Maps and Drama

This past semester English 10 teachers used Thinking Maps to help students with their reading comprehension in the two plays studied--Arthur Miller's All My Sons and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

One successful comprehension check involved students completing a multi-flow map at the end of each act of All of My Sons. Students analysed the causes and effects of the main conflict of each act and were able to build the next act's multi-flow onto the previous one. In other words, the effects of Act 1's conflict became the causes for the conflict in Act 2. This compound multi-flow is similar to the change over time continuous multi-flow that works for analyzing historical events.

The English 10 Shakespeare unit was shortened this year to fit into the 12 days between winter break and the end of the semester, so teachers did not have the time to repeat the continuous multi-flow process with Much Ado About Nothing. However, when I teach Othello this spring with my seniors in World Literature, I will have the students create the continuous multi-flow so that they see how the dramatic structure builds in Shakespeare. Traditionally, I have taught Shakespeare with the triangle dramatic structure of exposition (Act 1), rising action (Act 2), climax (Act 3), falling action (Act 4), and resolution (Act 5). With the continuous multi-flow, I will still be able to use those dramatic structure terms by labeling the appropriate section of the multi-flow map.

My hope is that students will see how Shakespeare builds his drama from one act to the next. The multi-flow map is also a great tool for discussing themes, so students should be able to see how Shakespeare's theme development is closely tied to the dramatic structure.

Logistically, I will have students build the continuous multi-flow in their notebooks and as a whole class on long sheets of construction paper. Since I teach three sections of World Literature, I will be able to roll up those sheets after each hour and un-roll the next hour's multi-flow.

The bubble map has also been used successfully with both English 10 dramas this year. Students were able to describe characters and find textual support for their adjectives. Sarah Jarrett recently used the bubble map as an assessment after Act 2 of Much Ado About Nothing, and here's her reflection on the assignment:

"The character bubble map assessment worked very well with my
sophomores. They were focused, were forced to work specifically with the
text, and came up with some great descriptors for the characters. I also
think it helped them feel more confident about their knowledge of the