Last week in our 8th grade classes, we chose to focus on finding the central idea in an informational text and how it develops over the course of a text, along with "analyzing how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events". My teaching partners and I were thoughtful about the texts we chose and how to model the thinking for this work. We used the gradual release model and workshop structure to help students think about informational text. (We used Newsela for relevant, accessible text - a fantastic website for educators.) At the end of the week, the students took an assessment, which did not go as we had anticipated. By the end of third period, we knew that our assessment would be a practice grade and that we needed to rethink the work we did with the target standards.
This week we attacked the same standards but in a different way. First, we were honored to have Kylene Beers and Bob Probst speak at the Dublin Literacy Conference in our backyard on Saturday, February 20th. Multiple times throughout their presentation, Amber and I looked at each other and said, "We have to try that this week!" We utilized the three after-reading questions that Beers and Probst presented:
1. What surprised me?
2. What did the author think I already knew?
3. What changed/challenged/confirmed what I knew?
This strategy has been a great way for students to engage with an informational text. Next, we created scaffolds within a discussion guide to help students reread and think closely about a text. The conversations that we have heard and been a part of this week are uplifting - text-based, thoughtful talk about texts. The students seem to feel more comfortable determining the central idea of a text and how it is developed throughout an article; moreover, they seem much more confident about how people's opinions about an issue are alike or different.
I am incredibly glad that we chose a "do-over". Often teachers feel so rushed to get through the content and standards that real learning suffers. I feel better about myself as a teacher and a learner this week. I also believe that my students are better equipped to tackle informational text and to really get to the heart of the central idea and/or connections or distinctions of people, events or ideas in rigorous texts. I know this won't be my last "Oh my goodness! What did I do wrong?" moment as a teacher, but I am ok with that. No one does everything right all the time. I am just glad that my students seem more confident in their learning and themselves !