Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Step 2- improving classroom literacy

Returning from our winter break, I have been thinking off and on about how I would reignite or engage my students.  Research into deliberate literacy practices has made it very clear to me that I need to spend class time reviewing, modeling rethinking and providing comprehensive uses of vocabulary terms in difference settings. Before break, students had learned two concepts- Blitzkrieg and appeasement.  Blitzkrieg was easily recalled.  I didn't do this but I could have had them share outloud food items that were blitzed over the weekend. Or I could have read about another battle of WWII and asked them if a blitz strategy was used or not. I could have asked them to explain why or why not.  Instead I skipped ahead to the tougher term: appeasement. (I'm going to remind myself to use blitz in this fashion in our Cold War unit.)

 In my literacy readings based on:
Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: robust vocabulary instruction. New  
    York: Guilford Press. 
Birsh, J. R. (1999). Multisensory teaching of basic language skills. Baltimore, Md.: P.H. Brookes Pub. Co..
Helman, L. (2009). Words their way with English learners. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education.

It is important to have a teaching plan or lesson that emphasizes: activation of prior knowledge, fluency and familiarity, use of a term in different texts for building comprehension, take home work or class and independent uses.  Just as there are numerals opportunities for learning there are numerous opportunities for misdirection, non directive, general contexts without progress towards deeper understanding.  To prevent this I now know that students:

Must read enough text to encounter lots of words
Must read text of difficulty to include words unfamiliar
Skills to infer word meaning from context they read.

Here is a 5 day model for younger students. I have modified it to fit my high school students' needs.  This year, the time I spent in several second grade classrooms as a parent volunteer and reading mentor gave me an "aha" idea. I noticed that students were engaged when they were directed to daily routines. Routines were posted for all to see in several locations in the room. There was room for self direction, teacher instruction and small group instruction. Because the routines were simple and easy to follow, it was easy for classroom teachers to receive help from volunteers either on a one time basis or a weekly basis. With routines for teach instruction built around student self directed learning, classroom management issues can be maintained and small group or instructional pullout, intervention can be scheduled. Therefore, even though I have tons of work to do as a class room teacher, I can still emphasize improved attention to vocabulary without changing my teaching or my values about education.

Appeasement was assessed in our test, but I reviewed it again. I shied away from directly using the test questions but now, if I had to write this lesson for next year, I would have posted the test question and built up some positive incentives for trying to get this question right when they took the test for the  second or third time.    I suddenly remembered that Read Across America promotes Dr. Seuss' birthday. And I remembered that Seuss was actively working to not only build better readers but better citizens by creating government funded propaganda, creating children's stories to directly prmote negative messages about fascism but he was controversial. These three sites plus the 2 Seuss books found in the high school library were helpful:

  • Seuss & WWII not certain about how I will address controversy- Dr. Seuss' racist stereotype of Japanese.  but I am having students study the famous Supreme Court Case- Korematsu v. US.

  • Independent Lense- but doesn't deal with his racial stereotypes of Japanese

  • WWII museum site

Student recall and use of new vocabulary can not rely on contact with context alone. Students need to actively engage with the concepts found in the cartoons and then they need to learn how to critique a cartoon.  Critique should end with students creating something equally as thoughtful or better. 5 days into the second study of WWII, students would create propaganda or cartoons, similar to Seuss, but changing the course of racism and prejudice.

Here is my schedule for the first day of teaching WWII- part 2:
Day of week
lesson activities
Comments/ point value
Day 1
Collect info
Read & reflection   Dr. Seuss- Yertle the Turtle- read aloud. (wish I had 4 books- for small group readings) (Butter Battle Book, Horton Hears a Who)
p. 685- Italy invades Ethiopia-  (was this a Blitzkrieg?)
Japan built an empire invading Manchuria- so what? Cost/benefit of knowing why this is important.
Review vocab: fascism, appeasement, blitzkrieg, communism
Pg. 685- Hitler was a fervent anticommunist and an admirer of Mussolini

Put El Alamein on a map of North Africa- why this was strategic? Why wasn’t it a Blitzkrieg?
Take WWI test- computer lab.

Exit Poll:  review Dr. Seuss cartoons (individual) - what did he exaggerate? Why? What symbols were used?
Do you like his cartoon? What point does he make?

1 2 3 4 5
How did you do?

What did you miss?
What will you work on?


I taught new concepts while reviewing old ones. I used sentences and illustrated text pages to help students see our studies in context. I modeled notetaking on the italicized excerpts.
Day two & three: Blitzkrieg was important. It challenged the rules of war.  What other battles are in our text book.  What makes them important to study? How do we rank them, which ones do we not need to study? (study DDay- study 2 points of view of the battle, study Pearl Harbor, El Alamein) put on maps.  Watch more interviews about the war:  study podcast interviews. Choose 3 questions you can answer in regards to your new knowledge of WWII.

Day 4
Read/ Infer
Complex thinking

Read & sketch-  pg  713. How did war define peoples’ identity?
Homefront- war reshapes America pg. 728.  (riots, internment, Bracero, women)
Review Seuss cartoons- racism apparent- What could you do to combat racism & prejudice? See new apps or draw on paper- 
Class  study- What kind of sacrifices does war require? skim as a class–pg 714- 721- 
Guided questions- use guided questions to interview each other. Practice and then use iPads. 
or- start new WWII test. 

Exit:  should women serve in combat- yes/ no- reasoning   hw: read to someone! Women in combat.

1 2 3 4

Total: 10.

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