What To Do When Students Face Roadblocks

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At one point or another, we’ve all asked students to read a paragraph or two independently and been baffled by some students’ struggle to summarize what they’ve read. Students struggle with this skill for a variety of reasons, but one common roadblock to comprehension is often students’ limited academic vocabulary.

What research tells us about vocabulary instruction is that providing students with a list of words to reference or memorize is not a solution to this common struggle; it is merely a band-aid.

In order to empower our students to endure and surmount vocabulary-based challenges, content-area teachers must model strategies for attacking unknown words and phrases. Teaching students to not only identify their roadblocks, but to engage with the word or phrase systematically, provides students with a transferable skill.

Try modeling (and asking students to model) use of these strategies for solving unknown words or phrases:

  • Break the word down into parts (prefix, suffix, root word)
  • Connect to prior knowledge about word parts
  • Reread and read beyond the unknown, looking for clues
  • Make a prediction about the word’s meaning and plug it into the sentence
  • Reread the sentence to confirm that the predicted meaning make sense
  • As a LAST RESORT, look up the meaning of a word

This list makes a great classroom poster to be referenced each time students encounter unknown words/phrases that act as roadblocks to their comprehension.

So the next time you ask students to read a bit on their own, start the post-reading discussion with: “What roadblocks or unknown words did you encounter?” and be sure to reference your strategies poster as you work with students to uncover the word’s meaning!


Notice for AOL Email Accounts

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Dear Parents,

If you are an AOL email user, please be aware that you may not receive email notifications due to AOL policies. We are working to resolve this issue with AOL.

Thank you for your patience while we work with AOL to make sure you get classroom notifications from your teacher.

Sincerely,

Technology Department


Moving Toward Close Reading in Content-Area Classrooms: Where Do I Start?

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For many content-area teachers, teaching”reading” is a challenging charge. We’ve spent much of our practice using texts as a vehicle through which content knowledge is built. The acceptance that, for many of our students, that “vehicle” is not accessible, can leave us a bit baffled about how to proceed.

One small first step in helping student access texts in our content-areas is to simply change our pacing and questioning. Assign students one paragraph at a time to read in class instead of a section. When students finish reading, first ask, “What roadblocks did you encounter? Where did you get struck or have to slow down? What still doesn’t make sense?” Then open the answering of those questions to the class or coach students through a process to find meaning in a word or phrase.

In seeking first to clarify smaller chunks of text, we enable more students to unlock key ideas, we begin to anticipate the struggles our students face, and we build a safety and system of support that will ultimately enable us to go farther faster.


Building on Students’ Schema

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Secondary teachers across the district are using routines like L.I.N.K. and R.A.N. to mobilize students’ schema prior to diving into a text. The power of these pre-reading routines lies in their ability to link text to students’ prior knowledge and to enable students to revise their schema.

Next week teachers will engage in classroom visits to see L.I.N.K. in progress.

LINK Poster


Hearing All Voices: How Asking the Right Questions Can Increase Safety and Participation

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A major goal of building the social dimension in our classrooms is to increase student participation. One way to do this is through inviting questions. Questions like:

  • What did you notice about this text?
  • Why did that stand out to you? Why did you notice that?
  • What is a roadblock you encountered?
  • What questions did you have while you were reading?
  • Where did the text get tricky?
  • So how did this (the reading) go?

These questions work well when you have first provided students with time to silently read a passage from the text and to pair/share their confusions and understandings. This is a great time to call on those students who rarely volunteer because although you are putting them on the spot, there are no wrong answers; it is safe.  You could even ask students to share what their partner has said as both a means of ensuring engagement and of building safety. It’s amazing to hear how rich the conversation gets when you begin with what students don’t know!


Inside the Common Core Classroom

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No doubt you’ve spent time reading and deconstructing the Common Core State Standards, and maybe even started aligning your assessments to them, but a big question now is what does it look like to teach the standards? AdLit offers a glimpse Inside the Common Core Classroom with professional development video modules for ELA and content area classroom teachers in grades 6-12.

Link: http://www.adlit.org/common_core/

Each module has a lesson, strategies, alignment to CCSS, reflection, and expert comments.


Hearing All Voices: How Asking the Right Questions Can Increase Safety and Participation

Posted on

A major goal of building the social dimension in our classrooms is to increase student participant. One way to do this is through inviting questions. Questions like:

  • What did you notice about this text?
  • Why did that stand out to you? Why did you notice that?
  • What is a roadblock you encountered?
  • What questions did you have while you were reading?
  • Where did the text get tricky?
  • So how did this (the reading) go?

These questions work well when you’ve given students time to silently reading a passage from the text and would like to start a conversation about their reading. This is a great time to call on those students who rarely volunteer because although you are putting them on the spot, there are no wrong answers; it is safe.  It’s amazing to hear how rich the conversation gets when you open it up to this level!


New Ideas for Reinforcing Classroom Norms

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One part of how we build the social dimension in our classrooms is by establishing norms or guidelines for student (and teacher) behavior. In a Reading Apprenticeship classroom, these norms are built as a class, with students leading the conversation about their needs from both peers and teachers in order to be academically successful. These teacher-facilitated conversations lead to norms posters that act as contracts, enabling everyone in the classroom to hold each other accountable for their behaviors. This process also means that each class we teach has its own, unique norms poster to guide students’ interactions. While we have the best intensions in creating these posters, often, I find that they get lost in the day to day operations of my classroom. Below are a few ideas that help to incorporate our norms into daily classroom routines:

  • Before beginning partner or group work, have each student choose a norm from the class poster to set as a personal goal, then give groups time to briefly share their goals and why they chose them.
  • Type up a copy of the classroom norms and give students time to reflect on their adherence to each norm through a Likert scale. Place a poster with a blank scale next to the classroom norms. Have students, over the course of the hour, come up and place a dot on the class scale, representing where they personally fall for each norm. At the end of the hour, you will have a great visual to help establish a whole-class goal for improving adherence to a norm.
  • Ask groups (especially those completing extended tasks) to discuss the classroom norms and chose one to set as a group goal. At the end of the project, have each group member reflect on his or her personal use of that norm.
  • Use the typed copy of the norms to have long-term groups rate their peers’ use of each norm as a part of their assessment of their team’s work
  • Ask students to write a reflection at the end of a unit or marking period about their adherence to the norms, and then open the conversation to editing/adding to the classroom poster!

What is Reading Apprenticeship?

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     Reading Apprenticeship is a professional development opportunity that serves educators in middle and high schools with a research-validated approach that promotes students’ engagement and achievement in subject area literacy.
      Three randomized controlled studies of Reading Apprenticeship professional development have found statistically significant gains on standardized tests in reading comprehension, biology, U.S. history, and English language arts. On many measures, students scores were well over a year ahead of the control students.
     The instructional routines and approaches embedded within Reading Apprenticeship are based on a framework that describes the classroom in terms of four interacting dimensions that support learning: Social, Personal, Cognitive, and Knowledge-Building. These four dimensions are woven into subject area teaching through the Metacognitive Conversation– conversations about the thinking processes students and teachers engage in as they read. The context in which this all takes place is Extensive Reading– increased in-class opportunities for students to practice reading in more skillful ways.
     Teachers using the Reading Apprenticeship framework regularly model disciplinary-specific literacy skills, help students build high-level comprehension strategies, engage students in building knowledge by making connections to background knowledge they already have, and provide ample guided, collaborative, and individual practice as an integral part of teaching their subject area curriculum.
     As a result, students develop the literacy competencies, subject area knowledge, and the learner dispositions they need– for school, college, careers, and life.