Get confused with all the Acronyms in Education? Me too. So, since we are working on our WASC document I made these posters to help me and the rest of my staff remember and refer to all of the acronyms we are thrown. It is our word wall (for teachers). When in education, you are always learning and word walls are research-based and work for everybody!
Always Running is a GREAT book to read with 11th or 12th grade Continuation School Students. My school is located close to the setting of this Los Angeles Coming of Age story. In Rodriquez' intro he states that this is the book that non-readers, read-I personally can confirm this is true. He also mentions that this is the most stolen book from libraries, I can attest to this too.
This memoir speaks to my students as they are able to compare themselves to the main character. although many of my students have not quite lived such a abused upbringing...some of my students have. This book is the perfect mix of high interest, medium - high text complexity, figurative language and imagery, and tons of opportunities for close readings.
A colleague and I decided to beef up our prior lesson plans and decided to include some Close Readings and a "Smarter Balance like" assessment of the close reading.
This was our first time, and we plan on tweaking a few things, but I thought it was worth sharing. We focused on the "The Long Run: New Introduction to Always Running" We felt that this gave a good overview of the Luis Rodriquez' writing style, intentions/audience, and the structure of the novel. Not only did it give students a taste of what to expect, but it explained the "why". Why it is an important story to write, why it is a necessary story to read, why this story is relevant to the world we live in today. Within these truths are beautiful metaphors, complex vocabulary and wonderful imagery that allows students to think and get buy-in...as if they needed extra buy-in, they were hooked in the first paragraph.
First we typed up important parts of the introduction for ourselves so we could write all over it. We needed a blank canvas to begin to really make a good lesson and unit plan. We highlighted key vocabulary and came up with a key concept. We bundled this concept with the documentary G-Dog, and since we are in Los Angeles we are lucky enough to take a field trip to Homeboys industries.
Key Concept: Adversity Essential Question: What does overcoming adversity look like?
Literary Elements we wanted to cover: writing style, figurative language, imagery, symbolism, repetition, citing evidence, and authors purpose
Direct Instruction Vocabulary for the Introduction: Adversity, thrive, accolades, insular-minded, nuance, transcendent.
View our Annotations and focus on Quotes from the Introduction. For students using a text book this can be done with Post-its, half sheet that refer back to paragraph numbers, or typing up of key paragraphs for students to write on. My close readings will be available on Teacherspayteachers.com really soon!
For more ideas on teaching Always Running I am going to post my lessons on Teacherspayteachers.com very soon! Stay tuned!
Every year the California Continuation Education Association Conference is always tons of fun, enlightening, and validating. This year's conference was focused on the Common Core. In this time of transition, state-wide collaboration is such a jem. The conference is a time that all of us alternative education staff can get together and share best practices, share struggles and get great ideas for the next school year especially with the transition to the Common Core.
This years conference had many take-aways, but a few really stuck with me. Some were directly from presentations, some from conversations, and all were reinforced throughout my time at the conference:
2. Be mindful
2. The Common Core is a chance for opportunity.
I am absolutely biased, but I believe that Continuation School Teachers are the most creative breed of teacher. Seeing and hearing the phenomenal lessons that were given to students, the higher level of thinking and learning that would be needed to achieve this high standards, and all the while scaffolding the assignments gave to ensure students of every level are able to succeed was simply amazing. This is an art, and my colleagues that presented had some of the most innovating lessons, programs, and tools that demonstrated this artistry.
Other Common Core take-aways are that the standards and the Smarter Balance assessments are not married. Most will agree that the standards are great; they allow for teachers to be creative, teach in-depth concepts and 21st Century Skills which are often difficult to assess, but this is new and creating assessments is an evolution...they get better through reflection which takes time. So separating those two concepts is essential.
3. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate!
This is so key, we are creating great work out there, but often in our unique settings there is little collaboration available. This is often due to single person departments, or teachers don't have a common class that they teach. It is my hopes, and really why I started this blog, to mend some of the distance and use technology to our advantage. We need to harvest material and make it our own. It is key to hear the outcomes that other teachers had, and what worked and what didn't work. It is never the same for anybody, or every class; but evolution and constantly making lessons better is key.
Again, the CCEA conference is my most anticipated event of the year because I get to be around new friends that know my students, understand my struggles, and are passionate about students and helping them overcome adversity.
In Continuation schools we find many students HATE writing essays, and that is pretty much the consensus I got at comprehensive schools as well; but, in my opinion essays are the gateway to student knowledge. That is to say essays or any writing for that matter, allow students the chance to really show what they know, and I like that.
At my school we have school-wide writing prompts that give us data on what we need to be teaching students in all of our classes, focused on writing. We stress the need for thesis statements because they are usually the answer to a prompt/ question/ performance task. So if they can answer that clearly, they usually got the concept and can write about it in more detail. Here is an example of the rubric we used. We found that it was essential to all be on the same page and have the same goal when grading the essay. Some key things we looked for were, clear and focused thesis statements, sentence variation, descriptive language, spelling and grammar errors, and paragraph sentence length. We had to put in paragraph sentence length because we found a wave students that thought that a line on a piece of paper was a sentence, rather than a complete sentence with a Capital letter to start the sentence, and a period to finish the complete sentence. I have found this is common amongst students that attend continuation schools, and something that we teach as soon as we get a new student. We also used this to grade a pass/ not passing grade. All not passing grades students would have to edit for a grade. To get buy-in to our writing prompt is an assignment, and if they don't pass they just make the necessary edits for credit. We feel that editing and refining is the best way our students can learn to be good writers.
Having a school wide writing prompt helped us move in the direction of the Common Core. It allowed all content area teachers see the writing expectations students were getting in the English classes, which allowed other content area teachers to practice looking for good writing so they could model those expectations in their classrooms. If you would like to use this in your class, you are welcome to use and edit this rubric as necessary. For the name blocked out Word Doc of this rubric click here
Here are the Annotation Posters I created to use in my Classroom. Make sure to download the Fictions chart! It is free. If you don't want to sign into TPT, just click here. Use this for all close reading lessons! You can make these low cost posters by printing them as engineer prints at any office supply store. Here is a link to Staples Engineer Print services.
At the conference I was able to purchase some life changing books! I was really excited when I bought them, and now I am even more excited to read them and get all of those key ideas out of them. First on my "To Read" list was The Literacy Cookbook by Sarah Tantillo. This book is a must read for any alternative ed teacher. In our positions, and with the common core, it is essential that we are teach literacy and writing in our classrooms. This book is a user friendly and comprehensive book on literacy that has great, easy, out of the box ideas that get students to mastery. The author, Sarah Tantillo, also offers its readers a 30 day free trial of her downloads page on her website. It looks like a huge database of various lessons, rubrics, skills and graphic organizers that she has created over time. Let's face it, as teachers we can use any "free" advice that will save us time. The books outlines comprehension (not the comprehension you got in your teacher preparation classes), but true comprehension and how to get students to comprehend various texts; Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and then gives great examples and strategies to approach assignments like Persuasive Writing, Test Prep, Document Based Questioning, Research papers, and teaching with novels across content areas. I particularly like her vocabulary assessment approach. Rather than asking students to match definitions or to write the definition, she suggests using types of assessments that were developed by Jessica Majerus in her writing "Bringing Words to Life" which uses a "Answer the Question" type assessment. The example given in the book says:
Answer the questions. Use your knowledge of our vocabulary to answer the following questions. (two points each).
Which of these do you think should be compulsory: buckling your seatbelt in a car or being in your house by 8:00pm? Why?
Right there you have a fair vocabulary question, and feedback. You can use this as a formative assessment, see how a student did and get a sense of their cognition when answering the questions. Did they forget the word and look at the root or suffix? Why did they think that? It this a re-teachable word?
Another example is to pick scenarios:
Word Scenario 1 Scenario 2
Interspersed I was so angry that my writing was mixed with invectives. I was so angry that my writing was made up completely of invectives
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The thing that I have learned about all common core assessments are more...they take longer to write, more time to make, more brain power (in my opinion), and our students will get more out of them. These two examples profusely changed my thinking and vocabulary assessment.
Again, these are only 2 things out of a book that has a ton of great ideas. I hope as I integrate more of these ideas into my lessons to share to share more!
For more info on The Literacy Cookbook, take a look at theliteracycookbook.com or check out the book on amazon.
This year's ASCD conference was like something I have never been to before! I got so many great ideas and things to bring back to my school site! I thought I would share a few of those things that any teacher could take away. I love Daniel Pinks books and was so happy to hear him speak in person. Russel Quaglia. was great, and I can't tell my site enough that we need the My Voice survey. I love data, and this really brings everything into fruition. It is so vital to always test the waters of a Alternative Education campus to make sure all learners feel safe and that they are in an atmosphere they can learn in. For more info. on the My Voice survey click here.