Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Adolescent Literacy in the Content Area

Goal-directed Instructional Design Plan - Adolescent Literacy in the Content Areas
Author - Melissa Brooks-Yip

  1. A problem or a need
With Common Core State Standards requiring literacy in all content areas, teachers will
need to solidify their understanding of disciplinary literacy and reading for understanding.

  1. A real-world performance
Teachers will be aware of, understand, include in their lesson plan, and implement one or more learning objectives of the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.

  1. An instructional objective
-Teachers will read and understand the Common Core State Standards for literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.
-Teachers will solidify their understanding of the “Big Five” of adolescent literacy.
-Teachers will create a lesson plan to incorporate one a reading, writing, speaking, or listening strategy into their content area literacy.

  1. A set of essential content
Teachers may need to read/review the elements of adolescent literacy in the content area through research articles available online, and other online resources.
Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practice
Reading in the Disciplines
Webcast on Adolescent Literacy
The role of content area teachers in literacy
Content area teachers share tips on literacy instruction

Review of professional development sessions on adolescent literacy:
Comprehension 2
Engagement and Motivation
Text Dependent Questions
After reading the articles, webcasts, and reviewing the professional development presentations, teachers will create their own lesson plan incorporating one of the elements into a lesson in their content area.

  1. An evaluation consisting of a test or observation
-Teachers may submit their final lesson plan to our Companion Wikispace.  The lesson plan must be in the Backwards Design model (Wiggins and McTighe) format and focus on incorporating one of the five elements of adolescent literacy into their content areas, and meeting at least one CCSS.
-Teachers may deliver the lesson to their students and video tape the teaching.  A follow-up lesson will be to watch and reflect upon the lesson with their TLT partner (Teachers Learning Together).

  1. A method to help participants learn – the method to deliver the content; a lesson.
In addition to meeting with me personally after reviewing our past professional development sessions as outlined above, teachers may use the following resources for ideas and examples: Classroom Strategies

  • Motivation:
    • Meaningfullness –
      This lesson and activity begins to meet the CCSS expectations for teachers to incorporate literacy in the content areas.  Administrators look for this upon teacher evaluation.

  • Pleasant consequences –
    Knowledge of meeting teaching objectives, CCSS, and the needs of their students as learners.

  • Novelty –
    Several online resources are available: Blogs, videos, and example plans, in addition to face-to-face time with myself (literacy consultant/instructional coach) and a peer/fellow teachers.

  • Socialization -
Teachers work with their TLT partner, formerly arranged through work Kevin Feldman training around student engagement and motivation.  These partners frequently work together on plannig and observing each others teaching.  Trust has been built between these teaching partners.

  • Audience
    • Secondary content area teachers
    • Prerequisite knowledge (including technology background): Teachers will need to know basic lesson plan design, and how to access our past professional development on our Blog and Wikispace.

  • Technology Needs
  • Teachers may use the PC with internet access available in their classrooms.

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    Parent Teacher Conference Resources

    Sharing Data with Families

    To share, or not to share?  Choice Literacy has advice on if, when, what, and how to share data with parents, and it isn't just from standardized tests or screeners, but your own classroom data.

    Parent Guides to Student Success

    I sent this out last year, but thought it was worth repeating as conferences come next week. The National PTA provides Parent Guides to Student Success and education on the CCSS.  To download and print these PDF files in color or black and white, see their website.   This is for all grades.

    Reading Resources

    If you are looking for ideas to share literacy resources and opportunities with parents at conferences, Reading Rockets has materials to create Reading Adventure Packs.

     Teen Read Week is THIS WEEK.  The third full week of October marks Teen Read Week. Encourage teens to read for the fun of it and access the library for magazines, e-books, audiobooks. There will be special event aimed at teens in libraries this week.

    There's an App for That!

    Trading Cards

    ReadWriteThink's Trading Card App helps kids in grades 3-8 share understanding of topics, study for  school, and create their own fictional characters. 

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Professional Development Reminders for October!

    MCTE Fall Conference 2012

    Policy, Practice, and Power: Upholding Our Convictions in Demanding Times

    October 19, 2012

    Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
    Michigan State University

    East Lansing, Michigan


    Jim Burke – teacher and author of almost twenty books, including The English Teacher's Companion: A Complete Guide to Classroom, Curriculum, and the Profession and What's the Big Idea? Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking.

    Dr. Anne Ruggles Gere, Professor of English, Professor of Education, President of The James R. Squire Office of Policy Research in the English Language Arts, Director of the Sweetland Writing Center at the University of Michigan, and author of Writing on Demand: Best Practices and Strategies for Success.

    • The challenges of differentiating instruction in your classroom.
    • How best to address issues of diversity, identity, and social justice in the classroom
    • How best to guide students toward critical, multi-faceted views of the English Language Arts.
    • Creating engaging lessons while attending to Michigan Content Standards and/or Common Core Standards Ways you and your colleagues are working out the new core content standards to improve education.
    • Young Adult and Children’s Literature.
    • The implications of Web 2.0 and/or incorporating New Media into the classroom.

    Register at

    2012 MSU College of Education Technology Conference

         The 29th Annual MSU College of Education Technology conference will be held on October 27th, 2012 on the campus of Michigan State University in Erickson Hall from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm.  The theme of this year’s conference is open and networked education. This year’s conference will be FREE OF CHARGE to all attendees, but you will need to register on the site.

     Ingham ISD

    As always, check the Ingham ISD site for their October offerings related to literacy, math, RtI, and special topics of interest and importance to you.

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Creating Text Dependent Questions

    A Guide to Creating Text Dependent Questions for Close Analytic Reading


      Text Dependent Questions: What Are They?

    The Common Core State Standards for reading strongly focus on students gathering evidence, knowledge, and insight from what they read. Eighty to ninety percent of the Reading Standards in each grade require text dependent analysis; accordingly, aligned curriculum materials should have a similar percentage of text dependent questions.

    As the name suggests, a text dependent question specifically asks a question that can only be answered by referring explicitly back to the text being read.  It does not rely on any particular background information extraneous to the text nor depend on students having other experiences or knowledge; instead it privileges the text itself and what students can extract from what is before them. 

    For example, in a close analytic reading of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” the following would NOT be text dependent questions:

    ·         Why did the North fight the civil war?
    ·         Have you ever been to a funeral or gravesite?
    ·         Lincoln says that the nation is dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” Why is equality an important value to promote?

    The overarching problem with these questions is that they require no familiarity at all with Lincoln’s speech in order to answer them. Responding to these sorts of questions instead requires students to go outside the text. Such questions can be tempting to ask because they are likely to get students talking, but they take students away from considering the actual point Lincoln is making.  They seek to elicit a personal or general response that relies on individual experience and opinion, and answering them will not move students closer to understanding the text of the “Gettysburg Address.”

    *Good text dependent questions will often linger over specific phrases and sentences to ensure careful comprehension of the text—they help students see something worthwhile that they would not have seen on a more cursory reading.  Typical text dependent questions ask students to perform one or more of the following tasks:

    • ·         Analyze paragraphs on a sentence by sentence basis and sentences on a word by word basis to determine the role played by individual paragraphs, sentences, phrases, or words
    • ·         Investigate how meaning can be altered by changing key words and why an author may have chosen one word over another
    • ·         Probe each argument in persuasive text, each idea in informational text, each key detail in literary text, and observe how these build to a whole
    • ·         Examine how shifts in the direction of an argument or explanation are achieved and the impact of those shifts
    • ·         Question why authors choose to begin and end when they do
    • ·         Note and assess patterns of writing and what they achieve
    • ·         Consider what the text leaves uncertain or unstated

    Creating Text-Dependent Questions for Close Analytic Reading of Texts

         An effective set of text dependent questions delves systematically into a text to guide students in extracting the key meanings or ideas found there.  They typically begin by exploring specific words, details, and arguments and then moves on to examine the impact of those specifics on the text as a whole.  Along the way they target academic vocabulary and specific sentence structures as critical focus points for gaining comprehension. 
         While there is no set process for generating a complete and coherent body of text dependent questions for a text, the following process is a good guide that can serve to generate a core series of questions for close reading of any given text. 

    Step One: Identify the Core Understandings and Key Ideas of the Text
    As in any good reverse engineering or “backwards design” process, teachers should start by identifying the key insights they want students to understand from the text—keeping one eye on the major points being made is crucial for fashioning an overarching set of successful questions and critical for creating an appropriate culminating assignment.

    Step Two: Start Small to Build Confidence
    The opening questions should be ones that help orientate students to the text and be sufficiently specific enough for them to answer so that they gain confidence to tackle more difficult questions later on.

    Step Three: Target Vocabulary and Text Structure
    Locate key text structures and the most powerful academic words in the text that are connected to the key ideas and understandings, and craft questions that illuminate these connections.

    Step Four: Tackle Tough Sections Head-on
    Find the sections of the text that will present the greatest difficulty and craft questions that support students in mastering these sections (these could be sections with difficult syntax, particularly dense information, and tricky transitions or places that offer a variety of possible inferences).

    Step Five: Create Coherent Sequences of Text Dependent Questions
    The sequence of questions should not be random but should build toward more coherent understanding and analysis to ensure that students learn to stay focused on the text to bring them to a gradual understanding of its meaning.

    Step Six: Identify the Standards That Are Being Addressed
    Take stock of what standards are being addressed in the series of questions and decide if any other standards are suited to being a focus for this text (forming additional questions that exercise those standards).

    Step Seven: Create the Culminating Assessment
    Develop a culminating activity around the key ideas or understandings identified earlier that reflects (a) mastery of one or more of the standards, (b) involves writing, and (c) is structured to be completed by students independently.

    **This is an interpretation and guide of Shift 4 of the Common Core State Standards.
        All material and commentary is from the authors of, also found on

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Student Motivation and Engagement

         In August, Kevin Feldman spoke to 7-12 teachers about how to keep students motivated and engaged with classroom texts and discussions. Research on these topics in professional journals has been prevalent the last few years.   I've taken two well circulated articles and summarized here for you.  
        The following is from Best Practices in Motivating Students to Read by John T. Guthrie, 2011 and Seven Rules of Engagement by Linda Gambrell, 2011. You will find the Gambrell article on our Companion Wikispace.

    What is recommended to keep students motivated and engaged? 


    The most widespread recommendation for motivation is providing choices.
    These can be mini-choices, which empower students to increase their investment in learning. When appropriate, students could do one of the following in every lesson:

    1. Select a story (or text)
    2. Select a page to read.
    3. Select sentences to explain.
    4. Identify a goal for the day.
    5. Choose three of five questions to answer.
    6. Write questions for a partner exchange.


    Collaboration is not a social break from learning, or an open discussion, but a scaffolded process of cumulative contributions based on reading about a topic.  Students can make claims about a text, add to each other’s interpretations, raise clarifying questions, and attempt to synthesize their own brainstorming.  
    Collaboration can occur in every lesson as a broad plan or a brief event.

    Each lesson could include one of the following:
    1. Have partners read aloud together.
    2. Partners exchange questions to answer over text.
    3. Team summarizes a chapter.
    4. Literature circles.
    5. Collaborative reasoning
    6. Organize a jigsaw.
    7. Set up peer editing about text.

    Emphasizing Importance

    Valuing literacy is the motivational process we attempt to facilitate with the practice of emphasizing importance.  Students need to see how the text helped them speak effectively with their peers or write effectively.
    For each lesson, you can ask students to show the importance of reading:
    1.      Identify the portion of text they used to answer a question.
    2.      Identify a text that enabled them to explain a concept in informational text.
    3.      Compare what they learned from a text versus what they learned from a video on a topic (simple Venn Diagram).
    4.      Contrast the content they learned from reading, writing, or discussing a lesson.
    5.      Explain how the content of text could help them in an out-of-school situation (Why do I need to know this?)

    Real World Materials

     When it is possible to bring real-world media into classroom instruction, the text becomes relevant. For example: a newspaper article on civil rights to social studies class when studying this topic, pamphlets, creating a Buffet Table of Text for your content area.

    Monday, October 1, 2012


     Literacy and Technology 

    iPads in the Classroom:

    I'm excited to see more and more iPads in classrooms this year at every level!  I'm always looking for effective ways to use iPads in education, particularly related to literacy. 

     The September Issue of The Reading Teacher, a publication of the International Reading Association, featured a study on the use of iPads for literacy in the classroom. 
    **Even if you don't read the whole article, check out the apps mentioned in one of the text boxes.

         The goal of this investigation was to explore how a  teacher could integrate iPads into her literacy instruction to simultaneously teach print-based and digital literacy goals. The teacher used iPads for a three-week period during her literacy instruction and selected apps that provided unique approaches to helping the students meet their literacy learning goals.
         An explanation of how to develop lessons that meaningfully integrate iPads is presented, as well as lessons learned from the project. Considerations for integrating tablets, such as the iPad, into literacy instruction are provided.
    Because iPads and similar tablets are relatively unexplored as tools for literacy learning, this work may provide a foundation for teachers and leaders making decisions about whether mobile devices such as these can be useful in literacy classrooms.

    Apps to Check Out
    Book Retriever:   This app is from the Classroom Library Company for managing book borrowing between students, teachers, and parents. 

     Find the best books and media for teens, as selected by library staff and educators across the United States! Search for books by title, author, genre, award, or list; create a reading list with the favorites button; share what you’re reading on Facebook and Twitter; and find a copy of the book in your local library, all from one screen!

    YALSA's App of the Week:  Check out the blog of the Young Adult Library Services Association for weekly apps focusing on literacy, science, math, and staying organized as teachers and students. 

    2012 MSU College of Education Technology Conference
    The 29th Annual MSU College of Education Technology conference will be held on October 27th, 2012 on the campus of Michigan State University in Erickson Hall from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm.  The theme of this year’s conference is open and networked education. This year’s conference will be FREE OF CHARGE to all attendees, but you will need to register on the site.