Tag Archives: Writing

Driving for Daily Rigor in the Humanities

We’re back in the swing of blog posting now, and with our exciting new Q4 Humanities Priorities, I am feeling an increased urgency to drive towards rigorous outcomes for our students in the home stretch of the year.

In fact, our #1 Priority for this quarter is:

STUDENTS ARE engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, aligned to a meaningful EOY assessment, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues BECAUSE TEACHERS ARE planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, are aligned to a meaningful EOY summative, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

This is particularly critical at this juncture of the year, since we are seeing only minor shifts in our students’ Engagement with Rigorous Content since the beginning of the third quarter (want more info on how this is determined? Check out my State of the Humanities blog post):

ERC

In this blog post, you’ll find the following three “launching pads” for increasing rigor in your classroom. I want to stress that these are beginning points, as they may inspire more questions and may not present direct solutions, but hopefully will simultaneously move you to innovate and use new ideas!

  1. The Rigor/Relevance Framework
  2. Using Your Summative
  3. Professional Development Suggestions

Okay! Let’s have it.

1. The Rigor/Relevance Framework

As I was researching for my Q3 Session “What is Creativity?“, I came across this new frameworkk that the International Center for Leadership in Education rolled out in 2014. Check out the main graphic below:
Framework

What I love about this framework is it actually expands and refines our understanding of what rigor actually is. In some ways, it helps us grasp what Grant Wiggins (co-author of the ever-important Understanding by Design) means by his definition of rigor:

To me, rigor has (at least) 3 aspects … learners must face a novel(-seeming) question, do something with an atypically high degree of precision and skill, and both invent and double-check the approach and result … The novel (or novel-seeming) aspect to the challenge typically means that there is some new context, look and feel, changed constraint, or other superficial oddness than what happened in prior instruction.

In essence, we reach higher levels of rigor not JUST by asking for more content knowledge, but by asking for the content skills and understandings to be applied in unfamiliar contexts and situations. Consequently, we can reach high levels of application (and engagement!) even on the first day of a unit when we drive for students to apply their thinking in real-world or unexpected situations, rather than just expecting them to engage in the content in isolated ways. The following flowchart may help explain this better:

Picture2

Want some examples of lesson plans and videos that drive towards these higher levels? Check ’em out below!

 2. Using Your Summative

Now that over 80% of us in the Humanities have at least a draft summative (check them out here!), we can really start using these meaningful End of Year measures of student academic progress to:

  1. Invest students in the idea that they will have an opportunity to show their growth on an End of Year assessment.
  2. Assessing the degree to which your students are prepared to meet this rigorous bar.
  3. Using those assessments and the Summative itself to plan rigorous, focused, and exciting lessons!

While more details on this are going to come with our “Working Towards an End” session (March 19th or March 31st), you can start thinking NOW about how exactly you can leverage the fact that you have a strong Summative to help your planning. Consider taking the following actions:

  • Start telling your students about what the Summative will cover, and why this will be an exciting testament to the progress they have made this year.
  • Start telling your students about how you planned your Sumnmative – what resources did you use? how does it align with your classroom vision?
  • Start breaking down the Summative: what knowledge, skills, and understandings about your content should your students have? Which of these do you feel you still need to teach? Which do you need to remediate? What do your students need to practice in order to be confident with the Summative?
  • Use your bell ringers and exit slips to familiarize your students with the structure and format and rigor of your Summative. Don’t feed them the questions directly off the Summative, but consider adapting the questions so they are relevant to the lessons you are teaching on the daily-level. Then, you can use the data you get from the exit slips (and weekly quizzes, if you like!) to consider further how you can support your students!
  • Start planning projects and performance tasks that help your students build confidence in thinking about the content in new contexts and with unpredictable outcomes. Doing so will help them feel like anything on the Summative – even if they haven’t seen it before – is approachable!

There is a LOT more you can do to support your students in this… Reach out to Jacob and/or your Content Leaders to start planning for higher rigor using your Summatives.

3. Professional Development Suggestions

Don’t be like the teacher above! Get your professional development around real priorities and by working with one another (albeit mostly by WebEx)… here are the PD offerings this quarter specifically aligned to our Priority 1 for Rigor.

Interested in one of these? Sign up here.

  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Writing Techniques for Students (03/17)
    • If you teach Social Studies, this session is EXCELLENT for collecting methods for keeping writing engaging and scaffolded for every student in your classroom.
  • Working Towards an End: Using Your Summative to Plan (03/19, 03/31)
    • This session, for all Humanities contents, is going to help you in using your Summative to create daily, rigorous plans starting the next day.
  • Culture and the Humanities: Planning for Rigor and Joy (03/23)
    • This session, planned in collaboration with our Culture of Achievement Specialist, will be an opportunity to consider how increasing rigor and culture in the classroom go hand-in-hand.

Have questions or comments? Contact Jacob or fire off in the comments section below!

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Annotating Unconventional Forms of Art by Shelby Goodfriend

For this week’s blog post, I invited the wonderful Shelby Goodfriend (MS and HS Art in Humphreys County) to share her thinking and planning for a recent art project. Not an Art teacher? Fear not! There is tons here to learn about analyzing primary documents, asking BIG questions, getting students excited to read and write, and more!
All of this, of course, is wonderfully aligned to our Priority 1:

Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

Without further ado… Here is Shelby’s post!

—-

January has the least amount of school days in the spring semester, and with Black History Month right around the corner, I knew I wanted to create a short unit for my students that would be interesting and get us off on the right track for the new semester!

I came up with the concept of teaching unconventional forms of art to my students. I knew that with this small unit I could teach some things that would really hook my students, like body art, but I could also utilize this time to teach them about poetry, therefore making my classroom a supplement to ELA.

I’ve utilized the Internet and found some really great plans and resources to teach poetry and art at the same time. The overall mini-unit can be broken down into four lessons, which should take a total of six days in the classroom.

After reading all the awesomeness below, check out Shelby’s Frida Kahlo PPT!

Lesson One (one day): Teaching Annotating through Art

Extended Bellringer:  On a projector, I had my students look at two of Frida Kahlo’s portraits (Retrato de Dona Rosita Morillo, 1994; Retrato de Natasha Gelman, 1943)

Images used for the Extended Bell Ringer

Students looked at the images for one minute and then had ten minutes to write. I thought this would be too much time but the students honestly utilized every minute.

The rules for writing were as follows:

  1. Write the entire time
  2. Do not share your ideas until time has expired
  3. Have fun, relax, there are no wrong answers!
  4. Write quickly without letting the ‘critic’ in you escape
  5. While using this picture, think of the following: Who is the person? Is she happy with her life? How can you tell? What was happening before the moment was captured? What is she thinking? What is she wishing for? Make sure the picture is helping to guide your decisions; for example, if the person is wearing a coat, you may infer that it is winter.
  6. Write an internal monologue, you shouldn’t write, “I am a seventeen-year-old girl who is sad. Right before the picture was taken, I was…” Use dialogue to convey the voice of the person in the portrait

After students finished writing, I had three students and asked them to support the decisions they made in their stories.

Lesson: I explained what annotation is, and how it is typically used in English classes. However, the activity we did for the bell ringer is a form of annotation through art. I found that at my school specifically, they taught students that annotation is use of symbols, which caused some problems, but we eventually got to the root of what annotation is.

Annotation aides in the close textual reading of a work, whether it be a poem, book or artwork.

In my class, students often dissect a piece of art with a bubble diagram before we talk about it so that they are looking at the piece before I tell them anything. This is something we started last August, if you’re unfamiliar with using bubble diagrams, look to this lesson: http://www.warhol.org/education/resourceslessons/Brillo–But-is-it-Art-/

Students were shown Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1949 on the projector

Frida 2

Students created their own bubble diagram in 6 minutes with the questions being:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you think it may mean?

After time was up, we came together and created one large diagram for the classroom.

Following this, I discussed the painting with the whole class, pulling out the symbols, asking them what they believed they meant and finally giving them what the critics believe the piece means.

Exit Ticket: I then showed 8 of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits for 30 seconds each and had the students choose their favorite.

Frida 3

Students selected their favorite, annotated it, and then wrote an analysis of the work, supporting their claims with reasoning and support from the painting.

Lesson Two (three days): Teaching Self-Actualization Skills through Art

Students are to create visual self-portraits about how they internally feel about themselves and their life, using Frida’s work as a model.

Students are to use a color symbolism chart when choosing the colors that they decide to use in their portrait.

Lesson Three (one day): Moving from Art to Poetry – Annotating Poetry

Students will utilize close reading strategies during this lesson.

I informed students that they are going to read a poem by a woman who wrote it specifically about the moment in her life that she was currently experiencing.

This should be tied back to Frida Kahlo and how she painted her self portraits according to how she felt at that exact moment..

First Read:

  • Students are to read and annotate the poem The Thirty-Eighth Year by Lucille Clifton
  • Student then should create a bubble diagram organizer for the poem.
  • Students will then work with a partner to talk about the text.

Second Read:

Third Read:

  • Students watch / listen as other students read and annotate on the white board

Fourth Read:

  • Students Reread to find answers and evidence

Questions: What message is conveyed through the voice of the speaker? What petic devices does the poet use to convey the message? What is the tone of the work? How does this relate to Frida Kahlo’s paintings?

Lesson Four: Personal Narrative Writing

  • Students look at their completed self portrait and use them as inspiration for a narrative poem about their lives
  • Students write a poem that captures who they are and where they are in their life journey. Students will use Lucille’s poem as a model.
  • Students share their poems as a class!

Identity Poem Assignment

Writing in Social Studies

EdWeek Student Writing Exemplars – Check out these exemplars of students writing towards the Common Core!

Writing Across the Curriculum – A variety of strategies for getting students to write, compiled by Michigan State!

Writing Across the Discipline – A compendium of strategies for planning, grading, and setting standards for student writing in Social Studies (specifically 8th grade)

200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing – A collection of great prompts that can get your kids thinking and making opinions!

Document Based Questions (DBQ) Resources

World Languages Vision For Content

Often, it is easy for us to look at the most complex reasonings and the hardest facts to explain why our work matters, and then get lost. Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois, Sandra Savignon, reminds us that the answer for why World Languages (WL) education matters is actually quite simple:

 Learning to speak another’s language means taking one’s place in the human community. It means reaching out to others across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Language is far more than a system to be explained. It is our most important link to the world around us. Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people.

Fundamentally, our students have the right to be a part of the larger human community as Savignon defines it. They deserve to bring their culture to others, and to experience new cultures in return. Perhaps more materialistically, as we consider our increasing need to compete – as individuals and as a nation – against international education and job markets, our students will require a WL education in order to be prepared and be genuinely competitive.

Developing Key Skills:

Research has found that the benefits of learning a WL in early childhood are significant and long-lasting. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in a WL education are often found to be at a disadvantage or completely lacking in the following life-long skills (for more, please see The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and “Why Bilinguals are Smarter”):

  • Cognitive and academic abilities.
  • Language sensitivity
  • Increased vocabulary
  • Reading and listening competencies
  • Problem solving and reasoning
  • Engagement and persistence
  • Improves understanding of  native language.
  • Communication skills
  • Social behavior
  • Cultural awareness
  • Native-like accents

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look at the numbers for how WL learning can affect future success:

  • Academic Success: According to a study of 13,200 fifth graders in Louisiana public schools, students who had taken WL classes performed better on the English section of the Louisiana Basic Skills Test than those who did not. This was true regardless of race, gender, or academic levels of the students (Dumas 1999).
  • College-Readiness: Students who have studied a WL consistently perform better than their peers who have not, including on all sections of the SAT. The 2007 College Bound Seniors report (issued by the College Board) showed that students with four or more years of WL study score on average 140 points higher (out of 800) in the Critical Reading section, almost 140 points higher in the Math section, and over 150 points higher in the Writing section, than students with half a year or less in WL education. In addition, Horn & Kojaku found in 2001 that students who took three years of WL in high school were likely to earn better grades in college and were less likely to drop out. In addition, students with a strong WL background could save thousands of dollars by testing out of required college courses, and prioritize valuable study abroad experiences.
  • College Applications: Competitive colleges are increasingly requiring several years of WL courses at the high school level from its applicants. Most colleges require at least two years, but Stanford is recommending three or more, and Harvard urges four. With WL experience from an early age, we increase the likelihood of their fluency and confidence with languages in the future.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has researched the job listings that their AP WL classes make more accessible to students. They list over 100 career paths ranging from Curators to Editors to Teachers to Public Health Workers to Sociologists. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, a WL education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

Despite these wide-spread, consistent findings that participation in a WL education is life-changing for all students, regardless of their background, we are not providing sufficient opportunities to engage in second language acquisition to all our students. In fact, Curtain & Dahlberg found as recently as 2004 that “children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds make the greatest proportionate achievement gains from foreign language study.”  Nonetheless, particularly in low-income and minority school districts, these courses of study are often lacking. In Connecticut, for instance, WL instruction is offered in only one quarter of all urban public schools compared to two-thirds of suburban private schools (for more, see “The Benefits of Foreign Language Studies” on the Connecticut Department of Education website). As of 2003, “29 percent of public school principals in heavily minority school districts anticipated future decreases in instructional time for foreign languages.”

In the past decade, however, interest and support for WL education has been energized by an increasing recognition of a dangerous reality: only two in ten Americans speak a language in addition to English. A report from the Council of Foreign Relations, titled “U.S. Education Reform and National Security”, states that this lack of preparedness can lead to struggles in “economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion.” Besides the disadvantages we are generating through a lack of WL provision on an individual and on a community level, we have come to realize that these disadvantages will catch up to us on a national level as well. Hopefully, this is an indication of a tide turning towards a more holistic and comprehensive education for all students.

World Languages in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). This opinion is reflected in the numbers: in the 2007-2008 school year, Mississippi was one of three states to enroll less than 10% of its students in an WL course, despite showing an increase in enrollment since previous years (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). The education opportunities our students are receiving is less than satisfactory. Speaking more broadly, only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, and only 12.6% hold BAs (Measure of America, 2012). The effects of this education are felt state-wide. If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity. We need to give our students a competitive and holistic education.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

.. We believe that a strong World Language Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. World Language learning is one of those critical opportunities, and one that is too often ignored. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity as well as the cognitive, economic, social, and linguistic advantages provided by a World Language Education. They have the right to these long-term benefits.  They deserve to see World Language as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, both within and outside of their communities.

Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to new cultures, exposure to a diversity of languages, and the opportunities to experience how a second language can be beneficial. Even if our students do get a solid WL foundation, they have limited options in terms of real application, travel, or exchange with a native speaker of the language they are learning. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for the World Languages in Mississippi.

What an World Language Education Looks Like for Us in the Classroom:

We have found that Total Physical Response (Storytelling) to be an extremely effective pedagogical framework and method for teaching WLs. While we encourage invention, creativity, and exploration of different pedagogies, we want to ensure that every classroom focuses on the following strands throughout the year:

Reading: Building literacy skills through stories. Reading comprehension cements language acquisition through the connections students build between stories and their personal emotions and experiences. How do we know if students are getting it? A Reading section on Regents-aligned assessments (you can find the New York State Standards for Foreign Language here).

Writing: Mastering grammar conventions and vocabulary by crafting stories that echo structures and motifs from their reading. How do we know if students are getting it? A Writing section on Regents-aligned assessments, measured against our Regents-aligned rubric.

Listening: Engaging all resources at our disposal, such as cognates and context clues to help interpret conversations at native speed. How do we know if students are getting it? A Listening section on Regents-aligned assessments

Speaking: Speaking fearlessly about the places and people students love. How do we know if students are getting it? A Speaking on Regents-aligned assessments, measured against our Regents-aligned rubric.

Culture: Taking the time to discuss the idea of culture and define culture in Mississippi so that it can be understood what it means to come from a different culture, to have a different perspective, and to celebrate a different history. How do we know if students are getting it? A Culture section on Regents-aligned assessments

Art Vision for Content

Our Vision for Content in Art

Children … come into the world … mindless. I know that must sound a bit strange to you. They do not come in without brains. Brains are biological; minds are cultural. Minds are a form of cultural achievement. And the kinds of minds children come to own is in the large measure influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have in their lives. And the kind of opportunities … is largely influenced by the kinds of programs and options that are made available to them in the course of their childhood. 

– Elliot Eisner, Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

With the idea that “Brains are biological; minds are cultural,” we are confronted with the fundamental importance of ensuring our students have the highest quality and the greatest breadth of opportunity we can offer in the arts. To be cultural is to have firm grounding in your identity, to express yourself creatively and uniquely, to feel you have a voice and a critical mind. All of this, and more, can be provided by an arts education.

Developing Key Skills:

Research shows a positive correlation between arts education and cross-disciplinary skills. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in arts education are often found to be at a disadvantage in the following pillars of learning (for more, see ArtsEdSearch.com):

  • Literacy and Language Development.
  • Reading and Writing Readiness.
  • Reading Comprehension.
  • Mathematics Achievement.
  • Creative Thinking.
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning.
  • Engagement and Persistence.
  • Positive Behavior.
  • Social Development.

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look at the numbers for how the arts affect future success. Life-long opportunities are at stake for our arts students.

  • College-Readiness: The College Board has examined the impact of arts education on SAT scores. Math  SAT scores improve by 41 points, and verbal scores improved by 57 points for students who benefit from a music education. Studying the arts for extended periods of time (four years or more) improved total SAT scores by 119 points (68 for verbal and 51 on math).
  • College Applications: Should our students want to apply for an Arts and Design College or Conservatory College, they will need to be prepared to speak cogently about their own development, exploration, and ideas on their artistic discipline. Whether heading to the Rhode Island School of Design, Julliard, Memphis College of Arts, or any other Arts institution, our students will need a transcript with competitive GPAs, high standardized test scores, writing samples, as well as a demonstration of their performance skills, and a portfolio that shows depth, research, and ideas. All of these materials – and the opportunities they make available – are correlated to and products of a strong arts education.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has also researched the job listings that their AP Studio Arts (2-D, 3-D, Drawing), their Art History, and their Music Theory classes make more accessible to students. They list over 100 career paths ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Composers to Computer Programmers to Editors to Fine Artists. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, an arts education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

Despite wide-spread, consistent findings that participation in the arts is correlated with higher academic achievement, the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the proportion of students receiving arts instruction has been in constant decline since 1985, especially among poor and minority students (see the NEA’s “Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation”). While the NEA, the Cultural Learning Alliance, and the Arts Education Partnership have all confirmed that “Low-income students that have the opportunity to engage in extensive contact with the arts are 12% more likely to earn a BA, 33% more likely to read the newspaper on a weekly basis, and 12% more likely to participate in student government at a college level”, it is these same students for whom arts education is least available. In fact, “arts instruction is often least prevalent in schools reporting large percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches,” and a study conducted in 2008 found that only 26% of African American 18-24 year-olds had received an arts education. As we undertake teaching art, we must consider not only how we can generate opportunities for our students this summer or this year, but how we can leave a legacy of change that makes a quality arts education the norm, and not the exception.

The Arts in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). This holds true in the numbers: only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, and only 12.6% hold BAs (Measure of America, 2012). If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

We believe that a strong Arts Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. The arts are one of those critical opportunities, and one that is too often ignored. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity, pride in their creative expression. They have the right to the long-term benefits of a strong arts-education.  They deserve to see the arts as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, and engage with the arts in their own communities.

It is no mystery that Mississippi is rich in culture, history, art, and music. From entire musical genres such as the blues and jazz, to some of our nation’s most celebrated writers like Faulkner and Walker Percy, from the pottery of McCarty to the portraits of Chris Kruse, to the birth of the Civil Rights movement to the recent ratification of the 13th amendment, Mississippi is brimming with beautiful and difficult culture.

However, the fertile cultural grounds of Mississippi are seldom if ever exposed to our students. Most elementary schools in Mississippi offer arts instruction to their students on a weekly basis at best. In the Delta, where regulation is less consistent, students may not have an art or music class for years on end. While the arts have been federally recognized as a core subject, they are untested and therefore often left to the wayside. Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to museums and concert venues as well as exposure to art we take for granted: buskers, concerts, street art, and other cultural events. Even if they do get a solid arts foundation, they have limited options in terms of real performance venues or opportunities to compete on a national level. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for the arts in Mississippi.

What an Arts Education Looks Like for Us in the Classroom:

We have found that Discipline-Based Arts Education to be a highly effective pedagogy and structure for ensuring our students receive a holistic Arts Education. While we encourage invention, creativity, and exploration of different pedagogies, we want to ensure that every classroom focuses on the following strands throughout the year :

Production: Creating or performing. How do we know if students are getting it?  Creation Rubrics (Elementary Childhood Education Rubric as well as the Delta Creation Rubrics).

History/Culture: Encountering the historical and cultural background of works of art or music. How do we know if students are getting it?  Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, artist statements, and more.

Aesthetics: Discovering the nature and philosophy of art or music. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, visible in artworks, artist statements, and more.

Criticism: Making informed judgments about art. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, artist statements, and more.