Posts Tagged ‘Social Studies’

OnTRACK Social Studies Lessons Now Available!

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Rachel Hernandez, Social Studies Education Specialist

OnTRACK courses for World Geography, World History and high school U.S. History have been made available through TEA’s Project Share initiative.  These lessons are intended to supplement classroom instruction and provide teachers and students with a resource for intervention.  Teachers in K-12 public and charter schools currently have access to Project Share, an online learning community developed by TEA.  The lessons available in OnTRACK vary by course and are TEKS driven.  U.S. History, for example, has lessons available on the Progressive Era, Social Welfare Reforms, The Spanish-American War, U.S. Expansionism, Great Depression, Japanese
Internment, Korean War and Civil Rights.  The entire course has 6 units with a total of 45 lessons that incorporate engaging content through interactive experiences.  A lesson example from the module on Social Welfare Reform includes an introduction on Upton Sinclair and a short reading excerpt from Sinclair’s book, The Jungle.  Students can try an interactive exercise matching vocabulary and watch brief video segments on the impact of Upton Sinclair as a reform leader.  Mini-assessments are included in the modules for you to assess student learning.  The best aspect of these courses is the ability for you to modify, add or remove content to make the course customized to your liking.

 

A few items are worth noting:

1. OnTRACK lessons do not address all of the Social Studies standards for each respective course.

2. OnTRACK Social Studies courses should not be used by districts to provide course credit to students. (Why not?  See point #1).

3. You can use OnTRACK lessons to support individualized intervention or use all or part of a lesson with a class or group of students.

4. You need to spend “sandbox time” exploring the course lessons and consider ways to blend these resources into lessons that you already have for extended learning and review.

 

The bottom line is that these lessons are a great resource for you and your students; how you use them is entirely up to you.

Please note:  TEA has plans to add Grade 8 Social Studies and Bible Literacy courses to the OnTRACK offering list in the spring of 2013.  Additional lessons will also be added to the existing courses sometime in the near future.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 4

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:  Lori Reemts, Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

As this series on exploring integration winds down, it is a great time to recap three major areas as well as add a few closing remarks addressing the question “So now what?”  Thinking back to the first installment , we began by creating a common working definition of integration and what that can and cannot mean in terms of classroom instruction. We all want it; we all feel we need it if for no other reason than to address time constraints, but we aren’t all in agreement of what “it” even is.  When considering the three areas of curriculum (written, taught and assessed) the greatest opportunity for true integration can be found within the taught curriculum. What happens in the classroom is key.  Even with the most beautifully written curriculum, connections and true integration simply cannot take place until what is written comes to life through purposeful instruction.  Instructional integration provides the points of intersection, the rich discussion and the multiple opportunities to use knowledge and skill throughout the entire learning day.

 

The second installment then shifted our focus to defining some of the opportunities found within the standards.  Direct (explicit) Support and taking advantage of Purposeful Awareness during instruction provides students more than one discrete opportunity to experience something and often provides multiple contexts in which to do so.  Examples of direct support, such as concepts found within the Social Studies Geography strands and the Science Earth Science strands, can be found throughout all of our standards.  Keeping vocabulary and concepts alive through various contexts is a major benefit of using Purposeful Awareness.  This can be seen, for example, with the term “consumer.” Though the foundational concept is the same, the application within a science lesson on organisms and environments is slightly different than that of a social studies economics lesson.  Knowing and referring to the standards as the starting point of any lesson design is the best way to take full advantage of these two techniques.

 

The third installment highlighted transferrable skills.  Our standards are full of skills that we hope each of our students develop and utilize to be successful in whatever path they take. In essence, these “transferrable skills” comprise the core of we are told to highlight on our professional resumes and the like.  However, it seems they can become lost in all of the standards and even more so when the learning day is segmented.  By identifying these skills across content areas we can better teach them, practice them and help students become aware that they are indeed using them.  The skills themselves are important as they are where that added layer of rigor and application come from, but they also serve as vehicles to obtain the very content knowledge we need students to comprehend within each discipline.

 

Finally, the question “So now what?” comes to mind.  We are now set to take the first steps in the journey to transform and integrate our instruction through these points of intersection but…just what do we do when armed with this information now?  Over time this type of thinking and approach can become quite second nature, but it takes quite a bit of purpose at first. If we do not plan for the connection, the question, the link, the use of vocabulary in another context and the relationship between the standards, they simple do not occur. The frantic pace of the day, the fire drill, the lack of sleep or the unexpected question or result can derail the best of intentions.  Once a point, or multiple points of intersection, has occurred there are decisions that must be made.  Is this the best place to start at this time? Do I have a resource to do this? What do I need to gather?  Is there someone, such as our librarian, who can assist me?  Take the thinking and begin linking it to the tangibles that exist and can exist within a classroom lesson, discussion, and experience.  Be purposeful. Start realistically for yourself.  Manageable pieces lead to a much more satisfying and organic end result.  Begin with just two content areas or one or two skill areas.  Perhaps even begin with one content area finding points of intersection WITHIN that given content. How does this unit connect to the unit we did 6 weeks ago?  Engage in this thinking with your students and don’t be afraid to think out loud or let them do so before it is time to “answer.”  Knowing that there is more time spent up front, it is important to keep the end in mind and realize that the time will be made up two or three times over in the long run, not to mention it is what is best for learning.

 

Interested in a more detailed discussion or information?  Contact Lori Reemts, Elementary Generalist.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 3

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author: Lori Reemts, Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

In the first two installments, this series visited integration by creating a working definition and common language to guide the reader through the series with the intended understanding.  Descriptions and examples were given to identify both Direct (Explicit) Support and Purposeful Awareness.  These prove to be excellent starting points when seeking points of intersection between disciplines.  This article, now the third in the series, promises to explore the idea of skill building.

As educators we long for our students to be able to apply thinking and learning across and within content areas. We provide experiences within each content area and hope for the moment when the light bulb shines brightly signaling the student experienced some sort of revelation or connection.  We hope that our students continue to build crucial skills in order to be successful not only within their school career but also, more importantly, as adults with knowledge and skills that merge seamlessly enabling them to gain new insight, solve a problem, or make an informed decision.   These areas of success come from the application of transferrable skills rather than any spelling list or set of facts about a science concept.  These transferrable skills are both our hope and joy and our nemesis as educators because these can prove to be quite difficult to identify, teach, and foster within our students.  The new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) employ such skills to the extent possible through a multiple choice format.  Students must be able to access information previously learned and situations previously experienced and apply this learning to new and novel situations.  These exams are designed to assess a variety of skills along with content specific knowledge.

We have become quite adept at identifying various examples, vocabulary lists, strategies, and techniques within different content areas assessed through STAAR but not as adept in the skill areas assessed through STAAR, not to mention those content areas not assessed through the state program.  The very thing we long for most in our students – the development of real skills – sometimes falls by the wayside if for no other reason than because they are more difficult to identify and teach.  These skills can be found within most any student expectation by reading the verb but this is often still singularly associated with a particular content-focused student expectation.  Every discipline, including Health and Technology Applications, has a focus on skills built within it. It is in our best interest, and more importantly our students’ best interest, to focus on these sets of skills. By learning, practicing, and applying these skill sets students are then far more equipped to access the very content we are struggling to get them to remember and apply.

One example is related to data. Students are bombarded with input on a daily basis; much of which is subconsciously stored for later.  However, there are also times when we purposefully seek data.  There are many reasons that a person may need to gather some information, evaluate the source and the information, manage the information, and somehow make sense of it in order to follow this acquisition with application of some form or fashion, such as planning, communicating, or making an informed and thoughtful decision. Consider the following student expectations:

 

 

These skills found within each of the content areas all deal with data collection / information management. In total, there are at least 23 Student Expectations between these 6 areas of study that relate directly to the skills of obtaining data, evaluating the source and the data itself, and somehow managing the information. While the context is different because of the different disciplines, the core skill remains intact.

 

Just as using Direct (explicit) Support and Purposeful Awareness can serve as starting points to locate potential points of intersection, so can a skill set.  By unifying “how” students work within different contexts throughout the day, a classroom teacher can actually capitalize on the potential to connect through skills.  Students not only have more practice on the identified and planned-for skill, but also they are able to see it in a variety of situations, identify what they are doing, and use the skill to make connections within and across content areas.

 

Take a moment to look through the Student Expectations for each content area and you will see skill sets that naturally merge with skills sets from other content areas. They essentially group themselves into manageable categories making at least the identification of these thinking skills far more obvious than they would be as they exist separately.   After a scan, you will see skills related to:

  • Planning & Development; Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
  • Tools and Technology, including text features
  • Data Collection and Information Management
  • Analysis, Inference, Justification, and Making Conclusions
  • Communication
  • Making Connections

 

As this spring semester progresses, we are working on a tool enabling teachers, administrators, parents, and even students to identify skills that group themselves into broader ideas and applications.  It is sometimes amazing to see what is actually built into our state standards, right before our eyes, which can so easily turn into missed opportunities.  Interested in seeing what this looks like completed?  Keep an eye on The Scoop for more information later in the semester.
In the meantime, take some time to consider making connections and points of intersection for your students through the sheer application of a skill within different contexts throughout the entire learning day.  Both you and your students will benefit!

Writing Across the Content Areas

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author: Susan Diaz, Education Specialist, Secondary ELAR

 

“If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts, and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else. In short, if students are to learn, they must write.” –The College Board and the National Commission on Writing

I hear that students might be learning in classes other than just English/Language Arts!  Ergo, if this rumor is true, students need to write in ALL their subjects.  Still skeptical?  The Michigan Department of Education says… “Writing is used to initiate discussion, reinforce content and model the method of inquiry common to the field.  Writing can help students discover new knowledge–to sort through previous understandings, draw conclusions and uncover new ideas as they write.”  And in the report, “The Neglected R”, the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges argues that writing has been pushed to the side in the school reform movement over the past twenty years and must now receive the attention it deserves. The National Commission on Writing goes on to talk about how students have difficulty producing writing at the high levels of skill, maturity, and sophistication that is required in our complex, modern economy.  Basically, if we want our students to be college AND/OR career ready, they must be proficient writers.  The Commission’s solution to this dilemma?  Double the amount of writing by incorporating it in all content areas.

We’re not asking you to know the ins and outs of dangling participles or the STAAR rubric.  We’re talking about giving students the time to practice and hone their writing.  It’s kind of like driving a car or playing a sport—the more you do it, the better you get!

There are lots of easy ways to incorporate writing into your classrooms.  It could be as simple as an Entry Slip that asks them to summarize their homework reading or recall learning from yesterday’s class.   Giving students a few minutes to write at the beginning of class allows them to collect their thoughts and activate prior knowledge.  It also helps students see that learning is connected from day to day rather than a series of isolated events.  You can end class with an Exit Ticket asking students to write a letter to a classmate who was absent explaining what was learned that day or students can reflect on their participation in class for the day.  The Exit Slip helps students summarize their learning for the day and gives them closure.  The simple step of adding in Entry Slips and Exit Tickets to our lesson cycle can make a profound impact on student learning—it is the E in engage and the E in evaluate that frames our teaching and solidifies knowledge for kids.  Give it a try!

Strategic Note-Taking in Secondary Content Classrooms

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author: Tonia Miller,  Education Specialist, ESL Instructional Coach

Perhaps when many of us were in high school, or even college, we learned to take notes out of sheer necessity. We were lucky if the teacher paused for a moment to write a word or two on the chalk board. However, this is not the case for students in today’s classrooms. Luckily for them, 21st century learners have grown up in more student-centered environments, where oftentimes technology is used as an interactive tool for discovery learning. Given this, many students in secondary schools do not perceive note-taking skills as fundamental to their success in content area classes.

 

Why Should I Take Notes?

Contrary to student perception, research shows that note-taking skills are still necessary both to survive and excel in today’s classroom. Note-taking serves two very important functions for learners: 1) external storage of information, and 2) cognitive encoding of information (Boyle, 2011). While it is obvious to most students that note-taking is a way to keep record of important information they might forget, few students realize the power the act of writing notes has to jump-start the cognitive processing of information in their brains. While note-taking, students begin to learn and memorize content. Additionally, students will retain and recall more when notes are self-generated. Ultimately, the combination of both functions makes note-taking a critical component of successful learning. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on one researched-based strategy intended to be used during lectures: strategic note-taking (SN).

 

Strategic Note-Taking

The intention of strategic note-taking is to help students filter and organize incoming information during lectures so that it is converted into notes that can be comprehended and reviewed at a later time. The strategy also focuses on inciting students to mentally process and record information while listening. Strategic note-taking paper accompanies the strategy to prompt students to make notes through five main metacognitive cues: link prior knowledge, cluster main ideas, summarize like ideas, recognize key vocabulary, and review main lecture points (Boyle, 2011).

To help students remember all of the skills necessary for SN, the first letter mnemonic device CUES is used. See an abbreviated version of the SN paper and for a description of what students are doing at each step of CUES below:

 

 

 

 

Some of the findings of a study of SN show that, in contrast to students using traditional note-taking, students using strategic note-taking recorded more total lecture points as well as twice as many words, had greater long-term recall, and performed better on tests (Boyle, 2012, Boyle, 2010).

 

How Do I Implement Strategic Note-Taking?

Students will need to be explicitly taught SN, just as they would any other new content-related skill.  Providing the student with a description of the strategy, in addition to why they are being asked to develop this skill, is a good place to start. See the following list for some teacher tips for implementation of strategic note-taking:

  • Prior to the lecture, make your own set of strategic notes as “model notes”.
  • Use your “model notes” during the lecture to stay on topic.
  • Stress important lecture content by repeating or restating.
  • Slow down the pace of the lesson.
  • Use purposeful pause procedures (e.g., a long pause should indicate students need to record what was just said).
  • Categorize or provide a title for an upcoming list of items.
  • Monitor students’ usage of the strategy.
  • Teach students to abbreviate.
  • Teach students to identify main points & summarize big ideas.
  • Provide emphasis cues (e.g., “It is important to remember that . . .).
  • Provide organization cues (e.g., “the four main types of a cloud are . . .).
  • Use nonverbal cues such as gestures to provide emphasis.
  • Write important notes & vocabulary on the board.
  • Provide students time at the end of class to review notes.
  • Allow students to compare their notes to the “model notes”.
  • Encourage students to share notes with a partner and fill in any missing information.
  • Evaluate students’ notes (self-assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment).
  • Gradually increase the pace of lecture as students become more competent.

(Boyle, 2012, Boyle, 2011, & Boyle, 2010)

 

How do I Assess Students’ Note-Taking Skills?

Ongoing assessment of students’ note-taking skills is an important part of both skill development and learner accountability. Just as with academic skills, it is important to find individual student gaps in note-taking skills. The figure below depicts a form that has been used as a formative assessment of students’ note-taking skills as compared to teachers’  “model notes.”

 

 

 

 

The key to ongoing assessment of note-taking is to show students that it is a cyclical, reflective process intended to help develop metacognitive study skills so that they may effectively monitor their own learning.

 

How Do I Justify the Time Required to Teach Note-Taking?

Note-taking falls under the larger umbrella of study skills necessary for students to be successful learners, and techniques, like strategic note-taking, can be incorporated into content-area curriculum. Although teachers may feel pressed to primarily lecture in order to cover all necessary content, it is important to include other activities (i.e., hands-on activities, peer conversations and various other student demonstrations of understanding) to reinforce concepts from lectures. However, note-taking is a valuable skill that becomes essential for students as they take on greater responsibility for their own learning. Consequently, the time invested by teachers initially in teaching students note-taking skills pays off by propelling students towards the ultimate goal:  to be both college and career-ready citizens.

References (APA)

Boyle, J. R. (2012). Note-Taking and Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities: Challenges and Solutions. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 27(2), 90-101.

BOYLE, J. R. (2011). THINKING STRATEGICALLY TO RECORD NOTES IN CONTENT CLASSES. American Secondary Education, 40(1), 51-66.

Boyle, J. R. (2010). Strategic Note-Taking for Middle-School Students with Learning Disabilities in Science Classes. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(2), 93-109.

It’s Your Year, World History!

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Author: Rachel Hernandez – Social Studies Education Specialist

Tags: World History, Social Studies, STAAR

According to the 2012 STAAR Summary Reports released by TEA, 28,625 students took the World History End-of-Course assessment last year.  Since there is no set rule on how schools establish their course matriculation in Social Studies, all End-of-Course tests were operational in May of 2012.  Most schools in Texas have freshmen starting in World Geography, World History sophomore year, U.S. History junior year, and Government/Economics rounding out senior year.  As expected, World Geography accounted for the largest amount of Social Studies test takers with 320,966 students.  Now that last year’s freshmen have the World Geography End-of-Course under their belt, 2013 is the true year for World History.  Preparation is in order for World History teachers and students.

Now that we are refocused with a few cheerful thoughts, let’s take a look at what we know.  With the 2010 Social Studies TEKS adoption, the World History Studies course was restructured into six time periods that serve as the framework and organization: 8000 BC-500 BC (Development of River Valley Civilizations); 500 BC-AD 600 (Classical Era); 600-1450 (Post-Classical Era); 1450-1750 (Connecting Hemispheres); 1750-1914 (Age of Revolutions); and 1914-Present (20th Century to the Present).  Additionally, the World History course has changed in the number of historical individuals.  The course went from 22 historical individuals in the old standards to 50 individuals in the 2010 standards. Groups such as Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and Chinese student protestors in Tiananmen Square were also added.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 2

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Author:  Lori Reemts – Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

Part 1 of this series focused on laying the foundation and seeking common language when referring to integration. There are as many ways to connect and integrate ideas as there are ideas themselves.  By defining differences between Curriculum Integration, which can be found described on documents and the like, and Instructional Integration, which can be artfully woven into the course of learning over time, we are able to identify what we can control and how that influences student success in our classroom. This series focuses on these choices: Instructional Integration.

As promised, this installment continues the conversation and begins the process of identifying key points of intersection within the curriculum by exploring two key ideas: Direct Connection and Purposeful Awareness.

There are times when different subject areas align with one another through TEKS that are directly linked. Meaningful links may be found in a direct relationship between two concepts, such as money in Math with the economics in Social Studies.  A direct connection might also be found within the language or concept of the Student Expectations themselves. Consider the 3rd Grade standards below.

 

Science

Earth and Space. The student knows that Earth consists of natural resources and its surface is constantly changing.  The student is expected to:

3.7b       investigate rapid changes in the Earth’s surface such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and landslides

3.7c        identify and compare different landforms, including mountains, hills, valleys, and plains

 

Social Studies

Geography. The student understands how humans adapt to variations in the physical environment.   The student is expected to:

3.4c        describe the effects of physical processes such as volcanoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes in shaping the landscape

3.4a        describe and explain variations in the physical environment, including climate, landforms, natural resources, and natural hazards

 

Direct (Explicit) Support

As a third grade teacher looking at any one content area it may be easy to miss. However, a third grade teacher looking across content areas should be able to identify two direct connections within the above sets of TEKS.  In third grade, students investigate rapid changes to the Earth’s surface (Science) and the effects these changes have (Social Studies).  These do not need to be separate and isolated ideas, nor should they be.  Looking at the other pair of standards listed, another direct connection between studying landforms in Science and landforms in Social Studies is easily identified.  These are connections found no further than the TEKS themselves and points of intersection that teachers can use not only to save themselves the time spent in isolated planning, but also to make authentic and meaningful content  connections in a way that benefits all learners.

 

Purposeful Awareness

While not as overtly apparent as Direct Support, the use of Purposeful Awareness is key in applying knowledge and skills to new and novel situations.  These transferrable skills are the very things we seek to build in our students so that they continue to grow and learn throughout their lives while being productive and contributing citizens in the process.  Furthermore, it is precisely this type of thinking that STAAR requires as well.  This type of thinking is more difficult to “teach”, as it must be consistently modeled and practiced using a myriad of examples and scenarios. The beauty of employing Purposeful Awareness lies in the world of possibilities and potential connections that exist within students’ minds. There is no reason that the teacher need be the expert in the room as the goal is to expand student thinking beyond what may be easily apparent or written on a worksheet.  Purposeful Awareness may often come through the use of vocabulary in new contexts to strengthen the comprehension of the language.  Other areas such as big ideas, (i.e. human impact, conservation), relationships, and skills also provide breeding ground for cross-content connections.  Consider the following vocabulary words as examples.

 

Interdependence

– A standard concept and vocabulary term in Science, this term can apply in other contexts with very little change to the working definition.  To understand the concept is to be able to apply it to new and novel situations.

– Language Arts:  interdependent characters, parts of speech, cause/effect relationships

– Social Studies: global economics, countries, opposing sides of conflict, money

– Math: sides of an equation, factors/multiples

 

Consumer

– Basic definition in science: an animal that cannot produce its own food and eats plants and other animals (as opposed to a producer–which makes its own food)

– Basic definition in Social Studies: A consumer is a person who buys and uses goods and services. A producer is a person who makes goods or provides services.

– “to consume”

 

There are obvious differences when applying these example concepts in different content areas but the core meaning remains the same.  It is the context which changes. Too often we label concepts as “terms” to be used in a particular class or within a particular scheduled part of the day.  Although we have the best of vocabulary intentions, we may inadvertently silo language in such a way that students are not readily and easily applying concepts across areas. A student identifying a word as a “science word” may easily not be able to transfer the actual comprehension of that word/concept when viewing it in a new context.  Whether units occur during the same grading period or not, using Purposeful Awareness keeps these connections alive, albeit in smaller chunks than stand-alone units.  When working in the social studies context of “consumer,” for example, we need to purposefully connect back (or forward) and point out the similarity to other areas.

 

Well-placed questions and quick tie-ins are another way to utilize Purposeful Awareness. Consider the following example. As a teacher you may be introducing the accomplishments and contributions of various citizens in Social Studies. This is actually a standard in all levels of Social Studies. One such person may be Robert Fulton, credited with inventing the first operational steamboat. This invention opened the waters of the Mississippi, which in turn had great impact on the U.S. economy and growth of the day.  During instruction, the teacher may ask questions such as those that follow.

 

  • What type of landform is the Mississippi River? River
  • Is it salt or fresh water? Fresh
  • What landform is created when it meets the ocean? Delta
  • What Earth processes are at play and shape the earth? Weathering, erosion, deposition

 

The kinds of questions enable the student to concentrate on the Social Studies message at hand, while simultaneously connecting it with concepts from science. This is done in a low-intrusive manner requiring nothing more than planned questions to tie things together. Often the best approach to these connections is simply to plan to ask the students how things may connect to one another.  Something as basic as “How does this ______ in our current unit connect with _______, our previous unit?” can be very effective in forcing students to think beyond what is in front of them and to remember previous concepts in the process.  There is always a connection to be made.

 

This process takes time. A solid knowledge of the TEKS, or a consistent referral to them, remains, as always, the starting point.  While everyone has the ability to see connections, some people may seem to see them more quickly or more easily.  While we desperately seek these points of intersection, it seems we have somehow trained ourselves not to.  Of the two techniques listed here, begin with seeking Direct Support within the standards themselves.  From there, be comfortable opening your mind to what may be less obvious.  The more this is practiced the easier it becomes.  Don’t be afraid to bring your students into this thinking journey with you. It can actually be quite fun when taken together!

 

The next installment will focus on the area of skill building.  All of the core content areas, health and technology standards include similar skills.  When we view these as a whole, in addition to the student and the learning day, we are able to better capitalize on the intent of the standards while fostering deep and critical thinking for ourselves and our students.

STAAR Resources

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

STAAR Resources

As you begin the 2011-2012 school year it is important to learn how the new assessment system – the State of Texas Assessments for Academic Readiness or STAAR – will impact the students in your classroom. While we are still waiting on some information we do know enough to get started in our instructional planning.

STAAR will assess students in the same grade levels and content areas as TAKS: Grades 3-8. At the high school level there will be 12 new End-Of-Couse (EOC) assessments. Beginning with entering 9th grade students in 2011, students must pass the STAAR EOCs in order to graduate.

STAAR will be a more rigorous assessment. A few things to note:

  • More items
  • Higher level of cognitive reasoning
  • Shift from graduation from high school to college and career success
  • Focus on fewer standards at a deeper level

One area of assistance that ESC Region XIII is providing is the STAAR Website (http://www5.esc13.net/staar/index.html). On this website you will find overview information relating to STAAR, links to TEA documents, content area information, and parent information.

As we begin to plan for instruction for 2011-2012 it will be important to study the assessment blueprints developed by TEA to understand the changes in assessment development. To assist with the study of readiness and supporting standards please consider utilizing the following resources:

There are many more resources on this site with more to be developed as we have access to further information. As you begin discussing STAAR with parents and students feel free to use the parent brochure and frequently asked questions at http://www5.esc13.net/staar/parent_resources.html.

While major changes in the assessment system are taking place, knowing your TEKS (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=6148) and how they will be assessed will assist you in planning the quality instruction that will ensure student success in the current grade level and beyond.

English Language Arts – Strategies for Reading and Writing Notebooks

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Starting the Year Building Stamina: Strategies for Reading and Writing Notebooks

Some teachers call them journals; others call them daybooks. No matter what we call them, reading and writing notebooks are essential in the English language arts classroom. They not only provide a safe place for students to express themselves and explore ideas, but they also lend themselves well to creating a place where students may gain stamina in reading and writing. With the demands of the new STAAR test, stamina is essential for students to be able to read and create more than one piece in more than one genre.

Reading Notebook Strategy 1: Reread to Lift a Line

Purpose: Show students the value of “second draft reading” or rereading as a helpful technique to understand a text. As readers read the text the first time, they can miss important details.  Having some things already learned in mind frees readers to pay attention to things they have missed the first time through.

How: Use a common text (picture book, essay, novel, etc.) and model the rereading process. Ask students to find a part of the text they missed in their first reading and copy a line of the text in their Readers’ Notebooks. Then students write about how that part or line helps them make more meaning from the text.

Next Steps: Students may use their lines when analyzing and practicing various sentence structures during a writing component.

(Bucker, 2009)

Reading Notebook Strategy 2: Reader’s Sketchbook

Purpose: Illustrate to students that by combining images and words, the chances of remembering and understanding are greater.  Artists like Leonardo da Vinci thought in pictures. Cartoonists blend pictures and words to communicate their ideas more effectively.

Sketchbooks are the backroom of the artist’s mind, the place where they practice, rehearse, and experiment –where they think. It is like a journal except you use images.

How:  Model the following steps with students:

  1. List chapter title or number.
  2. Write a summary of the chapter or section you read.
  3. Create a drawing of events related to the heart of the chapter. The drawing must contain specific details from the chapter to show that you read it closely. The drawing should represent something in the text, not just summarize it.
  4. Discuss what the chapter means, what matters most, and why you think that; provide specific examples or details to support your assertion(s). If possible and appropriate, connect your observations to your own life or ideas.
  5. Include quotation(s) that relates to the drawing or connects to what you read.
  6. Create a discussion question(s) you could use to participate in a small or full class discussion.

 

Next Steps: Students may adapt this strategy when creating rough drafts of various types of writing genres throughout the year.

(Burke, 2008)

Writing Notebook Strategy 1: Quick Write-A Place in Time

Purpose: Provide students with an opportunity to create freely for a specified small number of minutes. Quick Writes are playful and not graded for correctness.

How: Ask students to remember a place from their childhood that mattered to them and make a list of specific details they remember about it. Students may also sketch. Create your own Quick Write and share with students.

Next Steps: Students may return to their Quick Write to look for places where they have more to say in order to turn the Quick Write into a topic for writing.

(Kittle, 2008)

Writing Notebook Strategy 2: Mapping the Text

Purpose: To provide students an opportunity to combine new knowledge (difficult text) with prior knowledge (images) in order to think critically about, understand, and remember the text.

How: Ask students to create a “visual map” of the text that contains the following elements:

  • symbols that represent key parts of the text
  • “road signs” to guide the viewer where to go (e.g., slow down at a difficult part of the text)
  • emblems from the text that the reader should consider as important to his/her understanding of the text
  • specific language from the text within the map
  • at least one direct quote from the original text
  • an entry that should leave the viewer with a clear sense of the text as well as a sense of direction and a question to consider

 

Next Steps: Students may use this strategy during the revision stage of writing. They may map their own text as a way to ensure full development of a topic.

(Brannon, Griffin, & Haag, 2008)

 

References

Brannon, L., Griffin, S., & Haag, K. e. (2008). Thinking out loud on paper. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Bucker, A. (2009). Notebook connections. Portland: Stenhouse.

Burke, J. (2008). The English teacher’s companion guide: A complete guide to classroom, curriculum, and the profession (3rd Edition ed.). Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Kittle, P. (2008). Write beside them: Risk, voice, and clarity in high school writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann.