Just the Facts
Just the Facts asks one to two students to summarize quickly the reading that will be used in the day's discussion. We follow a simple protocol of "Who + What"--citing which characters from the text did what significant actions in order to move the plot forward. When the initial student is finished sharing key facts from the reading, another student might be asked to fill in any other details. If there are plot details that are incorrect, it is an opportunity for other students to correct the errors. These "police report" type of summaries can be audio or video recorded, quickly edited, and then posted on to the class website as a more engaging way for students to review significant plot points from our class texts. Although there is an ideal reading pace at which I want students to move, some will be ahead of the reading calendar and some will be behind. Also, many students are anxious or reluctant to share out loud when it comes to analysis of the reading. Given that the Just the Facts reports the text's plot and simply the facts, more students are enthusiastic about sharing because the strategy allows different students to be the experts in relaying facts.
The Socratic Seminar is completely student-run in my class, and I alternate between the inner/outer circle format and a single-circle format. As the teacher, I play the role of videographer and when there is only one circle, I publicly track the quality of student comments on the white board throughout the conversation. This is an effective way to let students know when their thinking is becoming more and more insightful. I use the colors green, orange, and red to color code the tally marks I make on the board. Green means that the student offered a comment that made sense and was explained well. Orange signifies that the students cited evidence with their comment, which is the goal for everyone to reach at least once in the seminar. Lastly, a red tally mark next to a student's name means that the student not only used evidence when they commented but also offered a keen insight using that text evidence. This kind of in-the-moment tracking encourages the students to really think about how to share thoughts in the Seminar that will allow their peers to dig deep into the text and create meaning. They strive for the red tally because it means their brain and their contributions to the Seminar are "on fire".
Annotation Logs in my class can be on paper or online, usually depending on what modality the student prefers, as well as what their access is to technology at home. Annotation Logs are a routine through which my students explore the unit text by analyzing quotes, asking questions, and making clarifications. Whether online or on paper, it is my routine to respond to their annotations. Because each student writes so many annotations throughout a unit, I have many opportunities to dip into their thinking at multiple points along the way. Annotation Logs are fundamental building blocks to some of my other classroom practices including Socratic Seminars, TIED analysis paragraphs, and essay writing. For each annotation in the log, my students must include their focus for the annotation, the quote itself, the page or line number, and the analysis. The focus of the annotation could be a literary device, a theme connection or an approach through one of the literary theory lenses we have studied. Citing the quote and where it is found makes for easy reference later on. The analysis is 3-4 sentences that shows how the quote addresses the initial focus they indicated. It is in this last part that I address any feedback by asking questions and clarifying any plot confusion.
While I often use a Google Form survey or an opening conversation to start class and set the tone, there is also tremendous value in having students write their individual thoughts in their Writer's Notebooks. Ours is a mostly paperless classroom despite the fact that it is an English class, so these pen-to-paper moments are significant ones. Students understand that these journal entries are silent reflections meant to put them in the frame of mind needed for the day's lessons.