Reflection: Advanced Students The Components of a Ballad - Section 2: The Parts of a Ballad


My honors students legitimately had no idea what the four paragraphs on ballads said the first time they read them. The Lexile level of those four paragraphs was at 1260, a post-high school level.  The results of the reading test I gave students at the beginning of the year showed that most of my first and fourth hour students could reading at a post-high school level, but since they're not exposed to that level of rigor, it's very difficult. 

They struggled with this paragraph just like the students in my co-taught classes struggle with seventh grade reading material.  Would I give those classes this same resource sheet?  Of course not.  I would modify the content to make it more accessible.  There would be absolutely no reason to give paragraphs written on at a post-high school level to students who are reading at a third, fourth, or fifth grade level.  But for an honors class, this type of stretching is beneficial.

So how would I modify this for my other three classes?  I gave the same reading test to my three English 7 classes at the end of the semester, and while many students showed growth, some students did not.  Some students showed a lower reading score. 

To provide the proper modifications, I have to consider what the primary purpose of learning about ballads is.  It's on the standards and on my district's common assessment.  They have to know the four main components that make a ballad a ballad for the test, but more importantly, to recognize ballads when they see them in music.  For this, it's easy to say that I should just give them the paraphrased "cheat sheet."  They'd learn the four things that make a ballad a ballad and we'd move on.

But remember the six shifts.  Students should be reading a balance of literary and nonfiction texts.  Reading about ballads is reading nonfiction.  Student are reading to learn, and are learning the skills to read to learn rather than wait for the teacher to fill them with knowledge.  Another shift is the staircase of complexity.  Students are given rigorous texts at grade level to read. The teacher provides scaffolding and is patient.  It takes longer, but it's real.

Therefore, I have two choices.  I can either search out more passages about poetry that are at a seventh grade level.  I can paraphrase the authentic texts I have already found to have them at a suitable level.  Due to the timing of the semester, I'll probably choose the second option.  And for those students who are in my English 7 and are reading at a high school or post high school level?  I might just give those students the higher Lexile text.

Students might not be reading the exact same text.  They're reading the same material, and it's on the same subject.  It means teaching them the skills to read.  I've had great success with the questions based on the three standard categories:

  • What is the author telling me? What does the author want me to know? What details is the author using to help me understand?
  • What words, particularly hard or difficult words, are important? How does the author use figurative language?
  • How do ideas compare and contrast?  How does the author develop his/her claim?  Are the author's details logical, relevant, and sufficient?  

  Productive Struggle
  Advanced Students: Productive Struggle
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The Components of a Ballad

Unit 8: Analyzing Ballads, Sonnets, and Popular Music
Lesson 1 of 14

Objective: Students will be able to analyze the makeup of a ballad by examining form, rhyme scheme, and rhythm.

Big Idea: The rhythm and rhyme of a ballad.

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