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.
A Gooru Collection is a strategy I utilize frequently in my blended classroom to personalize learning for my students. Students log into our class on the Gooru site to access a curated "digital playlist" of engaging resources that I have found online or created myself. These different "texts" can be videos, images, articles, websites--basically anything that can be accessed online. Students interact with the resources in the Collection at their own pace, and I make time in each class period to check in with each student while they are engaged in the Collection (this is facilitated by my students' use of headphones). Students can review an uploaded resource multiple times if necessary to gain understanding. I include questions after every resource to prompt my students' thinking and/or to assess what they are learning from the resource. Given the media-driven world in which we live, it is important for my students to have this opportunity to synthesize their understanding of concepts and literary elements through multiple text formats.
Generating student talk in the classroom is a focal point for my teaching, and it is important that those conversations happen in both high-stakes and low-stakes settings. A Warm-Up is the forum for a low-stakes conversation that can generate a high return. For example, the journey for a student to become an excellent oral presenter can be an uncomfortable one. Opening class with a conversation where students can talk with each other in anticipation of these growing pains does perpetuate a sense of camaraderie and support, although my students have referred to it as a feeling of "shared doom". Additionally, a teacher can have an influence on the energy of the class depending on what prompts are crafted for the Conversational Warm-Up.
Socratic Seminars are one method for discussing complex texts, and they are also useful forums where students can metacognate about their learning process and even share best practices.