This lesson marks the conclusion of our foray into literature of the early Americans! It will assess our progress up to this point, both in content knowledge and the application of critical reading skills. Lessons so far have really focused on close-reading informational texts, which are historically the most difficult for my students. I collect and review a range of data about my students, including information from standardized tests, previous department-level tests, and my own pretests, so instruction each year begins with a focused effort on remediating these skills. This is especially important to making my classroom run smoothly in the future, since students really have to be proficient in reading these texts by the time we start the research paper project second semester. Reflection is an integral part of my practice, and I always find myself trying to correct issues from years past when the next year rolls around.
At this point, students will have had time to complete a study guide, review that guide with me, and play a review game which previewed actual test questions. They will start this hour by taking 5 minutes to review their study guides to gather any "last minute" questions before the test. Since some students won a testing accommodation of using a notecard on the test through our English War review game, I will use this time to quickly assess those cards to ensure that they have been completed appropriately. Students may have won the ability to write on one or both sides of the card, so that will be one item I will check. Additionally, they need to be the smaller-sized notecard, hand-written (not printed and taped or glued to the card), and contain information about the test content (not an answer key or something that they spontaneously smuggled out of cyberspace or from a different class!).
Once the review time has elapsed, I will address any last minute questions and go over the format of the test. My test will be two parts. The first part is a 75-question multiple choice test, which will be immediately scored electronically through Skyward. Additionally, a second test section will be given that contains several essay questions and asks students about their study and preparation habits (and how they could do better in the future). The essay section will also be delivered through Skyward. Students can complete the sections in whichever order they prefer, but I will emphasize that they should strongly consider how they would best be managing their time. I will suggest they begin with the objective piece first, since it would be easier to make cutbacks on the essay section rather than try to speedily guess at the objective section if time were dwindling.
Students will then begin their exam. During this time, I will move throughout the room and address any questions that come up. I will also keep my Skyward portal open to monitor student submissions and scores. The fabulous thing about Skyward is that it does show instant results, but it also records the amount of time students spend on the test itself. I considered using Google Forms to administer this test, but ultimately, Skyward was a better fit since all students have Chromebooks, and I could not figure out how to 100% secure a Google Form.
As students finish their exams, they will be instructed to begin the next portion of the lesson, which is an independent activity.
To conclude this day, students will begin taking notes on the next unit's time period, 1800-1870. They will download the notes outline to guide this activity. Typically I wouldn't give notes outlines, but after our first test, I want to give them a little bit of a break. Additionally, I know that they will have to complete this project at home, and I want to increase the likelihood that they will ACTUALLY do so. When evaluating previous notes, I have still consistently noticed that students either write a few things (and miss the main idea entirely) or essentially rewrite the book. I want to model what effective notes look like, while highlighting certain reading elements, such as drawing cause and effect relationships between historical context and the developing American culture. They have struggled with this concept as well, so when these notes come back completed, we will have the opportunity to discuss why these items were picked for notes and how good readers go about organizing information into a coherent understanding of the relationship between the context and literature, rather than a segmented concept of just a few elements.
In the last few minutes of class, I will ask the students to reflect on the test they just completed. They already had the opportunity to do this within the test itself, but I like to get initial feedback from students before they leave the room and start chattering with others about it as well. To lead the general discussion, I will ask students the following questions:
After the discussion concludes, I will also collect the notecards that students used on the test. I have found in previous years that if I do not collect the cards, they simply get passed from class to class. Since much of the benefit comes from writing the cards, it is imperative for students to take on this process themselves. They often do not realize when they win this accommodation that it gives them the edge more due to the CREATION of the notecard of itself. I find this sneaky little trick quite useful in encouraging kids to study without knowing it. It reminds me of those cookbooks that sneak vegetables in all kinds of foods so you can trick your kids into eating them without protest. I will certainly trick my students into studying for things in any way that I know how, and letting them use a notecard has pretty much without exception achieved this task!
For homework, students will complete the Unit 2 Notes Outline. They will also be asked to watch "The Market Revolution: Crash Course History #12" by John Green, who is amazing! The video will help students get a clearer, more interactive view of the material presented in the historical context reading. Since my class is filled with predominantly visual learners, I try to include multiple learning activities for as many activities as possible. I will grade as many of the tests as possible before I see my students again, but if I do not finish them all, I will finish grading them for the time after this one. After the tests are graded, I will note the skills that were not mastered by students so I can again introduce them in class. Some teachers in my department reteach skills with the same material, but I have found more success with reteaching if I use varied material to reteach it. This way, all students are practicing the skills (even those who have mastered it), but they are adding to the breadth of their knowledge. Our next unit will introduce more fictional texts, but I can easily insert articles that are related to that literature to reteach skills missed. I view it as an ongoing challenge to integrate more nonfiction into my plans, rather than a burden. I used to take it for granted that all students could read informative text, but I was immediately corrected the first time I ever made a point of teaching it with the Common Core. Since then, it has definitely grown to be an enjoyable, well-liked part of my curriculum for both my students and me.