Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Once students have had guided practice with close-reading, it's important to let them begin to practice independently so they can begin to internalize these skills. Today's lesson, broken into two parts, keeps that in mind as students practice a close-reading of research they have done for this cross-curricular science project.
This Powerpoint focuses on close reading of informative texts and will be referred back to over the next few lessons. Today we start with the first slide on development and focus. The instructions are straight forward and I keep this up on my Smartboard as students are working. They do access this Powerpoint through my web-site.
The first step reminds students to read their sources for the project through before working. Students need to get a general idea of the entire piece before they begin to analyze it. After they read their source, they begin to look for certain aspects of how the piece is written using their own non-fiction sources for their project. They answer the questions that are on the second slide of the Powerpoint and this Questions For Development and Focus handout. These questions focus on how the writer develops the topic and what the writer focuses on. Students keep the Powerpoint open as they are reading their sources to answer the questions either in their notebook, directly on their sources, or using technology. The questions have students use their sources to find the textual evidence of how it is written.
We have analyzed development in other non-fiction sources as a class so this begins to lead students toward independent practice with the hopes that they internalize this skill. My anticipation is that students will be able to answer these questions on their own. We have practiced this already and I feel comfortable that they have mastered this skill. A lesson like this shows whether or not that have mastered this skill independently.
Now that students have a general idea of development and focus, and I monitor their progress to make sure they have understood this, the next step is to practice.
Before they practice, we quickly review the informative text rubric that I will be using to assess their final pieces. We review the development/focus section of the rubric. I pull up the rubric on my Smartboard and go over each part of the development/focus section. I answer any questions that may come up. The questions that come up are usually what certain categories mean and what they can do to revise their pieces in order to achieve that high score. Since the project is due soon, now is a time for students to see the rubric so they know the expectations for each area. They have seen how writers accomplish the goals set forth in the rubric and they can begin to model that on their own. This video discusses the rubric more in-depth, specifically the development and focus portion.
Students spend the rest of class time working on their projects so I can monitor their progress. As students are working on writing their informative text pieces, I have them keep development and focus in mind. They have had practice analyzing for this so they should be able to work on their projects and make sure they are developing and focusing based on the work we have done in this unit so far.
One way I support students during this time is to conference individually with them. These conferences do not have to long but can be brief. As students are working I circulate around the room and ask them to share part of what they are working on. Once that section is read we can refer back to ideas we discussed earlier in the lesson of development and focus and they can discuss what they have done. I can then offer suggestions to improve that work.