Today my students will take a non-fiction diversion from To Kill a Mockingbird and learn about a real hero of the south, Judge Julius Waites Waring. To accompany the brief biography of Judge Waring that I have reproduced, I have designed a series of questions to mirror those my students will soon encounter on the Smarter Balanced assessment they will be piloting at the end of the month.
For the first portion of the lesson, I arrange my students in strategic pairs, spreading out my high performers and those who sometimes struggle with reading comprehension. Each student is given a copy of the biography "About Judge Waring" to read, either aloud as partners or to themselves, whichever method the partnerships choose. I remind them not to read empty-handed, that they should have pen/pencil/highlighter in hand to mark key passages, or even perform mini-summaries in the margins as necessary.
Additionally, each student is given a copy of the questions to address, which they are allowed to discuss with their partners, though each student must complete an individual set of questions.
When student partnerships have completed the questions, we will spend the next few minutes reviewing the answers. This is critical, as my students will need to hear how their peers think through the wording of the questions and how they support their answers with evidence from the text.
As we review, I explain to them that one of the changes in the new testing procedures is the possibility of more than one answer for some questions; that is why, I remind them, it is so important that they are able to support their responses with evidence from whatever text they are assigned to read. This is a practice I have been training my students to adopt all year and so I anticipate that many will handle this requirement with ease.
Next, I transition my students into a listening session about Judge Waring, from an interview with Judge Richard Gergel, recorded for NPR. Since the Smarter Balanced assessment will include listening portions, I have designed a second set of questions of which the first three mirror the types my students may be expected to address on the Smarter Balanced assessment:
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I explain to my students that while the actual test will allow them to listen multiple times to any recording, we will only have time to listen once, but will review immediately following the listening as a whole group. I have included a bit of extra information at the top of their questions that should be helpful, including the name of the interviewed (Richard Gergel) and the definitions of plaintiff and the NAACP.
When the interview has concluded, we will spend the remaining minutes reviewing the first three questions as a whole group. Again, this is a valuable review, so that my students can hear how their peers support their answers.
I do not anticipate that we will have time to address the last two questions, and so they are are assigned as homework, as they are designed to return our focus back to To Kill a Mockingbird.