Context and Overview:
Today, we finish the third part of our first read of the autobiography, Stirring Up Memories, by Pam Munoz Ryan. I am reading the story in three parts because it is too long and there is too much information to digest in one sitting. This is one great thing about transitioning to CCSS: we can take as much time as need with a text to meet our objectives and the needs of our students. I want students to understand what makes this story an autobiography and, in this section in particular, to understand her life as a writer. To accomplish this, I am asking the students to answer some text dependent questions. Since this is still the first read, the questions are explicitly asking what the text states; however, some of the questions are starting to touch on how the author has structured the text through the use of text features. It is our third day with this text, so, even though this part is new, I feel my students are ready to move into these, slightly more layered questions.
After we read and answer questions, students will get to focus on one question for discussion and then for writing.
Afterwards, students get a chance to share their writing with their peers.
On the rug, I share the objective with them: "I can ask and answer questions to understand key details about a text."
I review with the students what has happened so far in the story. My students benefit much from reviewing and connecting of lessons within larger contexts, so I do it often. It helps them to understand how we are adding new knowledge.
I have them pair share with their rug partner before some of them share out loud.
Now, we read the last part of the selection, Stirring Up Memories, called, "A Writer's Life." I will ask them text dependent questions that will guide the students to reread relevant parts of the text so that they are able to locate the evidence to help answer the question. This is hard work and I need to make sure to be persistent about their focus and their engagement.
For the first read, the questions for all three sections address the text features as well. I ask them to notice how the title for this section is written differently than the other words on the pages. I ask them to notice bold words as well. I want them to notice the other pieces of information the author includes. My questions get at what the text says, but today's questions also help them hone in on the layout of the text so that my students grow in awareness of how the story is being told.
Take for example the question, how do we know who the dogs are? To answer it, the students need to gather information from the captions and photographs. I pose additional questions to build mastery. Therefore, I ask, where is her office?
Now I ask, what does it mean for her to work at home? Why? In this case, the students need to do both, use the information in the text and the captions, as well as infer to fully answer the question. I create questions that engage students deeply.
For the reading, I use choral reading, cloze reading (I leave out a word for the students to read), and silent reading. After each stop, I ask the questions.
You'll notice there are quite a few questions in the resource: A Writer's Life. I don't actually use them all - I like to brainstorm a series of questions to have options because I want to be prepared in the moment to use the questions that I feel will best help my students with areas in the text that seem to cause confusion. In this case 3-4 questions a page is more than enough. The questions ask the students to pay attention to the author's life as a writer.
In this unit, I am continually using a Socratic Seminar forum because I want the students to learn how to have an academic discussion. This takes time and practice.
I review the reason for Socratic Seminar, and I also review the rules for participation. Students need to know how to engage in discourse, and many of them need explicit instruction in order for the discussion to go well and engage everyone.
I guide the students through the process. To participate, students must know how to hand off and can reference Handing-Off Chart in case they need it. To hand-off means, that once the speaker is done, he or she chooses a classmate who is raising their hand and says, "I hand off to....."
I have attached a document that fully details how I implement the process of Socratic Seminar in my classroom.
Word of caution: It is important to pay attention if the boys are choosing the boys and if the girls are just choosing the girls to go next. If this is happening, I simple ask them to alternate.
The question for today is: "How would you describe the author's life as a writer?"
While it may seem monotonous to keep coming back to having the students respond in writing to a question we have discussed during Socratic Seminar, this repetition helps my English Language Learners. It helps them internalize the learning, build their writing skills, and gives them confidence about themselves as learners.
Additionally, in answering questions my students get much needed practice in looking for evidence in the text. Training students to value evidence takes patience and practice. I also know from their previous writing that many of my students need to work on their writing stamina, so I want to budget time throughout the day to engage in writing as much as possible.
As they write, I walk around to monitor their progress and to give support. Some students need to be reminded of the questions they are being asked. Some students need support with spelling words. Some students need support reading some of the text. Others will need feedback about the content of their writing. I offer a compilation of some of their work.
I close the lesson by having some students share their writing. After they share, the speakers will receive feedback on the content of their writing. This is one way to foster academic conversations.
The students in the audience give feedback in this form:
It is important to keep it to one wish. I want to make sure students embrace the opportunity to share without feeling afraid of what their peers may say. I want the students who share their writing walk away from this experience feeling positive about their writing.
Here are examples of the students who shared:
It is important to note that the students who shared their writing are students who have met the writing objective. It is important to showcase this writing. In this way, students come to understand what is expected of them.