We start our day with biweekly learning reflection and work habits, time spent reflecting on growth and how that growth happened (or didn't). These reflections are a place for dialogue between my students and I--I can acknowledge their hard work or encourage them to try new strategies. My students are accustomed to these reflections and so are quite honest; I find them to be worthwhile tools for communication.
Our new skill today is, truly, an old skill--compare and contrast to build toward evaluation. Students have made comparisons (a term I'm going to use to refer to both compare and contrast) in multiple classes since the beginning of their school career. Today is just about channeling that work into an effective evaluation of multiple texts: which is most effective and why?
Because students are already familiar with comparison, I breeze through notes (more reminders): look for commonalities in content (claim, evidence, details, reasoning) and style; use specific textual details in your response; and analyze each text thoroughly (rather than focusing on just one). Then, evaluation.
In earlier lessons on evaluation for text structure, students struggled. Our final method, with which they found success, was to consider what was present and what was missing in a text. Here, we take another approach. I ask them to consider how the audience would have reacted. In order to do this, they must know who was in the audience and what the audience may have already believed. Then, they must make inferences about how the audience would react given the content and style of the texts. This reaction is the place of evaluation. Which would be more effective with the given content, style, and audience?
Because this is our first practice and students may need support, I ask them to work in assigned (by seating chart) groups to analyze General Custer's "My Life on the Plains" and Chief Joseph's "Speech to Washington." I give them 30 minutes to work and circulate to answer questions and give feedback. Many groups begin responding with vague answers (ex. "they're both about the west" or "they are both persuasive"). I find myself encouraging students to use specific textual details often, pushing students to look at the texts rather than answer from memory. At the end of the 30 minutes, which falls at the end of the hour, I complete collection by luck of the draw (students draw cards to see who turns in the work for the group, thus encouraging group accountability and teamwork). I ask for a show of thumbs for comfort level and see plenty of positive feedback.