Monday, November 20, 2017

Supporting Evidence: an Idea for Explicit Thinking and Connecting

Disclosure: this is my current practice attempting to get student to both include supporting details AND to explicitly connect or explain those details' relationship to their thesis or potential answer to their question.

My CP students in 9th grade classes are doing this as of the week of Nov 13th. We'll be starting it in my 9th grade classes the week of Nov 20th. 

This is a huge intellectual leap for many 9th grade students at all levels of instruction. I believe this is true for a number of reasons:

  1. As writers, they believe that if they give an example, especially in the forms of a paraphrase or a quotation, then they have made their case. 
  2. The thinking that goes with their paraphrase or quotation seems so obvious to them that 9th grade student-writers feel like they are being repetitive or using "filler."
  3. The explicit, deliberate, overt connection of their thinking about the quotation to their thesis or question seems so obvious to 9th grade student-writers that they, again, believe that they are stating the obvious and adding "filler."
  4. Students do not understand what they are writing if we assign the topic and we do the thinking to collect the evidence. This can even happen when we guide small groups or whole classes in the collection of evidence. 
  5. Sadly, we see and hear fewer academic arguments where opposite views are expressed, with supporting evidence, comparing like to like. This dearth of models of civil discourse impacts, I believe, our students ideas about what constitutes argument, analysis, and decisions. 
  • I ask students to underline their thinking so that it is quickly visible to them and to me.
  • I ask students to italicize the CTT (connection to thesis) or CTQ (connection to question) so that it is also easily visible to them and to me. 
  • I use the analogy of an autopsy: in the same way that Ducky, the coroner on NCIS opens up the deceased, and weighs, measures, draws blood samples, examines contents, all in the service of investigating cause of death, we do so with our writing.
  • We'll use a modified version of our BAHS DRAFT school-wide writing rubric to autopsy our own writing, and each others', just to be sure that all the paragraph "organs" are there.
This link at the bottom will take you to:
  • page 1: our BAHS DRAFT Informative / Argumentative writing rubric
  • page 2: a single point version of our BAHS DRAFT Informative / Argumentative writing rubric. I've been experimenting with single point rubrics for a couple of years. The idea is to give students the target--the criteria for MEETS. The blank column on the left can be for the evaluator to jot notes when something EXCEEDS. The blank column to the right can be for the evaluator to jot notes when something DOES NOT MEET or is EMERGENT or DEVELOPING. My students like the clarity and visual simplicity of the single point rubric. I've also changed the language to "I" and "my" so that students are reading in the 1st person about their writing and its goals. 
  • pages 3 and 4: Single point rubric adapted for autopsy. The students must actually go through their writing and find, and write, specific instances of their inclusions of the required writing techniques or components. Fair warning: my students do NOT like this one! They have to read their writing, they have to fill out specific examples of how their writing meets the criteria, ergo, they must think. It is WORK, but should avoid handing in drafts as polished products. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Power Outlining

Power Outlining is a simplified form of outlining. 

I teach it so that every "power 1" is a new paragraph. 

The rules are: vertical alignment of "powers" is a must and the higher the "power," the smaller or more specific the detail. 

My observations of student use so far: 
  1. vertical alignment is VERY hard for some kids--but a visual organizing/thinking tool, so very important.
  2. they are still sorting out the idea of how to place a smaller piece of information with its larger component, so their 3s and 4s are sometimes out of place. This could be indicative of a flaw in my teaching, (who knew?!), some confused student thinking/organizing, or simply still an emergent grasp of the idea of outlining.
  3. So far, fingers-crossed, this is really helping many students settle into writing paragraphs with supporting details.

Power Outline for Movies

1. Comedy
     2. Uncle Buck                       So you can see here that all the 2s are movies,
          3. John Candy                 all the 3s are something or someone about the
               4. Canadian               movie, and in this particular sample, all the 4s 
     2. Caddy Shack                    are me helpfully pointing out Canadian actors. 
          3. Bill Murray                          :-)
               4. Canadian
     2. Airplane
          3. Leslie Neilsen
               4. Canadian

1. Classic Black and White
     2. Casablanca
     2. It's a Wonderful Life
          3. Jimmy Stewart
          3. Donna Reed
          3. Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu)
               4. still alive!
     2. All About Eve
          3. Bette Davis
               4. Academy Award 1935 Dangerous
               4. Academy Award 1938 Jezebel
                    5. Nominee Margaret Sullavan
                    5. Nominee Norma Shearer
                    5. Nominee Wendy Hiller
                    5. Nominee Fay Bainter

1. Romantic Comedy
     2. Sleepless in Seattle
     2. You've Got Mail                So by now, we've got 3 nice little paragraphs 
          3. Tom Hanks                 all outlined and ready to go. 
          3. Meg Ryan
     2. When Harry Met Sally
          3. Meg Ryan
          3. Billy Crystal

Here's an Academic Version...
Our Question: Why does Steinbeck design George the way he does?
I'm trying to emphasize that EVERYTHING the kids write is to answer the question...focus focus focus...