Did you know that Newsela offers professional development opportunities? A plethora of useful tutorials can be accessed through their PD Resources page. I recently completed the training and assessments required to become a Newsela Certified Educator – oh yeah! If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, here is their run-down. The benefits include:
A certificate for completion of 5 hours of professional development and training.
An official certification badge to share on professional platforms.
The ability to represent Newsela at conferences, training sessions, and lesson plan collaboration.
The 5 hour time estimate is actually pretty accurate, because even though I breezed through the tutorials and quizzes, I spent a long time on the final assessment. The final step is to create a lesson plan that incorporates Newsela PRO features such as a text set, annotations, etc. I am pretty proud of the product I created! Just for fun, I am going to link it below. You know what a fan I am of the novel Spite Fences, so I created this lesson plan as an introductory activity about barriers in society for the novel unit.
Lesson: Barriers in our Society
Teachers: Mrs. Dembroski
Subject: Humanities (ELA and SS)
Featured Newsela Article: Beyond Barbie: New toys show girls a path toward science and math
Essential Question: What are the ‘fences’ or barriers in our society, and how can we begin to overcome them?
Students will understand that there are invisible barriers in our society that influence our lives.
Students will be able to read for a purpose and highlight evidence.
Students will be able to make connections between text selections.
Students will be able to cite evidence to support their inferences about a text.
RI.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RI.8.3 Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events.
W.8.2.B Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
Assessment – Create a concept web of the barriers in our society and evidence of those barriers as discussed and cited from the Newsela text set articles.
3 (Meets) – Student has included at least 4 accurate barriers in society and appropriate textual evidence that connects to and supports the barriers.
2 (Progressing) – Student has included at least 4 accurate barriers in society and has included some textual evidence that connects to the barriers.
1 (Limited) – Student has not included a minimum of 4 accurate barriers in society and/or the textual evidence is missing or does not support the barriers.
Outline / Schedule
Day 1 – Novel book walk, introduce “barriers” activity, and model with first article in small and
Day 2 – Individual work – students read, annotate, and respond to prompts for 3 articles in the
Day 3 – Discussion, begin concept web, adding evidence from articles.
Day 4 – Complete concept web, adding evidence. Submit for assessment grade.
Giving kids with special needs a sporting chance to form friendships
Beyond Barbie: New toys show girls a path toward science and math
With a new arm, a young war victim finds her artistic talent
Defense chief tanks military’s last barrier to women in combat
For these police in Kansas City, child hunger is Public Enemy Number 1
Working-class neighborhood feels division of Olympics
Polarity is no shield against school bullies
U.S. says transgender students get to use restrooms they choose
What are civil rights?
En pointe and on top of world: Ballerina, film star breaks color barrier
Law states that California students must learn about LGBTQ history
Background – Before reading our novel “Spite Fences” by Trudy Krisher, we will do a book walk and discuss the front and back cover, especially the picture of a fence on the front. We will discuss how a fence is a symbol for division. Fences are physical things in our world that divide us, but there are also ‘invisible’ fences that create barriers in our world, influencing how we behave, what we do, and who we (think we can) become.
Learning Goal – The goal of our Newsela experience is to gain some background knowledge on some of the barriers that exist in our society today. Our essential question is, “What are the ‘fences’ or barriers in our society, and how can we begin to overcome them?”
We will begin by reading one article together as a model: Beyond Barbie: New toys show girls a path toward science and math. Students will be seated in groups of 3-4, and will be instructed to read the article out loud to their small group.
Highlight in blue evidence that indicates what problems toymakers noticed and tried to solve by reinventing their dolls.
Discussion Afterward, they will discuss the following 2 prompts:
What problem are toymakers trying to solve by reinventing dolls and changing their appearances?
What barrier(s) in society does this article show you?
How does this barrier affect what people think they can do and/or who they think they can become?
Then, we will come together as a class and discuss our responses. I will model and guide students in understanding that gender expectations are a major barrier in our society, and they can impact what careers or interests people choose.
Next, students will be instructed to work individually and select 3 more articles from the text set. Each article will have the same 2 writing prompts, as indicated below.
What barrier(s) in society does this article show you?
How does this barrier affect what people think they can do and/or who they think they can become?
Annotation instructions: Highlight in blue any evidence you find of barriers in society mentioned in the article.
Once students have completed their reading and writing prompts, we will come together as a class and make a giant web of all the barriers in society we have noticed through reading Newsela articles (gender, race, ability, identity, financial status, etc.). I will model and guide students in adding evidence from their Newsela articles to the web. Their individual webs will be turned in for an assessment grade. This activity will set us up for further discussion throughout our novel unit of how we can begin to address and break down those barriers.
Though this is an individual assignment, some students (emergent readers) will be encouraged to work in pairs. Others (emergent writers) will be offered the opportunity to verbally discuss their writing prompt responses with the teacher instead of typing them up. Finally, others will have assistance from a paraprofessional with all aspects of the task, and may work with the para in groups of 1 – 4.
As an extension, I will encourage stronger readers to read more than 3 articles, and/or to find additional articles throughout Newsela that address the barriers in society. I’d also invite them to highlight in a second color (pink) how people have attempted to address these barriers.
This assignment will help students in learning about barriers in society that may affect them or others in their lives. We all confront barriers at some point, but we don’t often think about the barriers that impact others. This activity will help students learn to think beyond themselves. It will also set us up for our novel unit and for exploring ways to overcome those barriers. We will return to the articles after we have finished the novel unit to make a new concept web of ideas, solutions, and inspiration for overcoming barriers in society. We will also brainstorm action steps we can begin in our own community for beginning to break down those barriers and make our world a more inclusive space. We will also connect this learning to the main characters in Spite Fences (Maggie Pugh, George Hardy, Zeke), who pushed against and fought to break down barriers in her own world.
Have you heard of Newsela? Maybe you already use it in your classroom, or maybe you’ve heard me discuss how I have used it with my intervention classes. Whether you’re brand new to it, or you’ve been using it for years, you might like to take a look at this comprehensive online tutorial I created called “Using Newsela Like a Pro.”
This tutorial will show you how to use Newsela to target reading strategies through text annotation, writing prompts, guided text reading, reading with a purpose, and text sets.
Well, we are down to the last 9 days of school. I know, oh do I know, how tempting it is to fill in those last few weeks with ‘fluff’ and ‘fun stuff.’ But I was having none of that this year. I wanted to end the year strong. I noticed that we had not made time for argumentative writing this year, and I know how critically important that is in 8th grade (and… life), so I developed a 9-week quick tour of the argumentative genre. Believe it or not, I think my students appreciate this. I am not having the mutiny I expected, and everyone seems fairly engaged and productive :: knocks on wood::
I began by presenting a menu of options to each of my 4 classes and allowing them to choose their top 2 or 3 topics. I do have one advanced English class, and I gave them the option of “genetically modified babies,” which I did not offer to my other classes. Here were their options:
Cell phones in school
Physical Education class in school
Junk food in school
Changing the legal driving age
Legally assisted suicide
I had all topics pre-approved by the principal, and I did a few quick searched on my own to determine if there was enough credible and student-friendly material available on the internet for them. As you can see from the picture above, the top picks in each class were legally assisted suicide and cell phones in school.
The first step was teaching my students what evidence is (FEAST-ExO) and how to appropriately perform a google search to get some background information on their topic. I gave each small group a post it and asked them to post 5 indisputable facts about their topic that they found in their research. Then, I had each small group generate sub-questions that they still wondered about their topic, divvy up the questions to group members, and perform further research to add to the posters. This gave us a good foundation of knowledge about the topic before proceeding.
Following the internet research, I had the class generate a list of stakeholders in the topics and then assign each student to a stakeholder position (e.g. doctor, parent). They then created a mini profile on their stakeholder including name, age, occupation, stakes, etc. Their favorite part was drawing their stakeholder’s likeness 🙂
Our next steps were to investigate and practice writing claims, which culminated with them writing a claim for their own stakeholder based on his/her most logical position on the topic. Over the weekend, they gathered evidence their stakeholder would use to construct their argument.
This week, they will be engaging in an online threaded discussion on Google Classroom, posing as their stakeholder and defending their claim with credible and logical evidence. The final activity will be a collaborative one – they will work together to generate a solution or compromise for their topic. They will have to submit a detailed explanation of the compromise, including pros and cons.
Does this seem like a lot for a 13 year old? Not my 7th graders 🙂 They are doing fantastically. For some of my struggling students, I did offer assistance such as printed research for them to highlight and use. In general, though, I’ve been mostly hands-off and allowing them to explore this genre as independently as possible. I’ll be sure to report back once we have finished the unit to let you know how it went!
We have now finished our Online Threaded Discussions, which went very well (done on Google Classroom). Having them do much of the legwork up front, researching and familiarizing themselves with the topic and evidence, was the most useful strategy. They came prepared to discuss! Below are some snapshots of their online discussions.
Ah, the dreaded student presentations. Not for you, the teacher – You are so excited to see the fruition of students’ hard work. You can’t wait to see all of the wonderful ideas and revelations and evidence of learning. The students, on the other hand, are simply waiting to ‘get it over with.’ And when they are not presenting, they are sitting there, totally checked out, waiting for these hours, nay days, of presentations to just end already.
I know that many of you have excellent, tried-and-true methods for livening up presentations and engaging the audience: note-taking, exit slips, peer assessment, question response, etc. For this blog post, I’d just like to share one new tool with you – Today’s Meet.
Todays Meet is incredibly easy to use. I can even set up a ‘chat room’ on the fly, right there in class. I simply tell my students the web address / url, and when they arrive there, they log in with an appropriate nickname (First Name + Last Initial, for instance).
During student presentations, I require every student to post one thought, either a:
I like to have Todays Meet up and running on the projector screen behind the presenters, so we can all see what is going on. However, if this is not possible, I can also have it running on my laptop to the side. At the end of the presentation, the presenters can check the Todays Meet feed and choose 1 or 2 posts to respond to for the class. For more advanced or practiced students, one member of a presenting team could be fielding important questions on Todays Meet during the presentation as well.
Students have a directed purpose for listening
Students are engaged in the presentation
Students can record their questions or thoughts as soon as they think of them
Students can engage in a back-and-forth discussion in the chat room
You can print out the transcript
It requires modeling and instruction up front – be clear about expectations
While students are typing their question or thought, they may miss a bit of the presentation
You need to ‘Let Go!’ of your expectations of proper spelling and grammar
It’s another fun and efficient tool to use to keep the student audience engaged, to gather useful feedback for the presenters, and to keep students thinking about the content of the presentations. You may be pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful responses students pose to one another, showing yet another layer of learning!
I bet you can think of hundreds of ways to use this online tool to engage your students in deeper thinking and connecting. Book chats, anyone?
I recently mentioned that I presented my research at the Reading Research Symposium at Cardinal Stritch University. I was very nervous about this opportunity – worried that I would be asked questions I couldn’t answer and that everyone would soon realize I was a complete fraud and take away my doctorate. I am pleased to report that this was not the case. I surprised myself at how eloquently I was able to answer all questions thrown my way, and with an abundance of detail, evidence, and visuals to support my claims. Of course I should have had more confidence – this is MY research after all! Many people are very interested in online reading comprehension, and I was happy to feed into their enthusiasm. What was more meaningful to me, however, was when we dropped the guise of research and someone would ask, “That’s wonderful. So, how would you use this in, say, an actual 3rd grade classroom?” That’s when I got excited. Turning research into practice – this is my bag, baby! I explained how I use these findings with my own students and some simple modifications I would use for various populations and grade levels. I directed people to more resources and ideas to support their own teaching practices with regards to online reading comprehension. I felt very helpful, which is the ultimate fulfillment for a teacher!
I walked away from this experience with a lot more confidence and some important notes, should I chose to do another poster presentation (which I definitely would!). Below are some tips I can share:
1. Laminate your poster – I envisioned hanging up my poster with tacks, but I was handed a role of masking tape instead. I wish I had laminated to protect my expensive investment.
2. Have a handout – Poster presentations are never as long as people would like them to be, and there is a lot of information to juggle. Visitors would appreciate a handout with a brief (very brief! 1 page, tops!) summary of your research as well as your contact information.
3. Put your poster online – Speaking of accessibility, visitors would appreciate a chance to study your poster in greater depth at a later time. It is helpful to place your poster online and give them a url (or tiny url) where it can be accessed. In the picture above, you will see a small paper just to the right of my poster – this contains a tiny url link to my poster on this blog as well as a copy of my business card (and email address).
4. Business Cards – If you have business cards, bring them and put them on display. This is an excellent opportunity to network.
5. Bring plastic sleeves for any supporting documents – As you can see in the picture above, I brought along several supporting documents like charts, explanations of my coding system, visuals of the assessment I used, etc. Visitors confused these with handouts, and some of them walked off. I wish I would have brought plastic sleeves to indicate that these items can be viewed but should stay on the table.
6. Classroom Tools – I have many exciting classroom tools and learning activities that I have subsequently developed as a result of this research project. My visitors would have loved to see them to witness how this research translates into practice. Bring along any visuals, interactives, tools, and assessments that apply to your research.
7. Common Questions – Be prepared to answer quick, common questions from multiple visitors. Here are some that I was asked several times: “What surprised you most about your research?” “What is the one most interesting thing you found?”
8. Poster Session Survivor Toolkit – Be sure to bring the following to your poster presentation: water, scissors, tape, a pad of paper, pen/pencil.
Be sure to look professional, wear shoes you can stand in for a long period of time, and have confidence and have fun! You never know who you’ll meet, or what exciting new ideas and opportunities you can discover!
This Saturday, I will be presenting my research at the Reading Research Symposium at Cardinal Stritch University. I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity to share my research and findings with other professionals in the field. Conducting research and writing a dissertation is one thing, but being able to collaborate, get feedback, network, and gain a new perspective really makes all this hard work feel worth while.
The following is my poster presentation for this session:
Below is my favorite (and most informative and interesting) flow chart created from the results of this research. I think it is very telling about the kinds of navigational habits that are found to be most successful for online reading comprehension:
Summary of Findings and Visual Representatino of the Effectiveness of Four Navigational Profiles Used by Phase 2 Participants
And here are a few more flow charts and figures that help to visually explain the results of this research. Fascinating stuff, right? If you have any questions about my research, I’d be happy to answer them – please ask away in the comments below.
Pie Charts Representing the Number of Participants who Engaged in Specific Navigational / Reading Style – by Percentile Grouping. For each chart, N = 4
Flow Chart representing the Number of Participants in each Percentile Third Group That Engaged in a Reading Strategy or Behavior (N = 12)
Summary of Findings Regarding Variables that Influence Online Reading Comprehension
Have you heard of Kahoot? I just learned about it, and I was so excited to try it in my classroom. You can use this tool with any personal tech device with internet access. My students all have iPads, but you could also use cell phones or laptops if students have these.
I’ve got to say, my students REALLY enjoyed it. I haven’t seen them this excited in a long time. And I didn’t even offer prizes! They wanted to know when we could play again. As soon as I can make a new game!
Kahoot is like Trivia. The teacher creates a game, and the students play with their personal technology devices. I created a review game for some tricky grammatical concepts we have been studying. This would be an excellent review tool for vocabulary or content area classes as well.
I put the game up on my SMARTBoard, which displays a 5-digit game code. The students go to https://kahoot.it and enter the game code, and suddenly they are logged in to the game (no account or set-up required).
For each question, choices appear on their device. They log their answer on their iPad, and they are awarded points based on speed and accuracy.
After each question is complete, the SMARTBoard screen shows the correct answer, and their iPad tells them how many points they were awarded as well as which place they are in. On my SMARTBoard, the game then displays the top 5 participants (struggling students are not identified to the class).
I pause after each question for discussion. I usually create several questions in a row on the same concept, and this gives students a chance to learn and improve.
The possibilities for this game are endless! I did a 17-question game (each question has a 30-second timer), and this took about 25 minutes once you include the discussion and all of their enthusiasm. What a fun day in Language Arts class!
It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on my reading intervention crew. I work with a group of seven 8th graders on a weekly basis who can benefit from an extra reading boost.
We first began with Newsela, which is such a wonderful FREE tool. I’ve been able to track their progress and meet with them to discuss strategies. We read one article and completed the quiz together so that my students could see just how much effort it is to find the correct answer. You have to a) read carefully b) monitor your own comprehension, then c) make sure you understand the question d) [and this is SO important] actually go BACK into the text to find the answer e) use process of elimination to check your answer (make sure the others don’t make sense).
Now, we’ve also added a vocabulary element to our sessions. I started by locating a list of the Top 100 6th grade ‘need to know’ words. Since my 8th graders are each about 2 years behind in reading abilities, this seemed an appropriate place to start. First, I had them simply read the words out loud to me. I marked any they miscued – those would certainly become vocabulary flash cards. Later, I also had them go through the list again and prioritize a list of an additional 10 words they want to learn about.
As it turns out, each of my students had 4 miscues in common: notorious, ominous, melancholy, and unconscious. These 4 words would become our ‘group words’ that we would all study together. Beyond that, their lists became personalized based on individual needs.
I had my group all download the app StudyBlue, a free app for creating flashcards, review, and quizzes.
Next, I gave them a handout with each of the 4 group study words, a kid-friendly definition (retrieved from http://www.wordsmyth.com – set the side bar to ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Beginner’), and a list of synonyms. The lists looked like this on their iPads:
Next, the students had time to use the Flash Card feature on the right. The app gives you a choice of either term or definition. You tell the app if you recalled the term correctly or not, and the app tracks your progress.
Once the students are done studying the flash cards, it’s time for a quiz. There is an option for multiple choice:
…and True / False:
Obviously this will become more challenging as we add more words to our set.
I love that this app tracks your progress as well.
Once the students master the 6th grade words, we will move on to 7th grade words. We will also continue with Newsela, and I have plans to do some word study as well (such as this Word Tower Greek and Latin roots/prefixes/suffixes activity).
Things seem to be going very well with my group. This is due in large part to the fact that they are great kids and all very motivated to improve. It also doesn’t hurt that I maaaaaaybe bribe them with candy. Hey – it’s a teacher’s best kept secret! I will continue to monitor their progress and find new ways to challenge them and help them boost their confidence and soar in the classroom!
Hello all week 24 survivors! There are so many wonderful highlights from this week!
1. Gorgeous Weather! – This post would be entirely incomplete without mentioning the absolutely gorgeous weather we’ve been having this week in Wisconsin. It’s amazing how 45 degrees in the middle of winter can feel JUST like 75 degrees in the middle of summer. No coat, windows down, tunes cranked – this is living! I went on a walk in the sunshine and soaked up every minute!
2. Symbolism – THEY GET IT!!! These are the moments we live for as teachers, I tell ya. My students recently read “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes, a short story about a large woman and a frail boy who learn that they have much in common. There is a scene where the woman tells the boy to go wash his face in her sink. I gave my students several close reading and deep thinking questions to accompany the text, and I held my breathe to see how they would answer #3: Explain the deeper meaning of Roger washing his face in the sink. What could this symbolize? On Wednesday, when we discussed the answers in class, students RAISED THEIR HANDS and reported proudly, “It represents him washing away his mistakes and starting over!” HALLELUJAH the clouds opened, angels appeared, and I practically screamed, “YES YOU GET IT!!!!” It’s a proud, proud moment indeed when you realize your students are growing and learning and are able to do new things they could not do before your class. They get figurative language and symbolism, and I’m sending them off soon, ready for 9th grade!
3. Phonto – We have been experimenting with a new app called Phonto. The app allows you to put text on image, which means the students can make really neat collages, web memes, etc. We recently used this app to explore personality traits. Students know what personality traits are, but I wanted to elevate their language and have them use higher level choices – words like: ambitious, arrogant, serious, confident, strict, etc. Turns out the students have heard of the words, they have even used them, but they are very fuzzy on the exact definition (and they may have been using the word incorrectly). So I assigned a word to partner groups, then had look up the word, then create a collage of synonyms and pictures to explain the word. The results are pretty cool!
4. The Art of Pie Making – My grandmother was the master of pie making. I dreamed of her Pumpkin Chiffon pie for Thanksgiving. I recently decided it was time for me to take up the art. And when I do something, I go all in. So I’ve got some recipes and I recently purchased some new tools, too. I promised my family I would make then a Chocolate Cream Pie for our March Birthday celebration. Time to get practicing! Oh and I’m certain my husband doesn’t mind being a taste tester 🙂 Pictured: Cook Book, Pie Tin, Pie Weights, Cake Decorating Tools.
5. Car Wash – Sing with me now, “Car Wash…. Working at the Car Wash, Yeah, OoOoOoooooohhhhH!!” I know it’s ridiculous and silly that this should be a highlight, but getting my car washed was SUCH an awesome feeling! My poor old Corolla hasn’t gotten a bath in maybe 6 months, and it was becoming dangerous since I couldn’t see out the windows. It was a LOVELY day of 45 degrees, so I went for it. Ahhhh!! You see, this is being an adult. Getting excited over really stupid things like new appliances, a clean house, or a washed car.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy these Week 23 highlights!
1. iPad Check – With the year half over, the staff figured this was a great time to do a little housekeeping with the student iPads. The students got a refresher on how to reset their iPads, ‘clear the tray,’ and clean up any unwanted items including photographs and apps. After only 5 months with the iPads, some students had a shocking 5,000 photographs, and over 50 apps! We had them delete all but a few games, all but 50 photos, and then sanitize their iPads. A staff member checked each iPad for visible signs of damage. Finally, my favorite part, our Technology Instructional Coordinator spoke with the students in a large group about the rampant gaming problems we’ve been having. Not only are teachers annoyed with students sneakily playing games in class, but students find each other annoying and distracting as well. Our instructor showed the students a video about another school district that took away all App Store rights and completely restricted student iPad usage – all apps had to be downloaded and managed by the school. I hope the scare tactic worked. Anyway, it was pretty rewarding to delete apps off of the students’ iPads. Flappy Bird? POOF! Cookie Clicker? BYE! I maybe enjoyed that part a little too much.
2. New Kicks – So I got some new shoes that are as loud and obnoxious as I am! I kid. But seriously, these shoes are cRaZy, and the students love them. I got lots of, “Nice shoes, Mrs. D!” Anyway if you’re dying for a pair, here’s a link!
3. A Senior’s Words of Wisdom – On Monday of this week, I visited our district high school, which is luckily just across the street. School was not in session, but I enjoyed wandering around the halls and seeing all of the great artwork from my former students. I came across these quotes, shown above, and they stopped me dead in my tracks. These are quotes from my former 8th graders, now upper classmen, giving advice to younger students. They are things I try and tell my students every day, but I know they mean much more coming from someone who’s recently ‘been there.’ The quotes read:
* Many students shudder at the thought of doing even the slightest amount of thought-intensive work, and yet often view themselves as someone who is an intelligent and hard working person.
* If this educational epiphany would have arisen sooner in my high school career, the time put into my education would have been much more productive.
* You aren’t going to figure out what you want to do or what career you want to go into by sitting around and whining about how much homework you have to do or how horrible your teacher is. Take the responsibility no matter how terrifying it is.
4. My Valentine – In addition to a custom photo card, I also made my husband this lovely little book entitled “What I Love About ___ by ____” from Uncommon Goods. I surprised him by leaving it on his desk to find this morning. He is such a wonderful, caring, generous thoughtful man. Our marriage works because we believe in each other and we always have each others’ backs. We also each think we are the lucky one, which is pretty great, too. What are we doing for Valentine’s Day? My idea of a perfect Friday night – Ryan will bring home dinner from the Public Market, we’ll watch a movie (I rented “Now You See Me”), we’re going to pop some champagne, and I made a delicious Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie for dessert!
5. Battleground – We finished watching the movie version of “Battleground” by Stephen King this week. Reading the short story, then watching the movie helps us to reach those Common Core targets about comparing a story told through different media. The students were surprisingly insightful about the differences between the two versions, and why a director may have made the choice to alter the original story. Now, the movie has NO talking at all. At first, the students balked and whined, “Seriously? This is gonna suck.” 5 minutes into the movie, you can barely hear blinking and breathing, they are so riveted. I even had one kid tell me, “I was so excited to watch this movie, it’s the only reason I came to school today.” Um, great!
I hope you had a wonderful week and didn’t get too cold. Just remember, Spring is only 33 days away!