TEACHING THE CORE has a great series of blog posts on many aspects of close reading, writing argument and debate.
I also like this video on writing analytical paragraphs. I’ve always believed less is more, so writing tight, to the point paragraphs is a skill worth doing. We don’t have to write full essays to teach important skills of writing.
Most of ya’ll know my friend and colleague Dave Stuart over at Teaching the Core. A few weeks ago, Stu shared ways that we’re working on supporting students so they can learn to really argue. I wanted to explore this idea over here as a way to both expand the conversation and invite you all to share your experiences teaching argumentative writing.
Inquiry & Research
During the last two years, I have been researching ways that I can push my students to be better academic writers. I’m really fortunate in my district that students come from a rich, narrative writing workshop in the middle school, so my students were entering the high school able to free-write with great stamina. I’m lucky also because my students are incredibly passionate about big issues (ex. they’ve raised thousands of dollars for Charity:Water in ninth grade World History). But–even though my students had these strengths–I was noticing that they struggled to clearly organize their ideas, and their writing seemed to lack conviction, despite all that big passion. It was becoming more and more obvious that the freedom and love of a narrative writing workshop wasn’t transferring to the disciplinary writing being asked of them in their other core subjects, namely the informational and argumentative writing tasks in social studies and science.
So, let’s be honest, this learning gap—which spans this chasm between totally focusing on love and freedom to actually working towards rigor and the realistic demands of life—only hints at the major imbalance facing current adolescent literacy instruction. This year I’d like to explore this imbalance with more than the “Tips” series has allowed me to do so far on the blog.
Today, I’ll just take a small step towards this debate by saying that ELA teachers, even those who follow a totally free-style writing workshop, have to realize that students need to learn how to take a stance and use textual evidence to support their ideas. From English and science to art and social studies, all content teachers need to make expository and argumentative writing the major writing focus across all content disciplines. Continue reading →
We did a close reading of the poem, Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser last week. I read the poem aloud, then had the students read it again individually and then hold their thinking and note their observations, thoughts, questions etc..
Then we brok the poem down and looked at the tone of the poem. We found words that stuck out to us that showed the tone (broken, something went wrong,money scarce, winters cold). I had the students wrote the mood down and then find specific lines that supported the mood. We noted how each stanza talked about a different person: a man, woman and child. I had the students go back to the poem and find out specific things we knew about the people in the poem, and list them (the man was tall, the woman liked lilacs, the child played with a tractor etc..). We looked at repetition, figurative language and we discussed specific word choices that the author made.
Although we did a close reading of this poem, the students really did a nice job. They noticed a lot of really interesting things. I liked this poem because we could discuss all of the things I mentioned above and the students were able to understand the poem. They didn’t feel like the content, topic or language was above their heads. It was a manageable length to close read, and It didn’t scare them.
After we read the poem I had my students write a journal prompt about a place where they live, or have things. What would their room, house, or objects say about them. I also showed them this image. I felt this image really went well with the poem. They shared their writing and we all enjoyed a close reading and a writing session.
(By the way, in case you aren’t aware of this, Kelly Gallagher is the person from whose work I first learned about AoWs. More of his work is here.
It’s not exactly the discovery of the polio vaccine, but still, it’s pretty cool.
I like this new focus because one of my key hopes for AoW is that my kids won’t merely become aware of something that’s happening in the world–like, in last week’s article, the growing popularity of largely unregulated e-cigarettes–but that they’ll also see current issues as argumentative conversations, held at water coolers and bus stops and in editorial pages and the blogosphere.
But I want more than that–I also want each article to allow my students to join in on the conversation.
Sketchnoting, in its purest form, is creating a personal visual story as one is listening to a speaker or reading a text. I also believe the interactive notebook, which includes the process of taking “regular” notes” while listening to a speaker and later creating a sketchnote of the text notes, would also be considered sketchnoting. This page will provide links, ideas, tips,and research evidence dealing with the power of sketchnoting. If you are looking for a book on the topic, the seminal work is this book by Mike Rohde.