Thursday, June 15, 2017

KTL and Math
by: Tom Regan

The BHS Math Department is actively looking for ways to implement the Keys to Literacy skills in a beneficial and efficient manner.  Several of the teachers have experimented with the Top-Down Webs, Categorizing, a few instances of using Two-Column Notes, and a some experimenting with Summarizing (thanks Renee).

As you may recall from your days as student of mathematics, few if any of these strategies were utilized within a typical math classroom.  And when you think of literacy skills, math class is not where you would think these skills would be developed.  But in many ways math is the ultimate world language.  It is the underlying language that explains much of our lives.  

There is an extensive amount of definitions.  Kyle had his students practice Two-Column Notes while introducing circle terminology. This provided a format for his students to organize the vocabulary while clearly showing supporting diagrams.

There is an extensive amount of theorems and properties to be categorized.  Jeanne created an activity that had students grouping functions into multiple categories.  This allowed the students to organize the variations of properties on their own terms.

The entire subject matter is cumulative in nature.  Here is an example of a basic Top-Down-Web used for review.  These types of Webs help to show the relationships between concepts.

And in order to truly understand equations, notation, and concepts, you must be able to put them into plain English.  Brighid and Renee worked on this by breaking down text and introducing the idea of summarizing in the math classroom.


While this is nothing like we as Math teachers were taught ourselves, there have been multiple ambitious attempts to step outside our comfort zone and try something new.  Clearly this is a solid stepping off point.

Friday, June 9, 2017



Two-Column Note Taking Variations
by: Virginia Volpe, Jaime Kotarakos, Theresa Bergeron

Two-column notes have been an effective strategy in all content areas. They are very useful in helping students find main ideas, supporting details in textbooks, organize their thoughts for writing assignments, and preparing for tests and quizzes.  It has become a great study strategy technique for students.

Many students can become overwhelmed by the amount of background information examined and collected when researching topics.  Some students have difficulties distinguishing between facts and opinions when reviewing their evidence. The Two Column Notes Strategy is a good tool to help students’ identify misconceptions when organizing historical facts. One variation I found to be very beneficial is having students create Two Columns Notes with the headings, Fact/ Opinion or as seen in the student sample below, Myth/Fact.
  

The students had fun with this project. They enjoyed sharing their work and they were intrigued with information they discovered.

 



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Keys to Literacy’s top-down webs continue to support Spanish students in the BHS World Language Department

The World Language (WL) Department continues to implement many Keys to Literacy (KTL) strategies throughout the spring semester.  Continuous collaboration within the WL Department highlights the success that many of us have been experiencing with various KTL templates and resources that support our learners’ organization, reading and writing skills in the language classroom. Most notably, this past month Mrs. DiCroce and Mrs. Dacey introduced present tense stem-changing verbs to their Spanish I students. Stem-changing verbs can be a tedious concept for language learners to master, therefore it was important that their students were able to 1) understand the reason why certain verbs change their stem when conjugated in the present tense and 2) comprehend which verbs change from e → ie, o → ue, and u → ue. For that reason, Mrs. DiCroce and Mrs. Dacey decided to explore the use of top-down webs to organize the material studied for students to visually categorize the newly introduced verb conjugations. The example here presents an overview of the concept studied along with examples of verbs that fall under each category. Students designed their own top-down web, which included examples of verbs presented in class placed under the appropriate conjugation heading in their top-down web.  
Not only is the categorizing of new grammar concepts a crucial component in beginner Spanish classes, Spanish IV students have also explored the use of top-down webs when studying the subjunctive mood in Spanish. After Profesora De Sousa and Mrs. DiCroce presented the subjunctive mood along with the mnemonic device WEIRDO to better categorize verbs and phrases of volition, their students categorized the concepts into a top-down web (an example is shown below).
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Using Question Generation as an Assessment
By: Sally Del Llano

Question generation is an ongoing skill for our students. In order for students to access the most essential components of our curricula, we must guide students through the process of asking the “right” (or most effective) questions. My US History co-teacher and I decided earlier in the year we wanted to build an assessment for our students that would utilize the Keys to Literacy Question Generation technique.

At the end of our unit on Westward Expansion, we assembled students into groups of four and provided each group with a Bloom’s Questioning cue word “cheat sheet.” Each group’s task was to generate between two to four questions for each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy addressing the material for the unit. Students were not expected to answer these questions; simply generate them. We framed the activity by asking students to create questions they feel would be relevant to include on a test about Westward Expansion. We displayed six big pieces of chart paper, one labeled each Bloom’s level, around the classroom. Students were instructed to write their questions on sticky notes, then post them on corresponding chart paper. To ensure quality and relevance, teachers surveyed and edited questions as students were generating questions. Students then used their iPads to take pictures of each of chart, which became their study guides to prepare of the exam.

Ultimately, my co-teacher and I chose which questions would be added to the exam. We decided on five Remembering (most took the form of multiple choice), five Understanding, two Analyzing, and two Creating. In order to make the exam manageable for students, we decided to omit the Applying and Evaluating question sections. Using question generation as a test format was a success with our students and we will implement it again during a different unit. The greatest benefits to using this approach were helping students delve deeper into the content by practicing question generation, giving them a sense of ownership over the exam, and eliminating test anxiety through adequate preparation.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Top Down Webs in Geometry
by: Catherine McCarthy

Using top-down webs as both a note-taking and processing tool is beneficial to students in Geometry.  In Geometry, students are challenged to identify the patterns that exist within different shapes and to solve the algebraic equations that are embedded in these figures. When faced with geometric problems, students can struggle to merge their understanding of Algebra with their emerging understanding of the geometric principles they are studying. By encouraging students to create top-down webs which clearly identify the properties of the shapes, students can reference these notes when solving the problems. Furthermore, including models of equations reinforces students’ understanding of how to set up new problems.
In addition to guiding students through the problem-solving process, top-down webs provide a note-taking method that allow them to compare and contrast and see the relationships between the characteristics of shapes being studied. Including visual depictions of each shape provides an immediate reference for students that reinforces their knowledge. When students are provided with a blank template at the start of the unit, the can add information as they proceed through the unit and immediately begin to see comparisons.

Students can also use these webs as study tools. When the elements of a web are put on separate pieces of paper, the information can be reviewed by building the web from memory to check understanding. The use of both color and pictures helps students identify common elements and differences across shapes.







Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Keys to Literacy continues in the BHS World Language Department

March 28, 2017
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This year, the World Language Department has been excited to implement the strategies that the Keys to Literacy program offers.  Last year, BHS began working with Keys to Literacy trainers and the World Language Department discovered that the resources they have to offer complement our daily lesson plans in meaningful ways.
Spanish teachers, Ms. Duhamel, Mrs. DiCroce and Profesora De Sousa, have experimented with Top Down Webs in their Spanish III classes.  Students were presented with a vocabulary theme that focused on reflexive verbs and daily routines.  After reinforcing the vocabulary using resources, such as two column notes, students read a short story about two kids named Débora, a Puerto Rican, and Hipólito, a Bolivian.  To organize the information read in the target language, Spanish teachers modeled the use of Top Down Webs.  They created a Top Down Web exemplar that outlined the daily routine of Niko, a character from a video that acts out his actions during typical day, and, then students completed the web based off of the notes that they took while watching the video (see student Top Down Web example: la-rutina-de-niko-1).  In sum, the Top Down Web helped students organize information and compare it to their own daily routine.
In addition, Spanish teacher Mrs. DiCroce examined the literature of Débora and Hipólito using Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Students created questions based off of the reading using the various levels of the Bloom’s Taxonomy ladder, ranging from remembering information to creating new details or ideas.   Using the various stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy taught students how to enhance their level of reading comprehension through applying information to daily life, analyzing the concepts through comparisons and contrasts as well as creating alternate scenarios. (see student Bloom’s Taxonomy example: la rutina de Débora).
Also, Profesora De Sousa continues to explore the use of Two-Column Notes in her Spanish classes.  For example, her Spanish II classes have begun organizing their grammar concepts, such as the present tense of -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs using the Two-Column Notes template.  In class, her students organized and categorized the important information pertaining to each idea while using colors to compare examples.  (Check out the example: repaso-1-apuntes-de-2-columnas)
Lastly, Ms. Mirabella taught Top Down Webs and two column notes to her 7th and 8th grade Spanish classes at MSMS. 7th graders were introduced to Top Down Webs in her Spanish class with a general example (a daily routine), and after, students were told they would use webs with their unit on Spanish speaking countries. After Ms. Mirabella created a blank web with only regions listed (i.e. North America, South America, etc.), students filled in the countries that speak Spanish under each region. Students used these webs as part of their study guide for their unit quiz on this concept.
In 8th grade Spanish classes, Ms. Mirabella introduced the family members vocabulary. Students first filled out a “green light, yellow light, red light” work checklist (Word Knowledge Checklist). On this sheet, students noted how much knowledge they had about each vocabulary word about members of the family in Spanish. If they knew what a word meant in English, they wrote the definition in the green light column. If students had heard the word before or have seen it, they wrote whatever they knew about that word (i.e. noun) in the yellow light column. If students had never heard or seen the word before, they simply checked the red light column. After discussing the results of the worksheet, the vocabulary was formally introduced. Next, students completed Two-Column Notes with this vocabulary. In the left side of the notes, students wrote the word in Spanish, and drew a small picture underneath. Across from that on the right side of the page, students filled in what the word meant in English, any synonyms and antonyms for the word, and then used the word in a sentence in Spanish. Overall, students were interested in trying these new strategies, and will continue to use them throughout the year in future units and chapters!
Many of the strategies presented during the Keys to Literacy workshops last spring and this fall have motivated the World Language teachers to explore the resources and collaborate with each other to recognize which tools best support our language students.  Most notably, the strategies that the students are developing in their language class will support them in all classes throughout their learning experience at BHS and beyond.

By: Renee Dacey, Daniela De Sousa, Christina DiCroce, and Gabriella Mirabella

Thursday, March 16, 2017

To Two-Column or Not to Two-Column: That is the Question!!!!! Keys to Literacy strategies can be very effective in the science classroom. However, it does not mean that you always have to use a 2-column note! To quote Renee, “you do not have to fit a square peg in a round hole!” We are going to give you some examples of an effective use of two-column notes and when’s it best to stick with another method! Currently, the BHS Biology classes are on the topic of DNA processes including replication, transcription, and translation. The 3 processes are independent processes but all connect to each other. It can be very confusing for students to sort out the independent details but see the big picture at the same time! Each process can be discussed individually as 2-column notes. Each process can be studied by examining the steps and the “central players”: Replication:










Transcription and Translation:

When comparing and contrasting the 3 process to see the big picture, 2-column notes are not the most effective strategy. Creating a comparison table and a hands-on model of the processes are the most effective methods for this big topic:

Comparing the major ideas of each process in a table.
Creating a visual map of the inter-relationship of the 3 processes As you can see from the above examples, 2-column notes have their place! Where it naturally fits, use it!!! Where it doesn’t fit, don’t force it!
- Brianna Cheever and Jill Graham