Sunday, March 18, 2018

Getting Creative with Question Generation
By: Sally Del Llano

Without a doubt, question generation is my favorite Keys to Literacy Comprehension Strategy. While this can partially be attributed to my natural inclination to ask too many unanswerable questions, the deeper reason I enjoy question generation is the enthusiasm it elicits from students.

Recently my English co-teacher and fellow KTL coach, Emily, and I decided to reintroduce the question generation technique to our 9th grade College Prep classes. After spending a generous amount of time during quarters one and two implementing main idea and summary writing as a means of assessing reading comprehension, we decided it was time to mix things up for To Kill A Mockingbird. We began by reviewing each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a large group discussion, and asked students to generate questions for each level using the object of a smartphone. Students were then encouraged to share their questions. This process was a very beneficial one, as it preempted students to examine how and why questions fit a particular level. Once we felt students had a decent grasp on the different levels, we assigned students in groups of 3-4, and had them generate 2 questions per level about a character from the novel. Questions were focused on whether or not this character is a good person. For the first part of this exercise, we asked to students to only generate questions, not answer them. During this activity, students were engaged and lively. I have found this to be the case when the pressure of needing to find a “correct” answer is removed. Students seem to feel freer to ask questions and discuss them when they know they are not being formally assessed.

Since this lesson, we have used question generation as a method of assessing students’ reading comprehension after each chapter. In response to the quality of their questions, we have chosen for some chapters to require only Analyzing and Evaluating question generation. With others we, (as the teachers) have asked students to answer pre-generated Remembering and Understanding questions, then in groups asked them to generate questions for Applying and Creating and swap with other groups to answer the questions. There is a lot of freedom and flexibility with question generation. Incorporating this strategy into our instruction in this capacity has been a fun, energizing way to assess our students’ reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Scaffolding Summary Writing
by: AnnMarie Bilotta

When Keys to Literacy was first introduced, I had the most difficulty with assigning students summary writing. As a math teacher, my original opinion was that summary writing took too much time to do, and that the class would fall behind on the curriculum if I regularly incorporated summary writing in my classroom. What I failed to recognize is that the value of student comprehension outweighs the extra time spent. If students truly comprehend the material initially, there is less time needed in the long run for review. Summary writing is also a great study tool before tests, as it allows students to focus on the main ideas and recognize what is most important while studying.

Easier said than done, right? At first, probably. Remind yourself that it is absolutely okay to dip your toes into the water before plunging in head first. I used to shy away from summary writing because I thought I needed to jump from 0% to 100% overnight; that is not the case. One of the ways I first dipped my toes in was by making my own summary, and then scaffolding it for the students. To put it simply, I came up with a summary and removed pieces of it for the students to fill in. The example below is a scaffolded summary for percentile rank that I gave my probability & statistics students this week as a tool to help them review for their upcoming test. It is a new course this semester (about three weeks in) so many of them do not have experience yet with summary writing. I decided it was best to ease them in with a scaffolded summary on percentile rank. The students cut out the pieces of the table on the bottom and pasted them into the appropriate blank spaces.

See completed summary below:

The students had to understand the overall big picture in order to complete this task. They showed comprehension of the topic by correctly putting the pieces together, and now they have a summary to hold on to that they can study from. Students also reread the summary repeatedly which helped to retain the important information. This summary was particularly important for this unit because there are so many elements to finding percentile rank that many times the steps required are broken up. For example, maybe I only have students calculate the standard deviation, or maybe I skip a few steps and give them the z-score to have them go from there. It is important that the students recognize how all of the pieces come together and understand how the whole process works. Eventually the goal is to have students complete summary writing all on their own, but it is absolutely beneficial to guide them along the path to summary writing as well. Now go dip your toes in!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Writing Effective Arguments
Cathy McCarthy

Keys to Literacy offers a great workshop on writing effective arguments, and breaks down the process into manageable chunks to guide students and teachers through the process. After attending the workshop, my co-teacher Rebecca Bernard and I created a writing assignment for our Sophomore English students to argue for or against the United States Travel Ban. First, we had students read an article outlining both perspectives. We had them highlight in different colors, arguments for and those against. Students transferred these ideas onto a planning sheet.

After students have formed their opinions and chosen their position, based on what they have read, we introduced them to the structure of the argument essay.

As seen in the photo above, there are three major parts of the essay, just as with analytical writing: Introduction, Body and Conclusion, but instead of the PIE structure, the paragraphs are structured based on reasons and evidence, as well as the opposing point of view, or counter argument, which is followed by a rebuttal. Students do need encouragement to write their opinion, given we have disallowed it for their analytical writing.

Below is the link to the assignment and planning sheet:

When your students have completed the assignment, the KTL website contains rubrics for argument writing that closely examine the elements needed for an effective essay.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Categorizing for Deeper Understanding

Categorizing for Deeper Understanding
By: Liz Merlino

As the year progresses, the students in this ELA class have been working on categorizing skills. The ability to sort objects, vocabulary and book content has helped us learn how to categorize.
We are now starting to work on using these categorizing skills to start finding the main idea in a passage. Below are pictures of students working on categorizing the names of characters from The Orphan of Ellis Island, a fourth grade core book.

They had a great discussion on which characters were really the protagonists and which were antagonists. Where do you put their names? Does one bad act make them a bad person? How do we know if something they did is truly bad? These were all topics of debate in the class, and now we’re writing to argue our points.
As the categorizing skills progress, our understanding of the book and other texts deepens. We are able to grab the deeper meanings in the story, develop and ask a variety of questions (Bloom’s Taxonomy) and hold debates rather than just answering a question.

Friday, January 19, 2018

I, We, You- Releasing Responsibility to Students

By: Brianna Cheever & Jill Graham

As we reach the halfway point of the school year, it would be a good time to try to release some of the note-taking responsibilities to the students. It’s a perfect time to transition from the “I” to the “we” (or even “you”) version of the notes. Presently, in our science classes, it has primarily been the teacher providing the students with a scaffolded version of notes to follow along with while the information is being presented. Now, we think it’s a great time to make the students utilize this KTL strategy. First, you can continue making scaffolded notes, but start with removing all the left-hand side information; have the students start coming up with ALL of the main ideas. Then, once they get the hang of that, start removing more of the details on the right-hand side as well.

We have found that reading from a text is a simple way to begin this gradual release of responsibility from the teacher, as it can be difficult to give students a mostly blank sheet of paper when you are lecturing (or in science classes when completing a lab). Additionally, it is hard to give up control and allow the students to think for themselves about the main idea or to decide what is important to write down from what you say. A second idea of how to release responsibility would be to show the students a top-down web of what the unit is going to be about and have them create the 2-column note boxes. This is a simple way for them to know some of the basics ahead of time such as how many boxes to include in their notes and what main ideas they should be including.

In conclusion, releasing responsibility will most likely be a slow process as the teacher learns to give up some control, and the students learn how to be more proactive in their classes. In the end, the goal is for students to be able to take notes from anything read, said, or done on their own and not rely on the teacher to spoon-feed them all of the information. As we start the new term, we think it’s a perfect time to relinquish some control in our classrooms, and encourage our students to use their critical thinking, application, and analysis skills!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Exam Review with KTL

Exam Review with KTL
By: Emily Bularzik
BHS- English

My favorite way to help students study for midyear and final exams is study stations. I set up eight to ten stations around the room, let students choose four to five stations they want to visit, and have students switch stations every ten minutes or so. For classes that need more structure, I set up fewer stations and have students rotate through all of them in assigned groups.

Study stations work well because they give students choice and variety. They also require students to decide what they personally need to work on, and students tend to appreciate this independence. My stations are never all KTL (I like including a “locate all your notes” station, for example), but many of them are. Here are a few of my favorites:

Give students a list of some or all of the key terms that will be on the exam. Have students develop categories and sort the terms. Students could also sort terms by how well they know them and then write down the terms they need to study most.

Top-Down Webs

Have students turn a list of key terms and concepts into a top-down web.

Have students use their own notes, handouts, etc. to develop a top-down web for all the material covered throughout the semester.

Rewrite your exam review guide as a partially completed top-down web to help students see the relationships between concepts.

Two-Column Notes
Rewrite your exam review guide as a partially completed two-column notes chart.

Have students condense their notes from the unit into a new set of two-column notes covering the most important ideas.

Summary Writing
Assign different groups of students to summarize different units or key concepts. Share these as a class resource.

Bloom’s Taxonomy
Using all levels of Bloom’s, have students create questions they might expect to see on the exam.

After groups create sets of questions, have them trade their questions with another group and answer them.

Have students create sets of Bloom’s Taxonomy questions and put them in different boxes according to their level. Use these questions for a review game, using different levels of questions for different activities or tasks.

Francis Wyman 5th Graders Using KTL Strategies

Michelle Clancy
Francis Wyman

A group of fifth graders at Francis Wyman School are using the Keys to Literacy Comprehension Routine to deepen their understanding of text and non-text. The students are part of an intervention group that is becoming successful in using Top Down Topic Webs and Two Column Notes! This week’s lessons involved reading an article from NEWSELA, taking Two Column Notes, and determining the central idea of the article. Students were then successful paragraph writers! Way to go boys and girls!

During our first meeting, students read the article, Above and Beyond: Teacher’s Letters Make Former Students Feel Special by Sun Herald. The article was found on Newsela, a database of current events stories tailor-made for classroom use. Students worked to complete scaffolded Two Column Notes about the article. Taking Two Column Notes allowed students to record key supporting details. Students gained practice in gathering and organizing information (as well as practicing their reading fluency) as they reread parts of the text multiple times.

At our next meeting time, students revisited the news article and their Two Column Notes. Students were guided to determine the main ideas embedded in their notes. There was a rich discussion of the big ideas. Listening to the students converse, and even debate, was exciting. Proud moment! Students added to their Two Column Notes as the conversations took place.

Students used their Two Column Notes to write a short paragraph that explained the central idea of the article. They worked independently to show what they knew. Students used the KTL routine as they increased their comprehension skills. All in all, an exceptional learning experience for our Burlington students! As a Reading Specialist, I am loving what the Keys to Literacy Comprehension Routine is doing for my students. Students are becoming active and strategic readers!