Friday, December 1, 2017


This year, the BHS World Language department continues to collaborate and share best teaching practices. Specifically, we have maintained an ongoing effort to integrate resources from the Keys to Literacy program to reinforce students’ summarizing skills.

In Profe De Sousa and Mrs. Dacey’s AP Spanish class, students read a fragment of Three Heros (Tres héroes) in Spanish written by José Martí, a famous Cuban revolutionary patriot and writer. After reading the historical piece, students completed a Keys to Literacy summary template in Spanish. To show comprehension of the written text, students completed the document by listing the main ideas from the reading and including an introductory sentence that stated the topic of the summary. Next, they rewrote the main ideas in their own words. Lastly, students integrated transitional vocabulary when writing a paragraph that summed up the reading in their own words. Check out some of the summaries written by our AP Spanish students: Student Sample 1 and Student Sample 2.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Integrate NEWSELA into Keys to Literacy
Grade 6

NEWSELA is an online resource of articles that allows you to set different lexiles for students, depending on their reading level. As a special education teacher, this allows me to assign articles to specific students that need a modified level, while still maintaining the same content as their peers. General education teachers can also modify to a higher or lower level as needed based on the student and the complexity of the article. NEWSELA comes with pre-created multiple choice questions, an open response question, and an option to adapt the question to your specifications.  It is also easy to use some of our Keys to Literacy strategies to complement the features of NEWSELA.

For example, here is one example of a lesson plan for a social studies class. In small groups, you can assign students to different lexile lessons. Then, they are assigned articles specific to their reading level. They can use an article on physical features of South America to fill out a map, which would include a key to interpret symbols. Once they have completed this, they can use this information to write a summary of the article. They can also use it to do two column notes, top down webs, Bloom’s and/or write a summary.

Example of lesson below:

  • Students are grouped by lexile groups and read the article together on physical features in South America.
  • Students are searching for the following information:
    • Name of feature
    • Location of feature using context clues.  
    • EX: “It extends from the Isthmus of Panama  in the north to the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in the south.”
  • Then they add that physical feature to their blank map of South America using the map key provided.  (/\ for mountains)
  • Next, as a class, students list all physical features and categorize them into land and water forms.
  • From there, students fill in their Top Down Webs.
  • In the future...
    • Summary writing template.
    • Summary
    • Bloom’s Question Generator
  • What next?
    • As an extension of this activity, students could come up with questions (under the guidance of the teacher and Bloom’s Taxonomy) regarding this topic. They could use sentence starters to help frame their questions. For example, how do mountains affect the population settlement of an area? Why are cities along coastlines more populated? Why are some jobs more prevalent in certain areas with particular physical features (for example, agriculture in plains or river valleys)?
    • Another extension could be using the information gathered to come up with the main ideas of this unit. For example, physical features affect South America’s climate, job sectors, population and economic activity. Using the information gathered from the top down web, the questioning activity, and the summary, students would connect the idea of physical features to the overall development and status of the countries in South America.

Carrie Fortunato

I was a guest teacher in a Fourth grade room at Pine Glen.  The students had been using the 2-column notes from KTL but the teacher did not feel comfortable with the Top-Down-Topic Web, so I was charged with introducing Top Down Topic Webs (TDTW) to her class.  Because the students were new to TDTW, I started with an everyday example of a TDTW by showing my weekly schedule.  

Students talked to their partners about observations and structure of the web.  The students quickly saw the shape structure of headings, subheadings, and details.  They also noticed the ease in which to read the web and organize information.

Since the students were working on Multiplication Strategies and Properties and were near the end of the topic, I thought it would be a good time to review some of the concepts by doing a Top Down Topic Web on Multiplication Properties and Strategies.

This is my third version of this TDTW:)  
KTL says, “The person creating the web is the one doing the thinking and the work!” Well, I did A LOT of thinking and work to create this one!

Once the web was created, I used it as my answer key to help create the sorting cards.  I created cards that were organized by heading, subheadings, and details by color and shape.  I talked to the students that some cards might fit in more than 1 category and that the most important thing is that you have a reason why you placed the card where you did.  The students were paired up and sent off to find a place to sort the cards.

And then something amazing happened, the students started talking about multiplication properties and strategies!  They were engaged and listening to one another reason and problem solve how to organize the web.  They were sharing their ideas and experiences about multiplication strategies and properties.   Not all of them were correct, but I could easily see and hear, without giving an assessment, what each student’s understanding is about multiplication strategies and properties.

I was beyond excited!  In fact I was so excited that when I left the room I told everyone in the hallway about the amazing experience I had just had.  I want to have more experiences like this.  I feel that this really helped students grapple with some complex conceptual ideas in a non-threatening environment which is not alway the case in Mathematics, YET!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Crazy about Categorizing!
By: Gabriella Mirabella, Korey Barkley, and John Walsh

Here in the MSMS Foreign Language Department, we have been using categorizing as a KTL strategy throughout the year. Categorizing requires students to use main idea skills. Students are learning level 1 vocabulary for a foreign language in middle school. It can be beneficial for students to categorize this new vocabulary in a variety of ways to help with memorization and usage.
Students enjoy the “labeling the bucket” activity in Ms. Mirabella’s class. Depending on the section of vocabulary, students can categorize their vocabulary into groups, either by topic or parts of speech. 7th grade Spanish students in Ms. Mirabella’s class were introduced to the gender of nouns recently, which operates differently than it does in English. All nouns, living or nonliving, have a gender in Spanish: masculine or feminine. Students were taught how to properly identify the gender of nouns, and even identify exceptions to the rule.
Ms. Mirabella gave each pair of students two cups (in place of buckets) and a ziploc bag filled with nouns on individual cutouts from cardstock. Each pair had to work together to put the feminine nouns into one cup and the masculine nouns into the other cup. When all pairs had completed the activity, students emptied their cups and shared their findings. Students were required to explain why they put a noun into a certain cup using the rules that were previously taught. This activity promotes collaboration and recall, and is a multisensory way to reinforce an important grammar lesson in Spanish. (Pictures below!)



Mrs. Barkley’s Spanish classes are also categorizing. Her 8A and 8B classes did a KTL lesson using bucket sorting and top down webs!

First, each student was given 2-3 Spanish words on a piece of yellow paper. They all got up and were asked to sort their vocabulary words by placing them in the correct buckets (la casa- house vocabulary, la familia- family vocabulary, verbos- verbs from their vocabulary, & extra- words from their vocabulary that didn't fit into the other 3 categories):

Then, volunteers came up to help organize all of the categories onto a Chapter 6 Vocabulary Web:

Mr. Walsh uses categorizing in his Latin classes. Both 7th and 8th grade students took part in a group activity to sort new vocabulary words in different ways. First, students were divided into two teams. Each team was given a pile of vocabulary words, which they had to sort into three piles based on parts of speech.

Once the teams agreed on their piles, the students copied their lists into three columns on the whiteboard - NOMINA (Nouns), ADIECTIVĪ (Adjectives) and VERBA (Verbs). The teams then checked each lists for any mistakes.IMG_0129.JPGIMG_0124.JPG

Finally, once the teams agreed on the parts of speech, they had one more task. The students took the nouns and adjectives and separated them by gender. The three new categories for this round were MASCULINIUM, FEMININUM and NEUTRUM. IMG_0127.JPG

Elements of a Fictional Story using Top Down
Topic Webs and Two-column Notes in Grade 4

Having been recently trained in the Keys to Literacy Comprehension Routine over the past few months, we are slowly “getting our toes wet” with the routines. We are implementing the research-based routines throughout our curriculum, including ELA block with our fourth graders.

We decided to create a Top Down Topic Web (TDTW) as a teaching tool to guide our unit on the elements of fictional stories. We found that the TDTW was beneficial for both the students and teacher. It provided an organized outline of the unit that we were teaching. It also served as an anchor chart that could be referred to as we worked through the unit.


Our next step was to further explore each element of fiction. We used both TDTW and two column notes to do this. We modeled the routine as a whole class and then we incorporated the routine into guided reading groups with differentiated texts. The tasks were scaffolded for each group based on our objectives. For some groups, teacher notes/webs were provided. For others, partially completed notes/webs were provided.

We found that after modeling, it was easier for students to apply the routine to a differentiated book. The shared experience gave the students an example to look back at when they were trying it on their own.
Here are some examples of how we did this:

Scaffolded Plot for Guided Reading


Read Aloud and Model

FullSizeR.jpg   FullSizeR.jpg
Two examples of using Two-Column Notes During Guided Reading

Friday, October 20, 2017

Elementary Schools start implementing KTL- Comprehension

Elementary Schools start implementing KTL- Comprehension

Grade Two students have been working with two-column notes to help revisit some stories that they have been reading.  They have been learning about Problem/Solution within a text.  Here they are working independently to find the different solutions that were tried by the characters in their story, Pinky the Pig. We did the first two solutions together and then they completed the others on their own.  They then used the two-column note to help them retell the story.  They really enjoyed this activity.