Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Keys to Literacy continues in the BHS World Language Department

March 28, 2017
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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

KTL Test Review
by: Emily Bularzik
I’m always looking for ways to help my students study for tests that engage them, encourage independence, and don’t result in too much review-game madness. Keys to Literacy strategies are great for helping students study for tests both in class and at home.
I recommend setting up stations in the classroom a few days before a test and having students rotate between stations that encourage them to use different strategies. I might set up 3 different studying stations and have students spend 15 minutes at each. Other times, I might have 6 different stations and let students spend 10 minutes each at 4 stations of their choice.
The day before a test, I might require students to come in with evidence of having completed a Keys to Literacy study strategy. When students’ homework is “Study!” that can look like a free night to some of them, and requiring strategy use both makes studying an expectation and ensures that students are studying efficiently.
Here are how some of the KTL strategies can help for review:
Top-Down Web
If you give your students top-down webs to outline the major ideas of a unit, this is the opposite. Provide students with important terms—either on cut-out pieces of paper they can arrange or as a list that they can rewrite—and have them organize these into a web.
My students do this to study literary terms, with the term “literary terms” branching into categories such as “comparisons,” “sound devices,” “structural devices,” which then branch into more specific categories. While the definitions of the literary terms don’t appear on the web, students need to internalize the definitions, including their nuances, to place them correctly.
This activity can be performed with some teacher-provided categories already on the web, with all terms provided but not yet placed, or with students developing their own terms and categories.
If terms are provided on small pieces of paper, students can glue these on and keep their own copies, or they can simply take a picture to study from when finished, leaving the station intact for the next group. This depends on how much cutting you want to do to prepare—one set per student or just a few sets total. (Of course, students can also do their own cutting; this just takes a bit more class time.)
Categorizing can be used in the same way as a top-down web, with students placing terms into categories (either self-developed or provided).
I also like using categorizing to help students identify concepts that they have mastered, ones they need to review a little, and ones they need to review a lot. My buckets for these are labeled with emojis, :-) for mastery, :-| for some knowledge, and :-( for no familiarity, and students take pictures of the concepts they’ve put in each category when they’re finished. They then develop a plan for studying the concepts they need to focus on, and they can allocate their studying time effectively.
Two-Column Notes
Working with two-column notes is a great way to review notes that pushes students beyond just re-reading and highlighting. Students can convert any content information that is not already in two-column notes format into two-column notes. If students already have two-column notes that just have phrases on the left, they can add main idea sentences as well.
Finally, students can test, consolidate, and share their knowledge by filling in parts of a giant class version of two-column notes. For example, before my midterm exam, I organized my whiteboard as a giant two-column note titled “Types of Characterization.” As one station, students filled in the types of characterization and their definitions on the left and reminders and examples on the right. As students entered the station, they revised and added to what previous groups had produced. By the time all students had rotated through that station, we had a complete set of notes that everyone took a picture of to study from.
Bloom’s Taxonomy
When students develop Bloom’s Taxonomy questions to review for a test, they are identifying important concepts and thinking about how they will respond to test questions.
The key to using Bloom’s Taxonomy for test review is to encourage students to ask the questions that matter most. They should narrow in on the content that matters and develop questions about these topics. Students can each be asked to develop a full set of Bloom’s Taxonomy questions on a important single topic, so that they are exploring that topic in depth rather than grasping for topics that might easily fit certain question types.
Thinking about test content in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy will also help prepare students to respond to critical thinking questions on the test. If asked, “What is the effect of comparing Scout’s education to a treadmill?” students need to recognize that question as an “analyzing” question, not simply as a request to apply and define a literary device. Using Bloom’s to study prepares them for this.
Finally, students’ questions can be shared with each other for review. If students are also given studying options as homework, a great one is for students to respond to the questions that their classmates have developed.
Study Habits and Independence
Possibly the best part of using KTL as test review is that students aren’t reliant on a teacher putting together a complicated review game or fill-in-the-blanks study guide. While there is preparation involved in putting together stations, most of that preparation simply involves matching content to strategies, setting out materials, and sometimes a bit of cutting. Students become more independent over time, and the eventual goal is for students to learn to select and use these strategies independently, even if the homework board just says “Study!”

Friday, January 27, 2017

Two-Column Notes in Math

In our math classes we use two-column notes for three different purposes. The first, and the one we use most often, is a two-column notes “101.”  We, the teachers, give the notes to the students for the them to copy down in their math notebooks.  The notes are either a mathematical process that they need to know, for example, how to compare and order decimals or how to graph the slope of a line.  Or the notes are for math vocabulary that the students need to know in order to perform the process they are learning. Here are a couple of examples.

Two-column notes can also serve as a study guide for a quiz or test.  We begin the lesson by brainstorming the main topics from the chapter as a class and writing the topics on the board.  Students then work with partners to write the 2-column notes.  Partners write the main ideas from the class brainstorm in the left column and work together to generate appropriate details for the right column.  In math, these details may include rules, steps, and sample problems for each topic.  At the end of the lesson, we discuss the student-generated 2-column notes as a class.  We remind students to check their own notes and make additions and changes as needed based on class discussion. Here is an example of this.

The third way students generate two column-notes is as part of a homework assignment.  We would assign “Read Chapter 3 Unit 1 and write 2-column notes for the main topics.”  We had mixed results the first time we did this.  Some of the notes were exemplary and even color-coded; others were too detailed; others were a total of four lines long.  One of the students asked, “Will you please show us how you would do this before you assign this again?”  This sounded like a valid request.  Rather than wait until next time, we read the section aloud with the students and  essentially did a think aloud of how we would generate the notes based on my reading.  We discussed what would serve as clues for main topics and students suggested “the bold vocab words,” “the headings on the pages,” “the parts labeled Example.”  Sometimes other students would guide the answers and sometimes we would.  Specifically, students agreed that bold vocab words as main topics were a good idea and “the parts labeled Example” were probably better served in the details section of the notes. Here is an example.

Overall, we have had great success using two-column notes in our math classes.  As you can see, we use them for different purposes but each method (note taking, vocabulary, study guide, homework) is beneficial in its own way.  Two column notes have helped our students with organization, remembering material and gaining a deeper understanding of mathematics.  

Cheryl Mantia and Kristin MacCurtain
MSMS Math Teachers

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Not Re-Inventing the Wheel - Just Re-Thinking About It

This year, the science and math departments have been included in the Keys To Literacy- Keys to Comprehension program.  We are fortunate to be the second cohort because many of our students have already been introduced to top-down webs, two-column notes, and question generation by their sixth grade social studies and language arts teachers.  And, since these strategies are effective in any subject area and offer a good combination of comprehension, writing and study strategies we (Stephanie Pratt and Tammy Scelsi) are happy to continue the progress.  

Knowing where and how to start implementing the Keys to Literacy strategies can seem a bit daunting, especially if you’ve been doing the same things in the same ways for a long time.   We’ve heard people say that “it’s nothing new” and “we’re not reinventing the wheel” - which is true.  Top-down webs, two-column notes, categorizing, and summarizing are all things that we are familiar with and may use in some form or fashion.  However, after many years of teaching 7th grade, we have found that by being coaches for the Keys to Literacy program at the middle school, we have been tasked to really think about the way we teach and whether or not we are being as effective with our students and with ourselves as possible.  

We started the year by assessing which of the Keys to Literacy elements we wanted to introduce first.  Keeping in mind that we want to gradually release responsibility to our students, we decided to roll things out slowly by monitoring comprehension through warm-up activities and active reading strategies.  We were able to quickly fold in top-down webs to show our students how their topics were going to be related to one another and how we would progress from one topic to the next - a sort of roadmap for learning.  We started by doing the first three top-down webs as a whole group activity (see top-down web example below).  Next, we were scaffolding the process by providing them with the web and asking them to fill it in.  Now we are at the point where we can assign a text section and they can create the web on their own.  The top down webs have led us to the logical point of being able to translate the main ideas and supporting details to the two-column note format (see note example below).  At this point our students are beginning to look for main ideas and supporting details on their own while they are reading.  

Implementing the KTL strategies has its advantages.  For example, we have found this year that our homework assignments are more often generated by the students as opposed to the teachers.  We are spending less time making copies of study guides and note-taking worksheets because the students are using their two-column notes to generate vocabulary (see vocabulary example below) and as study guides.  However, KTL also presents new challenges.  For example, students are taking notes but they are still struggling with how to use the notes.  This may not happen until they are completely responsible for the note-taking process themselves.  We, as teachers, have also struggled with the time that it is taking to restructure our teaching styles.  

We do believe that Keys to Literacy offers strategies that students will be able to use well into their college years.  We will continue, this year, to convert our notes and vocabulary and to restructure our teaching.  Next year should be a breeze!

Student Generated Examples:

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Differentiating Instruction for students using Keys to Literacy Strategies

By the end of the year, it might be expected that 6th grade students could create their own top-down webs digitally or on paper.  After all, they have been creating them all year with various structural supports and guidance.  However, some students may still benefit from the teacher-created models at various scaffolding levels.  This is where the coordination and cooperation between both the general education and inclusion teacher are very important!    Additionally, many of these strategies are also appropriate at the different WIDA levels for English Language Learners.  

Below are some ways that we, Gail (inclusion teacher) and Barbara (general ed geography teacher) have worked together on a lesson about South American colonization so that all students can work on their Keys to Literacy skills, but still access the curriculum.

  • Create a filled-in top down web for them to keep as a reference, or to assist with copying notes from the board.

  • Partially filling in the created top down web, with some of the terms filled in at various levels.

  • Providing a word bank and the topdown web, totally blank, so students can fill in the template.

2 Levels of Word Banks

  • Using an app like Popplet to remove the drawing & written portion of the web altogether. 

  • Communicating constantly with each other to check in about students and make sure we are doing all that we can do to educate all students, making adjustments as we go.

  • If we turned the web into a question generating lesson for the next class, different supports could be put into practice like sentence starters, examples, etc.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Refiguring Categorization

Eager to have my students fully immersed in identifying main ideas and details within text, I hurriedly sped through teaching categorization. Only spending one lesson on the skill--I merely provided an overview. Quickly realizing that students were not truly understanding how to extrapolate the main idea within provided text, I decided it was time to revisit the skill of categorizing. Excited to teach it well, I found some potter’s pails to provide my students with tangible manipulatives so that they would have access to the information through an authentic, multi-sensory learning experience. Although nervous to have to go back to the drawing board to re-teach a skill that I had assumed that my students had previously digested, I made the decision to slowly guide my students using the gradual release of responsibility model (I--We--You).
To truly focus on the skill, I chose to remove the pressure of language-heavy text and instead use picture books. In the past, I had thought that this may have been too puerile for my students; however, they were able to genuinely understand the concept of categorizing and had fun doing so.
The class was then able to practice the progression from categorizing with manipulatives, to webbing, and finally to creating an entire summary. Students were able to visualize how all the pieces fit together. They also understood the purpose and goal behind the categorizing exercises and for the first time, they recognized the big picture. To bring in a metacognitive layer, I asked them to perform a quick write, reflecting on the lessons and their experience with categorization and how it impacted their thinking and learning. These were some of the responses that I received:
I really liked using the children’s books because I could quickly find the main ideas.”
“Having the buckets made it easier to sort the information.”
“Can we do this more?”
“Using the index cards helped [me] go from categorizing to making a [top-down] web.”   
Reteaching the foundational skill of categorization has undoubtedly taught me a valuable lesson and has grounded my students’ ability to independently distinguish main ideas from details and recognize relationships.