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).

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.