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:

Categorizing
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!