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.