Thursday, March 14, 2013

IRC Conference, March 14-16, 2013, Correlating Common Core Standardswith the Disciplines

Evanston/Skokie District 65
Correlating Common Core Standards with the Disciplines

signatureAfter running to Starbucks and feeding caffeine into my system, I took off upstairs to get Seymour Simon's autograph for my daughter Cadence.  Last year I brought home Nick Bruell's autograph on a book, and she has been giddy all year about it.  So this year when I told her I was returning, I told her Seymour Simon would be at the conference, and she picked out a book for me to take and get signed.  She will be thrilled when I get home!

At 9:15 I scooted into the room and readied myself to hear from a group of four women talk about their experiences moving CCSS into the science and social studies disciplines.  Their talk was divided into three main topics - Central Idea, Close Reading, and Writing.

Central Idea
Finding the central idea of a piece of text or "selection" (as it is being termed), moves away from finding the main idea of a text.  According to this group of ladies, the central idea is a sentence (truly an idea) instead of a one or two-word topic.  This is a shift in thinking.  Ironically, I was working in the READ180 class on Wednesday before I left to come to Springfield, and the small group working with our READ180 teacher was practicing finding the central idea and supporting details. 
Central Idea
Early on in the activity, the teacher and I both discovered that perhaps we need to discern between what is considered "evidence" and what is considered "supporting details".  As I watched the presentation made this morning, my experience in this class Wednesday just kept popping up in my head.  Sometimes our kids can find the main idea stated directly in the piece of text (selection).  They then turn around and try to use this as a supporting detail because it can be quoted directly from the text.  What they fail to realize is that the author actually gave them the main idea right there in the text and that the main idea can't support itself.  Students need to go in and find additional information that supports the central idea.  So how do we teach this?

One suggested way to teach the difference between central idea and supporting detail is by creating sorts (see photo below).  Teachers can create a list of central ideas from a piece of text (selection) and supporting details and have the students separate them into piles of central ideas and supporting details.  This reminds me of pattern puzzles from Project CRISS.  The presenters said that their students were so familiar with this process that it took little explanation and direction now, and the students were able to complete the activity fairly quickly.  My big question was - what kind of professional development did these ladies give to their staff on this change from main idea to central idea, and they said that they did sorts with the staff as well along with continued one-on-one professional, collaborative discussions during planning.

Close Reading
Boy, have I heard enough about close reading yet?  Probably not, because it could possibly be the biggest buzz word in education right now (aside from Common Core).  I giggle at this word because I was doing close readings with my science kids in 2005 when I first became a trainer for Project CRISS.  When I first heard about close readings, I researched it and went to conferences, convinced I had missed something - but alas, I had not. This was the same thing that I had been doing with in-depth reading strategies and listening to the "voice in my head".  I really need to find an oldie, but goodie, give it a new name, write a book on it, and make loads of money from it!

Basically the close read is reading closely.  No lie, friends.  That is what it is.  You pair reading closely with annotation and you get the close read.  From what the ladies said today, it might look something like this:
  • The teacher gives the students a purpose for reading (ie - read the text to find the similarities between the three Abrahamic faiths.
  • The teacher sets the timer for a specific amount of time.
  • The students keep that purpose in mind as the teacher demonstrates thinking aloud and reading while marking the text (a very small selection - possibly 2-3 paragraphs).  The teacher can underline, circle, highlight, and write notes to herself on the selection.
  • If the timer has not gone off (and the teacher should purposely set it for longer), the teacher will go back and reread, including the notes that she made to herself, adding notes to it until the timer goes off.
  • The teacher then gives groups of students an opportunity to try the same strategy.
  • Students must be aware that they can highlight or underline anything, however, they must have justification for everything they highlight or underline!
According to the presenters, close reading requires a pen or pencil in hand 100% of the time.  I believe that students should do a one-time read through before a close read.  This opinion is based upon my experience with Project CRISS in the lessons on selective highlighting.  Once an entire paragraph or short selection is read, the reader has a better understanding as to what might need to be marked and the reader can make better decisions when marking. 

The final topic discussed by the four presenters was writing.  They started this segment talking about research.  Although I found their note-taking discussion to be unclear, I thought their ideas for final projects were excellent! 

 The first idea was the creation of a "spread" - equivelent to a 2-page book spread, in my opinion.  Students were required to write a 2 page book spread that used the same text features that their text book might use.  So they were required to go into their book and analyze the text features before taking the notes that they had collected and creating their own informational text.  Finally they were asked to reflect on the text features that they used and why these features were used.

The second idea was the idea of "real world writing", an idea on whick Cris Tovani presented last year at the IRC convention, and one that I loved, passed on, and then forgot.  I'm so glad that this presentation re-awakened the idea.  Feature articles - like newspaper or magazine articles are so much more interesting than other writing assignments, and the kids get to explore those text features, again.  See a theme here?

Finally, the write-around was the last, and least formal idea to get kids writing.  The write-around is conducted in this manner:
  • 1. The teacher poses a question (ie - what is the most important discovery in chemistry?)
    2. Each student writes an answer with text-based evidence
    3. Students pass their papers one person to the right
    4. Students read the response and respond to the first response, using text-based evidence.
    5. Repeat several times until all group members have gotten a chance to respond. 
    6. Students MUST RESPOND to the previous responses - not just simply state their opinion over and over again.
I have to say, for being a group of teachers and not a renowned speaker or presenter, the content was fantastic .  The content carried the presentation, and I was pleased with the information I was able to bring back to our staff.

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