Tuesday, March 19, 2013

IRC Conference, March 14-16, 2013, Inspiring Inquiry ThroughChallenging Texts

Anna Deese
Inspiring Inquiry Through Challenging Texts

Last year I missed the Project CRISS ladies at the IRC Convention, and I was so disappointed, so this year I made it a priority, and boy, was I glad I did! Anna Deese taps onto students' intrinsic motivation using a simple, old technique masked by fancy words.  The old K-W-L got dressed up with two columns as seen here.  Instead of a K, we now see the word observations, and instead of the W, the words authentic questions appears.  Here's how it works.
  • Show the students a visual or two from the lesson - a map, a primary source photograph, a graph, etc.
  • Ask the students to make as many observations about the visual as they can.  Give some examples to get them started.
  • Then tell them to ask questions based from their observations.  Again, give an example to get them started.  (This may take some practice)
  • Categorize the independently-written questions into four different categories: easy resource / look up, inquiry, author and me (making connections with the author - ie.  Is this like . . . ?), and questions for the author (challenges what the author actually did.  ie - Why did the photographer choose this subject?)
  • Start with abstracts or summaries of selections before attacking the entire selection.  Read it to find answers.
  • Give students additional visuals from which to gather more information
  • Finally, give students an opportunity to find the answers for themselves (articles, sections of a text book, websites, etc.)
I found this idea to be both engaging and extremely authentic, as students were really driving their own learning.  As they are compiling their list of questions, the teacher can always throw in a question that she feels might have been missed so that key targets are met as well.  This strategy can also be used across all content areas in a wide variety of situations. 

Deese gives other examples of how this strategy can be used.  One example was with their own data collected from a science lab.   Better yet, she says, why not set up a lab with all of the materials and have students write down all of their observations and a prediction of what will happen that day.  She also suggests using advertisements with pieces missing and having students observe and use their background knowledge to try to fill in the missing pieces.  It was at this point that I was almost bouncing out of my chair in excitement because I couldn't wait to share what I had learned in Jeff Anderson's session the day before.  Anderson and Deese both discuss making observations.  Although Anderson calls it noticing, the concept is the same, and the process in the brain is the same.  The connection here was so strong that I couldn't help but share it.  I could tell she and I were on the same wavelength because after I shared that idea, she came up with the idea of observing a citation and commenting on the format.  Again, I loved this idea and hope to share it with my language arts department.

The second part of Deese's presentation dealt with craft and structure of a selection.  The philosophy is that you can determine the author's purpose of a selection by taking a look at the author's craft and structure.  Handing us a copy of an article and a chapter of a book, Deese asked us to look at both the internal and external text features (see photo to the left) and makes notes about each.  Through discussion we discovered that both selections were written by the same author on the same topic, but the purpose of each was quite different!  The language used in one had a negative connotation, and the more we investigated it, the more we realized that the author's viewpoint was slanted in that particular piece.  Beautiful!  Difficult, but beautiful. 

Deese's final activity was a listening activity.  She had all of her participants line up around the room with a piece of paper and a marker (this can be done individually, in pairs, and maybe in groups of 3).  We were directed to listen to the lab setup and draw what it looked like.  She read it to use three times slowly while we drew.  This activity was fun, made us laugh at the end, and gave us an idea as to what the lab might look like when set up.  I could see this done in quite a few settings - even in PE where students might be challenged to draw out a lineup of a team on the field or how the team might look on the gym floor just by listening or reading it from a piece of paper or index card!

The hour I spent with Anna Deese during her presentation was an hour well spent.  Content area reading strategies are golden, in my book, and the ones that she presented here were ones so easily adapted to any content area.  I'm looking forward to sharing them with my staff.

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