Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Works Wednesday

I have severely neglected this blog lately. Like most of us, I am spending more time on non-teaching school related necessities, and find I have little to no leisure time. I am looking forward to the long weekend, and a chance to rest, relax, and read blogs.
As a teacher, I am always reflecting on my teaching. With the changes to our teacher evaluation system, I have to gather evidence for my teacher binder. To help me stay focused and sort through the bits and pieces I am gathering, I am starting a weekly post called "What Works Wednesday."

As a topic for the first post, I thought I would share a strategy that I saw on Mrs. White's 5th Grade blog, called "Keep It or Junk It". She included a video showing how an instructor got students to analyze non-fiction text.

It got me thinking about how I teach text coding. I decided to put text coding with the "Keep It or Junk It" strategy, and would tie the whole thing together with a Two Dollar Summary.

I used a non-fiction article on Whales and Dolphins. It is part of an ebook available from Scholastic, 24 Non-fiction Passages for Test Practice for 4-5 grade. Students read in cooperative groups and used text coding to mark the key words and ideas. Then they compiled a group list of must have words. The groups then worked to establish a class list. We did "Keep It or Junk It" to narrow our list. Students used fingers to show if we should keep, junk or cloud a word (1, 2, or 3 fingers). "Clouding" a word saves it for a review when the other words are finished. Often, a clouded word is not the best choice, so it is ultimately "junked".

It was interesting to listen to their justification for keeping a word, or "junking it". When finished, students used the words to write a two-dollar summary. In a $2 summary each word counts as ten cents. Students have $2 to spend on their summary. They learn to quickly pare down their word choices to be concise.

Why would I choose this idea as a "What Works Wednesday" post? Students worked quietly, were actively engaged, and wrote a good summary. Also, I have a student with a one-to-one aide that struggles with communication. Most of his curriculum is adapted. (We did this activity "on our own", with out his aide.) The students in his group came up with their own way to make sure he could communicate his "keep it" words. They wrote the words "Keep It" and "Junk It" on paper. He held up his response. If he wanted to "Cloud" a word he signaled a circle. When I called on him to justify, he could say, "Not needed" or "Important." Watching the episode lay out in front of my eyes without any teacher or aide intervention choked me up.

 In closing this post, I have to say the first "What Works" would be "Keep it or Junk it, and my kids. They are amazing!

I will be back with another "What Works" next Wednesday. Join me! 

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