Continuing Conversations about the Common Core...Close Readings of Complex Text - Part 1

It has been a very busy week for Hello Literacy...Friday before last I had the pleasure (although I was relunctantly grateful for the ticket, to be honest) of listening to Timothy Shanahan, one of the authors of the Common Core for ELA, speak at North Carolina State University...realizing that there are different camps on guided reading out there and that Burkins & Yaris are big proponents of guided reading (at a students' instructional level) I went into the day thinking there was no other way to teach all students texts of great complexity other than through read-alouds.  Listening to Shanahan really got my principal and I thinking about our current models of differentiation, and how students are served, how many times students are served, with what are they being served and in what instructional focus vein is the service being provided. And I really am still talking differentiated Tier 1 instruction.

Download Poster & Explanation from Common Core HERE

With such a big focus on Tier 2 vocabulary in the Common Core, we knew we needed to ramp up our vocabulary instruction of Tier 2 words.  Remember that we've been using the Marzano 6-step process for the last three years to teach content specific words from math, science and social studies.  Here's the post about Tier 3 content vocabulary instruction.   

For the more explicit teaching of tier 2 words AND an angle on tackling text complexity so that ALL students would have access to complex texts regardless of instructional reading level, we took a two pronged read-aloud appoach to accomplishing both of these important aspects of the Common Core.  Specifically, grades K-2 would do this through Text Talk vocabulary lessons, based on the reading research of Isabel Beck and Margaret McKeown. Through that text lesson, teachers would explicity teach 3-5 new words per week from the book based on the vocabulary lesson format outlined in their book, Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. (Remembering that the text complexity stretch band doesn't actually begin until grade 2). Grades 3-5 would do shared reading novel studies...where all students have a copy of the text (from the grade level text complexity band) and a vocabulary notebook in hand.  Through whole group lessons, teachers would read and think aloud while students would read and think along with the teachers.  We don't do round robin or put students on the spot to read in front of their peers, but all students read silently together or silently along with the teacher and are held accountable for the reading and thinking of the text.  Teachers and students stop and think aloud and conversations ensue when the text gets tricky or challenging.  Unfamiliar vocabulary words are taught (quickly), added to Vocabulary Notebooks, shades of meaning are discussed on words and phrases used out of context or another context, figurative language is discussed, author syntax and language structure choices are discussed and for the most part, students are scaffolded through complex text with the support of the teacher, on close-r readings of the text than previous years where a read-aloud or novel study was more about comprehension--now it's about comprehension too, in addition to paying closer attention to the 3 anchor standards of Author's Craft...standards 4, 5, and 6.  And for the most part, all students are engaged and active.* (More on this sentence in my next post).

Here's are some pictures from around our school of the schoolwide template we use (teachers and students) and model for the Vocabulary Notebooks. No matter where you go in the school, the 3 column template is used throughout...Word, Student Friendly Definition (not the dictionary definition) and Non-Linguistic Representation.  

And here is an example of the same template used by students in their Vocabulary Notebook, which all students, K-5 have. 

Not sure if any of you have read the book, The Influencer (and I highly recommend it, especially if you are an administrator)...when working toward talks about finding the one or two "vital behaviors" that will make the change happen (easier!), where the one or two vital behaviors are like the first and second dominoes in a long line of dominoes ready to be knocked down. It's really a great analogy because if you can just pinpoint, one or two things or "vital behaviors" to DO differently, it will make the rest the change or the end result you are seeking, happen.  This is how Vocabulary Notebooks have been for Lake Myra...a huge change in awareness, importance and urgency in words. Period. Students have even begun to track their word learning growth using vocabulary graphs. 

Vocabulary Graph HERE....
(a smaller part of a larger project on student Data Notebooks)

  Although words alone will not help students master all the standards of the Common Core ELA, they certainly give students a significant heads-up on comprehension.  When students know what words mean, they have a greater chance of understanding the meaning of the text...when students have a better understanding of the meaning of the text, they are better able to be critical readers of the text and the role its message has on their lives.  Vocabulary knowledge gives students access to the text and access is key. Period.  

Now, the text.  In my next post, I will address a new model of teaching all students to "actually" read complex text AND get thier daily dose of guided reading...thanks to some thought provoking discussions at Shanahan's presentation.  I will also address how this model worked for us last week when I tried it out before making adjustments to my Fifty Shades of the Common Core presentation at Knightdale Elementary last Wednesday.  So stay tuned....

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Lisa Mattes said...

Very excited to stay tuned! I'm VERY intrigued by this topic!
Growing Firsties - Coming Soon: Pete the Cat Giveaway!!

Amy said...

Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful ideas. I just went to a conference where she taught us a partner game where you can touch on all three tiers at once. (hopefully I can explain it correctly:) One student sits with their back to the whiteboard while the other sits facing it. The teacher puts up a vocabulary word like rain and the one partner who can see the word describes the word to their partner without saying it. If they don't get it, the word is passed on to another partner. Once someone gets the word they move onto the next which could be water vapor and then clouds. Partners try to guess and feed off each other's answers until the word is guessed. Now to the Tier 3 word or the BONUS WORD. The word would be Water Cycle. The student uses the previous clues and clues from their partner to help them guess the words from all three tiers. Hopefully I explained it so everyone understands. Good luck!

Carrie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I am a teacher out in California in a school that is striving to always reach the next level...and I feel like I've found a secret goldmine that I just can't wait to share in your blog and resources!

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