Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reflections on NJPAECET2

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to share our work with a group of educators at the New Jersey/Pennsylvania Elevating & Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching Conference (ECET2) at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey. We were thrilled to be able to present our ideas about “Collaborating Across Disciplines: Using InformationalText to Enhance Curriculum.”

Our session included a great range of educators: administrators and teachers and specialists in science, Spanish, language arts, and social studies. This committed group of educators was interested in helping students meet the challenges of PARCC and the new Common Core State Standards in a way that makes intellectual and pedagogical sense. Everyone in the room saw collaboration as the key, and everyone was optimistic and dedicated to stepping outside his/her comfort zone in order to use new kinds of texts in order to stimulate reading, writing, and conversations across the disciplines.

Some of us in the room were intimidated by all that we as teachers need to do in the months ahead. And we all agreed that collaboration is hard and scary, and that significant personal and institutional barriers exist that makes collaboration difficult.

But the conversation was inspiring. Teachers spoke of their willingness to try new things. Administrators spoke of their desire to learn from teachers who were taking the lead. Everyone agreed that collaborative, cross-disciplinary learning could be more effective, more fun, and more meaningful for students.

After our presentation, we attended some other great sessions, including discussion of literacy leadership, using technology to engage students, and cultivating a reflective teaching practice. It was great to be in such good company.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Join us on our world tour!

OK, not quite, but we are very excited about the events we have coming up over the next several months, and we'd love to see you along the way!

Join us at ...

Using Informational Text to Teach A Raisin in the Sun National Council of Teachers of English Convention, Washington, DC — Session D.04, Friday, 11/21, 2:30-3:45 PM

Using Informational Text: Cross-Disciplinary Literacy to Motivate Secondary LearningConference on English Leadership Convention, Washington DC — Session E, Monday, 11/24, 4:00-5:00 PM

Cross-Disciplinary Innovation and Collaboration Using Informational Text — ASCD Annual Conference, Houston, TX – 3/22/15, 3:00-4:30 PM

Bring us in for an hour or two, and we can walk you and your English teachers through the philosophy of Using Informational Text to Teach Literature, including how to fully utilize the strategies of our approach.

Bring us in for a day-long workshop, and we can work with your English and content area teachers to find informational texts that connect fully with your existing curriculum and to create engaging, comprehensive, cross-disciplinary units that help students meet the informational texts standards, while asking them to read, write, think, and speak critically about the texts and issues.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Check out ‘Common Core Standards in Diverse Classrooms’

We were recently given the opportunity to review Common Core Standards in Diverse Classrooms: Essential Practices for Developing Academic Language and Disciplinary Literacy for the Teachers College Record. In their volume, Jeff Zwiers, Susan O’Hara, and Robert Pritchard offer educators principles and strategies for helping students they refer to as “academic English learners,” a term that encompasses a wide ranging of students with struggles in the academic classroom. The focus is on helping these students develop essential literacy skills in the era of the Common Core.

Diverse Classrooms is not a quick-fix text developed to take advantage of the Common Core publishing boom. Zwiers, O’Hara, and Pritchard offer strategies that grapple with the big ideas of the CCSS, particularly helping students learn how to engage with and articulate complex ideas. The authors present both research-based analysis supporting their approach as well as annotated lessons that educators can use as models in implementing their strategies. Click here for our full review on this resource well worth checking out.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What PARCC revisions mean for informational text

In case you missed it, PARCC announced some changes to the English Language Arts/Literacy End-of-Year test. For grades 6-11, the changes include one fewer passage and fewer questions overall. The changes, according to PARCC, will reduce “the amount of time spent on testing and lowe[r] testing costs.”

For those of us interested in informational text and the ways in which it will be incorporated into the curriculum, the key points are as follows: the end-of-year assessment for grades 6-11 will go from 1 long and 2 short informational passages to 1 long and now only 1 short informational passage.  The test will still contain a paired passage set consisting of two literary and/or informational texts.

As we do our best to prepare our students in this evolving testing landscape, let’s remember that informational text can be motivating and engaging for students, provided we find interesting texts and prepare our students to deal with the challenges of those texts. Also, informational text can be a great way to create an entrance for students into off-putting or seemingly remote literary texts. Pairing literary and informational texts is a great way for students to think about texts as part of a dialogue and for them to see themselves as part of a larger conversation. Engaging in such dialogue is, at least for now, a central part of the PARCC assessments, and a key literacy skill we want our students to develop whether it remains so or not.

By the way, check out our Teachers College Record review of "Common Core Standards in Diverse Classrooms" by Jeff Zwiers et al.