Common Core Practice for RL.7.4

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember that I’m working on my 7th-grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. I’m making good progress and I have recently finished and posted the CCSS.ELA.RL.7.4 resource.

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. In this resource, there are 3 lessons. Lesson 1 is a teacher-modeled lesson. Lesson 2 is a collaborative lesson where the teacher leads the class. The students complete lesson 3 independently. This resource is, in and of itself, a scaffolding tool. It is designed to help students master standards in a gradual manner.

When I was working in my district’s assessment office on ELA exams, I searched high and low for standard-specific passages and questions after which to model our items. After copious and time-consuming searches, the only Common Core practice I was (and have since) been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement.

I use literature in the public domain from reputable authors (like Kipling, Twain, and Poe – this resource uses poems by Dickinson, Frost, R.L. Stevenson, and Poe), so you’re exposing your students to quality literature with targeted standards practice. It takes out all the prep and guesswork!

If you’re looking for a quick, targeted, and easy resource for this standard, come check it out!

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My Newest CIM: RL.7.3

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember that I’m working on my 7th grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. I’m making good progress and I have recently finished and posted the CCSS.ELA.RL.7.3 resource. With this, I’ve also made a bundle with RL.7.1, RL.7.2, and RL.7.3, so you can save over 15% if you are interested in all 3.

What is a CIM? The acronym “CIM” stands for “Continuous Improvement Model.” It is one name for the research-based strategy that follows the “I do,” “we do,” “you do,” teaching model. In this resource, there are 3 lessons. Lesson 1 is a teacher-modeled lesson. Lesson 2 is a collaborative lesson where the teacher leads the class. The students complete lesson 3 independently. This resource is, in and of itself, a scaffolding tool. It is designed to help students master standards in a gradual manner.

This product is a 3-5 day tool for teachers to instruct, assess, and reteach skills and concepts associated with the RL.7.3 standard: Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot). It also aligns with Florida’s standard: LAFS.7.RL.1.3, because of how Florida adapted their standards. It may also align with your state’s standards if your state doesn’t use CCSS.

The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement. I use literature in the public domain from reputable authors (like Kipling, Twain, and Poe – this resource uses works by Hawthorne and Maupassant), so you’re exposing your students to quality literature with targeted standards practice. It takes out all the prep and guesswork!

If you’re looking for a quick, targeted, and easy resource for this standard, come check it out!

Why I Recommend SparkNotes to My Students (and how I encourage its use)

I was a pretty obnoxious kid growing up.

Okay, fine. I’m still pretty obnoxious. But as a kid, and more specifically, as a student, I was obnoxious. I wouldn’t have wanted to have me in a classroom (Hey, what do they say? Teachers make the worst students? Even as a secondary student I knew I wanted to be a teacher.). I talked all the time; I was a total smart-ass (not to the teachers…usually…or directly…). I am telling you the absolute truth when I say that my freshman year of high school, my World History teacher (who, by the way, was also the Dean of Students) took hold of my desk – with me in it – and flung it about 20 feet across the room because he was so exasperated with me one day. In his defense, I purposely provoked him, asking all sorts of inane, yet, just believable enough to be answered questions, with the sole goal of postponing the day’s test.

sparknotes obnoxious

Yeah. That was me.

But I’ll tell you one thing I wasn’t. I wasn’t a cheater. It wasn’t that I had a strict sense of morality. Other stuff I did growing up would disabuse you of that notion pretty quickly. No, I was an intellectual snob. Well, I suppose a better way to say it was that I didn’t trust anyone’s brain but my own. If I didn’t know it, or didn’t remember it, there was no possible way anyone sitting around me would, either. Of course, given who my circles of friends were at certain points in my secondary education career, I may have been spot on about that. But those less-than-stellar-albeit-necessary-for-making-me-who-I-am-today choices are neither here nor there. The point is, when my senior government teacher accused me of cheating on one of my last high school tests ever, I was justifiably affronted. I would NEVER cheat off of someone.

sparknotes horrified

And so, with that sense of justice (and because I was really worried about what would happen to me if I got caught doing it), I approached my Physics teacher before final exams that year and asked her if it would be considered cheating to program (okay, I’m using that term loosely…I really just wanted to save it in a file/page) the formulas into my TI-whatever-number-was-out-in-1998 graphing calculator and use it on the exam. She paused, seeming impressed – whether at my honesty or comfort level with the technology, I’m not sure – and said that if I could figure out how to do that, she’d be fine with me using the calculator. So I did, and I don’t think I really used it more than once or twice because I was well-prepared.

I tell you this background and anecdote to give you context for my decision as an English teacher to openly guide my students toward – and even encourage them to use – the resources on SparkNotes.

If you’re not familiar with SparkNotes, you should be. And I’d wager that you are familiar with Cliff’s Notes. It’s even a colloquialism these days – “Give me the Cliff’s Notes version!” Meant to only include the information of utmost necessity. Enough to pass the test. Because who really has time to read every assigned novel in British Lit? Or American Lit? Or all of high school?

sparknotes aint nobody

Cliff’s Notes has a pretty negative reputation as being a cheater’s way through the material. Good teachers would know right away if you’d only read the Cliff’s Notes version, because your answers would only skim the surface. And likely be phrased far too sophisticatedly for an average high school student.

SparkNotes is the modern-day version of Cliff’s Notes. On Steroids.

So, why would I encourage my students to go there, when no self-respecting English teacher would hand out Cliff’s Notes copies of a novel to students and say, “You know what? Go ahead. Skip the real thing. Hell. Watch the movie. It’s close enough.” Now, you might think you know the answer to this, because if you follow my blog, you know I often write posts that seem, perhaps to some, like I just lower the standards for my low-performing students. Like, I know they’re not going to read the novel. Why fight the battle? Why not give them something they actually might, if all the stars and planets align, find it in them to do? Would it really be that terrible?

But that is not what my rationale is. No, I don’t direct my students to SparkNotes because I just like to lower the bar. (And I prefer to think of my philosophies more as “realistic expectations,” thank-you-very-much.) No, it’s because of what SparkNotes offers.

Go to a Sparknotes unit for a novel and you will find a veritable cornucopia of resources for that work. You’ll get the context of the work, the plot overview, character list and analyses, and even discussion about themes, motifs, and symbols. And then, if that weren’t enough, you’ll get chapter summaries. They even have quizzes and review questions. They explain important quotations. And it’s all free. Free for students, free for teachers.

Now, I am an avid reader. I love to read. And I hate, hate, hate previewing the story. It’s like nails on a chalkboard having to find out what happens at the end before I even start. That was my least favorite part of being an English teacher. We had these story previews in our curriculum workbooks that gave a synopsis of the entire story before the students even began. It drove me crazy! Where was the suspense? The situational irony? Everything was ruined!

Until I had to teach Julius Caesar. I’m not a humongous Shakespeare fan to begin with, but Julius Caesar isn’t my favorite play of his on the best of days. What made it worse was that I remembered studying it in high school but didn’t actually remember anything other than that I did actually study it. I retained nothing. I’m not sure if that was because I just didn’t understand it or I didn’t read it and spent the discussion time being obnoxious. Probably the latter. But I was not excited to have to teach it. I didn’t even want to read it. I felt like a whiny student.

sparknotes whiny student

So I found SparkNotes. I read all the Act summaries. I read the synopses of character analysis, themes, important facts, etc. I even – praise the literary powers that be – used their “No Fear Shakespeare” modern text version to get me through the PITA that is early Modern English in iambic pentameter. And then I picked up my copy and read it through. And it made sense. And I flew through it. And it wasn’t hard. And it wasn’t boring. And it didn’t make me want to carve my eyes out with a spoon. I was amazed. I wished I’d had SparkNotes in high school. It would likely have helped me get through other classic literature without falling asleep (*cough cough* Great Gatsby, I’m looking at you).

Yes, I already knew the ending, so I’m not sure how I’d feel about some other story being “spoiled” by reading SparkNotes first, but I’ve found – to my surprise – that my students didn’t seem to mind that aspect.

sparknotes i dont get it

So, when we would get ready to read a novel, I would encourage my students to go to SparkNotes. I would tell them to spend time reading everything SparkNotes had on that work of literature so they would understand and notice the subtleties of motifs, symbolism, and sub-plots. Sparknotes does such a great job explaining all this that we were able to spend our time in class talking about other meaningful aspects of the novel. SparkNotes is the modern-day Cliff’s Notes version. But it does it better. It includes so much more that makes it easier (dare I say, enticing?) to read the entire work. But it leaves a little mystery. As a teacher, I just made sure to look at the review, quiz, and essay questions that were on the site and steer clear of them. There were plenty of other things to discuss and put on my assessments.

SparkNotes is the modern-day Cliff’s Notes version. But it does it better. It includes so much more that makes it easier (dare I say, enticing?) to read the entire work. But it leaves a little mystery. As a teacher, I just made sure to look at the review, quiz, and essay questions that were on the site and steer clear of them. There were plenty of other things to discuss and put on my assessments. SparkNotes didn’t rob me of a unit. It didn’t give me a way to fail kids easily because they’d obviously only “read the Cliff’s Notes.” No, by using SparkNotes as a scaffolding tool, I made novel study more engaging and meaningful during class. And heck, it made me a better teacher, too. I like to think of myself as a version of my old Physics teacher who, rather than forbid what could potentially be an extremely valuable tool simply because it seemed like it would lead to slacking – or cheating, embraced it and all it had to offer, and that resulted in student success.

sparknotes hooray

Targeted Common Core RL.7.2 Practice: Theme

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember I recently finished my 8th-grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. If you teach 7th grade and you’ve been anxiously waiting for me to finish those, this will brighten your day! I have finally finished and posted my RL.7.2 CIM!

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement. I use literature in the public domain from reputable authors (like Kipling, Twain, and Poe – this resource uses 2 different works by Kipling), so you’re exposing your students to quality literature with targeted standards practice. It takes out all the prep and guess work!

If you’re looking for a quick, targeted, and easy resource for this standard, come check it out!

Newest Resource Reveal!

I’m excited to announce the completion of the entire grade 8 ELA Common Core (and LAFS, for Florida) CIM series bundle! It’s taken me about a year to complete, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve been able to create for you. In the bundle, there are 17 different resources. Each targets an individual standard with three mini-lessons. Each CIM uses excerpts that have been adapted to be (or were, in their original format, already) appropriate for 8th-grade readers. This was assured through the use of the Lexile® analyzer as well as several other online readability calculators (Flesch, etc.).

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement. It even includes suggestions for differentiation and extension!

I know many of you have been just waiting for me to finish the rest of the bundle, and now it’s finally ready for you! Buying the bundle instead of all the individual CIMs will save you a, well, bundle! If you’re looking for a quick, targeted, and easy resource for these standards, come check them out!

ALL RL.8 RI.8 Bundle

Common Core Practice for RL.8.4, RL.8.5, and RL.8.6

For those of you who read regularly, you’ll remember that I’m working on my 8th grade line of Continuous Improvement Model mini-lesson resources. I’m making good progress and I have recently finished and posted these resources:

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.4

8th grade CIM RL4

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.5

8th grade RL5 1

and

CCSS.ELA.RL.8.6

8th grade CIM RL6 1

I’ve also bundled these so you can save over 10% if you purchase them together.

8th grade CIM RL4-6

If you’ve never heard about or used my CIM resources, they use the research-based “model – teach – assess” technique. They are quick (10-15 min) mini-lessons that target specific standards. The only Common Core practice I’ve been able to find is general and mixed-standards. Mine is the only one I know of that does individual standard, targeted instruction and practice. It’s low-prep and easy to implement.

If you’re looking for quick, targeted, and easy resources for this standards, come check them out!

 

Teachers are Heroes!

It’s true, teachers really are heroes! Teachers are leaders, nurses, parents, psychologists, social workers, friends, confidants, and so much more. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to check out Teachers Pay Teachers, it has arrived! Today (only for a few more hours!) everything on the site – in every single store! – is at least 10% off! My store has everything 28% off! That’s right! If you’ve been eyeing that perfect lesson, activity, or resource, now is the time to stop by and stock up! There probably won’t be another sale until my birthday (that’s all the way in April, people!), so get test prep, Common Core and LAFS resources, math lessons, writing resources, reading activities, and so much more! And don’t forget, there’s a TON of free stuff on the site, too – not just my store, but hundreds – thousands (literally, there are over 70K stores on TpT!) – of stores with something for everyone. So no matter what or you teach – in a classroom K-12, early childhood, college, or even homeschool, there is something for you! Head on over and check it out!

sale_300_250

Get your teaching resources while the getting is good!

Football Freebie 11/11/14!! Literary Analysis

O-H!!!

If you’re a Buckeye fan, you know how to answer that cheer! [I-O!!!!]

Big congrats to my Ohio State Buckeyes for cementing their spot as the leader in the Big Ten! No close game this week, we put the smack down on Sparty! As your reward, here is this week’s football freebie!

For ten years of my life, I worked on writing a novel. Once it was finally finished, I read it to my students, who gave me amazing feedback so I could improve it for my target audience. Now, the novel is published and for sale on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format. I also have an entire unit to go with the novel that is available on my TpT site. You can also purchase the .pdf version of the novel on the TpT site as well. However, I want as many people as possible to be able to expose their students to the novel, so my freebie this week is the first chapter of the novel and some questions (short answer, discussion, etc.), vocabulary, etc. There are great opportunities to explore figurative language, characterization, dialogue, and various story elements. Download the freebie, and if you and your students get hooked, come back for more!

The novel is targeted at teens aged 13-17. The story is about two girls who become somewhat unlikely friends, and the main character has to make a decision about loyalty vs. honesty, and her choice leads her down a path to coming of age.

Chapter 1 Purple Storm freebie

Football Freebie!

Football Freebie 10/29/14

Okay, so I’m going to cheat this week. I haven’t been feeling well, so I know I missed my Monday/Tuesday blog entry. However, the Buckeyes pulled out the win in a thriller in Happy Valley on Saturday, so I want to reward all my followers with a freebie. So the “cheating” is that I’m going to combine my football freebie with my blog post.

I’ve been planning a line of products for my store that will specifically target preparing students for the new assessments many states have adopted as a part of Common Core. A huge number of states have adopted either the PARCC or the Smarter Balance, and Florida, of course, has the FSA, created by AIR. I want to eventually have products for grades 6-11 (since I don’t think there are any states in which 12th graders will be taking these tests). I envision having an FCIM line, a full-lesson line, and a practice-assessment line. I’m also toying with the idea of having a separate chunk of products to help expose students to new question types like the multiple response, “hot text,” etc.
I’m going to describe them here and you can (hopefully) give me feedback on what sounds good, what sounds like it won’t work (or be useful) and what I’ve forgotten but you’d like to see.

The FCIM (which, by the way, for those of you who don’t know, stands for Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model) is based on a traditional “I do,” “we do,” “you do” type of instruction. Each week, there is a very narrow focus. For example, one week might simply focus on standard RL.6.1 (for grade 6, obviously – the other grades would focus on their respective levels’ standard). The teacher would demonstrate/model how to cite strong evidence to support an explicit statement or inference from the text for 1-2 days, then would walk students through the process for another 1-2 days, and finally, would have students attempt the process on their own for 1-2 days. Many teachers count the independent student work as a grade (a bell work grade, a small quiz grade, etc.). I envision having an FCIM for every standard – at least 1 FCIM per standard (RL/RI 1-9). I could see several of the standards having more than 1 FCIM, depending on the grade level and how the standard is worded. I would like to have the FCIMs for the RL and RI standards. Ideally, I would like to have different FCIMs for different item types. For instance, have an FCIM for RL.6.1 that uses standard multiple-choice items, but then have an additional FCIM for RL.6.1 that uses multiple-response items, or open response items, so students are exposed to the new items they may see on the new assessments.

Additionally, I’d like to have a full-length lesson available for every standard. This might be as short as a single class-period or it might be slightly more in-depth and function as a mini-workshop. Again, I would like to have these for every RL and RI standard (1-9) at grades 6-11. In this product, I would have a longer excerpt with a much wider variety of questions related to the focus standard. It would still follow the show/help/do model of instruction, but would go more in depth and have a much broader scope than an FCIM for that standard. As a part of these full-length lessons, I’d like to include question types that are as close as possible to the new item types students will see (like multiple response, 2-part questions, etc.).

Finally, I’d like to have 3 practice tests per grade level that would model what the new assessments might look like, based on the information released by the testing companies, the states, and other professional resources I have access to. The idea would be for teachers to give the first practice test before any targeted instruction, then look at the results to see which standards need focus. The teacher would then use the FCIMs and focus lessons for those needed standards, and then would administer a second practice test after the instruction to measure student improvement. Then, the teacher would look at which standards still needed focus and repeat the process, ending with the 3rd practice assessment, which would hopefully demonstrate that the students have mastery of the standards/skills/concepts.

This is the model that many AP programs follow. Great AP teachers make sure their students take multiple practice tests and use those results to inform instruction. Current testing SHOULD allow teachers to do this, too, but it does not (or it certainly doesn’t make it easy to do so). My system would be created specifically for the purpose of marrying instruction with assessment, with the goal of students performing well on the culminating state assessment (much like the AP test in the spring, for AP students). I know not every teacher needs or would even want this type of resource, but it seems to me that in the conversations I’ve had with teachers across the country, the current curriculums and districts aren’t doing enough to prepare students for these new types of assessments that will not only test mastery of new standards, but will look very different from the old assessments students are used to.

I do want to emphasize that I’m not advocating a “teach to the test” mentality. First of all, no one has even seen these tests, so saying that I’m encouraging teachers to “teach to the test” makes no sense at all. Instead, what I’m encouraging teachers to do is begin with the end in mind. Teachers know that these standards are what will be assessed. They teach the curriculum all year so their students can master these standards, and then the student are tested on their mastery. All I’m trying to provide is additional instructional materials that focus on the standards, and a way to assess whether or not students have mastered them or need further instruction. Everyone certainly has their opinions on Common Core, standardized assessments, the current testing culture/climate, etc. I’m not saying I even agree with everything that’s going on, but I am acknowledging it. Kids are going to be tested. Teachers are going to be evaluated based on the scores. Why not do everything in our power to make sure students master the standards and can pass the tests? It’s living within the parameters of reality.

Does this sound like something you would find useful for your classroom? If so, please let me know! And of course, if there is something you think would be helpful in this line that I didn’t mention, please please tell me! Thanks!
Here’s the freebie I created – it’s a mini (3-day) FCIM for grade 6 standard RL.1.

6th grade FCIM RL1 freebie

Common Core Freebie