Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Close Reading of AoW #1 (non-fiction article)

A seventh grader demonstrates a close reading to his table. 

       Yesterday, students watched me demonstrate a close reading and then demonstrated their own. Today, students used the same reading performances to demonstrate a close reading of our first AoW (article of the week, courtesy of Kelly Gallagher). The article was titled "12 Things We Know About How the Brain Works." In order to prepare for the reading, students write in their writers notebook everything and anything they knew about the human brain. After writing for about 5 minutes, we watched a brief TED video (sponsored by Toyota, I think) all about how the brain functions while we try to multi-task. Students were surprised to learn that multi-tasking only ensured that two tasks were completed inefficiently or inaccurately.  Taking time to build up some context before diving into the AoW was an excellent idea. Students wanted to share their own experiences of their own brain under stress or while trying to cram before a test. It felt great to talk to the students about this issue that is relevant and important to us all-- how we, humans, learn.
      After sufficient context-building, we started our close reading of the article. While students worked quietly, I demonstrated my own close reading on the overhead projector to get them started in the first paragraph.  Students were very engaged. A few tried to use highlighters rather than making annotations, but I was able to intervene. I explained to them that the process of highlighting what is already on the page is not the same as rephrasing the material and then annotating. This is actually a different cognitive process.
     After about 20 minutes, I gave students a chance to share a favorite annotation and then I showed students what a demonstration of close reading looks like if you have EE (exceeded expectations).  We talked about the difference between work that met expectations vs. work that exceeded expectations. I explained that this meant that you didn't simply do what was required, but you pushed yourself to ask many thoughtful questions with possible outcomes. While I think that this new way of grading will be very successful, I won't know until I see the student work on Friday.
    At the end of the period, I tried to sneak some web literacy into the lesson by asking a student volunteer to step up to play "researcher." Because students were to highlight words or phrases that caused confusion, the researcher's role was to research the meaning of "fluid intelligence." After searching Google, most students suggested clicking on the first entry. Can you guess what it was?
Wikipedia, of course! After explaining that .com and .org can both pay for a domain name, another student demonstrated a Google Advanced Search that only searched for domain names ending in .edu. After this, I had a few more students demonstrate the Google Advanced Search. This was awesome! Thank you for the ideas Alan November, author of Who Owns The Learning as well as
Web Literacy for Educators. This felt great!

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