CURRICULUM 21-Essential Education for a Changing World

CURRICULUM 21

Essential Education for a Changing World

(ASCD Premium, Select, and Institutional Plus Member book, January 2010) 6″ x 9″, 251 pages.

If you believe that an essential role of schooling is to prepare students to be successful in today’s world, then here is a must-read book that makes a powerful case for why and how schools must overhaul, update, and breathe new life into the K–12 curriculum. World-renowned curriculum designer Heidi Hayes Jacobs leads an all-star cast of education thought leaders who explain

  • Why K–12 curriculum has to change to reflect new technologies and a globalized world.
  • What to keep, what to cut, and what to create to reflect 21st century learning skills.
  • Where portfolios and new kinds of assessments fit into accountability mandates.
  • How to improve your use of time and space and groupings of students and staff.
  • What steps to take to help students gain a global perspective and develop the habits of mind they need to succeed in school, work, and life.
  • How to re-engineer schools and teaching to engage and improve students’ media literacy.

If you believe that an essential role of schooling is to prepare students to be successful in today’s world, then here is a must-read book that makes a powerful case for why and how schools must overhaul, update, and breathe new life into the K–12 curriculum.

About Curriculum21

Curriculum 21 is the outgrowth of the work of a dynamic group of educators worldwide attempting to help colleagues transform curriculum and school designs to match the needs of 21st century learners. The impetus originated from the Curriculum Mapping work developed by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs. As we examined maps emerging across the United States and internationally.  Too often, curriculum and instruction remains dated although both students, parents, teachers and administrators recognize the need to become current and forward thinking in our planning.

Leading-New-Literacies-smallConcrete and practical models for updating your school programs appear in her most recent books, Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, (ASCD, 2010),  Mapping to the Core: Integrating the Common Curriculum Into Your Local School Curriculum, (SINET, 2012), and Leading the New Literacies: Dgital, Media, Global, to be released (Solution-Tree, 2013).

Curriculum 21 is a division of Curriculum Designers whose goal is to provide a full range of resources and services to all educators and schools involved in the journey of Curriculum Mapping. Although the process of facilitating Curriculum Mapping as a curriculum tool began several years earlier, Curriculum Designers, Inc. was officially created in 1997. We know that Distance Learning works because we live it every day. We are a 100% virtual company and go back to seeing a satellite dish on a truck parked in front of Heidi’s home  twenty years ago to carry a state-wide conference.  Today access makes flexibility and flipped professional development to client groups with ease.

Heidi’s work in the area of curriculum integration and rigorous discipline based and interdisciplinary studies was the basis for Curriculum Designers first wave work. When Heidi introduced modern Curriculum Mapping with the publication of her second book, Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum and Assessment K-12, (ASCD, 1997), the field expanded. Software solutions emerged to support her model. Since that time she has traveled the world delivering keynotes, sponsoring regional workshops, and working directly with teachers on the mapping journey. Since that time, with her books on mapping and active literacy services from Curriculum Designers has expanded.

In addition to her own work, Dr. Jacobs has developed a faculty of experienced national, international, and regional consultants.  Many of these consultants have published books and actively appear at regional workshops. They are available to work with individual schools, school districts, state education departments, media groups, and education organizations both nationally and internationally. Each consultant has in-the-field, on-the-job experience which has proven valuable in implementing projects.

Learning from a Book

Cross posted to Langwitches Blog

Learning from a book

Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

You must have noticed that I have been reading and re-reading “Curriculum 21” by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. I have posted my first impressions and recommendation here and since then have joined and written about the companion Ning to the book here. I created a Flickr Curriculum 21 group to have a hub for images and videos of Curriculum21 teaching and learning examples.

I was inspired by quotes from the book to write the following blog posts Geography is a Separate Subject. Really? and “It Isn’t the Answer Anymore, It is the Question”.

Curriculum 21 is a book that is just FULL of information, ideas, thoughts, research, recommendations and exactly about the change in education, life, skills, literacies, and global competencies I am contemplating and working for.

Unfortunately, the book is not available as a Kindle Edition, which means, I am relying on sticky notes and highlighters as a way to make the rows and rows of text more appealing to my visual eye as well as a way to find passages and quotes more quickly later on.

Learning from a book

Stickies and Highlights

I am conducting an experiment about my own learning style. How can I read this book and best:

  • filter out the information that I want to keep?
  • make connections to my previous thoughts, ideas and blog posts?
  • remember quotes from different chapters?
  • make the text content more visual for my brain?

I am eager to find out:

  • Will I be able to learn about the content of the book differently/better/easier/?
  • Will I be able to “see” connections that with the text alone I did not?
  • Will the process of looking for and selecting the right image that will represent the quote make me think “deeper” about what the quote us trying to say?
  • Will the sum of the quotes I selected from the book tell a story in itself?

I wonder how my personal experiment will turn out… but in the meantime, please take the time to share:

  • How do you learn best from a book?
  • Highlighting, taking notes, talking/discussing it with someone ?
  • Do my visuals help you visualize what Curriculum21 is about?
  • Do the slides do nothing for you?
  • Do the visuals give you a different point of view, than when you were reading the text alone?
  • Are you interested in reading Curriculum 21 (if you have not done so) because of the visual “Preview”?
  • What opportunities do you give your students to learn from a a book?

BOLD MOVES for Schools: How We Create Remarkable Learning Environments

This new book by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marie Hubley Alcock was released February 17, 2017.

bold-moves-shadow

What will it take to create truly contemporary learning environments that meet the demands of 21st-century society, engage learners, and produce graduates who are prepared to succeed in the world? What skills and capacities do teachers and leaders need to create and sustain such schools? What actions are necessary?

Bold Moves for Schools offers a compelling vision that answers these questions—and action steps to make the vision a reality. Looking through the lenses of three pedagogies—antiquated, classical, and contemporary—authors Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marie Hubley Alcock examine every aspect of K–12 education, including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and the program structures of space—both physical and virtual—time, and grouping of learners and professionals. In a new job description for teachers, Jacobs and Alcock highlight and expound on the following roles:

  • self-navigating professional learner,
  • social contractor,
  • media critic and media maker,
  • innovative designer,
  • globally connected citizen, and
  • advocate for learners and learning.

With thought-provoking proposals and practical strategies for change, Bold Moves for Schools sets educators on the path to redefining their profession and creating exciting new learning environments. The challenge is unprecedented. The possibilities are unlimited.

“Want to know how to transform learning, teaching, and assessment for the innovation era? Bold Moves is a practical and comprehensive guide that will enable educators to create the classrooms and schools of the future today.”

— Tony Wagner
Author of Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap.  Professor of Education, Harvard University 

“Jacobs and Alcock present a compelling vision, a powerful framework, a clear roadmap, and a host of practical tools for transforming antiquated schools into innovative learning environments. Bold Moves for Schools is for all education professionals aspiring to better serve today’s children.

— Yong Zhao
Foundation Distinguished Professor, School of Education, University of Kansas; and author of several books, including Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students

What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?

by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Cross posted to the Langwitches Blog

What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?

The word “mistake” is a harsh word. It implies flaws, pointing fingers, errors in judgement, something wrong and possibly even a dead end. I would rather think or connect the word “mistake” to first steps, stepping stones, experimentation and exploration. With that being said, those “first steps” or that exploration cannot become a routine cemented in stone how technology is being used in the classroom. Stepping stones are meant to lead to something else. For the sake of the prompt given, here are my top 5 “Mistakes” (in no particular order) which I see, read and hear about as I travel the world to learn and work with schools, teachers and students:

  1. Technology being used to substitute an analog activity
  2. Technology use being seen as an add-on to allow students to use devices, the Internet, a program or an app as a reward, for entertainment, as a time filler for students who finish early
  3. Technology use as a separate subject area
  4. Technology as a $1000 pencil initiative
  5. Technology seen as the solution to motivate and engage students

mistakes-when-integrating-technology-tolisano

Technology being used to substitute an analog activity

The philosophy behind Ruben Puentedura‘s SAMR model provides an explanation of teachers integrating technology that is used as a tool substitute without functional improvement of the task at hand. Instead of requiring their students to hand in a handwritten report, they allow students to type up their report and print it out to then be handed in. Teachers seem to stay “stuck” on that level. In their mind they are integrating technology, but in reality the technology is not being used as a tool to facilitate learning or amplify learning.

Technology use being seen as an add-on

Teachers allow students to use devices, the Internet, a program or an app as a reward, for entertainment or as a time filler for students who finish early. Technology is being used as an add-on if there is time and in addition to the “regular” school work. Students might be asked to create a multimedia poster on a topic after they have written a report.

Technology use as a separate subject area

Technology is not being used as a way through which we teach and learn, but is being seen as a separate computer class, “iPad time” or keyboarding practice. Students have to wait until they assigned rotation time in a computer lab until they are able to work on a digital project or wait until their teacher includes use of technology in their weekly schedule.

Technology as a $1000 pencil initiative

Alan November in the book Curriculum21 (p.189) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs says: “The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning”. November also talks about these “initiatives as “$1,000 pencil” programs“. Technology is meant to aid teachers in redefining and transforming teaching and learning. Good teaching will be amplified, while not so good teaching, even with technology, will be not be so good, expensive teaching. There might be visible technology in the classroom (tablets, interactive whiteboards, smartphones, 1:1 laptop programs), but does not guarantee the use of such as a technique or strategy to facilitate learning for our students.

_The_real_problem_is_not_adding_technology_to_the_current_organization_of_the_classroom__but_changing_the_culture_of_teaching_and_learning____Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_

Technology seen as the solution to motivate and engage students

It is a reality that more and more students seem unmotivated and disengaged in our schools. Assuming that the use of technology is the solution to this phenomenon is a mistake. While students might initially be motivated by the use of shiny devices, this quickly dissipates. Engagement does not equal learning when the use of technology is not supported by strong objectives and goals as the foundation of its use. Many students would be engaged by being allowed to use their smart phones in class. However, without a strategic pedagogical plan how to connect such use to learning goals, students might just go through the motions without ever making connections to these goals.

 

 

Kiln-Ready

“…but that’s not what I teach.”

 

That phrase was the conversation stopper of a recent discussion I was having with a teacher about assessing student learning. Somewhere along the way, because of new state rules about teacher evaluation and accountability, this teacher had changed the way she assesses her students so that she could get a clean, quantitative measure of what students were expected to learn in her class. And the conversation was difficult to have.

 

Her High School Art students, her excited and engaged High School Art students, had to take a reductive assessment that amounted to little more than definition regurgitation to prove that they had grown in knowledge over the course of their time with this teacher. The students’ pretest was an unknown list of vocabulary words and art terms that they did not know. The posttest was set to determine if they learned those words and terms. If they performed well on this written assessment, then the teacher would be found to be effective or highly effective in her teaching performance.

 

“…but that’s not what I teach.”

 

There’s a scene in the 5th Harry Potter film, The Order of the Phoenix, where the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge (who works for the Ministry of Magic–insert your own State or National Education Reform Commission metaphor here) refuses to teach practical magic. The students remind her that in each of their previous four years at the school there has been an authentic reason to know how to defend themselves with magic.

 

UMBRIDGE

As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why any of you should not be able to perform the spells under a controlled examination.

HERMIONE

Without ever practicing them?

UMBRIDGE

I repeat, as long as you’ve studied the theory!

HARRY

How does that help us in the real world?

UMBRIDGE

This is school, not the real world.

 

The conversation with the HS Art teacher was heading in this same direction. She was describing a system that was trying to measure what was, perhaps, not worth learning; at least not worth learning in isolation. Surely the art terms had some worth contextually but were they the primary target of instruction? No.

 

During our conversation, I looked over at the window sill and saw this:

Photo Jan 20, 9 50 49 AM

I walked over to the variety of mugs, in their final stages of drying, before being put into the kiln. The students had been working for weeks (keeping their mugs in plastic to prevent drying) on perfecting techniques to shape the mugs, the handles, the top lip, and the design of the outside. The teacher explained and demonstrated different techniques and students tried them out, creating their own works of art. Over several weeks and with feedback from the teacher, they came to a point where their work was “Kiln-Ready.” Once it goes into the kiln, it cannot be modified.

 

The conversation shifted.

 

“Here’s what you teach,” I said. “Here’s your assessment.”

 

“Oh, I know,” the teacher said, “this is my destination; this is what I’m driving the kids toward. But I also have to make sure I attack that vocabulary for the test. The actual product is too difficult to quantify how effective I may be.”

 

We talked more about using rubrics. We talked about elements of art critique and collaborative cycles of feedback. We talked about how the students and the teacher could collaboratively navigate degrees of quality so that a rubric could help students determine when their work was “Kiln-Ready.”

 

Is all of this reform we’re dealing with that great in theory? Is what we quantify in the classroom more important than what we qualify? Is doing what is easy more important than doing what is right? Because the reality is, at least in this classroom (and classrooms like it across our country), it isn’t practical. We don’t need more REform. We need more TRANSform. We need more NEW form.

 

We need more Kiln-Ready moments and less Umbridge-style interpretations of assessment. Also, we need to celebrate those teachers, like this one, who understand how important Kiln-Readiness is, in spite of a misguided and ill-informed accountability system.

Mike Fisher

@fisher1000

Upgrade Your Curriculum and Digital Learning Strategies, both available from ASCD

A Critical Look At The “Close Reading” Standard

“Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” — English Language Arts Standards » Anchor Standards » College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading » 1
mfisher-164by Michael Fisher
Close reading is not a thing.
It is not a skill. It is not a big idea. It is not new.
It is an iteration of New Criticism in a new Common Core chrysalis. The caterpillar—traditional literary lenses, among them Formalist criticisms, Reader-Response criticisms, and, perhaps, Structuralism—went through a transformation and have emerged as a new butterfly of comprehension and evidence.

Let’s read the close reading standard more closely

If we look at just the words read closely in a contextual way, what do you think the relationship is to the remaining words in this anchor standard? When these two words are separated from the remaining 29 words, a misinterpretation of the standard emerges as a potential separate skill, though other necessary skills here are more distinctly apparent and important (if one closely reads the standard):
  • determine what the text says explicitly,
  • make logical inferences,
  • cite textual evidence,
  • support conclusions.
boy-magnifier-book-trimReading closely then is the magnifierto ensure the suite of four related skills in this standard are achieved. In other words, close reading serves as a magnifying glass strategy.
If we want to dive into a specific portion of text (or comparison of texts) with a purpose, everything that is viewed through the magnifying glass deepens students’ development of the entire anchor standard’s learning expectation.
Using the magnifying glass is not a skill to be learned, it is simply a tool to amplify this standards’ priorities.

Reading closely is never mentioned elsewhere

Consider this: the anchor standard is the ONLY place that the phrase “read closely” is mentioned; it is not used again in any grade-specific reading standards.
When we focus on only a portion of a standard or decide to agree with what vendors tell us, then we lose the intention of the standard. The intention of this standard, and all of the other reading standards, is for students to comprehend what they read. Reading closely is great, but that is not the objective. Reading comprehension is the objective.
In order to get to comprehension, the focus should not necessarily be on all the ways students could closely read a text, but on the evidence students provide for thinking what they think. Perhapsmetacognition could be the real focus. The important words in the standard are not necessarily “read closely…” but rather “…what the text says explicitly.”

The expectations change in sixth grade

ExploringCloseReadingStandard-cvrThe grade level standards are pretty clear about what students need to know and be able to do. At the lower grade levels, they must be able to ask and answer questions about specific details in the text. Then in sixth grade, the verb changes.
In sixth grade, the students have to “cite evidence” that supports their thinking, which becomes sophisticated over time depending on the best evidence to support their thinking and evidence across multiple texts.
These growing expectations can be met through close reading (as a label for textual analysis) and also through new questioning habits that focus on the details. This can be done whether we are developing “close reading” lesson plans or not.

Let’s put “close reading” in its place

Close Reading is a lens through which we view the multiple ways in which we analyze text. Close reading is about the way we use evidence in text and the way we engage with the text when we ask and answer questions about it. Close reading is primarily about developing better comprehension habits.
What do good readers do when they read? They examine. They connect. They decode. They acquire. They discover. They think. They annotate. They visualize. They comprehend. They uncover.
These are the verbs. These are the skills. These are what really matters.
For more about Mike Fisher’s stance on Close Reading, his new eBook, Exploring the Close Reading Standard: Ideas and Observations, is now available on Amazon Kindle ($4.99).
sf114045bMichael Fisher is a former middle school teacher and digital learning consultant who writes frequently for MiddleWeb. He is acontributor to the new Solution Tree series,Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy, which tackles global, media, and digital literacy. In addition to 2012’s Upgrade Your Curriculum, written with Janet Hale, Mike is the author of the 2013 ASCD/Arias book Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign And Assess 21st Century Work?  Find Mike on Twitter @fisher1000 and visit his website The Digigogy Collaborative.

Minecraft: Research Product

Earlier this week, a member of my digital network, Brent Coley ( @brentcoley ), shared the following tweet where a student created a Minecraft video that represented a virtual tour of Mission San Diego de Alcala (Wikipedia link):

 

 

Link to video outside of tweet.

 

I was absolutely blown away by what this 4th grader created and I thought it was a good representation of what a research project product that wasn’t a paper looked like.  I’ve previously blogged about Infographics as a research product and I advocate vociferously for digital product replacement thinking when I work with teachers. If the outcome is building knowledge and demonstrating that students can both investigate a topic and learn from it, whoever said that research had to result in a paper?

 

The research standards in the Common Core are usually just the three writing standards associated with Research to Build and Present Knowledge. However, I always lump writing standard six in there as well, as it deals with how writing can be presented in a digital format/presentation. I want to share the fourth-grade-specific Common Core writing standards here, standard seven from the Research Standards, and standard six from the Production and Distribution of Writing section:

 

W.4.7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

 

W.4.6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

 

As you read through the rest of this blog post (and hopefully after you’ve viewed the video), read with these standards as lenses. Ask yourself, “did this student meet the standard?” “Did this student provide evidence of what they know and are able to do within the confines of this standard?”

 

In my book, Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?, I describe several questions to ask when assigning digital student work:

  1. What is the learning objective?
  2. Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?
  3. Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task? What additional skills might have to be considered in order to engage this upgrade?
  4. Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?
  5. Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?
  6. Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?

 

I wanted to blog about this student’s Minecraft project through the lens of these six considerations, annotating what this fourth grader was able to accomplish.

 

 

  • What is the learning objective?

 

      • The learning objective here was to learn about the Mission San Diego de Alcala. This student had to learn the layout, information about the different areas, and be able to speculate about the people that lived there.
      • This student also had to learn specific information about the founder of the Mission, Father Junipero Serra, as he both introduces the video and then explains several of the artifacts contained within the video.

 

  • Is the instructional task worthy of a digital upgrade? Will using digital tools enhance the learning? If so, in what ways?

 

      • In this case, I believe the learning was enhanced exponentially. Besides the research to build knowledge about the mission, this student had to do a brick by brick recreation to create the video.
      • In the comments section of the video, the student’s father includes information about the student having to develop his own system for creating the texture of the tiles on the roof.
      • This obviously had to be tightly scripted for both production and the narration, so the writing definitely occurred at some point. Everything in the video though is beyond the writing…beyond the end point of the traditional research product.
      • In terms of worth? You tell me. Was this digital upgrade a worthy replacement?

 

  • Will the digital tools increase or decrease the cognitive rigor of the task?

 

      • The traditional version of this research would have resulted in a paper, most likely, perhaps a diorama or detailed schematic drawing. In this case, using Minecraft, the detail involved demanded a time-intensive process that resulted in a very professional product. The decisions this student made to develop the detailed depiction all involved discernment and critical thinking in some way. Big time rigor here.
      • Additionally, the student used multiple digital tools to get to the final product: Minecraft to create the representation, an audio tool to record the narration, and a screen-capturing tool to record the video. All of these individually would raise the thinking level of the task because they all represent learning that is above and beyond the expectation of the standard and the traditional version of the research. Together, they represent problem solving nirvana.
    • Does the digital upgrade involve collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and/or creative thinking?
      • I get the sense from the comments on the Youtube page that the student engaged in some conversation with his dad to create the video, though I don’t see specific evidence of collaboration or communication.
      • As for creative problem solving, the student’s father references an issue with the roof tiles that the student had to discover a solution too, but the entire video also represents a finished product that is the end product of trial and error thinking. If you’ve ever been in Minecraft, you know that you have to try stuff out and see if it works. Once you discover what works, you build, literally, on it.
      • In terms of creative thinking, there’s so much here. From decisions about the design and interactive elements, to details about Father Serra’s artifacts, to the layout and navigation of the Mission for the viewer of the video, this student had a lot on his plate to think about. The finished product demonstrates extremely high levels of thinking and decision making.

 

  • Are sufficient digital tools available and do all students have access to them?

 

    • This I don’t know. I’m not privy to the project’s parameters or to the population of students that were assigned this project and their access to / equity within digital tools or connected access points.
    • I do know that this student seems to be fairly comfortable creating within the digital realm, which suggests an early affinity / comfort with digital tools at a young age that allows him to demonstrate learning at this level even in the fourth grade.
    • Based on the comments from dad, I’m speculating that this student has no issues with computer / internet access and that it is just a part of his world.
  • Are the students involved in some of the decision-making? How much are the students contributing to the design, process, or product?
    • Again, since I don’t know anything about what was assigned, I don’t know how much the students contributed to the design of the project.
    • Even if the design of the Mission and its subsequent creation within the Minecraft system was with the help of his father, note that the standard (#6) advocates for “guidance and support from adults.”

 

In the book, I also recommend some questions to ask when assessing student work, two of which revolve around how students are reflecting on what they are creating and how they are attributing their source material, both of which are important components of research.

 

In this case, there is little evidence of either. I was hoping to learn from where the student found his information. (And I was secretly hoping to discover that he used multiple verified sources.) I was also hoping to learn why he chose to use Minecraft to create his product versus other available web tools. Perhaps eventually this could be added to the Youtube comments. If I were the teacher, I might ask for this as a separate component of the task.

 

All in all, though, I must say, that this effort is serendipitous. I’m struck by both the level of quality and the apparent level of learning of this student. I hope that those reading this are understanding that this is what a 21st Century demonstration of learning looks like. This is what is possible when we relinquish the limits of traditional practice. This is what is possible when we begin orbiting the boxes that we’ve asked students to think outside of for decades. This is 21st Century Learning.

 

Kudos to this kid and his dad. What they created was future-forward and just plain awesome. I subscribed to their Youtube channel. I can’t wait to see what they will do next!

Follow Mike On Twitter: @fisher1000

Mike’s Website: Digigogy.com

Digital Learning Strategies: How Do I Assign and Assess 21st Century Work?

The Heart of the Close Reading Standard

Collaborative blog post by Mike Fisher and Janet Hale.

 

Despite the amount of publishing and vendor products that employ a contrary interpretation, close reading is really about HOW we engage reading skills. It is not WHAT we engage. Developing “close reading” as a skill is not an essential part of this standard. Instead, it is a methodology, a strategy that is a way in which to reach the heart of the reading standards and the heart of improving comprehension.

 

The Hows and The Whats

 

Let’s look at the Common Core anchor standard number one for Reading-Literacy:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

 

The WHATs are clear:

  • Determine what the text(s) says explicitly
  • Make logical inferences from the text(s)
  • Cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking
  • What you write or say must incorporate evidence drawn from text(s) to support conclusions

 

The HOWs are muddier:

  • While “read closely” is explicitly stated, what literally should be read is left to interpretation as well as HOW one records his or her notations based on defined task, purpose, and audience. For example, one interpretation could be creating an opportunity for students to deeply analyze a speech transcript for its rhetoric and annotate (or annotext) to capture evidence. Another interpretation could be re-reading a section or sections of a narrative focused on characterization and have students using a semantic mind-map to make evidence-based notations.
  • HOW students will be assessed–both the actual assessments and evaluation tools (Who will be the assessor? Teacher…Peers…Authentic audience? What will be the judgement criteria? Rubric…Oral Feedback…Jury Panel?) are not included explicitly in the anchor standard; therefore, open to interpretation.
  • “When writing or speaking” is explicitly stated, which means that students must be able to not only meet the criteria of this anchor standard (R.CCR.1), they must also demonstrate their abilities in conjunction with relational anchor standards, such as SL.CCR.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

 

By no means are the above the only considerations regarding interpretation of the HOWs involved in the close reading of texts. As a matter of fact, it is important to note that while this anchor standard used the term “text”, when reading grade-level specific standards associated with a related anchor standard for both Reading Literature and Reading Informational, R.CCR.7:

 

Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

 

students must provide evidence by closely viewing media. This opens up Pandora’s box (RL.4.4) in that many teachers have not personally experienced this form of rigor regarding finding evidence in a media format, which involves its own set of terminology and understanding (e.g., how a specific type of shot–extreme long shot, long shot, full shot, mid-shot, close-up, extreme close-up–affects mood and tone).

 

Therefore, it is up to a teacher, or a teacher team, to interpret this (and other related) anchor standards. Students could determine what a text says explicitly through a digital-product assessment. Perhaps they could visually represent, through an infographic, logical inferences from two related texts. Another option could be to have students collaboratively (SL.CCR.1)  prepare a multi-media presentation that engages multiple HOWs to support the close-reading task.

The Hierarchy

 

As Mike blogged before, the words READ CLOSELY do not appear in ANY of the grade specific standards for R.CCR.1, further evidence that it is not the intended focal point. This anchor standard has more to do with building an increasing sophistication of how students deal with details in text (as well as media).

 

Let’s take a peek at the hierarchy through the use of Janet’s CCSS ELA Progressive Continuum App, which helps visualize new learning from one grade level to another.

 

(Note that bold print indicates new learning for a particular grade level.)

 

RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

 

RL.3.1Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

 

RL.5.1 Quote accurately froma text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

 

RL.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysisof what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 

RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text,including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

 

In the lower grade levels students are expected, with prompting and support, to ask and answer questions about details in text. In subsequent grade levels (grade three), students have to begin referring explicitly to specific details within text to answer posed questions. By the time students have reached grade five, they must be able to quote details accurately from the text in their speaking, writing, or multimedia products or presentations. In grade six the verb shifts from “quote” to “cite”, which alone creates interesting conversation with teachers on the interpretation of what this term truly means, and therefore, demands of students regarding evidence. Through grade 12 students are expected to continue to cite evidence using specific details from the text, but sophistication increases including the need to examine multiple pieces of “strong and thorough” evidence. In grades 11 and 12 , students must start discerning textual details, collecting and curating evidence to aid in determining which pieces of evidence (both explicitly and inferred) that most strongly support the analysis of the text, including “determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.”

The HEART of the Close Reading Standard

 

When close reading the previous paragraph, what would the key idea be? If you had to boil that paragraph down to a single-word emphasis, what would the word be? How about details? The heart of R.CCR.1 is that–it’s all about the details–questions about the details, referring to the details, quoting the details, citing the details, determining if the details leave matters uncertain.

 

The heart’s “pulse” is the rhythm students create that starts with answering and asking questions to ultimately discover how to best analyze texts. Students need a strong foundation (including quality modeling) in asking and answering questions in order to ready themselves to independently refer to texts to support their reasoning, including the abilities to quote accurately and cite evidence properly.

The HEART of the Close Reading Standard

Final Thoughts

 

It is extremely important that teachers collaboratively (both across grade levels as well as within a grade level) understand the heart of each Anchor Standard in Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking, and Language rather than accept interpretations by someone else. Teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists should be discussing their personal interpretations with one another and coming to agreement on what the anchor standards require and designing curriculum and instruction based on the mutual interpretations.

 

The implications are that locally-designed units of study or lesson plans, vendor products or state-adopted curricula may not be a perfect fit, which means there will be a need to closely read the resource’s details to determine where the text leaves matters uncertain. Based on your agreed-upon WHATs and HOWs regarding each anchor standard, what do these resources provide that meet your established criteria? Where are the products lacking or appear to be incorrect? Can those involved in the product or resource close-reading experience support their reading using evidence-based conclusions?

 

The heart of the close reading standard matters. It has a place and purpose, not only in Grades K-12, but for college and careers. Scaffolded skills that live in the “close reading” standard are necessary to ensure students are able to identify details and ultimately lead to greater comprehension of text in a sophisticated manner. But an array of close-reading skills are not meant to be THE only skill sets that matter. Close reading should take place occasionally, when appropriate for task, purpose, and audience. Any methodology used with too much regularity is doomed. Skill sets and their supportive strategies are meant to be strategic…targeted…focused. If teachers read closely with students every single day, it’s not a strategy, it’s a roadblock.

 

Post-Script

 

This blog post focused on the analysis (or close read) of only ONE anchor standard. There are 10 reading anchor standards, and collectively there are 32 English/Language Arts anchor standards. What opportunities for empowering educators regarding curriculum design and instructional practice can be manifested by asking them to participate in collegial discussions and deep understandings concerning all of the anchor standards?

 

Follow Mike on Twitter

Follow Janet on Twitter

 

Mike and Janet are the co-authors of Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students

 

Digital Microstories

Collaborative Blog Post written with friend and colleague Danielle Hardt of Starpoint Middle School in Lockport, NY. Danielle is a literacy rock star, a highly effective teacher, and a secret practical joke enthusiast (a skill I highly prize!).

It has become the rage as of late to “Close Read” everything in American Common Core classrooms. Almost all of the states that are providing curriculum resources (including NY) and many of the vendors that are selling Common Core aligned products are focusing on Close Reading as an essential strategy in their materials, overusing an instructional methodology to the point of killing the love of reading. Our students are noticing this too, and ever since the beginning of education, the students are our largest sounding board as well as our biggest obligation. We need to listen to them.

 

In an effort to bring a little love back to literacy (note the alliteration), we’d like to suggest a little brevity and levity and “webevity” to instructional processes with the use of digital microstories. This avenue provides a medium students are very comfortable with.  Using digital formats fosters engagement and efficiency and proficiency in the classroom, as many students either use these tools already or require limited explanation of their usage. In many modern classrooms, students are educating us as teachers in the easiest ways to utilize the technology. When this happens, the learning skyrockets! We are all partners in learning.

 

Digital microstories are based on short fiction pieces that range from six words to 140 characters to a couple of sentences to a couple of paragraphs. The emphasis is on brevity, certainly, but also on a student’s ability to make connections and inferences based on the few words they read–then extending those connections and inferences to a visualization using a teacher- or student-selected web tool.

 

Besides just sheer engagement, another attribute of this format is the instant gratification for students to complete and “turn in” an assignment in one class period or block. What middle schooler doesn’t love to weave a tale about the hero/heroine that escapes a torturous conflict, barely rising to the top? Perhaps a midnight terror that shivers the spine? Maybe they’d delve into a short poem or riddle or other clever play on words. Any which way, digital microstory formats allow for these and many other options for the writers of the world to concisely demonstrate critical thinking, focusing on evaluation and synthesis without the rigmarole of days of analysis or the constant revisiting of text for the sake of answering what amounts to a bunch of comprehension questions.

 

Allowing students the opportunity to choose dramatically-engaging topics in relationship to the visualization within these digital formats creates a natural connection to inferencing. A relationship with close reading happens organically, rather than through a need for direct instruction. This organic and authentic version of close reading hits the heart of the way we analyze details and extend the learning beyond anything we could have imagined in traditional ways of teaching. It also extends opportunities for further discussion and reflection.

 

Getting back to the topic at hand though, access to resources around microfiction are numerous. You can “Google” search terms such as “Microstories,” “Microfiction,” “Microtext,” etc. and find a plethora of resources related to short fiction. Note that some of these resources might be inappropriate for sharing with kids, but would be great for sharing/generating ideas with teachers about how they might engage micro-literacy with their students.

 

Here are some of our favorites:

 

Six Word Stories:

http://www.sixwordstories.net/

http://www.narrativemagazine.com/sixwords

 

Visualizing Famous Quotes: Make a Web2.0 visualization of your favorite quote!

 

Two sentence horror stories: http://www.mandatory.com/2014/02/21/20-terrifying-two-sentence-horror-stories/

 

Very short stories:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/sixwords.html

 

Extremely Short Stories:

http://extremelyshortstories.wordpress.com/

 

“Tweet the gist:”

  • Tweet the plot of a favorite movie.

  • Tweet the central idea of a favorite song.

  • Tweet the main idea of a favorite poem.

  • (Note that these tweets might be physical, in-class experiences, rather than an online tweet. Just keep them to 140 characters!)

  • Then, “Instagram” the tweet: What visual would enhance the tweeted message?

There are several important task-specific functions that go along with Digital Microstories, primary among them are analysis of text and students eventually writing their own versions rather than always analyzing someone else’s writing. Both of these are aligned to Common Core standards for Key Ideas and Details (Anchor standards 1-3) in all grade levels in the reading standards and the first six writing standards around text types and production of writing. Additionally, because students are adding a visual component, they are also engaging reading standard 7 around the integration and evaluation of diverse media formats.

 

Now that we’ve defined the “What,” let’s take a look at the “How.”

 

There are many web tools available for creating visualizations of text, merging multiple types of media, and developing digital representations of thinking. For this particular instructional activity scenario, we’re looking for tools that engage the brevity factor. Those tools that let us create short, quick media productions will be the most useful for digital microstories and thus our opportunities for instant classroom gratification and analysis…and assessment…and engagement.

 

Here is a sampling of tools, both Web 2.0 and Device Applications, that we think would be extremely useful for digital microstorytelling:

 

 

With a vast variety of tools online and apps on devices/tablets, this short list is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below! Additionally, these photo and image resources may help:  Stock ExchangePixabayFlickr’s Creative Commons

 

Using some of these web tools, we created some examples here, with Ernest Hemingway’s original Six Word Story, “For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”:

 

Animoto:

Six Word Stories: Hemingway

 

Prezi:

 

Storybird:

 

Note how our choices of associated media in the different web tools creates opportunities for divergent discussions, perhaps even comparative analysis of several visualizations of the same short text. How awesome would that be to explore in class?

 

Since these digital microstories are dependent on both text and other media, if you need help with images to create your own visualization, check out the photo and image resources in Mike’s Diigo account: https://www.diigo.com/user/mikefisher821/photos While many of these resources include free content, we would urge you to remember and model that attribution is still important and students should give credit where credit is due.

 

Here are a couple of useful sites to assist in providing that credit:

 

 

Some of the web tools include content that students can use without attribution because they are an embedded component of the web tool or application.

 

So what’s the point of all this?

 

Learning and engagement are extremely powerful together. High levels of both help students remember more and evaluate better. Giving students opportunities to investigate short fiction forms and create them on their own opens up a plethora of avenues to creative development and ownership of learning.

 

Digital microstories offer students many opportunities for creativity, textual analysis, discernment, evaluation, engagement, and choices. How powerful is that? If we’re really going to work toward college and career readiness, shouldn’t we give our students authentic tasks and tools? We think so. And we think Digital Microstories are a great way to get there!