My Anchor Holds

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
your curly comrade,Suzanne

I haven't determined the rightness or wrongness of using part of a hymn for a blog post title, but I went for it. 

If you remember how this whole thing started, we are on a quest to make secondary instruction colorful and engaging because even big kids want and deserve to have a little fun.  With that being said, something that I stole from elementary education this year is anchor charts.  I wanted my walls to be a valuable, changing part of instruction.  So here is a little look around my walls and a brief description of the skill.

In the first few weeks of school, I had this overwhelming notion that what I was doing wasn't working.  (Gosh!  I hate when that happens!)  So, I pulled out college textbooks and other resources I've acquired and researched workshop classroom models.  My students are not responding to traditional instruction and need something different.  Now for some of them, I'm on my fourth batch of different.  Hello rock!  Hello hard place!  They needed accountability.  They needed instruction to be writing intensive.  

So, we switched.  Mondays are our reading day.  Tuesday through Friday is writing intensive.  We're on a block schedule, so that means that some weeks I lead with my 'A' day (ah, comfort) and some with the 'B'.  It hasn't driven me crazy...yet!  

For one of our first reading lessons, I focused on what is supposed to happen in your head before you read.  It's more than just staring at words on a paper.  Imagine that!  Students brainstormed what happened in their head as they read and shared with the class.  We talked about how writing down brief responses also helped us understand what we were reading.  Students practiced reading and responding.  I asked them to go back and and notice what their notes were mostly about.  They identified the strategy and explained how it helped them on a post-it note and placed it on the corresponding poster.  We talked about how a combination of these thinking strategies would best help us understand what we read.  

This lesson idea and a chart of the thinking strategies are found in Harvey "Smokey" Daniels's book, Texts and Lessons for Teaching Literature.  I also have his book of non-fiction texts, and both are excellent!  They provide brief texts and skill-based lessons for each.

The first six weeks was spent teaching the structure and guiding questions for the Short Answer Questions.  Some students had been taught and feel most comfortable with a different graphic organizer.  Fine by me, but I still wanted them to see how the questions work with both structures.  Find more about how we teach the SAQ here.

I kind love my Ba-Da-Bing anchor chart!  A Ba-Da-Bing is a descriptive strategy for the literary essay.  In theory, it could work for expository and persuasive writing, but I haven't quite figured out how.  We added the notes above to our Writer's Tools, and they practiced the still to start their story.  It could be used throughout the story because it's just that great! In fact, I presented it as English teacher chocolate- we crave it and sometimes have to have it!  I'm going to let the graphic speak for itself, but feel free to email me for more Ba-Da-Bing details.

Pitchforks are easy and effective.  They can be used in any type of writing to add detail.  Since I was taught this strategy in Gretchen's training (Pitchforks and Ba-Da-Bings are both hers), I use them more often in my own writing.  For students, it is a great way to force encourage them to vary their sentence structure.  Remember, that AAAWWWUUBBIS word means we can wear it two ways (reversible jacket).  

So there you have it!  Again, I want these to change out as our instruction changes.  New learning- on the wall.  Old learning- in your head (or saved as a picture in your phone- all about teaching the real world skills y'all).  I would love to see or hear about what's hanging on your wall!

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