Why do you still have the boards? This isn't math class.
It took until second period.
I asked them if you still think in ELA.
So we have a lot of work to do.
I posted about my first week's plan in my last post, and I pretty much stuck to it. They watched Bluey, wrote on the whiteboards, and wrote two paragraphs of a mini-essay. That took us about two hours of class time - the rest of the week was spent with the usual beginning of school meetings, paperwork, chromebook distribution, and general chaos.
I do have a few reflections on how it went:
- Consolidation is different than in math. Sequencing answers is also more difficult because there isn't as much "a strategy to highlight" as there are different possible responses
- Giving every student in the group a job (that changes every class period and is assigned by the card they draw) is a game-changer
- Notes in ELA are WAY easier to do well than in math
Let's break those down a bit more.
Consolidation and Sequencing
Consolidation in math is about breaking down the problem, anticipating possible solutions, then making sure groups preserve enough of their thinking to have other groups figure out what they did. You sequence what boards you go to in order to build conceptual understanding from the ground up. That's not really the same in ELA (at least with the tasks I chose). A lot of time at the boards was spent outlining claims and evidence. So consolidation took the form of walking around and seeing what other groups chose, then stealing that if you liked it better than what you had.
The one time it was a little more formal was when we talked about terminology. They had come up with the qualities Calypso had, then supported that with three specific examples. After they all had done that, I pulled them over to a new board and introduced the language of Claim, Evidence, and Commentary. I made connections between what they had done and what those do in paragraphs. Then they went to write down those definitions as well as their own choice of claim and evidence (I let them pick their own or one from another group). More on the notes part in a minute.
Giving Students a Role
This year, I asked students to sit in their exact seat - if they got 7 of diamonds, they sat at only 7 of diamonds. Last year, I let them sit in any of the three of that matched their number. I introduced the roles of Speaker, Writer, and Resource Manager. The Speaker is the one who communicates for the group when I come around. The Writer writes. The Resource Manager gets any needed materials, erases the board, and holds the prompt/any other papers. If there's a group of two, then the Speaker and Resource Manager double up.
It has increased time on task, and really helped students keep each other on track. I don't like being that prescriptive, but knowing these kids like I do, I knew they needed more structure from me. And so far, it's going great.
Each day, I either just tell them what suit has what job, or I post it on the LCD daily slide, or write it on an extra whiteboard. I did make at least one strategic choice when I saw that a student who really struggled with handwriting was at the seat I had chosen for Writer. I switched it for that period because there was a TON of writing to do on the board. That's an easy way to differentiate that is invisible to students.
Kids really struggled with meaningful notes last year - we worked on it a lot, and it got a lot better. They would write down an example problem and walk through ways to solve it (at best) or just copy down their work (at worst). This year, I am treating notes as the second or third draft of something. The goal is that they are thinking on their boards, brainstorming, revising their ideas, and then seeing all the other groups' work. Then they choose what is meaningful from that work to write down. For outlining a paragraph, that made it incredibly easy for them to go from nothing to fully completed paragraph in less than a class period. And NONE of them complained about writing it twice. I think they have all been in situations where they have to erase copiously, and this time, they knew exactly what they needed in their outline and didn't even need to copy it from their boards - they KNEW it.
Their paragraphs were also a lot better, and I got more of them than I would have in a traditional ELA class. Even the students who tend to do nothing turned in at least a typed version of their outline.
This week, we start what I'm thinking of as "writing bootcamp."
We will be reading an article (which I adapted using AI to lower the lexile/complexity) about Growth Mindset, learning about the four types of sentences by writing each one about the article, introducing But/Because/So (students write one sentence for each of those conjunctions that interacts with the content of the text), and watching the Bluey Episode "Bike" and talking about who shows a Growth Mindset.
I have pulled these activities from The Writing Revolution (highly recommended). After they've done those activities, they will work on identifying run-ons and fragments using the higher lexile level original article.
They will do all of that (but for the reading of the article) at the boards.
We will also be starting etymology, where they will learn Greek/Latin roots, and brainstorm all the words they can that use the day's root. Then I've identified three target words that I'll pass out to the groups and have them write the four types of sentences that use the word in a way that shows the meaning of the word. They'll also draw a picture. Seeing (and checking) all the other groups' work will also give them more reinforcement and practice with the word. Writing the best examples at the end is even more reinforcement.
Hopefully, I will be back next week to reflect on how it went and talk about where it's going.
I still miss teaching math, but it was an excellent first week.