Presentation at MRA 2007
Jim Burke began by inviting participants to think about the actions that students must engage in to be successful in their core academic work. He then talked about how students need to continue a number of academic skills in classes that have traditionally not been heavily focused on those skills. for instance in health.
He showed us a matrix of “academic essentials” that he invites students to use as they analyze texts. He discussed how this matrix can be used as a kind of mental weightlifting in which students push beyond what they initially are able to do into harder tasks. They move beyond what they are typically able to do in order to build up mental muscle.
Then, he shared a “time use evaluation” model, asking us to think about how we divide up our class periods and how many “teaching moves” we make in a period. The goal for the first ten minutes, then, is to consider what you do, how you do it, and why so that the initial class time is purposeful and focused. We don’t want to do “drive by literacy instruction,” where we are so focused on checking off the standards that we forget what good teaching consists of. It is not a model of responsive instruction. Burke suggests that kids work well with about three instructional moves per class.
Some examples that he shared came from the Academic Workout series that he has created for First Choice Publishers. One example is a “types of questions” overhead. The four types of questions that readers can ask of texts are:
- Right there — factual questions that use the same wording from the passage
- Think and search – interpretive questions that require searching and skimming
- Author and you – answers to these questions are not directly in the texts and require inferential thinking
- On your own – answers here are based on your own experience
As a lesson, he would have the overhead up for students at the beginning of class and give them three minutes to take notes on the types of questions. Then, he shows a model and works with the class to generate a question about that text at each level. Finally, he moves from the first ten minutes into the rest of the lesson where students would do their own independent reading and develop their own questions. Through this process, students develop academic language.
For another example, Burke showed an image from Cameron Clapp’s website and asks students to create a list of nouns, verbs, and adjectives describing what is going on, and then develops that into a full paragraph. He gives another example of a painting of a soldier with a number of elements that inspire thought and discussion. Questions could include:
- Who is this? Where is he?
- Why is he carring a gun different from the bullets he has over his shoulder?
- Why is he wearing three dog tags?
He begins his teaching with the idea in mind, “What do I need to do to help kids be successful?” He gives another example of a structured conversation that happens in the first ten minutes that can then help students structure the next task. For instance, having students talk about a text before they begin writing an essay. He then moved in to possible examples based on his current teaching with Crime and Punishment.
Possible Beginnings for Your Class
- Open with a question: “What is a crime?”
- Post a quotation: “THe past is not dead; it’s not even the past” William Faulkner
- Visual: painting, photo, ad, video, infographic
- Text: Nietzsche, poem, article, excerpt
- Bring one powerful paragraph back over and over again through the course of a unit so students can track their thoughts and opinions about it over time
- Opinionaire: “When is an action a crime?”
- 4Rs: Read, retell, respond, relate
- Mini-Lesson: summarizing, questioning, compare/contrast writing
- Discussion: share and compare
- Generate: types and examples of punsihment
- Priming the mind: questions to consider and background
- Write: compare similarities and differences
- Quiz: explain a line from the chapter
- Reflective reading quiz:Â generate five words about tone, character, etc and choose the best word to describe tone/character/etc and why it’s the best
- This embeds the language of testing (“choose the one that best describes”) in the context of an authentic lesson
He also mentioned the Linda Darling-Hammond article about making homework purposeful, such that students want to do homework so they can come to class engaged and ready to work. Other research:
- Nystrand in RTE (2005): Nothing has more significant benefits in comprehension and engagement than structured use of classroom conversation
- The average teacher only allows for one minute of conversation in class per week, although even that one minute makes a difference
- Wilhelm (2006): talks about organizing your class around an inquiry. Rather than just reading Romeo and Juliet, ask “What makes a good relationship?”
- Reading Next (2004): teaching for meaning, not just to get through things
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