Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lock in New Information: Use Visual Notes

Our 9th grade students are working on a historical magazine project. They need to write different types of articles about the Renaissance, all based on research. After hearing about the lack of student voice in their early drafts, I decided to introduce visual note-taking.

I hooked them with some talk about brain research. We're learning that hand-writing notes does more to help us retain information than typed notes: the kinesthetic element gets our synapses firing. 

Note-taking infographic via Edudemic

Next, I showed this video which describes the three main elements of visual notes: text, visuals, and structure.

Notes like this help students "own" new information

Then I modeled my own process. 
I chose a few paragraphs from a Britannica (Renaissance Art Revival). We read it over together and all agreed that the information was passing us by, and we were starting to glaze over. 

I said, "Visual notes will move us from glazing over the information to OWNING the information." 

Next, I showed them my notes. 
"Remember," I stressed, "it's not art class!" Symbols and quick sketches are fine because this work is not meant to be turned in; it only has to make sense to the student.

Here are my notes (yes, they're in pencil...)

Next, students practiced with one of their own resources. We worked silently for about 15 minutes, then students got up and moved around the room showing their notes and talking about what they had learned....all far away from the informational text.

To wrap up, we talked about times when visual notes would make sense:
Biology Notes from Sketchnotes

- when studying for a test on a concept we've found difficult

when learning short chunks of complex information

- when learning new terminology in Biology, for example.

- when planning out essay or project work which connects various ideas

When are visual notes NOT the best strategy? 

- When the information is basic or clearly laid out already

For more models of visual notes, click below. 
With extra care and colors, these would also make great "final products" in lieu of a traditional book report, lab report, or essay.

Examples via TeachThought

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Citing it Right (across the board)

As a faculty, we're trying to streamline our teaching of citations and research skills. Citing is an important skill, but we don't want it to take over our lessons either. 

Since teachers require citations for all summative assessments that use outside resources, I've made a checklist they can share with students. 

Students can attach it to their paper when they turn it in as a quick self-assessment. And teachers can communicate the same message and expectations across the grade levels.

Feel free to copy and edit to suit your needs!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reading Calendars for Busy Students

One of our grade 10 History teachers is using guided choice historical fiction to make his content come alive for students. Story is what really engages our thinking, so he's using a story-based approach to hook students and help them connect the facts from his lessons to characters' emotions.

For his unit about the Industrial Revolution, I book-talked historical fiction (like Dickens) as well as dystopian novels in which society has been changed by technology. See the booklist list here.

As they read, students will examine the essential question, "How does technology impact society?"

After students chose their novel, we completed a reading calendar to help them stay on track with finishing their book. The calendar serves as a bookmark and a note-taking tool. They fill in the page they should be on at the end of each day. This is also a quick way for the teacher to see if they are on target to finish in time.

See the bookmark/calendar here

Here's a sample that shows how it should look after the kids do the math :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Power of the List

When teachers begin new units, I often put together lists of books for their classrooms. Although it seems like a quick thing, there are actually many steps to ensure maximum impact.

This year, some teachers are planning to incorporate more STUDENT CHOICE (yay!) and more FICTION (yay!) into their content.

I put together book lists for two different 10th grade courses: English and History. 

In grade 10 English, our students need to read either a historical fiction novel OR a memoir this month.

My challenge: Find and promote the best titles and get them into the hands of the students

Here's how I do it:

Step 1:
Piled up Historical
Fiction and Memoirs

Find the books
Our catalog does not consistently include genre as a subject heading, so although I start with a catalog search, I always end up reading the stacks to find the most titles. 

I need to...
- pull books covering a range of historical time periods, both contemporary and classic
- pull memoirs appealing to a variety of interests such as personal tragedies, wartime, and multicultural
- watch for a balance of reading levels
- watch for a balance of girl / boy appeal.

Step 2:
Create a Resource List in Destiny 
After I pull all of the books, I enter them into a Resource List in our catalog. I also make sure each one's record includes "historical fiction" or "memoir" and any other genres that might help someone find the book again. The Resource List will stay in the catalog as long as I want - for the whole year or I can just highlight it during the unit.
Printed Resource List for
Industrial Revolution/

Step 3:
Promote the Resource List
I can print it with summary notes, copy/paste it into google docs (actually, I use Word first for best formatting and then upload into my Drive), and share it with the teachers. They now have digital copy for their curriculum planner (we use Atlas) for future reference.

Step 4:
Promote the books
I scour the web for book trailers and other resources to add to each record. I create a Pinterest board to share with students highlighting some of the most enticing covers with the call number in our library and a blurb. 
A pin from our HS Memoir
Pinterest board

Step 5:
Book talks! 
By the time classes come to the library, I know the books so well I can book talk them to drive up interest even more. When they come, I book talk by category and physically put each category in a different spot. For example, I'll zip through the historical fiction books that take place during the Holocaust, then the ones dealing with US History, and then the Ancient World. This way students can go right to the table that sounded most interesting instead of all clumping around one spot.

Step 6:
Follow up
Memoirs for EAL students
When students choose their titles, I try to remember what they've selected and touch base with them afterward. Sometimes they seem a bit unsure of their choice, so I ask them to read the first two chapters and meet in the morning to confirm that it's the right book. Then I follow up casually: How's it going? Enjoying the story? I try to get a sense of what they like so I can recommend other titles down the road.

I also invite students to post the covers of their favorites on our "Good Reads" board to help spread the word about which titles were popular. (More on this soon!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Reading Update

How did you do with reading this summer? Did you meet your goal?

I set a GoodReads goal to read 52 books this year. A wifi-free summer helped me catch up with that; I read 13 books in 6 weeks!

Here's the run-down. I saved my most intriguing read for last.

* In the comments: I'd love to hear some of your summer faves!

Fire Witness, by Lars Kepler
(target audience: Adult)

Page-turner murder mystery with detective Joona Linna solving a strange case in Sweden. The case involves girls at a foster care home, a victim who has covered her eyes in her moment of death, and a psychic who says she can see visions from the past and may be able to help the police.

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
(target audience: Young Adult)

Starts off like a preppy summer romance/family drama. By the end, both the reader and the narrator are emotionally wrecked. This is a highly original story of a teen girl trying to make sense of her own history, relationships, and the magic that happens during a lifetime of summers on a Cape Cod island.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
(target audience: Young Adult)

Loved Frankie. She's at a preppy high school, challenging some of the traditions that involve only boys. When she acts as part of the "boys club" without them knowing, she shakes up the whole school and expectations about what it means to be girl these days.

The Art Forger, by Barbara A. Shapiro
(target audience: Adult)

Art-heist, romance, academic thriller (is that an oxymoron?), and a peek into the tricks and trade of forgers, painters, and gallery owners - this novel is a fun page-turner. I loved the connection with the Isabella Stewart Gardener museum in Boston, one of my favorites, and the infamous theft that happened there in 1990.

Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin
(target audience: Middle Grades)

Twelve year old Jason narrates the story of his online friendship with "Phoenix Bird", a girl he meets on his favorite story-writing website. She seems to really understand him, a surprising new feeling for him since his autism usually makes it hard to connect with others. Because it's told from his point of view, we sometimes worry that he's getting a bit too confident in the relationship which creates a sense of dramatic irony. 

Doll Bones, by Holly Black
(target audience: Middle Grades)

This creepy doll-comes-to-life book wasn't my thing, but everyone else seems to love it. It's about three kids who play an imaginary game which becomes more and more real. The doll pictured on the cover sits watching from underneath her glass dome; she's just a doll...or is she?

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata
(target audience: Middle Grades)

Japanese-American tween, Summer, works with her grandparents as a cook for a team of migrant workers during the wheat harvest. Her grandparents and their traditional ways are both a source of strength and stress as she befriends a cute boy and works through issues with the farmer's wife, the boss of their cook crew.

Caminar, Skila Brown
(target audience: Middle Grades)

This novel in verse is told from the point of view of Carlos, a boy in Guatemala during the Civil War in 1981. Rich but simple language connects us to the emotional turmoil of the situation - the confusion between solider and rebel, family alliance and political belief. 

Reality Boy, by A. S. King
(target audience: Young Adult)

Teen boy, Gerald, is trying to live down his infamous role as a "crapper" of a kid on a reality TV show when he was little. Struggling with anger issues and a messed up family, he finds some solace in two new friendships: one with a girl at work, another with a circus hand (yes, you read that right)

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
(target audience: Young Adult)

I wanted to read this one quickly before the movie comes out! This story is told by Mia, a teen girl who has been near-fatally injured in a car accident. As she lies in a coma, she can hear the people around her pulling for her and encouraging her to "stay" with them. Flashbacks to times with her boyfriend, her struggles and successes in music, and her thoughts of the future intermingle with the present. Her choice is not an easy one considering the life she would return to.

Just One Day, by Gayle Forman
(target audience: Young Adult)

Allyson has always been on the straight and narrow path: good student, career-minded (pre-Med!), and obedient. But then she meets a boy who sweeps her off her feet and over to Paris for a day; nothing will ever be the same after. The freedom, independence, and self-reliance she feels makes it impossible to return to her former ways. Tension build as she loses and then tries to find the guy who started her down this path.

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
(target audience: Young Adult)

This is the completely absorbing story of a teenage girl struggling with anorexia. She narrates it, giving us access into her thoughts and conflicting inner voices. When her friend is found dead in a motel room, any healing she had begun stalls. She begins seeing visions of her friend and we realize, before she does, how precarious her health is. Dramatic and tense with complex adult characters and family relationships.

No One is Here Except All of Us, by Ramona Ausubel
(target audience: Adult)

This is story of an isolated Jewish village in Romania reads like an allegory or fable. The villagers decide to save themselves from the encroaching war (WWII) by starting a new world. They throw out their clocks, traditions, and start to question all previous ways of being. New possibilities open up about what it means to be a family, a daughter, a friend.

The story has the feel of a fable: The main characters have names, but most villagers are described by their occupations. It's told in first person, but there's no way our narrator could know all that's described. We have the sense that the story exists everywhere at once.

One of the aspects I enjoyed reading most was the process of starting "new". In this time of dystopia as a hot genre, it was interesting to read about a community deciding what to keep and what to let go from their culture.

I found this completely consuming and, at times, totally disturbing. It's not for everyone - certainly not for those looking for straight WWII historical fiction. This is much more - a story of family, faith, culture, and our roles therein.