Each year we are asked to come with a problem of practice with actionable steps to improve. Last year wasn’t very inspiring, so I want to try something different this year. I’m going to base my goal on TDQ: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading (grades 6-12) by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. This book was recommended by one of my favorite ELA colleagues Renee @rowens1. The topic originally came up during a Professional Learning Committee meeting. The data, and thus the problem of practice, proves that on standardized tests and in everyday life students struggle with supporting claims with evidence. This blossomed into a session at our unconference about cross curricular literacy skills, but my goal is to move from discussion to action.
Non-fiction reading is integrally part of Social Studies and Science, so we are natural teachers and guides for the non-fiction ELA skills and standards. I embraced this concept last year; I used consistent language to ELA when the situation arose in reading passages, but I want to be more intentional. Besides being inspired by conversations with my ELA colleagues, I attended a surprisingly inspiring presentation at the Pennsylvania Council of Social Studies about making TDQ the SLO goal for an entire SS department. Normally that many acronyms in a sentence is an attention killer. But they provided evidence that students will grow if non-ELA teachers purposefully incorporate TDQ into lessons.
So now that I have a sizable goal for this year, what is my game plan? I will harness the power of technology to efficiently provide students with a variety of TDQs at their level. This game plan includes Newsela, Google Classroom/Google Docs duo, and Flocabulary.
The inclusion of Newsela is nothing new. The article selection is appreciated by students and teachers alike. This year I want students to learn how to track and monitor their own reading progress. This will be especially true for my higher level learners who need to be challenged in meaningful ways. The quizzes pull from ELA reading standards, so Newsela is an easy match to my professional goal.
Google Classroom / Google Docs is the easiest way for me to provide specific and ongoing feedback to students. The Google Doc is automatically created, named, and shared when the student opens the document. As the teacher I can observe the progress and leave comments in the margin with the first word typed… or encourage them to get started if their document is blank. There are Google Sheets Add-Ons that I love, like Goobric for adding a rubric to a Google Doc.
Saving the best for last: Flocabulary. I have been a Flocabulary fanatic for awhile, but some of their new features directly align with my professional goal. Last year they introduced a quiz feature that checks for content knowledge. This summer they released a Read & Respond feature, which is currently limited to mostly ELA videos and the new Week in Raps. Since the Week in Rap is 85% of my Flocabulary usage during the year, it works out perfectly. Have no fear, Flocabulary does plan on expanding the feature to other videos. So what is Read & Respond? It is short close reading passages based on the theme of a video. The Teacher’s Guide gives the grade alignment.
Another new Flocabulary feature that I anticipate using is the Pause & Play feature. You guessed it, you play the video, and sometimes it pauses, prompting with discussion points for the class. Students could use those as the questions, then they would develop a claim and find evidence from the original article cited in the interactive lyrics.
If I wanted to get really crazy, I can mash up the resources. I envision creating a Google Doc with the Pause & Play questions, with links to the article from Flocabulary as well as a corresponding article on Newsela. The Google Doc can be distributed to each student with Google Classroom, so they can edit and respond to the questions. This is just the early stage of the brainstorm. Ideas might shift as I read through TDQ: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading. Since the school year will begin during the height of an intense presidential campaign, they really need critical reading skills … as do many adults of voting age.