Friday, May 15, 2015

Strategies to Scaffold Complex Text in the Age of Comon Core

One of the most bloody battles in the Common Core War is frontloading.  This is the method of choice by literacy teachers to scaffold complex text.   According to the authors of the Common Core, little to no frontloading should be done--instead, the text should be analyzed, or closely read by the students.  In the classroom trenches, however, teachers know that students simply do not have the skills or background knowledge to comprehend complex text--especially since what is grade level today was about two years higher BCC (Before Common Core).  So, what is a teacher to do?  One of the ways of ensuring that students are engaged with text, and are building the skills and knowledge to be able to comprehend independently is to scaffold text--with text!

Scaffolding Text With Text

Reading Ladders by Teri S. Lensene

Probably the best source for scaffolding text with text is Teri Lesense's book, Reading Ladders.  In her book, Lesense talks about creating text sets that lead student from where they are to where they need to be.  Lots of wonderful examples are given, mostly with rich children's and young adult's literature.  The same strategic grouping of texts can be done with anything that we ask our students to read--from poetry to nonfiction texts.  In fact, Common Core Reading Standards 7 and 9, and Writing Standards 7, 8, and 9  require students to analyze or write based on more than one text--including multi media texts.  The same step ladder scaffolding of texts also enriches student's understanding of a topic and enables them to think critically at higher levels that are required by these standards.

Interactive Quote Analysis

Narrative Text:  Select quotes from different characters (enough for every student for pair of students to have) that reveal each character's perspective on one of the key themes.  Students read and paraphrase their quote and then determine the perspective on the theme revealed. Next, students sort their quotes into the differing opinions.  This previews the themes and characters by exposing students to the text and really gets them talking. 

Informational Text: 
Select a topic students will be studying and look for quotes that represent various perspectives on the topic.  Examples:  The Effects of Technology, Gun Control, The American Revolution. is a great resource for quotes!

Next, select several categories that students will sort the quotes into.  Examples:  Technology is beneficial, Technology does more harm than good, or Technology is what we make of it;  For/Against concealed weapons laws; Americans should/should not revolt against the British

Pass out a strip with a different quote to each student or pair of students. Give students time to read and paraphrase the quote then have them discuss amongst each other which category their quote belongs in.  Finally, have students move to the corner of the room that represent their category.  Students must be ready to discuss their support.

This pairs nicely with other reading strategies like text coding, where students read and place a symbol in the margin where they read details that support one of the categories.  It is also a great segue to argumentative writing and debate!
A LieracyLightBulb! Lesson

Quote Analysis Activity for Gun Control is available here!
Quote Analysis Activity for Technology is available here!

Poetry Pairs
A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

One of my favorite lessons is showing students how they are already poetry lovers--music is simply poetry set to music, after all!  I tell them how rapper Tupac Shakur wrote poetry in a journal that was published under the title of one of his poems The Rose that Grew from Concrete.  I play his song Dear Momma as they read and discuss the lyrics, then I play a recording of the poem Mother to Son by Langston Hughes.  Students now have the tools--and most importantly the motivation to analyze the poem and make comparisons to Tupac's song. 

This lesson was so successful that I developed other Poetry Pairs:

In addition to Tupac's Dear Momma and Mother to Son by Langston Hughes...

Superwoman by Alicia Keys and Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou both about women's empowerment
A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

Firework by Katy Perry and George Grey by Edgar Lee Masters both about making the most of your life

A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

I Hope you Dance by Lee Ann Womack and If by Rudyard Kipling both advice to young people

A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

I even have students present their own Poetry Pair where they choose a topic along with a song and poem that explore the topic.  It is my tricky way of getting students to read a lot of poetry--and it works!  After presenting the song and poem in class and analyzing each and making comparisons students often say that they like the poem better than the song!

Paired Passages
I rarely teach a single text in isolation.  Instead, I teach a set of texts on the same topic--each exploring it from a different angle.  Often I use events that are ripped from the headlines that students care about that also have roots in literature. 

A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

One of my favorites is a lesson on Privacy Versus Security.  With laws regulating who has access to our smart phone data, this topic is both timely and of interest to teens.  I begin with a discussion on the topic:  Is it ever ok to invade someone's privacy.  All or nearly all students will say no, some will even refer to the Bill of Rights.  Sometimes I might need to provoke the discussion a bit by asking "well, what about at the airport?"  and the discussion takes a different turn as most students agree that our security is more important in this setting.  Now they are ready to look into the Bill of Rights where "unreasonable searches and seizures" is mentioned.  We read an editorial on the laws dealing with phone data---which refers to "Big Brother" and is a perfect segue to the first chapter of Orwell's 1984. 

Other Paired Passages include:

In addition to the Privacy vs Security Paired Passages lesson...

"A Piece of Wood" by Ray Bradbury and a passage on gun control
A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

"Their Bullet, My Life" and concealed weapons editorial

A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson
"The Fan Club" and an article about cyberbullying

A LiteracyLightBulb! Lesson

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