First Freedom Student Competition

The First Freedom Center, a non-profit, non-political, non-denominational organization based in Richmond, Virginia, and dedicated to advancing the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, is announcing its 20th annual First Freedom Student Competition. This national essay and video contest offers students in grades 9 through 12 with an opportunity to compete for $2,500 awards as they examine the First Amendment and the history and implementation of freedom of religion and conscience in American democracy and the world today. Students then present their evaluation in written essay or video format.

This year’s topic introduces students to George Washington’s famous Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island of 1790, where he addresses a new standard for religious freedom and religious equality for citizens of the young nation. Students will identify the basic principles of religious liberty espoused in this primary document and will research and assess how well the United States has lived up to Washington’s ideal. For the complete topic, essay and video guidelines, registration, classroom poster, student flyer and other details, visit First Freedom Student Competition 2012/2013.

Students must register online on or before Monday, November 12, 2012, and the postmark deadline for mailing the essay or video with its accompanying entry materials is Monday, November 26, 2012. Winners will be announced on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, 2013.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Nonfiction Writing, Student Opportunities

PARCC Survey on Model Content Frameworks for ELA/Literacy Open Until June 27

HomeThe Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers sent the following information out in an email last evening. It is also posted on the PARCC website. Even at this busy time of year, I hope you will take a look at the latest version of the Model Content Frameworks for ELA/Literacy and provide feedback through the 6-question survey. These frameworks are being used to guide curriculum and assessment development aligned to the Common Core Standards.

PUBLIC COMMENT SOUGHT ON THE PARCC MODEL CONTENT FRAMEWORKS FOR ELA/LITERACY

Washington, D.C. – June 13, 2012 – The state-led Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is seeking a second round of public comment on the Model Content Frameworks for English Language Arts (ELA)/Literacy as part of an on-going development process to ensure the frameworks meet the needs of educators, curriculum directors and school leaders.

In November 2011, PARCC released Model Content Frameworks to inform item development and to support implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). That release was based on multiple rounds of feedback, including a public comment period in August 2011. Now that the frameworks have been in the field for several months, PARCC is again looking for the education community to provide feedback on the frameworks in order to clarify any language or make any necessary corrections.

The initial public review resulted in a number of conceptual changes in the frameworks, which are detailed through a recorded webinar and presentations at www.parcconline.org/parcc-content-frameworks.

Download the PARCC Model Content Frameworks for ELA/Literacy in PDF format.

The public comment survey for ELA/Literacy will be open until Friday, June 27th. Users can access the feedback survey at www.parcconline.org. PARCC will revise the frameworks during the month of July with the goal of releasing final versions later this summer. Once the frameworks are final, PARCC will hold public webinars to walk through the changes. Information about the webinars will be available on the PARCC website later this summer.

PARCC also will seek public comment on the Model Content Frameworks for Mathematics, including updates to the frameworks for high school, starting June 25th.

Leave a comment

Filed under Common Core Standards

Establishing a Staircase of Text Complexity

One of the six shifts the Common Core Standards is challenging us to make is implementing a staircase of text complexity:

In order to prepare students for the complexity of college and career ready texts, each grade level requires a “step” of growth on the “staircase.” Students read the central, grade appropriate text around which instruction is centered. Teachers are patient, create more time and space in the curriculum for this close and careful reading, and provide appropriate and necessary scaffolding and supports so that it is possible for students reading below grade level. EngageNY

In the Common Core Standards, Reading Standard 10 specifies the level of text complexity at which students need to demonstrate comprehension at each grade. To further define what is meant by text complexity, the writers of the standards present a three-part model in Appendix A:

text complexity

Text complexity is defined by:
  1. Quantitative measures – readability and other scores of text complexity often best measured by computer software.
  2. Qualitative measures – levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands often best measured by an attentive human reader.
  3. Reader and Task considerations – background knowledge of reader, motivation, interests, and
    complexity generated by tasks assigned often best made by educators employing their professional judgment.

(Image © Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.)

EngageNY has posted Text Complexity Tools for assisting teachers in determining the complexity of texts. These tools include a webinar and PowerPoint presentation developed by the Kansas and Louisiana State Departments of Education. According to these resources, determining text complexity is a four-step process:

  1. Determine the quantitative measures of the text.
  2. Analyze the qualitative measures of the text.
  3. Reflect upon the reader and task considerations.
  4. Recommend placement in the appropriate text complexity band.

Step 1 — Determine the quantitative measures of the text.

We can use the Lexile level of a text from the Scholastic Achievement Manager (SAM) or the Lexile Analyzer to place the text within a text complexity band.

Fig 3: Text Complexity Grade Bands and Associated Lexile Ranges (in Lexiles) – from page 8 of the Common Core State Standards, Appendix A

Text Complexity Grade Band in the Standards

Old Lexile Ranges

Lexile Ranges Aligned to CCR Expectations

K-1

N/A

N/A

2-3

450L-725L

450L-790L

4-5

645L-845L

770L-980L

6-8

860L-1010L

955L-1155L

9-10

960L-1115L

1080L-1305L

11-CCR

1070L-1220L

1215L-1355L

Step 2 — Analyze the qualitative measures of the text.

We can use the Qualitative Rubric for Literary Text (available from the Kansas Department of Education on EngageNY) to analyze the important elements of literary texts that are missed by readability software programs, such as levels of meaning, levels of purpose, structure, organization, language clarity and conventionality, and prior knowledge demands.

For drama and poetry, quantitative measures are less valid, so we must rely on qualitative measures to help us place texts.

We can use the Qualitative Rubric for Informational Text (available on EngageNY from the Kansas Department of Education) to evaluate similar elements of informational texts, such as levels of purpose, structure, language clarity and conventionality, and prior knowledge demands.

Step 3 — Reflect upon the reader and task considerations.

When we reflect on our students as prospective readers of texts, we should take into account the motivation of these readers, their knowledge and experiences, and the purposes for reading the texts we set for/with them. Additionally, it is important for us to consider how complex the tasks are that we will be assigning in conjunction with the texts and how complex the questions we will pose will be. The Suggested Considerations for Reader and Task document provides a set of questions to guide our reflections (available from the Louisiana Department of Education on EngageNY).

Step 4 — Recommend placement in the appropriate text complexity band.

The webinar and PowerPoint presentation (Text Complexity Tools) demonstrate the process for placing To Kill a Mockingbird in the grade 9-10 text complexity band. Appendix A illustrates the process for placing Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass at the high end of the grade 6-8 text complexity band (pp. 11-12), The Grapes of Wrath in the grade 9-10 text complexity band (pp. 13-14), and The Longitude Prize in the grade 9-10 text complexity band (pp. 15-16).

The goal of this process is to help us become more purposeful in our selection of texts so that we can help our students climb the staircase of complexity leading to college- and career-readiness. By selecting texts that increase progressively in complexity through the grade levels for our instructional focus, we will improve the likelihood that students will be able to successfully meet the text demands of college or their chosen careers by the time they graduate. So now that we have information about how to go about placing texts, how do we go about implementing this shift and Standard 10?

KSDE Common CoreThe Kansas State Department of Education is calling for the development of “complex text playlists” that would reflect the placement of texts using the three-part model of text complexity. Participants in the NCTE Connected Community have also been discussing the development of a database of quality classic and contemporary texts by grade level  and text complexity band to expand the limited list provided in Appendix B. Both this “playlist” and this database have yet to be fully developed and published, but if and when they are, they will be invaluable resources to teachers striving to provide students with this staircase of complexity. 

Cooperative Children's Book CenterIn the meantime, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has compiled a list of contemporary titles that address the text complexity expectations of the Common Core Standards for grades 6-8, 9-10, and 11-CCR with age range recommendations. This list includes works of fiction and nonfiction, poetry, and short stories, most of which have been published in the last six years.

Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: Grades 9-12

For more insights on working with complex texts, you may find this chapter authored by 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling helpful in the NCTE publication Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: English Language Arts, Grades 9-12.

Additionally, the April 2012 issue of Adolescent Literacy in Perspective, published by the Ohio Resource Center, is dedicated to the topic of text complexity and offers more perspectives on selecting texts, scaffolding instruction for students reading below grade level, and working across content areas to provide students with access to complex texts. This issue also contains links to additional resources–including the Greece Central School District ELA webpage.


2 Comments

Filed under Common Core Standards, Uncategorized

Resources to Support the Study of Shakespeare’s Plays

The Common Core Standards for Reading for Literature at grades 9-10 and grades 11-CCR specifically call for students to read and analyze Shakespearean dramas. Many of you are about to begin a study or are currently studying a Shakespearean work, such as Romeo and JulietMacbeth, or The Taming of the Shrew, with your students.

Some resources you may want to tap to support your instruction include:

Shakespeare Unlocked William Shakespeare

In partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the British Museum, the BBC has developed a season of programming to explore “how one man captured so much about what it means to be human” as their contribution to the London 2012 Festival. This site includes podcasts, videos, and teacher resources.

How Should Shakespeare Really Sound?

The British LibraryThis blog post from The Telegraph contains audio recordings from the British Library’s CD based on current scholars’ beliefs about how Elizabethan English would have sounded. Recordings include passages from Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth and Sonnet 116.

Folger Shakespeare Library 

Available on this site are primary source materials, lesson plans, study guides, videos, and an online discussion forum for teachers. The March 6 virtual field trip has been archived and is available for viewing through May 31, 2012.

Royal Shakespeare Company’s Education Resources

Royal Shakespeare CompanyWith links to videos from past productions, essays from playbills, ideas for teaching activities, and information about the plays, the contexts of the plays, and Shakespeare’s language, this site will help you bring the study of the Shakespeare’s plays to life.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Education: Playing Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Globe

Through blog posts about performing the plays at the Globe Theatre, mock social networking sites for the plays’ characters, interviews with actors, and access to directors’ edits of the plays, this site helps students gain a greater understanding of the plays and how they’re brought to performance.

British Shakespeare Association’s Shakespeare in Education

The British Shakespeare Association is offering free access to the inaugural issue of its new publication Shakespeare in Education. This issue presents articles with a multitude of ideas for teaching the plays.

Shakespearean Candidates

While perhaps somewhat dated, Stephen Colbert discusses 2008 presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain with Harvard Shakespeare professor Stephen Greenblatt, making comparisons between the candidates and characters in Shakespeare’s plays. You may want to consider updating this activity by having students compare the 2012 candidates with Shakespearean figures.

Leave a comment

Filed under Common Core Standards

Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival

On Saturday, May 19, 2012, Nazareth College will again be hosting this annual celebration to promote reading and to connect teens with authors. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free. The schedule provides participants with the opportunity to attend three author presentation sessions over the course of the day. Festival-goers will also be able to purchase books throughout the day from one of the sponsors, Barnes and Noble, and to have their newly purchased or previously purchased books signed by the authors at the end of the festival. Thirty authors plan to participate. More information is available on the Teen Book Festival website and on the official festival brochure. The festival organizers have also assembled a TBF Frequently Asked Questions document.

Please encourage your students to attend, and please consider attending yourself. The festival is open to everyone, especially teachers and librarians, but seating preference will be given to teens at all sessions. And the Greece Marching Band will be leading the parade of authors down North Campus Drive at 8:45 a.m.!

Leave a comment

Filed under Student Opportunities, Teacher Opportunities

War from the Soldier’s Perspective — A Common Core-Aligned Series of Lessons

The Things They CarriedRecently, Sarah Ross and Shanna Calvasina, who co-teach English 11 at Olympia, shared a series of lessons they developed to align with the NYS ELA Common Core Standards. These lessons were part of a unit they were teaching on war in which they used Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried as their anchor text. In taking a multi-genre approach to the unit, they also included informational texts (e.g., John Steinbeck’s “Why Soldiers Won’t Talk” and Brian Mockenhaupt’s “I Miss Iraq. I Miss My Gun. I Miss My War.”) and poetry selections (e.g., Stephen Crane’s “War Is Kind” and Wilfred Owen’s “Exposure”) as companion pieces to the novel. In this post, they’re sharing lessons from the end of the unit. When they were almost finished reading O’Brien’s novel, they had students do multiple close readings of Brian Mockenhaupt’s June 2007 essay in Esquire with a focus on writer’s craft. Students then developed a simile about war and composed a paragraph justifying their simile using evidence from Mockenhaupt’s essay. As their summative task, students responded to a critical lens task, drawing on their readings from the unit to develop their essays. Iraq

In this segment of the unit, Sarah and Shanna were targeting the following ELA Common Core Standards:

RI.11-12.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RI.11-12.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

RI.11-12.6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.

W.11-12.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

W.11-12.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.11-12.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.11-12.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

L.11-12.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11–12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

L.11-12.5: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

In this video clip, Sarah and Shanna discuss their lessons and reflect on their effectiveness:

(In this video, we mistakenly say that the article came from GQ Gentlemen’s Quarterly when it actually appeared in Esquire: I Miss Iraq. I Miss My Gun. I Miss My War.)

Thank you to Sarah and Shanna also for sharing these materials from their unit and some of their students’ work:

Mockenhaupt Article           Graphic Organizer First Read

TDQs for Mockenhaupt Article       Venn Diagram

Simile Scaffold       Student Simile Scaffolds

Writing Prompt    Student Critical Lens Essay

For more information about these lessons or this unit, please contact Sarah or Shanna.

As we are all transitioning to implementing the Common Core Standards, it is extremely helpful to see examples of lessons and units and to share with one another. We appreciate Sarah’s and Shanna’s willingness to share their work!

If you have a lesson or unit that you would like to share as well, please let me know.

3 Comments

Filed under Common Core Standards

National Poetry Month

As you probably already know, April is National Poetry Month. Inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, it is now an annual event to celebrate poetry and its vital role in American culture.

Poems are some of the richest and most complex texts we can read for they often convey universal truths–or some of the most nuanced ideas–through striking, moving, and innovative uses of language. Repeated close readings of poems help us to discover their richness and nuances, lead us to appreciate the poems as works of art, and guide us to insights about life and our humanity.

If you are planning to read poetry with your students this month and participate in the celebration, here are some resources you might want to tap:

The Academy of American Poets National Poetry Month Webpage presents ideas for celebrating poetry in April and throughout the school year.

By following 30 Days 30 Poets on Twitter, you and your students will be able to enjoy the insights of 30 different contemporary American poets throughout the month of April.

At http://poem-a-day.knopfdoubleday.com/, you can sign up to receive a poem each day free of charge from Knopf Doubleday, or you can follow their Tumblr site at http://celebratepoetry.tumblr.com/.

Scholastic has assembled teaching resources and lesson plans at http://teacher.scholastic.com/poetry/.

For more ideas and lesson plans, you may want to consult ReadWriteThink at http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/april-national-poetry-month-20478.html.

The Favorite Poem Project, initiated by former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, also shares lesson plans–frequently with tie-ins to videos of everyday Americans reciting their favorite poems.

Another former poet laureate, Billy Collins, launched Poetry 180, which provides a poem appropriate for high school students for each day of the school year.

American Life in Poetry, a project of former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, provides a poem with a brief introduction by Kooser on a weekly basis.

For poems, podcasts, videos, and literary nonfiction about poetry,  the Poetry Foundation is an excellent resource.

In addition, Poetry Out Loud, which sponsors a national poetry recitation contest for high school students, has lesson plans and handouts to support close readings of poems.

Please share other resources you use to celebrate National Poetry Month or to teach poetry throughout the year.

5 Comments

Filed under Common Core Standards, Student Opportunities, Teacher Opportunities