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Consultancy Close-Up

In a descriptive consultancy meeting of a Berkley High School team, two English teachers and two science teachers are hearing from a history teacher about a two‐week unit she redesigned “with a little more Reading Apprenticeship thinking behind it.” Group members have copies of sample unit activities and student work. (The following excerpts cover most but not all unit activities.)

Note: To support a team discussion of this Close‐Up, consider having each team member read it with an Evidence/Interpretation note taker. What do they notice (evidence), and what do they think or wonder about it (interpretation)?

  1. Presenter lays out the situation

    ANGIE: This is a unit about the civil rights movement for U.S. history. In years past we’ve given kids these sixteen events, and we’ve spent time in the library, and we’ve researched these things. I’ve said things like find out when this occurred, who was involved, what was the outcome of the event, and what do you think is its significance. The kids would do that for all sixteen events. And all kids were turning in things that were pretty much the same. There wasn’t much that made it their own, that they could show themselves in.

    So I adjusted it this year with a little more Reading Apprenticeship thinking behind it. What you’ll see on the front page is simply an introductory activity that we did to activate schema, get them thinking about what they know and why the civil rights movement even begins. We go back in time here and we look at the Jim Crow laws and we look at Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court opinions. This kind of framed it, it was something the kids did independently and then we talked about it. A lot was activated in terms of what was the discrimination in this country.

    Then, instead of just giving them the titles of each event and saying, go find them, I gave them a little blurb about each event and I gave them an image. So in class, they took some time to read those and talk to that text on their own. They had an opportunity to dig into it. The next piece is the events research. So this is how I changed it up. They got to select a partner, so there’s some personal choice there and some social dimension, and then they selected the five events they were most interested in.

    I was able to give all of the groups one of their top five choices. Some of the higher‐end groups, I looked at their events and assigned the most challenging one. Some of my kids that tend to have less interest, I gave them what they really wanted—maybe they wanted the Watts riots or the riots in Detroit. At that point, I had them just think about what do you and your partner know about your event already, what are you still wondering about, and what do you want to find out, to kind of drive them.

    Then you’ll notice that they get to decide how they’re going to present this to us, and they could present in any way. They wanted to try to make it as interesting as possible, but notice they have a rubric that also lets them know the requirements.

    What I want to show you [on iPad video] is some of the kids presenting. Every kid presented except for one. He came and talked to me separately about his project, but his partner presented. To me, that was fantastic that every kid got up there.

    You have two documents kids used in their presentation, and they’re both Reading Apprenticeship–sort of activities. The first one is from the Brown v. Board of Education group. They passed one of these out to every kid in the class and asked them, before they started, to Talk to this Text and try to come up with questions of what they were wondering about—which I thought was great.

    And then the second one, from two students who typically struggle to participate—one of them, she often tunes out and says the reading’s too hard, I’m bored, why do we have to do this—their presentation was solely based around this quote they had found. She walked us through that quote as a class and was completely engaged in that. So, to me, that was huge.

Angie shows excerpts of both presentations. In the second one, the student who had previously been resistant to reading stands at the overhead and goes through the quote she and her partner selected. When she comes to the word begrudgingly, she comments, “I don’t know what that means, but I’m guessing it’s something bad.” At the conclusion of the presentation class members can be seen asking the partners questions. Angie explains:

I didn’t have a requirement for questions; they just started asking each other questions. One of the other things I did within this unit was I tried doing some claims —make a claim and then use evidence to support it from the reading. You have two samples there, one really high‐achiever kid and then more of a struggling student with the bigger writing, but who was really able to make several claims with evidence that supported it. So I felt like it did address various levels of kids, not just the high end or the low end.

  1. Team members clarify what they understand or not

    TESS: I’m hearing that you are preparing students in terms activating their prior knowledge and schema, that you’re using different modes of reading, and you’re doing that through a variety of different texts, both small portions and also full‐length texts.

    KAY: I also saw a lot of student choice both in the beginning when they got to choose their topic but then you also gave them choice in determining how they were going to present that information. Did they choose their partners . . . yes?

    ADINA: I’m wondering how that went. TESS: Are students in charge of giving that content or are they kind of expanding on it?

    TRACY: One of the things I really liked was when you gave them the images and the blurbs, instead of just titles, so they could make an educated decision.

    KAY: I wrote this down in big letters. Your student who doesn’t like to do the reading modeled confusion but made a guess—in front of the class: “I don’t know what this word means, but I’m guessing it’s something bad.” Everyone in the group acknowledges this student’s remarkable shift in engagement and risk taking.

  2. Presenter responds to clarifying questions

    ANGIE: Okay, self‐selected partners actually went pretty well. Sometimes I haven’t let them do that, to control it, but I was going with the student choice thing here. I tried up front to say, “You’re going to be doing a lot of decision making with this partner, so it needs to be a partner you can move forward with.”

    (Looking over her notes for the next question from the group) All the content in class is related to those topics. They’re all responsible for all of the topics at the end. The note taker with these sixteen blurbs in the beginning gives them a pretty good overview of what happened. Everything else throughout is built on those events.

    When we watched clips of Eyes on the Prize, an amazing documentary from the time, all of those events are embedded. Kids took their own notes on Eyes on the Prize, on an Evidence/Interpretation page, and then I had them use their notes to write for each of the sixteen events: What do you understand about the event? and What questions do you have? They had to come up with one question for each event.

    Then another day I had them partner off and they started clarifying each event: What do I know? What do I not know? And they went through and did a whole bunch of questioning of each other and clarifying. Then we talked through what questions do we still have? As a class, can we answer those questions? And then we had our assessment. The scores were phenomenal.

  3. Team members ask probing questions

    TESS: I have a question about motivation for the class when other students are making a presentation. I was wondering what the draw was for your students?

    KAY: The claim and evidence, I was just wondering if there’s a next step to this, or if you are considering doing a next step with this next year, or if this is where it ends?

  4. Presenter responds to probing questions

    ANGIE: During the presentations, kids had their note taker [for the sixteen events] back out, and they’re writing down anything else they might need. I think that’s what generated the questions because I had said, “Okay, when they’re done and there’s pieces of this you still don’t understand. . .” So they’re trying to find out. I haven’t even thought about the next steps for claims and evidence.

  5. &7. Team brainstorms; Presenter describes next steps

    KAY: For me, for English, I’m thinking, well, what are they going to write? A paragraph, an essay? They could totally write something.

    ANGIE: Right, right.

    KAY: That’s exactly what we want them to do.

  1. Presenter and team debrief

    ANGIE: I think it’s good to hear, “Okay, here’s the claim and evidence. Now what?” I just wanted them to be able to make a claim about what they’ve read and support it. It’s funny I didn’t think about it as a building block for writing.

    TRACY: I’m really inspired. This is perfect timing. We have a new assessment on phyla, and I knew that we needed to revamp the whole unit. This could work really well. I literally just emailed myself.

DMU Timestamp: July 13, 2018 16:17

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