Argument Writing Toolkit- Trimming Block Quotes (Paraphrase)

Hello!  Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone had a happy and healthy holiday season.  It sure was a busy one!  I promised to post after the holidays and had every intention of getting back to you last week.  However, as you may know the East Coast was hit with a “bomb cyclone” and my school district had TWO snow days on Thursday and Friday.  So…in the past 16 days I’ve  only had one work day. Wow!

But let’s get back to it!

Today I’d like to share another tool for helping students add evidence to their argument pieces.  This strategy is for students who have included block quotes that are too large in their writing.  Remember, a good rule of thumb is that quoted text should only take up about 5-10% of the writing.  The difference with this cohort of students is that they  feel like they can’t cut the block quote because the information is important for the reader to know.  So, these writers cannot use the previously shared Allow Your Writing to Shine strategy, of striking to omit parts of quote that are deemed unimportant.

To solve this problem, students can choose to either paraphrase parts of the quote or use ellipses.  Today’s post will highlight how I teach students to paraphrase their quote (how to use ellipses will follow).

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I began this small group with the teaching point pictured below and by showing students a piece of my writing that had an overly large portion of quoted text:

Teaching Point-Trimming Down Quotes- Paraphrase

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Then, I demonstrated how I chose parts of the quote to paraphrase.  I modeled how to strike out the chosen sentences and then rewrite them in my own words.

Teaching Tools- Trimming Down Quotes- Paraphrase

Next,  I shared a revised version of my original writing that incorporated the paraphrased sections of the quote.  I pointed out how my entire paragraph had to be reworked a bit as opposed to just plugging in the paraphrased sentences.

Teaching Tools- Trimming Down Quotes- Paraphrase

Finally, as always, I finished this group by letting students have a go.  Each worked right in front of me on trying this strategy as I coached in and addressed any individual needs.

There you have it! Have your tried any of the strategies I’ve shared with your kiddos?  How did it go?

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

P.S. Like what you see? More tools to come- Follow along!

Argument Writing Toolkit- String of Quotes (Ranking Evidence)

Following up from my last post, another strategy to help eradicate a string of quotes in student writing is to evaluate/ rank evidence.  The idea is that not every piece of evidence needs to be presented within the argument, but rather the piece of evidence that packs the most punch.  So in this small group you are working with students to evaluate the evidence they included in their writing and helping them rank it from strongest to weakest.  This allows students to present the evidence that best matches their point.

As always, this small groups began with a teaching point:

Teaching Point- String of Quotes- Evaluate Evidence

Then I showed a piece of my writing for demonstration:

Teaching Tool 1- String of Quotes- Evaluate Evidence

Next, using the chart that goes along with our unit of study (from The Reading and Writing Project’s 7th grade Argument Unit- The Art of Argument), I worked with students to rank each piece of evidence.  To add a kinesthetic touch, I have students sort text evidence strips– putting the piece of evidence that works best at the top (closest to the reason) and the weakest at the bottom.

Teaching Chart- String of Quotes- Evaluate Evidence Teaching Tool 2- String of Quotes- Evaluate Evidence

The beauty of this teaching tool is that there is no right answer.  I let the students come to whatever conclusion they decide on as long they have sound reasoning that they can explain.  Too often kids are hung up on figuring out what “our” right answer is and they don’t have the confidence to productively struggle through the process.  It is important that we give them open-ended opportunities to build those muscles.

Finally, students try this work on their piece.

Give it a try.  Let me know how it goes! 🙂

I hope that you all have a happy and safe holiday.  I’ll be back with more strategies after the New Year!

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

Argument Writing Toolkit- String of Quotes (Create Variety)

Sometimes in student writing you will see a string of quotes, where students move from one quote to the next to the next without a break in between.  These students are usually struggling with how to create variety in their inclusion of text evidence or how to evaluate and choose the most effective piece of text evidence.  So this tool is actually two strategies that would be taught separately.  Students could use either strategy to eradicate a string of quotes.

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In this post, I’ll share the first strategy to create variety (you can see the second strategy to rank and evaluate evidence here).

To begin, the teaching point is:

Teaching Point- String of Quotes- Create Variety

I demonstrated this strategy by modeling the process with my own writing.  First, I shared a piece that portrayed the problem.  My first try has 5 quotes back to back, which all essentially say the same thing– that competitive sports cause injuries.

try 1

Next, I referred to the String of Quotes teaching chart (the first image from above) to show some of the ways that students can create variety when including text evidence into their piece.  I modeled how to change each of the quotes using ellipses, paraphrasing, listing/citing sources, etc.  My new paragraph looked like this:

try 2

I used small sticky flags to point out the different techniques used to create variety.   I also shared a teaching chart with the students that exemplifies those same techniques.

String of Quotes-Create Variety

Finally, students worked on adding variety in their own piece by finding a paragraph that had a string of quotes, choosing a technique to try, and revising their piece while I coached in.

What do you think? Try this out in your room.  Let me know how it goes! 🙂

Next time, I’ll share how you can help students avoid a string of quotes by evaluating and using the most effective piece of evidence.

Like what you see? More tools to come- Follow along!

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

 

 

Argument Writing Toolkit- Shortening Quotations

A common struggle for students when incorporating text evidence into their arguments is they choose quotes that are too long.  Then the piece becomes dominated by a voice other than the author’s.  It’s important to strike a balance between one’s own voice and that or the article quoted.  In argument writing, the author should highlight his or her opinions and reasoning.  A good rule of thumb is that the evidence should only be about 5-10% of the piece.

To help students strike this balance, I put together a small group titled, “Allowing Your Writing to Shine”

At the start of the small group, I began by sharing the teaching point:

Teaching Point- Using Key Portion of Quote

Then I showed students my first try with the original text evidence/ quote highlighted.  This allowed students to see just how quote heavy my original work was.  Next I modeled how I reread to pull out and focus on only the key portions of the quote.  Right in front of students, I used a sharpie to strike out the extraneous parts of the quote– all the while demonstrating my thinking process.  Finally, I unveiled my newly revised second try, which portrays a much better balance between my voice and the quote.

Teaching Tool using Key Portion of Quote

After my demo, I had students point to a paragraph in their own writing piece where they felt text evidence outweighed their voice; and right in front of me, they began the work that I just modeled. While they did this, I coached into their work. Finally releasing the students when they seemed to get the hang of it.

I shared a teaching chart to help students visualize this strategy:

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So in my kit, I house all pieces of the lesson in a sheet protector, which I then keep in a binder that I carry with me around the room.  The writing samples always stay the same.  I pull  out “clean” versions each time I need to teach the lesson, and I make the same teaching moves.

Try this out in your room.  Let me know how it goes! 🙂

Like what you see? More tools to come- Follow along!

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

Argument Writing Conferring Toolkit Series

Thinking ahead is SO important.  As teachers, we are masters of keeping our feet firmly planted in the now, while our eyes look toward the future.  Simultaneously, we plan, prepare, and perfect current and next units of study–always asking, “What do my students need to be successful in this work?”

Argument writing is on the horizon, and to prepare for the unit, I’ve been working on a conferring toolkit.  In case you are unfamiliar with a conferring toolkit, it is a collection of tools to aid in the teaching of reading and/or writing strategies.  The toolkits can be used both during individual conferences or in small groups.   They might include marked up demonstration or anchor texts, annotated sample writings, teaching charts, rubrics, checklists, etc.

While thinking about the upcoming Argument unit, I recalled past student struggles as well as potential pitfalls .  One major hang up for students is how to effectively add text evidence into their argument.  In past years, this difficulty has popped up due to a myriad of common predictable problems all of which can be addressed with the following strategies:

Adding Evidence Strategies

But what tools do I have to teach these strategies??

Enter the conferring toolkit!!

Follow this Argument Writing Conferring Toolkit series as I share some of the teaching charts and tools I created to support students in this work!

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

Fostering Student Independence and Accountability

After my last post, some questions came up about how to foster the sort of independence that made Mrs. G’s classroom work like a well oiled machine.  A big part of the answer is teacher talking moves!

So much of our daily classroom life is spent engaged in talk.  The importance of student talk is immeasurable, and in order to talk well students must be given many opportunities to converse and become immersed in an environment that values their voice.  An entire blog post could be devoted to the importance of fostering student talk, but I want to focus on how teacher talk can cultivate student independence and accountability in the workshop classroom.

Teacher talk is what sets the classroom tone.  The talking moves that we make day-to-day make a profound impact on students.  How many of you have come to the end of a school year and noticed that your students sound just like you?  The behaviors, attitudes, and habits we model will be emulated by our students, which is why it is so important that we use our talk effectively.

Talk to Foster Independence

As mentioned in my previous post, a main belief backing the workshop model is that we are working to create independent readers and writers who have a repertoire of effective reading and writing strategies they can apply as needed.  Workshop teachers do this by using whole-class mini-lessons to add to students’ repertoire, teaching them how to use various strategies they can draw on over and over.  This approach differs from traditional classrooms, where teachers use instruction at the start of the lesson to model and teach what everyone is expected to do during independent work time that day.  Basically, in a workshop classroom, you should not assign a task for students to  complete that day!

The language we use to dismiss students to work time will encourage the idea that students have options and choice about their day’s work.  Some phrases you might say include:

  • “So let’s review your options for what work you’ll do today.” *Refer students to unit anchor chart.
  • “So when you’re ready to work on [insert the day’s mini-lesson topic] remember this tip…  But you can also draw on all you’ve learned to do, prior to now.”
  • “So we can now add [insert the day’s mini-lesson topic] to our Strategies of…. anchor chart.  Look over the chart, and make a plan for today.  What will you be working on?” *Students could turn and talk, telling a partner their plan for the day.
  • “So far we’ve learned readers/writers use many different strategies to [name out skill].  Which one will you work on today?” *Students could raise their hand in a quick informal poll.
  • “So when you reach that part of your text, remember that you can…” *This is good when you know that you have students who have not reached the particular point in a book for the strategy you’ve just modeled.
A sample unit anchor chart from a third grade mystery book club series.
A sample unit anchor chart from a third grade mystery book club series.

All of these talking moves will allow students to reflect on their progress, set goals, and make an action plan.  These actions are the exact behaviors we expect from independent, self-directed learners!

Talk to Foster Work Accountability

We can also use our talk to promote accountability in student work.  Sometimes there are days when a student may not have approximated any of the strategies that you have modeled.  You would like to give students an opportunity to turn and talk about that work, but you worry that that particular student will not have anything to contribute.

I saw this situation recently in a third-grade classroom.  Students were working on tracking characters along a story mountain.  Some students had drawn their mountain, but had not added any plot points.  The teacher kept them accountable by saying,

“Even if you haven’t drawn any plot points, point and say what your points would have been.”

We  can use talk as a means for students to practice strategies they have not exhibited “on paper”.  No one gets an out because they didn’t get to it.

Talk to Foster Accountable Talk

We’ve all seen the Accountable Talk posters on Pinterest and have really taken to them.  However, students cannot learn these talking moves from a poster on the wall.  We as teachers need to model these talking moves regularly when conversing with students.  Some common conversational moves and their purposes are:

  • Marking: “That was an important point.”
  • Challenging students: “What do you think?”
  • Keeping everyone together: “Who can repeat what Johnny just said?”
  • Keeping the channels open: “Did everyone hear that?”
  • Linking contributions: “Who wants to add on to Mikala’s point?
  • Verifying and clarifying: “So are you saying…”
  • Pressing for accuracy: “Where can we find proof/text evidence of that?”
  • Expanding reasoning: “Take your time, say more.”
  • Pressing for reasoning: “Why do you think that?”
  • Building on prior knowledge: “How does this connect?”

Nancy Frey, at a recent Rutgers University workshop, said that we need to immerse students into these talking patterns by using them as often as possible.  When this language becomes a way of life for us, it will soon become a way of life for students.

The sooner we make our talk align with our goals for students, the sooner a positive outcome will ensue.  We have to make sure that what we are saying to kids truly embodies our beliefs about teaching and learning.  What we say in the workshop classroom is just as important as what we do.

What kind of talking moves do you make in your classroom to foster independence and accountability?

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

If You Build It They Will Come

I believe in the workshop model.  Wholeheartedly.  I know that it is what works best for kids.

But honestly, when I implemented the model, I had a bit of skepticism regarding one aspect.  I never quite understood (or believed?) how young learners could learn a repertoire of reading and/or writing strategies and then just “magically” recall and apply them “independently” during the work period.  Early in my workshop teaching, I questioned, “Wait.  No task?  No assignment?  No specific instructions to go back and try (insert mini-lesson strategy here)?”

I was curious how the youngest learners could be so self-directed and purposeful during independent time.  Like most people, I was afraid to let go.

Now, I see many of the teachers that I work with grappling with the same concern.  However, like a field of dreams, if you build it they will come.

I recently visited a third grade classroom where magic was happening!  The class was in the middle of a mystery book club unit and after the mini-lesson students were sent back to their desk with their “quiet critters” (small craft pom-poms outfitted with feet and eyes) to read.

Immediately, I was impressed with how quickly the students transitioned from the carpet to independent reading.  Two students (who were in differing book clubs-I noticed because they had different books) sat together at the carpet and created twin Venn-diagrams in their notebooks to start character comparisons for the characters they were reading about. Another two met the teacher at her table for a quick small group.  Everyone else?  They returned to their seat, opened their notebooks to the next fresh page, and started reading.

Needless to say, I was impressed and I wanted to stick around.

I started to read over students’ shoulders as they paused (when they decided they were ready) in their reading to do some stop and jot reading notebook work.  What I saw was so impressive!  Students were independently choosing various reading responses to use in their notebook.  Most surprising to me was that students weren’t just jotting once.  The majority of students had chosen to do at least two different types of thinking that day.   For example, some predicted and then chose to do a character comparison.  Others created a suspect chart and wrote about character traits.  But all were reading…. and thinking!

This teacher, through meticulous patience and belief in the workshop model had created what we all strive for.  Her routines and expectations were working!

Look at this example from one student’s notebook:

Starting in the middle of the left page, this student did six separate thinking strategies (all dated 2/24/16). She wrote about book similarities, created a comparison Venn diagram, described a secondary character, named out how a character changed, summarized, and created a character web and attempted to include text evidence.
Starting in the middle of the left page, this student did six separate thinking strategies (all dated 2/24/16). She wrote about book similarities, created a comparison Venn diagram, described a secondary character, named out how a character changed, summarized, and created a character web and attempted to include text evidence.

When I spoke with this student she told me that writing in her notebook helps her reading “go from good to great.”  That sometimes she doesn’t understand something, but then she will write about it and it would become much clearer.  She explained that she chooses what to do based on what Mrs. G has shown them before.  There is no menu of activities to choose from pasted into each reading notebook or listed posted on the board of what to do next.  Strategies had been instilled into each learner in the class and they were drawing upon that knowledge independently.

I moved over to another student who was sitting next to Mrs. G’s anchor chart, and from what it looked like, copying the chart into her notebook.  I asked what she was working on.  She gestured to the chart and told me that she was taking questions from the chart and answering them in her notebook.  And she was!  I remembered that she was one of the ones who had started a Venn diagram  earlier and I wondered if she had abandoned that task for this one.  I asked her about the Venn diagram.  She flipped back a page and said, “That’s right here.  I didn’t finish yet.”  And then after a moments pause, “But I guess I can use the answers to these questions…” She flipped back to the answers based off the anchor chart questions,  “…to finish filling in my chart.”  She returned to her Venn diagram with urgency and fervor.  I hadn’t even said a word.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I immediately went to commend Mrs. G.  She was making it happen! Her kids were readers and independent thinkers and doing all the things we want students to do in the workshop model!   I was so excited!

But Mrs. G was busy… quietly conferring with a student.

So, I tiptoed out with a smile on my face and let them continue doing their thing.  I felt assured in the good work that we do and the value of the workshop model.  It IS possible!  She had built it and they had come.

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay