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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kernel Essays and Source Documents: Tutoring D. - Part 2

In the month that I have been out of school, I have had five full days of professional development, including a day and a half of focused writing PD. I had the opportunity to attend a session with Stephen and Kayla Briseno, who work with Gretchen Bernabei, as they presented information from Text Structures from the Masters (you can find sample lessons here). 

I immediately knew that I was going to incorporate this information into my lessons for next year (I have attended a  Gretchen Bernabei before, and I love everything she creates). The lessons tie together writing with cross-curricular critical reading and analysis. Tutoring this summer has given me a guinea pig. Since D. has not been in public school for four years, he is the perfect learner to experiment with. 

Today we completed Lesson 17: Tour of an Unfamiliar Place.  We meet at one of our public library branches, a new place for D. to frequent. I had him take a tour of the library on his own, getting a feel for the environment. When he sat back down with me, we discussed the kernel essay. Taking a page from the Brisenos, we began by discussing what a kernel is. D. did have some confusion about colonel versus kernel, providing us with an opportunity to addressed frequently confused words.We then walked through each kernel, allowing D. to write a short essay: 

Our next step was to read the source document "Factory Life" from 1846:
  • I am not a history teacher, but we discussed what source documents are and why they are important. 
  • For our first read, I had D. read to me, as I am trying to help him find some confidence in his voice as he prepares to enter high school. 
  • For our second read, I had D. identify words that he was unfamiliar with. Due to the age of the document, I was expecting him to identify far more words than he did. I was not expecting him to know the meaning of loom or din, but he had those down. Atrocious and retirement were a bit more of a struggle. 
  • We walked through the passage line by line to paraphrase to show understanding (that's pretty easy when it's one-on-one). 
  • Our last step was to go back to the kernel essay pieces and identify them within the passage.
 As a whole, I was quite pleased with the practice-round lesson. This August, we will have a back-to-school camp for incoming seventh graders at my school. I am going to use this same passage with them, as the middle school will be a new environment that we can tour and write about. I plan to modify my steps for partner work with the reading to include some collaboration and allow the students to start building some new relationships. I have also shared this with a new seventh grade English teacher and an eighth grade history teacher, both of whom see opportunities for reading and writing opportunities in their classrooms with these materials. 

If you have used these before, share your successes. If not, how can you use these in your classroom?  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tutoring D. - Session 1

As I am working on my reading specialist certification, I have been given the opportunity to tutor a young man this summer. There are extreme circumstances as to how this has come about. In addition, this young man has been homeschooled for many years and is now preparing to enter public high school next year. He has missed most of the fiasco known as STAAR testing, yet he will be entering into its chaos. 

Today we met at the public library. I choose this location because of the availability of resources for all content areas. I know that background knowledge is an issue for kids who have been in public schools since the began their educational careers. How does one help bridge that gap with a student who has been out of that environment for years? My solution - books for kids! 

One of the reasons I participate in the Twitter #bookaday challenge is for the opportunity to learn news things in a simple format. Trade books and children's nonfiction provide lots of information to provide an introduction to events, history, cultures, information, and stories. 

We started our first session with discussing elements of characterization, protagonist, antagonist, and dialogue, using resources from Read Write Think regarding the use of picture books in teaching these elements. To this, I added a Tree Map (Thinking Map) to categorize elements of characterization. 

I read Ella Sarah Gets Dressed to D. Initially, he looked at me like I was crazy for pulling out a little kid book to teach to him, but he warmed up to the idea (although I did have to cover up the page where Ella is in her underwear). We went page by page, discussing the pictures in association with the text, the differences in repeated text (capitalization, punctuation), and how Ella was being characterized. D. was able to make inferences without much prompting, and he showed that he possesses a strong vocabulary with the words he used to describe Ella. He also started discussing theme without my even mentioning it, so we added it to the Thinking Map.

 As a follow-up, I had him choose another trade book to read to me, walking me through the same process. He ended up choosing a book written in verse, allowing us to continue our discussion, as well as discuss some elements of poetry (line, stanza).

Although the focus of our session today was reading comprehension with fiction, we also practiced a bit of grammar to feel out what D. does and does not know. [I taught him the importance of the Oxford comma, preaching not to listen to the naysayers who feel it is no longer necessary.] I followed this up by asking him to write a short passage for me to get a feel for his writing skills, and he automatically employed a few of the elements we had discussed. He truly impressed me by adding a nonrestrictive clause to explanation of why anime is more appealing to watch than other types of TV programming. 

I have never tutored anyone before in this capacity, and I have to admit that I am also using him to try out some things to take back to my classroom next year. Ella Sarah Gets Dressed is most definitely coming back to class with me in the fall, and D. is definitely going to be rock star in high school with his knowledge of the Oxford Comma.