This installment of "Lit Tips" focuses on the skill of summarization - a skill we assume high school students should have well in hand, but often find out the contrary.
Summary /ˈsəmərē/ : a brief statement or account of the main points of something.
synonyms: abridged, abbreviated, shortened, condensed
What do you often get when you ask students to summarize – a paraphrase, a retelling, something unintelligible? Often, I’m not sure students know exactly what we mean by “summary.” They may have been told somewhere along the way, but can we be sure? I hypothesize that students often think of summarization as retelling or paraphrasing, when in fact it means to boil down to only the most critical. Yes, theyshould now what it is by now and how to write one, but what if they don’t, or they’re not sure?
We must be explicit in what we ask of them, and in some cases teach or re-teach skills we think they should have mastered by now.
Summarization is a skill that is specifically addressed in the Common Core Literacy Standards:
Reading Standards for History/Social Studies: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Reading Standards for Science/Technical Subjects: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.2
Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sending out a few summarization strategies that can be adapted for any content. Our first one is called “Pyramid Summary.”
You may use the template attached, have students draw it themselves, or create your own. For each line, give instructions in this pattern:
Line 1: Character’s name
Line 2: Two words describing the character
Line 3: Three words describing the setting
Line 4: Four words stating the problem
Line 5: Five words describing one event
Line 6: Six words describing another event
Line 7: Seven words describing a third event
Line 8: Eight words describing the solution to the problem
…or for Social Studies:
Line 1: One word for a significant location
Line 2: Two words describing location
Line 3: Three words describing climate of the location
Line 4: Four words describing location’s impact on people living there
Line 5: Five words describing conflicts in this area
…and so on…
How could other content areas adapt the pyramid?
Students will then write a summary using their pyramid as a guide.
So, you've developed your common targets, and your kids have turned in their easy-to-manage common formative assessment...now what??
It's kind of like going home after trick-or-treating - you spread out all your candy on the table and see what 'cha got!
Once in your team, do a little sorting first - here are some options:
Questions to consider when looking at results:
This Lit Tip installment is brought to you by the letter "D" as in, "data." Yep, I said it...that four letter word that conjures up images of spreadsheets, colored graphs, 0's and 1's, quintiles, quartiles, and percentages (or is it percentiles?).
I contend that we can tame the data beast.
Rather than wrestling with common assessments in the form of unit tests or even large quizzes, let's shift our thinking to common formativeassessments. In your PLCs, agree on a common exit slip question (or two). Create an item that will give you the best insight into student progress toward a target or standard. Sort the exit slips into "Got it," "Kinda got it," and "Nowhere close" piles.
BAM! That's data!
Remember the purposes of data and formative assessments are to keep an eye on how your students are progressing rather than waiting for a unit test.
Take your results to your next PLC meeting and compare with your team. Keep it manageable, informative, and efficient.
Next week.."Data, data everywhere, but what do we do with it now???"
Word of the week: simplify
"So, what is the difference between learning targets and an agenda, anyway??"
Well, here's the official answer...
Think of it as learning targets being the destination, and the agenda as the list of vehicles you're using to get there.
To the right is an example from a ninth grade Earth/Environmental Science class:
Winter Break - Part Deux...
Let's crunch the numbers, shall we? Over the past two weeks, rather than having 10 days of class time, we have had 10 hours. Yikes! Talk about being out of a routine!
...and where have our students' brains been during all that unexpected, mostly unstructured time? Who knows!
So the challenge becomes how do we rein in their brains, energy and focus after snowball fights, sleeping in, innumerable dramas, junk food binges, and who knows what?
I found a great article that was actually written for teachers coming back from extended holiday breaks, but it fits our circumstances very well.
In her article, "How to Use Brain Science to Engage Students After the Holidays." neurologist, Judy Willis, gives us practical information on how to corral our students after a long break.
Here are some of the highlights:
Fish hook questions: (n.) plural. Questions thrown out to a class or group in hopes that someone will answer; often followed by squirmy silence and often answered by the same 2 or 3 students every day.
Quiz: How do you know if you're asking fish hook questions?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then, yes, you indeed ask fish hook questions. Rest assured, however, you are in good company. I dare say most of us ask them even when we know there are more effective ways to elicit crowd participation!
The problem is that a small handful of students will be engaged in academic dialogue, some students will gain a few tidbits, but many will gain nothing.
Before we get into the how's, we must first understand the why's. Why don't more students respond in class? The answers lie in how we process information.
It's is usually not defiance behind reticent students; it's most often differences in processing and expressing information. How many times have you said, "Wait, just let me get my thoughts together!"
So how do you give everyone the time and space they need. Here are a few strategies:
A common trap we high school teachers fall into is thinking that our kids walk in our classrooms as blank slates. We have pacing guides and unit plans, and we need to start at the beginning and end at the end.
Question to ponder...What do our students already know or partially know coming into our classes? We often forget about one of our most valuable resources in our classrooms -- student prior knowledge. Pre-tests are a great way to begin identifying what kids know, kind of know, and have no clue about.
Think about how precious time is for us. Why would we spend unnecessary time on ideas, concepts, or skills they already have when we really need to work on those they don't? Talk about being efficient with our time!
Also, why be a lone wolf? Develop a pretest with your PLC so you can look at patterns and share ideas on how to address them.
Don't forget...even the Lone Ranger had Tonto and Silver.
Click here for a great Common Assessment Development Guide that helps take the guesswork out of making those assessments.
Mick said it, so it must be true. We never seem to have enough of it, but do we have slow leaks in our hourglass?
Seems we never notice a leaky faucet until we get the water bill!
Let's do the math: a lost 5 minutes everyday in a semester-long class (let's say 85 days), translates into a lost 425 minutes by exam time. That's a little over 4 1/2 class periods - almost a full week!
So how do we recoup that ticking gold? Transitions tend to be the most difficult for teachers and students to manage efficiently. Here are a few tips for minimizing transition confusion.
1. Beginning of class - one of the worst time voids of the entire class period! Taking roll, settling down, getting materials out - it's like a Van Halen video. "I don't feel tardy"
2. Group work/Independent work: "You have 2 minutes to work on this with your group." Four minutes later..."Ok, you have 1 minute left!" Sound familiar?
Here are some great online timers with fun visuals and alarms:
Make notes about down time in your class. When do they typically happen? For how long? Once you can identify the when and why, figuring out the how to fix becomes a little easier.
With first semester quickly drawing to a close, many of us will be looking at a whole new crop of faces in a few short days. Since we know that building relationships is a critical factor in classroom management and student achievement, how do you begin putting names with faces at the beginning of each semester?
Here are a few more ideas...
1. Wordle: Using www.wordle.net, students create a personal word cloud. Have them enter descriptors, hobbies, important people, places, belongings, etc. Students can enter a term multiple times so it will show larger in their cloud. They can then play with color, font, and layout to make it even more unique.
2. Tagxedo: Very similar to Wordle, but Tagxedo doesn't adjust the size of words based on their frequency. It does, however, allow students to make their word clouds in various shapes. They can even upload a simple image to shape their clouds.
3. Commonalities: Begin with partners for this activity. The goal is to identify unique activities or experiences that students have in common. After the pair finds at least three things they have in common, they raise their hands to find another group of two ready to form a group of four. The four must find 2 things they all have in common. They then look for another group of 4 to form 8. This group must find at least 1 thing they all share. The more unique and unusual the better.
You may have to set specific criteria for the commonalities such as, it must be something specific - not, 'we all hate math' or 'we all go to the same school.' They must find common events, experiences, books they've read, etc.
4 Which Side of the Road are You on? Create a line on the floor with masking tape, string, chalk, ets. Ask either/or questions and have students move to a designated side of the line to show their answers. Students may also stay on the line if they are 'on the fence' or a little of both. Examples:
Create your own opposite pairs as well. You can make them silly, content related, or a mix of both.
For more ideas...click here.