Monday, March 21, 2011

Creating a Textbook Based Reading Class You Can Live With: Part 3

This is part 2 of a series I am writing on how I modified my textbook based classroom.

With this post I will deconstruct how and why we approached vocabulary this way. Below is the section on vocabulary the students saw. Each one of these choices had been modeled extensively in the classroom before I turned them loose with this assignment. I also want to make clear that I only took two grades over this work, the written test on Thursday and the project on Friday. No other grades were given (or even necessary.)

Do pages 243, 246, and 247 in Reading Practice Book due Wednesday and do the following due Wednesday:
  • Got to my blog post on the Ghost Towns of McDonald County. After reading the post, click on the map of McDonald County. Make a map of McDonald County and put on it the ghost towns of Coy, Wylie, Saratoga Springs, and Erie.   Write why you think those towns are no longer here.
Typically the reading skills are taught and reviewed through the story read each week. The skill was practiced on worksheets in the workbook where there were usually two pages dealing with that week's skill and a page that was a review from a past skill. I tried very hard to incorporate the skill in an activity that was not just another worksheet.

This particular week's skill was Graphic Resources. I thought it would be a good idea for them to draw a map of  the county we live in and identify where some old ghost towns are/were located. I followed it with a critical thinking question that we discussed in class. We identified the main reason those towns were no longer around as they were not on a major highway.

Content Gathering
Read story on Monday and Tuesday and do following due Thursday:

I had students look through pictures of ghost towns, since their project was to draw a representation of a ghost town.  I chose Flickr as a source because they were familiar with it, they had used the site to retrieve class pictures for other activities.

I also gave them a choice where they could do other types of research, they just had to get my approval. This allowed them to run with an idea they might have with some guidance from me. I don't remember any students asking to use another source, but I had several that did extra research along with the pictures they looked at on Flickr. I think it is very important that we give our students as much opportunity as possible to lead their own learning and I tried to give them the option to do so whenever it was feasible.
Note Taking
Choose one of the following to use to take notes:

  • Visual representations (sketch a few pictures of ghost towns)
  • Other: See teacher for approval ___________________________
Note taking was an essential skill in my classroom. Not only did I teach Reading, but I also had the three class rotation of science. I spent a lot of time teaching the students different note taking techniques such as webbing, Cornell, and traditional. Here I chose graphic representations since it made sense with the assignment they were doing. Typically they had a list of the different techniques they could choose from, or they could choose their own with approval.

Comprehension test over the story will be Thursday and pick one of the following due Friday:
  • Use Kerpoof to create a picture of a ghost town. You choose the medium, but remember this is due Friday. Upload picture to the Compendium.
  • Other: See teacher for approval ________________________
The reading series assessment was a multiple choice format test. It tested the vocabulary words for the reading selection, the skills and a review skill, and a few other questions depending on the type of story. The project I gave was usually based upon the content of the story. Since this story was about ghost towns, they had to use an online program to create a ghost town. Another project they had to do that I remember well was when we read about the sinking of the Titanic. The students created a radio news broadcast describing the sinking. They then recorded the broadcast. (I place my microphone next to the aquarium for sound effects.)

As I noted in the last post, even though I in effect doubled the amount of work I expected from my students, they performed much better on the assessments. There was a palpable change in the attitude toward reading class where students looked forward to working on the projects, doing the vocabulary, and even listening/reading the stories.

Much of what I incorporated into these lessons were things that I had learned over just a few years, but I coupled that with my ten years of experience, ten years of being unsatisfied and unhappy. Don't be intimidated if you think this is overwhelming. Start with what you know and go from there. Incorporate new things when you and your students are ready. Before too long, you will be doing amazing things that make your textbook bearable!

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