About Me

After 23 years as a high school social studies teacher, I have taken a leap into library media.
This blog chronicles my experiences making this transition and my learning in that process.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Takeaways from #AASL17

I have returned from three days communing with my library peeps and tweeps at the AASL conference in Phoenix carrying a (way too pricey) book of the new AASL standards, a little schwag, some signed picture books, a couple of Google docs of notes, lots of links to presentations, and a timeline of tweets highlighting the sessions I attended.

On Saturday I had an opportunity for a lengthy conversation with my friend and colleague Michelle Luhtala about news literacy. If you are an attendee of Michelle's edWeb webinars then you know this is an important topic to us both that we frequently discuss on and off the air! This private conversation was a warm-up to our presentation, delivered along with our other friends and colleagues Joyce Valenza and Shannon Miller, about helping students develop the research skills that are critical in the digital information age. You can access our slides and join our padlet community to continue the conversation and research curation around this topic.

We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday with a presentation outline ready to be delivered on Saturday. In the interim, we spent some intense time both in and out of conference sessions examining the newly released and much anticipated standards. This release necessitated a revisiting of our presentation which we were pleased to discover aligned with the shared foundations. Given our focus on research, we emphasized "Inquiry" and "Curate," and, as happens with most standards, found that the others (Include, Collaborate, Explore and Engage) were infused throughout our conversation because of the natural interweaving through the domains (Think, Create, Share, Grow). I took this coincidence as validation of both the development of solid inquiry models in our respective districts and thoughtfully developed standards that reflect the needs of learners and educators striving to be critical thinkers in the digital information age.

The Inquiry Model that informs my instruction has five phases. Each phase is a step in the process from topic selection to final product, and each step is infused with opportunities for students to collaborate and reflect.

Step 1: Wonder - Topic Identification & Question Formulation

What do I...

  • wonder about? (curiosity)
  • wish I could change? (problem solve)
  • wish I understood better? (critical thinking)

How can I...

  • generate possible questions?
  • provide innovative solutions to authentic problems?
  • pose a clear, well-developed research question?

Question Generation Protocols


  • Have I solicited feedback from other people about the scope of my questions?
  • Have I discussed or brainstormed about my topic or the problem I am trying to solve with other people studying a similar or related topic?

Reflection and Metacognition

  • Regarding Time Management
  • Have I planned backwards from the due date to give myself progress check points along the way?
  • How do I schedule my homework?
  • How can I fit regular work sessions into my plan?
  • Would work days in class be helpful to me or are they not productive time?
  • How can I capitalize on meeting, conferencing, and collaboration in order to get the input or inspiration that will help me?

Step 2: Curate: Locate All Relevant Media

Where will I:
  • gather background information and begin my investigation?
  • locate information from multiple and differentiated quality sources?
How can I:
  • “tweak” my search terms as needed?
  • find a range of sources in various types of media to be sure I am including a wide range of perspectives?
Finding What You Need
Accumulate Good Search Terms
  • Start with Wikipedia
  • Imagine your dream source: what words would be in it?
  • Already found a good source? What new keywords does it contain for you?
  • What are synonyms for the keywords you already have?
School and Local Resources
  • Destiny
  • Our Databases
  • ResearchITCT
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Wilton Library Association

Make Google Do Your Heavy Lifting
  • Site searching
  • Search by Filetype
  • Go back in time
  • Use Advanced search for truncation, wildcard, and Boolean operators
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books

Extending Your Search
  • Move past reference sources into scholarly and primary using Advanced search functions
  • Mine the citations from a good source you have already found
  • Search by author; who is an authority on your subject? Who is the author of good sources you have already consulted?
  • Stop searching… can you interview an expert?
  • HASHTAGS! What advocacy organizations, interest groups, think tanks or other agencies address your topic? What hashtags are associated with the topic? Start trolling social media!
  • If I am trying to solve a problem through my research, have I identified and interviewed stakeholders who represent a range of perspectives on or experiences with the problem I am addressing?
  • Have I asked someone to challenge my conclusions and help me expose how my own biases might interfere with my research?

Reflection and Metacognition
  • About Reading & Note Making Strategies:
  • How is the content reading going?
  • Have I learned anything (content or process) from my secondary source reading and primary document examinations?
  • How have my presuppositions been challenged?
  • Am I allowing my preconceptions to be challenged?
  • Are my views changing?
  • When I read HOW did I read?
  • Do I print out the documents or read them on line?
  • What did I do to prepare to read them? how did I know what to look for or focus on?
  • If I printed them out, did I have paper to make notes one while and after I read?
  • If I read them on line, did I copy them into a file where I could annotate such as Google Docs?
  • If I highlight is it just to keep my eyes focused on the page? How do I know what to highlight?
  • What do I write down? what questions do I ask? what do I write about when I finish reading?
  • If the document is long, do I read it in sections? What do I do at the end of each section?

Step 3: Explore the Information Superhighway: Evaluating Sources

How can I:
  • assess the authority, accuracy, relevance and purpose of my sources?
  • organize my notes and know that my consideration of perspectives is thorough?
  • include multiple and informed perspectives?
The Information Superhighway

Thinking Like a Fact-Checker

Reverse Image Searching

Citing Your Sources
  • Noodletools
  • OWL Purdue

  • What changes have I made in response to feedback from other people? How did I undertake those changes? How did they improve my work?
  • Is there any perspective I have yet to consult? Who can help me access this point-of-view?

Reflection Questions about Critical Thinking:
  • What are the major content/critical thinking/writing issues that I have been confronted with in this project?
  • How well do I understand the content/substance of what I have been thinking about for this project?
  • What is my plan or strategy to address issues I am encountering with this project? Is this plan similar to the plans I have used in the past? How, and why, did I know these steps would work? Is my plan working?
  • What do I think my main goals should be as a thinker given what you have experienced so far in this class? Why are these my goals?
  • What is my criteria for quality work? What areas of the rubrics are still unclear to me? How am I attempting to reach clarity about these areas?
  • What was the most important thing I have learned about yourself as a thinker so far?

Step 4: Create an Argument: Applying Learning

How can I:
  • select and effectively use tools to organize myself?
  • synthesize what I have learned from my research?
  • create an arguable thesis?
Tools & Techniques:
For Your Thesis:

For Citations, Note Organizing and Outlining:
  • Noodletools
For Outlining, Webbing & Other Planning Strategies:

  • From whom did I solicit feedback on my thesis and/or my outline? Why?
  • What feedback did I incorporate? How did it improve my plan?
  • How might my opinions have had an impact on whether or not I stayed open to conflicting information?
  • How did I check myself to be sure I held my bias loosely?

Step 5: Communicate, Share & Grow

When deciding how to share what I have learned, how will I consider my:
  • audience?
  • message?
  • purpose?
And create a product that meets all of these needs?
How can I take informed action?
Things to Consider:
  • Whom am I trying to reach (who is my audience)?
  • How do those people most frequently access information? Why?
  • What is the best media for conveying my evidence and conclusions? Consider:
    • Do I need photographs or other artist renderings?
    • Do I need data visualization?
    • Are voices, music, or other auditory files important to understanding my message?
    • Is there a need for video footage?
    • How much text do I have? Does it require hyperlinks or interactivity?
  • How will my product reach my audience?
    • Will it live on a website?
    • Post to a video sharing forum like YouTube?
    • Be delivered via email?
    • Exist in printed form?
    • Be performed or delivered to a live audience?
    • Something else?
  • How will the talents of my team combine to create a successful product or presentation?
 Frankly, as much as the announcement of the new AASL standards validated and encouraged this research process as a model for working with high school students, the keynote address by Google Education Evangelist from Hell's Kitchen, Jamie Casap, inspired the bulk of my tweets as well as the metacognitive food for thought that nourished me through lots of sessions and late nights in Phoenix.

I work with high school students so I don't think I have ever asked a student what s/he wants to be when s/he grows up. But, I have certainly asked, "what will you do after graduation?" or "what do you want to study?" Still, Jamie's question: "what problem do you want to solve?" not only by-passes the issue that we have no idea what jobs will even be possible for our students when they "grow up;" it also infuses students with empathy and agency. I know if there are two qualities I hope my teenagers have or develop it is empathy and agency!
And so, I return to our inquiry model and ask: at every stage, are students developing empathy and agency? Will they graduate from four years working with these protocols prepared to engage with other people's point of views, able to gather (with fidelity) the insight and opinions of stakeholders, and apply themselves to solving the problems in their communities in the interest of improving the educational, socioeconomic, political or environmental  conditions of their day?

As long as I can keep answering yes to those questions, then I know I am on the right path.

Monday, October 16, 2017

To teach digital citizenship & literacy, we must be digital neighbors

I was fortunate to be accepted into the Stockholm cohort (#SWE17) of the Google Innovator Academy (#GoogleEI). The focus of my work for my Innovator project is students' digital media literacy (or lack thereof). Based on the SHEG report, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, and other reading I have been doing about this topic, I initially thought the focus of my work would be on developing students' capacities for unpacking, critically examining, and making meaning of the myriad of digital texts that flood their social media feeds. Following the protocols the Innovator team outlined for us in advance of attending the Academy, I quickly realized that I had a different -- but related -- issue to tackle before addressing student digital literacy. That is, the lack of social media, and thus digital media not curated by a teacher, that is used or experienced in the classroom. Until teachers embrace social media as a teaching, learning, and communication tool, students will not have an opportunity to be guided in the development of their digital literacy. Thus my project: social media think tanks for any classroom. You can learn more about it at my site: Mediated Messages.

Here is my 90 second elevator pitch:

For many years I have sat through faculty meetings where district lawyers have warned us about our social media presence and connections with students. I suspect that the concerns that inspire those cautionary meetings and the policy that as educators we may not be social media friends with our students will result in push back against my project. Yet, I think it is possible for it to work. In fact, if we really mean we want to teach students positive habits of digital citizenship, then it is essential that we interact with them in digital communities.

My daughter is a field hockey player. Her team, like most other teams of which I am aware, self-organizes in a closed Facebook group. All current team members are invited as are the coaches and parents of current players. Announcements are made in this forum, pictures of games and spirit days are shared here, encouraging messages about upcoming games are offered. I am an active contributor to this group even though I am not Facebook friends with most of the group members.

I am also a member of professional Facebook groups like ALA Think Tank and Future Ready Librarians. Again, I contribute to the discussions that happen in these groups. I learn from the postings made by group members and I am not "friends" with most of the people in that group. The posts I make to my page, that are shared with my friends, are not part of that forum. In that way, I can keep my personal and professional postings and communities separate.

Twitter is another social media platform on which I am rather active. I follow many people and many of them follow me as well. There are many people with whom I engage in discourse via hashtags but we do not follow each other. My habit when it comes to Twitter is only to follow people's professional feeds. I do not use Twitter for personal posting. And, by following a hashtag, I can learn from people who contribute to that hashtag discussion without following their entire feed.

As I see it, the use of closed Facebook groups and hashtags allows teachers and students to interact on social media and still maintain a separation of their personal lives. Further separation can be achieved by the creation of classroom accounts. How ever teachers and administrators choose to structure conversations -- many athletic coaches have already figured it out -- we aren't really teaching digital citizenship or information literacy if we aren't digital neighbors.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teaching Digital Citizenship Starts with Empathy

In my last post I commented that the challenge of teaching cyber citizen students to be good digital citizens is helping them create space, a moment of reflection, between stimulus and response. Teaching them to be mindful. We need to help our students to approach every digital interaction with the same caution that they might employ when they hear the buzz of a tattoo needle. Building empathy is the key to helping students hit the pause button rather than acting (or posting) on impulse.

I have long been a fan of the This I Believe series. When I was a social studies teacher I used these essays as models of personal essays and helped students deconstruct the stylistic and rhetorical devices employed by the authors of these essays. By carefully selecting models, I was providing my students with essay exemplars, for sure, but also with models of good judgment and lessons about being part of a community. One of my favorite This I Believes is "Be Cool to the Pizza Dude" by Sarah Adams. I can almost recite her essay from memory.

Adams' essay is making an appearance in the digital citizenship lesson we are delivering next week. After we listen to the NPR recording of Adams reading her essay. Students are going to talk about her four principles that underpin her belief in coolness to the pizza dude: "Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness.... in empathy.... in honor and it reminds me to honor honest work.... [and] in equality." We are going to ask them to consider not just her principles, but the examples she uses to explain and explore her principles and discuss which ones matter to them.

Next we are going to explain the concept of mindfulness and point out that it is embedded in Adams' discussion of her relationhip with the pizza dude and ask students what strategies they do or can employ when they are interacting with someone (actually or digitally) to be mindful, be "cool". This question is a lead into having them break into small groups and access the community guidelines for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat and identify where in those companies standards they can find Adams' principles.

Now we can bring it back to our school. Posted in every classroom and elsewhere throughout our building are the schools core values and beliefs.

All members in the... community engage in a collaborative, learning partnership that empowers... graduates to inquire, interpret, and communicate in and across disciplines using a variety of media. We share common beliefs and values that guide all community members in demonstrating civic and personal engagement, both in and out of the classroom. We strive for academic excellence and personal development through a safe and supportive school climate.

Students will compare this statement with the tenets published by the social media companies and, again, Adams. They will collect their thoughts on a set of Google slides which can be printed and posted in the actual classroom and posted as community agreements in the teachers' Google classrooms.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Your CyberSelf: Teaching Digital Citizenship

Lately I have been asked a lot about teaching digital citizenship: how to do it and how to know the students are exhibiting it. My answer is usually that teaching digital citizenship -- a focus of my role as a library media specialist -- is very much like teaching citizenship -- the focus of my previous role as a social studies, in particular American Government, teacher. In my prior role I could teach students the ins and outs of the democratic process, the importance of having a voice in the decision making process, and the history of people fighting for suffrage... but I couldn't make them vote. And now, I can teach my students the importance of being a good citizen in the digital world, but how can I make them be one?

A former colleague and now the head of school at one of my previous schools devoted her doctoral work to studying mindfulness and how increased mindfulness by a learning community improves the school climate and enhances student learning and achievement. @JbhsPin often quotes Viktor E. Frankl's statement: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response." Digital citizenship hinges on creating or expanding that space.

If you are my age you remember the days of walking down the hallway at school and shoving a note through the vents in a friend's locker. Some people shoved unkind notes through locker vents. But, more often than not, I believe, the time it took to walk the halls of the school and find the target locker created that space between the stimulus that prompted the writing of an unkind message and the response of slipping it through the vents of the recipient's locker. I think, if Frankl is to be believed, that hallway walk created the space necessary for better angels to prevail in many cases. What makes today different is the immediacy with which a response to a stimulus can be created and disseminated. A challenge of digital citizenship education is to prompt students to be mindful, to breathe before posting, to reflect on their response before sending their response, to consider whether that response is something they want to be permanently etched into their digital profile.

It was with mindfulness as our guide that we created the first in our three-lesson digital citizenship series. We began with "Permanence." And we will teach it through the metaphor of a tattoo. Students are going to be asked to design a tattoo for themselves, something that, if they could, they would go out this afternoon and get inked. They might start by looking at the work of a famous tattoo artist like Bang Bang. They don't have to share their design; this tattoo could be anywhere on their body so it doesn't have to be something the world will see. Next, they will be asked to design a new tattoo, one that will be visible every day. And they will be asked to compare the two designs and reflect on their similarities and differences. We will culminate with a discussion of tattoo removal... what happens if ten years from now you don't want that tattoo anymore? What can you do? Of course, it is possible to remove a tattoo, but that process is painful and leaves scars. Thus, the metaphor for the students' digital presence comes full circle: always post assuming the world will see what you say; know that you may take down a post that is hurtful, but the damage can not be undone; think before you post of the ramifications of what you say; and when you post, do so with the intention of productively contributing to a dialogue.

Now, if time allowed, I would love to make a video of my new colleagues who have tattoos talking about what they have, when they got inked, why they chose their design, and whether they ever have regretted it. Personally I have four tattoos. My daughter calls them watermarks. I got each at a significant time in my life and each marks a milestone in my life and growth. I think I can say the same about my digital tattoos. Maybe it is because I remember the days of dropping notes instead of sending snapchats. I consciously remove my hands from a device when I begin to feel heated about something. The challenge of teaching cyber citizen students to be good digital citizens is creating that space, that moment of reflection. We need to teach them to approach every digital interaction with the same caution that they might employ when they hear the buzz of the tattoo needle.

More on our other lessons, Privacy and Productivity, in future posts.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tomorrow starts a new year!

I have moved to a new district and tomorrow is the start of the new school year. I have worked quite a bit this summer in preparation for our ready access learning initiative. The elementary and middle schools are rolling out a 1:1 Chromebook program and the high school is going BYOD. Much of our work this summer has focused on creating digital citizenship bootcamps for all of the students, designing a new web presence for the school district, curating and piloting a digital tool set applicable at each of the grade levels, as well as planning professional development for the faculty.

And throughout this process, I have been thinking in infographics. Here are a couple I have made for my new role in my new school.

This is to introduce our learning commons to the community:

Embedded in this infographic are two more I have made. One is about our research model; the other will hang in our innovation space. It is about the design cycle.

I have ordered a poster version of the first infographic. If it comes out well, we are thinking of ordering one for each classroom... a little reminder to teachers and students of all the ways the learning commons can enhance their inquiry!

Happy new year, everyone!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Big Takeaways on Personalizing Instruction through Use of Technology

As the year comes to an end, I am reflecting on how I worked to personalize instruction through the use of
Photo taken while visiting colleges
with my daughter
technology as an instructional tool.

Technology for Demonstration of Mastery:
In working with an English teacher on her op-ed unit for her sophomore classes we discussed and planned ways for students to select topics that are meaningful and interesting to them. This unit is key for enabling each student to focus on a personal topic of interest or concern. Furthermore, we planned for digital writing, informed by Troy Hicks' book, Crafting Digital Writing, so that students would be creating for an audience beyond the teacher and include multimedia extensions of the their writing to expand the discussion of the issue they selected.

Technology and Media Information Influences:
With another member of the English department, we planned a unit that focused on student exposure to media and advertising through various outlets -- print and digital. We guided the students to choose an aspect of their lives and American society and examine the influence that media has on it. This unit enabled students to practice their research skills and apply them to an aspect of their own lives particularly influenced by technology and digital media. Together we watched and discussed advertisements for the products of companies like Apple and analyzed how those ads changed over decades in response to current events, societal concerns, and target audiences.

Technology Tools for Feedback and Formative Assessment:
For all classes, whether they were working on the junior research paper or other research-based projects, we streamlined the feedback loop for the steps of the research process. When students were brainstorming topic ideas, they submitted these ideas and the reason why those topics were interesting to a Google Form. This allowed me to review their ideas, use the Google Sheet that held the Form responses to provide feedback, and pose questions to help the students refine their topic selection when I visited class. The classroom teachers also began adding their feedback to the Google Sheet when they realized the utility of the sheet for tracking feedback and the students' revised thinking. The next step was for the students to add a draft of their research questions to the Sheet so I could provide feedback on their question development. Entries into the sheet were followed by a class session where I co-taught with the classroom teacher. Working one-on-one with students in class helped to ensure that students were choosing fruitful and manageable topics. As the research projects evolved, I joined the classes for multiple days dedicated to source location and provided instruction on citations and works cited. We developed a research journal as a Google Doc to help students organize their sources, notes, questions, citations, and thinking about their topic. These journals were excellent formative assessment opportunities for the classroom teacher and I to give students feedback on the depth of their questions and sources, gaps in their thinking or understanding, and next steps in the process.

Tech Tools for Conveying Information:
Second semester we built a rich MLA 8 citation website. After our first semester frustrations with Noodle Tools and EasyBib, we agreed that students would be better served by learning to build their citations from scratch. Doing so pushes them to thoroughly examine the scope and quality of their sources of information and become savvier consumers of information. Teachers in the Social Studies and English departments value accurate citation protocols and several of them supported our initiative by granting us class time to work one-on-one with students and recognized the value of the students' increased access to educator (librarian and content teacher) support and feedback in class. 

The Google Site includes a slideshow that steps students through the citation building process, an infographic illustrating the nine elements of an MLA 8 citation, a video showing how to create a hanging indent, copious models of works cited pages and citations, and a form for receiving librarian feedback on works cited and warnings about most common student errors. This site continues to be a work in progress as we refine the resources and streamline individualized student feedback.

Our Google Form for submitting final works cited for feedback before submitting the product of their research to their classroom teacher gave us insight into the most common errors that students were making so we could supplement the resources in the MLA 8 Citation Google Site that we created during second semester. The data we collected showed a dramatic difference in the quality of works cited being submitted by students who had received library instruction as opposed to those who worked only with their classroom teacher. The average score out of 5 for students receiving library instruction was a 3.34; those who did not receive this instruction scored an average of 2.33.

The Value of the (Virtual) Library:
My use of forms to collect individualized information from students on their stages in the research process and provide feedback combined with one-on-one in-class instruction and the library texting service were key elements differentiating library instruction. Teachers benefited by having me provide feedback to their students throughout the research process which essentially means I shared their grading load. Students benefited by having increased access to educator support and copious feedback to help them refine their work. At a time when districts are eliminating library media specialists and our profession is being maligned, my first year in this role is evidence of how vital information literacy skills are and necessary a library media specialist is to this skill development.

Supplement: Anonymous Feedback from Our Colleagues:
Thank you for all of your help with the research process. Having never taught this before, I would have been lost without your help! I greatly appreciate every lesson and helping hand you gave to me and my students during this process. Additionally, you both have such a knowledge of a range of books, and it helped open the variety of books I could offer for book groups!
 Additionally, you both have such a knowledge of a range of books, and it helped open the variety of books I could offer for book groups!
Library services are crucial to the mission of the social studies department. I would love it if there were quizzes for the most frequently used videos so that we can ensure students understand and access the information.
The opportunity to work together with library staff is invaluable to my teaching
I believe the Media specialists are all knowledgeable and collaborate with both each other and the teachers. It has been a pleasure working with them this year.
It was a great unit -- I appreciated the support and the help on this inquiry based learning!
The planning stage went very smoothly as my library/media collaborator was attuned to my specific goals and even to my work style. The lesson she planned was focused directly on the needs of my particular students at that particular stage of our unit.
With the failing implementation of MLA8 by easybib, working with the librarians on building a citation from scratch was important.
The question generator was awesome Help with MLA 8 citations was absolutely excellent! Teacher and students ALL benefited immensely from the face-to-face interactions with incredibly knowledgeable librarians.
There are so many skills students need to learn to be effective researchers that it is easy for them to be overwhelmed. By presenting kids with tools they can use to ensure the validity of their sources, the collaboration allowed me to focus my instruction on the reading skills necessary to master the research essay task.
having librarians in the class room during the start of the jr research project, assisting with research question tweaking and thesis development was incredibly helpful
I found it effective to have multiple perspectives on research questions, thesis statements and citations.
I like the op-ed format to create a dialogue in writing.
Yes, we chose new texts for the speech unit, which were excellent!!! And your help on MLA 8 with both the freshman speeches and the junior research paper were invaluable!
Keep listening to individual teachers and customizing your presentation so it dovetails with the individual teacher's experience and eccentricities.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Overcoming Impediments to Student Close Reading

I was talking with a colleague whose students are engaged in a lengthy research project inspired by Jared Diamond's Collapse. Inspired by this mentor text, students research, create infographics, present to their peers and write about the health and future prospects of our civilization. The problem my colleague was lamenting was that students were, at best, skimming the mentor text. At worst, they were randomly choosing excerpts to share before jumping ahead to the creation portions of the project. Needless to say, without a close reading of Diamond, the final presentations will be superficial and generic. So, my colleague's question was two-fold: 1) why aren't they reading? 2) how can I get them to read?

Here are my recommendations on students and close reading.

For this project in particular I suggested a re-structuring of the student groupings and tasks. As the project is designed now, students work in pairs with each pair presenting the reading about one of twelve different societies. Instead, I suggested, focus only on six civilizations and have four students assigned to a society with two of them responsible for presenting the reading about that society to the class and the other two responsible for critiquing the presentation based on their reading of the same text. They can do this in a fishbowl so the rest of the class is learning the content and how to be critical friends.

Furthermore, I surmised that one reason students weren't reading was because they were given, all at once, the entire scope of the exercise from the initial reading assignment to the final stage that was still weeks away. Students were jumping to the product and skipping the process because they needed more scaffolding. I suggested putting them in groups and giving them the reading assignment as a discrete exercise. Keep their focus in the moment.

Even if the assignment was scaffolded, Diamond's texts have a lexile measure of about 1400. Students need specific support to unpack the text. To that end, I had other suggestions:

Students could keep a dialectical (double-entry) notebook while reading. There are lots of models of these notebooks. Some are basic and have one column designated for student summary of an aspect of the text and the other for student questions based on those summaries. Others give different column headings like "Point of View" or "Comparison" which prompt students to think critically and analytically about what they are reading.

In non-fiction lit circles, students are assigned a focus while reading. They then meet in small groups to share the conclusions they reached given their individual focus and discuss the importance of the reading evidence and insights. Reading roles can be adapted to different texts and types of media. Here are some suggested ones:

  • Questioner: what would you ask the people in the passage if you could? Why?
  • Connector: of what are you reminded when you read this passage? (book, movie, tv, current event…) Why?
  • Wonderer: what do you want to know about this situation? Why?
  • Predictor: what do you think the outcome of the conflict will be? Explain.
  • Passage Picker: select the passage you think is key to understanding the text. Explain its importance.
Partner annotations is one of my favorite tools when a text can be shared digitally. For example, in a Google Doc, two students can share a text and annotate it by inserting comments. When a student highlights a portion of the text s/he thinks is important s/he can add a comment about why it is important, questions it raises, connections to other issues, etc. Paired students can respond to each other's annotations thereby carrying on a dialogue about the text in the margins.

Some of these strategies can be combined to further enhance student close reading. Consider asking students to keep a dialectical notebook using the reading roles as column headings and then bring that notebook to share in a lit circle discussion!

Happy reading!