Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Evidence Shows

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As I wrote in part three of last week's slice, my students are writing analysis essays about their independent reading. They are practicing analysis with texts they chose arounds topics I created for them or that they have created for themselves. Not many (so far) have written their own writing prompts or questions. A few have, bit most students loved their topics. When I handed prompts/questions out last week I heard lots of:

"I LOVE my question!"
"I can SO write about this."
"Cool! My question is about ___, Let me see yours!"

Even less effusive students were heard to whisper, "I got this."  They were ready to rock the independent reading essay. 

The day after several students came to class with initial plans and lists of evidence. Yasmina talked at length about her process and thinking as she showed me the textual evidence she collected to kick start her planning. Codes positive and negative she'd gone back to her books in search of figurative language and imagery to connect to author' tone toward ___.

Page one of evidence gathered from the text.

Page two of evidence gathered from the text.
What does it mean? I see a lot in Yasmina's preparation for writing. She is beginning to understand figurative language across texts. She is in tenth grade. I see her beginning to organize her thinking about authors' craft. She starts with simple plus and minus labels of quotations. She is fifteen. The labels indicate her interpretation of positive or critical attitudes towards loss. I see her organizing her thinking in a way  that she can discuss as we confer. She is an IB student. She is beginning to make connections between books and ideas, to connect authors' choices to tone. I see her reading a range of books. Pictured on image one: The Glass Castle by Walls, Dime by Frank, Go Ask Alice by Sparks, Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands by McCarthy.

At ALAN, Donalyn Miller talked about forming a book committee in class to preview and discuss books for use in the classroom library. I got right on that and Yasmina volunteered for the committee. Her reading of Dime by E.R. Frank came out of that extracurricular committee work. Thanks for the idea, Donalyn.

Yasmina has chosen Dime and several books from her "books I've read" list  to focus on in her analysis (pictured on the note card and listed in her Reading Record).

Yasmina demonstrates quite a range in her reading choices. She will write her essay tomorrow during third period's extended time period.

 It is exam week. This year "exam" is a euphemism for "state mandated, locally constructed end of course tests (EOCs)." Locally constructed EOCs are tests written by committee for all credit and half-credits courses offered in high schools not included in the revised state-wide assessment schedule. My colleague Beth wrote about the fear of such tests for her elementary-aged daughter here.

 Classroom teachers are not allowed to create and give an exam. We can give a test or another assessment. We can even use the scheduled "exam" time (a one-hundred minutes) for enrichment or project-based  lessons that don't fit our regular forty-seven minute periods.

I gave another assessment. It is the "exam" that I usually give at this time of year. It is the only essay I ask students to write about their independent reading all year; they can choose to write others but they are not assigned.  I can't wait to see what Yasmina has to say about loss and the books she has read this semester.

Want to see more questions? Check out this sampler of students' prompts/questions which includes the rubric on each page.  


  1. I love how you empower your students. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. What Kevin said. It's inspiring to see how you draw ideas from so many sources and then let the students take the lead and create learning magic.

  3. I've bookmarked both of these posts, Lee Ann, will examine them more closely when I get ready for a lit unit. Thank you for sharing the gritty detail. I love seeing what one of your students did.

  4. I remember your previous Slice about this - a great way to put the ownership of the essay question in the hands of the students. I'm so used to working with elementary kids that it kind of blows my mind the thinking and cross-textual analysis your kids are doing. Wowza.

  5. The students clearly own this work! Your slice is full of excitement! I see so much real world connections through these slices!

  6. Lee Ann, I love the fact that Yasmina talks about her process. It is clearly indicated that your students are engaged learners who own their work.