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How to Get Started With Critical Reading

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Critical reading is the key for your students to unlock deeper meaning. Learn how to get started and download your free plan guide!

What is critical reading?

Critical reading is the activity involved in reading for a deep understanding. The skills necessary for critical reading involve reflecting, close reading, and questioning to name a few. In other words, critical reading challenges students to move past surface-level interpretations.

Literary Criticism

Literary criticism is a type of critical reading activity that involves studying, interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating a work of literature. If you teach any type of critical reading, you are using literary criticism as a pedagogical approach. Therefore, it’s no surprise then that literary criticism has a vast history of practices and theories, which span over a period of more than 2,000 years.

Literary Theory

Considering this long history dating back to Plato, you won’t be surprised to learn that scholars have stressed different interpretative methods to go about literary criticism (Takolander, 2009). Then, literary theory is a set of schools of literary analysis based on assumptions or guidelines that shape the way the reader interprets a text. These theories focus on different areas of interpretation based on the theme of that theory. As a result, literary theory is often referred to as multiple perspectives or multiple lenses.

How can critical reading help my students?

Empowering students to think critically and analyze content on their own can be a very difficult task for the teacher, yet these reading skill sets are vital for students to be prepared to grapple with difficult content in college and problem solving situations in the workforce as well as succeed on standardized tests (Bloom, 1959; Carr, 1998; Baker, 2002; Collins, 1993). Fortunately, the connection between teaching literary theory to students and students’ improved critical thinking and reading skills is well supported by a review of the related literature (Appleman, 2009; Barker, 1965; Beach, Appleman, Hynds, & Wilhelm, 2006; Cox & Lewis, 1974; Golden and Canan, 2004; Harper, 1998; Knickerbocker & Rycik, 2002; Muller, 2006; Pace, 2006; Parfitt, 1997; Rozema, 2001; Sagan, 2003; Schade, 2004; Troise, 2007).

When students consider different perspectives to their reading, they learn to address the different, and sometimes conflicting, ideologies that exist within a particular text.  This transaction with the text encourages students to break out of lower-level thinking (comprehension) to engage in higher-order thinking skills, such as synthesizing information from a variety of perspectives to create a new perspective based on their reading. Acknowledging these differences, students engage in a textual relationship that empowers them to create their own understandings based on the many complexities of a text (Faber, 2011). This type of awareness is particularly important for developing empathy and empowerment, two characteristics that are the basis for a cooperative, productive society.

How can my students become critical readers?

Critical reading is an activity that all students are capable of mastering, and therefore, all students in all age groups, even pre-kindergarten, can become critical readers. No matter the grade level, the steps for creating a critical reading classroom follow a three-step system that I call TPA (pronounced “T” “pa”). Using the TPA model, teachers can plan their reading units around this model:

  1. Texts: Choose texts of academic merit.
  2. Perspectives: Determine the perspectives related to that text.
  3. Activities: Design activities to analyze the text based on those unique perspectives.

How should I get started?

Free Planning Resource

I created this free planning resource to simplify your critical reading planning. Download your free planning resource to get you started:

 

Free Professional Development

You can also read my blog posts and watch my live PD sessions related to critical reading:

Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text. Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text. Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text. Critical reading helps students gain a deeper understanding of the text.

The Complete Guide to Literary Theory

Planning critical reading lessons can be time consuming. That’s why I created The Complete Guide to Literary Theory.

The Critical Reader's Guide to Literary Theory gives teachers & students background and practical applications to use literary theory to build critical reading skills.

This guide will streamline the planning process by providing you with a perspectives checklist that links to a variety of common perspectives. By completing this checklist, you will easily determine which perspectives apply to the work. Also included is a teacher’s guide for an easy-to-follow explanation of each perspective with suggested activities related to each perspective. You do not have to be an expert in literary theory to teach multiple perspectives!

Critical Reader’s Guides

You can also find complete Critical Reader’s units that are already developed to cover these multiple perspectives. These units include all materials necessary to develop, engage, and assess critical readers. I am working to develop new Critical Reader’s guides for all of our favorite works. I would love to hear your requests. You can email me at jennacopper@gmail.com.

The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.The Critical Reader's series is a collection of resources designed to engage students in multiple perspectives analysis to create a classroom of critical readers.

Critical reading is the key your students need to unlock deeper understanding. Learn how to get started and download your free plan guide!

References

Appleman, D. (2009). Critical encounters in high school English: Teaching literary theory to adolescents.  New York: Teachers College Press.

Baker, L. (2002). Metacognition in comprehension instruction.  In C.C. Block & M. Pressley (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices (77–95). New York: Guilford.

Barker, J. (1965).  The essay test in teaching the concept of literary analysis.  Testing in English. 52(5), 31-35. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Beach, R. (1993). A teacher’s introduction to reader-response theories. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.

Beach, R., Appleman, D., Hynds, S., & Wilhelm, J. (2006). Teaching literature to adolescents. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Bloom, B.S. (1959). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: David McKay Company Inc.

Carr, K. S. (1988). How can we teach critical thinking?  Childhood Education, 65(2), 69-74. Retrieved from Platinum Periodicals.

Collins, N.D. (1993).  Teaching critical reading through literature.  Eric Digest. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Cox, R. & Lewis, S. (1974). The student critic.  Cambridge: Winthrop Publishers, Inc.

Faber, J. C. (2011). Re-envisioning the transaction: Literary theories in the high school English classroom. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest.

Golden, J., & Canan, D. (2004). “Mirror, mirror on the wall”: Readers’ reflections on literature through literary theories. English Journal, 93(5), 42-46. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Harper, H. (1998). Dangerous desires: Feminist literary criticism in a high school writing class. Theory into Practice, 37(3), 220-8. Retrieved from ERIC.

Knickerbocker, J., & Rycik, J. (2002). Growing into literature: Adolescents’ literary interpretation and appreciation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(3), 1-14. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Muller, V. (2006). Film as film: Using movies to help students visualize literary theory. English Journal, 95(3), 32-38. Retrieved from Research Library.

Pace, B. (2006). Between response and interpretation: Ideological becoming and literacy events in critical readings of literature. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(7), 584-594.

Parfitt, M. (1997). What kind of discourse?: Thinking it through. Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 1-15. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Rozema, R. (2001) “Heart of darkness” webquest: Using technology to teach literary criticism. National Council of Teachers of English, 1-29. Retrieved from ERIC database.

Sagan, C. P. (2003). Sing a new song: A fresh look at literary criticism. English Journal92(6), 40.  Retrieved from Wilson Web.

Schade, L. (1996). Demystifying the text: Literary criticism in the high school classroom. English Journal, 85(3), 26.  Retrieved from Research Library.

Takolander, M. (2009). Energetic space: The experience of literature and learning. College Literature, 36(3), 165-183. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Troise, M. (2007). Approaches to reading with multiple lenses of interpretation. English Journal, 96( 5), 85-90. Retrieved from ProQuest database.

Wilhelm, J. D. (2009). The power of teacher inquiry: Developing a critical literacy for teachers. Voices from the Middle, 17(2), 36-39.  Retrieved from ProQuest database.

All You Need to Know About Digital Learning Stations

Digital, Featured

I started seriously creating digital resources four years ago when I was given a classroom set of Chromebooks. Over that time, I slowly have made the transition from a copy queen to a paperless aficionada. Despite my love for digital resources, I am a firm believer that traditional activities and resources still have a place when they benefit students as is or there isn’t a reasonable digital alternative. One of such activities (or so I previously thought) is learning stations and learning centers. I love using learning stations and learning centers as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives in the form of varying tasks. Because I will never give up my stations, I tried for a while to make digital stations work, but I always fell short…until now! I finally figured out how to make digital stations work, and best of all, it’s a piece of cake!

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

 

What are digital learning stations?

Learning stations are centers around the classroom designed for specific learning tasks related to a theme, topic, skill, or genre of study. Digital learning stations use technology to facilitate those tasks. Just like a typical learning station, digital learning stations use centers or groups in different areas of the room. The tasks, however, are not completed on paper, but rather on a digital device. Therefore, at each learning station, a digital device is used to facilitate a digital task.

Why use digital learning stations?

I love learning stations, as you already know, but I wanted to find a way to adapt the stations to my digital classroom. My classroom is 1:1 with Chromebooks, but digital stations could work with any device. If you have students work in groups, they may only need one device per group, so 1:1 is not necessary in this case. Traditionally, stations required a lot of paper, which meant a lot of copying. It also meant a lot of organizing, a lot of lost papers, and a lot of back pain carrying those stacks of papers around.

When made paperless, this activity saves time and improves organization for the teacher, but also it can improve students’ work and expand the possibilities of the tasks. Research is one of such components that seamlessly could be included as a digital task in digital stations lesson while expanding the potential of the analysis. In addition, integrating video and music into digital learning stations adds a new level of novelty for the students and mode for content or organization.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem I had with digital stations is giving students access only to one station at a time. One of the reasons that I love stations is that students have to focus on one task per station as they move around the room to a physical station. Undoubtedly, if I give students all of the stations in one digital document, the moving part of the stations ceases to exist because they have everything they need in one place. The stations become a packet and that defeats the purpose of the station activity. So the question becomes, how do I distribute the digital task at each center?

Well, how do you do it?

After much thought, I finally figured how to fix this problem, and it’s quite simple. *Disclaimer: I use Google Classroom for my digital LMS, but this same technique/philosophy may work with other learning management systems.

1) Create your centers in Google Slides. Each task should have it’s own presentation.

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

2) Open your first station and click share. Then, copy the link.

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

3) Go to https://goo.gl/. *If you’re using a device with a QR code reader, skip to step 6.
4). Paste your link. Change the text after the last / to copy. This change will force a copy of the document so that your students won’t accidentally change your original document.

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

5) Repeat this process with each document.
6) Now, write each url on a separate notecard or piece of paper and place them at the corresponding station throughout your room. Students will go to each station and find the url linked to the unique task.

*If your students are using a device with a QR code reader (like a tablet, iPad, or SmartPhone), you can covert those urls to QR codes and provide them with a print QR code like I did below.

7) When they open each document, it will save to their drives, but you need a way to collect everything in one place so you can grade it. Here’s a simple way to do it: Create a separate Google Slides presentation to upload to Google Classroom. The purpose of this document is for students to collect all of their tasks in one place that you can then grade. Create the Google Slides presentation with the same slide size as your other stations. You can adjust the slide size by clicking on File > Page Setup. On the first (and only slide) write the following directions (or a variation of these directions):

At each station, you will be given a link that will take to you to the digital task for that station. Enter the link into your browser to open the link. Right click on the slide and then click copy. Come back to this document and paste that slide into the document by right-clicking under this slide on the left-hand scroll column and pressing paste. Complete the digital task in this new document. Repeat this step with each digital task so that all of your tasks are in this document at the end.

8) Assign the new document via Google Classroom. Make sure you select the “make a copy” for each student option. Once, they’re done, grade as you normally would using Google Classroom.

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

You can check out some of my favorite digital learning stations below!

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

 

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

 

I love using learning stations as an engaging activity to get students up and moving around the classroom while targeting specific and focused objectives. Digital learning stations make this activity even better! Read on to learn how to facilitate digital learning stations in your classroom.

 

How to Go Digital When You Teach the Research Process

Digital, Featured, Writing

From topic discovery to grading, going paperless (aka digital) when you teach the research process is the way to go! I cringe to think of all the wasted paper and index cards that we used during the research process when I was in high school (circa 2000). Not to mention how hard it is to keep track of all those papers. Your students and your back (from carrying all of those papers around) will thank you.

From topic discovery to grading, going digital when you teach the research process is the way to go! In this blog post, learn how to teach the research process from start, topic discovery, to finish, grading, all with digital tools.

1. Digital Discovery Day

After I introduce the theme for the paper, I give students a chance to explore the theme, and I call this day, Discovery Day. Discovery Day is step one in the research process and it is very important because it gives students autonomy in the writing process. It also helps students find a topic that they know will be supportable.

I create a discussion question in Google Classroom asking the students to submit their three topic ideas. This format works well because it gives students the opportunity to see their classmates’ topics as well without giving them power to edit their classmates’ responses. Once students submit their topics, I give them feedback on their selections. I personally like to meet with them one-on-one, but in the true nature of fully digital, you can write your comments to them in the discussion forum.

2. Digital Sources

One of the goals of the research process unit is for students to understand the difference between a credible, reliable source and an unreliable source. This is particularly important in today’s day when fake news flourishes. I use this Media Source Scavenger Hunt as a mini-lesson after Discovery Day for honing in on this topic.

Obviously, students can use a search engine like Google to find their information; however, I ask that students use a required amount of scholarly and/or peer reviewed sources in their writing.  Google doesn’t cut it. They generally get too many search results and narrowing it down to scholarly sources can be a challenge. Therefore, I introduce The Directory of Open Access Journals and ERIC. Both sources have a number of free scholarly articles. I also encourage students to use Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a specialized search engine that narrows the students’ search results to scholarly journal articles and ebooks. I personally like to use it for their ebook selection. Within Google Scholar, they also can use the “related articles” option to narrow their searches even more closely to their topics.

3. Digital Note Taking

I’ll never forget my moment of sheer panic when my brother spilled orange juice on the table; the table that my senior research paper note cards were spread over. Though I salvaged most of them, I had to rewrite too many note cards for my liking only to eventually type some of them in my paper. When I went to college, I was amazed to find that my professors didn’t require or even advocate handwritten notes for the research process. Cue digital note taking!

For me, the note taking aspect of the research process requires several steps, most importantly defining the thesis statement and main points of the paper, so I use this as a guide for my high school students. For middle level student, check this out. Students should have both focus and structure for their note taking so they know what type of information to look for and record. We always begin by defining the thesis statement and main points of the paper, so that the students note taking is driven by their main points. I use this digital research process notebook to guide students to efficient and productive notes. I’ve found that this structure ultimately leads to a well-organized and supported paper.

Digital note taking can take a variety of forms. Here are my favorites:

  1. Digital Doc: For this format, students write their notes in a document organized by topic or source. They can cut and paste to group the notes however they choose.
  2. Source Grid: A source grid is a chart that organizes notes into topics across the top of a chart and sources down the side of the chart.
  3. Sketch Notes: Sketch notes are visual note taking. My friend, Danielle, from StudyAllKnight has a great post on using Google Classroom in combination with the Noteability app for visual note taking.

4. Digital Documentation

Documentation is a piece of cake with digital research process. There are several reliable bibliography and citation generators that work well. After trying a few, I like Cite This For Me for our purposes because it has both MLA and APA references, and it saves the students bibliographies for one week without an account. It also has a helpful Chrome Extension for citing webpages.

For scholarly sources, students usually can find a bibliography for that source in the database or search engine.

Note: I always begin with a caution that students must double check their formatting with the associated style (I use APA and MLA depending on the assignment). Too often they get into the habit of copying and pasting whatever the citation generator throws at them even if it’s totally incorrect. I tell them that the citation generator is there to help you, but they must determine if it gave them correct information. For cross checking their citation format, we use Purdue Owl.

5. Digital Writing

Once students are ready to write their papers, I require them to write in the Google Doc that I upload to Google Classroom. I simply upload a plain document with the text, “Write your paper here. Delete these directions.”
The purpose of having them work in this document is that it is already shared with me, and I can monitor their work in real time. If I give them class time to work on their projects, I have a record of everything they wrote during the period by looking at their document and viewing the revision history.

6. Digital Peer Review and Plagiarism Checker

Once students have written their papers in Google Docs, of course, we go through a two-step editing as step six in the research process: peer editing and polishing.

Peer Review

On peer editing day, I have students share their papers with two classmates. They read each other’s papers and provide feedback using the comment button in Google Docs. I’ve tried different apps and extensions, but I’ve always come back to this process for its effectiveness and simplicity.

I always give them guidelines for their feedback so they don’t simply write, “good.” As an example, I might give them five areas of focus: thesis effectiveness, organization effectiveness, word choice suggestions, one positive summary statement, and one summary suggestion for the paper as a whole.

When students receive their papers with comments from two reviewers, they use the “resolve” option to clean up their papers and the comments. This deletes the comment, but a record of the comment is saved in the comment button at the top. This is important if you want to give credit for peer editing.

Plagiarism Checker

To prepare students for college-level and real-world research processes, I find that giving them the opportunity to check their own papers for “matches” is a meaningful way to teach about avoiding plagiarism. I use the word match because that is what a plagiarism checker provides, a match to another source. A program or website cannot determine plagiarism; only a person can determine if the match was plagiarism, either intentional or unintentional. It is the student’s task to review each match.

Sometimes, the match is simply common knowledge that happens to be stated in a similar way. For example, there are only so many ways to say, “Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts.” Even though the student would probably find many direct matches to it, it isn’t plagiarism. Maybe the student has an error in their citation punctuation; this could cause the plagiarism checker to find the match. Maybe the student simply forgot a citation. In this case, they fix it and move along. However, what would happen if you didn’t give this lesson?  Now, you, as the teacher, have quite the conundrum. How do you know if it was unintentional? Does your school have a zero tolerance policy? Will this student fail the paper? Ugh! Save yourself the agony and give them the chance to revise their mistakes before it’s too late! If after you give this opportunity and knowledge they still have an issue, you can feel much better knowing how to proceed.

There are many free plagiarism checkers, and they work similarly. My technology coach and I have searched so many free plagiarism checkers, and we’ve determined QueText to be best for our needs. If you have any other suggestions, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

7. Digital Grading

After you’ve done ALL of this work to prevent students from printing mounds of paper, do not print their papers for grading! Resist! You can provide rich, meaningful feedback digitally and save time and trees in the process. You can teach the research process from start (Discovery Day) to finish (grading) without printing a single paper! Of course, you can use the comments and editing guide like the peer review format, but I have many digital paper grading hacks that I can’t wait to share in my next post. Check back for that post!

From topic discovery to grading, going digital when you teach the research process is the way to go! In this blog post, learn how to teach the research process from start, topic discovery, to finish, grading, all with digital tools.

 

How to Create Excitement When You Introduce Choice Reading

Featured, Reading

Snapchat is ultra-popular with students, so I knew anything that made the app’s influence educationally appropriate and meaningful would be a hit. This led me to create my new favorite resource: Book Snaps!

 

Book Snapchats are a great way to engage students in a deeper understanding of any work! They can be used to introduce options for choice reading, or students can create their own as an enrichment analysis activity. They also make fun classroom decor. Use the free template to create your own!

Book Snaps are an interactive and engaging activity for ANY book! The Book Snap is comprised of a snap (a picture) that represents the work and a caption (a quotation from the work). They are perfect for introducing a snapshot of a book during a choice reading unit, like The Critical Thinker’s Novel Study, or an enrichment activity to engage students in higher-order analysis. As a bonus, they look beautiful printed and displayed around the room for trendy and meaningful classroom decor. Keep reading for my free template so you and your students can make your own.

Introducing Book Options

To introduce the book options for our choice reading unit, I used my own clever Book Snaps. They were perfect to give students a snapshot of the book without judging it by its cover.

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I wrapped each book in black paper, like a gift, and created a Book Snap for each book (more on that below). Once I had my Book Snaps ready to go, I taped them to the corresponding wrapped books and placed each book with a group of desks. (I also added a short summary of the work to accompany the Book Snap.)

Book Snapchats are a great way to engage students in a deeper understanding of any work! They can be used to introduce options for choice reading, or students can create their own as an enrichment analysis activity. They also make fun classroom decor. Use the free template to create your own!

Students moved around the classroom to each station to learn about the books and pick their favorite option.

Enrichment Activity

These Book Snaps also make a great activity for students as an additional analysis for your choice reading assignment or any reading assignment. You can download the template here:

Ask students to find a picture that represents a “snap” of the book and a corresponding quotation for that picture. I advise students to use Open Educational Resources (OERs), so that they are only using images with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which means they are completely free to use without attribution. Unsplash and Pexels are our favorite OERs for this project. They should add emojis and hashtags that would enhance that Book Snap. The beauty of this activity is that even if you’re doing a whole class novel, you are certain to have MANY different Book Snaps.

Below is a demonstration for how to create a Book Snap. You can show your students for a quick tutorial.

Once they’re completed, I ask students to present an explanation for their Book Snaps to the class. I ask them to tell us what they did and why. My AP Literature students create Book Snaps as a review for the Open-Ended Free Response Question on the AP exam. They work really well for this review because the visuals and quotations make them particularly memorable. Maybe they’ll even remember that Book Snap quotation to impress the AP readers!

Don’t forget to display your Book Snaps around the room. I love how they look on cardstock or photo paper.

Check out the first post in this choice reading series, “How to Engage Your Readers With Choice Reading: The Set Up,” here.

Happy Snappin’!

How To Wow Your Students with QR Code Word Walls

Featured, Test Prep
Download your free cellphone clip art template and follow the step-by-step directions to bring your word walls to life with this interactive QR Code Word Wall activity!

I’ve tried so many ways to teach literary terms. I’m up for anything that doesn’t involve me standing in front of the room dictating the definitions to a room of unengaged students. Some of the ideas worked and others not so much. Thankfully, we finally found a winner! Our QR Code Word Wall is a definite keeper!

Here’s why:

  • It’s versatile. Word walls, in general, build familiarity with important words. Weekly vocabulary words, SAT prep vocab, and literary terms are just a few of the many content-driven applications.
  • It’s collaborative. Students are a part of the word wall creation, so they take ownership of the words.
  • It’s fun. We set up a “filming corner,” and they go to work adding their own flair. Because each QR Code corresponds to a video of an explanation of the word by one of my students, they find it fun to watch the videos of their classmates. I like it because it’s a great way to infuse multiple voices into the classroom aside from the teacher.
  • It’s decorative. They look great! It can be a bit challenging to spice up the classroom in older grades yet maintain a more sophisticated look. We love the way our word wall looks!
  • It’s effective. The wall can be added to throughout the year, and we can reference it whenever we need to. I also noticed that students associated each word with the person who explained the term, and therefore, they were able to retain the information longer and more accurately.
  • It’s easy. Keep reading and I’ll show you how!

Steps:

1) First decide on your list. I created simple black and white printouts using cardstock. For my example, we used challenging AP literary terms. I love that my students can be involved in creating the list. My students use this TALK guide to annotate their texts. The “K” stands for “Key in” and asks them to key in on important literary terms. We use this guide to find and reiterate our literary terms. I also like involving students on the selection of our words. I use Bookmark Vocabulary for student-led contextual vocabulary study.

2) Give each student a word and give them this assignment:

  • Be able to pronounce your word correctly. They can look the word up on dictionary.com or YouTube for the pronunciation.
  • Be able to tell me the definition.
  • Be able to give me an example.

I gave this short assignment as homework. I also didn’t reveal what we were doing with it until the next day…sneak attack!

3) Set up a filming space. I used an old roll of dark blue wrapping paper for our backdrop. I simply taped it to the wall, and set up my podium across it to hold our iPad. I used my school-issued iPad for the taping, but you could also use a SmartPhone.
A post shared by Dr. Jenna Copper (@doc_cop) on

Follow me on Instagram @doc_cop for more teaching tidbits.

4) Film the students. I sent my students out in the hall in groups of three to do their own filming. We easily got through 16 students in one 40-minute class period. The rest of the class was working on another assignment.

5) If you don’t have it on your device already, download Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or another cloud. Save all of your videos to that cloud.

6) Access the videos from your cloud on your computer and copy the shareable link.

Download your free cellphone clip art template and follow the step-by-step directions to bring your word walls to life with this engaging, interactive activity!

I like to use Google Drive because our school issues Google email addresses to the students. This makes it possible for the links to only be viewable to members of our district.

7) Next, paste each shared URL into a QR Code generator, and save the QR code. There are so many options, but I like this one.

8) I made colorful cell phone clip art to display our QR codes with their matching words. You can get template free below.

9) I found some packaging tape, and I taped these terms on three different spots around my room.

10) As the culminating activity, my students walked around the room with their cell phones or one of our school-issued iPads and scanned the QR codes. They recorded the definitions and examples in their notes.

My students really loved creating this word wall, and they asked if we could continue to add words throughout the year.  When you hear a high schooler say, “This is so cool!” you know it’s a keeper!

Download your free cellphone clip art template and follow the step-by-step directions to bring your word walls to life with this engaging, interactive activity!

Panel Discussions: Make Your Students the Experts in Five Simple Steps

Discussion, Featured
Panel discussions are a great activity to engage students in critical reading. Download your free resources to use panel discussions in your classroom.

One Friday night in the early fall, I was watching Real-Time with Bill Maher, a political show that brings together people from all political views to discuss topics of the day in a panel format. Because my teacher-brain is always on the go, I had a vision of my classroom with my students as the expert panelists and the quick-fingered audience “Tweeters.” (You know, a classroom discussion euphoria of sorts…) After some contemplation and tinkering, my vision became a reality, and it has quickly become a class favorite discussion technique. The students like that they can express their opinions in several formats and how easy and fun it is to discuss with the guided open-question format.

Panel discussions are a great way to engage students in meaningful classroom discussion. Get your free complete resource to run your own panel discussion!

Here’s what I love about it:

1) All students are engaged because they all get a chance to be on the panel. When they’re in the audience, they participate in a digital or print version of a “Twitter” chat, just like a real audience does. The panel only has four or five members, so the panel gets plenty of opportunities to discuss; once they’ve contributed to the discussion several times (you can determine the number), the students rotate, so new panel members come in and out.

2) My role, as the teacher, can be as big or as little as I want. I can be the moderator of the discussion, or I can hand that role over to a student.

3) The discussion is guided by the moderator, so the nature of the discussion is targeted, on-level for the grade/ability level, and content-focused.

4) It is so easy to set up.

To save even more time, you can download my participation tracker, rubric, nameplates/note page, and 20 discussion-starter questions by signing up for my newsletter:

Step 1:

Begin by making copies of the rubric, participation tracker, participation tracker number line, and name plate/notes. Each student needs one copy of each.

Step 2:

Then, decide on the number of students you want on the panel. Four or five students is a good number for my class. Less than four students makes it hard to generate discussion; More than five students makes it challenging to give everyone an equal turn.

Step 3:

Compile a list of topics for discussion. I like to use topics that focus on a central theme or concept for the work as a whole. For example, when I teach Macbeth, my topics are sleep, guilt, the role of women, revenge, the struggle for power, and supernatural elements. I give each student a topic or two and instruct them to become an expert on those topics. At this point, students should fill out their nameplate with their name and expertise (their topics). Additionally, they may take notes on their topics on the back of the nameplate. This makes it easy for them to view their notes as the nameplate will follow them during the discussion.

I also like to give them my Literary Theory Checklist, so they can think about what literary theories apply to the given work. It gives them multiple perspectives to bring to the panel. You can check it out here.

Panel discussions are a great way to engage students in meaningful classroom discussion. Get your free complete resource to run your own panel discussion!

Step 4:

To prepare for your end as the teacher/moderator, print the example questions included and/or create your own. I use “cue cards” to help keep me organized. After practice, you may decide to have a student moderate the discussion.

Step 5:

Panel discussions are a great way to engage students in meaningful classroom discussion. Get your free complete resource to run your own panel discussion!

On the day of the panel discussion, put together a group of four or five desks for your panel and another desk facing the panel for the moderator. The “audience” should be seated in front of the panel. Give each student a participation card to keep track of his/her meaningful contributions to the discussion.

Assign the audience a silent discussion. Either, they can work in pairs to comment on the panel discussion by passing a piece of paper back and forth, or you can create a backchannel chat for students if they have access to the internet. My favorite backchannel chat is Today’s Meet. Once a student has met the criteria for his/her contributions to the discussion, he/she should change places with a student in the audience. Continue this process until each student has had a chance to participate on the panel.


A photo posted by Dr. Jenna Copper (@doc_cop) on
 
Here’s an example of Today’s Meet that I posted on my Instagram account after our panel discussion on King Lear. Follow me on Instagram @doc_cop for more teaching tidbits. 
 

I hope you and your students enjoy this panel discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Panel discussions are a great way to engage students in meaningful classroom discussion. Get your free complete resource to run your own panel discussion!