Finish the Year Strong By Analyzing Student Writing

Setting aside time to discuss student writing can be hugely informative...and a lot of fun!

Setting aside time to discuss student writing can be hugely informative…and a lot of fun!

Every May, I find myself in need of a kickstart….a little shot of something to help me finish the school year strong and to carry the momentum of the mistakes I’ve made and the successes I’ve had into the fall.  Finally, after over a decade of working in schools, I’ve figured out what that kickstart needs to be or least what it should involve.

It needs to involve collaboration, reflection, and a changes in practice that are both quick wins that will affect students before school lets out in June and long term understandings that will affect students to come.  Analyzing student work with a really smart group of peers is the perfect combination of all those things.

And since none of us wants to reinvent the wheel (especially in May) here’s everything you need to know to replicate my favorite student work analysis protocol.  While I most recently used this protocol with network 9th and 10th grade history teachers to look at common DBQ essays, the beauty of it is that with a few tweaks it can be used across grade levels and disciplines. Read more

Supporting Student Writing: 3 Lessons Learned Through Collaboration

Social Studies teachers met for DBQ Day in February.

Social Studies teachers met for DBQ Day in February.

It’s a truly satisfying feeling when you start to see months of hard work and collaboration paying off. It may be the student you tutored for hours after school who raised her grade. It might be the Sunday night spent tuning a lesson plan that leads to an engaging learning experience on Monday. Recently, the first set of DBQ Days with AUSL history teachers revealed notable improvements in our students’ essays as well as three key reasons we can look to for these gains. Read more

Elements of Thinking: How Do Your Students Think?

homerHow do your students think?

Time after time, evidence from international examinations such as PISA suggest American students are falling behind globally in their ability to problem solve, work in groups or think critically.

But when we think about our jobs as teachers, is that what first comes to mind?  You probably find yourself asking, do I have a lesson plan, an exit ticket, extra copies, backup pencils, discipline referral forms, an up-to-date makeup work folder and so on. Asking those questions on a daily basis allows us to survive and live to fight another day. Read more

Starting with Engagement: 3 Ideas to Grab Students’ Attention

Activating learning. Isn’t that what a Do Now does?

112514-ssblogSure, but sometimes we get so caught up in the classroom management aspect of a Do Now that once we’ve ensured that students are settled quietly in their seats as close to the final brrring of the bell as possible (while seamlessly taking attendance), we move on too quickly to the next thing on our instructional to-do list.

Why then spend a few more minutes to firing up students’ brains and maybe even getting them excited about approaching new material?  According to Research for Better Teaching, activating students’ current knowledge and thinking prior to instruction… Read more

College Readiness Power Standards and DBQ: A Planning Toolkit

Students will understand the dynamics between people, ideas, and so on in more challenging passages.

Can you think of a teacher (especially a history teacher) out there who’s not interested in having students who can to derive so much from reading non-fiction?

The above standard is one of the reasons why it’s so easy to be a cheerleader for ACT’s College Readiness Standards.  Yet embracing a College Readiness Standard is just the beginning. The real challenge (and fun!) arrives in planning engaging instruction to guide students in making these strong connections as they read non-fiction. This week, I allow me to share several ideas to help you plan your instruction guided by the College Readiness Power Standards. Read more

Join the Theme Team: Making DBQ Work in Middle School

lucassmithFor me, DBQ has been the best way for me to blend my reading and writing instruction.  In the past, I was never really very good with my writing instruction, but after learning and using DBQ I felt like the students began writing about what they read in a very natural way.  It made the “instruction” part of the lessons very easy and seamless and my students didn’t even realize they were in “writing class.”  In fact, having a separate reading/writing class disappeared all together and it became a fully integrated “Literacy” class.

I appreciate the structure of DBQ: short texts that speak to a larger essential question which are followed by comprehension questions that connect the texts to that essential question. When I couple this structure with Think-Write-Pair-Share, the writing component felt so organic for them and their ability to express their “academic thoughts” became simple.

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5 Planning Tips to Ensure an Engaging DBQ Experience

Editor’s Note:  This week’s blog comes to us from Laura Bean, history teacher at Phillips Academy High School and member of the Network History Team.

Our blogger Laura Bean in action at Phillips Academy High School

Our blogger Laura Bean in action at Phillips Academy High School

Quarter three is coming to an end. Are you ready for our 4th quarter common world studies DBQ? If you’re anything like me, you’re up to your eyeballs in grading and not even close to wanting to think about whether the Reformation or Exploration was the most important consequence of the printing press.

Fear not! We’re here to get you started down the path of making this DBQ meaningful before our Q4 DBQ Day.  In fact, even if you’re not teaching the world studies DBQ, the tips below might spark some great planning ideas.

The Printing Press DBQ – what’s it all about?

This DBQ is all about comparing and evaluating the effects of innovation. Students must first be able to describe how the invention of the printing press shaped the Reformation and Exploration and then compare and evaluate their effects.

Below are our top five tips for teaching this DBQ, based on our AUSL Historical Reading and Writing Framework.

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DBQ….Not Just Another Acronym

So much has been written about the Common Core lately and yet, I find myself constantly returning to the article Three Core Shifts to Deliver on the Promise of the Common Core State Standards in Literacy and Math over and over again. And it’s not just because it was written by….drumroll please….the authors of the CCSS. Instead, it’s because as the authors state, these “core shifts in literacy and math, deeply grounded in the Standards themselves, offer a way to focus implementation on the few things that have the most significant return for students”.

I also really like this article because those “few things” that can have a huge impact in pushing student achievement all align really well with the work so many teachers in our network have been doing with The DBQ Project.

So what exactly is a DBQ and why does it align so well with the 3 Common Core Instructional Shifts?

To start with, it’s probably helpful to know that DBQ stands for Document Based Question. It comes to us from AP history exams, where students are provided with upwards of 15 primary and secondary sources and asked to write an argument-based essay in 45 minutes.

Now for the alignment piece: Instructional Shift #1 is all about building knowledge through content rich nonfiction. If you’ve ever seen an actual AP DBQ question, you’ll notice that each document whether it be a copy of a democratic ballot from 1823 or a Davie Crockett excerpt is rich in content.

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AUSL’s Very Own Historical Reading and Writing Framework

There’s a website for that…..
Remember Apple’s catchy phrase, “there’s an app for that”?

Apparently, I remember it all too well, as the phrase “we have a website for that” seems to come out of my mouth over and over again (please don’t come after me for some sort of trademark infringement, Apple).

While not nearly as fancy or glossy as an Apple commercial, I’m hoping that the marketing we’ve done for the AUSL Historical Reading & Writing Framework will be just as effective. And by marketing I mean a brilliant combination of answering any strategy or resource question with a “we have a website for that” and providing teachers with the time to actually plan using the framework.

So what exactly is this magical framework’s website and where did it come from?
Over the course of two years of working with AUSL teachers and Chip Brady and Phil Roden, founders of the DBQ Project, we had two really big takeaways:

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