Question Detail

Hi teachers, I'm currently really struggling with helping my students make *meaning* from the things we do in class. I've been using Sarah Brown Wessing's paint bucket standards (CCSS that are "skinnied" to be more accessible and understandable), but I feel like there's still a disconnect with my students. Even when I go over the objectives and standards for the day, there's a passivity to it that lends itself to forgetting. When that happens, the meaning is lost! I've thought about having them write the objective at the top of their assignment and then having them answer at the end of the day how we addressed it-- What do you guys do? Any ideas? Thanks!

Feb 19, 2017 7:31pm

  • English Language Arts
  • 9-12
  • Assessment / Common Core


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    • Mar 7, 2017 9:40am

      Aly, I've always felt that clear objectives are only part of the battle...the most important prerequisite to establish is that there is a clear and meaningful PURPOSE behind these learning objectives. The very first thought in any student or listener's mind is "Why is this person telling me this? Why or how is this important to me personally?" Powerful lessons tap into students' background knowledge, interests, personal capital, emotional intelligence, etc. I was recently coaching a pair of high school level social studies co-teachers who were struggling to get students to understand and recall the facts around the bubonic plague. The only things they seem to recall were the awful symptoms of the disease and that it had something to do with rats. I encouraged the teachers to reframe the lesson. Have students choose a current virus-born disease that interests them from a short list that affects our contemporary society: HIV, Zika, Ebola, etc. (all diseases they may have actually heard of OR even had family affected by). Then in small groups provide them with something to read like an National Public Radio or Newsela article (which provide audio or adjustable reading levels as needed for student readiness levels). Groups answer similar questions (symptoms, cause, research toward cures, challenges and stigmas associated, etc.). The whole class then shares out, compares and contrasts information and THEN goes back and reads/studies/compares to the historic bubonic plague. This way they connect their interest in one disease to those of others, contemporary and historic. If you want them to unpack a challenging level of text in addition to understanding the content ideas, make sure you provide and model an overt, easy to use reading strategy for pulling out meaning. In my book effective motivation=making sure there is something meaningful in it for the students and also providing them with a means/strategy for being successful learners. Hope this helps.