It’s sweater and boots weather, crisp cool air in the morning, and the glorious smell of freshly sharpened Ticonderogas throughout the day. Ahhh…back to school time, YES!
In the theme of beginning a new year, I am continuing to work on employing TDQs while also reaching a new group of students. I have been away from the 10th grade age group for a few years but this year I have two sections of 10th English in addition to the upper level Advanced Placement courses I also teach. 10th graders are of that age where everything is a challenge and they are so skeptical of any answer you give, but I love how they keep you honest and on your toes: Why do we need to read this anyway? Can I just read my own book on my phone, I promise I’m reading? When are we going to write? Why do I have to write about that; it’s better when I just write about what I want?
They can sense a potential “teacher-ese response” a mile away and won’t let you off the hook with a stock answer. With a deftly performed eyeroll and a stare down that rivals Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, they will wait…and wait, for an actual answer. An answer with: a credible claim, relevant evidence drawn from reliable sources that they can relate to, and a wielding of language that appeals to their logic and emotion. They want to feel like they can trust you, like you know where they’re standing because you’ve been there too. Oh, those crafty kids!
We are beginning our year with a short fiction unit. And I’ve of course already heard those questions. However, the Text Dependent Question (TDQ) approach of Fisher and Frey has really helped streamline our text explorations and the stimulate more productive discussions. I feel like it has also helped answer some of those questions. We are able to talk about our thinking processes and how we are noticing different details each time we look at a text. This observation alone is one I can help them see is an important skill to practice as it works in a lot of different situations and is a skill they can carry out of our room and into other areas of their lives.
I’ve also done more student collaboration while reading and tackling texts than I would have at the beginning of other years and it has made a noticeable difference in the depth of observations and conversations with the texts. Many students have commented that they like being able to work through it together in small groups rather than with the whole class or on their own. I am also hearing a lot of voices in those small groups that don’t readily volunteer during whole class time and those voices are also being heard by others who aren’t always actively listening in a larger setting. Again, tackling Common Core Speaking and Listening standards, making it relevant by deliberately calling attention to the process, and also meeting those literature standards.
Currently in our unit, we are building toward that argumentative writing standard (CCSS W.9-10.1a-e) as well as being able to transfer their reading of literature to the arena of selecting appropriate evidence for the claim they are constructing around their reflection on or analysis of a work of literature (CCSS W.9-10.9a). In small group and whole group discussions, they are doing well supporting their statements with evidence. There is prompting needed, a follow-up question or direct request for evidence. I’m looking forward to their first written products, and am preparing my answers for what I know will be a rush of keeping-me-on-my-toes questions. But, so far we are thinking deeply, and (hopefully) making learning relevant.
Are you off to a good start?