One guest speaker that always ends up being the highlight of my students’ year is when my friend Jed Aldridge visits my classroom. Jed is a former fire chief, a professional interview coach, a member of the city council in my town, and one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Jed has been the sponsor for the resume and cover letter for my 10th graders over the past six years. At the beginning of my resume and cover letter unit, Jed spends a day teaching my students about the life skills they need to be successful in the job market. Even though I have heard his lecture enough times I could lip sync to it, every year I gain a nugget of wisdom. Last year’s takeaway is a Jed maxim that is now prominently displayed in the front of my classroom – #SlowDown2SpeedUp.
I interpret #SlowDown2SpeedUp to mean if you take the time to do something well in the beginning, it will save you time later in the end. This has been my mantra implementing a LDC module to my students.
In a previous post, I discussed how I felt like Wreck-It Ralph developing a LDC module for my sophomores. The instructor at the LDC training kept repeating “trust the structure of the module.” In implementing the module, I have tried my best to follow the steps I laid out originally. But, I keep thinking of what Dwight Eisenhower said the night before the D-Day Invasion, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” In planning an invasion as massive as D-Day the allies had to anticipate every possible scenario. They could have planned all they wanted to, but plans are destined to fail. It was the planning for the possibility of failure that made the invasion a success. I keep wondering, how could I trust my planning if I have never taught this unit before?
The focus of my LDC module is a unit centered on the theme of heroism. While the theme of heroism ties the texts together, my goal for the unit is to teach my students to effectively annotate a text.
Having taught both core and AP students, I have found there is a large gap between each groups’ understanding of annotation. Honors/AP students have been annotating since they were in middle school. My core students, on the other hand, have no concept what annotation means, let alone how to do it. Most of my core students version of annotation is skimming a text looking for the answers to simple comprehension questions found in their textbook.
One of my members of my PLC developed a pre-test based upon editorials he found on Newsela. I gave my students the same pre-test as a pre-assessment of their reading skills. I told them they could make any notes they wanted on the reading passages. Of my eighty-two sophomores, only three underlined a single phrase.
To help my students in their trial-by-fire learning of annotation, I developed an annotation strategy that could be used for both fiction and non-fiction texts I called SOAPTEA. I planned annotation implementation in three stages: Stage 1 – we annotate as a class. Stage 2 – Students annotate in groups. Stage 3 – Students will annotate individually.
While teaching this process I was quickly reminded that lesson plans are only plans until they are taught. Students are human beings. Learning is organic and messy. I needed to #SlowDown2SpeedUp
During Stage 1, my students struggled annotating using all the steps of SOAPTEA. So, I tweaked my lessons having them just look for SOAP in a story. Once my students understood how to do this, I created a separate worksheet on TEA. This helped them identify meaningful quotes that tied to the theme and purpose of a text. In addition, I modeled for them how to annotate using the online textbook. Many of my students have commented they never realized reading requires this much effort.
Now, we are at Stage 2. I created roles for each student in their groups. Based upon my observations, they have been working effectively. (The group conversations mainly have focused on the texts, not what they did over the weekend). However, I realized decoding new vocabulary has been a struggle for many of them. Now, SOAPTEA has transformed into SOAPTEA-V.
Even my choice of texts has led to new challenges. Last week we read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” Most of my students had difficult comprehending it; SOAPTEA-V wasn’t helping. One of my students raised his hand and said “We need to #SlowDown2SpeedUp.” We did. I showed them the short film 2081 based upon the short story. Seeing the text visually helped them comprehend the story in order for them to complete their SOAPTEA-V.
Next, we will be moving onto Stage 3. Originally, I planned on having them make an infographic on different types of heroism. But, I realized I really needed to assess their annotations and how well the annotations are helping them comprehend a text. Instead, they will choose one story we have discussed in class and turn in their annotations. They will turn in one SOAPTEA-V in the middle of the unit as a formative assignment. Then, they will turn in another SOAPTEA-V as a summative assignment. This allows me to give them feedback on their formative work, but still hold them accountable in a summative assignment at the end of the unit.
Last week, I asked my students to do two things to help me, help them. First, they made SMART goals based upon their results on the pre-test. Then, they completed an exit task evaluating their successes and struggles using SOAPTEA-V while they read.
One student commented: “SOAPTEA-V helps me #SlowDown2SpeedUp when I read. But, on the other hand, if it still doesn’t help, I need to tell Mr. Sun-K to #SlowDown2SpeedUp. What he plans we’re doing in class doesn’t always go as planned.”
I couldn’t have put it any better myself.