My husband and I recently bought a home and have been wrapped up in all of the work involved with moving into and making ours a new (to us) home. A new home, like some professional development, comes with those quirky surprises that result when you try to make what was someone else’s yours. There is the mystery switch we can’t figure out; the odd little closet door in the corner that leads to a storage space designed for itty bitty people. One size fits all is never an accurate descriptor. Painting, polishing, adjusting, revising: we find a way to make what fits “most” work for what fits us.
As I gear up for planning the new school year, I am reflecting on how to polish and adjust two tools from my professional development into something that fits for me. One is newer and the other is a tried and true friend. I started with the newer this summer when I revisited Fisher and Frey’s Text Dependent Questions: Grades 6-12 during an online collaborative reading and discussion group (see Lindsey Steven’s post on this process). It was my second read of the book, and I enjoyed seeing it through other people’s eyes and how they saw this process fitting into their classrooms and working for their students. I found in reflecting on the text this time that I hadn’t taken complete ownership of the ideas and made them into something that works for me.
The approach to a text during a close reading activity laid out by Fisher and Frey really clicked with me. They break down the path for exploration of the text into: What does the text say? How does the text work? What does the text mean? What does the text inspire you to do? Students during this process would be collaborating and returning to the text in order to explore the text-dependent questions (TDQs) developed by the teacher. The process goes beyond just getting the correct answer and instead branches into building the collaborative, critical thinking so important for tackling complex texts.
Perhaps most enlightening of all were the sections for each stage that make the connections to the ELA- CCSS for grades 6-12. Not only am I able to see the progression of skill, but I am able to revise and build my modules and mini-tasks in a more targeted manner to ensure that I am addressing the standards I want the students to master at that time. I’m inspired to work with their ideas to improve and polish what I have going with my LDC modules.
That is the other piece I want to meld more deliberately with the TDQ concepts: my old friend, the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC). I have been using LDC modules and mini-tasks for several years now and they are an excellent way to use academic language in what we are asking students to do in order to transfer their learning to a different medium. Many times, colleagues and others assume that LDC tasks stems are all about writing essays as the end product. However, the products to be inserted into the stems are open-ended. They can be anything from a brochure to a presentation to prep for a debate or Socratic seminar.
For example, in studying point of view, I might use a prompt like this with students:
“How does point of view in short fiction shape our understanding of the the author’s purpose? After reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Hills Like White Elephants,” write a set of discussion questions in which you ask the listener to examine the author’s development of point of view in each story and explain the effect of the author’s craft on conveying the theme. Your questions should be based on evidence support from the text.” [CCSS RL. 1, 3, 5; CCSS SL.1&4]
I have tweaked the wording of the LDC stem a bit to work for a different product than an essay. Ideally, the outcome would be a range of questions students have developed for use in discussion that would move through the levels of how the text works and what the text means. Students, having done close readings of both texts and having extensive (hopefully) notes to draw on, would be prepared to discuss, during class, a range of questions developed by their classmates. It needs some revising and polishing but I’ve been inspired to take these two concepts and work on making them fit for me. I see potential in building choices and differentiation into my instruction using these tools, just need to keep at it!
So back to painting and polishing. Still not sure what that mystery switch does but my youngest daughter has found that the closet for itty bitty people is the perfect amount of space to fit her, a book, a blanket, and occasionally one of the dogs.