My school has been revamping our curriculum over the last couple of years, and this year we are really implementing it completely for the first time. Currently, I'm teaching informational writing along with To Kill a Mockingbird and Civil Rights. I LOVE this unit, but I have a secret for you. I've been teaching informational writing for 3 WHOLE MONTHS. And they still don't get it.
My students have the hardest time explaining and elaborating in writing. Like SUCH A HARD TIME. I had a pretty frank conversation with my students early last week and said, listen, I'm not mad. But I'm basically out of options. I feel like I'm failing you because you aren't doing what you should be doing. I need you guys to take responsibility for your own education here and TELL ME what you need or want me to do. I'll do anything to help you. And they were really really receptive, mature and helpful. They gave me some great ideas to help them (and also felt bad because they don't want me thinking I'm a bad teacher. They're sweet.) But I think we're finally making headway and I want to share with you what I've done.
If you don't know, I teach 8th grade. This is the first year that students REALLY focus on and are expected to write any text dependent analysis. This is tough stuff! But my most recent lesson definitely helped and I'm excited to see where kids take their writing with this.
Every student got a graphic organizer from me and used sticky notes. It looks like this:
Then together, we broke down their most recent formative assessment question, which was:
How does racism play a role in To Kill a Mockingbird through part 1?
Step 1: We determined HOW we know that this is an analysis question. They were able to identify this relatively easily:
a. It isn't a yes or no question.
b. You can't answer with a summary of the text.
c. It asks "how", which is a "show what you know" question
d. It's asking about an extended piece of the text.
EXCELLENT. They nailed it.
Step 2: Since it's an analysis question, we need to break down the question and figure out what else we should include in our answer to make sure we are digging deep enough and answering to the best of our ability.
In their previous writings, the students were often giving me summaries instead of analysis. Our main focus is HOW and WHY are the characters or story impacted? That makes for literary analysis. They also need to focus on their prior knowledge to help support their answer. It makes for a stronger analysis AND makes them seem more credible to their reader.
Ok. We did it. They did it. Excellent work.
Step 3: Fill in our sticky notes. We did this together as a class. They gave me a piece of evidence (which they already had in their formative) and then we focused on EXPLAINING AND ELABORATING, the area that they lack in the most.
I kept asking them "WHY?". This is what most of my exchanges looked like with my classes:
Them: "Maycomb gave Atticus grief for defending a black man."
Them: Because it wasn't ok.
Me: Why wasn't it ok?
Them: Because of racism.
Me: But Atticus is white - he doesn't face racism.
Them: No...but he was defending a black man.
Me: Ok, so?
Them: But he was trying to save Tom Robinson.
Me: Ok, so?
Me: Based on the social norms, what do we know about a white man standing up for a black man?
Them: It shows that Atticus sees Tom as his equal and this wasn't ok.
Me (jumping around): YES! (WAVES ARMS AROUND WHILE PREGNANT) THAT'S RIGHT THIS IS ANALYSIS GREAT JOB YOU DID IT YAYYYYYY
And I kind of freaked them out. But it was great.
It was a collective "a HA" moment! TEACHER WIN!
Step 4: Rewrite your formative, fixing what you didn't include.
Luckily, my students have bought into my obsession with graphic organizers and it helps them a lot.
After this lesson, my students were really excited to do their next formative. They really looked at me and said, "Is it really that easy?"
Yes, my sweet little friends. It really is. I believe you can do it!
I've also had a lot of people ask me for all of my resources on teaching text dependent analysis, so I made a little mini bundle that's posted in my TpT store.
This bundle is geared towards secondary students, but is appropriate for ANY subject. I know that my team teachers see the same struggles I do, and they use all of my graphic organizers in their other classes as well. We try hard to make them use their skills in all of their classes.
I mean - they don't think we talk to each other and don't think I'll find out if their writing isn't up to my standard in another class. But ya know, teenagers.
I'll keep you posted. Because if THIS doesn't work, I'm out of ideas. HAHAHAHA.
How do you teach text dependent analysis? Let me know in the comments below!
Have a great week, friends!