So why aren’t your students publishing their own books? Part II

ABCs Human Body
ABCs Human Body

It’s been nearly a year since I first raised that question. In case you haven’t heard – print on demand technology has made it possible to produce beautiful hard cover and paperback books without minimum runs or prohibitive upfront costs. During the last year, I have helped teachers from across the country get started on digital publishing. Kids are motivated by producing books for an authentic audience. Publishing helps students master course content and develop project management and teamwork skills. The power of publishing enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. It exemplifies the best of the information revolution –students as creators of content rather than as passive audience.

I find that a publishing project is a great way to ensure that my training workshops get put to use back in the classroom and result in teachers having the chance to reflect on their practice by looking at student work.

I continue to add material my website – Read>Think>Write>Publish. Go there and you’ll find downloadable template books and tech guides. I also have posted sample student books that you can use as models to motivate your students. You can download them as a free pdf or order them published at cost.

Stay tuned – student publishing is going to be big!

Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom: Part II

Teachers responded well to my tri-fold guide for struggling readers: Non-Reader, Word Caller and Turned-Off Reader. See: Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom, Part I

To help teachers incorporate literacy strategies in their classrooms, Pat Martin and I went on to develop a series of targeted kits for critical skill development: Tools for the Word Caller (440kb pdf) and Tools for the Turned-Off Reader (460kb pdf). Each kit features eleven tools gathered from research-based practice. The kits feature a guide for the teacher with suggestions on how they can modify each strategy to support even more rigorous and relevant instruction. A reproducible student organizer gives scaffolded responsibility for learning to the student. Students are invited to make each skill part of their reader’s toolbox and reflect on how it improves their comprehension. I’ll be using the kits at teacher’s workshops this month to get feedback from the field. If you use one, let me know how it went. For more resources see my website: Content Reading Strategies that Work

What did Europeans see when they looked at the New World and the Native Americans?

beavers-build-a-dam-herman-moll-1732
Beavers Build a Dam ~ Herman Moll 1732 – click to enlarge

This lesson improves content reading comprehension and critical thinking skills with an engaging array of source documents – including journal entries, letters, maps, and illustrations. It examines European views of Native American and the New World in the Age of Exploration. While it is a rather one-sided account, the documents also reveal a great deal about the cultural “lenses” that the Europeans “looked though.”I developed this lesson to assist high school history teachers working with struggling readers. I wanted to show them how they could scaffold learning so that all students could participate in doing the work of historians. I built the lesson around a theme which was central to their curriculum. It was designed as an essential question that would engage students in reflection about how they allowed prejudice to color their perceptions. I selected images which could be “decoded” by students with a minimum of background knowledge.

The source material contains twenty-five documents in text and image formats. I modernized historic accounts at two reading levels – 5th and 8th grade. Each contains the same twenty five documents.  A series of six exercises accompanies the lesson to guide students through the process of extracting information from the documents and constructing their own answers to the essential question. Link to Lesson


Image credit: Library of Congress gm71005441

A new and exact map of the dominions of the King of Great Britain on ye continent of North America, containing Newfoundland, New Scotland, New England, New York, New Jersey, Pensilvania, Maryland, Virginia and Carolina. Herman Moll 1732.

Mock Trials in the Classroom

Knox County Courthouse (Nebraska) courtroomI’ve found that mock trials embody critical thinking in the classroom. I wrote a number of cases which proved to be effective tools for improving student analytic skills. I developed fictional yet, realistic fact patterns which provide ample “fodder” for solid direct and cross examinations. They needed to be built around compelling social issues that transcended the evidence and put people’s values to the test. I used these trials in completely homogenous classrooms. Ironically in this setting, students who had formerly been considered “at-risk,” often outperformed their “AP peers.”

Students prepared their roles and questioning as attorney or witness from the fact patterns.  Cases were argued before real judges and juries made up of adults from the community. After they reached a verdict, the juries returned to the classroom to debrief the students on their interpretation of the evidence and presentation of the cases. Years later, former students I encounter still fondly remember the excitement and accomplishment they felt as part of the trial. Link to Trials

Judging from my webstats and emails, these trials continue to be used in classrooms across the globe. My favorite email:

“Dear Mr Pappas,
You asked on your site for people to let you know how the trials turned out, so here I am! I am teaching English as a foreign language here in China, and needed something a bit different for a conversation class. Nothing I was coming up with was working, when my Director of Studies (who is American) pointed me in the direction of Mock Trials, which I confess to never having heard of. I admit to being skeptical, but gave it a bash with the Donna Osborn case, and as the judge ended up going in favour of the prosecution due to the way they argued – which goes against everything I thought about it! Today I am trying the rape case, so wish me luck. Basically, I wanted to say thanks, you helped a lot, and also gave me a whole new thing to think about in terms of lesson plans for the future.”

More frequently, I get late night emails from anxious students looking for advice on their closing arguments.

“Hi my name is … and I am in a Law 12 class in Prince George, British Columbia. I am the head of the crown prosecution for our mock trial.  I was just wondering if I could get a few tips from you on what would be a good closing statement.  I have brought up the points that
… The main point I have brought up is that under the Criminal Code of Canada …  What would you recommend for a good closing statement?”

Or

“hey there, im a student and in law class we were doing the Brian Edwards case and i was on the crown…im wondering if you have any tips for me? Like pretty much any tips at all would help, we had our case basically won when we started but we werent as organized as I thought and i noticed the case on the internet…I guess we are done our case now but any tips or help for the closing statement would help alot because the closing statement is our only chance pretty much to try to prove he is guilty, we ended up running out of time so yeah! any tips on anything we could use for the closing statement? “

The flow of information in the Copy/ Paste World has moved from a top-down broadcast model – to a horizontal connection that is both personal and collaborative. It allows you to your own researcher, editor, and entertainment director. And it creates new digital communities – linking you to the people who share your interests.

Image credit Wikipedia Commons / Knox County Courthouse (Nebraska) courtroom

 

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