Teaching Analogies: Overview, Ideas & Resources

 

What is an analogy?

An analogy is a comparison that shows a relationship between words or ideas.

What kinds of relationships are common in analogies?

(**I recommend working with them to discover relationships rather than giving them this list, so they get in the habit of thinking about the relationships between the word pairs. See the “How”)

Here are some common types of relationships between word pairs :

  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Part/Whole & Whole/Part
  • Degree of Intensity (increasing or decreasing)
  • Cause/Effect & Effect/Cause; ex: practice : improve; flood : rain 
  • Definition
  • Lack of – one word describes the absence of another; ex: disheartened : hope
  • Agent & Action – one is the doer, one is the action; ex: brain : thinking; professor : teach
  • Function – describes the purpose or function of something; ex: mneumonic : memory;  saw : cut
  • Action & Significance – the action and the significance or purpose of it: ex: curtsy : reverence
  • Manner – describes the manner, way, or style by which an action is accomplished; ex: prattle : speak
  • Category/Subcategory – ex: punctuation : grammar
  • Object/Classification – Item/Category – Category/Exampleex: dog : Golden Retriever
  • Pertaining to – one word refers to the category or class the other belongs to; ex: didactic : teach
  • Symbol & What it Stands For/Representsex: heart : love; raven : lost love
  • Component & Product/Material & End-Product – ex: flour : cake; lumber : house
  • Thing & Characteristic – ex: elephant : enormous 

compiled from Greenwich Schools, TeachThought, Haynes Academy, & Teacher Vision

Why are we studying, practicing, and using analogies?

  • Word relationships can help students learn new words.
  • Analyzing the relationships between words is one way to deepen understanding of vocabulary.
  • Understanding and evaluating word relationships requires students to engage in higher-level thinking.
  • Studying word relationships in pairs provides students with a framework for making comparisons between words, ideas, and meaning.
  • The open format of analogies allows for differentiation options that include the difficulty of the words we use (that aren’t vocabulary words) and even the use of visuals for different learners/levels.

And, of course, it helps us to meet NJSLS.L5: Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

 

How can we solve analogies?

Englishforeveryone.org outlines a 3 step process for the “How,” which is echoed in many other resources as well:

  • Step 1: Determine the relationship & develop a short, clear “bridge” sentence.
    • EX: for shovel : digA shovel is used to dig.
  • Step 2: Use the bridge with each answer choice and evaluate which maintains the same relationship/fits best.
  • Step 3: Adjust/strengthen/specify the bridge sentence as needed

I also like the way TeachThought explains the process:

  • Identify – Identify characteristics of the relationship(s)
  • Analyze – Analyze those relationships/characteristics and come up with the clearest/best description of the relationship (this is where they need to complete a sentence that describes the relationship.).
  • Transfer – Transfer the relationship from the first half of the analogy to the second
  • Evaluate  – How well does the relationship transfer to the other half? Do I need to adjust?

Things to remember (from greenwichschools.org)

  • Parts of Speech: If the words in the first pair express a “noun : adjective,” or “verb : noun,” or adjective : adjective” relationship (for instance), the second pair should show the same relationship between parts of speech.
  • Word Order: If the first pair expresses a “tool user : tool” relationship (for instance), the second pair must express the same relationship in the same order.
  • Exactness:  Sometimes two or more of the given choices would make fairly good sense in the blank. When this happens, you should choose the word or pair of words, which most exactly suits the relationship you are expressing.

Introducing Analogies in the Classroom

Check out these Anchor Charts from Deb at Crafting Connections, which could be a great introductory activity and resource you can create for your classroom. She’s an upper-elementary blogger, but the idea is good and can easily be adapted for our needs.

Chart 1 is before class; chart 2: working together to complete; chart 3: classifying the relationship.

This is a great example of how we can introduce the concept of analogies.  I would, however, reverse the order of 2 & 3, though, so we’re identifying the relationship and then applying that relationship to fill in the blank.  

Need big Post-It paper? Let me know!


Using Analogies as Teaching Tools  & Vocabulary Practice

Students can use analogies to:

  • predict new word meanings based on the relationship (complete analogies)
    • cursory : meticulous :: feasible : impossible
    • dark clouds : ominous :: cassette players : obsolete
  • build connections between words they’re learning to deepen understanding and build contextual understanding of new vocabulary (single or double-blank analogies)
  • demonstrate depth of word knowledge & self-assess

Analogy practice can be:

  • Warm-up or closure activities
  • Part of your vocabulary introduction
  • Part of the weekly vocabulary activities (homework or classwork)
  • Review (see this Analogy Bingo idea we could adapt for our needs)

Remember: How much you give students in any analogy problem is up to you and will yield different results.  We could give them a single pair to start and have them identify the relationship; we could give them one pair or words and have them develop the next pair; we could give them the whole analogy and have them predict word meaning; or we could leave a single blank for them to fill in.

Additional Resources: 


Setting a Routine of Building Relationships & Making Connections

While analogies are great for introducing, learning, and reinforcing vocabulary, you can set a routine of relationship/connection building in all aspects of instruction.

These could be warm-ups, closures, etc. that act as quick formative assessments for their depth of understanding while also getting them thinking about the relationships between the things they’re learning.

Here are some examples:

  • parenthetical citation : works cited ::  ____________ : ____________
  • thesis statement : essay :: ____________ : ____________
  • Lady Macbeth : gender norms :: ____________ : ____________
  • paragraph : prose :: ____________ :  poetry
  • period : stop :: ____________ : pause
  • counterclaim : claim :: ____________ : ____________
  • evidence : reasons :: ____________ : ____________
  • happy : ecstatic :: sad : ____________ (to teach nuances in tone)
  • pre-writing : writing process :: ____________ : ____________
  • mockingbird : innocence :: ____________ : ____________
  • racism : prejudice :: ____________ : ____________
  • rags to riches : American Dream :: ____________ : ____________
  • journal : ____________ :: editorial : ____________

If you want to continue the relationship-building that deepens thinking in ways beyond vocabulary, check out this New York Times, Learning Network resource on analogies in writing: Skills Practice: Understanding and Making Analogies 

 


Resources I used in compiling this post: 

Building Autonomy, Maximizing Class Time: Writing Workshop in Stations

I am in LOVE with this idea from Shelby Scoffield at Edutopia: Creating a Writer’s Workshop in a Secondary Classroom, published just yesterday.

In the article, she shares the station rotation model that she uses with her AP and Honors English students to elevate Writing Workshop to the secondary level.  She provides examples of stations (which you can see below) and descriptions of them.

edutopia-scoffield-writersworkshopsecondaryclassrm

In the comments section, she clarifies what she does as the teacher and facilitator of the Writing Workshop stations:

  • Beginning of class: spend a few minutes at each station:
    • explain the assignment
    • provide any important information they’ll need
    • answer any initial questions they have
  • During the rest of class: settle into the teacher-led table, where you’ll conduct a more in-depth lesson on a more difficult skill before those students apply that to their papers.
  • Once the in-depth lesson is complete (I would assume):
    • constantly make rounds and check in to eliminate the problem of students always needing your attention
    • Be sure to spend extra time at the tables where students are tackling specific skills.

At every station, students are learning and the applying what they learn to their writing. It still utilizes the basic elements of Writing Workshop with which we are familiar, just applies those in a different format.

Scoffield has not provided any specific information about rotation or how often they switch (these are also decisions we can make for our students and the management of our classrooms.).

Scoffield  has designed this for her AP & Honor students.  However, I think this is applicable and easily modifiable for all levels of students.  Some classes might just need more structure ahead of time and may need more practice in the model and feedback from their performance in Writing Workshop to gain the full benefits of it.  Still, I think it’s worth the effort because I think this Writing Workshop model could solve one of our biggest problems: classroom time.  And another: student autonomy.  Of course, we have to be smart and strategic about the station set-up so students are still getting what they need (and hopefully even more) from the process.

Here are my initial thoughts after reading the article:

Potential Benefits:

  • students can choose skills they need to work on, instead of a one-size-fits-all model of mini-lessons and mentor texts
  • students are in charge of their own learning and development in that they tell teachers what skills they need to work on or would like to work on
  • the onus is on the students – they choose the skill and then they have to do the work of learning at that station and then applying what they’ve learned
  • student choice will require self-awareness of their writing skills and awareness of what skills make writing great (and would work nicely with the portfolio process that the 12th grade teachers have implemented at TC)
  • 10-day Writing Workshop Units could be pared down to 4-5 days of stations
  • student-centered learning & differentiated instruction
  • better student products, less grading frustration

Possible Hiccups:

  • initial set-up, planning, and facilitation may be time-consuming, but if we work together and share materials for certain skills, that will be alleviated somewhat over time
  • classroom-management in more difficult classes (there is the possibility here to have me co-facilitate with you so that there is another person in the room to manage the process.)
  • physical space in the classroom – do we have enough? What other spaces could we use for an activity like this?

Shelby Scoffield is on Twitter, though (@sscoffield1), so maybe we can tweet our questions her way for clarification and tips!  You can also join the conversation below the article on Edutopia.

If you have additional ideas for stations (this somewhat depends on what students tell you they want to work on) or would like to try this in your classroom, let me know and I’d be happy to help you plan and facilitate them! You know how to find me. 🙂

Plagiarism Resources

credible-hulk

It is research paper season, and with every research paper season comes the issue of plagiarism.

Here’s a TED-Ed Lesson, “The punishable perils of plagiarism” that your students could watch and complete the 7 questions that come with it.

Here’s turnitin.com’s plagiarism report:

turnitin plagiarism_report

To better help students understand what we mean by “plagiarism,” here are some resources we’ve compiled.

Infographics

These would make great classroom posters and/or handouts.  You may need to break an image into multiple in order to make it readable when you print.   

And if you don’t find what you’re looking for here, try piktochart.com (there’s a free version) to make your own infographic/poster with the information you want to include.

(Click the image to see the full graphic.)

Here’s a Power Point version of the Potter info-graphic from lib.rollings.edu:plagiarismandpotter-1

And of course, we have a district-wide Academic Integrity poster:

academic-integrity-poster

Memes

Here’s some memes that could get the conversation about plagiarism started.  There are also apps out there to help you create your own memes, including mematic, which is very user friendly.

meme

gatsby-plagiarism

batman-and-robin-plagiarism

Power Point

At the freshmen PLC, Joe and I stumbled across this power point (9 plagiarism tutorial2012 (1)) from the Mt. Lebanon School District.  It’s a tutorial for avoiding plagiarism.

Handouts

And Cathy Stelling createdthis plagiarism handout (WHAT IS PLAGIARISM), which she was kind enough to share.

If you’re doing something else to review and/or teach plagiarism, please feel free to email me or leave comments below.

Happy (belated) Birthday, Maya Angelou!

Yesterday would have been Maya Angelou’s 88th birthday, and though she is not here to celebrate with us, she’s left a legacy of the written word that we can celebrate in her honor.

angelou

Today, I would just like to share some of Angelou’s poetry that we may not know as well as “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise” – and poems that would easily add to much of what we’re teaching:

A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou  (1995, for the UN’s 50th Anniversary)

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

There are many topics and “big ideas” we could connect this poem with – in order to work it into what we’re teaching about contemporary and current events or literature. We could connect it to war, the environment, the potential (and disappointment? and hope?) of people.  The repeated “When we come to it,” emphasizes our still-coming-into-itness.  What might our students have to say about this in light of other things they’re learning or reading?  Are we closer than humanity was in 1995 . . . or further away?

This poem may also work nicely paired with a poem from a previous post, Matthew Olzmann’s Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czeslaw Milosz, which is about the violence happening in America – in schools and elsewhere.  It begins:

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 

I wonder what these two poems would have to say and reveal about one another. It might be an interesting discussion or Socratic Seminar.


At the time of Angelou’s death, she had been working on a collaborative project with producers Shawn Rivera and RoccStarr, who focused on original beats and instrumentals as Angelou recited her poem, “Harlem Hopscotch”:

One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
Good things for the ones that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left.
Everybody for hisself.

In the air, now both feet down.
Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, rent is due,
Curse and cry and then jump two.

All the peoples out of work,
Hold for three, now twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
That’s what hopping’s all about.

Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost, I think I won.

The video can be seen with this Huffington Post article, “The Music Video For ‘Harlem Hopscotch’ from Maya Angelou’s Posthumous Hip-Hop Album, is Here.”


 

And, finally, the poem most often used in tributes right after her death, “When Great Trees Fall,” published as the last poem in the 1990 collection of poetry, I Shall Not Be Moved. 

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.


 

And if you want to participate in “Take a Poet to Word Day,” here’s your chance with Maya: http://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Take-Your-Poet-to-Work-Day-Printable-Maya-Angelou.jpg

Poetry & Personal Narrative: Two Texts to Get Students Writing

For this #writingworkshopwednesday, I’m sharing a poem and a NYT resource, both of which can be used to get students writing, thinking, and creating.

Background Noise & Narrative:

This gem showed up in my Twitter feed yesterday:

tweet

And it immediately made me think of personal narrative (or really any kind of narrative writing) writing – in the tradition of Penny Kittle’s “Music of my Heart” and the life-soundtracks many of us have had kids think about.

The article, “What are the Sounds That Make Up the Background Noise in Your Life” by Michael Gonchar uses a New York Times article by Michael Kimmelman, “Dear Architects: Sound Matters” as a jumping-off point to get students thinking about what kind of background noises are in their lives.

The “Dear Architects” article is a great starting text for all of us, and when you and your students go to read it (I recommend using excerpts from it, which would work better since the whole article isn’t relevant for our purposes and to get the idea across in a manageable time frame.), make sure you have the opportunity to hear it as well.  Included in the article are photographs of everyday places, such as the New York Public Library’s Reading Room, an office building, and the subway that, when you hover your mouse over them, reveal the background noise of each place.  As Kimmelman states, “The spaces we design and inhabit all have distinctive sounds . . . It may be sealed off from the outside, and you may think it is quiet. Is it?,” sound is part of the architecture designers create and it also part of the architecture of our lives.

What can our students’ writing gain by thinking about, discovering, or recording the background noise of their lives?  How can this study reveal more about their personal lives (or the personal lives of any character)?  How can background noise be articulated in font and how might it drive, enhance, or amplify an existing narrative?

As we answer these questions, I think we begin to arrive at a valuable resource and idea to both prepare students to write about themselves and to test out new narrative techniques in their writing.  The original article, “What are the Sounds . . . ” provides some reading-response questions that might be a good transition from reading to thinking to writing.

 

Current Events & Poetry:

The other gem that found me yesterday was my poets.org poem-a-day, “Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz” by Matthew Olzmann.  “Letter” is a haunting poem that could be effective not only for writing workshop, but also for Socratic Seminar or literature circle discussions. (Here’a a word document version with line numbers: Letter Beginning Olzmann)

It’s going to take up a lot of room here, but please (PLEASE) take the time to read it all (you won’t be able to stop once you start . . . )

Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

Matthew Olzmann

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 

Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed

for children walking to school?
Those same children

also shouldn’t require a suit
of armor when standing

on their front lawns, or snipers
to watch their backs

as they eat at McDonalds.
They shouldn’t have to stop

to consider the speed
of a bullet or how it might

reshape their bodies. But
one winter, back in Detroit,

I had one student
who opened a door and died.

It was the front
door to his house, but

it could have been any door,
and the bullet could have written

any name. The shooter
was thirteen years old

and was aiming
at someone else. But

a bullet doesn’t care
about “aim,” it doesn’t

distinguish between
the innocent and the innocent,

and how was the bullet
supposed to know this

child would open the door
at the exact wrong moment

because his friend
was outside and screaming

for help. Did I say
I had “one” student who

opened a door and died?
That’s wrong.

There were many.
The classroom of grief

had far more seats
than the classroom for math

though every student
in the classroom for math

could count the names
of the dead.

A kid opens a door. The bullet
couldn’t possibly know,

nor could the gun, because
“guns don’t kill people,” they don’t

have minds to decide
such things, they don’t choose

or have a conscience,
and when a man doesn’t

have a conscience, we call him
a psychopath. This is how

we know what type of assault rifle
a man can be,

and how we discover
the hell that thrums inside

each of them. Today,
there’s another

shooting with dead
kids everywhere. It was a school,

a movie theater, a parking lot.
The world

is full of doors.
And you, whom I cannot save,

you may open a door

and enter a meadow, or a eulogy.
And if the latter, you will be

mourned, then buried
in rhetoric.

There will be
monuments of legislation,

little flowers made
from red tape.

What should we do? we’ll ask
again. The earth will close

like a door above you.
What should we do?

And that click you hear?
That’s just our voices,

the deadbolt of discourse
sliding into place.

Wow, right?

So since this is #writingworkshopwednesday, I’m going to stay focused on using this with our Writers’ Notebooks, but feel free to let your mind wander into all of the incredible possibilities available here.

One way to use this poem as as mentor-text inspiration is to allow students to borrow the same lines from Czesław Miłosz that the author did:

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 

I think there are so many opportunities for students to write about themselves or characters in novels (from the perspective of the author, other characters, etc.) by beginning with these two lines.  I imagine Sethe writing to Beloved (Toni Morrison’s Beloved), Jay to Daisy (Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby), Ida or Vivaldo or Eric to Rufus (Baldwin’s Another Country), or Walt Whitman writing to the Country (since he desperately wanted Leaves of Grass  to keep the nation from falling into civil war).  There are so many possibilities; it could easily work with independent reading selections as well.

We could also use this poem to talk about this writing-move of the response poem (of sorts) or the “life a line” (or two from another poem) to begin our own.  Students could take lines from poetry or songs and use it to frame or inspire a poem. (The could lift a line from this poem to start another as well. I would choose something related to the “the deadbolt of discourse,” I think.)

And of course, this could be a wonderful mentor text on how to write poetry that is also relevant and timely social commentary.  Maybe students research current events (we could collaborate with the history teachers on this too) and use this format to write a poetic letter that makes a comment about an issue in the community that they care about.

Lots of inspiration with these two texts! Happy workshopping! 🙂

As always, feel free to share any adaptations, additions, etc. you make and student samples or work produced from these ideas.

 

Infographics for the Week of January 4th: The New Year

Happy New Year!

To help our students and us usher in 2016, this week’s infographics are all about this new year.

Statistics on New Year’s Eve in NYC:

New-Years-Eve-2016-BB-Inforgraphic-

These are New Year’s Resolutions from around the world:

new-years-resolutions-2016

And these are New Years Resolutions that include SMART goals for our Resolutions . . . just like our SGOs . . .

new_years_info

 

#WWW Writing Workshop Wednesday: Tips for Productive Peer Conferences

As both students and teachers, we’ve seen the many failures of peer review. We’ve experienced and witnessed students not knowing how to comment on another’s writing or how to identify flaws in writing, and sometimes we witness students who think that criticism is “mean” and they would prefer to be “nice.”  On the flip side, we’ve all seen situations where students are too mean on purpose and don’t take the assignment seriously.

So, how do we make peer review meaningful and productive in our classrooms?

This question arose out of a discussion of Writing Workshop during the 11th-grade full-day PLC.  Below is a compilation of our brainstormed solutions as well as a few additional ideas.

Whole-Class Peer Conferencing: Krystal shared a strategy she used with advanced students, in which students’ papers (the names blacked out) were projected from the document camera.  Krystal would then model peer review/constructive criticism, a process the rest of the class would ultimately join in on.  The class comments and asks questions about the paper, and the author has the opportunity at the end to respond to that feedback.  It both holds students accountable for producing quality drafts and provides practice for students in constructive feedback.  In addition, the process makes the writer think about his/her choices as he/she responds to the questions that emerged throughout the review.

Small-Group Read-Aloud & Annotation: Abbe shared a strategy that she and I have done with our AP Language students, which could be applied to accelerated and college prep levels with additional support and structure. In preparation for peer review, students bring multiple copies of their drafts, one for each member of their peer review group and one for them.  During peer conferencing, the student reads his/her paper aloud while the rest of the group listens and annotates the draft. After the student completes his/her reading, the group reports back their comments/questions, etc. and they discuss the paper.  This becomes a productive back-and-forth dialogue between the group and the writer.  Once they’ve exhausted the first paper, the move around the circle until everyone’s paper as been the center of attention.

I first did peer conferencing like this in a college creative writing class, and even though it made me uncomfortable to read my work aloud, it was a productive process as both peer review and self-evaluation.  In the college classroom, there was also a nice dialogue with questioning more so than strictly commenting, which would be the ultimate goal of productive peer conferencing.  Of course, with our various levels of students and abilities in high school classrooms, getting our students to ask each other productive questions that make the writer think and reflect and respond is more difficult than it would be in a college setting, but it is by no means impossible. 

Conference with a Question in Mind:  In a discussion about conferencing, Nicole talked about requiring that her students come to teacher-student conferences with a question (prior to them doing this the first time, Nicole models conversations to help student turn their concerns into viable questions).  The same expectation is feasible in a peer conference.  Often, we set the focus of peer review.  If we could work with students in developing those questions from the issues, weaknesses, or stumbling-blocks in their writing, then those questions could also drive a small group peer conference.  In a writing workshop model, where students will have had the same scaffolding, mini-lessons, etc., and in a classroom where collaboration and questioning is routine, students could productively help each other in working through those questions.

Peer Conferencing Circles with Roles: I suggested a peer-conferencing model that might look like an inquiry circle or literature circle in that we’d assign group roles.  What those roles would be would largely depend on the assignment and the strengths and experiences of the students.  Some examples of writing circle roles that could work are the “Format-Fiend,” who would look for adherence to MLA format, the “Transition-Tester,” who makes sure that paragraphs and ideas are connected through transitions, the “Thesis-Tracker,” who reads to make sure that the body paragraphs explicitly and clearly support the thesis,” or the “Audience Auditor,” who finds out who the intended audience is and evaluates the paper for the appropriateness and/or effectiveness of language and content for that audience.  These roles might be too much to start, depending on the level of the student, so they could also be simpler, including roles that focus on sentence structure, logical progression, a strong introduction and conclusion, topic sentences, evidence, citations, etc.  We can provide expectations/guidelines for each of the roles so the students know what to do and what to look for, and in doing this kind of focused peer conferencing, we’re also meeting some of those reading standards we’re always practicing.  The opportunities here are really endless. The benefits are that students can play to their strengths and have one specific focus for every paper they read in the peer conference.  This way, not every student has to look for everything, but the writer still gets a variety of specific feedback.

Must-haves: Modeling & Focus. Whatever approach we take, it is important to keep two things in mind: modeling and focus.  As teachers with extensive practice in peer-review from our education, we need to model what constructive criticism, academic conversation, and effective questioning looks like.  Students don’t often have the language to communicate effectively in peer conferencing, and this is something we can model and practice throughout writing workshop units. Even if a conversation begins with, “I don’t like this,” we can work with students to better zero in on what they don’t like by continuing to ask them questions in return, such as, “What don’t you like about it?” and starting to give them the language of word choice, sentence structure, etc.

While we’d like students to be able to work through research and writing with self-generated questions based on self-evaluation, we know that this is not necessarily going to happen immediately.  This is why helping students focus when conducting peer review is an important facet to productive peer conferencing.  Assignments that blankly ask students to “review” one another will end in little productivity.  If we’ve taught mini-lessons on thesis statements and organizing an essay from that thesis statement and that’s a focus of our rubric, then perhaps we have them review for those things.  We can give them questions and guidelines to help them evaluate those elements in the form of a handout, but because they’ve had the mini-lesson and the practice, they already have a basic working knowledge and language to discuss that component. The focus can easily be set by the teacher and align with mini-lessons taught before writing or in the revision process.  This way we zero students in on something they have had practice on and something they should definitely be looking for as peer reviewers, and the more we do it, the more experience they’ll have in the types of things we can revise for in peer conferences.

And maybe, just maybe, they’ll apply all of this knowledge to self-evaluation as well.

Infographics on Infographics for the Week of 12/7/15

This week’s infographics are all about . . . well, infographics.  These are great resources if you’re looking for students to create original infographics in lieu of notes, as a study guide, or as a product of their research.  These can also begin discussions about purpose and audience and the decisions writers must make to reach the audience for their desired purpose.

Included are:  “The Anatomy of a Great Infographic,” “An Infographic about Infographics,” “7 Tips to Create an Awesome Infographic” “Why Infographics,” and “Why You Need Infographics.”

If you want students to create their own, check out piktochart.com and sign up for free!

 

anatomy of an infographicinfographic about infographicstips for creating an infographicwhy infographicswhy you need infographics