Monthly Archives: January 2019

Supporting Students Before Instruction #eduread #literacy


Getting back into the swing of the semester sort of bumped my reading to the back burner.  I am super excited about the opportunity to teach a section of digital literacy this semester, but I am busy planning and learning to stay a step ahead of my students!

Last night, @druinok and I were finally able to connect paths and chat on Chapter 1 of Robyn Jackson’s Supporting Struggling Students.  As I posted last month – this book and the ALM literacy training I have been a part of this school year emphasize the importance of planning.



The big ideas in our chat last night were –

Anticipating Confusion – there is a worksheet provided in the book which asks you to what concepts, content/processes or context you will utilize to present the lessons.  Then it asks you what common misunderstandings;  what prior knowledge and vocabulary will be needed for students to be successful and finally skills, thinking and organizational strategies the context will require.

I think back to my first years of teaching – I planned a lesson, examples to present in notes, practice problems and a mini quiz to assess where students were.  I cannot say for sure that I put this much thought into planning the lesson.  All great points to consider when I sit down to plan a lesson with the learner in mind.

Maybe this next idea arose in a chat – or did I blog about it already?  Activating or creating prior knowledge  – presented the idea that learning is like hook and loop tap – in order for it to stick, students need hooks in their brains on which they can loop new information.  When gaps occur – whether it be experiences, prior knowledge, lack of vocabulary, students do not have the hooks to hang the new information to.  The author suggested acceleration.  What?  I thought that was allowing learning to work ahead / condense information and let them work at a faster pace as in enrichment.  Same idea – except, there is simply not enough time to teach all of the gaps sometimes, so we must choose what is most important and find ways to help learners accelerate through what is missing, giving them enough to round out their background knowledge.

This is where I began seeing such a huge overlap between this book and my literacy team work with the ALM.

Strategies to activate prior knowledge – KWL outlines, Anticipation guides, Pre-reading plan, directed reading activities, word splashes, carousel brainstorming, statement strategy, paired verbal fluency, semantic mapping.  Several of these seemed familiar.  During our chat, @druinok shared that paired verbal fluency was essential pair-share or talk with shoulder partner;  the word splashes sort of like brain dump or generating a list but then making connections/showing relationships between the words.

Anticipation Guides – in math class?  What about offering 3-5 big ideas at then beginning of a unit / lesson in the form of Always, Sometimes, Never statements and allowing them to respond, share their claim and reasoning.  At the end of the lesson, revisiting the statements to see if they agree/disagree with initial claim and supporting with mathematical evidence from their learning.

I suppose the directed reading and pre-reading plan would be to offer “Look fors” as they begin the lesson / reading/activity.

The word splashes reminded me of a structure I have failed at using, but after revisiting our ALM resources and notes from training, I feel like I see a way to implement Interactive Word Walls.  When I tried them in the past, it simply became a stagnant display of text.  I am now wondering if I have students create an illustration the word  / expression makes them think of and hanging those on the wall.  Later, after some work, allow students to write the definitions in their own words and tape to the back of the illustrations.  As a class opener, review or even few minutes at end of class – Call on a student to go to the IWW, have them explain the meaning of a term.  The book suggested students at the desks should be reviewing their resources with the vocabulary.  The next student who goes to the IWW will choose a term and tell how it is related to the prior person’s word, then give a brief definition of the term.  And so on.  This accomplishes several things – students need to know the term, be able to show how it is related to other terms, it gives them a moment to review their vocabulary and listen to how others are making connections.

Strategies for creating background knowledge may be tricky.  There is simply not enough time to teach what we are supposed do, so how/when do I fill in the missing pieces?

Ideas:  movie clip, children’s book on the topic, link to website focused on information needed, analogies and mini lessons specific to skills and concepts needed.  This requires time and planning, but my thinking is – once I find a resource that helps, I add it to my toolbox and will have a set to choose from in the future.

Again – thinking what strategies and how to present the activation will need to be a part of the planning cycle.  Creating a list of background knowledge needed and how I plan to present those ideas to activate their thinking.

Often times students struggle due to lack of soft skills like organizing their learning, note taking, etc.  If I can provide them with a structure to help them organize their thinking – the author suggests explaining how this structure works in advance, previewing it and using it prior to the lesson you actually want them to use it with in order to help them develop an understanding of it and become confident in the process.

Chapter 1 ends discussing the vocabulary planning worksheet – what words will be used frequently, similarities between the terms, grouping and prioritizing ones of most importance.  Have a few different strategies planned to help students develop a basic understanding.

Only posting to help myself digest what I have been reading / chatting about – in hopes it will finally make connections for my math class and I can find ways to improve what I am planning for my students.