Scaffolding the Literary Analysis Response


For several years now, I’ve watched students struggle year after year with the same concepts. They have a difficult time analyzing literature on a deeper level, and they also struggle with properly embedding their quotes. Rather than face the same struggles again this year, I anticipated the struggle and revised how I teach my students to read and write about short stories. It is working. Not only is it working, but it is working far better than I ever could have imagined. My students are understanding the stories more, and their analytical writing has improved leaps and bounds since the first assignment.

STEP 1: TEACH LITERARY DEVICES
I began my short story unit by directly teaching various literary devices and how to properly embed quotations. I also placed an emphasis on close reading with my Sticky Note Literary Analysis graphic organizers. Then, I started small with a super short story and an even shorter writing response.

STEP 2: ASSIGN A SHORT RESPONSE
We read Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”, and I assigned my students this short, little three-sentence response writing assignment. While I expect more than three sentences from my students by the end of the year, I wanted to start short so that I could help remediate writing in an effective manner. Even though the written response was only three sentences long, it was no picnic in the park. I told my students that I would only assign 2 grades: an F (50%) and an A (100%). I only assigned two vastly different grades for this assignment because I wanted my students to continuously work toward the A. They had infinite chances to keep revising their response for full credit. I really focused on having students properly embed their quotations and provide insightful analysis.
STEP 3: PROVIDE IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK
Because the writing prompt is so short, I can quickly grade each student’s writing and provide meaningful feedback during the class period. The quick access to meaningful comments and feedback allows students to learn from their mistakes and grow as writers. Also, only needing to rewrite one or two sentences in a short response is far less intimidating than needing to rewrite an entire essay.

STEP 4: REPEAT THE 3-SENTENCE RESPONSE
Before moving on to a lengthier response, repeat the 3-sentence response a couple times. This way, students learn how to properly write literary analysis without being too overwhelmed with a major writing task. I did this two times with two different stories in my classroom, and it was a major game changer. Within the first two weeks of school, I the vast majority of my sophomores were writing thoughtful and intriguing literary analysis responses with properly embedded, cited, and explained quotations.


3 Skills I Teach With Nonfiction Text

I like to incorporate a lot of nonfiction in my curriculum. While I love fiction and make sure I include it in my instruction, I also firmly believe that studying, analyzing, and writing about nonfiction is vitally essential for today’s learners.

When I teach argumentation and nonfiction texts in my classroom, there are three skills that I intentionally teach toward the beginning of the unit: paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing. While I believe that teaching specific rhetorical devices and strategies are important, I save those lessons for when my students are able to correctly paraphrase, quote, and summarize any piece of text.

Paraphrasing
In my opinion, I believe that paraphrasing text is a bit easier than summarizing text since it is essentially rewriting the entire text in one’s own words. One of the pitfalls in which most students fall victim to is failing to properly cite paraphrased text. This is because so many students assume that just because the text is in their own words that it is theirs, and this is not true. When I teach paraphrasing, I place great emphasis on the need to properly cite their research and the work they are paraphrasing to maintain credibility and avoid plagiarism.

Summarizing
When I teach summarizing, I place an emphasis on finding the main idea and supporting details in the text. When students summarize an article for me, they should always include the article title, author, the main message, and how the author delivers that particular message.

Quoting
One of the most challenging writing skills for students to master is how to properly embed quotations in their writing. When I teach students to embed quotes (whether from fiction or nonfiction) in their writing, I focus on having the students introduce the quote in their own words with a transition word or phrase and contextual information, and then complete the sentence with a quote that grammatically fits within the sentence. I tell my students their quotes should be seamlessly written into their papers, and that they should never begin a sentence with a quote.

When students know how to properly paraphrase, summarize, and quote text, they will have the skill set necessary to take rhetorical and textual analysis to a deeper and more meaningful level. Some great sites to access nonfiction text include CommonLit.org, NewsELA.com, and Listenwise.com.

In my classroom, I use these lessons to teach these skills to my students:




Introducing Complex Ideas to Students

I teach a lot of nonfiction in my junior-level and senior-level high school English classes, and oftentimes these nonfiction articles and speeches deal with new, complex topics. Before we read the article, I want to access my students’ prior knowledge on the topic, as well as get them thinking about the topic in an effort to properly prepare them to read and understand the text.


One such way to introduce new and complex topics to students is by having them create collaborative brainstorming posters. These posters are simple and require minimal preparation, but they generate excellent classroom discussion.


The materials you will need for this assignment:
  • Butcher or poster paper
  • Markers


To complete a collaborative brainstorming poster in class, have students get into groups of three to five students. Each group will get one piece of butcher paper, poster board, or chart paper. Each member within the group will select one color marker that they will use for the entire project.


Instruct students to write the topic in large print in the middle of the paper, and then have each student contribute to the poster using the color they’ve chosen. Each student will be responsible for contribution to the poster, and the marker colors help keep students accountable.


Each student in the group will be responsible for adding the following items to the poster in their selected marker color:
  • the definition of the word/concept in their own words
  • 2 or 3 traits of that concept
  • A person who embodies or exemplifies the concept
  • A famous quote related to the concept


I give my students about 15 minutes to form groups and complete this task. The posters do not need to be perfect, final drafts. Instead, they should be a starting-off point that introduces the topic to the students. Once they are done with the posters, I have students groups present their posters, with one or two students from each group sharing various elements of their poster.

To maximize the benefits these posters provide, I put them up on the classroom walls and refer back to them throughout the rest of the unit when we discuss the article.

Why I Teach the Parts of Speech in High School

When we read over and begin grading our students’ writing assignments for the first time in a new school year, we are able to assess their writing capabilities.Within a matter of a few sentences, we can see if a student is a struggling writer, or if writing comes more naturally to them. After reading, analyzing, and grading student writing over the past several years, I’ve come one big conclusion: the reason why some students struggle with their writing is because they do not understand the basics of how to form a sentence.
Throughout my years teaching, I’ve worked at two different high schools with two different student populations. No matter what a student’s language, cultural background, or socioeconomic status is, if they have a difficult time writing, it is more than likely due to the fact that they do not know the parts of speech and how and when to use them properly.

Students are taught the various parts of speech early on in grade school. While I think it is necessary to teach students the parts of speech early on in their academic careers, I also feel that it is essential to continuously teach and review parts of speech with middle school students and even high school students.

If a high school student knows what a noun, pronoun, verb, conjunction, adjective, and adverb are and how and when to use them effectively, that student is more likely to be a good writer. Knowing the basic parts of speech, even if it seems like an elementary concept, is so crucial for high schoolers, that I continue to teach and review parts of speech with my high schoolers. Whether I spend one day reviewing parts of speech or many weeks teaching and reviewing parts of speech, I always see an improvement in student writing.

So, the real solution to this problem is simple. We don’t need to worry about parallel structure, active and passive voice, and tone just yet. Let’s review and teach the parts of speech to our middle school and high school students, and really begin to see their writing improve. Sometimes, we just have to get back to the basics to see true growth. And for writing, those basics are teaching and reinforcing the parts of speech.

Here are some age and content-appropriate resources and tools to help you teach and review parts of speech in your classroom.

This teaching bundle has everything a secondary ELA teacher could possibly need to teach parts of speech. For each part of speech, there is a separate unit that contains an editable PowerPoint presentation to use for direct instruction, a secured-PDF file with pretests, student reference sheets, practice worksheets, and a final assessment.

This is a fun and interactive teaching resource that engages students and they review the parts of speech. This mini flip book can be used on its own or as part of an interactive notebook.
You may also want to see my Pronouns Mini Flip Book

Unlike many parts of speech tasks cards out there, these task cards are age-appropriate for middle school and high school students. The last thing we want to do is offend the teenagers in our rooms with childish educational resources meant for third grade. There are two different sets of task cards in this resource, and each set has 40 unique cards. With 80 task cards total, this resource can be used for several days.
You may also want to see my Pronouns Task Cards

NoRedInk.com
Teachers can create free account on NoRedInk.com to help students learn grammar. There are a couple different sections and lessons that focus entirely on parts of speech alone.


Chromebook Storage and Organization in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Storing and organizing Chromebook carts in the classroom.
Whether you currently have Chromebooks in your classroom, are about to get Chromebooks for your classroom, or are just beginning to research how to integrate Chromebooks and digital lessons into your classroom, one thing you will definitely want to research is Chromebook storage and organization.

As an early adopter of using Chromebooks in the classroom, I’ve had quite a few years of experience storing and organizing my Chromebooks carts (and my fair share of failed routines and procedures).

Storing and organizing Chromebook carts in the classroom.When it comes to deciding on a storage and organization strategy for your classroom Chromebook carts, two of the most important things are consistency and accountability. You want to begin the year with a strong routine that will remain consistent throughout the entire year, and you also want your students to be held accountable for properly storing and using the Chromebooks.
After a couple years of trying different Chromebook policies in my classroom, I’ve finally found one that works best for me in my classroom. While I love the idea of keeping the Chromebooks out on the tables all day long because it saves valuable instructional time, students lose their personal accountability and responsibility in doing so. They do not have any ownership over a specific device, which makes it a bit more tempting for students to not be as careful with the devices.
Instead, I have my students take out their Chromebooks out of the cart and put them back in the cart each class period. It takes a little bit of initial set-up and practice, but for me, it is the best way to manage my classroom set of Chromebooks.
To begin with, I have two Chromebooks carts in my classroom with 20 Chromebooks each. I labeled each cart a different color, and within each cart, each Chromebook has two different labels: a label with a number and a label with a student’s name from each class period who is assigned to that particular Chromebook. I store each of my carts on opposite ends of the room. Students sitting on the north side of the room only use the north cart, and likewise for students sitting on the south side of the room and the south cart.
Storing and organizing Chromebook carts in the classroom.
I assigned my students to Chromebooks for personal accountability. Each student has a color and number assigned to them. Not only are they responsible for the Chromebook during that class period, but they are also responsible for putting away their assigned Chromebook in its designated space. Assigning Chromebooks to students, rather than having them use any Chromebook in the cart, helps me to know who is putting their Chromebooks back correctly, and it even reduces how quickly germs spread.  Instead of all 150 plus of my students touching all of the devices, only five of them touch a single one.
For the set-up, I purchased color dot stickers. I labeled each Chromebook with a particular color dot, and then I wrote the number on the dot. Then on the bottom of the Chromebook, I typed a label with each student’s name for all class periods on it –that way I know exactly who has the Chromebooks without having to go to my teacher binder.
On days we use the Chromebooks in class, students take out their designated Chromebook as they walk into the classroom. When we have about five minutes remaining in class, I have my students start putting their Chromebooks back in the carts so that all Chromebooks are back and accounted for before the bell rings.