Friday, 22 March 2013

Anticipation Guides: Exploring Controversy & Theme

What is an Anticipation Guide?

An Anticipation Guide is a graphic organizer that allows students to explore major ideas and themes in a text they are about to examine.  

  • Anticipation Guides ask students to take  positions on a series of controversial statements by drawing on their background knowledge and experiences before they encounter a text.  They use rating scales or spectrums to express their opinion.

  • Students also revisit the same Anticipation Guide after reviewing the text, re-evaluating and revising their original opinions based on ideas encountered in the text.

Why use an Anticipation Guide?

In Deeper Reading, Kelly Gallagher suggests using Anticipation Guides to increase student motivation and interest which, he argues, has a direct effect on their comprehension.  His argument is supported by research*published in Ontario that shows Anticipation Guides encourage students to explore their prior knowledge about a text/topic.  This prior knowledge then acts as a foundation to which students can connect new ideas they encounter.

*An English version of this document is available here, however this version does not include the Anticipation Guide as a strategy.  It does, however offer a wealth of practical strategies.

What does it look like in class?

In a grade 7 FLA class, the teacher wanted to use the Guide to explore some of the themes in her historical fiction study of Enfants de la RĂ©bellion.  We took thematic topics such as courage and loyalty and made controversial statements like “sometimes, it takes courage to flee” and “it’s important to stay loyal to a cause regardless of the personal consequences."  We distributed the guide, asked students to reflect on the statements, and make their thinking visible by marking their agreement with the statement on a scale of 1 (disagree)  to 10 (agree).

As we worked through the novel we drew attention to information and ideas  that related to the themes explored in the Anticipation Guide.

At the end of the unit, students revisited the Guide and reconsidered their original position for each of the statements.  They then marked their (now fully informed) position down.  Finally- and here is where the really powerful part of the strategy comes in- they had to justify their final position using specific evidence from the text or their personal experiences (whether the same or different from the beginning) .  

To explain his movement from a 4 to a 2 regarding the statement about loyalty (see above), one student wrote:

“I disagree a bit more now because in the book he (a main character) stayed loyal to the cause, but that means that you have to put your family and friends to the side...I would never do that because my family and friends are too important.”

Overall, both the teacher and coach were really happy with the deep thinking shown in the final rating justifications.

When we asked what the students like most about Anticipation Guides this is what we heard:

I liked it because you get to explain why you switched, you don’t just switch for no reason…

“And also, like, you had to explain…If you really didn’t understand that much, you got to go back in the book and, then you really understand when you explain it and prove it.”

“I like it because you pick the choice between 1 and 10 and you had to figure it out yourself what you were going to pick for and what you’re not.”

In this particular case, we got a lot of traction with this strategy.  In addition to the written product, these prompts lead to some of the best discussion that we had in the whole novel study!

Other examples Black Gold teachers have tried:

The Anticipation Guide strategy has been used by a few other Black Gold teachers and their grades 7 to 9 students:

  • In Social Studies/Language Arts 8, students studied the novel I am David by Anne Holm to hone their geographical and historical thinking skills.  An Anticipation Guide prompted students to think about what life was like for David (the main character of the novel), as well as issues related to social justice, government, and worldview.  

  • In an FLA 9 class, students used a Guide to explore how their personal values relate to those presented in the popular Francophone song Les Vieux Chums, by Jonathan Painchaud.

The Anticipation Guide allows students to explore and revise their understanding of controversial issues and topics.  This strategy worked really well for us, and we would love to hear how you're using it in your classroom!

By Michael Skoreyko and Terra Kaliszuk;

Written Conversation in Div. 4 Social

I worked with the Social Department at LCHS to modify Written Conversations to work in their Social 10 and 20 classrooms (please see Mike’s post below).  They wanted to use the written conversation strategy to help students formulate an opinion on a guiding question about a text (a thesis statement), and then build an evidence-based argument supporting their position. 

The second and third writers had the goal of either: 1) attacking the original writer’s argument, showing areas of weakness, or 2) adding evidence and thinking that helps the original writer build their argument. 

We created the teacher planner below to help with the planning of this activity:

You can get a copy of the planning document, as well as a filled-in exemplar, here.

We learned that a discussion about quality feedback and commentary before going into the written conversation, prevented the amount of “cheerleading” that we saw in the first few sessions. They are not there to cheer each other on, (ie: “awesome thinking!”), but rather to act as a critical peer to construct the best possible evidence-based argument.

Students read about the French Revolution, formulated a thesis regarding their opinion of the possibility of a revolutionary spread beyond France’s borders, and then went through the Written Conversation process.  Of the 15 student conversations, there were 21 different occurrences of students both asking questions and adding information to expand the thinking of the original writer.

As one student commented, when the conversation was over and she had received her messy, annotated piece of writing back, “this was so helpful!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Written Conversations

Imagine a classroom where students are sharing their ideas, commenting on those of their peers, and building on each others' collective wisdom.  Now imagine that this is all happening in silence.

Discussion is an integral part of making meaning of new information, but out-loud talk is not the only way that this important part of the learning process can be done.  In their book, Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action, Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Stephanie Harvey use written conversations to have students “hold sustained silent discussions” by exchanging a series of one-minute notes that are passed to members of a group.

There are only two rules:
  • Students must write for the entire time that they are given.
  • Absolutely no talking…even when exchanging papers.  All energy is to be put into the writing process.
 In Lauren’s grade seven French Language Arts class, we are using written conversations to explore some of the key ideas in her historical fiction unit.  Here is what the process looks like:

Step 1:  We create small groups of three or four and have them sit close to one another.

Step 2:  We select an excerpt from the novel and ask the students to write about whether they agree or disagree with the message.  We have also used some of the themes explored in the novel as a discussion points.

Step 3:  We tell the class that they only have a minute or so to respond.  Each student in a discussion group begins writing on his or her own piece of paper, explaining and justifying their point of view- spelling doesn’t count.  Remind them to include their initials at the beginning of their writing so that their thoughts can be identified later.

Step 4:  As the students write, we circulate checking on their progress.  When most students have filled about a quarter of their page, we tell them it is time to pass their paper…remember, no talking!  (We have found that the writing takes more like a couple or three minutes)

Step 5:  The next student reads what the previous student has written and comments on their page noting reactions, questions, or connections.  They can write whether they agree or disagree, or they can even offer a whole new point.

Step 6:  After the given time, students pass one more time.  Students read all entries and may choose to respond to one or all of them.

Step 7:  Repeat this process if necessary.

Step 8:  On the final pass, the person who started the conversation has her original piece of writing returned to her.  She reads all of the comments on her conversation and reflects on what has been written.

Step 9:  Finally, students participate in a class discussion about the original prompt.  Alternatively, students can write a final reflection, noting any changes in their thoughts due to the input of their peers.  

   Student Exemplar

Student A begins writing his or her response to the whole-class prompt.

Student B responds to, adds to, reacts to, or connects to the thoughts of the first writer.

Student C responds, adds to, reacts to, or connects to the thoughts of either writer.

 In this example, the paper returned to writer A, where she then had the opportunity to read all of what was written and then write a final reflection.

*I know…it’s in French, but this shows what a conversation could look like*

Once the conversations have stopped, we collect the papers and look for the quality of student responses, overall comprehension, and any conversations that show us that there may have been some confusion.  Armed with the data, we go into the next class to comment on some great points that were raised during the discussion, and we address the areas of confusion before proceeding on in the lesson sequence.  We imagine that these conversations could be used as a summative assessment piece as well, as we look for evidence of critical thinking and the quality of student writing.

So what do the students think of written conversations?  Student response to this strategy has been overwhelmingly positive.   Here's what some of Lauren's students had to say...

I think the strategy helped because you could see the opinions of other people and they could add to what you said and really help you understand more about the sentence, the phrase.”

I like it ‘cuz no one was actually talking out loud, and there was no… trying to talk over each other and interrupting.”

One student noted that in written conversations, you could “actually write what you want without getting interrupted.”

You could give your personal opinions…that you wouldn’t want to say out loud.”

It helped me, ‘cuz I understood it more, and, like, I understand what’s going on, because I had questions and then we wrote it down and then we read it back after, it’s like oh, that’s what’s going on.”

Here’s what Lauren had to say:

“Often in group conversations, personalities can dictate the sharing of information. In written conversations, students are focused on generating and communicating ideas without the distraction of various verbal and non-verbal signaling from their peers. This activity was a greater time investment than a Think/Pair/Share discussion, but in this scenario I know each child is engaged and participating in the ‘conversation’. It also provides me with a concrete piece I can assess formatively or summatively.”

In the end, written conversations engaged Lauren’s students and they provided an environment where students could really make meaning of the content.  Who would have ever guessed that quality conversation can happen in complete silence!