Sunday, September 21, 2014

Analysis of Seminal US Text, President Obama's Speech on the Death of Bin Laden (Preparation for the New FSA)

Below is a lesson plan that may be useful for teaching analysis of a speech. Included are questions that help direct and teach students the skill of analysis, which will be so important on the new Florida Standards Assessment. There is also a teacher guide--a paragraph-by-paragraph discussion of President Obama's Speech: the How and Why of his rhetoric.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Great Letter

A good friend sent me the following letter written by the essayist E.B. White. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society – things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


E. B. White

FSA Portal (Florida Standards Assessments)--Resources for the New Assessment

Keep up to date on the latest news about the upcoming Florida Standards Assessments:

Click on the link below for Florida Standards Assessment Support (ELA). You can access a guide to the test as well as a guide to the new English textbook, Collections:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

FSA for ELA--Additional Information

  • Some Acronyms to Know: AIR--American Institutes for Research, TDS—Test Delivery System, TIDE—Test Information Distribution Engine, ORS—Online Reporting System, CBT—Computer-Based Testing, DRC—Data Recognition Corporation.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Group Work--Enough Already

The time has come for educators to recognize that we place way too much emphasis on group work. Increasingly, in the work world, employers are acknowledging that sometimes the best ideas get drowned out by the loudest, and not necessarily the brightest, member of a group. The corporate world has begun to establish quiet spaces where individuals can work alone. Some of the greatest innovators in history have been the "lone unicorns." Just imagine if people like Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Thoreau, Dickinson, Curie, Einstein, Gandhi, Goodall, Rachel Carson, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates had been constantly forced to "think, pair, share" or work in groups. How many brilliant epiphanies would have been sacrificed because of a group/herd mentality that now permeates our culture? Of course there is a place for group work, but we need to balance it with individual, focussed, quiet, disciplined learning time.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

FSA Item Stems Worksheet

The information in this document was excerpted from the Draft of Grades 9-10 English Language Arts Item Specifications that is posted on the Florida Department of Education website. A few of the Item Stems were created by me. You may find it useful to have students use the sample Item Stems to create questions for what they are reading in class.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Florida Standards Assessments--Questions Remain

After three weeks into the school year, it would be helpful to have more complete information about the new Florida Standards Assessments. Below are some of the questions that have not been clearly and/or sufficiently answered:

Monday, September 1, 2014

FSA Argumentative Essay Prompt Based on Texts--Strategies

Writing Prompt:
(from the Florida Department of Education website)

It’s no secret that sometimes great discoveries come as a result of really big mistakes. But are they always worth the problems they cause? Sometimes the mistakes lead to greatness, and sometimes they lead to disaster. Are mistakes key to making discoveries?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

FSA Informational Essay Prompt Based on Texts--Strategies

The Florida Standards Assessment for Writing (March 2-13, 2015) will have either an informational essay prompt or an argumentative essay prompt. Both prompts require students to cite textual evidence from accompanying reading passages. Below are strategies for students to use for the informational essay prompt. 

I also created a sample informational essay prompt that you may find useful for practice with your students: I will soon post strategies for answering the argumentative essay prompt.

Comment on Wording of the Sample FSA Argumentative Prompt (Grades 6-8) on the Florida Department of Education Website

Sample Argumentative Writing Prompt 

It’s no secret that sometimes great discoveries come as a result of really big mistakes. But are they always worth the problems they cause? Sometimes the mistakes lead to greatness, and sometimes they lead to disaster. Are mistakes key to making discoveries?

Common Core and Language Arts Assessment: Analysis Handout for High School Students

Analysis (in both reading and writing) will be the most important skill to teach students for the new Language Arts Assessment that will be replacing the FCAT. Below is a handout that I created for all high school grades. Feel free to use this material in your classes, but kindly include a line of attribution citing this website, as I also work as a freelance writer and editor.

Explanation of Analysis 

Analysis is the WHY and the HOW. What? Why? How? Explain and elaborate on the effect. Specificity is key!

What would help explain specifically?

What words does the writer use? Why does she use those specific words? How is the use of those words effective? And most importantly, how does that particular use of language support/relate to the overarching argument/claim/thesis/theme in the text?

Common Core and Language Arts Assessment: How to Analyze an Author's Style

I use the following handout in my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition classes (grade 11), but the information is also helpful for grades 9 and 10. 

Ways to Prepare Students for New Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) and Other Rigorous Exams

Friends of Ms. Izzo
  • Teaching to the test. Yes, teaching to the test. I know that this may seem like anathema to many educators, but from a pragmatic point of view it works. For example, in the the new Common Core Florida Standards Assessment that we will be preparing students for (whatever its format), we do know that high-level critical thinking skills will be emphasized. We need to give students concrete, specific explanations of what these skills mean (in language and through analogies that they can understand), as well as explicit step-by-step directives on how to understand/use each skill in both reading and writing. Students will never understand the skills of evaluation, analysis, synthesis, and argumentation unless we teach in ways that are specific, concrete, and directed.