Thursday, August 28, 2014

Common Core Practice: Synthesis Lesson Plan

Rationale for this Lesson Plan:
In a Research Simulation Task that may appear on the Common Core Assessment, "students will analyze an informational topic presented through several articles or multimedia stimuli, the first text being an anchor text that introduces the topic.  Students will engage with the texts by answering a series of questions and synthesizing information from multiple sources in order to write two analytic essays" (PARCC, developer of a Common Core Assessment being used in fourteen states and the District of Columbia). Although the lesson below does not directly address the Research Simulation Task, the lesson does facilitate the development and application of synthesis as a skill. Students enjoy the creative aspect of the lesson and are often excited to share their final products with the class.

“Link Think” Activity--New Common Core Standards for Literacy Across Disciplines.  Students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas.


AP English Language and Composition Guide for Free Response Essays

The first essay rubric below is one that I created by synthesizing ideas from a variety of sources--handouts from English workshops, Internet sites, and most of all, my own observations/experience as an AP Reader and teacher. Unfortunately, I do not have all the necessary attribution, as I have been adding to this rubric and subtracting from it over many years. I want to thank all those anonymous sources for their ideas and inspiration. The rubric, as well as all the other materials included in the Guide for Free Response Essays, is not a product of The College Board (the company that creates the AP Exam), although it does contain some language from College Board rubrics and valuable input that I receive every year from fellow AP Readers.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Florida Standards Assessments--Questions Remain

Since school starts Monday, it would be appropriate to have more complete information about the new Florida Standards Assessments. It would also be helpful if the state had been more proactive in preparing for the upcoming tests. Below are some of the questions I still have:

Practice for the New Florida Standards Assessments (FSA)--ELA

I plan to teach my students the following mnemonic device as a method of analyzing every text we read. Whether students read on their own, or we read a selection as a class, they will be required to write down the following information for each text. In addition, I will instruct students to find textual support for each element listed below. There is also a list of additional suggested practices and strategies at the end of the post.

My Performance is Determined by Focussing on Very Good Techniques.

M--Main Idea; Mode of Discourse. Students will paraphrase the main idea of the text, then cite the sentence or sentences that support their assertion. In terms of mode of discourse, most texts can be described as one mode: argumentation, for example. However, I will impress upon students that authors often use multiple modes of discourse within one text: description, exposition, process analysis, cause/effect, division and classification, narration, illustration, compare/contrast, etc.

Text-Dependent Questions/Analysis and Webb's Depth of Knowledge

Check out these links for guides to creating text-dependent questions and Webb's Depth of Knowledge. Once you access the links, look for additional helpful information at the left side of the page:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Analysis of President Obama's Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2004

I will begin my AP English Language and Composition course this year with an analysis of the speech that propelled a relatively unknown senator from Illinois into the national spotlight. The lesson is relevant and timely because July was the tenth anniversary of that address, and the mood of the country has changed dramatically. Obama’s spirit of optimism, hope, and change touched a chord with the American people in 2004, and helped him win the presidency in 2008. Unfortunately, many of President Obama's aspirations have not come to fruition for various reasons.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vocabulary Lists and Assignments for Grade 9 Collections Textbook

I extracted the following vocabulary lists from the new grade 9 textbook. (The lists go in order from beginning to end of the textbook.) I give students one or two weeks (depending upon what else I have assigned) to complete each list per the directions below. Students will often ask me why they have to handwrite this assignment. I explain that the research shows that students learn better when handwriting, rather than typing. In addition, it is too easy to copy and paste someone else's assignment. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Synthesis Question on Happiness--Practice for the AP English Language and Composition Exam, as well as the Argumentative Essay Prompt for the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)

Below is a synthesis question that I created for AP English practice. Synthesis is also a required skill for the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Florida Standards Assessment Writing Component will include an Argumentative Essay Prompt. This prompt could be adapted for practice with your students. Teachers should reduce the sources included below and also reword/reformat the prompt to mimic the type of prompt students will see on the Florida test. See the following link to get an idea of how to reword/reformat: Read the section of the post titled "Writing Assessment" (highlighted in yellow, a third of the way down).

Argumentative Essay Rubric--Peer Editing, Preparation for Argumentative Essay Prompt--Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)

The following rubric/peer editing directions may be helpful for the new Florida Standards Assessment (Writing--March 2015)

1. Does the writer have a strong introductory paragraph with a clear thesis/argument/claim?
2. Does the writer provide excellent examples within the body paragraphs to support the 
    main argument/claim?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)--Writing

American Institutes for Research (AIR) developed the Common Core tests for the states of Utah and Florida. The following links may offer some insight about the Florida exam (March 2-13, 2015):

ELA Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) Terminology

I scanned tests and Common Core Standards for many of the terms on the following list. I also included terms which I consider "Pre-AP" in order to increase rigor in English classes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Strategies for Responding to an Informational Essay Prompt Based on Texts, Practice for Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) Writing

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.

Sample Informational Essay Prompt: Practice for New Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)

Suggestions for Teacher:

Students should type their responses as practice for the exam. Although the directions from the sample test at
do not specify parenthetical citations, I would have students cite any information they use in their essays (both paraphrased text and text that students choose to quote). I would advise students to write the title or an abridged version of the title within parentheses. For example, the first text below would be cited as (“Black Death”), the next text could be abbreviated as (“Sin”) and the third text could be abbreviated as (“Depopulation”).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), Common Core and ELA: Sample Question Stems for Multiple Choice and Short Open-Response Writing Prompts

Below are links to the Test Item Specifications for the new Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). These links are followed by additional question stems that were excerpted and adapted from the Pennsylvania Keystone Exam Item and Scoring Sampler. I have culled that sample exam as a vehicle for becoming familiar with Common Core question types that would provide additional practice for the Florida Standards Assessment (April 13-May 8, 2015)