Tag Archives: strategy


Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 5.46.31 AM

Rick Wormeli via Tweet by Andrew Kozlowsky @MrKoz31 July 14, 2016

This is a second post for #cyberPD, which is exploring DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Robers and Maggie Beattie Roberts. In the first post, I focused on how we need to establish the student learning need before we can turn to the tools that might support student achievement and how we can better determine that student learning via teacher collaboration. This conversation is where I live; it’s what I want to focus on all the time.

Why am I doing this learning?

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 4.54.46 PM

In my classroom, this question has a permanent home, and periodically, I ask students to write down what they are doing and why they are doing it and post their thinking. It’s hard for them to think about why they are doing what they’re doing. Sure we have learning goals and success criteria. Yes, we often co-construct both. Nonetheless, seeing the learning and connecting this discrete skill with the next one and the next one, so that eventually they can

  • engage in the research process;
  • write a blog post;
  • synthesize their reading into an infographic;
  • participate in an online literary discussion;
  • read increasingly complex text and make meaning with those texts;

is hard to hang on to.

Kate and Maggie offer us a series of four tools that can make the learning visible, and thus make it stick:

  1. Teaching charts
  2. Demonstration Notebooks
  4. Micro-progressions of skills

I already use both teaching charts and bookmarks regularly, and many students do access them when they need to recall earlier learning or to remind them about what questions they need to consider. For example, together we will construct a teaching chart of what the research process entails and then we will unpack each step thereby creating a series of explicit teaching charts. Here is one showing how an information paragraph with integrated evidence is constructed:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.28.08 PM

However, not all students turn to these tools for support despite not yet being independent in that skill. Maybe the model of how one paragraph (in this case) is not enough. Micro-progressions may be the right tool for some of these students.

Micro-progressions show the way toward higher levels of work. by providing actual examples of work that’s improving, as well as listing the qualities that make up each “level” of work, micro-progressions allow for both self-assessment and self-assignment (17).

The first challenge I faced in tackling the creation of a micro-progression was that for every skill (including the one above) there were sub-skills that needed their own micro-progression. To write a good information paragraph with different types of evidence integrated with the writer’s own thinking, students need to be able to know how to integrate evidence using a variety of signal phrases. They need to know how to paraphrase. They need to know how to locate, read, and cull information from those sources that may be relevant to their topic. And this is what Kate and Maggie mean when they note “we encounter trouble when we teach too much to hold onto, too much to remember” (46).

Where to start?

I decided to start with an essential skill that students should be using throughout their academic career: the research note. The student note-making samples used in this strategy are all submissions from my students.



But notice how the note with the most breadth and depth is the one that includes the student’s own thinking. Well, that got me thinking about another essential skill: making connections. The models used in this strategy all come from student work.



I am keen to integrate the use of micro-progressions into the teaching – learning process and to get feedback from the students. I am hoping this strategy can provide clarity of purpose because they can see where they need to go next and independence in the self-assessment process that we began this past year (which I haven’t yet blogged about).

And as we co-create more micro-progressions, we may even innovate on the model, and add in an answer to the question: Why should we learn this?

Leave a comment

Filed under #CyberPD, Teaching

#craftreconciliation: Strategy


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 3.02.53 PM

In the fall of 2016, Wab Kinew wrote a Facebook post inviting educators to partner “mainstream” classes with First Nation schools/classes to discuss “What does reconciliation look like?”.  Jaclyn Calder and I joined forces (along with Shannon Simpson and Caroline Black) to design a project that offered students an opportunity to think deeply about the relationship between Natives and non-Natives in Canada, generally, and their understanding of reconciliation, specifically. You can view the project at #CraftReconciliation with SCDSB, Wikwemikong, and Rama First Nations.

Here I am summarizing and reflecting on the project. There are five posts in this series, and they are organized around the Ontario Adolescent Literacy Guide‘s five components:

I have also organized the posts in a way that I hope makes visible the teaching – learning process so that other teachers can ‘see’ the learning that emerged from this project.


Refers to students purposefully selcting and using techniques and processes in order to construct and communicate meaning.

Strategy means…

From theory

Apply comprehension strategies before, during and after reading, listening, and viewing to develop understanding.

To practice

The #craftreconciliation project for me was a way to frame the research process for students. I want them to care about their topic. I want them to learn the steps in the process so well that they can decide to innovate and make the process theirs. But first, we work on making meaning with increasingly complex text. The conversation about reconciliation can be challenging not just because it might be emotionally charged content, but also because the content; that is the history, the politics, the culture, the opinions found in these conversations are complex. Take, for example, Daniel Francis’ ideas around the imaginary Indian. Students struggle to grasp the notion that people think that “Indians” don’t exist in the modern world, and especially that Francis’ argument that the “history of the “Indian” image mythologized by popular Canadian culture since 1850, [propagates] stereotypes that exist to this day.” Or the article on the Greetings Native Savages” sticker that I wrote about in #craftreconciliation: Critical Literacy. This is interesting, but tough stuff.

And worth the effort.

When we recognize how the ideas in a text connect to our experiences and beliefs, events happening in the larger world, our understanding of history, and our knowledge of other texts, we value what we are reading.

What’s the purpose of doing this thinking?

    • To deepen meaning and understanding
    • To think critically
    • To evaluate what I  have read/viewed/listened to
    • To accept or reject the text
    • To understand various perspectives

How do we do it?

The strategy I focus on is annotating a text. There are many systems for annotating a text but all of them push readers to read actively. Here is my list:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 5.32.51 PM

Students initially hate this process because…well… because it is work. And because they have not yet discovered the pure joy that comes from marking up a text as a means of discovery. Although the student below includes highlighting in his repertoire, he identifies what each colour signifies creating intentional and meaningful annotations.


Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.44.07 PM

From theory

Use subject-specific processes to create, solve problems, research, make decisions, revise thinking, communicate ideas and reflect on learning.

To practice

I want to make two points about teaching the research process.

  1. We need to teach it.
  2. It’s a process.

This is hard, hard work that we need to do. Every time we make a major purchase in our lives, we will want to research to find the best product, the best deal, the most appropriate item. Never mind the loftier research pursuits that we might engage in like researching for a job or which candidate should get my vote.

Here are the steps in my research process:Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 5.45.55 PM

Here is one student’s process:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 12.33.46 PM

Here is one student’s mid-term reflection:

When it comes down to researching and creating research notes, annotating, increasing vocabulary to understand harder texts, and learning about media portrayal, I have to say this is the biggest learning process I’ll ever go through. I have to say it is fun and hard, and in going through it I have learned about so many things: purpose questions, styles of text, elements of text/posts, learning new words and phrases. Furthermore, the process gives me more knowledge to use for when I head off for college.

Did you notice he used the words FUN and HARD in the same breath?

That’s what I’m talkin’bout.

From theory

Select and use appropriate organizers to gather, manage and communicate information and ideas

To practice

I realize I am running the risk of English teachers everywhere lining up to take a shot at me for using a formulaic approach to writing. I hate it too, and as soon as a student says to me “I’m done with that structure!” the celebrations ensue. We are learning to include evidence from our notes into our writing to support our ideas. We are learning to use transitions to connect and link our ideas.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.29.02 PM

I do lots of modeling on how to write, which is posted digitally and in the classroom for student reference.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.28.08 PM

From theory

Use a writing process to generate, explore, develop, and refine writing for particular purposes, forms and audiences.

To practice


This image is the bottom portion from the Research Process above. Not only do I model how to write each type of paragraph in the report, but we work together through the writing and revising process. While I know that many teachers are dissatisfied with the peer editing/reviewing process, my students use peer feedback extensively, likely because we use the same peer editing tool structure over and over. Practice for mastery!

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.37.48 PM



The #craftreconciliation project is full of examples that illustrate how students used reading and writing strategies to help them develop their researching skills, including the planning skills they used to plan their #craft builds.

If you have questions about #craftreconciliation or if there are parts of this post that need clarification, please use the comment box to connect with me.

Up next: Metacognition.

1 Comment

Filed under #craftreconciliation, Teaching