Making Curriculum Pop

This blog was slightly updated and edited on 4.7.10 to support the new, updated Reading with Your Pen Palette that was published in the National Council of Teachers of English's (NCTE's) Classroom Notes Plus in April '10.

Here at MC POP we all try hard to bring teachers resources that make all kinds of curricula pop. If you browse the MC POP PLAYLIST you'll find a showcase of resources that cut across all disciplines and many grade levels.

In February '09, I hipped people to Stephen D. Brookfield and Stephen Preskill’s discussion moves for adult education in the DISCUSSIONS THAT POP blog. There people found a remixed and ready to use PDF based on Brookfield and Preskill's discussion moves.

Later that month you were blown away by the two blogs on cooperative learning cryptically named MAKING GROUP WORK POP - PT. 1 & MAKING GROUP WORK POP - PT. 2. In part two you found the super groovy and MC POPPED out Lit Circle bundle PDF I made with my mom (Pam Goble) ready for classroom use.

I realize at this point you're probably so excited that you're expecting MONSTER TRUCKS in the remainder of the blog.

While I don't have ACTUAL monster trucks, I do have a PDF that follows in the tradition of these earlier MC POP blogs. Inspired by the work of Brookfield & Preskill as well as our own quirky ways of reading I worked last year with 9th grade teachers Elizabeth Davis & Lauren Fardig (with a little editorial help form 10th Grade teacher Amanda Hunter) to create (drum roll)

To get a taste of the cut-out-able "pen strokes" your students can make while reading check this sample of the PDF:

Now you might be thinking, like I was at some point - these are silly, my kids will never use these. Over time, I've become a huge fan of using these simple structures at every grade level (including my grad classes).  Without exception, they have been very successful.

For the last five years I've been fortunate enough to adjunct at a university that caters to non-traditional students. Classes are online coupled with eight sessions on campus that last four hours each. Every year I ask my students to annotate a text in class - usually something simple like a movie review. This comment is always met by blank stares until someone raises their hand and asks "What do you mean by annotation?"

I explain, model it with a paragraph of the text and make pen strokes on paper like those described in the attached PDF. Once I give them a list of ways they can annotate they find reading to be much easier and enjoyable. Sometimes even the best students just need models to work with and an entire world of learning and interaction is unlocked.

These issues are even a problem at the Ivy League level. In August of '09 I met with a neuroscientist at one of these fancy institutions to talk about science education in high schools. This professor works as an advisor to many biology undergraduates and he expressed a lot of frustration with his students because of their inability to critically read. He held up a massive survey text for me and complained that his students "don't know how to interact with these books."

I believe his complaint is one of many reasons students struggle with science*. But I also believe it is the job of all teachers across all disciplines to teach students to "read the world" indigenous to their subject matter.

Teachers who say that reading instruction should have been completed by 6th grade or that the English teacher should be the one teaching reading need a wide angle view of their discipline and profession. I have met high school English teachers who don't want to teach kids reading skills because that is "elementary stuff."

My dear Watson, I don't think so.

The attached PDF is written at a 6th grade level but can be easily adapted and simplified for the K-6 set. While we have used this document in the classroom, we'd love your feedback and ideas to improve this tool so that future versions are even more helpful and groovy.

There are many ways to read and many things to read (movies, facial expressions, landscapes, websites).

When we show kids how to read with their pen they learn to start reading with their mind!

4.7.10 UPDATE
When this blog was originally shared in August of '09 it caught the eye of savvy editor and MC POPPER Felice who does some great publication work at NCTE.  She offered me the opportunity to develop the blog above into a full blown article.  This was exciting because: obviously it is cool to publish, NCTE has a wonderful team of professional editors and it gave me a chance to collaborate with friends (and my best friend - my wife) in different schools and disciplines who had a chance to use the original Reading with Your Pen Palette before and after I shared it here on the Ning.

This month (April '10) a full article - a dramatic remix and elaboration of the blog above - was published in NCTE's Classroom Notes Plus (CNP). CNP is a wonderful quarterly journal built around translating theory into powerful classroom practices.  The Reading with Your Pen Article is extra cool because it includes narratives by NicoleJane and Elizabeth about their uses of the Reading with Your Pen Palette in their classrooms.

Of special note, the new issue also contains a lesson on "Analyzing Video Messages" by MC POPPER Luke Rodesiler.  As the kiddies might say, "MC POP REPRESENT!"

I can't say enough wonderful things about working with Felice and her team on this article. I hope folks find it to be enjoyable and useful. 

You can read the full text here or download it below.  I've also attached the updated Reading With Your Pen PDF below for you to copy.

If you dig this article, please do consider subscribing to CNP for $20 a year as they a great job of sharing meaningful and ready to use lessons.  They make a practice of sharing pretty hip lessons that make classrooms pop!


* For those of you who are new to MC POP you can get a taste of my thoughts on science and reading in these three older bouncing blogs:

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This is really great. I'm already thinking of where I can share them--the students in my classes this fall come to mind.

Ruth Vinz and I collaborated on the Daybooks of Critical Reading and Writing (along with Fran Claggett, too) and we often heard from teachers that students didn't really know how to annotate, nor did the teachers know just what to tell them. "Reading with your pen" is an excellent metaphor, I agree, and these very specific actions ought to help extend it.

Thank you.

Have you ever tried using the daybooks ... at night :) They're really cool, eh? Yeah, not every kid will need the specific but a lot DO NEED those plays....
Minutes ago, I sat down to write my week one lesson plans for a senior advanced composition course , but I decided to do a quick email check and wandered onto your new post "Reading with your Pen." Day two's lesson plan just happens to be "How and Why to Annotate" - I teach/sell the importance of annotation and active reading strategies using a powerpoint based on information I found in a helpful article by Carol Porter-O'Donnell “Beyond the Yellow Highlighter: Teaching Annotations Skills to Improve Reading Comprehension” English Journal vol. 93, No. 5 May 2004. Although it's a composition course, each week begins with reading and annotating a collection of assigned essays on our topic. I then grade student annotations - a wonderful way to view the critical dialogue students have with authors.
I will definitely add &use many of your quick and easy graphics from the "playbook" this year. I think I'm going to add a subtitle to my powerpoint as well: "Reading With Your Pen." Thanks! The timing is perfect!.

What can I say - I try to make sure things get to you in a timely fashion!

Thanks for writing and thanks for the thanks!

Ryan, I just came across this after reading the latest graphic novel posts. My students are struggling high school readers who with luck will shortly be struggling college readers. I've concentrated on connecting with and marking the text this year - and it works!! I don't know whether it's the highlighters we use or just the "Oh, I get it!" phenomena, but I see a decided improvement and most importantly, they do too. I can't wait to use your techniques. for peer editing. What a great idea.

Thanks for writing and sharing your experiences. I'm glad you like this. I'm actually doing a edit of the moves for an NCTE magazine - so do stay tuned for that update. Happy New Year! Ryan:)
I'm not sure exactly how I got here, but I love your annotation "pen strokes," Ryan! Definitely saving and using next year with my freshmen and sophomores! And a belated congrats on being published by NCTE. :)
Jo to the Hawke - Thanks x2! Glad you like it - just remember not to use them all at once!!!

:) I'm thinking about copying the whole set for everyone; teaching several at a time in the first weeks; and then requiring certain ones or a certain number of their choice, depending on the assignment.

Yeah, that is a great way to go with them - please do let me know how they work out! RRG:)

We introduced annotation into our fifth grade summer reading and now through 12. I am so pleased to find this resource as I try to teach fifth graders about annotation. Will certainly be using it extensively.

Many thanks!

Heather, so glad you like it - make sure you use a few at a time!  Keep us posted on your work!



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