Grades 9-12 ELA Modules: Research, Writing, and Vocabulary

In the 9-12 ELA afternoon session, participants continued to study the research module (Module 9.3) by first reading an excerpt from the sample seed text Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. They then discussed the merits of the excerpt as a seed text and looked at the lesson that goes along with the excerpt. Participants realized that the book does provide many paths of inquiry and is definitely accessible to ninth graders. One participant pointed out that this particular text is a good example of the inquiry process as well and could serve as a model for students.

One concern brought up was that the pacing of the module may be too fast for some classrooms. It was stressed that teachers should feel comfortable adapting this, and all modules, as they see fit. The session wrapped up with a discussion of the merits of the research module and how it can be implemented in classrooms. It seems that the module is well-received and many people are looking forward to seeing it play out in their classrooms.

Approaching Writing in the Curriculum Modules

Participants spent the afternoon examining Module 10.1 and identifying the types of writing instruction that is included in the 9-12 modules. The Common Core standards emphasize different types of writing for different purposes, such as on-demand and process writing and an extensive use of evidence in student writing.

Discussion focused on the final performance assessment for Module 10.1. The central texts include excerpts from The Joy Luck Club, The Palace Thief, and Friday Night Lights. The assessment includes students collaborating to develop ideas, writing drafts, peer and self-reviewing, and editing.

Participants then looked at the individual units from the module. The takeaways from this session include:

  • The modules are intentionally aligned with the Odell units;
  • Different types of writing should be produced by your students; and
  • Language standards can be emphasized when teaching the writing process.

Academic Language and the Common Core

The second part of the afternoon focused on teaching vocabulary in the classroom. The module developers had two factors to consider when developing the vocabulary portions of the modules:

  1. The amount of instructional time required for certain words; and
  2. The context in which words are used.

To understand this better, participants examined “My Last Duchess,” a poem explored in Module 11.1 (coming soon!) and an excerpt from “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf. They then discussed which vocabulary may be challenging for students and talked about which words they would prioritize in their teaching. The focus was on academic vocabulary and determining which words are most important to teach students.

How to Build Academic Vocabulary:

  • Make it Intentional – how does the selection of certain words determine thinking?;
  • Make it Transparent – students must do the work; and
  • Make it Usable – use the vocabulary in writing and discussion tasks (students should use the language).
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