The Thursday afternoon ELA session for grades 6-8 focused on analyzing the intentional backward design process that scaffolds students’ success in the ELA modules. Resource materials were provided to help teachers build scaffolds for English language learners and students with disabilities as they implement the modules in their classrooms. The research modules (Grade 6 Module 4, Grade 7 Module 4, and Grade 8 Module 4) incorporate and connect to the Odell Education materials and connect to the Grades 9-12 ELA research modules. This provides continuity for middle school students when they go to high school and encounter material that uses similar vocabulary and research strategies. Focusing on Grade 7 Module 4A, participants discussed the teaching of research skills including how to identify a credible source, assessing sources (including for readability), and the importance of librarians in the research process. Discussion also included strategies for accommodations and scaffolding for all students in this lesson. This was an informative session that got everyone thinking about how they will teach research and writing in their classrooms.
The Grades 3-8 ELA Thursday morning session began with a review of the Norms for Collaboration which ensure that participants support each other in a constructive learning environment. The goal of this session is to learn about the principles of teaching research that underlie the Expeditionary Learning (EL) approach to research in the 3-8 ELA modules. The presenters distributed EL’s “Overview of Research in the NYS Grades 3-8 ELA Modules” which highlights how research supports the six shifts and meets the 3-8 Common Core Learning Standards. Participants then looked at a video to examine how the students in the video are engaged in research. The students were working on a case study where they observed an actual snake in the classroom, which was followed by the creation of individual books about the snake for an outside audience. The students were then going to use the research skills they acquired to do a case study of their own snakes.
Conversations around how expectations can impact students took place. The students in the video all rose to the challenge, acquired new research skills and were enthusiastic about the research and the process.
The second part of the morning was devoted to the Research Process. Participants examined the Common Core standards that deal directly with research: W.7-W.9. They looked at the nuances in vocabulary that distinguish one grade level from the next and how the standards evolve in complexity across the grades. This was followed by the reading of various articles in which the authors make connections between research and reading/writing. The participants at each table read each article and shared their findings with their groups. Discussion centered around the role of teachers’ expectations regarding student writing about research and how integral reading and research are to students’ lives now and in the future.