Sunday, October 1, 2017

Strategies for Collaborative Practices & Learning: Working with Text

I had a sense that collaboration can fall into a simple task of doing group work, and confident that I was innovating in terms of collaboration, but had a huge mind shift over the last few weeks while doing professional development with School Reform Initiative. This post focuses on two strategies for working with text: 'Text Rendering' and 'Three Levels of Text'. More strategies will be posted, as I apply them to my own practice. 

The SRI is an invaluable resource for educators and educational leadership teams (and I would argue organisational leaders). The structure and complexity of collaboration is much deeper than I have been practicing, and I came away with some great ideas. Usually I post after doing research, but this is all SRI and a couple of weekends of excellent professional develop. I was so impressed that in the first week and second week I was employing the strategies to my daily practice, with student approval (strategies are “protocols” in SRI language).

Thank you to Margaret MacLean and Tamara Studniski, and St. Maur International School, Nagoya International School, and the East Asia Regional Council of Schools for providing the opportunity. 

Strategy: Text Rendering (looking at text as a group, from individual perspectives) The purpose of text rendering is to clarify and expand our thinking about a piece of text, while working together to construct meaning from that text. The idea is to look at text in a different way, and identify how we may look at text in comparison to others. Participants independently do the following as they read: 

*underline a sentence or two that you feel has significant meaning or resonates with you

*underline a specific word

*underline a specific phrase

*consider writing a concept taken from the text (this is my own addition)

Students then share the sentences and briefly discuss why each was chosen. Identify similarities and differences, and reasons for choices. Next, share and write the phrases and words. Discuss the nature of the text and what you get from it. Are there any new questions that arise? Is there new learning? We must make efforts to cultivate our inner teacher. 

Application: One I have tried is with Grade 12 History students studying the varying groups who opposed the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. They focused on political parties and church organizations. Due to use in an advanced academic History class I chose to add “writing a concept” to get them thinking more deeply. I also followed up with a mentimeter activity that generated opinions on the overall topic. (which included previous lesson content and concepts)

Another possibility is to have students write these on post-it notes, and then have students group the post-its from each category. (sentence, word, phrase, concept) This would be interesting to see how the class might cluster (or not cluster) their thinking. Have a look at SRI's "Affinity Mapping" protocol. 

Strategy: Three Levels of Text (making deeper meaning)
This protocol helps students to grasp a deeper understanding of a piece of text. Students respond to 3 levels of the text: the literal (level 1), the interpretive (level 2), and the implications as they relate to the reader (level 3). Groups will need a timekeeper / facilitator to keep the group on track. 

I recommend that the piece of text be read and annotated ahead of time (such as for homework - a flipped learning model). Students should select a number of passages or ideas that can be discussed as a group. How many passages to identify will depend on the size of the group. Each student will share out their passage, so students sharing later will possibly have their first choice taken. 

The process is as follows:

One person expresses their ideas using up to 3 minutes (the teacher can determine the number of minutes - this will depend on the age of the students and length of the text). Work from one level to the next, and then move on. 

*Level 1: The student reads aloud the passage she/he has selected. 

*Level 2: The student says what they think about the passage (interpretation, connection to past experiences, emotions that were evoked, connections to other learning or knowledge)

*Level 3: Expresses the implications for their course of study or body of research.

The group responds (for a total of up to 2 minutes or a teacher-determined amount of time) to what has been said. 

Repeat the process, and as always, bring the class together to debrief and discuss the piece of writing to address thoughts, ideas, and comprehension.