Shifting the Text in ELA Classroom

Our district indoctrinated Common Core State Standards last school year, and with it came another educational trend the Educational Shifts. Educational Shifts using CCSS and personalized learning is a new educational trend, one that has definitely disrupted our current process is unquestionably worth trying. The idea is that to best implement the CCSS and Shifts effectively educators will need to incorporate more personalized learning into the classroom. The Educational Shifts help facilitate the personalized learning needs— it has been researched that this trend in education is important because “there is great evidence that one-on-one differentiation of instruction helps students progress—even in cases where the individual attention is given by a tutor, rather than a teacher” (Newsted 2010).

Keeping this educational trend in mind, I want to dissect a current 8th grade unit to determine how well the ELA Educational Shifts are being enforced in my classroom. A personalized learning model is intrinsic to recognizing how the Educational Shifts are used. Therefore, my unit focus contains analyzing informational texts, creating informational texts, and presenting information about real life heroes. Students chose to focus on the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, Apartheid, WW II Resistance Fighters, or  Women and Education, etc. and finding real life heroes from those causes they build Museum artifacts about their subject.

Shift #1: Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational texts

“The standards address reading and writing across-the-curriculum that complement the content the standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, thus offering new grounding in informational text and placing a premium on students building knowledge from that reading.”

Considering the Educational Shift above, I used the personalized learning strategy of the Dinner Menu to provide guided choices for students. They choose the theme, topic, of their project and the Menu guides them to complete the project. Students are studying informational texts and learning how to analyze these texts at their own pace. This is all incorporated through the personalized learning model because, this type of assignment variety sparks personalized learning and students deftly handling these cross-curricular supports the Shift (Waldeck 2006).

Shift #2: Reading and writing grounded in evidence from text

“…the reading standards focus on students’ ability to read closely and grasp information, arguments, ideas and details based on text evidence. Students should be able to answer a range of text-dependent questions, questions in which the answers require no information from outside the text, but instead require inferences based on careful attention to the text.”

Students use their pre-assessment data to determine which standard they should focus on and then incorporate what the standard activity into their project. Students must find informational texts to support the product they are conducting. They must analyze this data closely in order to create an informational text. Moreover, students are using, reading, analyzing, and studying information texts through the standard mini-activities. This is all a self-pace unit. Once students have been given the menu they are told the unit length and have the flexibility to decide what activities to work on which days.

Shift #3: Regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary

“Rather than focusing solely on the skills of reading and writing, the standards highlight the growing complexity of the texts students must read to be ready for the demands of college and careers.

For this self-paced unit, one requirement is for students to determine their own vocabulary list and to teacher another student their vocabulary words. Students get to decide what words they need to know using the PAVE reading strategy and the words must be incorporated into their Museum artifacts. Students are defining their own needs and learning how to set their classroom goals, obtain those goals and respond with intelligence in class. This is all a part of the CCSS/Shift process through personalized learning.

How are you using the different Educational Shifts in your ELA classroom?

What changes can be made to your current instruction to incorporate more self-pace personalized learning?

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