I'm Lorraine Kelly. I teach 7th grade at Washington Park Middle School. This year, I'm teaching Ancient Civilizations and Communications.

My goal is to find different activities for my classes that will reach all of the students, motivate everyone, to learn the content. I will attempt to document different units or project ideas that address all kinds of learners.

"Reaching & enriching the lives of a diverse population to enable them to become independent learners."

What skills can I teach that will create independent learners?
In looking at the reading scores of our current 7th graders, it seems as though they struggle a great deal with identifying, using and analyzing graphic features and charts in texts. Of course, they have had limited exposure to this material. The standards addressed are: 1.1.8B Identify and use common organizational structures and graphic features to comprehend information. 1.2.8A Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas. The anchors/eligible content addressed would be R7.B.3.3.1, R7.B.3.3.4, R8.B.3.3.2 and R8.B.3.3.3

what strategies will I use?
What method will I use to document it?

I need to remember to focus on the process - not the product. Don't worry about the curriculum being the same, work on strategies and documentation.
Do more research on Independent learners.

The first strategy I tried was to use outlining as a note taking method. The students were taught how to take notes using an outline and I gave them pretty specific directions and clues on what were the important events, people, or vocabulary that needed to be included. The learning support students were helped especially (sometimes even letting them copy a completed outline). Everyone understood the strategy and the concept. For the first test they were permitted to use the outline as an “open notes” test. All of the students remembered to bring it to class (amazingly). There was no significant difference in grades. In many instances, students didn’t study for the test as they normally would, could not find the correct answers on the outline, and did poorly on the test. This was especially evident with the learning support students. They had a difficult time reading their own writing and transferring the information to the test questions. I feel that this strategy was unsuccessful. The students who always did well in the past did not improve, the lower students did more poorly than without the outline. After talking to my learning support students and the aid that works with them during testing, we discovered that they find it difficult to read their own writing and difficult to find information on the outline that answers a question in a different format. These students do better when they learn the information; have the question read to them and have answers to choose from read to them that recalls information they have learned. Writing the outline for them was more of a copying exercise and did not help them learn it.

I’m so excited about a new development from the outlines. It is definitely useful to the learning support kids when they are writing a research paper! They can take the information and put it in the outline in their own words and then transfer it into a paper! So, they can’t use it to find information, but they can use it to transfer it. Their research papers were definitely successful and they were happy to share them with the class.

On to the next strategy tried! The research paper. For many students this seems insurmountable. I took them to the computer lab to research their African American history figure. They had time to print from 3 resources and print a picture and make a cover page. The new strategy to get them to write in their own words (no plagiarism) was to have them write an outline and to write the paper in first person – pretend they were the historic figure. They were given 2 weeks to complete the paper on their own. With the help of the outline, many did a very nice job of keeping the paper in sequential order and following the rubric provided. Some students have not completed the assignment and I fear they will never turn it in. So, to motivate them, I am printing out their grade scores without it (0%) and with an 85% as an average score. This has motivated them if they don’t want to get a bad progress report. The students who used the outline were definitely more successful in creating the biography. The learning support students did an amazing job and completed the work. Some students did not complete the assignment because they refuse to do it on their own time. I am sure that if I would have taken them to the computer lab every day, they would have finished it. In all, the outline was a successful tool for writing.
Strategy –deciding what kind of graphic organizer to use. I began by demonstrating how to use a Venn diagram to organize their information. I drew a large Venn diagram on the board and as a class we discussed where to put some information about ancient African and Mesoamerican cultures. Then the following day, I divided the class and had them work at stations. The first had a stack of photographs and artifacts from the Swahili civilization. They had a selection of graphic organizers, one that was a web with “natural resources, environment and geography, technology, food, clothing” listed on them. The students were told to find evidence of these subjects from the photos.
The second station was exactly the same for the Inca civilization. Students definitely did a better job the second time they were at one of these stations.
The third station was a list of vocabulary words and separate definitions on magnetic strips on the board. They could check the correct definitions matches.
The fourth station was the Venn diagram. Using the knowledge they gained from the picture stations, they added more details. It was amazing what they discovered on their own. I told them they were young archeologists!

Strategy - Using a graphic organizer to find information for an open-ended question about historic details. I gave the students a worksheet that provided them with historic details about the civilizations of 2 cultures. We went over the graphic and discussed findings, comparisons, who did what. This graphic organizer was added to the chapter test and essay questions were given. ALL BUT 2 STUDENTS WERE SUCCESSFUL! Teaching them to read the organizer before the test enabled them to make decisions on their own about the information. This was by far the most successful strategy for having the students learn on their own. They had the information and they processed it on their own.

Strategy – using drawing to learn vocabulary. I had the students draw a Polis diagram that had to include an acropolis, temple, agora, fortified city (walls), orchard, farming village and fields, livestock. It was amazing how many of my city kids had no clue what an orchard was. Now, they know! This assignment was designed to help students interpret infographics and illustrations for content in non fiction works. Having the students draw their own illustration with labels would help them get the connection between the picture and having them find content in the picture. The next part of this strategy would be to give them an illustration that they have no prior knowledge to see if they can interpret the content by answering questions about the illustration.

Final strategy tried – having the students teach a lesson in Social Studies. Our entire group discussed the strategy that it was difficult because the students didn’t know how to prepare, that they often failed miserably because they couldn’t organize their lesson. My plan was to create a rubric that they could use to prepare for teaching a lesson. I made a large poster of the rubric that they could refer to, and grade themselves. I am presently half way through the class list; the students are really enjoying the experience and are also realizing how difficult it is to keep the attention of their peers. Most students are very successful.

Documentation of Likert Scale results of strategies tried: Please scroll down to view 4 different graphs below.




Below are video clips of student interviews about a couple of the strategies we used in class and how they felt about them.

Drawing to learn vocabulary from Lorraine Kelly on Vimeo.

Using a Venn Diagram from Lorraine Kelly on Vimeo.

Usinbg an Outline to organizr your thoughts from Lorraine Kelly on Vimeo.