Monday, May 11, 2020

The Power of Text Annotation and Collaboration

If you frequent this blog often, you'll know that I talk A LOT about teacher collaboration and the PLN I've surrounded myself with online. They are rock stars! But this lesson is a result of the collaboration with some awesome teachers in my own building. I am so happy with the way it turned out...and proud of the work we did to make it happen. 

The lesson came about through working and talking with two teachers who just happen to have classrooms in the same hallway as I do. These two women do amazing things for students and I am so thankful to have them around! US and World History teacher, Becca Hawthorne (@MsHawthorne266) and English teacher, Cady Jackson (@cadyelizabeth1) are two people you should know! 

My classroom neighbor, Ms. Hawthorne, brought out this box of WWII "stuff" that she was gifted one year for Christmas. Inside was TONS of replica WWII sources. Letters, battle plans, maps, photos, speeches...TONS. And while we were going through the box we came across the speech for FDR's response to Pearl Harbor. You know the, "date that will live in infamy" speech.

What was COOL about this copy of the speech, is that it was the original with his handwritten notes all over it. You can do a simple Google search and find copies of it. But Becca and I knew we had to use it in class. I created an analysis worksheet using the templates provided from the National Archives found HERE. While Becca and Cady worked together to create an awesome lesson on annotating the speech drawing connections to the lessons students did on connotation and word choice during Engligh class this year. These two really did the heavy lifting for this lesson and I am so thankful for their willingness to share!

The original idea had students moving from station to station interacting with the words on the page in different ways. And that's what I had planned on doing... but then (in my typical fashion) changed it up at the last minute. I decided to do this activity and each station as a class.  A combination of teacher instruction, group work/discussion, and individual analysis. 

I made that choice for two real reasons. 

1. This is the first time I have ever annotated this specific speech. I've heard it, of course, and I've had students look at parts of it, but this is my first time really teaching this speech. Remember...this is my first year teaching high school curriculum. I haven't taught a unit on WWII in 14 years, when I was doing my student teaching. There is no better way to truly learn your content than to teach it. I wanted to scaffold this lesson as much for me to learn the material as for the students. Teachers don't always know ALL of the answers. Allowing for a class discussion of the speech would allow for me to learn different possible correct responses to various questions.

2. I love to use stations...but I use them in order to help me work "smarter not harder". When I pictured this lesson, I just pictured myself running from group to group, station to station trying to guide them through this process. I was exhausted just thinking about it. I like stations that require students to interact with content independently and reach out to me for feedback. I just couldn't picture this activity running smoothly in station format. 

Turns out the scaffolded class lesson was definitely the way to go. It was awesome! Great conversations, great analysis, and even better...when I asked a question on the test (weeks later) about word choice and connotation these kids KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK! I felt like they really truly understood what FDR was trying to say in his message. 

Here are some images of the lesson.

Final thoughts and a disclosure...

This lesson was probably one of my favorites from this semester. It doesn't have any fancy bells and whistles. But for a teacher getting to witness the LEARNING is so rewarding. I saw students interactiving with text and each other in a collaborative way, and I probably had 100% participation throughout the activity. 

But that doesn't mean the day was perfect. 

I have said this before. There are NO perfect teachers. On this exact day I had planned on doing this lesson twice. For my first block and fourth block US History classes. BUT that didn't happen. During my planning period a situation occurred that required quite a bit of my emotional energy. By the time I was suppose to be preparing for my 4th block class...I found myself exhausted, both mentally and physically. So... I put in a movie. Not a great teaching move. Not something that happens often. But it happened that day. 

You know what? My 4th block class did NOT "rock it" on the assessment question over this speech and the connotation of the language used by FDR.  It wasn't their fault that I didn't do this lesson with them. I hadn't prepared them for that portion of the test, so I didn't penalize them for it and threw out that question.  I realized just how important it is for me to continue with the text annotation in the future...and more like it! Having students interact with the words and the connotation that comes from the types of words chosen is vital to understanding the meaning behind the historical phrases.

Want the lesson resources??? CLICK HERE 

I am so grateful that Becca and Cady worked together to create this amazing activity and were willing to share it with me. I am so thankful to be in a place and a profession and values collaboration. When we work together we all get better...and our students get smarter!