Monday, August 18, 2014

EngageNY G6, Module 1, Lessons 4–5: In Which I Debate Myself About A Word

I'm going through an interesting thought process. I'm finding myself being highly critical of this curriculum, then I question myself when it shows nuggets of improvement. Surely it can't be all bad? After all, New York State spent millions of dollars on this. It's professionally developed! You're being too critical!

Let me describe one thing that is making me uneasy. One of the initial vocabulary vocabulary words for this unit is the word gist, as in to get the gist of. We all know what that means, and I always used it in a slightly informal way. In no way is it a word or term that I would incorporate into a lesson except in a casual way. However, this EngageNY curriculum codifies the word gist into the learning process. For example, in Lesson 4 it asks the students to discuss in their triads, “What is the gist of this action of text?" Now this isn't a bad word to know, but my gut tells me it's way too informal a word to use in this context. This is repeated in Lessn 5 too, describing a certain type of non-analytical reading that students are expected to do (which I think is traditionally called "reading"). We have to get the gist of the chapter or section.

What this is doing is dividing the two types of reading too. There's reading for "gist" and there's the analytic reading which the Common Core Curriculum values more.

Lesson 5 addresses making inferences. Inferences are one of these ideas that I see in every standardized test. There are always questions about inferencing. The gist of the lesson (Ha! I make funny!) is to look at a range of pages and discuss what Percy is thinking at a specific moment and then write down what you learn about Percy as a result of it. Okay, this isn't the worst idea, teaching character and inferencing at the same time. The problem is that we did this last lesson. No matter whether you use evidence flags for the text you want to highlight or not, this is very repetitive.

I'm still not seeing any better engagement with story or the mythological underpinnings of The Lightning Thief. Lesson 6 is preoccupied with teaching prefixes, which is a poor fit for a one-day lesson that has to do with a novel. If you're going to teach this subject, and that's a perfectly valid topic for this age (I teach them myself) do it methodically. End a week or so and work through the major prefixes and suffixes, examining how they change the meaning of a word. You can't skim the topic and convince yourself that you've taught it. It's too deep.

We do some reading comprehension in Lesson 6 where the students, still in their triads, get to pick questions for a question basket which I will distribute to each triad. They take turns drawing questions and reading them, then the entire group searches for text to answer the question. I can see this as kind of fun, and this may be a better way to do reading comprehension from time to time.

As a closing, students will stand back-to-back with a neighbor then turn around and share their ideas about three questions:

  1. 1. What is an example of a word that begins with a prefix?

    2. What is an important challenge Percy has faced so far in The Lightning Thief?

    3. What is the most important thing you have learned about Percy so far in this novel? Support your thinking with a specific example from the book. 

Getting back to engaging with the text, do you see how the actual text questions are very general? They don't question a student's understanding very well. So far it seems that there are bigger questions than this at this point in the novel, yet the lesson barely touches them.

No comments:

Post a Comment