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February 4, 2016

Conquering Difficult ELA Standards: Author's Structure

By Meghan Everette
Grades 3–5

    It’s always a little disconcerting when your students aren’t understanding an objective you feel you’ve taught. It’s even more frustrating when materials to support that Common Core State Standard don’t seem to exist in read-to-use format anywhere. This is the case with our objective on writing structure in third grade. After a week of getting nowhere, I wrote some paragraphs, armed my kids with highlighters, and broke out the trusted flip book template for a lesson that finally connected.

    standard ri.3.8Students have been exposed to various techniques when they read and write, such as compare and contrast, cause and effect, and sequence, but have never before been asked to analyze text to determine the author’s structure. This slight change in skill brought about serious problems for my readers.

    First, I discovered they had trouble identifying structure itself; if the paragraph didn’t explicitly state “first, next, and last” they were unable to identify sequence. Comparison and contrast was difficult if the subject wasn’t black and white, such as apples and oranges. Cause and effect proved the biggest challenge, requiring students to identify a cause and effect without clue words.

    I told students they were gstructure key words and questionsoing to read a paragraph with a particular structure and explicitly stated, “This paragraph is organized using cause and effect.” I chose paragraphs from our reading series, fluency texts, and skill passages we use in class. Then we read the paragraph and looked for clues as to the cause and effect. Often times, we found certain words were tip offs: because, caused, so, therefore, etc. We created a class chart of these terms as a guide, though we discussed that not every paragraph uses clue words. We repeated this with paragraphs for sequence and compare and contrast.

    Next, I wrote and printed sample paragraphs and copied them for each student. As a class, we worked to determine what kind of structure each paragraph had and underlined any key phrases or ideas that helped us make a determination. I let students identify the structure and why they reasoned it to be a certain form.

    sample paragraph structure sample student markup paragraph structure

    Finally, students created a simple flip book from two sheets of paper. Offsetting the pages by an inch before folding makes flaps to label with each type of structure. Students lifted each flap and wrote the key words we used on our foldable flip bookclass chart that helped us determine the type of structure used. Then, students independently cut apart the paragraphs we reviewed and pasted them under the correct heading.

    I was surprised that even though we covered the paragraphs together, students still had a lot of discussion about where each paragraph should go on their flip book. It provided another opportunity for them to work with the text. Because I was concerned about their ability, I wrote a few more paragraphs for them to work with in groups.

    Our formal assessment asked students questions such as, “What kind of structure does the author use in paragraph 2? How do you know?” and “How are paragraphs 4 and 5 related? How did you reach this decision?”

    Creating resources is time consuming, but making sure students have exactly the practice they need on key objectives is important. By breaking down the complex task, and using simple text-detective strategies, students were able to conquer a difficult analyzing task successfully.

    working on a flip book paragraph organization flip book creating a paragraph structure flip book

    Need More? Back up and teach the basic skills with:

     

    What is your most challenging standard? What do you do to help students tackle it?

    It’s always a little disconcerting when your students aren’t understanding an objective you feel you’ve taught. It’s even more frustrating when materials to support that Common Core State Standard don’t seem to exist in read-to-use format anywhere. This is the case with our objective on writing structure in third grade. After a week of getting nowhere, I wrote some paragraphs, armed my kids with highlighters, and broke out the trusted flip book template for a lesson that finally connected.

    standard ri.3.8Students have been exposed to various techniques when they read and write, such as compare and contrast, cause and effect, and sequence, but have never before been asked to analyze text to determine the author’s structure. This slight change in skill brought about serious problems for my readers.

    First, I discovered they had trouble identifying structure itself; if the paragraph didn’t explicitly state “first, next, and last” they were unable to identify sequence. Comparison and contrast was difficult if the subject wasn’t black and white, such as apples and oranges. Cause and effect proved the biggest challenge, requiring students to identify a cause and effect without clue words.

    I told students they were gstructure key words and questionsoing to read a paragraph with a particular structure and explicitly stated, “This paragraph is organized using cause and effect.” I chose paragraphs from our reading series, fluency texts, and skill passages we use in class. Then we read the paragraph and looked for clues as to the cause and effect. Often times, we found certain words were tip offs: because, caused, so, therefore, etc. We created a class chart of these terms as a guide, though we discussed that not every paragraph uses clue words. We repeated this with paragraphs for sequence and compare and contrast.

    Next, I wrote and printed sample paragraphs and copied them for each student. As a class, we worked to determine what kind of structure each paragraph had and underlined any key phrases or ideas that helped us make a determination. I let students identify the structure and why they reasoned it to be a certain form.

    sample paragraph structure sample student markup paragraph structure

    Finally, students created a simple flip book from two sheets of paper. Offsetting the pages by an inch before folding makes flaps to label with each type of structure. Students lifted each flap and wrote the key words we used on our foldable flip bookclass chart that helped us determine the type of structure used. Then, students independently cut apart the paragraphs we reviewed and pasted them under the correct heading.

    I was surprised that even though we covered the paragraphs together, students still had a lot of discussion about where each paragraph should go on their flip book. It provided another opportunity for them to work with the text. Because I was concerned about their ability, I wrote a few more paragraphs for them to work with in groups.

    Our formal assessment asked students questions such as, “What kind of structure does the author use in paragraph 2? How do you know?” and “How are paragraphs 4 and 5 related? How did you reach this decision?”

    Creating resources is time consuming, but making sure students have exactly the practice they need on key objectives is important. By breaking down the complex task, and using simple text-detective strategies, students were able to conquer a difficult analyzing task successfully.

    working on a flip book paragraph organization flip book creating a paragraph structure flip book

    Need More? Back up and teach the basic skills with:

     

    What is your most challenging standard? What do you do to help students tackle it?

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