CSI – A strategy for close reading

This year, the teachers in the English Department at YIS have been focusing on close reading skills and strategies. This goal was chosen after examining a range of student work samples in order to identify areas to improve.

What we noticed was that the students had an inconsistent approach to close reading assessments. More specifically, some students were developing excellent interpretations of the various texts they were studying but their annotations lacked an exploration of how this message was being communicated. Conversely, other students had detailed annotations of stylistic devices but were not able to synthesise these into a cohesive interpretation of the text.

After researching a number close reading strategies (such as AVID), we noticed that good close reading strategies seemed to have a number of things in common:

  1.  Starting with a previewing / skimming / reading strategy. Unknown vocabulary should also be researched at this stage.
  2.  ‘Chunking’ (separating and grouping) the text into segments.
  3.  Summarising each of these segments in a pithy sentence (the ‘what’). This would involve underlining key/essential information.
  4.  Analysing how the author is communicating each message (the ‘how’). This would involve circling subject-specific techniques that the author is using, particular to the focus of study for the lesson (e.g. poetic devices, techniques of bias in news etc.)
  5.  Synthesising all of this information into a concise, precise thesis statement.

In the department we have simplified these steps into an easy-to-remember three step process called CSI (chunk-summarise-inquire).

After trialing the strategy for a number of months, we noticed that our students’ close reading annotations became more detailed and comprehensive. Students also liked the strategy, saying that it gives them a clear and easy-to-follow process to use when encountering a text. However, they also stated that it would be difficult to use in a timed commentary writing (exam situation). Still, it has become a useful tool for close reading learning experiences.

Our next reading strategies to investigate are skimming/previewing and evaluating arguments.

Migrating to Google Sites

For any of my students still following this blog, I will continue to slowly update it so you may continue using it. However, I have started migrating to a Google Site, where you can more quickly and easily navigate the unit slideshows.

You can access the Google Site here.

I would still like to maintain this blog, however, the updates may be a little slow!

Jan 2020 Update

Apologies for the blog as of late–I haven’t been keeping it up as I have been busy with some new course designs. I have revamped my units and they will now be presented as embedded Google Slideshows. Previous lessons and materials can be found in the ‘Archive’ section.

I’m also hoping to be more active this year with posting miscellaneous resources as well as my developing thoughts on all things on my mind regarding English language and literature.

Thanks for your understanding!

“Tell Me a Story” Writing for the Yearbook – Part 1 (finding the story)

Why do people read yearbooks?

  1. A yearbook captures important events, touching memories, sentimental feelings that matter – the times that give meaning and life to a school year.
  2. The yearbook reminds us, years down the track, what it was like when we were younger.

Yearbooks without stories have a hard time of achieving these two goals. To achieve these goals, we need to write stories that are captivating and personal!

1. Read the following rules, then discuss whether our current yearbook follows these rules or not.

  • Focus on people, not events. Think about the stories you read – they are about characters overcoming problems and striving to achieve goals. How can you make your page more focused on the people involved in the event or activity?
  • Narrow focus to a moment or two that defines the topic, rather than trying to tell everything that happened. For example, tell a story that shows how the volleyball team was different this year. (Usually big games, finals, or important tournaments near the end of the season work well.) Use photos, captions and sidebars to tell the rest of the story.

2. In your activity/story groups, brainstorm the ‘Who, what, where, why, when, how’ of your story. How can you get the story for your page? What information do you need to find out?

3. Read this document to find out the various ways you can tell a story. Sketch out a rough plan for your page(s).

4. Go and get your story!

Introduction to page design

In this session, we will learn some key terms and some core design principles. For reference, the key terms are:

  • DPS – Double page spread – two facing pages
  • Caption – The copy that explains the who, what, where, when, how and why of action in a photo; plan space for every photo to have a caption!
  • COB – Cut out background – a photo where the background is removed (e.g. in Photoshop)
  • Dominant element – The largest eye-catching photo or collection of photos or elements on a spread. Often this will ‘sit’ or ‘hang’ on the eye-line and sit across the gutter, providing unity to the spread.
  • External margin – A frame of white or empty space that will frame the edges of the spread
  • Internal margin – A consistent amount of white space between elements on a page; usually one pica.
  • Copy – All the text on a spread – includes captions, headlines, stories. The copy tells the story of the year.
  • Eye-line – A one pica horizontal line that connects the left and right pages. Usually this is about 1/3 or 2/3 the way down a page. All elements should either sit on top of or hang below this line.
  • Bleed – When pictures or text extend right the way to the end of the page.
  • Headline – Words set in large type that attracts the reader to a spread. Traditionally set above copy blocks.
  • White space / negative space –  The absence of any element.
  • Gutter – The space where the left and right pages meet. Often one or two picas wide and folded as the book comes together.
  • Type / typography – Printed letters and characters
  • Logo – Artwork to represent a company; can also unify a yearbook
  • Pica – A journalistic unit of measurement, one pica=1/6 of an inch or 4.23 mm.

We will also learn at the following design principles.

Here is an example template created using these design principles in InDesign! Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 4.17.44 pmLink

Now it is your turn. Starting working on your own page…

  1. Download the template.
  2. Organise the pages – double page spread? Or single left? Single right?
  3. Use the following guides to design a layout for the page. Use shapes for photograph placeholders and text boxes for headings, captions and copy.
    1. The 10 Rules of Yearbook Design
    2. 8 column layout design made easy

DP Literature, Language and Literature – Upcoming Course Changes

While the guides for the next iteration of the DP Group 1 subjects has not been published, it may be helpful to preview the proposed changes for our current planning and conversations with the students leading into subject selections. The tentative information in the following slideshow and summary document is based on the three reports to teachers, published by the IBO. As such, the information may be updated once the new guides have been published.

Brief summary document.

MS Chowa Introduction – Personal Yearbook Page!

Today we will learn the principles of effective page design by creating our own personal yearbook pages! You will need Adobe InDesign installed on your computer for this lesson.

Step #1: Make sure to check the ladder to indicate which teams / pages you will be working on for the yearbook this year.

Step #2: Access the following website to learn about the basics of page design. Then, have a look through our yearbooks from past years and evaluate them – how are we doing?

Step #3: Start your own practice page!

  • Download the InDesign template here.
  • Make a folder on your desktop called ‘Yearbook’. In this folder, make another folder called ‘Practice Page’. Put your template into this folder.
  • Gather some photographs about you to create a page with. It could be about you generally, about friends, hanging out, hobbies, sports, a recent holiday… Download these photos into your ‘Practice Page’ folder.
  • Follow this guide to create a practice page, remembering to follow the 10 rules of design!

Step #4: Evaluate our pages

  • Review the 10 rules of basic design here. Then complete this checklist for a friend’s page. Has the person:
    • created a double page spread?
    • used columns?
    • placed a central or ‘centr-y’ / dominant image (that stretches across both pages; it can be ‘offset’)?
    • used consistent internal margins (i.e. is the gap between all elements equal?)
    • left some ‘white space’?
    • used the ‘bleed’ sparingly? (i.e. once in each direction)
    • put empty spaces on the outside (not the inside!)