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Push my thinking

If you had a classroom of students that were pre-assessed to have low reading, writing and digital skills -- skills vital for college success -- how would you prepare lessons for these students to be ready for a college campus? Is this unit creative enough for students to be engaged with a text like Dante's Comedy which includes difficult themes such as religion, morality and historical ideas?



Great use of electronic text!

Brian, I teach similar kids (mostly 1s and 2s) in a science setting.  Our 9th grade team has been working on literacy strategies all year, beginning with active reading and annotating.  Since we want them to "mark up" every bit of text they have, we been using INSANE amounts of paper--and I noticed that you have your students annotate on the electronic documents.  AWESOME! As an environmental science teacher, I'd love to have a more paper-free classroom.  I have a couple questions, though--do you have computers in the room for all students?  Do most of your students have internet at home?  What is your modification if they don't?  

Also, I'm interested in any results you had on moving students in their reading skills? 88% of students complete it--do you have data on the specific skills? In what way does your school measure this (what kind of periodic assessments do you complete?)  We're trying to move towards more standards based grading, so I'd love to know more about how you assessed the students.

I love the unit!  I would have liked to take it in HS.  What grade are your students??





Hi Beth! Thank you for the kind words and I apologize for my late response -- my wife and I moved these past two weeks, so I've been busy painting and building.


I think the marking up of a text electronically is a great idea that should be used by teachers who are interested in keeping their English classes digital. I recently went to a PD in which many English teachers questioned how this could be done in a classroom setting effectively. I think this is an avenue that active reading and technology can head towards. For each of my weekly readings, students were given 3 comprehension questions, 3 research questions and 4 analytical questions. I kept track of the student results in a data base using Microsoft Excel. I told them that their reading grade in my class was predicated on how well they IMPROVED and not how many answers they got right or wrong. It's still a process I have to tinker with, but I was pleased with the students' efforts during these days.

I have sophomore students who are taking the Regents in June this year (that is what our school mandates). My classroom is equipped with 40 Macbooks that they use every day. Ironically enough, my students admitted that they had little skills in technology use, but almost 95% of my students had a computer at home and almost all of them had Facebook. I took that knowledge and created a Teacher Facebook page that I update with statuses for classroom work. Many students use my teacher profile and ask about assignments or help. I think its a great tool to use (although, I am very aware of the abuses that other teachers use it for and am very careful of avoiding those issues). For the students who do not have access at home, I offered my classroom during our lunch periods (students and teachers' lunch periods are synched here) or they have use of a huge computer lab in our school's library. I encountered very few issues of un-accessibility. I dealt more with issues like, "my Internet went down" or "my printer rank out of ink". To counter the later problem, I had the school purchase me a state of the art printer for my classroom that students have access to print from.

Our school gives ACQUITY exams twice a year to our Regents classes, but leaves assessments to departmental and teacher discretion.

Please let me know how else I can answer your concerns/questions!


Dante Semester Unit Designed to Get Students with Low-Level Reading and Digital Skills to Master Common Core and Regents Expectations While Learning Important 21st Century Skills

Problem of practice

How can I create a differentiated semester unit that diverse classrooms of mostly Levels 1&2 ELA Readers with little 21st century digital skills can comprehend and understand complex themes/elements/ideas of Dante's Comedy by mastering Common Core College Readiness Standards for Reading, Writing, and Speaking, practicing ELA Regents skills, and developing technological skills? How can I create assessments that helps low-level students write effective claims that include textual evidence?


I created 10 differentiated sub-units that challenged students to: compare our world with Dante's by analyzing our own society and pop culture; develop 21st century skills; and stengthen writing claims through use of textual evidence.

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