Here are a few more passages...
So the "epic," "historic" blizzard didn't amount to much here in New Jersey. I wonder if that means anything for us...
Here are a few more passages...
There's a blizzard outside. Weathermen and politicians are reminding us to walk lightly in the world.
In a related theme, we're getting ready for PARCC!
Attached to this post, you'll find some sample passages and questions to be used with a test prep unit in reading and writing. Many of these passages were created by 3rd and 4th Grade teachers in Paramus and by literacy coaches in our coaching cohort.
There are paired-text sets, which are linked by theme. These resemble the types of items kids might see on PARCC.
There are also single-text sets, which are good to practice some of the kinds of questions that will be used on PARCC. The writing samples that are attached to these files are about one single text. Some of these texts are also in the paired sets with different writing prompts. (These start about halfway down the list, starting with The Leaving Morning.)
There are a few other texts I'll be adding in the upcoming days. Keep on the lookout!
Thank you to everyone who helped create these texts! Stay warm and safe both from the snow and from the other storm that is so easy to be caught up in these days.
UPDATE: There has been an overwhelming number of requests for answer keys here. Unfortunately, I'm not able to provide this on my own. I'd like to invite all of you who are using these passages to work out the answer keys for individual passages and post them here. Thank you for adding to the knowledge of this online community, and for helping thousands of kids who you don't even know!
Common Core has created a whole new emphasis on the importance of vocabulary development. This makes me feel two things.
1. This is the best thing that can happen to us!
2. This is the worst thing that can happen to us!
It's great, because well, it's good to know more words. Vocabulary is something that we might neglect (or abandon, desert, shirk) if we don't pay attention to it. Knowing more words can empower writers to speak in more precise terms, because they consider the nuances (or shades, or distinctions) of meaning.
However, it can be a problem, because it might cause us to slip back into practices that are less than authentic. That's why it's so important that we make our vocabulary instruction fit the context-embedded structures that we enjoy in workshop teaching that makes literacy learning so relevant (or pertinent, applicable, germane)!
So here I offer you some ideas on how to build vocabulary without going the way of the worksheet.
1. Use slightly higher level words when talking to your students. In order to keep vocabulary instruction contextual just make your real conversation a little bit richer. It's through the actual context of situational conversation that kids will really figure out the meaning of tougher words.
Every morning, I greet the students coming in to school. I help them out of their cars. However, when traffic backs up, I start to move myself further back in their line and let kids out. I don't want them walking in the traffic to get in, so I direct them to walk on the sidewalk. One day, instead of saying "sidewalk," I used the word "curb," and realized that this was a new word for some kids. Now, I use it all them time, and they get it.
There are three tiers of vocabulary. Tier 1 is the words that are basic speaking vocabulary. These are words that kids use a lot. Tier 2 is the words that are just slightly higher level (curb for sidewalk). These are words to which kids are not exposed so much, but will help them with their comprehension in many situations. Tier 3 is the words that are domain-specific, used only when talking about something very specific. By introducing Tier 2 words to kids' natural vocabulary through real speaking situations, we are increasing their access to meaning!
2. Make vocabulary a part of the revision process. We've learned some ways in which to teach new words. There are some really cool inquiries that we've introduced that involve kids ranking words according to intensity (content-excited-jubilant) from most something (happy, little, big, scary, etc.) to least something. I learned this from Mary Ehrenworth who explained that this can help students consider nuances when writing with synonyms.
Another inquiry that I developed was the T-chart in which we gather synonyms and have kids create their own definitions for the words. For example, when figuring out words that mean "good looking," we might think of the word "handsome." Kids would then create their own kid-friendly definition for it (when a man or a boy is good-looking.) "Sharp" would sound something like, "when something is perfectly good looking in style." You'll notice that this breaks the ancient rule of not using the word in the definition. When working on nuances, the word is actually an anchor for kids, so it's good to include it.
Once kids have either ranked or defined these words, they should be up somewhere in the room where they can access them, so that they can use them.
These are some examples of inquiries that help develop the nuanced side of vocabulary instruction, but all of this is for naught if kids don't apply this new vocabulary into their writing right away. It's in the act of revision that we help to create an authentic context. Let's turn it into a strategy..."Writers use precise vocabulary by finding a describing word in their writing and asking, 'How (describing word) was it?'" A student writing about being happy when her baby sister was born would ask, "How happy was I? (Referring to the list) Was I content, or was I jubilant?" The meaning that comes with the emotion of the story will help to reinforce the word for the student.
If you don't employ the word right away, it's just another school activity that will go the way of the forgotten math fact, state capital, or spelling word! It will never make its way into the child's long-term memory.
3. Talk about vocabulary. Find any forum possible to talk about words. When kids discover words in their books or by overhearing them, talk about them with the class. Some teachers have separate word walls for Tier 2 words, replete with illustrations and contextual definitions.
However, the motor to these words coming alive is in the conversations you have about them. Ask the child who discovered the word to talk about where it was discovered and why it seems to be such an important word. Engage the class in discussing the situations where the word might be used. If it's an adjective, talk about words it might describe and not describe. If it's a verb, have students act it out. If it's a noun, have students draw it. Bring the word to life. Talk about its spelling or derivation if you know it. Immerse your class in every shade of the word possible.
When I was in elementary school, we went through vocabulary activities. There was the word of the day (used once, then forgotten!), looking them up in the dictionary (we learned to hate dictionaries!), worksheets with dozens of words (no context, all quantity, and who can remember dozens of new words at once?) When we pride ourselves on classroom instruction that is rich in meaning, we have to teach vocabulary...and we have to teach it in a context-rich way also!
Imagine the power (or potency, capacity, potential) we can give our kids with good vocabulary instruction! Let's do it, and let's do it right!
You need a learner's soul, a teacher's heart, a coach's mind, and a principal's hand!