English 9 Regents: Plato’s “Apology”

Odell LogoOdell Education has created model Making Evidence-Based Claims units for ELA grades 6-12.  For English 9, the chosen work of informational text is Plato’s “Apology.”  The link to the left will take you to the files for this particular unit, and I will be working with my English 9 Regents students on this piece in the 4th quarter.

The unit includes day-by-day lesson plans for close reading and is broken into five parts, each with a suggested number of classes for implementation:

Part I:  “Understanding Evidence-Based Claims”  (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Introduction to the unit

– Activity 2: Independent reading

– Activity 3: Read Aloud and Class Discussion

– Activity 4: Model Forming EBCs

Part II:  “Making Evidence-Based Claims” (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Independent reading and finding supportive evidence

– Activity 2: Read aloud and class discussion

– Activity 3: Find supporting evidence in pairs

– Activity 4: Class discussion of EBCs

– Activity 5: Forming EBCs in pairs

Part III:  “Organizing Evidence-Based Claims”  (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1: Independent reading and forming EBCs

– Activity 2: Read aloud

– Activity 3: Model organizing EBCs

– Activity 4: Organizing EBCs in pairs

– Activity 5: Class discussion of student EBCs

Part IV:  “Writing Evidence-Based Claims”   (1-3 classes)

– Activity 1:  Independent reading and making EBCs

– Activity 2:  Model writing EBCs

– Activity 3:  Writing EBCs in pairs

– Activity 4:  Class discussion of written EBCs

– Activity 5:  Read aloud and class discussion

– Activity 6:  Independent writing of EBCs

Part V:  “Evidence-Based Writing” (1-2 classes)

– Activity 1:  Independent reading and making EBCs

– Activity 2:  Class discussion of global EBCs

– Activity 3:  Pairs discuss their EBCs

– Activity 4:  Independent writing of the final piece

– Activity 5:  Class discussion of the final writing pieces

In all, the suggested unit length is 5-14 full classes focusing on a 17 paragraph passage.    I think this unit would be better served at the beginning of the year when I am targeting particular writing skills overall.  The skills are the key here, not this particular text selection.

One issue that I would like to address is that of spending 5-14 classes on one particular short passage.   While close reading is key and students need to pay attention to what they read, standardized testing does not reflect this practice.

According to test previews that we have been allowed to peruse, the upcoming exams look like they will be given in 90 minute increments over a three day period.  If the high school tests are going to be anything like the middle school tests being administered April 16-18, 2013, then the format looks as if it will be as follows:

Day 1:  (Test Book 1) reading followed by 42 multiple choice questions (I have heard, but it has not yet been confirmed, that the readings will be an excerpt from a novel, a poem, and an informational piece);

Day 2:  (Test Book 2) reading followed by 21 multiple choice questions AND (Test Book 3) reading and writing with three short-response questions and one extended-response question (I have not heard yet what the day 2 readings will be);

Day 3:  (Test Book 4) reading and writing five short-response questions and one extended response question (again, I have heard that the students will read five articles, respond to each, and then use information from the articles to write an essay… in other words, a Document Based Question (DBQ).

My concern is that with all the time being asked for close reading in the classroom (5-14 DAYS for “Apology”… I think 4-5 DAYS were set aside for Lincoln’s 278-word “Gettysburg Address” in the earlier model units), the students will come to expect that kind of time to spend on reading.  When they are faced with multiple passages in a 90 minute time frame, I am wondering how they will handle the time-added pressure on an already high stakes test.  While it is important to read closely, students also need to learn to read and comprehend in shorter time periods, mirroring testing situations.  To consistently do close reading at a snail’s pace gives students a false sense of how long they will have to complete tasks on standardized tests.   It seems as if we are sending mixed messages, and the students will be the ones who suffer from it.

Just my opinion.

However, I will try Odell’s unit and work with my Regents students on Plato’s “Apology” in an effort to enhance evidence-based writing skills.

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, English 9 Regents

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