Starting last week I took a new direction with Backward Planning. I decided to pair them with the questionnaires that the students filled out at the beginning of the year. The results have been wonderful. Of course they will pay more attention when the class is completely about them. I already knew this, but some how missed the connection when I was first thinking about it.
At first we were making the stories about stories about fictional characters. For example, There is a boy. His name is ____ and the students would make up some name. The students had a fun time coming up with names and I would get some of the most ridiculously funny names like Hillbilly Joe Bob IV. This is really funny, but in my opinion misplaced. My students helped me to realize that it is better if our students are the star of the show and more funny if they meet characters named Hillbilly Joe Bob IV.
The questionnaires that Anne Lambert developed are tremendous for PQA. The nice thing is that they open the window to so many story/ PQA possibilities. Here are some things that Anne does:
Anne spends the first several weeks laying a foundation of CI to prepare them for the stories that they will tell and read later. Later, the foundation that was laid will help her students to know most of the words in the stories that they will tell and provide a way for her to introduce new vocabulary without overwhelming the students.
After the foundation is laid, she initiates the next phase where she begins her backward planning. She first chooses a text that she wants to read in her class. Then, she bases her story scripts completely off of the fluency structures [ex. goes to, laughs, takes, etc.] in the reading that they will do during as well as later in the week. The result is that the students understand the reading with 90 – 95% comprehension and their confidence is increased.
What I have started to do is to pair my Backward Planning Template with the Questionnaires. I have basically been doing the same thing without the scripts and putting the backward planning into the questionnaires. This has allowed me to start reading earlier with the hope that we will read more in class and be exposed to more novels. Since the novels have a lot of repetition, the students will continually be exposed to the same words while slowly gaining new vocabulary. Also, this provides reading for the students and we know that reading will allow them acquire the vocabulary at a quicker pace than any other form of teaching.
Here has been the plan:
1. I look at my backward planning words for the day.
2. I look at my questionnaires to see if there is something that will spark a story.
- A good story has a good problem.
- Example: If a girl says on her questionnaire that she likes to talk, then a good problem would be that one day she wakes up and lost her voice.
- Also I choose a student that has not been personalized very much
- The student is maybe some one who has fallen through the cracks, but also has the potential to be positive.
- These students will become the star of the story and will be mixed with the students who want to act, which will add an extra positive vibe to the story.
3. I choose a Questionnaire that looks like it has a good problem and put it on top of the stack of Questionnaires.
4. I go into class with my Backward Planning list, Questionnaire, and a good problem with a few details.
You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just write a script?” Well, if I write a script, it takes way more time. Also this frees me to ask questions as we create different stories in the classes, rather than being tied to a script. In each class, all of the stories have similar problems, but different outcomes and details.
If I have a script, I am not as free to go with a completely different story. For example, if the problem is that a student can’t talk in one class a girl looses her voice because she is sick, while in another class the girl can’t talk because her wisdom teeth were pulled out. Both have the same fluency structures [ex. she can’t talk] with different outcomes.
Also, it is more believable because I am able to go with the current climate and situation of my students that day, which is something that can’t be planned. And we all know how our students can change from day to day. Who can predict how our students will feel? For example, I didn’t know that one of my students was going to have her wisdom teeth pulled, but I was able to identify that and make it the centerpiece of the story.
I was free because I went into the story with a few details and a good problem. The backward planning helps to keep me focused so that I can make the reading we do later 90 – 95% comprehensible and also give the students the repetition that they need. Without the backward planning template, I may go way off and it will be CI, but my students won’t understand the reading we do later. I don’t have time for that and it also decreases the confidence of the students when they read. Let’s be honest, students need all the motivation they can get with reading these days.
It has been working better so far and I am curious to see where it goes. I am glad that it continues to evolve and that it is getting better than worse.