Text Sets: Individualize Learning + Spark Interest

I love using text sets to individualize learning and spark student interest but what the heck is a “text set”?

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This was the first questions that ran through my mind when I first heard of the concept. I understood that it was a set of texts, but couldn’t see the application. Sure, we give students sets of readings and texts all the time - so what makes this one so special?

Well, first off - text sets can be organized in so many different ways and each teacher can modify it to fit his/her classroom. At their core, text sets are used to build content knowledge, organize a series of texts (which can include cartoon, images, videos, art, etc.) that progressively become more advanced, and provide an alternative perspective to a subject or theme. Some have a primary text with supplementary texts are intentionally build in order to increase complexity, vocabulary, content, and understanding. Personally, I do a combination of the two strategies!

In our most recent unit on the ideas and thoughts that have influenced the world, we have began discussing the development of human rights and analyzing that human rights looked like at various time frames of history (specifically Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern). I front loaded the student with some background knowledge on the general concept of human rights; but, then used a text set to individualize the student learning and spark student interest by selecting several “texts” that address human rights in the Medieval Ages. My theme was “Feudalism and Human Rights”.

From here, I selected FIVE “texts”.

  1. Political Cartoon: I chose a cartoon that analyzes the relationship between social hierarchy and wage.

  2. Short Video Clip: There was a short clip from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) that highlights the varying social structures and access to resources (such as food and water) during the Medieval Ages.

  3. Articles (2) with relating video clip: Using two articles on the Black Death/Plague and a corresponding video, students read articles on statistics from the Plague and the perspective on the Church

  4. Article (1): Incorporating Feudal Japan, I selected one article that related the two subject matters and compare/contrasted them to one another.

  5. Excerpt from Novel and Historical Background Article: With an excerpt from The Canterbury Tales and an article on the history background, students analyzed Medieval society through the lens of various characters, genders, and social classes and the impact of these factors on daily life.

  6. Primary Source Document: Lastly, students had the option to read the Magna Carta and analyze specific highlighted sections that serve as a corner stone for other key documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The texts progressively get more difficult and of the six options, students only needed to complete 4. In addition to this, each text identified a different perspective or provided a new lens to analyze human rights, and the lack thereof, in feudal times.

Lastly, to check for understanding I create at least 4 questions that accompanied each text that required students to apply critical thinking skills and identify the role of culture and human rights on Medieval society. Students used time in class to work on this project individually, but were able to collaborate with peers as I walked around the room and worked with them one-on-one.

Text Sets can be built and developed in numerous ways and are very adaptable to any classroom and content area. You can arrange it via theme/topic, specific individual, historical time period, or even a specific book itself.

Overall, the students loved the text set because they had the opportunity to individualize their learning and spark student interest. I was able to differentiate and focus more on checking for understanding by working one-on-one with students, helping target them towards their academic readiness, and assess comprehension via written response.

What do you think about Text Sets? What questions do you have? Is this something you would add to your classroom?

How to Create an Escape Room for the High School Classroom

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As an educator, one of my biggest passions is creating memorable lessons that challenge students content knowledge, engage in critical thinking, and hone leadership skills. Currently, I teacher 9th and 11th grade World History and I get to learn from some really intelligent, kind, and sometimes silly kiddos. With teaching two different grade levels but covering the same content area, I strive to build engaging lessons that are transferrable between the two sections and modify the classes rather than developing two different unit plans. At the end of this semester, I asked students feedback on the type of lessons they enjoyed and would like to see again. Hands down the most common response was our Escape Room!

CLASSROOM SET UP

Typically the classroom is set up into rows, but for the Escape Room I placed them into 6 tables (using the desks) of 5 individuals. Each table was labeled with a name and had a sticky note on one desk. The front of the room had a long table which held each of the materials and clues. I used this as my “station” where I provided students with the next clues, tracked progress, and reviewed answers. Lastly, I had the front white board as a tracking sheet so as each group would complete a phase (after I approved it), I would post their score on the board. This heightened the competitive aspect and made it fun and interactive. For differentiation purposes, I intentionally placed specific students in groups based on assessment data thorough out the unit.

TIP: Ensure all backpacks/purses are lining the back wall or out of the ways!

ROLES

With 5 people at each desk, and to ensure everyone was staying on task, there were two specific student roles. The first was the team captain. At each table, I had a sticky note sitting on one desk and whoever sat at that seat was the “team captain” for the Escape Room. I used a random selection sticky note in hopes to have different students in leadership roles within the groups. The second was the note-taker. After each round of clues, the students would rotate who was the note-taker for the team. This held each student accountable and helped me monitor who was staying on (or off task). The only person who did not serve as the note-taker was the team captain.

My role was to monitor each group, check for understanding, and track what clue number each individual group was working on on the front white broad. The visual tracking sheet heightened the competition and increased motivation.

SUPPLIES & DIRECTIONS

For the Escape Room itself, I used Google Forms. For each of the different clues in the Escape Room, there was a corresponding section in the Google Form that had an excerpt or article reading and questions. At the beginning students were only given one clue to which they had to read and answer the questions in the Google Form. Then, the team captain would raise his/her hand and I go to their table and review the answers to their questions. In addition to reading their responses, I would ask specific verbal questions as well. Once the section was completed, they would receive the second clue (ie another piece of paper with an excerpt, summary, or image) that they had to analyze and answer the subsequently clue/section 2 questions. Each clue/section had at least 3-5 questions question that were specific to the clue’s prompt and required critical thinking. The questions were not seeking to understand if they can simply find the answer in the article but rather APPLY this concept and use facts/data to back it up. The students and I would repeat the process until a team had completed all clues and had “escaped”. The victors got candy!

Student Supplies: Laptop/Phone, Access to Google Forms
Teacher Supplies: Google Form, Multiple Print Outs of Each Clue, Expo Marker, White Board, Laptop

Directions:

  1. All students begin with Clue #1 and answer prompting questions on Google Forms.

  2. Once group has completed Clue #1, the team captain raises his/her hand and the teacher checks answers for understanding via Google Form review & verbal questions (pre-determined list).

  3. Then, teacher gives the completed group Clue #2.

  4. Next, teacher marks on the board which group has completed Clue #1 so the whole class is aware of each others progress.

  5. Once group has completed Clue #2, the team captain raises his/her hand and the teacher checks answers for understanding via Google Form review & verbal questions (pre-determined list).

  6. Then, teacher gives the group Clue #3 and marks their progress on the white board.

  7. This process repeats until the group is done and has officially “escaped”.

As the teacher, you are repeating these steps (often times out of order) for each group and constantly moving around the room to engage with students in conversation. This is when the tracker on the board became beneficial for me because I was able to visit a group and look to see which number they were on, observe how long each group was working on a clue, and be proactive in ensuring they are receiving their clues in a timely manner. Also, I really enjoyed the discussions I had with students, and observing the interactions they had amongst themselves. This enabled me to serve as a facilitator of learning and encouraged them to engage with one another on background knowledge and collaborate to solve the problems.

FRIENDLY REMINDERS

  • Ensure the Escape Room aligns with the curriculum. I used this as a review strategy so the students already had prior background knowledge and the articles/excerpts were supplemental tools to spearhead the conversations and discussions. However. each clue/section at least one inquiry question based upon state standards.

  • Be prepared. If there are 5 clues, make sure you print enough copies so that each table can have a complete set of clues at the end of the activity.

  • Hold them accountable. High schoolers love to find short cuts. Be sure to have each question as “required” on the form so they can’t move on until they have completed ALL of the questions. Also, make sure only you have access to each of the subsequently clues that way they have to complete each prompt thoroughly in order to move on.

  • Set up clear rules. Be sure review classroom norms and any additional behavior expectations before you begin. When students get competitive (or on just random days of the week lol ) they forget classroom behavior - so its really important to review it with them for good measure.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    This was such a fun activity for the students and as the teacher! It was great seeing them interact with new students in the class and engage in critical analysis discussions. This was the perfect review activity because it got them actively engaged with the content and excited to keep digging for more information! I would highly recommend this activity and I can’t wait to do it again with my students this semester!

I would love to hear your thoughts on doing an Escape Room in the High School classroom. Is this something you would implement? If yes, why and what modifications would you make? If no, what’s your hesitation? If you have any questions about how to integrate this in your class and content area - I’d love to chat! You can send me a message here! I can’t wait to hear from you!

My First Semester Of Teaching

 My First Semester Of Teaching

This semester has been one of the most exciting, and reaffirming, challenges! 


This semester we have grown, learned, failed, succeed, and laughed together. From Escape Rooms to Empire Explorations to Jig Saws, we have made learning FUN again. My first semester of teaching has been an absolute blast and each day I learn something new about myself, my students, and how I can be a better educator for them. Each day, I get to stand up in front of the some of the kindest, most intelligent, and funniest people who put a big smile on my face and have an opportunity to learn along side them. I am so excited for next semester and all the lessons we will have together!

My favorite part of teaching is creating memorable lessons that transcend the classroom and empower students to be catalysts in their own lives. I believe in making school fun, relevant, and a place of emotional and intellectual growth. I can’t wait to learn more and I’m even MORE excited for my own classroom!

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