USING PICTURE BOOKS TO BUILD COMMON SCHEMA IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH CLASSROOM Kristina Albarello THE BACKGROUND Literacy Instruction within the Middle School Curriculum with Dr. Shelly Furuness Introduced the value of using children’s picture books in the middle or high school classroom Example: Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss before reading a novel about the Holocaust Tapping individual prior knowledge and creating common, shared knowledge THE BACKGROUND Middle Grades Curriculum & Instructional Methods with Dr. Roger Boop Created and taught lesson about paraphrasing to an 8th grade Language Arts class Created a shared experience to begin the lesson Students and I referenced the shared experience throughout the ensuing lesson THE QUESTION Reflecting on the theory and practice, the two ideas merged and led to the central question of my investigation: What happens when a teacher uses picture books in a middle school English Language Arts classroom to create a common experience that all share, to which all can relate and reference throughout the ensuing lesson? THE EXISTING LITERATURE Theoretical Considerations Schema Theory Schemata: The frameworks/networks of ideas that help us make sense of experiences (Chapman, 1993, 24) Schema: The “hooks” onto which new information can “hang” (Gipe, 2002, 221) Students need schema to understand new information Schema vary from student to student For students without schema about a topic, stories are the best for developing new schema (Marzano, 2003, 113; Gipe, 2002, 222) THE EXISTING LITERATURE Picture Books Advantages Short length Students completely engage (Giorgis, 1999, 51-52) Experience a complete story rather than an excerpt (Giorgis, 1999, 51-52) Sophisticated Language & Topics (Kasten, Kristo, McClure, & Garthwait, 2005) Art and Visual Aids Help students who struggle to form mental images (Hibbing & Rankin-Erickson, 2003) Art valuable for its aesthetics alone (Carr, Buchanan, Wentz, Weiss, & Brant, 2001, 147). THE EXISTING LITERATURE Specific Kinds of Students Who Benefit English Language Learners: there are visual clues and less language in picture books (Hadaway & Mundy, 1999,465) Visual learners Multi-level classrooms THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY The Question: What happens when a teacher uses picture books in a middle school English Language Arts classroom to create a common experience that all share, to which all can relate and reference throughout the ensuing lesson? Hypothesis: positive learning experience students would make connections to the picture books during the rest of the lesson THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY The Setting 7th grade Language Arts classroom Middle school located in a metropolitan school district in Indianapolis, IN The Participants 2 groups of 5 students, selected by classroom teacher Diverse in ability, participation, personality, background To establish trust, I taught the students two dates before beginning the data collection THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY Research Design Used teacher action research Study spanned 5 weeks with no more than 2 meetings per week: total of 7 lessons Format of Lessons 1. 2. 3. 4. Began lesson with a picture book that helped teach lesson’s objectives Made connection from picture book to lesson’s topic Taught same lesson as the classroom teacher, referring back to the picture book Students work on own with independent reading books THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY Data Sources Post-Lesson Rating Scales Quick notes in a field journal Video recordings of lessons (later viewed and transcribed) Post-Study Rating Scale Post-Study Survey THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY Data Analysis Used indexing: creating a table of contents of reoccurring categories found in my data (Shagoury & Power, 1993, 99) Found common themes in notes, observations, and student responses Narrowed categories Used the constant comparison method: relating categories within a larger framework to make theoretical claims (Shagoury & Power, 1993, 115) THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY The data analysis led to the following categories: Teacher-Made Connections using the picture book as a model to prepare students for what they need to be able to do giving more examples/providing comparisons returning to the shared picture book experience for students struggling to understand the concept Student-Made Connections Through further analysis and triangulation of these categories, I was able to draw conclusions for my findings and implications FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 1. Using the picture book as a model to prepare students for what they need to be able to do The Findings 14 occurrences Using Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport to teach how to provide definitions of vocabulary words in writing using the context • Used concrete examples of how the author used this skill to guide students to accomplishing the same skills • “If your first vocab word is Luxor, what context clues can you include? In here [Freedom River], they show us them travelling under straw in a wagon to give us an idea of what the Underground Railroad is like. What is important to Luxor? What context clues can you provide just like they did for the Underground Railroad in here?” FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 1. Using the picture book as a model to prepare students for what they need to be able to do The Implications Use picture books as mentor texts to provide concrete models the class can share Reduce the amount of time spent coming up with abstract examples or searching the students’ independent reading books FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 2. Giving More Examples/Providing Comparisons The Findings 8 occurrences Compared Fire on the Mountainside and Too Many Tamales to teach falling action and resolution • Provided multiple examples and comparisons • Allowed students to see the literary term as not solely one example FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 2. Giving More Examples/Providing Comparisons The Findings Qualities of Good Examples • Basic Students struggled to understand novel excerpts Students’ reading comprehension should not inhibit their ability to learn an unrelated skill • In Context Identifying the climax allowed the students to more easily identify the rising action, when teaching rising action using Saving Sweetness Teaching the rising action isolated, out of context, would have been nearly impossible FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 2. Giving More Examples/Providing Comparisons The Implications Use picture books for additional examples and comparisons • Increase the number of accessible examples students receive • Focus on the skill rather than reading comprehension • Provide examples in context FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 3. Returning to the shared picture book experience for students struggling to understand the concept The Findings 4 occurrences After using Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio to teach 3rd person point of view, we moved onto more difficult mentor texts from novels. Students struggled with the excerpts from the novels. • Returned to the picture book for a more basic, concrete example they understood • Afterward, were able to successfully move to the difficult mentor texts again FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Teacher-Made Connections 3. Returning to the shared picture book experience for students struggling to understand the concept The Findings Examined other occurrences—Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley used to teach rising action and Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto for falling action • Recognized that the value was in having a shared experience, rather than a new shared experience for each skill • One book could teach multiple skills The Implications Use picture books because of their simpler, concrete examples Consider all the skills and concepts to be covered in a unit and choose a picture book that fits all/most of them FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Student-Made Connections Seeing the picture book as an instructional tool Findings Only one student verbally made a reference to a picture book later in the lesson: Writing their own children’s books, one girl used it as a model for her plot line Students saw picture books as instructional tools Students responded with averages of 3.99 and 3.75 for: Was the picture book relevant to the lesson? Did the picture book enhance understanding of the skill later discussed in the lesson? Of the 10 total students, 9 made a comment about the picture book: introducing the lesson helping them learn the lesson better, or providing examples of what the lesson was about Yet students still enjoyed the picture books: Students scores averaged a 4 on the rating scale FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS Student-Made Connections Seeing the picture book as an instructional tool Implications Students were not “tricked” into learning The novelty of picture books likely will not wear off as quickly Can use picture books as shared experiences multiple times FOR FUTURE INVESTIGATIONS Which students benefit the most and why Establish criteria for determining high quality picture books Other kinds of shared experiences— simulations, videos, magazines, etc. QUESTIONS? REFERENCES Billman, L. W. (2002). Aren't these books for little kids? Reading and Writing in the Content Areas, 60(3), 48-51. Duncan, D. (2009). 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