Module Writers’ Workshops: Key Points

The ERWC program recently conducted two two-day sessions for module writers to prepare them to develop new modules for ERWC 3.0. This post summarizes the key points we addressed during these two days.

Process for Developing New and Revised Modules

We are asking module writers to submit a Module Proposal Form (Page 1, Pages 2-3), which contains six questions. The first three concern the issue or question for the proposed module, the texts, and the possible writing prompt. Answers should be submitted mid to late October 2017, to the Module Review Panel. Writers whose proposals are approved will be assigned to a writing group led by a member of the ERWC Steering Committee. The answers to the last three questions, which concern learning goals, California English language arts and English language development standards, and the rhetorical concepts emphasized in the module, will be submitted in late November.

Module writers will submit a mini-module by late November, 2017, that includes at least one activity under each of the secondary headings and thus completes the ERWC “Arc”: Preparing to Read, Reading Purposefully, Questioning the Text, Preparing to Respond, Composing a Draft, and Revising Rhetorically. This should be a potentially teachable module that would take two to three days of class time. Once approved, the writer will expand the module to include appropriate scaffolding for different populations and to address an expanded number of learning goals and standards.

ERWC 3.0 Assignment Template Outline with Key Questions

The handout “ERWC Assignment Template Outline with Key Questions” functions as a quick reference for module writers and is the starting point for most module development. It is also useful to help teachers get a quick overview of the full Assignment Template. The latest version is available here.

ERWC 3.0 Mini-Module: Jimmy Kimmel Monologue

The workshop used this module designed around a Jimmy Kimmel monologue on health care to introduce the concept of mini-modules and to demonstrate the new template.

Universal Design for Learning

UDL is a philosophy and a set of concepts designed to make learning tasks accessible to any student, regardless of background or possible disability. In general, this involves offering multiple choices in media, ways of engaging texts, and ways of responding. The goal is to produce expert learners who are motivated, resourceful, and goal-directed. You can access more detail in the Universal Design for Learning Principles handout.

Integrated & Designated English Language Development in ERWC

Many students in ERWC classrooms will be English Learners who should receive integrated and designated English language development (ELD) instruction. All new ERWC modules will provide resources suitable for integrated ELD, and some modules will also include guidance for providing designated ELD. Module writers should consult the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework and the English language development standards. An executive summary is available here.

The design of ERWC already incorporates much that facilitates both UDL and ELD, but increased attention to providing appropriate scaffolding and choices for different populations will further enhance the effectiveness of our curriculum.

Assignment Template 3.0: New Key Cells

The ERWC 3.0 Assignment Template has many features retained from the previous template. Some sections (internally we tend to call them “cells”) have been renamed and some deleted. Some new key cells have been added, based on evidence from our previous i3 study, feedback from teachers, and new interpretations of theory and research.

Negotiating Meaning

This cell is about making meaning from text, including identifying points of difficulty and developing strategies for overcoming it. We want activities that develop both individual strategies and social strategies that involve pooling knowledge and working together.

Considering the Rhetorical Situation

When we started designing the original version of ERWC, most teachers were not very familiar with rhetoric. We decided to keep things simple and relied mostly on the Aristotelian concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos. At this point, these concepts are much better understood by teachers, and we want to include a wider range of key rhetorical concepts. The basis for this expansion is close analysis of “the rhetorical situation” of a text, which includes the author’s audience, purpose, and occasion.

Synthesizing Multiple Perspectives

At one level, a paper that contains words, facts, and ideas from multiple sources is a kind of synthesis. However, this cell is about more than that. Every reading has at least two perspectives: that of the author and that of the reader. A perspective is a viewpoint, a way of seeing. We can see the same object from different perspectives and thus have different interpretations of its value or significance. As authors engage multiple philosophical, political, and personal perspectives, and readers with different backgrounds engage their texts, confusion can ensue. Activities in this cell will be about strategies for recognizing different perspectives, engaging them, accounting for them, and representing them.

Considering Your Task and Your Rhetorical Situation

This cell in the second main section of the template, what used to be called “Connecting Reading to Writing” but which is now called “Preparing to Respond,” is where the writing task for the module is normally introduced, causing the student to begin to reconsider the readings, his or her notes and annotations, and previous activities in the light of the writing task. The focus is now on “How can I use this material?” This is relatively unchanged from the previous template, except that we are placing new emphasis on the student’s rhetorical situation, his or her audience, purpose and occasion for writing.

Making Choices as You Write

Previous versions of the template were somewhat weak on the writing process. We wanted to steer away from the five-paragraph essay, but offered an intro-body-conclusion model that was not much different. Our directions assumed for the most part that students were writing short essays. In ERWC 3.0, we are expanding our horizons considerably. We recognize that a student’s writing process may be recursive and non-linear. We support a variety of genres and organizational patterns. We allow for multi-modal projects that have written elements, but could also include visual and auditory components. And as indicated in the heading for this cell, we facilitate student choice throughout.

We have also renamed sections or strands of the template to more closely mirror the language of the “arc.” Instead of Prereading, Reading, and Postreading, we now refer to Preparing to Read, Reading Purposefully, and Questioning the Text within the domain of Reading Rhetorically. See the draft Assignment Template here for other changes.

Learning Goals & Formative Assessment

The previous version of ERWC offered numerous opportunities and suggestions for formative assessment. However, these tended to be assessments of the students’ ability to perform the tasks of the current activity. They were fairly local. In part, this was because the learning goals of the module were often written after the module had been completed. In ERWC 3.0, learning goals are front and center. In addition to a carefully designed short list of learning goals for the module, we also have opportunities for teachers and students to set their own personal learning goals. Learning goals, readings, activities, and formative assessments will all be aligned.

Course Matrices & Modules in the Mix

ERWC 3.0 will consist of two courses, a new 11th grade course and a revised 12th grade course. The current model is for each course to consist of eight major modules with mini-modules on rhetorical concepts and other key strategies in between them. Modules will be sequenced according to multiple variables including text complexity and length, rhetorical concepts, implementation of standards, genres, writing tasks, and other factors. In some cases we may ask a module writer to tweak the module for a better fit in a possible course position. We are still thinking about the “arc” of the course in relation to the “arc” of a module and how to incorporate specific text types required by the standards, such as Shakespeare, American drama, full-length novels, foundational American documents, poetry and short stories. In addition, we are creating four modules for each grade in high school that will incorporate both integrated and designated ELD. We will revise some existing modules and create new ones in order to support the implementation of comprehensive ELD within existing ELA courses.

Module Writing Tips

My mantra for module writing in ERWC 3.0 is “Shorter, simpler, smarter.” Because we have added some new and important cells, and because we are trying to address both UDL and ELD, with the added requirements of increased scaffolding and multiple pathways, it will be hard to achieve the first two terms. Still, it is a goal to keep in mind. I have made some suggestions for how to achieve this in another post on “Module Writing Tips.”

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