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Kelsey Konecky

Unit Planning The American Revolution and Reading Comprehension Strategies


English Language Learners (ELLs) often struggle with reading comprehension at
the high school level where theyre reading level is typically far below that of their peers,
especially ELLs whose proficiency level is still on the low end of the spectrum or who
were never literate in their native language. That being said, one way to quickly help
students become successful readers is to explicitly teach those reading comprehension
skills and strategies that other high school students have already learned in lower
grades. The purpose of my unit is to teach my students that reading is an active process,
something struggling readers are often unaware of, and to target the specific reading
skills that my students lack. This is reflected in the Enduring Understanding, Successful
readers use strategies to understand the meaning of a text, in other words, I want
students to recognize that they must do something while they read in order to be
successful readers.
In order to guide my students toward this understanding my Essential Questions
are What makes readers successful?, What strategies do successful readers use?,
and How do I become a better reader? I revisit these questions throughout the unit by
reminding students of the Day 1 discussion of what makes a successful reader through
the slogan reading is thinking as well as through further discussions. In fact, I use
discussion as an instructional technique a lot throughout my lessons because I believe in
being open and honest with my students about why we do what we do in class and how
it will help them in the future. Discussions give me a chance to be explicit in telling my
students why something is important as well as serving as a diagnostic tool for me to
see what parts of a reading students get and what parts they still struggle with.
As a sort of disclaimer I would like to note some assumptions that I made when
creating my unit. I would be using this unit in a class of only ELLs at proficiency level 2

or 3, and only with a small class size (up to around 12 students maximum) as much of
the way I set up the lessons depends on being able to monitor individual students
relatively closely. I chose the American Revolution as a thematic topic for the purposes
of this assignment but if I were actually implementing a reading comprehension unit I
would work with another of my students teachers to align with a topic they were also
currently working on or had worked on very recently so that my students would be better
able to make connections and use background knowledge. I also chose to focus on
comprehension for the specific purpose of understanding informational texts because
these texts tend to be more difficult for ELLs to understand, have higher levels of
academic and complex language and information, and are more commonly used in
History, Science, and Math text booksas opposed to narrative texts found in many
English classes.
Students would be given a reading comprehension pre-test on the first day that
follows the same formatshort passage followed by 10 multiple choice comprehension
questionsas the final test and many of the practice readings throughout the unit. This
ensures that students are familiar with the format of the test and that I monitor their
growth through comparing performances from the beginning of the unit through to the
end. I would also be using various exit slips to hone in on more specific skills, for
example: completion of KWL charts, questions, or completed sentence frames. I would
be including all of these assessments into each students individual portfolio to show
their growth. Then of course there would also be temperature checks along the way in
the form of in-class student responses, such as correctly pointing to requested text
features, responses to in-class examples, discussions, etc.
The first standard I chose was Employ the full range of research-based
comprehension strategies, including making connections, determining importance,
questioning, making inferences, summarizing, and monitoring for comprehension. This

objective would be assessed by the range of previously mentioned assessments


targeting more specific skills, such as the questions that specifically target identification
of main ideas (Week 1, Day 5). The next standard, Read on-level text, both silently and
orally, at an appropriate rate with accuracy and fluency to support comprehension would
be measured in comparing student performance improvement from the pre-test to the
final assessment. In other words, this would show me whether or not students had
moved closer to reading and understanding at grade level.
The next two standards both target specific comprehension strategies. Cite
strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly
as well as inferences drawn from the text and Determine a central idea of a text and
analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is
shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text target
drawing inferences and identifying main ideas respectively. The first would be measured
in students ability to correctly identify which specific details support inferences made in
Week 2, on Days 1 and 2. The second is targeted in sets of 5 multiple-choice questions
that focus on main ideas on Week 1, Day 5 and Week 2, Day 3.
ELLs need a lot of differentiation to help them succeed so I differentiate my
instruction near constantly. For example, students often work in pairs or small groups
because many ELLs come from more collectivistic cultures and this can help them to
feel more comfortable and be more successful as well as just generally having the
opportunity to get support from a peer. I also frequently have students use charts,
sentence frames, and graphic organizers. I write answers, vocab words, and key ideas
during lectures on the board so that students can read them again at their own pace. If
students would seem to be struggling to answer a question or come up with something
to say I would give them sentence frames or prompts to use, if I hadnt already. During
discussions of readings and corrections I would also keep my laptop nearby so that I

could quickly and easily use a Google Image search to find visual support for any new
words, concepts, people, etcetera that students were not familiar with. In fact, in and of
themselves I see discussions as being an opportunity for differentiation because they
allow me to see where my students confusions are and adapt to them in the moment,
adding and changing supports as needed.
Reflection:
At first creating this unit plan was a little difficult because I knew that I wanted to
teach my students reading comprehension strategies but there are so many aspects to
reading comprehension that it was difficult to narrow it down to a cohesive unit. I think
this may be slightly easier in a real classroom because I would already have a general
idea of what specific strategies I needed to target and what my students would already
know that I might not then have to spend time on. For example, maybe in an actual
classroom I would know that my students dont need to be taught text features but need
to focus more on identifying main ideas and dont know much at all about using context
clues to help with vocabulary identificationsomething I didnt include in this plan at all.
I found myself very definitely falling into the magpie tendency because this was
not just one single lesson and creating my own everything for the entire unit would have
been enormously time intensive. I had worked with ELLs before on reading
comprehension using the Mr. Nussbaum resources that I used in this unit and found
them to be very useful as a diagnostic tool, as well as a great discussion starter on what
got confusing in the reading.
As a whole, I liked the UbD format. It seemed to me like an extension of the
backwards design method of lesson planning that we have been taught to use before,
just on a much larger scale. I found myself needing to make a concept map of my ideas
and skipping around a lot in order to keep everything straight and it actually took a lot
more time than I had originally thought that it would. The biggest struggle was coming up

with a general sequence, but once that was accomplished it was much easier to fill in the
blanks, so to speak, on the day-to-day activities.