DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Whole-Class Literacy Profile

History 5B

Sylvia Boateng

  Alla Chelukhova 

EDUC 2090: Literacy across the Curriculum

Summer 2011

Instructor: Dr. Eileen Landay



In preparation for this case study, we looked at the literacy skills of a group of students who participated in the class, which we, Sylvia Boateng and Alla Chelukhova, Brown University 2012 MAT candidates, taught at Brown Summer High School from July 5 to July 27, 2011.  


During the first week of the course, students were asked to complete a reading profile assessment, accompanied by a set of comprehensive questions.  The results of this assessment became the starting point for this research.  In the course of the class, students completed numerous reading, writing, listening, and speaking assignments, which are also referenced in this work.  The final assessment for the course focused heavily on the students' written and oral literacy skills.  Students were asked to individually contribute to a group essay, which defended a particular stance on human rights.  Then they were asked to participate in a debate and orally defend that stance.  


We hope to bring to light some of the strengths and weaknesses of the students’ literacy skills, as well as of our own pedagogies. We will provide some analysis on our findings and then suggest teaching methods and techniques to use with this group of students in the future. While completing this project, we attempt to meet Brown University Practice-Based Standard Two: Student as Learner. 

Although we believe that literacy allows people to exercise their intellectual creativity, flexibility, and curiosity and is therefore more complex than mere decoding of printed text, we understand that these outcomes are difficult to measure in general and analyze in the short duration of Brown Summer High School.  Thus, for the purpose of this paper, we define literacy as an ability to decode and encode printed information.


Course Description

In our course, we focused on the following essential questions:

1. Do we all have the same rights?
2. How does conflict affect our rights and responsibilities?
3. What rights and responsibilities come with power?


We explored these questions by analyzing case studies of the Civil Rights Movement and the genocide in Rwanda. We began by defining “power” and “rights.” Then we studied how access to education in the United States has been denied to black Americans and other people of color, and we examined how race functions in the United States. Students completed activities such as creating protest posters and making a human timeline, and took notes about the history of the subject. We then discussed the idea of prioritizing human rights as a way to transition to the topic of the genocide in Rwanda. We studied the ways in which boundaries between the Hutus and Tutsis were artificially created by the Europeans during colonization. Next, we analyzed how concepts such as “hierarchies” and “colonization” affected the genocide in Rwanda. Lastly, students were asked to participate in a debate about whose responsibility it is to protect the rights of the powerless from the powerful.


Class Demographics

There were 25 students in History 5B.  Of 25 students, 23 people participated in the personal survey and responded to the question regarding their cultural background.  One student identified him/herself as American Indian, two identified themselves as Asian, 12 identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino, five identified themselves as Black or African American, two identified themselves as White, and one identified him/herself as Other (Human).  Of 23 students, two identified themselves as English-Language Learners (ELLs). 


Linda Darling-Hammond articulates in her article, entitled Education, Equity, and the Right to Learn: “Education for democracy requires not only experiences that develop serious thinking but also access to social understanding, developed by personal participation in a democratic community and direct experience of multiple perspectives” (Goodlad 47), and we strongly adhere to this idea.   We believe that students’ diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds became an important factor in class discussions which focused on the universal aspect of human rights.  The perspectives shared in both written and oral forms reflected many variations in upbringing and cultural values, but we would like to emphasize the fact that despite occasionally conflicting beliefs, students respectfully voiced their opinions and listened to the opinions of others.


Class Literacy Data Collected

Reading Assessment 

The first part of our unit addressed the history of education during the Civil Rights Movement and the development of access to education in the African-American community.  To collect data for the whole-class literacy profile, we selected an article (Appendix 1) from a 1957 edition of Southern School News, a weekly publication based in Nashville, TN.  We decided to choose a primary source to give students a chance to engage with a reading as historians. The excerpt we adopted places on the 10th-grade reading difficulty level in Fry Readability Graph.  It averages 152 syllables per sentence and 4 sentences per 100 words.


Even though the level of difficulty of the text was appropriate, we recognize that because the article was written in 1957, the outdated language was more difficult to access than of a current publication. However, we believe that in history classes, students must develop the skill of reading primary sources.  Heller and Greenleaf write in their Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: “To enter any academic discipline is to become comfortable with its ways of looking at and communicating about the world” (Heller 8), and we believe that as teachers of history, we are responsible for introducing students not only to chronology, various historic events, and their implications but also to the academic vocabulary used in primary and secondary history texts.  Therefore, we believe the data we collected to be useful in determining students’ literacy as it pertains to historical texts. 


To activate students’ prior knowledge and provide them with a basic content foundation, we engaged students in a direct teacher presentation on the main themes of the Civil Rights Movement the day before the reading assessment. By the time the students read the text, they had explicitly defined “segregation” in much detail through a graphic organizer (Appendix 2) and had briefly discussed the meaning of “integration.” We asked the students to read the article and we emphasized that they should read for comprehension and not speed.  We timed students’ reading and asked them to put a mark on their paper at the end of the first, second, and third minute.  After the third minute, students were given as much time as they needed to finish the reading.  Then, students answered five comprehensive questions about the article.  The levels of difficulty of questions corresponded to five levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and asked for students’ remembering, understanding, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.  


In addition, reading as a literacy skill was evaluated throughout the course with other assignments (Appendix 3), after which students were asked to participate in both written and oral assessments.


Writing Assessment

Writing was an essential part of our course. Although formally, students were asked to write only one three-paragraph essay, there was a host of daily writing assignments. In Adolescents on the Edge: Stories and Lessons to Transform Learning, Jimmy Santiago Baca writes: “What is becoming increasingly clear through research is that writing promotes critical thinking, which, in turn, leads directly to increased learning” (Baca 49). Because we firmly believe in this statement, we used writing daily to inspire and model critical thought and facilitate student access to academic material.  Additionally, we used writing as a means of self-centered learning: students’ written assignments enabled synthesis of knowledge.


Every day for the first two weeks of the course, students completed entrance and exit tickets. To complete these assignments, students were asked to free-write about their opinions and ideas. Another form of relatively informal assessment was reflective journaling. This was used particularly when we discussed intellectually challenging, such as a juxtaposition of two groups of the powerless during the Civil Rights Movement and the genocide in Rwanda, or emotionally charged, such as a Media That Matters video clip on the genocide in Rwanda, issues so students could develop academic and emotional literacy through writing. We chose to use this informal writing to encourage students’ fluency and comfort with writing.


These formative reflective journaling assessments led up to the course’s three written summative assessments. To complete all of these assignments, students were asked to use the writing rubric (Appendix 4) we created to self-assess their writing to make it more formal and fit for academia. First, students were asked to individually write one paragraph defending their team’s position in the debate. Then, they wrote a collaborative formal three-paragraph essay defending their team’s stance. Finally, after the debate, students were asked to write a reflective response explaining how their beliefs changed throughout the course. 

There were three main reasons behind the structure of the summative assessments we adopted for the course.  First, through individual essays, we could assess each student’s personal writing skills. Second, in using the rubric for the three assignments, students could self-assess their writing while we made our writing expectations explicit.  Finally, we tried to impart on the students the importance of the relationship between writing and speaking when we asked them to write their team’s arguments before presenting them orally.  We hoped that students would realize that writing had helped them keep their thoughts coherent and well-organized.


Speaking Assessment

Oral participation was also an essential component of our course, and we take great pride in the fact that by the end of the course, every student spoke at least once a day during our class discussions. When we asked students to reflect on their academic accomplishments on the last day of our class, five out of 25 students told us that they had overcome their fear of public speaking and felt comfortable participating in discussions.  We knew then that our class had managed to create a positive classroom culture, which encouraged respectful exchange of opinions.


We measured students’ speaking abilities largely through diagnostic and formative assessments.  To make sure we had access to every student’s speaking skills, we introduced several methods of creating and facilitating conversations.  One such technique was a speaking object, in our case it was a stuffed toy bunny.  Only the person who was holding the bunny could speak, and then the bunny was passed along to a different student.  We used this approach to strengthen students’ skills at respecting and listening to others while they were speaking. Another method used was a post-it discussion.  At the beginning of the class, each student received two post-it notes, which were supposed to be used whenever a student spoke.  In the course of the class, every student had to speak at least twice and use their post-it notes before anyone could speak more than two times. This was particularly helpful to make class discussions more democratic and give every student a chance to talk.  Additionally, it allowed us to assess all students’ speaking abilities.  


The final debate was the culmination of students’ practice with speaking. Every student was asked to speak during the debate.  We provided students with a criteria sheet (Appendix 7) that called for loud and clear speaking.  Students spoke in both persuasive and inquisitive ways during the debate, and the written responses they collaboratively produced before the debate enabled every student to participate in the discussion.


Listening Assessment

We found assessing students’ listening skills to be the most difficult category to master because of their extreme subjectivity.  Although we tried several different methods of assessments, we believe assessing listening skills to be an area which demands much of our future professional focus.


We used the aforementioned toy bunny to help students listen to their fellow classmates. Although the bunny could not tell us whether or not students actively listened to one another, it did tell us when students showed each other silent respect while someone was speaking.  Likewise, the post-it discussion forced students who occasionally dominated conversations to “step down” and listen to their peers.  


To provide for a more concrete evidence of listening, we used students’ writing skills to assess their listening skills.  For example, when we wanted to assess students’ listening to a performance of a spoken-word poet, we asked them to write down three adjectives they could understand in the performance as they watched a video clip.  Afterwards, students were asked to use these adjectives in their own poetry.  Through this method, we attempted to encourage active listening by asking students to focus their attention on specific aspects of a text.  

We also would like to emphasize that students’ speaking and listening skills were intertwined in our class.  This was particularly obvious during the final debate, when, in order to speak during its question-and-answer part, students had been obligated to listen to other teams’ arguments.  To assess their active listening skills, we asked the students to complete graphic organizers to keep track of other teams’ arguments and the questions they had provoked.  


Summary of Findings

Reading Skills 

18 students read the article we chose for the whole-class literacy profile and answered subsequent comprehension questions. The average reading rate for the passage was 133.3 words per minute, which placed the class at a fourth-grade fluency level, according to the NECAP Fluency Chart for Reading.  We were very surprised by this finding. 


Fluency Grade Level

Number of Students

2 (<115 words/min)


3 (115-140 words/min)


4 (130-175 words/min)


5 (160-200 words/min)


Figure 1.


72% of students scored 5 out of 5 while responding to comprehension questions; 11% of students scored 2 out of 5 and 4 out of 5; and 5% of students scored 1 out of 5.  


Comprehension Score

Number of Students













Figure 2.                   


In general, students were not asked to read a significant amount of printed text in History 5B.  Although students read a few articles, literary excerpts, and poems in the course of the class, we intentionally structured our lessons to place focus on students’ opinions and reflections.  Jimmy Santiago Baca declares:

Now a decade into the twenty-first century, we must reevaluate sophisticated-sounding terms, such as “response to intervention” or “adequate yearly progress” and truly go back to the basics: quality texts, honest dialogue, intrinsic motivation, and a belief that, together, adults and students can discover how to transform learning from “work” done in school into memorable, interactive experiences that will stay with them forever (Baca XV)


We passionately believe in this philosophy, and we tried to implement its concepts as we planned our lessons for Brown Summer High School.  Because we aspired to create an “honest dialogue” on a daily basis, speaking, listening, and writing became our main venues for accessing the multimodality of our students’ literacy skills.


Writing Skills 

After reading the article we chose for the whole-class literacy profile, students were asked to respond to five comprehension questions (Appendix 1). The questions began at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy list, asking students to remember what they had just read. By the fifth question, students were asked to create their own solution to the problem described in the article. The students were not given specific writing criteria or expectations. Because of this, there was a range of quality of answers provided.   


Of the six least fluent readers (students with fluency rates of 66, 73, 94, 95, 110, and 112 words per minute), only three answered the fifth comprehension question that placed on the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Question 5, Appendix 1).  The quality of students’ responses varied.  One student provided a detailed and well-supported answer; one student did not explain her response in enough detail to make it fully satisfactory; and one student made minor content errors in his argument.  One of the remaining three students provided accurate and detailed responses to the first four questions, and we have reasons to believe the student may have run out of time to answer the fifth question. However, the two remaining students only answered three out of five and two out of five questions.  The answered questions ranged in difficulty from a text knowledge-based question to a question on inference and a question on basic analysis.  Of the five answers provided, only two were acceptable.


Speaking Skills 

In oral discussions throughout the course, most students provided original and creative insights to conversations. Students often challenged one another through questions, comments, or unexpected observations, and we encouraged their exchange. We believe we managed to establish a classroom culture that fostered respectful and challenging discussions, and many opposing thoughts were expressed during the course with due attention to all points of view.

However, our final achievement of enabling each student to speak out at least once every day was not an easy goal to accomplish.  At first, some students were not fully engaged in classroom discussions. Our mentor told us that she overheard side conversations that were off-topic and unfocused.  Out of a group of 25, three students appeared distracted more frequently than others. We focused more attention on brining all students into academic discussions and eventually observed a positive change in students’ engagement: many side conversations became relevant to the content at hand.  During such exchanges, students asked their peers questions about what they had just heard, disagreed with something someone said, or provided concrete examples to an abstract phenomenon.  We also observed several students translating unfamiliar words into Spanish for our English-language learners, who took constant risks of sharing their ideas with the class.


Additionally, not all students immediately embraced the idea of discussions as a way of formative assessment, and we worked on structuring discussions to accommodate for learning differentiation. For example, one student, whose written work was highly detailed, accurate, insightful, and original, consistently replied to our probing questions: “Everyone said what I was going to say.” With our mentor’s help, we noticed this pattern and began asking this student to offer his ideas first, before any other student could respond. This strategy seemed to be successful: not only did it ensure the student’s oral participation, his observations set a positive example which others followed.


Listening Skills 

In this research, we do not define listening as a passive process of receiving information; instead, we define it as an active process of cognitive engagement with information and critical thought about its relevancy and connections with other conversations or texts.  We mentioned above that we found assessing listening skills to be the most challenging type of assessment, but we created two assignments, which allowed us to be as objective as possible in determining proficiency of students’ listening skills 


During Lesson 16, we asked students to watch a video recording of a spoken-word poet’s recital.  The speed of delivery was very fast, and we showed the video twice.  While watching, students were asked to write down three adjectives they could understand.  This technique can be called a modified version of Syntax Surgery, described by Kylene Beers in her When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do.  Beers writes: “Sometimes hearing us think through a text isn’t enough for students, especially for our dependent readers.  They need to see our thinking, see how we made connections in the text.  That’s when something called Syntax Surgery can be helpful” (Beers 135).  She then gives an example of how the surgery is performed: key words are marked and their connections with each other and their substituting pronouns are made explicit for the students.  We modified this strategy when we asked students to pay attention to and write down three adjectives from the poetry video we showed.  To make meaning, students were asked to use these adjectives in their own poetry after they watched the clip.  This technique created a purpose for listening and helped students to find structure in a fast-paced recitation.


During the final debate, students were asked to complete graphic organizers, which summarized opposing teams’ arguments (Appendix 8).  We collected the organizers at the end of the class and discovered that 90% of the students wrote down at least one argument for each opposing team, and 10% of the students wrote down two arguments.  


Analysis of Findings


Analysis of Reading Skills

We were very surprised to learn that our students’ reading skills placed them on the level of fourth-grade readers, according to the NECAP Fluency Chart for Reading.  Although we attribute some of students’ difficulties to the outdated language of the primary source we used, we do not believe the text, which was placed on the tenth-grade level by the Fry Readability Graph, could cause such a large area of discrepancy between our students' reading skills and their actual grade levels.


It was additionally puzzling to see our students' reading rate because their levels of involvement with the subject matter, transfer of knowledge, and analysis clearly demonstrated skills, appropriate for their respective grades.  One student specifically made us speculate a possibility of a flaw in our findings.  His reading rate was 73 words per minute, which is considered to be below a second grade.  Yet this student produced written assignments, which placed him among the three top writers of the class and, combined with his class participation, made him one of the top five students of history in 5B.  In his personal/reading survey, the aforesaid student said that he did his homework seven times a week and that he spent two to three hours a day on it, and considering the speed of his silent reading, we believe this hourly count might be an understatement.  We wonder, then, if the above-mentioned student worked several times as much as the rest of his peers (or what he claimed to be his daily homework commitment) to achieve such academic excellence, or if there may be little value in knowing the speed of reading when it did not fully describe true literacy skills.      


Six out of 18 students demonstrated the reading fluency rate below second grade, and although the tested sample may not be wide enough to draw any accurate generalizations, we noticed that the four of the six least fluent readers were the most frequent and observant contributors to our class discussions (with a100% rate of participation).  We do not have any solid data to support our claim, but we believe the least fluent readers may have taken the time to process information and critically engage with it, which may have implied that they truly read for comprehension.


Analysis of Writing Skills

If we were to compare the proficiency of student writing with the proficiency of their speaking skills, we would certainly say that student in History 5B spoke with more academic confidence than exhibited by their writing.           


Four out of 25 students preferred to respond to the prompts after the final reflection (Appendix 9) in a form of a list.  We now realize that we did not explicitly state that we wanted students to write their responses in a form of a paragraph, so some students carefully followed our directions and itemized their responses.  We are not sure if this happened because of our deficient directions or because the structured questions we provided implied, in students’ minds, a linear organization of a list.  Additionally, we noticed an apparent correlation: the students who organized their final responses in a form of a paragraph either belonged to a higher grade level or had appeared more comfortable with writing in the course of the class.


We find one student’s response to writing in class of particular interest.  She was the most vocal participant in class discussions, and the average number of times she contributed to class conversations on a daily basis ranged from 5 to 10.  However, this student explicitly told us that she “hated writing.”  Knowing about this, we attempted to draw her into the process with humor (Appendix 5) and with personal conversations about the structural benefits of organizing her passionate ideas into a written form.  Although the student responded well to our Humpty Dumpty example and was eager to explain to the rest of the class why the lowest scoring sample deserved its low grade, she seemed reluctant to embrace the idea of writing as a vital component of her thought process.  She was absent during the final debate, and we wonder if there may have been valid reasons for her absence or if she decided not to attend the class because she knew that not only would she have to defend the debate position she did not share, but that she would have to put down her ideas in writing.


Analysis of Speaking Skills

It was absolutely fascinating to see our students develop their speaking skills in the short duration of three and a half weeks of Brown Summer High School.  From day one, it was clear that there would be two vocal leaders in class conversations, and we find it curious that both of these students, while contributing to the Classroom Constitution, knew of the areas in their speaking skills which demanded their attention.  One student said that 5B students needed to know how “to step up and step down” in discussions, implying that nobody should take over a conversation.  In the course of the class, this student objected with the most vocal vehemence to our attempts at preventing anyone from dominating in discussions.  The other student said that 5B students should not be “pessimistic” in their views, implying that negative commentary should be balanced with positive observations.  This student turned out to be the most frequent critic of the majority of the ideas we introduced.  We therefore compliment our students for such a realistic grasp on their strengths and weaknesses and their willingness to engage not only in an academic learning process but also in self-introspection.


Another observation we made in the course of the class was the learning process in which the less frequent speakers were engaged.  One such student was a rising sophomore at an all-girls Catholic school.  The quality of her writing set this student apart from the rest of the class: her written responses were very detailed and well-worded.  During oral conversations, however, this student did not willingly share her opinions until the second week of the class.  She mentioned on her personal/reading survey that she was shy and reluctant to speak, and we wanted to engage her brilliant thought in a discussion process.  After we introduced the post-it conversation, the aforementioned student became a regular, if somewhat forced, at first, contributor to discussions.  As time went by, she did not need any post-its to share her ideas: she began contributing to discussions on a daily basis.  We believe that the incentive of the post-it dialogue, together with the friendly and respectful classroom culture, enabled this student to overcome her reservations, and we hope we made a positive contribution to her academic confidence.


Analysis of Listening Skills

As one of our colleagues wisely said, “Classroom compliance does not mean learning,” and because we tend to agree with this maxim, it is difficult for us to analyze our students’ listening skills.  Were students listening and learning when they were quiet?  Were they listening when the conversations became heated and interruptions were inevitable yet controlled with the toy bunny?  And were they listening just because they could obediently repeat to us what we had just explained to them?  These are the questions we pondered during our time at Brown Summer High School.


We believe we received the most solid evidence of students’ listening skills when we asked them to fill in a graphic organizer with the arguments of opposing teams during the final debate (Appendix 8).  The quality work produced by the students, however, would not have taken place had they not practiced listening earlier in the class.  In the course of the program, students were asked to take notes during presentations, paraphrase what had been, respond to each other’s comments in discussions, and perform Syntax Surgery.


We made the following observation in the process of Syntax Surgery: even though students listened and could name adjectives they recognized, they could not always provide definitions to these words.  When we copied adjectives on the board and discussed their role in the poem, students mentioned such descriptives as “beautiful,” “stupid,” “make-believe,” and “human” and provided accurate definitions to these words upon our request.  Although they additionally mentioned such words as “ethnic” or “scorching,” they could not clearly define them.  We are not sure what this finding may mean.  It was clear that students knew that these words belonged to the category of adjectives (even though “scorching” is technically a participle) and they certainly heard them in the fast-delivered deluge of other words, but their listening did not lead to an increase in knowledge.  In some way, such listening may be compared to hearing a beautiful bird song and not recognizing the bird’s appearance because you did not know where the song came from.   Listening happened, the sound was pleasing, and auditory senses were definitely enriched, but cognitive connections between a bird and its song were not made.  Likewise, our students heard the words, knew that they were descriptive, deduced that this meant they were adjectives, but could not attach meaning to sound.


Recommendations for Future Literacy Instruction

This case study illuminated many patterns of literacy in History 5B and enriched our pedagogical practices. We believe we can make a few suggestions for the future teaching of this class based on our data.  Some suggestions came from our direct experience in the class, and some suggestions occurred to us in a hind sight of less successful methodologies.


First and foremost, we suggest teachers not rely on students’ oral abilities to determine the full range of their literacy skills.  Also, we strongly recommend the use of graphic organizers; daily definitions of key vocabulary concepts; explicitly expressed objectives and expectations; and monitored discussions to insure whole group participation.


We recommend that teachers of this class and teachers in general do not rely on students’ speaking literacy to determine their written literacy skills. Wiggins and McTighe write in their Understanding by Design: "Getting evidence of understanding means creating assessments to evoke transferability: finding out if students can take their learning and use it wisely, flexibly, creatively," (Wiggins 48), and writing allowed our students to achieve such transferability.  It is true that some students’ writing and speaking literacy skills are positively correlated, but this cannot be a general assumption. Students have different strengths in different academic areas. A student may be shy and anxious about speaking in public but write exceptionally well.  Other students may be eloquent and informed speakers, but they may not know how to start writing an essay.  Both of these groups of students were represented in our class.  Thus, the biggest idea we took away while collecting this data was the importance of differentiating learning while simultaneously encouraging students to work on strengthening their less accomplished skills.


Another technique we found helpful while teaching this class was to explicitly define vocabulary words.  We tried to do so through the use of graphic organizers and word charts (Appendix 2) . For example, one of our major themes was “segregation.”  In the course of our discussions, we realized that students often confused “segregation” with “discrimination.”  To clarify the difference between these words, we asked students to fill out a vocabulary graphic organizer for “segregation.” Students provided a definition, examples, non-examples, and an image of the term. In Inclusion Strategies for Secondary Classrooms, Gore articulates the benefits of graphic organizers: "GOs are effective at helping us teach higher-order thinking skills" (Gore 142), and we certainly saw their benefit as we taught our class.  Additionally, graphic organizers helped us to assess student understanding, and we used them to assist students in note-taking, which helped improve their listening skills.


Gore states: “As highly able learners, we [teachers] have trouble understanding why everyone doesn’t pick up our vernacular as a matter of course” (Gore 35). We shared this difficulty in the course of our time at Brown Summer High School, and as a result, we learned to never assume our students knew key vocabulary and to explicitly and clearly state in writing our expectations and objectives (Appendix 6). Whereas teachers should not assume that students understand what is said or where the class is going simply because it makes sense to the teachers, they should assume that students might know some concepts based on their own life experiences and prior knowledge and they should explicitly activate that knowledge with and for the students.


To insure a whole-group participation, we found a written classroom constitution to be very helpful.  Students authored this constitution and signed it, it was constantly present in the classroom and was always referred to and reinforced.  This element was essential to students’ willingness to take risks and take part in conversations. Lemov declares in Teach like a Champion: "It's one of the responsibilities of the job to bring order and respect sufficient to protect all students' right to learn to your classroom," (Lemov 167), and we feel the classroom constitution assisted us in doing so.  Students thought of the classroom as a safe place where they could academically challenge themselves and their peers; students felt comfortable taking personal risks without ridicule, and this academic risk-taking led to universal participation.



Literacy skills are vital for students' success in life, and we attempted to address their various manifestations in the course of our work at Brown Summer High School.  We hope that our work helped students become better scholars, and we hope this research helped us in our teaching practices.


Works Cited

Baca, J., (2010).  Adolescents on the Edge.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 

Beers, K., (2003).  When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Goodlad, J., and McMannon, T., Ed. (1997). The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.


Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., and Short, D., (2010).  Making Content Comprehensible for Secondary English Learners: The SIOP Model.  Boston, New York, San Francisco: Allyn and Bacon.


Heller, R., and Greenleaf, C., (2007).  Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Improvement.  Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education


Lemov, D., (2010).  Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass


Wiggins, G., and McTighe, J., (2005).  Understanding by Design.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD





Appendix 1

Reading Assignment


Read the following newspaper article. Read for understanding. In other words make sure you understand the article!  When we call “1,” write a “1” where you are. Do this until we stop calling numbers.

U.S. Troops Sent to Little Rock; Three Districts Desegregate (Nashville, TN 1957)


The Little Rock school integration plan, after nearly 2.5 years of apparently smooth sailing, hit serious trouble in the last week before it was to take effect.  Five days before the start of school Gov. Faubus testified that in his opinion integration would produce violence and a chancery judge ordered the school board not to proceed; next day the federal court which had approved the plan 18 months ago overrode the state injunction and also enjoined all persons from interfering.


On Monday night before the start of classes Tuesday morning (Sept. 3) Arkansas National Guard troops appeared at Little Rock Central High School and surrounded it.


An hour later Faubus on television and radio said the guardsmen were there to maintain or restore peace and good order; he said they were not to act as segregationists or as integrationists.


But he said maintaining peace and good order would not be possible “if forcible integration” were carried out and that therefore the schools “must be operated on the same basis as they have been operated in the past.”


When classes met again Monday (Sept. 23) more than 100 city and state police were present.  The crowd numbered up to 1,000.  The nine Negro students went in a side door while the crowd was chasing four Negro newsmen.  By noon the crowd was judged to be so noisy and threatening that city and school authorities agreed to take the Negro students out, and did.  That afternoon President Eisenhower issued a proclamation ordering the people to disperse and cease interfering with the court order but about 250 persons gathered at the school the next morning.  President Eisenhower then ordered the Arkansas national Guard into federal service and part of the 101st Airborne Division (which is racially integrated) to surround the school and see that the court order was carried out.  On Wednesday morning (Sept. 25) the nine Negro boys and girls went back to school.  There was no trouble.


Comprehension Questions


Please answer these questions:

1. Who was the president of the U.S. during the time when the article was written?


 2. Why did a crowd gather at Little Rock Central High School on Tuesday, September 3, 1957?


3. Based on this article, what is integration?


4. Why might White parents and students be mad about Black students going to White schools?


5. Imagine you were in charge of integrating Central High School. How would you do it?



Appendix 2

Word Chart Graphic Organizer

Appendix 3

Homework Reading Assignment


BROWN V. BOARD: Where Are We Now?

Number 25: Spring 2004 


School desegregation, celebrated as a historic accomplishment, is being abandoned in practice as much of urban America turns back to segregated neighborhood schools. The abandonment is driven, in part, by Supreme Court decisions ending desegregation orders.

Some say that this demonstrates that desegregation failed and that we are worse off than before the famous court decision whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating.

Others assume — perhaps because of the little discussion of desegregation in educational policy debates — that we have done all that can be done.

Still, an overwhelming majority of Americans favor desegregated schools. Likewise, almost all parents want their children to be prepared to get along with children of all backgrounds in a society that is on pace to become half non-white within their lifetimes.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, increasing majorities of Americans believe that integration has improved the quality of education for both Blacks and Whites. This does not mean that most Americans do not also prefer neighborhood schools — they do — but it makes clear that most people would like integrated schools if they didn't have to do anything in order to get them.

The truth about the desegregation story is that we did accomplish a great deal — when we were serious about it.

When all branches of government worked together for a few years in the 1960s, the South went from almost total racial separation to become the region with the nation's most integrated schools. In fact, most parents whose children went to integrated schools and most students who now attend them see it as a very positive experience that tends to have lasting impacts on their lives.

But we, the people, haven't put any real effort into desegregation in several decades. Perhaps because we have failed to demand continued diligence in creating an integrated society, our executive and legislative leaders have forgotten the promise of Brown — while the courts have been moving backward.


Why should we care?

School desegregation originally began to ensure the constitutional rights for Black — and later Latino — students under the Fourteenth Amendment. Fifty years later, we have additional reasons to continue Brown's worthy pursuit.

First, racial segregation is strongly linked to segregation by class: Nearly 90% of intensely segregated schools for Blacks and Latinos are also schools in which at least half of the student body is economically disadvantaged.

These schools are traditionally associated with fewer resources, fewer advanced course offerings, more inexperienced teachers and lower average test scores. At the same time, despite the unequal resources that are traditionally associated with high poverty and minority schools, students in these schools are being subjected to increasingly rigorous testing that can have serious stakes attached for student promotion and graduation.

Second, decades of social science research has found that racially diverse classrooms improve student experiences: enhanced learning, higher academic achievement for minorities, higher educational and occupational aspirations, increased civic engagement, a greater desire to live, work, and go to school in multiracial settings, and positive, increased social interaction among members of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Significantly, these benefits affect both white and minority students.


The power to change

Today our public schools are more segregated than they were in 1970, before the Supreme Court ordered busing and other measures to achieve desegregation.

Supreme Court decisions of the 1990s have made it easier for urban school districts to be released from decades-old desegregation plans.

In some areas, very high levels of integration remain. In others, particularly our large central city districts that educate one-quarter of black and Latino students, high levels of isolation by race and poverty exist. In many large suburban districts, rapid racial change and spreading segregation are occurring.

We have learned a great deal about how to design policies to encourage racial diversity, such as coordinating efforts to tackle residential and school desegregation.

As our country grows increasingly multiracial and this diversity expands into our suburban areas, we must think carefully about not replicating policies of resegregation that have produced the overwhelmingly minority and poor inner-city school systems.

The growth of the charter school movement, which neglected segregation issues and has unfortunately contributed to resegregation, especially for black students, is an example of how essential it is to incorporate equity provisions into any new education reform, particularly when residential segregation remains so high.

We must ensure that where desegregated schools exist, segregation within the school does not minimize interracial exposure. To that end, teachers must be trained in techniques to create positive environments that maximize the benefits of racial diversity. And students must rise up and help us cross our nation's long-standing racial and ethnic divide.

Finally, we — young and old, rich, poor and working class — all of us, across racial and ethnic lines, must remember the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King:

Desegregation simply removes... legal and social prohibitions. Integration is creative, and is therefore more profound and far-reaching. Integration is the positive acceptance of desegregation and the welcomed participation of Negroes into the total range of human activities.

His solution, as ours should be, is not to abandon desegregation, but to deepen it.


Segregation Today

At the dawn of the 21st century, education for Blacks is more segregated than it was in 1968.

Black students are the most likely racial group to attend what researchers call "apartheid schools," — schools that are virtually all non-white and where poverty, limited resources, social strife and health problems abound. One-sixth of America's black students attend these schools.

Whites are the most segregated group in the nation's public schools. Only 14% of white students attend multiracial schools (where three or more racial groups are present).

Latino students are the most segregated minority group in U.S. schools. They are segregated by race and poverty; immigrant Latinos also are at risk of experiencing linguistic segregation.

Asian American students are the most integrated group in the nation's public schools. Three-fourths of Asian Americans attend multiracial schools.

Racial segregation in schools is strongly linked to segregation by class. Nearly 90% of intensely segregated, black and Latino schools are also schools where at least half of the student body is economically disadvantaged.

Residential segregation impacts schools. With the decrease in busing to achieve school integration and the overwhelming return to neighborhood schools, where we live matters.

Today's segregated schools are still unequal. Segregated schools have higher concentrations of poverty, much lower test scores, less experienced teachers and fewer advanced placement courses. Students in integrated schools perform better on tests, possess elevated aspirations for educational and occupational attainment, and lead more integrated lives.


From A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?, a 2003 report from social scientists at Harvard's Civil Rights Project, outlines the nature and scope of contemporary school segregation.



Appendix 4

Writing Rubric








The arguments are well-developed and thought-out. Student makes clear connections between sentences, and the thoughts are logically organized. Written ideas connect the topics we have discussed throughout the course, and student draws personal conclusions from them. The writing is formal and appropriate.






Student is at ease with content but fails to elaborate. There are conclusions to arguments but not enough detail. Student makes some references to the materials studied earlier. The writing is formal and appropriate.






Reader has difficulty following work because arguments jump around. Student makes little or no reference to the materials studied earlier, and there are no or few conclusions in the arguments. The writing is mostly informal, there is little use of formal (academic) language.






There are no connections between sentences, and the sequence of information is difficult to follow. Student does not make any references to the materials we studied earlier, and there are no conclusions in the arguments. The writing is informal, there is no use of formal (academic) language.

































Appendix 5

Writing Rubric Examples








Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
This means that Humpty’s body was segregated and separate is inherently unequal.





A man named H. D. fell down. Nobody could put his body back together, even though they tried. He must have felt like I did when mean teachers tore up my community.






Somebody was sitting on the wall. Then horses came in, but it was like too late. The body was never recovered.





This dude was sitting or something. Then he fell apart.





























Appendix 6

Directions for Class Preparation for the Final Debate


Step1: Graphic Organizers

●     Fill out your graphic organizers as a group. Make sure all of your teammates are on the same page and have everything written in their own words.

●     Use 6 concrete examples to back up your points in the “what supports my argument” and “how can I respond sections.”


Step 2: Written Document

●     First work individually to write a paragraph or two about your position.

○     Be sure to look through your notes to provide specific examples from the Civil Rights Movement and Rwanda

○     Work on this for 20 minutes

●     Then read and compare paragraphs with your group.

○     Do you agree/approve of what everyone wrote? What are the strongest and most convincing arguments?

●     Next, as a group, write 3 strong paragraphs that support your position. Be sure to use the criteria sheet! Make sure to include one personal statement from each group member.

○     Do this for 25 minutes

○     Your arguments should consist of at least 3 paragraphs, following the writing rubric.  Each paragraph should have a topic sentence, evidence to support that sentence, summary of your ideas, and transition to the next paragraph.

●     At the end, the 3 paragraphs will be the document you will present at the debate on Friday.


By the end of class today you will have produced:

●     A filled out graphic organizer worth 25 points

●     1-2 Paragraphs that you wrote individually worth 25 points

●     3 paragraphs that you wrote as a group with everyone’s participation, which your group will present on Friday worth 100 points

●     Total number of points your team can earn for your writing is 400 points


Questions to consider for the written piece:


●     Do you have a hook (something to get others thinking; it’s often a controversial question or statement)?

●     What responsibilities come with power?  Can you make it into an introduction?

●     What is your argument?  Did you make it clear?

●     What are the counter-arguments?  Do you have at least three?

●     How can you respond? Did you respond to each counter-argument?

●     Did you provide examples? Are they from both the Civil Rights Movement and genocide in Rwanda?

●     What responsibilities come with the position you are taking?  Can you make it into a conclusion?

●     Does the written piece pass the writing rubric?

●     Is your argument convincing?  Does it make sense?


Appendix 7

Criteria for Oral Debate


Criteria for Oral Debate

Each is worth 10 points

Maximum number of points your team can receive is 100

Your oral participation is graded collectively as a team



  • Everyone participates (speak! Either during your presentation or the questioning afterwards)
  • Each group makes 5 meaningful points that refer to the conversations we’ve had during the class. Each person needs to make at least 1 point
  • Each group makes at least 3 references to the Civil Rights Movement
  • Each group makes at least 3 references to the genocide in Rwanda
  • Each group asks each presenting team at least 2 questions
  • Every one always stays on the side of your group’s argument (ex. if your group has that it is the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of the powerless, do not argue that it is no one’s responsibility
  • Every one speaks loudly and clearly enough for everyone in the room to hear and understand
  • Every one listens to others’ responses and formulates arguments against those responses (Everyone takes notes during others’ presentations)
  • Every one follows the rules of the Classroom Constitution
  • When you refer to someone during presentations or questions, you must call them by their name


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.