Thursday, March 9, 2017

CRWP Success Story: Ann Duchsner

Bio for Ann Duchscher
Coordinator for Gifted Education
Fargo Public Schools, Fargo, North Dakota

Ann Duchscher has been in the educational field for the past 24 years serving as a classroom teacher and teacher of the gifted. Presently Ann is a program coordinator and instructional coach for Gifted Services in the Fargo Public Schools.

Ann completed her undergraduate work in elementary education at Concordia College, Moorhead and graduate work at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, in the field of gifted education.

In Fargo Public Schools Ann coordinates the K-8 gifted program, provides professional development and coaching to teachers in the area of differentiation, as well as, serves on a district committees.  Ann has twice presented at the National Association for Gifted Children’s Annual Convention (NAGC) sharing her district’s model for meeting the needs of gifted and academically talented students.

What I am learning as we study argumentative writing 

Kim Rensch and I are approaching this course a little differently than teachers who have classrooms of students to teach.  Neither of our positions are such that we have daily access to students, and so we are implementing our learning in this course through the vehicle of our elementary Gifted Services teachers. We have asked them to implement the mini-lessons and strategies with high ability gifted language arts students in grades 4 or 5. 
Our Gifted Services team has used texts of varying topics of student interest. This included the Jump Start Mini-Lesson on the topic of school start times.   Kim created a Google folder of many other various texts that could be of high interest to gifted children, as well. The teachers are using those texts to teach argumentative writing to 4th and/or 5th graders. We had a good team discussion on Friday, November 4th about how things were going for their students.  Here were a few of the things the teachers said—

·       Our Gifted Services teachers were surprised some students got so caught up in the Start Time articles, they almost didn’t believe the evidence because they didn’t like the perspectives they were reading.  Since these elementary students didn’t want the school start times to change for themselves, it was hard for them to see beyond their own strong opinions that a change in time might benefit middle and high school students based upon what the research was saying.
·       Their interest in the topic mattered when it came to keeping students’ engaged in the process.
·       The conversations were heated amongst the students.
·       One Gifted Services teacher said she was surprised at how many students polled other students and parents opinions to inform their arguments rather than relying on the text sources.
·       Another Gifted Services teacher thought the idea of the Burkean Parlor might be helpful in teaching the students that they can’t speak to the topic yet until they have more context, background information, and questions answered.
·       Another Gifted Services teacher broke the argumentative rubric down into kid friendly "I can" statements. The teacher went on to say that when the students debated the topic first, their argumentative writing really improved. Some differences included that after a debate, students were more likely to use topic related vocabulary and debate language such as claim, evidence, affirmative, negative, etc. in their writing. Students also provided more evidence, statistics, and quotes from experts.
·       Another Gifted Services teacher said she realized her students really didn’t know the basics, i.e., graphic organizers, topic sentences. She felt the process took far longer because they didn’t have those foundational skills.
·       And another Gifted Services teacher said her students quoted too much.   They had trouble discerning the most important text to pull into their arguments without taking all of it. 
·       Regarding Harris Moves, Gifted Services teachers said students were capable of understanding the difference between forwarding and countering, and they were able to find the extending, too. Students were able to determine what text sources were credible based upon the learning Harris Moves.

And, I asked for questions the Gifted Services teachers still had-

·       Am I teaching them the best way?
·       How do I teach the claim? evidence?
·       If you have to write about the opposite side, then you know what to defend. Should we be including this as part of the process of teaching them to write argumentatively?
·       Should we show them universal arguments? What about the strategy of play-it-out?

So, all of their reflections and feedback leads helps me clarify where to take the teachers next. Some thoughts I had are to show them the common framework for writing paragraphs that are used in middle school called RDF. We could also show them a framework for making universal arguments (to persuade), and the cause/effect structure in play-it-out. I will continue to keep reflective lists of their feedback to help guide them in improving the process with their students.