The 6 Skills part 3a: Zooming In

This is the third part in a series of blogs exploring different analytical skills. The first part looked at tentative language; the second part looked at the 3 part explanation.

Analytical Progression Model

  1. Embedded Evidence
  2. 3 Part Explanation
  3. Zoom In/Technique
  4. Multiple Interpretations
  5. Evidence in Explanation
  6. Link Across Text

‘Zoom In: Why Teach it?

Literary analysis requires students to respond to both the bigger picture and the finer details within a text: sophisticated analytical writing will contain a well-balanced mixture of the wider overarching ideas-perhaps thematic concerns or authorial intention-and a ‘fine-grained’ analysis of salient textual evidence. If students are able to identify and interpret a significant word, phrase or technique, then this skill can help to develop the precision of their writing. Although more general textual references can also be effective, zooming in on a noteworthy word or two helps students to be specific, ensuring that their interpretations are firmly based in evidence from the text.

With regular practice in zooming in, students become more economical and efficient with how they use their quotations as they are conditioned into moving beyond merely making a cursory remark and then hastily moving on to the next piece of evidence, and instead ensuring that they analyse each significant word or phrase in turn. This can be particularly useful with lower attaining students who often fail to get the maximum usage out of a quotation.

‘Zoom In’: What to teach?

In the initial stages of instruction, students could be taught to respond to a piece of evidence and then zoom in on one or two significant words or phrases within it.

EXAMPLE:

Creon angrily commands ‘never let some woman triumph over us’ showing his fury towards Antigone because of her defiance. The phrase ‘some woman’ conveys his scathing and dismissive attitude towards his niece.

While the instructional sequence below could be seen as overly detailed, it was written to help the lowest performers in year 7; more able classes could probably cope with less practice at each stage. The sequence broadly follows the I-WE-YOU continuum. Apart from the first lesson in the sequence, each lesson below is not an entire lesson of instruction (we have 50 minute lessons) and the rest of the lesson would be taken up with other instructional sequences, application of previous content and other teaching. This approach aims to emulate the track system that DI schemes use.

Like with tentative language and the three part explanation, from the beginning of year 7 students will have encountered and read many sentences and model paragraphs containing this specific skill: our booklets deliberately model the skills that we want our students to master.

LESSON 1: Step One

Present an example under the visualizer:

lesson 1 step 1 zoom in

The teacher can then label the example, ensuring that there is a prompt that links the zoomed in part to the original quotation. The teacher can then ask questions about it:

  • Why have I used the word ‘command’ here?
  • What does ‘phrase’ mean? Low attainers may need further practice on the difference between ‘word’ and ‘phrase’ and this can be taught through a series of examples and a test sequence much like the one described below in LESSON 1: Step Four
  • What have I zoomed in on? How do you know?

LESSON 1: Step Two

Present a second, minimally different example  under the visualizer:

lesson 1 step 2 Zoom in

Following Engelmann’s theory, the intention here is to ensure that all irrelevant aspects of the example are held constant. By carefully manipulating only the relevant aspects-in this case the part of the evidence that is being zoomed in upon-students are less likely to become confused. This second example deliberately zooms in on a word rather than a phrase: students should be presented with examples that cover the full range of the concept that is being taught and with ‘Zoom In’, students need to be able to zoom in on phrases as well as words.

The teacher can then ask questions about the second example:

  • What does ‘obstinate’ mean? This is a retrieval practice question
  • What have I zoomed in on? How do you know?

LESSON 1: Step Three

Present a third, minimally different example under the visualizer:

lesson 1 step 3

This third example contains two separate examples of zooming in, demonstrating how students can combine evidence in their responses. Looking for patterns and links between language and pieces of evidence-the two examples here both conveying a sense of resolve and certainty-is a key skill when analyzing a text. Later skills (evidence in explanation/link across the text) broaden the range and scope of this approach to using evidence.

The teacher can then ask questions about the third example:

  • What does ‘domineering’ mean? This is a retrieval practice question
  • What have I zoomed in on? How do you know?
  • How are ‘must’ and ‘never’ similar?

Presenting three minimally different examples allows students to see the breadth of the skill of ‘zooming in’. While there are certainly other variants of this concept, the range presented here gives a good starting point.

LESSON 1: Step Four

Non-Examples

When teaching through examples, it is necessary to demonstrate the limits of the concept by presenting non-examples that are minimally different. One possible misconception for very low attaining students is that they will make poor choices as to which words or phrases to zoom in upon. Staying with the same example paragraph, the teacher can then present a sequence of examples and non-examples.

In the sequences below, the bold text are the examples that are presented to the students and the italicised words are the responses given by the teacher.

Teacher Presentation:

Creon angrily commands ‘We must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us’

 TEACHER: Can I Zoom in on this word? No. How do I know? Because there is nothing interesting to say about it.

Creon angrily commands ‘We must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us’

TEACHER: Can I Zoom in on this phrase? Yes. How do I know? Because I can say something interesting about it.

The teacher should stress the underlined words here to make clear the difference between the Yes and No response.

Student Test Sequence:

A student test sequence is designed to test whether students have made the intended generalization. DI schemes teach ‘the general case’ and students are expected to perform on examples that have not been taught directly: their success is dependent upon the careful selection of examples and non-examples within the teaching and testing sequences. Importantly, the test is in an unpredictable order (not YES/NO/YES/NO), ensuring that the teacher can gain valid inferences from student responses. Student responses should ideally be given chorally, maximizing their response rate and further ensuring that the teacher can make valid inferences about whole class performance: if only one student answers a question, this is a pretty poor measurement of the understanding of the group as a whole.

 Creon angrily commands ‘We must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us’

 TEACHER: Your turn: Can I Zoom in on this word?

STUDENTS: No.

TEACHER: How do I know?

STUDENT: Because there is nothing interesting to say about it.

 Creon angrily commands ‘We must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us’

 TEACHER: Your turn: Can I Zoom in on this word?

STUDENTS: No.

TEACHER: How do I know?

STUDENT: Because there is nothing interesting to say about it.

 Creon angrily commands ‘We must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us’

 TEACHER: Your turn: Can I Zoom in on this phrase?

STUDENTS: Yes

TEACHER: How do I know?

STUDENT: Because I can say something interesting about it.

 Creon angrily commands ‘We must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us’

 TEACHER: Your turn: Can I Zoom in on this phrase?

STUDENTS: No

TEACHER: How do I know?

STUDENT: Because there is nothing interesting to say about it.

 I have deliberately chosen reasonably clear cut cases here as the intention is to get students to recognize that they need to choose interesting words or phrases that are worthy of analysis. There are obviously going to be words that may be worthy of analysis, but I am focusing on the easiest discriminations first. Two of the overarching theoretical ideas from Theory of Instruction support this decision: firstly, we should teach easy skills before harder ones and secondly, consistent instances should be taught before exceptions. This post explores these ideas in more depth.

LESSON 2,3,4

DI programmes never teach something in just one lesson, instead spreading initial demonstration and teaching across at least two or three lessons. In these next few lessons, the teacher should follow a very similar process to lesson one except with a different set of examples for each lesson. While these examples should focus on the same specific types of ‘zoom in’ (a word/a phrase/two separate words that are to be combined to strengthen a line of argument), they should have a different content focus each lesson. They could focus on a different character, be from a different part of the text or even come from a different text altogether. If we are to teach to the general case, ensuring that students learn a skill that can be generalized, we need to present a sufficient range of examples. If we only present limited range of examples, the danger is that students will incorrectly infer that the concept is limited to the instances that they have experienced.

While the examples in lesson one had a prompt arrow linking the zoomed in word or phrase with the quotation that it came from, this prompt could now be removed.

LESSON 5 Step 1

While earlier lessons involved the teacher presenting examples to the students, these lessons should see students completing examples that have been started by the teacher.

The teacher can begin by writing an embedded quotation:

Tiresias explains that ‘stubbornness brands you for stupidity-pride is a crime’ because he wants Creon to recognize he is at fault.

The teacher can then give students further practice on choosing words worthy of analysis:

Teacher Presentation:

Tiresias explains that ‘stubbornness brands you for stupidity-pride is a crime’ because he wants Creon to recognize he is at fault.

TEACHER: Can I Zoom in on this word? No. How do I know? Because there is nothing interesting to say about it.

Student Test Sequence:

 Like in lesson one, student responses should ideally be choral, allowing students to maximize the amount of practice that they complete.

 Tiresias explains that ‘stubbornness brands you for stupidity-pride is a crime’ because he wants Creon to recognize he is at fault.

TEACHER: Your Turn: Can I Zoom in on this word?

STUDENT: Yes.

TEACHER: How do I know?

STUDENT: Because I can say something interesting about it

TEACHER: What can you say that is interesting?

The teacher can then use this final question as an opportunity for individual students to give interpretations and analysis. The teacher should insist that a student expresses their ideas using the same language that they will be expected to use in their writing as well as NARRATING the punctuation: this maximizes student practice whilst allowing the teacher to make precise and swift corrections with regards to accuracy.

EXAMPLE STUDENT RESPONSE: The word QUOTATION MARKS brands QUOTATION MARKS has connotations of pain as if Creon’s decision is causing him to suffer.

 After listening to the oral example, students can write their own, zooming in on the same word. Because of the restrictive nature of the task-all students will produce something very similar-feedback can be precise. The teacher can either use their own model or another student’s work to give feedback (like LESSON 1 step 3 in this blog).

LESSON 5 Step two

The teacher can then present a series of additional examples, covering a broad range of structures and containing opportunities to practice all forms of zooming in (one word/one phrase/two separate words to be combined). While earlier instructional sequences had prompts and opportunities to practice choosing an interesting word, this and later practice sequences should see students making choices themselves in the absence of visual prompts, fading support so that students gradually learn to complete the skill independently.

Here are two possible examples:

Tiresias warns Creon that ‘Great hatred rises against you-cities in tumult’ in order to make Creon aware of the ramifications of his obstinacy.

 Creon is ‘poised once more on the razor edge of fate’ because of the difficult decision he has to make.

Students could then be asked to copy each example and add in a second sentence that zooms in on a word or phrase. These are completion problems, allowing students to

Later Lessons

This skill can then be integrated with other skills and students can be asked to complete restricted, interleaved practice drills as explained in this post.

‘Zoom in’ should then be included as a success criteria in increasingly wider writing, beginning with isolated paragraph practice. Eventually, this prompt should be removed, the expectation being that students know that this skill is required when responding to texts.

General Points:

  • Do not expect them to use ‘Zoom In’ in a paragraph or more extended writing until they are able to do it accurately and independently at a sentence level.
  • Success rate should be continually high at each stage (70-80% correct for all students)
  • If it is lower: maybe you need to provide more scaffolding, give more examples, move back a stage on the I-WE-YOU continuum

I originally intended to include ‘Technique’ in this post but I will write a follow up that explores this skill on its own. Perhaps this means that the 6 Skills should actually be The 7 skills!

Next Post: Teaching Techniques

 

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