ThinkCERCA: You’ve used ThinkCERCA for a few years now. What advice would you share with fellow ThinkCERCA teachers?
Megan: The best advice I would share with teachers is to be organized and anticipate any problems that may arise. For example, what will you do if the technology you hoped to use suddenly is unavailable? What if a student suddenly forgets how to log in? Be prepared. Know how to maximize the lesson. What are all of the ways you can incorporate it into your teaching? For example, can the students do a “Four Corners” with the topic? How can they relate it to their own lives? As for the Direct Instruction lessons, I have found that providing guided notes has significantly helped the students stay on task, learn the material, and improve quiz scores.
ThinkCERCA: October and November can be hectic. How do you persevere through one of the busiest times of the school year?
Megan: Honestly, this is when we really get going with it! September is chaotic as schedules keep changing. It’s usually the end of September/October when our schedules are set, and we roll it out. We start by teaching each step of CERCA and assess after each step. We try to find texts that will hook the students. Thankfully, the Curriculum is so vast that we are able to do this successfully. While they may not always enjoy reading the text, they love to debate the topic.
ThinkCERCA: How do you provide feedback on students’ writing?
Megan: Until we get rolling with the full Writing Lessons, I use my own rubric to provide feedback. Once we are fully on board with the Writing Lessons, I like to have student conferences. I have found these are more meaningful and have a greater impact on student learning.
ThinkCERCA: How has writing impacted your students?
Megan: Each year I am amazed to see the growth of my students. It is usually around December that I really notice the first big leap. Traditionally, I have assigned The Gift of the Magi, and I am blown away by how much the writing has developed. Another “wow” moment for me is when we are having classroom discussions, and I hear the students use appropriate transitional phrases.
ThinkCERCA: What are your favorite Writing Lessons to teach?
Megan: My absolute favorite Writing Lessons to teach are those found in my unit on satire. I love watching the kids' reactions as they read the articles from The Onion. Typically, they don’t usually understand the humor at first, but when they start to get it, I love watching their reactions. That’s probably another thing I would tell fellow teachers. Don’t get locked into what’s provided. Get creative!
Related: ThinkCERCA Lessons on Onion Articles:
Megan Macellaio is a Special Education and English Teacher at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. She has used ThinkCERCA since 2014.