Week 3 Watching Teaching in Action

Greetings to all,

April 21 – 25 is the start of week 3 of our activity in the College and Career Standards Group. The video for this week focuses on informational texts.  The short video begins with students expressing their difficulties reading and using complex texts.  You will see how the instructor, Ms. Wessling, uses a strategy to overcome their challenges.  I think that viewing this video can provide you with insight that is transferable to adult education classes.

Joining us in our discussion will be Amy Matthews from Kentucky. 

Comic Book Templates: An Entry Point into Nonfiction


Common Core Standards: ELA.RI.9-10.1, ELA.RI.11-12.1, ELA.RI.11-12.5

Reading Informational Texts

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.

(Source: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/ and http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RI/11-12/)

Guiding questions:

  • How does using the templates help students to develop understanding?
  • What do students learn about the attributes of nonfiction?

Ms. Wessling uses a familiar medium to get students to tackle a complex task. How could you use this approach in your classroom?

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME



I want to introduce Amy Matthews from Kentucky who will be joining in on the conversation for Week 3 of our activity.  

Amy Matthews is currently an Assistant Director at Mercer County Adult Education under the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation. Her adult education experience is in teaching English Language Learners. With a Masters of Adult Education through Western Kentucky University, she is currently continuing her education through two Kentucky Adult Education pilot professional development opportunities: Employability and Active Learning in Adult Numeracy.

Welcome to the discussion!

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME



Good morning.

I have found that some of my lower level readers enjoy reading nonfiction graphic novel excerpts.  Students frequently ask how they can start to read history and social studies without having to tackle complex, and sometimes dry, textbooks.  When possible, I prefer pointing the students to materials containing adult illustrations.  I particularly like Howard Zinn's A Peoples History of American Empire and John Lewis's March.  Do you have other examples of graphic novels your students have enjoyed?





Thank you for sharing the titles! We have books called American Lives which are a lower level reader series that discusses the lives of historic figures.

I believe the graphic novels allow readers to take in information about the text through the pictures, which give pre-reading clues, as well as through the words, which makes them a strong learning tool! Anytime we can pull multiple senses into reading our learners become more interested in the text!

Many times we use movies from KET/PBS learning videos to introduce a topic as a  pre-reading activity. This introduces our learners to vocabulary, world knowledge and the concept in an entertaining venue prior to reading. It seems to work really well to get their reading appetite ready!

Thank you again for sharing! I am going to look at those books right now!

Good morning, Meryl and Amy.

Thank you for sharing your resources and practices!  I too find that the pictures help students to more quickly grasp the context of the story and to practice their predicting skills.  It's also a great support for recognizing and beginning to use new vocabulary.

We've been working on improving test taking skills in reading class and I've been trying to stress to students that a lot of information can be obtained by looking at pictures in the test booklets.  Recently, we did an activity where students looked at a series of pictures without any text and wrote sentences about what they believed was happening in the story.  Next, we looked at the pictures with text.  People were amazed at the accuracy of their predictions!

I have not seen the PBS videos.  I look forward to checking them out.


Many times learners are unsure of how to organize their thoughts as well as how to take notes as they are reading a text. Using the pre-made graphic organizers would allow learners to compartmentalize their ideas based upon how the book is organized. They would be able to “see” where to place notes from the introduction as well as alternate story lines as they progress through the book. They may take to it like ducks to water as in the past when we have studied dialogue they immediately used boxes as in a comic strip to show the dialogue taking place.

As an adult educator I would be curious as to how my learners would react to the organizers. I can see how younger learners would easily roll into the comic strip idea, however I am curious as to how older adults would accept this idea.

Hello to Amy and Others,

It was my experience when I was in the adult education classroom that the learners really liked to follow any type of patterns and graphics.  I discovered early on that they loved graphic organizers.  Things that I used as a middle school instructor were loved by the adult students.  They appeared to really need the structure.  I feel like the approach modeled by Ms. Wessling is something that would really "click" for the students.  What do you think?

Meryl Becker-Prezocki, SME


I want to share a link that the instructor, Sarah Brown Wessling, in the video for this week recommends for teaching templates in her comments on the Teaching Channel.  It is http://donnayoung.org/art/comics.htm.  Check it out!  You might find something that will enhance your instruction.

Meryl, SME


Hello, all. I was just checking out the printable cartoons on Earth Day and it occurred to me that one use for these particular cartoons would be for a practice of conditionals.  For example, see the printable cartoon that asks "What would you do if dinosaurs roamed the earth today?" "How would your life be different?"  Another use could be teaching affixes (recycle; recycling). It is a worthwhile topic, I think, and students could go online to find out their city's regulations on recycling.  These activities relate to standards on language, in particular, those requiring students to participate in speaking, listening and reading and writing activities in which they cite evidence from multiple sources, demonstrate knowledge of conventions used in writing and speaking, , and so on. My question is this: In looking over the cartoons,  there were few if any adults shown.  Most, if not all, drawings appeared to be of children. Is this an issue, do you think? Would it be more useful to depict adults in the cartoons? What would you do in  your classroom?   RESPONSE: As an adult educator I find that materials that have drawings of children are okay. As most of our adults have children they can easily relate to drawings with children in them. I find that as long as long as we respect our adults as adults, we can use a range of materials with them. At times when I find a really good book but it looks child like I explain, "this book looks child like, but it has strategies that we need to address and the book does it better than any other I have found!" This tells them, "I know you are not a child." which is VERY important to our adults. As a side bar to the dinosaur cartoon; we used Jurassic Park as a reading/ science lesson and had rave reviews! It allowed us to use a "younger genre" movie clip to compare and contrast written word( from the book) versus media visualization as well as a discussion of evolution! We had a great time and  it brought a lot of interest into science!


Meryl, thank you for including this resource. Helping students understand the organization of information in a text is an effective, engaging instructional approach. I really liked how the instructor integrated the comic strip graphic format into the class activities with the non-fiction text.

While the video mentions the comic strip approach, an extensive amount of research exists around graphic organizers (GO). Douglas Dexter and Charles Hughes  completed a meta-analysis of GO and students with learning disabilities.  Their review included 16 articles and demonstrated significant benefits to learners: increased vocabulary knowledge, comprehension and inferential knowledge. No negative effects were noted either.

Unlike the video, the research with strong results included one to two sessions specifically focused on the instructor teaching how to use the GO and one to two sessions of prompted practice. As we consider our adult learners, our experience is that providing explicit, direct instruction in using the device is important for the instructors and the learners.

In our research, we found that spending time with the instructors in the technical trade classes was very important to their developing proficiency in effective use. We had to provide multiple examples (e.g., develop unit organizers from the textbook) rather than just telling them the parts of the GO and expecting them to be effective.

One of the bottom line take away messages was that after the students learned to construct the GO, they could continue to use them for taking notes and found them very helpful for preparing for their in-class tests (formative tests) and review for their trade certification exams. My sense is too that the GO helped the teacher develop a better organization of the textbook so that their teaching improved. We saw several teachers continue to use the GO after the study ended, which was a wonderful validation.

By the way, the comic book template would be best be considered an example of a cognitive map GO. 

In Dexter and Hughes review, the largest beneficial effect was found in science and least effect (though still significant) in mathematics. They also pointed out that different GO types have different value in the instructional sequence. For example, the more instructionally intensive type of GOs (e.g., semantic mapping and semantic feature analysis) are better for immediate recall and more computationally efficient GOs (e.g., visual display and syntactic/semantic feature analysis) are better for maintenance and transfer of learning. 

The citation for Dexter and Hughes journal article is: Dexter, D.D, & Hughes, C.A. (2011) Graphic organizers and students with learning disabilities: a meta-analysis. Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol 34, Nos 11, pages 51-72.



Moderator, Reading and writing community

Hi Daryl.

You make a great point that the instructors need guidance in the implementation of the graphic organizers as well as the learners. I assumed after watching the video that the class had used these types before and they were simply implementing a new text with a tried and true graphic organizer. As I watched the video I too was curious on the instruction and training of the teachers using the organizers.

This is a great point to bring up, thank you! I also loved the research showing how the graphic organizers help our adults succeed in learning beyond their GED experiences!

THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge!


I just love graphic organizers and have found that most, if not all, of my students love them too after they have made use of them once or twice.  I've found this to be particularly so when a reading assignment turns into a writing assignment.  It is then when the student realizes their use of active reading with a graphic organizer was not just a "busy work" activity.

One thing that I have found that my students were having a bit of trouble with, however, was that when it was time to start making those meta-cognitive associations without the scaffolding an organizer provided, they had a little trouble beginning that task on their own.  I found one way of dealing with this problem was to talk students through this new process before they actually had to give the "printed" graphic organizer up.  Then, I walked them through the process of making their own organizers based on the purpose of the text.  Before long, they were employing the same active reading strategies that the organizers allowed them to use, but they were doing it on their own.  

Because I'm still in the process of building a more rigorous curriculum for my higher level GED English students, I'm very interested in other activities/strategies that other educators are using to transition students from scaffolding with teacher-created/printed graphic organizers to creating their own and making those connections once they have mastered their use.

Hi Sherraine,

I am pleased to hear after persisting students like the graphic organizers. It may seem silly but I teach my students to use their hand, spread out like a turkey and traced.... it is an organizational tool they have with them all the time! It allows a visualization and organization aid without them having to make one up. I always tell them to channel their inner pilgrims, it's turkey time.


Hello All!

I wanted to add that graphic organizers are great in math, too.  They help learners organize new information and scaffold it with information they already know.  In my math course, I use something like this (click here) is a great way to introduce new and abstract ideas and build understanding.

Great Discussion!

Brooke Istas

SME, Math and Numeracy


The activity Watching Teaching in Action that took group members inside schools to watch how teachers are implementing standards in their classroom has ended.  I hope that you have had the opportunity to follow the discussion.

The purpose of the conversation was to share with the College and Career Standards Community the Teaching Channel videos.  I believe that viewing the videos can provide us with a way to promote our professional learning.  The clips that were selected showcased inspiring and effective instructional practices in order to demonstrate techniques for using standards in the classrooms.

I wish to offer my thanks to the six guest adult educators from Kentucky who have enthusiastically participated: Cris Crowley, Sherraine Williams, Jennifer Bruce, Kitty Head, John Greenwell, and Amy Matthews.  Their insight and wisdom have been very valuable.

Even though we are ending Watching Teaching in Action, our discussion can continue.  I encourage you to browse through the comments, and I would love to hear your thoughts or questions.

Meryl Becker-Prezocki,  SME


Glad that you found the comment useful. One of the advantages that teachers reported is that they needed to spend some time with the graphic organizer too in planning their large group or small group instructional activities. That is in the process of planning their lessons, incorporating the graphic organizer helped them "organize" their thoughts and activities. The organizer was especially helpful in determining the lesson's priorities for learner outcomes and clarifying what information they wanted to emphasize/deemphasize. In the vocational classes this use of the organizer was very helpful because of the sense that everything is important.

From the student perspective, however, they were viewing the information as disconnected facts (declarative knowledge) or steps (procedural knowledge). The organizer provided a framework for showing the linkages among those knowledge nodes. 

Everyone benefited! Better teaching and better learning.



Reading and writing community moderator