How to Pass edTPA (1): Sample Middle School Activity-Based Lesson Plan with Video Link

This is the first of three Huffington Posts on how to pass the teacher certification exam known as edTPA. This article provides background information on edTPA and sample middle school activity-based lesson plans with a video link on the Hofstra University web page and on YouTube. The second article, which also contains links, provides activity sheets for the lessons. The third article offers tips for successfully completing edTPA.

New York State requires that teacher certification candidates complete four exams either created or administered by Pearson. Three written exams have a combination of multiple-choice and essay questions. The fourth is a complex sixty-page portfolio submission known as edTPA.

edTPA was created at Stanford University by a sub-division called SCALE and is administered and graded by Pearson. Essentially SCALE, Pearson, and New York State decided to replace student teacher evaluations by university field supervisors and cooperating teachers with an electronic portfolio, supposedly to ensure higher standards. As of September 1, 2017 edTPA will also be required in New Jersey.

The SCALE/Pearson edTPA electronic portfolio includes lesson planning, a discussion of student teaching placement sites, videos of candidates interacting with K-12 students, their personal assessment of the lesson, and documentation of student learning. While each piece by itself makes sense, the package, which focuses on just three lessons, takes so much time to complete that it detracts from the ability of student teachers to learn what they are supposed to learn, which is how to be effective beginning teachers who connect with students and help students achieve.

The official SCALE edTPA guide called Making Good Choices is available online.

An April 2016 Kappan article written by SCALE officials claims that "since it became operational in 2014, over 54,000 students have taken edTPA. Among the nearly 800 campuses using edTPA in 40 states, some use the assessment in the absence of policy, others are using it for local evaluation or state/national accreditation, and many others are implementing edTPA under high-stakes conditions as the result of regulatory requirements."

Although it is being used to evaluate student teachers for certification, the TPA in edTPA stands for Teacher Performance Assessment and it was originally designed to evaluate experienced teachers. Student teachers in my seminar suggested a better title would is "Torturous Preposterous Abomination," although "Toxic Pearson Affliction" was a close runner-up in the voting.

To help prepare teacher education students for edTPA, students in my social studies methods class at Hofstra University and I created a sample two-day middle school edTPA activity-based lesson plan then videoed the lesson with edTPA instructions in our university classroom. Activity sheets follow with my next post. Click here for the lesson's PowerPoint and view the video on the Hofstra University webpage or on Youtube. As activity-based lessons, these lessons are organized so that based on material provided students can answer the aim question at the end of the lesson. We hope pre-service teachers preparing to complete edTPA or something similar find them useful.

As part of the edTPA process student teachers video three full-period lessons and then select and submit two ten-minute unedited segments that demonstrate effective teaching. I recommend selecting video segments that show transitions from individual work to full-class instruction to group instruction, but not necessarily in that order. A really strong segment and portfolio shows a student teacher assisting individual students and student groups while making informal assessments and student-to-student interaction during discussion. Always aim for the "Rule of Three." (1) Ask an initial question (2) followed by asking for an explanation and (3) then asking for evidence "from the text" to support the conclusion. Another "Rule of Three" helps generate student-to-student interaction. Ask the same or a similar question to two students and after they answer ask a third student which of the two positions he or she agrees with and why.

The edTPA portfolio also includes commentary on who your students are (context for learning), instructional strategies (with lesson plans), commentary on the strengths and weaknesses in the video, and informal and formal assessment of student work. As you watch the linked video, consider which two ten-minute segments you might select to submit for evaluation. I tend to be animated while I teach, but edTPA is not about doing an entertaining show. The premium is on teacher-student and student-student interaction. Remember, your students are the show.

Dean Bacigalupo, a middle school teacher who works with student teachers at Hofstra University, raised a couple of "criticisms" of the lesson that are worth considering as you prepare your own edTPA portfolio. In his school district an administrator evaluating this lesson would want to see anchor charts developed and displayed throughout the lesson to support student learning. These could be used to reinforce the underlying process for analyzing a political cartoon or to remind students of the procedures for effective group participation. Administrators would also want some type of advanced organizer used on the SmartBoard and handed to students when categorizing the different types of primary sources.

For more on planning lessons see Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach. For social studies specific lessons see Social Studies for Secondary Schools, both published by Routledge.


LESSON TOPIC: Irish Immigration to the United States

AIM QUESTION: What were conditions like for Irish immigrants to North America in the era before the Civil War?

SCAFFOLDING: The previous lesson focused on the push and pull of immigration into the Northern states in the pre-Civil War era using cartoons and data tables. Between 1815 and 1920, five and a half million Irish emigrated to America. Many described themselves in the Irish language as "deorai" or exiles. According to historian Ronald Takaki the Irish generally viewed themselves as a people "driven from their beloved homeland by 'English tyranny'." In the pre-Civil War era, most Irish immigrants to the United States were poor, unskilled, young and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. In the nineteenth century, Irish laborers built waterways, including the Erie Canal in New York and thousands of miles of rail lines. Often they were exploited, paid low wages and exposed to dangerous conditions. They lived in "clumsy, rough and wretched hovels" and in overcrowded and unhealthy urban slums. Anti-Irish stereotypes presented them as "apelike," drunkards, irresponsible, and as "a race of savages." In previous units students learned about earlier migrations to territory that became the United States, including Native peoples, unfree Africans, indentured servants, and economic, religious, and political refugees from Europe. This unit builds on their understanding of difficulties faced by earlier arrivals. It also follows lessons on the start of industrialization in the Northern states. In this lesson students continue to develop their analytical skills using primary source texts and images. The lesson drawing on discussion of their own family histories as students compare the experiences of different immigrant groups at different points in United States history, with a particular focus on similarities and differences in the experiences of contemporary immigrants and Irish immigrants from the mid-nineteenth century.

A. What are the central focus and the main ideas that students need to know (maximum of 3)?
1. In the mid-nineteenth century, Roman Catholic Irish immigrants to North America faced nativist hostility and stereotyping.
2. Competition for jobs was often a source of conflict with native-born workers.
3. Irish immigrants were forced to work for low pay under unsafe conditions while their families lived in dangerous and unhealthy circumstances.

B. What COMMON CORE skills will be introduced or reinforced during this lesson (make these lesson specific)?
R1: Cite textual evidence from cartoon, a song, and other primary sources to support conclusions about immigration to the United States in the pre-Civil War era, especially the Irish experience.
R2: Determine central ideas in cartoons and primary source documents and provide an accurate summary of the information.
R3: Analyze events and ideas and causality about the Irish immigrant experience.
SL1: Collaborative discussions, work civilly/democratically, set goals, respond to and evaluate ideas and diverse perspectives, and use additional research when necessary to understand the Irish immigrant experience.
SL2: Integrate multiple sources in diverse formats and media; evaluate credibility, especially cartoons, letters, and popular music.
W1: Write arguments to support claims about the validity of sources in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid or relevant and sufficient evidence about the Irish immigrant experience.

C. Which content area STATE FRAMEWORKS are addressed in this lesson?
1. A NATION DIVIDED: Westward expansion, the industrialization of the North, and the increase of slavery in the South contributed to the growth of sectionalism.
2. CHANGING SOCIETY: Industrialization and immigration contributed to the urbanization of the United States. Technological developments changed the modes of production, and access to natural resources facilitated increased industrialization. The demand for labor resulted in increased migration from rural areas and a rapid increase in immigration ?
3. State Content Standards 1. United States History, 3. Geography, 4. Economics, 5. Civics.
Themes: Individual Development and Cultural Identity; Development, Movement, and Interaction; Civic Ideals and Practices; Economic Systems; Global Connections and Exchange.

D. What academic and content specific VOCABULARY is introduced or reinforced in this lesson?
Analyze: Examine, question, and explain information in a document.
Valid/Validity: Establish that a document is a reliable (truthful) source of evidence.
Nativist: Someone with anti-immigrant beliefs and biases.
Historical Sources: Primary source document that historians use to reconstruct the past.

E. What materials (e.g., ACTIVITY SHEET, MAP, SONG) will I present to students?
Powerpoint, immigration cartoon, Paddy on the Railway, Differentiated document, packet

F. What activity, if any, will I use to settle students and establish a context (DO NOW)?
For both lessons, students will describe and analyze political cartoons showing how earlier generations of immigrants treated new arrivals.

G. How will I open the lesson (MOTIVATION) and engage student interest?
Day 1: Is anyone in this class an immigrant? How about members of your family? Where are they from? When did they arrive? How are immigrants treated in your community? Are you concerned about the national debate over undocumented immigrants? Why? Do you think it was more difficult to be an immigrant in the past or present? Explain.
Day 2: Last night you asked family members if they thought immigrant to the United States was more difficult in the past or present. Today we will discuss what you uncovered in your research.

H. What additional INDIVIDUAL/TEAM/FULL CLASS ACTIVITIES will I use to help students discover what they need to learn? If these are group activities, how will student groups be organized?
Day 1. Students will examine a political cartoon from the era to discover attitudes toward recently arriving immigrants.
Students compare problems faced by immigrants to the United States in the past and present.
Students will evaluate a popular song, Paddy on the Railway, to determine whether it is a valid historical document.
Heterogeneous student teams and the full class will identify, list, discuss, and evaluate possible historical sources historians can use to reconstruct the Irish immigrant experience.
Student teams will report back to the full class.
Day 2. Students will examine a political cartoon about Irish immigrants in the era to discover attitudes toward Irish immigrants.
Student pairs will examine differentiated sources that explore the experience of Irish immigrants in New York State and North America in the mid-nineteenth century.
Working as historians and examining differentiated sources, students will understand how historians reconstruct the experiences of ordinary people.
Answering questions that guide their analysis of differentiated sources, students will prepare to answer document-based essay questions.
Working in groups, students will enhance cooperative learning skills as they prepare presentations for the class.
Reporting on group findings to the class, students will enhance oral communication skills.

I. How will I DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION with MULTIPLE ENTRY POINTS to support diverse learners?
These lessons use political cartoons, song lyrics, music, and primary source text to introduce students to documentary evidence about Irish immigrants. The text is written on different levels of complexity. In Day two students work in heterogeneous pairs assisting each other evaluating text but they are assigned material based on academic performance level. Irish Immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana is for the strongest readers. Irish Immigrants Arrive in New Brunswick, Canada is designed for students who are struggling readers.

J. What compelling (higher order) questions will I ask to engage students in analysis and discussion?
How do historians decide on the validity of historical evidence?
Which form of documentary evidence do you believe will provide the best evidence about the Irish experience in the United States? Explain.
Based on the documentary evidence, how were Irish immigrants treated in the era before the civil war?
Do you believe it was harder for immigrants to the United States in the era before the Civil War or today? Explain.

K. How will I informally and formally ASSESS student mastery of the skills, content, and concepts taught in this lesson?
Student learning will be assessed based on responses to questions on the individual activity sheets, participation in class and group discussions, and the quality of the written homework assignment. While students work individually and in groups I will circulate around the room assisting them and taking notes on their progress. In evaluating the homework assignment, teachers can examine the thoughtfulness of a student's position, their ability to use supporting evidence to support their position, and the clarity of written expression. Exit tickets will be used for more formal assessment of student understanding.

L. How will I bring the lesson to CLOSURE (SUMMARY QUESTION)?
Day 1: Students will complete an exit ticket and then engage in full class discussion. Which form of documentary evidence do you believe will provide the best evidence about the Irish experience in the United States? Explain.
Day 2: Students will complete an exit ticket and then engage in full class discussion. Do you believe it was harder for immigrants to the United States in the era before the Civil War or today? Explain.

M. How will I reinforce and extend student learning?
1. CLASSROOM APPLICATIONS: Local current events.
2. ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES: In class or at home, online locate a current events article on problems faced by immigrants to the United States today. Identify and list three key points made in the article and summarize findings in a well-structured paragraph.
3. HOMEWORK: Day 1. Interview at least one family member but ideally as many as three to learn whether they think immigration to the United States was more difficult in the past or present. Write a report on their responses of at least 250-words.
Day 2. Read approximately three pages from the text and answer 3 or 4 questions.

N. What topics come next?
1. YESTERDAY: Previous lesson was on immigration to the Northern states during the pre-Civil War Era focusing on push/pull from different locations.
2. TOMORROW: Evaluating documents about the Irish immigrant experience
3. DAY AFTER: Expansion of Northern industries.

O. How do I evaluate this lesson?

P: How will ASSESSMENT of student work and REFLECTIONS on this lesson shape future instructional practices and lesson objectives?

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