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March 15, 2021

Case Study of a Teacher: Engaging Students in Text Analysis (Part 1)

Recently, Teaching Channel got the chance to spend two days in David Olio’s literature class at South Windsor High School in South Windsor, Connecticut. We came away from David’s class with two lesson videos that show students engaging in text analysis through reading and writing. And that’s not all. These videos are a case study of how a teacher can create a classroom environment that encourages deep thinking.

After watching these videos, I’m struck by the great work students are doing and by the way David interacts with his students to make sure they feel a sense of belonging and ownership in their classroom. David greets his students with a smile and gives them 100% of his attention as they talk. At the beginning of one class, David sits right down with students and helps them explore, question, and work together. David is fully engaged with his students and, in turn, they are fully engaged in his class.

Also, solid routines — for students and teachers — are behind every wonderful lesson. In these videos, we watch his students giving each other feedback on their work, and just as importantly, we get to see David’s collaboration time with colleagues. This collaboration time gives David a second opinion on the quality of his students’ work, and feedback on how he can adjust and improve his instruction to further engage students.


The seniors in David’s class have been reading Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Day 1: Author’s Choices – Collaborating in Close Reading

In the first of this two-day lesson, students analyze passages from Beloved, discussing and reading closely before writing their own analysis of the text. Students engage in close reading using an “Interrupted Passages” strategy, where a chunk of text is spread out on a piece of paper. This space allows students to focus on certain lines while having room to annotate the passage with detailed notes.

Download: Interrupted Passages Worksheet Section 3

Download: Interrupted Passages Worksheet Section 4

While viewing this lesson, you can clearly see that David has spent a lot of time teaching his students to work together. Before splitting up into small groups, David has students share collaborative strategies that they could use during this activity (making eye contact, asking probing questions, taking notes, etc.). After analyzing passages together, students work individually on a “Quick Passage Analysis,” a strategy for writing a complete analysis in five sentences, and then share their writing using Google Docs. The entire lesson is a wonderful example of complex text analysis and a testament to the power of collaborative learning.

Day 2: Critical Friends – Collaborating as Writers

On our second day in David Olio’s classroom, his students critique the writing they did on day one using a “critical friends” protocol. David again does a lovely job of guiding students towards productive collaboration, teaching students to give effective “warm and cool” feedback, and clearly explaining the steps of the critical friends protocol. Students then work together in small groups to give each other feedback on their writing before revising their writing individually.


Watching exceptional teachers always leaves me asking the same things: How did they become exceptional? How are they working together to become even better? In the case of David Olio, he grows his practice through regular collaboration time with colleagues. In these two videos, we see David reflecting and learning with his colleague Barbara Laurain.

Collegial Conversation: Collaborating to Review Student Work

In this video, David meets with Barbara to review three pieces of student work. Together, they look closely at what students were able to do and where their gaps are. Barbara gives concrete suggestions that David can use going forward. It’s inspiring to see these teachers take a detailed look at student work and use their collective knowledge to inform David’s instruction.

Teacher Collaboration: Adapting to the Common Core

This video features David and Barbara reflecting on the key shifts they’ve made when adapting to the Common Core State Standards. They discuss how the Core has made them move beyond asking basic who/what/where/when/why questions, how they plan with the end product in mind, and how they use scaffolding to help students meet the demands of the Core. Watching their conversation gives us a glimpse into what David’s instruction had been like in the past and how he has adapted his practice for the CCSS.

Watch More From This Series

Case Study of a Teacher: Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment (Part 2)

Video Playlist: Collaborating to Plan Common Core Lessons for ELLs

We partnered with the National Education Association (NEA) on this video series that shows some of the “invisible work” that goes into successful teaching and observe the end-result classroom lessons and the planning that went into crafting them.


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