Organizing Instructional Tasks with Landing Pages

By Sara DeMartino

Institute for Learning

Organizing Instructional Tasks with Landing Pages

What is a Student-Centered Routine in ELA?

A student-centered routine in ELA is a sequence of actions that students are asked to take to develop a response to open-ended, text-based task.
This document shows the various elements of student-centered routines used during ELA instruction. We always recommend that students get an opportunity to capture their thinking in writing before being asked to share in pairs or with the larger groups. This practice offers students a chance to surface what they initially think, gives them a document to speak from as they share, and allows them to add to or revise their thinking.

Although we are not physically present in your districts, we’ve been working with and talking to many of you virtually throughout the fall. In reflecting on our conversations with you, it’s clear to us that teachers are leading the way in understanding how various online tools work to facilitate student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction. You’ve found that how teachers provide students opportunities to interact with a text, share their thinking with a peer (either synchronously or asynchronously), share their thinking whole group, and then reflect on what they’ve learned should remain consistent whether students are in class or at home. Keeping the routine consistent and using online tools to facilitate interactions among students allows them to know what to expect, whether they are present in the classroom or at home. It also provides opportunities for students who are in the classroom to interact with students who may be learning at home.

Teachers have found great success using landing pages to organize learning for students across one text or across multiple texts in a unit. A landing page is a page on a website where students “land” to do their work or engage in a task. We’d like to share with you an example of a landing page designed for a sequence of work with the text, “The Censors” by Luisa Valenzuela. You can access the sample landing page here.

Why Landing Pages?

Landing pages, much like task sheets, provide students with both the why and the what of an instructional task. They support more equitable access to instructional activities by making expectations clear and providing step-by-step guidance for students as they engage in learning.

Landing pages provide the why by explaining to students the purpose of the work they will be engaging in during one task and across multiple tasks. Purpose statements help students see where they are going and help them to see that the task isn’t just busy work.

Purpose statements for an arc of work across one text and for a task.

Landing pages also provide students with the what–the steps they need to take to be successful with a task and the tools they need to help them along the way. If you’re familiar with our student-centered task sheets, then landing pages should feel pretty similar. Landing pages help to alleviate some of the “Miss, I don’t know what to do!” comments we often hear from students, and students report that they appreciate the consistency that working from a landing page provides (whether students are working at school or at home).

Setting Up a Landing Page

We used Google Sites for creating instructional landing pages because it’s easy to use (no coding required!) and plays nicely with other tools in Google Suite (i.e., Google Classroom). You can link directly to landing pages in Google Classroom and provide students with a calendar of when the work will be completed.

Once students navigate to the landing page, they will see that it includes links to sub-pages for each instructional task. For example, the first linked subpage for “The Censors” is the comprehension task.

Subpages are built to mirror paper task sheets. We strongly recommend that when planning an instructional task through a landing page, that you begin planning as if you were creating a paper task sheet and then take a step back to decide how you’ will facilitate the student-centered routines (Do you need to structure the routines for a class with students who are both in school and online? Are your students entirely asynchronous?) and how students will demonstrate their learning (Will students work in a collaborative slide deck? Will you add links to an assignment in Google Classroom?). This guide provides a few suggestions for translating student-centered routines to online spaces. You will notice that we’ve annotated the following images of the comprehension landing page to provide some insight into how we structured the comprehension task for the text, “The Censors.” This task was structured for a class that utilizes some synchronous time with students.

The comprehension subpage provides students with the purpose statement and information that students may need to help them engage with the task and text.
Each step of the task is provided for students as well as links to the applications or tools needed to complete the step.
In STEP 1, students are expected to add to a Jamboard to allow the teacher an opportunity to assess what students understand about censorship.

STEP 2 engages students with the text. This work is linked through Google classroom. It allows students to individually work through reading and annotating the text, while giving the teacher an opportunity to see how students interact with the reading.
In STEP 3, after reading the text, students are asked to complete a quick write in response to a comprehension question. Working asynchronously, students are asked to post the quick write to a Pear Deck presentation with the expectation that when the class meets for their synchronous time, students will share and discuss what they wrote.

STEP 4 is the final step in the work for the comprehension task. It lets students know that they will be expected to have steps 1-3 finished when they meet with the rest of the class online to collaborate around a slide deck that will be used during a virtual gallery walk and whole class discussion of the text.

We love hearing from our teachers!

  • How are you organizing online learning experiences for your students?
  • Have you tried landing pages? How are they working for your students?
  • What are some other digital tools that have proven useful for you and your students as you work together online?

Tell us your story here.

    Tagged with: ELA, Elementary, High School, High-Level Tasks / Curriculum, High-Leverage Teaching Practices, Middle School, Online Instruction, Reading / Comprehension, Writing

    Creating a Map to Bridge Differences

    Sara DeMartino

    IFL English language arts fellow

    When we are working with teachers on their curriculum, we often find ourselves having to reinforce the idea that it’s important to do the tasks that we’d like our students to do. This is sometimes called dogfooding—it’s slang in the corporate world for testing your own product to work out the kinks. Teachers should complete their own tasks to make sure that the product generated by students in response to the task is the product the teacher was expecting students to create. Another reason for dogfooding in education is to anticipate the range of responses. Anticipating how students could potentially respond to a task (either in the correct or incorrect space) provides an opportunity for teachers to pre-plan for differentiation and contingency work based on what student responses tell the teacher about where the students are in their learning.

    We’ve found success using a Continuum of Potential Responses tool (Mihalakis & Renner, 2016) with teachers to plan for instruction. The tool, shown below and completed for a task on an excerpt from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (2015), asks teachers to consider both less valid and more valid responses to a task, what those responses tell teachers about where students are in their learning, and how teachers might differentiate instructional next steps based on where students are.
    This work first begins by asking teachers to identify an “ideal” response and rationale for why the response is ideal. In this example, teachers were identifying the ideal response to the question “What is Coates saying about race in this text?”
    “Ideal” Response: The progress of Americans is built on violence towards black bodies (lines 12–16). Race is used in America to keep a hierarchy (lines 41–43) and is a modern invention of racism used to destroy and humiliate people (lines 33–34; 39–40; 46). Coates is also saying that how race is defined will continue to change over time to keep the “ruling class” in charge (47–50).
    Why Is That Response Ideal? This response gets major parts of Coates argument about race in America—that race is a construct used to oppress and control to keep the “ruling class” in power. It shows that students have a clear grasp of the content of the text that can be built upon as students move through additional tasks.

    Teachers then prepare for work that will bridge the gaps between where students are in their understanding of a text or of content and where they need to be to move forward in the work and toward the learning goal, rather than marching through a sequence of work in lock step.

    One of our urban partner districts has begun to utilize this document as a co-planning tool for teachers of English learners (ELs) and their ELA counterparts. The document provides an entry point for teachers to have a conversation around how ELs may respond to complex texts and tasks, and allows teachers the opportunity to work together to co-plan for difference—to think together around differentiated instruction and potential next steps to bridge gaps in student understanding around the texts and content. Having teachers of ELs and content-area teachers work together facilitates conversations around how to help ELs engage with complex texts and tasks, something that many content-area teachers have expressed frustration over knowing how to do. However, a critical component of utilizing this document, and something that is frequently a hurdle, is finding time for teachers to work together to anticipate a range of student responses. Shared PLC time among teachers of ELs and content-area teachers has proven to be an ideal time to work through co-planning instruction.

    When teachers begin to use the Continuum of Potential Responses tool during their co-planning time, we recommend that they start by discussing the ideal response(s) to the task they will be planning. This ideal response is what you would expect to hear if students totally got the text and the task you were asking them to respond to (not just what you think, say, a 10th grader would say). Teachers then work from the ideal responses to anticipate what their students might say in response to the task to create a map of differentiated next steps. We always recommend that teachers come back together after working with students to revise the Continuum of Potential Responses with the actual responses that students give and to refine the next steps based on those responses. This will provide a more complete map that you can use (and continue to revise) with future students.

    Tagged with: ELA, Reading / Comprehension, Writing