Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Y-Corner powered by R4

As a follow up to my previous post "Going Deep with the Shallow Cross", I wanted to show how the R4 principles have given us the opportunity for huge plays with the Air Raid "Y-Corner" concept.

We have borrowed from the ideas of "Y-Corner" and the Snag or Scat concept to make it our own. Coach Brophy has a great breakdown of the concept, with video from Coach Brewer and Coach Mazzone. 

Here is another great breakdown of the concept from Coach Brown on Smart Football.

A few of our coaching points at Olathe Northwest:

Here is video of the concept from the 2011 season. Notice, we did not throw the Check-Release/Bubble at all. Our QB threw either the Corner or the Snag route almost every time, giving us bigger plays.

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Below are older cut-ups from my old school. Notice, we never threw the Y-Corner route (However, Texas Tech does on the first play). This was before we started coaching the "Capped/Uncapped" principles. We still had completions, but they were for much shorter gains.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Teaching Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Common Core-Style

For the first eight years of my teaching career, my Shakespare daily lesson plans went something like this:

"Good morning! Turn to Act II Scene 1 on page 234. I'm going to push play on the CD, let's listen to a few lines..." 

(Actors performing while students follow along for about 30 seconds. Pause CD.) 

Me: "Ok, what just happened there?" (The same 2-3 students telling me the plot.) "Great! Let's continue on..."

Once in awhile, I would have the students act out a scene or two... but that usually led to monotone recitations and awkward moments helping students pronounce words.

I think many people would relate to these methods. In essence, I was a human Cliff's Notes, regurgitating the plot to the point that we only studied the surface of the story. I usually had the same 2-3 students respond, and when I called on other students I usually got a response that went something like, "I have NO idea what they are talking about!"

We were studying the play a mile wide and an inch deep. That is how my teachers in high school taught me Shakespeare, so that must be the best way. Right?

This year, my English II colleague Blake Revelle and I decided to try something completely different when we taught Julius Caesar. With the onset of the Common Core State Standards, we asked ourselves: "What is more important: That our students know all of the plot details of Julius Caesar, or they know how to read, write and talk about a complex text, no matter what text it is?"

An inch-wide, and a mile-deep
We felt like the answer was clear: In 10 years, it will be far more important for our students to know how to annotate, analyze and explain a complex text they have to read for work or college, rather than be able to answer plot questions or create a poster with all of the characters.

Our mantra became, "We will teach an inch-wide and a mile-deep." 

We decided to go deeper into fewer scenes. Students weren't going to get as much of the plot, but that was not our goal. The text just served as a vehicle to teach concepts in reading, writing and speaking that would prepare them for college and their career.

Going into the unit, we decided to only focus on four of the speeches from the play. We spent about a week studying each piece, and we had our students read & annotate the speeches, write about them, then discuss them through a Socratic Seminar.

We kept it simple: Read it. Write about it. Talk about it.

This unit hit on virtually every one of the Common Core State Standards for reading, writing and speaking. 

Each week followed a consistent schedule:

  • Explain what happened in the plot since the last speech we studied. Video SparkNotes was a great resource for this.
  • View a video performance of the speech we were going to study
  • Read/annotate the speech. Students circled key terms and underlined claims.
  • Chart the text: In the left margin, write what the author is SAYING (summarize). In the right margin, write what the author is DOING (analyze). 
Wednesday/Thursday (90-minute block)
  • Timed writing assignment - using templates.
  • Socratic Seminar
Here are the materials we used:

1. Cassius' speech to Brutus (I.ii)
Text for annotation
Writing template

2. Brutus' soliloquy (II.i)
Text for annotation
Writing template

3. Brutus' funeral speech
Text for annotation

4. Antony's funeral speech
Text for annotation

5. Synthesis paper
Graphic organizer to answer the question: "Who delivered the more effective speech: Mark Antony or Marcus Brutus?"
  • Students developed this into a 2-3 page argument, citing the text and backing up their claim.
This unit was extremely effective for teaching students the skills they will need to critically read and write about complex texts, as the Common Core asks us to.
  • In past years, students would say things like, "I don't understand Shakespeare. It is written in another language." The close reading strategies taught them to closely analyze what they DID know about the text, and make their own inferences. 
  • All students were engaged. They could not just sit back and let other people answer the questions. They had to dig into the text, summarizing, making inferences, asking questions. This definitely ups the rigor in studying Shakespeare.
  • Students did not rely on me to tell them the plot. It became completely self-driven, with the students asking and answering their own questions.
  • In the course of a six weeks, we wrote two short papers and one longer paper. The quality of these papers were the best I had ever seen. The templates served as a guide to help their thinking, and it went far beyond plot and surface-level thinking.
  • Students gained confidence in analyzing complex texts. I equate it to lifting weights: In order to get stronger, you have to lift heavier weight. Now that they can read and analyze Shakespeare, other readings will seem easy.
How have you begun to modify your units to fit the Common Core State Standards?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Going deep with the Shallow Cross

The Shallow Cross series has always been a staple of the Air Raid offense. When we first installed the series, it was basically a high-low concept on the linebackers. It was good for a 10-15 yard gain by either hitting the Dig or Shallow Cross. There was very little vertical threat, even though there are two vertical routes packaged in the play (Fade and a Post). I have heard the architects of the Air Raid say that the Fade or Post deserve little more than a "peek" from the QB, and the real focus was on the Shallow/Dig combination.

Last summer, I purchased From Headset to Helmet: Coaching the R4 Expert System from Coach Dub Maddox and Coach Darin Slack. Quite simply, this book made our offense exponentially more explosive, starting with the Shallow Cross Series.

No matter what offense you coach, I would highly recommend this book. It helped me see the passing game in an entirely different light, and gave my QBs a decision-making process to follow that is consistent and easy-to-understand. (Note: If you are an opponent of ours, don't waste your time... It really won't help you much.)

When I speak with other Air Raid coaches about the Shallow series, they struggle with how to coach or teach the deep throws to the fade or post. I was in the same boat until a year ago. I told my QB to "peek" at the fade, but warned him that "he better be open if he is going to throw it!" I had very little confidence in our QBs making that throw, which of course meant the QB was never going to go deep. The R4 system has simplified the decision-making process, and it allows us to take downfield shots when the defense is giving it to us.

Why we like the Shallow Cross:
  • Vertical and horizontal stretch on the defense: We want to make the defense cover the entire field, and the Shallow forces the defense to defend sideline-to-sideline, and vertically downfield.
  • Versatility: It is good play versus any coverage, man or zone. It is also good on virtually any down and distance. 
  • Big play capabilities: A year ago before I read the R4 book, we had only five "explosive" plays of 30 yards or more. This year, after reading the book, we had 25. That is a huge improvement, and many of those explosive plays came on the Shallow Cross. 
  • Easy throws to our playmakers in space: You don't have to have a huge arm to throw this concept if you know what the defense is doing and how to attack it. 
We always run Shallow out of 2x2, tagging either of our inside receivers (T or Y) on the Shallow. Here are the rules for the play:

To understand the big-play capabilities, you must understand the concept of "Cap" and "Uncapped" from the R4 book. I don't want to give away the secret sauce, so I would recommend getting the book to fully understand what those concepts mean. Simply put, it helps your QB quickly decide if he can make deep throws or not. Here is a presentation that explains each of the reads with the idea of "Cap":

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Note about the film: We were fortunate to have a 6'10 receiver at Z that will play basketball at Kentucky next year. That helped. However, you can see that our QB was confident in taking deep shots because of the "Capped/Uncapped" principle. In fact, we only threw to the Shallow route once all year.

What other wrinkles do you have that help you make the Shallow a successful route? Feel free to ask any questions below.