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I am a learner, reader, writer, and traveler trying to discover all that the world has to offer.

Resources for Unit Planning: Argument Unit Part 4

Standards ✓

Summative Assessment ✓

Now it’s time to gather resources. Since I am somewhat of a hoarder when it comes to accumulating vast amounts of potentially useful materials, this can be a daunting task.

I have included a sampling of useful sites for me.


Web Resources:

Common Core Specific Web Resources:

Many of these are collaborative resources offered by teachers who are experiencing the transfer to Common Core. And while I use these resources regularly nothing replaces live collaboration. I am looking forward to NCTE 13 in Boston this week. Many of the leading experts in the field of teaching literacy will be there and I will be taking notes!

Beginning with the End in Mind, Assessment: Argument Unit Part 3

Constructed Response Assessment Unit Three

Begin with the end in sight. As applied to unit planning, this means knowing what you want students to know through summative assessment. I try to balance the testing to include state standardized testing items as well as a performance assessment. The challenge of this unit is that I am still learning the content material. My elementary education background precluded the idea of logical argument. I am still learning.

Unit planning always stays in a rough draft. The assessment portion of this unit is definitely “rough.”

I have linked to the “standardized” portion of the summative assessment. The performance assessment will be a response to this prompt: Should the United States have done more to help the victims of the Jewish Holocaust during the war? After reading Night and “We Knew in a General Way,” write an argument that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text(s). Be sure to acknowledge competing views. Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position.

The format of this prompt was adapted from the Literacy Design Collaborative.


GoAnimate and CCSS

I (like 44 other states and the District of Columbia) am trying to find ways to help students to use text to support claims as well as look at a variety of other outcomes to show that one understands the reading. Currently our class is “digging into” the work of Edgar Allan Poe. After several sessions using close reading strategies, we have moved on to applying what we have learned.

We are focusing now on the revelation of character. The students were asked to have the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” explain himself as a character using text evidence. The platform I chose was GoAnimate, a very easy to use animation creator. Embedded is one student’s vision of the assignment.

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate for Schools.

Standards, Standards, Standards: Argument Unit Part 2

Unit planning begins with the standards. The state has adopted the Common Core State Standards, so that is where I begin. The following standards pertain to the idea of reading, analyzing, and writing arguments.

Key Ideas and Details

RI.8.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

RI.8.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Comprehension and Collaboration

S/L.8.3 Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

S/L.8.4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.

Text Types and Purposes

W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

b. Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

d. Establish and maintain a formal style.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

Phrasing copy and pasted from

Author Jim Burke has broken the standards down to help understand what is needed to produce the outcome. With this help, I created a list of objectives.

1. Define and identify the parts of an argument: claim, evidence, warrant, counterclaim, and rebuttal.

2. Define and identify types of claims: fact, values, and policy.

3. Distinguish between claims with support and those without support.

4. Define and identify some common fallacies use in argument.

5. Distinguish between arguments that are sound and those that have fallacies.

6. Define relevant/sufficient evidence and evaluate arguments based on those ideas.

7. Evaluate point of view with respect to spoken argument: subject, occasion, audience, purpose, and speaker.

8. Identify various propaganda techniques and how they may apply to a speaker’s message.

9. Evaluate a speaker’s argument with regards to claim and supporting evidence.

10. Distinguish between effective and ineffective spoken arguments and explain the differences.

Burke, Jim. The Common Core Companion, the Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Literacy, 2013. Print.

I then tweaked the objectives to create student clear targets in the form of “I Can” statements.

1. I can define and identify the parts of an argument.

2. I can define and identify types of claims.

3. I can distinguish between claims with support and those without support.

4. I can define and identify some common fallacies.

5. I can distinguish between arguments that are sound and those that have fallacies.

6. I can define relevant and sufficient evidence and evaluate arguments based on those ideas.

7. I can evaluate point of view with respect to spoken argument.

8. I can identify common propaganda techniques and how they apply to a speaker’s message.

9. I can evaluate a speaker’s argument with regards to claim and supporting evidence.

10. I can distinguish between effective and ineffective spoken arguments and explain the differences.

11. I can write an argument in a formal style that is logical and provides supporting details with credible references.

12. I can use words, phrases, and clauses to make my argument coherent and explain the relationships between and among claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.


Unit vs. Lesson Plans: Argument Unit Part 1


I enjoy planning for instruction! I liken it to a puzzle in which I take the pieces (resources) and piece them together to fit my needs.

I am concerned by the number of teachers who post complaints on Facebook, usually on Sunday night, complaining about the hours they have spent in lesson planning.

While I realize profusely that this is none of my business, I cannot help wonder about the practice of writing weekly lesson plans. Only viewing your course through short snippets seems to prevent understanding terminal goals or outcomes. How can one see the big picture by focusing one week at a time? If your lesson plans are completed on Sunday night how then does one prepare materials ahead of time?

These concerns prevent my indulging in such practices. I plot out the year by focusing on big ideas through a theme. That theme is broken into smaller more definite subtopics. Through the subtopic, I then attempt to match the Common Core State Standards focusing on those that help meet the essential question for the unit.

OK enough gobbledygook! Here are some specifics. The course is 8th Grade ELA. The overarching theme is “Finding New Solutions to Old Problems.” The subtopic is “The Holocaust.” The unit that I am planning for now is to be used in January for the third nine weeks of school. Instruction for the first semester focused on strategies to read and write informational text and literature. We are now ready for a more focused reading and writing in terms of “Argument.” During the course of this unit students will learn to read/analyze arguments as well as write a sound and valid argument. My challenge is as follows:

  • Identify the CCSS that meet the needs of reading, analyzing, and writing arguments.
  • Locate resources that demonstrate how to teach students to read, analyze, and write arguments.
  • Revise those resources to meet the needs of my students.
  • Adapt the resources so that they help students to understand the Holocaust and the anchor book, “Night.”

In future postings, I will share my thought process and progress for this unit.





Somewhat Disconnected


Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

It is “Connected Educator” month and I have connected with no one except my students and their parents.

It is the second year of Common Core implementation and I have worked harder than any of my previous 20 plus years of teaching.

But… the work is exciting and quite fulfilling. I finally can answer the question, “Why are we learning this?”

But… as in anything new the journey carries challenges. For me this has been,

  • Demonstrating and expecting students to back up a claim with text evidence.
  • Demonstrating and expecting students to make connections between people, events, and ideas in text.
  • Demonstrating and expecting students to determine central ideas and themes.
  • Helping students to understand this is new and success doesn’t happen on the first try.
  • Helping parents to understand this is new and success doesn’t happen on the first try.

It takes time, it is worth it, we will succeed. I believe.

Final Day ISTE13

The scenery on the walk to the Convention Center

The scenery on the walk to the Convention Center

Reflections: I am coming home with no free books, devices, or any other give-aways. Perhaps I am unlucky or more aptly, I spent no time in learning how to acquire these things. My time was spent in sessions and in between, I reflected and began planning for new school year. I am bringing home many things but they are all in my mind: a new way of structuring class so that students are more in charge of their learning, a better way to plan instruction where students actually create, a whole new look at Google Drive, and I finally think I can make an infographic!

“Infographics” by Carmella Doty and Renee Henderson,

“The Creation Myth, Creating With Technology is Not Enough” by Heidi Beezley and Jason Thibodeau,

  • Taxonomy of Thinking Skills:
  • How does Bloom’s Taxonomy and the new tools connect?
  • Creation Swatches (Add these elements to the essential question): Decision, What if? Prediction, Problem-Solving, Analogy/Metaphor, and Piecing Together/Induction
  • Creation requires that the answer cannot be found on Google.

Day Two ISTE 2013

The River Walk by the convention center in San Antonio

The River Walk by the convention center in San Antonio

Reflections: I heard someone say today that this is their second year of attending ISTE and they have learned that it is the contacts they make that are more important than the sessions. This same person gave a shout out for Twitter as a primary learning tool. I must say that I couldn’t relate to this thinking. I have great regard for those presenters who have traveled (sometimes a long ways), often spending their own money to share what they think and know. I enjoy Twitter but by its very nature it contains short snippets of information. I need to see the big picture and yes, I really enjoy the long list of resources that I have bookmarked for future use.

“Cool Google Tools for the BYOD Classroom” by Tammy Worchester SDE

  • Favorite tools Google Forms and Blogger
  • Blogger can be interactive:Get response from students using comments; set to approve so that you can moderate comments
  • Exit Card – learning journal about what has been learned.
  • Dear Abby – respond to class problems.
  • Make an assignment and post to the blog, using email post function. Thru settings, post reaction
  • Google Forms and Spreadsheet – making interactiveCollect information from students
  • Then use information and aggregate with tools like Wordle (for a word cloud) or BatchGeo (to see on a map).
  • Fast quiz – ask a question and see who answers first. (Delete rows to do again)
  • Tip #81 will show you how to set up a multiple number quiz

“Photo Safari: Using Cameras to Raise Student Engagement” by Dr. Larry S. Anderson and Mr. Craig Nansen – download of free book on Photo Safaris

  • Photography is a superb way to connect with nature and it works in three ways,
  • Connecting with the subject when you make the picture
  • Connecting again with the subject when you look at the photo later
  • Helping others connect with photo subject
  • “Make” a photo rather than “take” or “shoot,” words that have taken on a negative connotation.
  • Focus on subject and use prepositions to photograph it (under, over, beside, etc.)
  • Research: Learn about your town, people in the town, and architecture
  • Change of venue for students
  • Document new places, techniques, etc.
  • Value of collecting for purpose of sharing
  • Photography Assignment Generator – find at App Store

Visual Literacy Through Infographics by Shirley Farrell, Alabama Department of Education

  • – infographic of her vitae
  • Nonlinguistic Representation – mental pictures, graphics, physical sensations
  • What is an infographic? Graphic representation of text, data, and pictures. Complex information is presented quickly and clearly. Would be unwieldy in text form.
  • Benefits: excellent for visual/spatial learners, less intimidating for non-to low- readers, adds creativity back into the learning, can be static, interactive, or animated, collaborative or individual projects
  • Interactive infographic –
  • Animated Infographic –
  • Types: diagrams, timelines, mind tools/graphic organizers, maps, word clouds, tables – need to put together to tell a story
  • A Street Through Time by Dr. Anne Mildred or How Things Work by David Macauley
  • High Quality Infographics: Skeletons/Flowcharts, Color Scheme, Graphics, Research/Data, and Knowledge (
  • You are telling a story, create a good question, research the answer, keep it simple
  • What? So what? Now what?

ISTE 2013

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflections: My attendance at this yearly conference comes at the end of a very busy working vacation. I am tired, jet-lagged, and feeling a bit separate from the scores of Tweeters who are energetically sharing their enthusiasm. Today’s sessions yielded a few bits of new ideas for the classroom but the ideas from Will Richardson brought me out of my weariness, causing me to think about an entirely new approach to teaching. It’s not the “cool tools” that cause a session to be packed that will make the difference. It’s looking at the way people learn in today’s world.

“Digital Storytelling in the Classroom” by Dr. Talitha Hudgens, School of Education, Utah Valley University

  • Should illuminate rather than illustrate – all elements should work together
  • Must have a dramatic question that will be answered in the story.
  • Engages the audience
  • Should be 2-3 minutes to tell story without overloading the viewer
  • Images should be used in such a way that without them there is less understanding, influence, and impact
  • Music is 50% of the experience
  • Can use Photo Editing software to insert images within images (ex. Dora into Mountain Men)
  • Some examples of tools: Photo Story 3, iMovie, Powerpoint, Animoto, Adobe Premiere, Flash, and (New program from audience member)
  • Should have students license their work through Creative Commons

“Leveraging Social Networks” by Michael Manderino, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, Northern Illinois University and Lisa Ripley, Social Studies Teacher, Leyden High School –

  • Students’ lives saturated with social media and the platforms changes often.
  • Our job is to help them navigate and engage productively. Use with your (the teacher’s) content area to engage as professionals do.
  • What does it mean to think historically? Scientifically? Or as a literary critic?
  • Need to be able to make a claim and support it with relevant and accurate information.

“Abundant Learning: Four New Strategies for Connected Classrooms” by Will Richardson, @willrich45,

  • #iste13wr – to continue the conversation
  • “We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion.” ~Margaret Weakley
  • Traditional Learning =Delivery, Just in Case, Vs. Modern Learning=Discovery, Just in Time
  • Abundance of information, knowledge, and teachers; supply of knowledge and information is expanding at an unprecedented rate; can’t predict the impact of technology on the future of learning and work
  • Key Shift – Institutionally-Organized Word to Self-Organized World
  • The abundance of knowledge, information, content, teachers, and technology shifts the balance of power for learning from the school to the learner.
  • “Why School” by Will Richardson, e-book from Amazon
  • “Better” matters little if what people want is different.
  • “Knowmadic” Learning – self-organized learning, based on passions or interests at the moment, not based on standards, “Knowmad Society” by John W. Moravec –
  • Top learning tool 2012 = Twitter
  • Design Thinking – help with a process to solve problems, “Design Thinking for Educators’ –
  • The Maker Movement – Because of new technologies, we can make products that solve problems, the realization that one can make something happen, Albemarle Schools in VA – Pam Moran
  • “Invent to Learn” by Silvia Martinez and Gary Stager

“Reading, Writing, and Wikis” by Stephanie Sandifer Houston A+ Challenge, #rwwikis @ssandifer

  • Requires organization
  • Explicit instruction on how to use the components of the wiki – profile page for example
  • Use names that you know so you the trail of student work/comments can be identified.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with using the wiki before using with students.

Transitioning to Common Core

Image courtesy of

I began the school year planning instruction using the Common Core State Standards instead of Tennessee’s. My thinking was that the ability to read and write critically would prepare a student for any type of assessment but more realistically give them strategies for the type of reading needed for authentic literacy situations.

Despite my meager knowledge of the subject at this point, I was amazed at the excitement I felt. Class conversations brought observations that eluded me. I didn’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time hunting for ways to make the learning motivating and meaningful.

But my time was spent on something tedious and that was helping the students to “unlearn” so many bad habits that well meaning instructors had instilled into my learners: a five paragraph response to any prompt, using such mundane phrases as “in my opinion,” and “in conclusion,” introducing the introduction, explaining the assignment rather than responding to it, and summarizing instead of forming a meaningful conclusion.

We rewrote (and when I say we, I mean all of us!) and returned to the same texts, offering new ideas, and sharing revisions. During a recent assignment, a student attached this comment, “Mrs. Shoulders, I now don’t use so much “I believe….” I always state my claim, and I don’t start off with I believe; thanks for teaching me that.”

The small steps are paying off; they (no I mean we) are starting to get it.