Category Archives: Ideas

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.

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.


Authentic Computer Experiences????

Student Project

Computers can be wonderful but without a reason for being, so to speak, they are consoles that attract dust. I have eight computer technology classes. One half of the students meet for three days a week, the other students meet the remaining two days. Many of my peers believe this to be a necessary class so that students can learn to keyboard, making it easier on them when it comes to class writing assignments.

Oh, but if it were that easy! Keyboarding is like any skill; improvement comes with practice. There are numerous standards associated with this class and keyboarding is part of one. At the best of times, five minutes of keyboarding practice takes place.

I use the remaining time to teach literacy, which I believe is the key to success in today’s world. In these United States, people are class divided by education. Other demographics may be factored in but without education, it is difficult to make it.

This is a day-to-day conversation with myself. In what ways can I help to further more literate students? One thing, I decided to do this year was to have a book anchor each class. My 8th graders are reading “The Hunger Games” and my 6th grade students are enjoying “The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963.” Each day I spend about 10-15 minutes reading aloud and except for a few children, most are enthralled.

The task is to find activities that back up the books and teach computer skills. Here is one idea I used. Through a mini unit on characterization, the 8th grade students began thinking about the traits of Katniss or Peeta by making trading cards using an interactive at In addition to the obvious thinking about character traits, they learned about .pdf files. Most did not know what they were and that the universal sharing of information is important.

Next I wanted them to think visually, so I found a website that allows you to design and then buy a t-shirt. We talked about the things that were important to Katniss and Peeta and how these could be symbolized. Students chose images, which involved a lesson on Creative Commons and fair use, to design a t-shirt with symbols of that character. They then learned how to take a screen shot (and crop it) so that I could see it.

We progressed to what could be learned through dialogue. After discussion, my learners went to GoAnimate and created scenes between Katniss or Peeta and any other character in the book. The dialogue was made up but had to stay true to the characters. This proved quite motivating and taught them how to share a document with me through email.

The unit culminated with a project. Using all that they had learned, students compiled a scrapbook for Katniss or Peeta using Microsoft Publisher. This helped to understand the concept of a template, how to cite images, and reinforced word-processing skills. Of all the activities that I had them do, this was the weakest in creativity. I will have to reevaluate for next time.


This kind of thinking will be continuous – how do I use the computers, meet the standards, and thereby increasing literacy skills???


Rita Williams-Garcia, Angela Johnson, Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Grimes, Sharon Flake

NCTE, November 2011

Friday: November 18, 2011

Reading Old Stories and Writing New Stories: Ideas for the Classroom (Deborah Hopkinson, Kirby Larsen, Jim Murphy)

  • The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. ~L.P. Hartley
  • Deborah Hopkinson: Use primary photos and encourage students to ask questions. Use clues in the images to figure out what is going on. Good for visual learners.
  • Writing to a Person From the Past – write a letter, begin by introducing yourself, What is familiar or the same about your life (you and I both…We both… Like you, I also…) what is unfamiliar, different about his or her life? (Nowadays, It might seem odd to you. In my day, we no longer…) End letter tell about some the person could never have seen (cell phone, computer, car, etc.) You never saw _______in your time. Let me tell you about it. If you came to visit me in my time we would… A cell phone is a ____ that _____. Let me explain what ______ is.
  • Kirby Larsen: Creating New Stories of Old – mining family history-using primary sources to create new stories. Censored letters – show and have students put back in the missing pieces. Library of Congress (, Genealogy sites ( can buy letters on eBay.
  • – use the letters to ask questions and look for items, which may not have changed (towns, businesses, etc.) Historical parks, sites have diaries of not so famous. Use websites with “memories, family stories, etc. to understand a particular time periods or events.) Locate post cards from the past, copy and have students write what would have been on them.
  • Jim Murphy: can find artifacts to encourage writing at auctions.
  • Deanna Day: Quick write on a personal memory and then change it to fit a particular time period. What would change? Language, Food, Clothing, Transportation? Use life experiences and put in a different time period.

Narrating Lives: Using Graphic Novels The Power and Possibilities of Literature (Sid Jacobson, Josh Neufeld, G.B. Tran)

  • Resource: Scott McLeod – Understanding Comics

Learning With Nonfiction, Writing It, Reading It, Loving It (David L. Harrison, Peggy Harkins, Mary Jo Fresch)

  • Peggy Harkins: Reasons why children do not choose nonfiction: Nonfiction is not traditionally used for pleasure reading, Children associate nonfiction with school assignments, Many people think nonfiction is boring. (Tunnel, M.O. and Jacobs, J.S., 2008)
  • Most people do not read or use fiction at their work (real life).
  • Types of Biographies: Authentic, Fictionalized, Biographical Fiction
  • Advantages of using Biographies: role models, historical insights, solutions to problems, writing models, fit across the curriculum
  • Use a selection of biographies: to create a readers theater script, as storytelling in first person, or eyewitness third person, internal/external – use outline of body of a person and write things you observe on the outside of the body, inferences on the inside of the body. Templates can be found at
  • Mary Jo Fresch: Leveling the Playing Field, Using Nonfiction Picture Books: they explore complex topics suited for older readers, extend and enhance the content through the images, provide more accurate information due to their expertise, engage reluctant, resistant, or ELL reader.
  • Middle School Physical Science Resource Center: reviewed middle school science textbooks and noted numerous errors in facts and none were scientifically accurate.
  • Support readers with an anticipation guide (might include statements of misconceptions), Vocabulary match-up game- divide students into three groups and give one group a word, one the definition, and the last one the origin. Then they have to find their partners and match up. Need to see a word 3-17 times to own it (use in your writing.) Text sets that appeal to multi-leveled readers to do further research.


Writing With Mentor Texts to Imagine the Possibilities (Lynne Dorfman, Rose Cappelli, Mark Overmeyer)

  • Lynne Dorfman: Establishing a Writing Identify: The Personal Dimension, Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. ~Henry Miller
  • Important to know who we are as writers.
  • Begin with the topics you want to write about, i.e. Heart Map, Fingerprint the Author -color code the items that are in the writing, i.e. yellow alliteration, blue proper nouns. Hand Map – put emotions/character traits on the fingers of an outline of a hand and then add one line that goes with that emotion.
  • Need a target audience to find your voice.
  • Rose Cappelli – Using a Mentor Text to Move Students Forward in Narrative Writing: Use of Mentor Texts – pieces of literature that you can return to and reread for different purposes, are to be studies and imitated, help students make powerful connections to own lives, help students take risks and try to new strategies, should be books that students can relate to and can read independently or with support.
  • When students are taught to see how writing is done, this way opens up to them the possibilities for how to make their writing good writing ~Katy Wood Ray, Wondrous Words.
  • Mark Overmeyer: Using Mentor Texts to Move Students Forward as Writers of Informational Texts – Expert books – students write on a subject in which, they believe they are experts, no research needed. Personal narratives are driven by ideas not events (i.e. Rollercoasters made me brave not the day I rode a roller coaster.) Good mentor text for Middle School – Charles R. Smith (multiple genre in the book.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting Reluctant Readers to Turn the Page (Liz Carr)

  • Liz Carr: I ___ solemnly promise, when reading a book for fun that it will be for fun. If I read the first page and don’t like it, I will put the book down and walk away. If I read the first paragraph and don’t like it, I will put the book down and walk away. If I read half the book and don’t like it, I will put the book down and walk away. Life is too short for books I don’t like.
  • When I ___ HAVE to read a book for class, I will look for what my brain can do with it. I will look for flaws. I will look for connections, I will look for stuff that is just plain weird, I will get out of my own way! I like it and I hate it are equally insulting if I can’t show why. I will back up my opinions.
  • As teachers, read, read, read, have books talks/recommendations, connections, introduce students to authors.
  • Places for book recommendations: Daria Plumb-, ALAN, YALSA, VOYA
  • Book Talks: Make connections to known books/author, leave them hanging, 2-3 minutes MAX, Shelfari or Goodreads
  • Connection Questions: What is the last book that wasn’t painful for you? What do you do when you’re not in school? What is your favorite thing in the world? What’s your biggest pet peeve?
  • Tell anecdotes about the authors of the books, you have in your class.
  • John Coy: writer of the 4 for 4 series aimed toward intermediate/middle school boys, “reluctant readers is a synonym for boys,” boys today are reading more than ever before because of social networking, gaming, etc. Don’t relate this to reading. Don’t like to read what adults say they should be reading. Jane Yolen: “We don’t have enough books that represent the genuine interest of boys.” Men need to step up and serve as leaders of readers, so perception of read changes. 5th Grade students helped revise “Eyes on the Goal” by helping author with what was authentic for kids. Students won’t choose books; need an adult to recommend or steer them toward books they might like. “ATV Racing”
  • Tommy Greenwald: author, “Charlie Joe Jackson” Have students create a title and the first sentence of a book they would like to read.
  • Janet Tashjian: author, “My Life as a Book,” “My Life as a Stuntboy,”  “The Gospel According to Larry,” Recommends “Calvin and Hobbes” for reluctant readers, After reading a book, have reader pitch it as a movie project and cast the characters defending why. “Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking”

Teaching The Hero’s Journey: Understanding Our Past (Dana Huff, Glenda Funk, Ami Szerencse)

  • Dana Huff: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell, an interview with Bill Moyers
  • How is the pattern of the monomyth demonstrated by various cultures around the world in various time periods? How do archetypes inform our understanding of literature and the world? How are the hero, his/her quest, and his/her ideals still valid and useful in today’s world? How has the monomyth been influential in shaping subsequent literature and film?
  • Goals: Students will become well versed in literary theories of the monomyth and the heroic quest, Students will interpret and apply the monomyth to the various works of literature and film.
  • Student activities: – scavenger hunt, do presentations on Departure/Separation, Initiation, Return, Video with types/examples of the Hero’s Journey on website and Slideshare, (Use clips from Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games/The Theseus Myth, The Matrix), Create your own monomyth as a picture book, Analyze a new text that has not been studied, Create a game
  • Glenda Funk and Ami Szerencse: Class Lines: Writing Beyond the Borders (Prezi) Collaborated on a Hero’s Journey project through Ning, “Story of Stuff: How Things Work” –Youtube (

Beyond Race: The Universality of Story (Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, Angela Johnson, Rita Williams-Garcia, Jacqueline Woodson)

  • Sharon Draper: Books are for all children not just a particular subgroup; her audience is the students who “show up” in your classroom. It’s the issues that make the difference, color of the character not important. Being different means many things (new student in the classroom, only one who wears glasses, mother in jail, etc.) unsure in your world, which is particular to adolescence. Don’t limit yourself, open door for all of us
  • Sharon Flake: Bang and Red Badge of Courage have similar themes: marching into manhood, death, and dialect despite different races, time periods, and conflicts. Accept the character’s way of speaking as it represents who they are rather than be concerned about “proper English.”
  • Nikki Grimes: Planet Middle School – new book, writers write about human topics NOT a black, white or Latino topic. Shouldn’t worry about students not relating to a character because they are of a different race. Students connect to a book because they like to read, like poetry, like to laugh, like drama, love a good read, and are all kinds of kids. May look different on the outside but we are all pretty much the same on the inside.
  • Angela Johnson: Transcendence – began with her grandmother (an 80lb farm woman who threw a horse down and read Shakespeare) represented beyond the perceptions of what a grandmother should be, writes for people v. specific groups,
  • Rita Williams-Garcia: “Make me no boxes.” ~George Balanchine, When I am myself, I am my natural self not an “other.” Characters are whoever they might be. Self and identify not limited to race.
  • Jacqueline Woodson: Whiteness is assumed unless otherwise qualified. Barrier needs to be broken. We are trying to make the world safe for all kids. Literature shares “the other stories, a place for all of us.”


Let’s Read: Literacy Approaches in These Early Days of Common Core Standards (Lindsay Oakes, Hilleary Drake, Liz Hollingsworth)

  • Any assessment can be criterion based or norm referenced as well as formal or summative.
  • Pizza parties and pep rallies don’t raise test scores, student reading scores go up when students KNOW how to read, don’t need luck when you’ve got skill.
  • Teaching testing as a genre, rather than teaching to a test (how to take, read, manage time)
  • Great Genre Race – use ten genres in different colors, challenged students to read 1000 books in a year. Make a paper chain. Encourage book discussion and served as tangible evidence of the student as a reader.


Practicing What We Preach, Improving Student Writing by Modeling Our Own (Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle)

  • Penny Kittle: need a place to collect thinking (notebooks, index cards, etc.), gather ideas and images – place to discover ideas, try things and sometimes fails, and place to show students where thinking begins. Tom Romano – the Rude Truth, A Relationship With Literature (English Journal), the writing process is filled with distractions, write and then go back and reread to find places to work with (highlighting/colored markers)
  • Kelly Gallagher: need teachers to model the writing process, no such things a writing process – these are steps in writing that change from writer to writer. Students need two kinds of models: 1) a teacher who revises (write, allow students to ask questions, write down and then revise in a different color to highlight the revisions. 2) Mentor texts: look at how it is said not what is said. “NPR: This I Believe” as a source of mentor texts, Move past the “one and done” writing mentality. What you do when you revise: replace, add, delete and reorder. (RADAR) Read, analyze, emulate.
  • Jim Burke: writing is the most public performance of our intelligence, “If there are not tears for the writer, then there will be none for the reader.” ~Robert Frost Focus line – kind of like a thesis statement (Donald Murray) Give students lists of words to choose for their writing increases the quality of vocabulary use, Use different colors for parts of the writing.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who Would Ever Think An Ant Could Be So Important? Teaching for Social Responsibility Through Literature and Inquiry (Leslie Rector, Steven Wolk)

  • Shared texts that are inaccessible accessible (can do books above children’s reading level, models fluency, releases students from focusing on decoding, teachers can model think-alouds, helps get through texts faster)
  • Need an inquiry question to guide the anchor book. What is my responsibility to the environment around me? (City of Ember) Supporting book, One Well, How Much Water is Around Us – Rochelle Strauss – students recorded how much water they used. “Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird” op ed NY Times
  • Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose – allegory on abuse of power


Inquiry Circles: Combining Comprehension, Collaboration, and Inquiry (Debbie King, Michele Timble, Sara Ahmed Katie Muhtaris, Kristin Ziemke)

  • Debbie King: Principles of Inquiry Circles: choice of topics, digging deeply, heterogeneous/interest based groups, student led, use of comprehension/research strategies, multiple resources, active use of knowledge- sharing, publication, products, or taking action.
  • Types of Inquiry: mini-inquiries, curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, open inquiries
  • Stages of Inquiry: Immerse – invites curiosity, Investigate-searching for info, Coalesce- synthesize info, Go Public -share learning
  • Types of Lessons: Comprehension – read with a question in mind, Collaboration – using a work plan, Inquiry – choosing topics
  • Michele Timble: Leading a Curious Life: live like a researcher, ask questions, capture and track questions, seek answers
  • Modeling our inquiry – i.e.What happened to the workers in Japan’s nuclear power plant? Researchable questions – Now. Later. A Lifetime of Wondering.Research Notebooks: a borrowed tool from writer’s workshop, a place to jot questions and make plans, kids leave tracks from the mini lessons, validation for all questions big and small.
  • Sara Ahmed: Choosing materials – print materials, web materials, videos, and images -New York Times Up Front, Brainpo
  • Interviewing as a resource: home to school connection – builds accountable talk, lets them in the loop about what is going on at school, builds a culturally responsible classwork, builds active listening skills, authentic reliable research
  • Modeling: grab a colleague or expert, show students you’re prepared, and simulate an interview.
  • Interviewer – listens carefully and ask if they can record the interview, uses prepped question list, take jots, ask follow up questions for digging deeper, thanks the interviewee before or after when it over, writes as much as they can
  • Interviewee – agrees to the interview and understand the topic, feels safe and comfortable, does most of the talking, has a comfort item like drink, candy, or food
  • Kristin Ziemke: Strategies for active reading – monitor comprehension, activate and connect background knowledge, ask questions, infer and visualize meaning, determine importance, comprehension continuum –
  • Modeling/Think-alouds/Coding – Leave tracks of your thinking
  • Katie Muhtaris: Literature Circle Inquiry – generate questions, enhance/extend experience, inquire topics of choice, research with an authentic purpose, explore artistic and technological tools, build foundations that last





It’s A New Day for Professional Development


As an educator, professional development for me is continuous. Traditionally it is usually held at a school, surrounded by peers, involving a topic selected by an administrator.

Too bad that as teachers we are not given the opportunity to have choice and for me that choice is allowing me to choose what kind of PD I need. I love to attend conferences. I get a lot out of traveling and meeting people from all over the world. I also enjoy Webinars.

Webinars are PD sessions, often offered free that are virtual presentations. Today, I spent almost over two and half hours with The topics ranged from Google to Skype, each presenter sharing authentic ways of integrating technology into the learning and instructional curriculum. Presenters offered ideas using many free tools and eResources. No dressing up and leaving home, opportunities to ask anonymous questions, laundry and other house keeping got done in between sessions. What a wonderful way to learn!!!! The following are my notes.

K12 Webinar Series – July 20, 2011 #sk12

Google Tools For Visual and Spatial Learners

Google Sky – .com/sky

Google Image Swirl – part of Google Labs

Google Squared

Google News Timeline

Google Fast Flip

Google Trends

Wixify Your Webquests


Webquest  is inquiry-oriented, higher-level thinking, student centered, interactive, web-based (Teacher limits the searching for sites)

A website builder has more options such as clipart, ease of hyperlinking, templates etc, Presenter uses Wix- (fun, flashy, free)

Using Dropbox

Presented by Jerry Swiatek @jswiatek

Use to create a paperless classroom

Archives all the #edchat – includes info on Dropbox as well as utilities to use with it.

2 GB of free storage, if you refer people receive 240mg per referral

Will sync with the web, phone and any other computers; students can turn in work from home

#edcamp –

Easy 21st Century Projects Ideas for Core Curriculum-Grace Dunlap

Language Arts: Students choose a literary character or author and create a social networking profile page. Use

Science: Study and Survive Volcanic Eruptions – gather info from Internet on volcanos, create a timeline for a particular volcanic eruptions. Use Tiki-Toki: to create a free web-based timeline. Can add video and audio to the timeline.

Social Studies: Create Marco Polo’s Online Auction Site – research Marco Polo’s travels. Set up an online auction site for him to sell some of his travel finds. Can use MS Word, PPt but can also use Free Web tool – www, Online Photo Editing program- easy to use with most editing functions and can add text.

Can save to image format, email, or print.

Math: Deliver a Viral Video About Functions – share information and create content. Create an Internet Video about a function family but needs to motivate. Use to tape the desktop screen for up to 15 minutes. Free tool, can save the video. Upgrade is $12.00 a year.


Spark Creativity and Innovation: Help Students Create and Share Original Multimedia Works Online

Renny Fong – @TimeOutDad

Web 2.0 – create content instead of just using, save work and go back to work on it.

Kerpoof – owned by Disney, web-based, interactive, create original artwork, share work in safe environment, teachers can manage student accounts.

Most of site materials are free to educators.

Breaking Down the Four Walls of Your Classroom With Skype

Presented by Jerry Swiatek @jswiatek – free download for free calls to other Skype users

Shows students there is more to the world outside their classroom, bring in experts, connect with other classrooms, distance learning

In Skype – go to extras for plugins to extend the experience of Skype – video tape the session, crete a whiteboard for collaborating, etc.