February 19

Revamping my Summary Assignments

I am Shaking up the way I have my scholars summarize information. 

This MONTH’S #BLOGAMONTH TOPIC is a challenge to ‘do things differently.’

“Change a constant.”

Whether this is taking your class outside, putting music on, removing desks, unplugging your tech lesson, going paperless…etc, lets break the routine and reflect.

I decided to shake things up and do away with requiring summaries from my Scholars. I will instead be focusing on Gist statements, Blackout Poems, and Student Generated Questions. We do need to check on their understanding but as you read your 30th rendition of

  • First, this happened
  • Then, this happened
  • So then, this happened

It gets old and hard to deal with. They hated writing it and after picking up the 31st paper, I am apt to declare, “Nope not interested at all. No thanks. Don’t want to read anymore.” But what I can deal with is a quick check that requires my Scholars to summarize the text in 25 words. Okay yes, I know I used the dirty s@@#$%^ word but the number of required words in the summary gives it an interesting twist.

“Whoa! Wait!?!? What?!?! 25 words?!?!” – their response.

“Yes, 25 words. No more. No less. Exactly 25 words.” – my response.

Not only have I just decreased the number of words that I have to read but I have drastically increased the rigor. It takes some serious critical thinking to reduce a passage into a prescribed number of words. Gist Statements are just one way to rid your Scholars of the dreaded, boring, standard summary assignment.

Gist Statements

  • Objective:  Accurately paraphrase sentences, keeping original meaning, and changing the structure of the sentence if necessary
  • Learning experience: Learners will read and locate/synthesize information and create a summary of 20-25 words.
  • Student product:  Brief summary passage
  • Rationale: This strategy helps students identify the most important ideas in a text, put those ideas into their own words, and then make connections between among these important ideas.

BlackOut poem

  • Objective: Read closely to determine the main idea or purpose of a text and eliminating all other words. Blackout poetry is a page of text that has been partially blacked out – colored over with a permanent marker so that the only visible text provides insight into the text as a whole.
  • Learning experience: Learners will read, locate information of interest and highlight sections of a chosen text.
  • Student product: Text based poem that can be shared and displayed.
  • Rationale: Creating BlackOut Poetry is an effective strategy to promote active and critical reading skills by requiring students to read the text and identify points of interest. These points of interest can either be teacher directed or student driven.

Student Generated Questions

  • Objective: analyze and synthesize a text and compose possible test questions.
  • Learning experience: Learners will read and locate/synthesize information to create questions.
  • Student product:  Discussion and/or multiple choice questions.to be used for a test, Kahoot game or a round of Quiz-Quiz-Trade.
  • Rationale:  Creating questions help students gain a deeper understanding of the text. It requires students to find textual evidence to support their question/answer choices. This activity requires students to explore concepts from the assigned text.

Can you revamp your summary game by using Gist statements, Blackout Poems, and Student Generated Questions? Try these activities out and I guarantee you that your Scholars will thank you.

(That’s not really true.) 

Condensing text drives many of them crazy and the responsibility of creating possible test questions scares many but at least it is not the same, boring assignment and you can get the necessary feedback that you need.

January 3

I can’t live without Twitter #BC20 .3

Today’s 20 Blog Challenge topic asks me to name a website that I can’t live without.  I really thought about this for awhile because so many of them came to mind. I started to select my class assignment blog or my PLN blog and then I realized that I visit them often but not daily. Twitter I visit daily, hourly … or in reality every 10 minutes on average. Everything that I have done ‘new’ in my class is a result of a tweet. Twitter connects me with other educators from around the world. THE WORLD. How awesome is that?


Why??? Hmmm, I share and look for resources regularly. Everyday I look for ways to perfect improve my craft.  My students are always amazed when I tell them that I am going to a conference, meeting, class or webinar because I want to not because I have to. I try to explain that I do consider myself to be a lifelong learner who is constantly trying to get new ideas, activities or resources. I tell them that I would not be a good teacher or mother if I did not try to find ways to et better at everything I do. There are some things that I will use and some things that I will not. I read articles and blogs that I think are interesting. they may or may not help me out in life or my class but I think that it is important for me to exercise my brain and my creative nature.


I named my blog To blog is to share and to learn for a reason. 


Here is one of the first Tweets that I sent out for the new year:

Each of these tweeple (and many more) has shaped my professional and personal world. From them I have learned:

  • To value Twitter and the connection it brings me to other educators
  • To dare my students to be creative and excel and perform Romeo and Juliet for the world to see
  • To open up my heart and share my life, whether it is the death of a dog or the death of a parent
  • To present online or face-to-face as much as possible because it is something that I love to do
  • To blog and accept blogging challenges
  • To connect with others and organize an EdCamp in my city if I feel strongly

My Twittersphere is large and it is awesome. Thanks to you all. 

Thanks @kellyhines for the motivation to share.


January 3

Organizational Tip #20DayBC

Anyone who knows me that Being Organized is something that I am NOT.

I TRY, but I FAIL, often.

Because I know myself and my weaknesses, I am going to enlist the help of my students. The best way to ensure that students take an active role in maintaining the classroom is to assign classroom jobs on a rotating basis.  This is a win-win situation. I get assistance and they get the respect that comes with responsibility.


Two things that I am determined to use this semester are: classroom managers and inbox envelopes.  

Classroom managers can help me stay organized and it gives the kids the recognition of feeling needed and being important.

  1. Message Manager serves as the classroom runner. Classroom_jobs
  2. Attendance Manager takes the daily attendance.
  3. Library Manager supervises the distribution of textbooks.
  4. Door Manager greets all visitors at the door. 
  5. Materials Manager supervises the distribution and collection of needed resources. 
  6. Pocket Manager collects and distributes inbox envelopes to the learning communities.
  7. Assignment Blog Manager is responsible for keeping a record of what exactly the class has done every day. If someone was absent they check the blog and easily understand what they need to do to catch up without asking.

Inbox envelopes hold student work to be collected and distributed.

My students are placed into learning communities and each community has its own envelope. The envelopes are placed into a file folder caddy.  Each period has its own set of envelopes. This way I do not have to collect and organize 100 assignments that I might collect during the day.



My Day Two – 20 Day Blogging Challenge

January 2

Favorite book to teach

I have committed to blogging more thanks to Kelly Hines. She has created a list of blogging topics that I hope to follow.  Below is the challenge list.

******* Here is my DAY ONE *******

Favorite book to teach:  Ernest J. Gaines’s  A Lesson Before Dying 

I love the book because it is set in Louisiana and the main focus of the book is not whether or not they save an inmate from death row BUT the journey that he takes while on it.  Many of them really believe that there is going to be a call from the Governor’s office to stop his execution.

When I teach this book I want to be sure that they ……

  • understand the struggles of main characters – two men with different perspectives who are both from the Louisiana in the 1940s and their search for identify and dignity
  • identify a thematic focus of the book
  • suggest an appropriate symbol

One activity that I have them do is a 4 x 4 which is my take on a literary 3 x 3 (Create three, three-word sentences that state the essence of the work)

Here are some of their responses: 


A Lesson Before Dying.
Lessons to be Men.
Lessons to love family
Lessons to know sacrifice.


A Lesson Before Dying
One white, three colored
One colored man breathing
Who’s accused anyway, Jefferson


White man is killed
Grant’s life is over
Wrong place, wrong time
Compared to a hog