April 25

#UnleashingLiteracy with #EngagingActivities

#UnleashingLiteracy with #EngagingActivities

#BlogAMonth Topic

Our Scholars need to create and not just test. Bubbling in is not the best way to assess all students. We are not all made equally and we do not all test equally. This month’s blog topic: How do you internally measure success (beyond that of test scores)?

It is nearing the end of the year and whether you are on the end or beginning of the testing cycle, I know that they are tired and  you are tired.

Your scholars are tired of the drill and kill and you are tired of drilling and killing. I propose that you instead assign them movies, memes, poems, and websites that allow you to assess their knowledge while they display their creativity.

Below are more than 50 alternative assessments that will mix up the normal bland test and allow your scholars to create something. My focus is on literacy activities but these assignments can be adapted to fit any content. Yes, math, science, and social study teachers can create role driven assignments that require students to create artifacts that demonstrate their understanding of your current unit.  Meaning, if you teach math, you can change up the topic so that the objective is to create an artifact (meme, video, blog post, timelime, IG post, hashtag, webpage, etc.) that explains the order of operations.  Assign them the role of .. parenthesis, multiplication, division, etc. and they will need to create an artifact that shows their content knowledge.

These activities are in alpha order. I have linked up student examples or related blog posts to some of them.

  1.       4 x 4 summary – create four four-word sentences about the text.
  2.  11 Sentence Summary
  3.      25 word Gist statement
  4.      A to Z chart with words, phrases, or sentences that are related to the test
  5.      Acrostic poem based on a character in the text from the viewpoint of the main character.
  6.      Advertisement about a person, place or thing from the text.
  7.      Analysis of poems related to the story events or theme.
  8.      Annotated bibliography of resources regarding your unit of study.
  9.      Author blog post that lets your audience gain insight into your thought processes. Pretend that you are the author and you have been asked to explain which parts of the novel were the easiest and the hardest for you to write.
  10.      Character Map that examines character traits, physical description, or personality traits
  11.  Character’s playlist
  12.  Collage that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  13.  Comic Strip that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  14.  Comparison of the text to another text on a similar topic that you have read.
  15.  Concept or Definition Map
  16.  Create a list of 15 words from the text and illustrate them to show their meaning.
  17.  Crossword Puzzle that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  18.  Diary entry that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  19.  Different ending for the text and create a Smore or poster showing the new story.
  20.  Digital story about an experience that you have had that was similar to that of one of the characters in the text.
  21.  Diorama that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  22.  Display that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  23.  Facebook or IG posts that show the changes that the main character underwent in the text.
  24.  Family Tree that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  25.  Fishbowl, Socratic Seminar or Chatroom questions
  26.  Flip Book that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  27.  Game that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  28.  Graphic Organizers
  29.  Hashtags for a person, place or thing from the text.
  30.  Illustration or Word Cloud  that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  31.  Interview one of the characters and ask him/her to explain some of the actions in the text.
  32.  Interview that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  33.  Jigsaw reporting of specific text element
  34.  Jingle that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  35.  Memes that depict the events or character interactions from the text.
  36.  Newspaper Story that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  37.  Notecard Confession Video that describes the problems the main character encountered in the text and tell how this character solved these problems.
  38.  Obituary that will describe the character. Pretend that one of the characters in the text has died.
  39.  Painting or Drawing that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  40.  Pamphlet highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  41.  Photo Essay that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  42.  Picture/Poster that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  43.  Podcast that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  44.  Poem that describes the plot of the text or poem created from an image related to the plot of the text.
  45.  Product based upon the text.
  46.  Radio Program that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  47.  Rap that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  48. Series of #hashtags that show how a character withing the text is similar to a person that you know. Discuss your answer in #BeLikeVal #ParenthesisRULE #1STandFOREMOST #YouDontMoveBeforeMe #Igo1stYouGo2nd
  49.  Text messages from or to the main character of the text. What do you see?
  50.  ThingLink showing the event highlights or locations of the novel
  51.  Tweets that describe events (real or imagined) that took place in the text.
  52.  Video that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  53.  Web Page that highlights an event, person, place or thing from the text.
  54. Youtube channel for the main character. What are some of the videos that he has uploaded?

Raise the rigor and have your students to defend their selection either in writing or orally.

Give yourself and your class a break and break up the testing monotony.


August 22

Monster Mystery

As we begin this schoolyear, I decided that one of their first writing assignments would be to compose a descriptive paragraph. NO descriptive writing is NOT something that is tested but…… as a Professional Educator, I decided that having them focus on “showing” was an effective way to start of the year.

Their mission was to decorate a figure from the selection of Go Noodle coloring sheets and write a description that is accurate enough that someone reading it could recreate their monster.

Some of them did better job of accurately describing their monsters than others and it was obvious when we compared the original monster to the recreated one. Those students who received skimpy descriptions immediately expressed their frustration about not being able to effectively recreate the monsters. I reminded them that the purpose of the assignment was to show how important it is to use words wisely.PhotoGrid_1439520912949I am glad that I gave them that assignment. It ws a great way for them to realize that when describing something that they need to be accurate and succinct.


March 22

News is Needed in our Classes

From time to time I re-evaluate what I currently do and what I have done in the past. One of these re-evaluation reflection sessions led me back to the realization that bringing in the news needs to be a necessary part of my classes. I can’t teach children about how literature is reflected in their lives if I don’t allow them to talk about their lives and learn about the lives of others. Years ago, I showed CNN Student News in my class 3 days a week and I had my students to record facts from the broadcast. We were able to track stories and see how the news developed.  And then… the school year ended and I didn’t continue showing the broadcasts. I really don’t know why I stopped. ?? I have since seen the errors of my ways and I have started showing the broadcasts again. I laugh when Carl Azuz does the ‘Shout Outs’ and my kids shout out the answer and I feel bad when he mentions a school/class during the school roll call and they all look at me with disappointment because our class wasn’t mentioned.


CNN’s Student News has great classroom resources: option of downloading podcast version. transcript, Daily Curriculum worksheet, etc. They have made it extremely easy to bring the daily news into the classroom.  Below is an example of the worksheet that can be copied and shared with the class.



Do you share the news with your students? If not, think about it. It is beneficial and enlightening. Try sharing the CNN Student News with your class and see what happens.

June 29

Need more Information about Implementing Common Core?

I am and I know that many of you are too.

None of us wants to fall short and embarrass ourselves or do a disservice to our students. My parish, and many others, is creating a toolbox of items to be used for research, resources and continuity. These toolboxes have information available on ways to get faculty buy-in, how to explain the differences in the CCSS and our current GLEs, how PARCC assessments will look, how to develop new Unit plans and much much more.


I have taken numerous webinars/seminars, read many books and articles, participated in many Twitter chats, joined numerous online study groups and thrown pennies in fountains in hopes that I would be able to successfully implement these new standards.

What stands out to me most is not that I have to do many things differently BUT that I have to create opportunities that require my students to create and respond in ways that go beyond pen and paper responses. I currently teach AP Literature and the key to providing successful experiences for my students is to raise the bar and require them to analyze the ‘hows? whys? and what fors?’ that authors use in their selection of character deeds, plot element turns and figurative language used.

CCSS expects that these strategies and requirements be used for all students, not just the ones taking AP classes. Duhhhh. I have started feeling a little stupid. If we are given the charge of preparing these kids for successful college experiences we must treat them like they are mini college students. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THROWING WORK AT THEM and watching them fail. We first must create an atmosphere in which they take the baby steps of analyzing primary documents, writing in response to text, etc.

Below, I have listed many links for resources that can be reviewed, downloaded, adapted, adopted, ignored, shared, ………  This is just my first listing of items to look at. So, if you don’t see anything here that might be of use to you, wait for it…..

JPPSS transitional curriculum

JPPSS Sample Unit Plans

Resources used by our Team Leaders for CCSS training

The Gettysburg Address: Literary Nonfiction and the Common Core Article by Todd Finley that discusses how we will ‘teach’ differently

Common core maps

National Math and Science Initiative free resources


PARCC online resources

Articles on Education Week to peruse


Resource-A-Day calendar by Tech with Tia

Into the Common Core: One Classroom’s Journey

ASCD Common Core Webinars

Pearson Common Core Webinars

Articles on Edutopia to read


June 26

Breaking down poetry into its smallest pieces

Common Core this…

Common Core that….

Increase rigor…

Raise the bar…..

I have been bombarded by the following terms and many more (Student Learning Target, Professional Growth Plan, Formal Observation, Informal Observation, etc.) for the past two years and I am trying to use my wits and resources to find ways to make this happen to the satisfaction of my evaluators, students, parents and lastly, myself.

I am creating a standard operating manual when dealing with text be it poetry, nonfiction or prose.  Below are the questions that I need my students to be able to answer and discuss as they analyze poetry.

Examining POETRY

Whether these questions are answered as a whole class discussion, small group activity or an individual assignment, these questions can function as a framework to be used as a trigger to get my students to examine the language, images and theme of assigned poems.

  1. Who is the speaker in the poem? Who is the audience?
  2. What is the setting of the poem?
  3. What is the author’s purpose in creating the poem?
  4. Identify the poem’s theme in a single sentence.
  5. Identify and explain the poem’s tone.
  6. Identify and explain all allusions found within the poem. Do they share a common/contrasting idea?
  7. Describe the structure of the poem? What is the meter and form?
  8. Note the metaphors, similes and personification in the poem. Discuss their effects.
  9. Discuss examples of paradox, overstatement or understatement that might occur in the poem.
  10. Explain the significance of any sound repetition (alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm.)
  11. Are the poem’s structure and content related?
  12. What is the tone of the poem? How is it achieved?
  13. Discuss the diction used in the poem.
  14. Identify and explain significance of images within the poem.
  15. Identify and explain significance of symbols used within the poem.

I want us to get into the habit of reading poetry and mapping it by marking it up and identifying the answers to the above questions. Talking to the text, or mapping the text, is the only way to get my students to get more involved in the poetry so that they can create in depth (or partially deep) analyses of the poems we read.  Below is a picture of what I want them to do with our poems.

Example of Marking up a poem

Before we begin our poetry study, I do need to be sure that they are familiar with poetry vocabulary. We can begin with


and end with a much, much longer list of poetic terms.  My current plan is not so different from what I have been doing in the past but I want to be sure that the consistency is there so that they always think about the questions (at least some of them) when asked to analyze poetry.

→Nothing new, just refined and revamped←

January 13

Common Core State Standards for 11th and 12th grades

The CCR anchor standards and high school grade-specific standards work in tandem to define college and career readiness expectations—the former providing broad standards, the latter providing additional specificity.

Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5 Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
    • By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
    • By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
November 28

#LACUE2012 Recap 1

This post is a quick recap of all of the wonderful things that this year’s LACUE 2012 has inspired me to share with my students and my PLN.  I will fully explore the resources more a little later.

I know that my students should not just be consumers of information; I know that my students must be producers of information if they are to succeed in this digital era. That being said, I am going to use many of the tools that I have exposed to (and in many cases re-exposed to) in an effort to make them more accountable for their learning and more engaged in our classes.

Tools that I love, love, love….

“Teacher” tools that my students can use to produce curriculum resources


July 24

Somersaulting the Classroom at #DENSI2012

Tim Childers discussed how to somersault your classroom.  He began his presentation letting us know that somersalting the classroom can be a  more comfortable way to get ‘flipping’ into their classrooms.  Somersalting allows you to select 1 thing to change and improve student engagement, parent interaction and student achievement.

The concept behind ‘flipping’ involves students watching videos or reading notes at home and then coming to school to do the work.  Flipping allows teachers and students to work together on the work products after students have completed the theory portion of the assignments at home.

Tim encouraged us to ‘somersault’ some of our lessons by creating screenshots/screencasts or teaching videos showing the teacher completing a lesson.  His session focused on showing us how to use interactive white boards, flipcams, iPhones, Jing, Knovio and Screencast-O-Matic. to create video content that can be shared with students, their parents, administration and teachers.  Tim also pointed out that Edmodo is a good place to house videos.  If you missed his session, he has started a group on Edmodo.  Look for his post for today, Monday, and you should see it.

Tim’s session left me THOUGHTFUL.

Now I am trying to find ways to be creative and somersault my classes.  I now have an AP class and I want to have them do readings at home to free up class time for the LEARNING and CONNECTING that happens after we get the pedagogical tasks out of the way.


April 24

My Me Manifesto

I am working my way through Shelly Terrell’s #30GoalsEdu http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/30-goals-2012/.  Each week there are a few goals to reflect upon.  Goal 1 is to create a Me Manifesto that identifies what you want to accomplish in your class.


For me that is easy – technology integration and the publication of student work.  I want my kids to publish photomovies, blog posts, fake tweets/facebook pages and essays on their ePortfolios.  It is my experience that I can engage the ‘unengageable’ more with technology than I could with pen and paper.


Here are some of the ePortfolios that my students have published.  Some are better than others BUT I am pleased with them all.  The students rose to the challenge and completed more work for me on their ePortfolios than they did completing worksheets.

Sarah’s work

Myesha’s work

Sheldon’s work

April 23

Reading NetSmart by Rheingold


I have had the pleasure of scheduling Wednesday nights to work with Paul Allison, Youthvoices.net, and others in a discussion about Howard Rheingold‘s book, http://www.rheingold.com/netsmart, in a Google+ hangout.

Paul has organized a book group on Teachers Teaching Teachers http://edtechtalk.com  and they meet Wednesdays at 9:00 PM Eastern.  Next Wednesday, April 25th, will be our second Wednesday discussing Rheingold’s book.


Here are links for the index, table of contents and the first chapter.


I will be posting my thoughts on some of the chapters from the book in the next few days.

February 26

VocabAhead has videos to encourage vocabulary learning

This site has videos and flipcards to help them learn vocabulary words.

With VocabAhead you can:

1. Create Your Personalized Lists

Create personalized lists with words of your choice, meeting the academic level of your students.

2. Share Your Lists with Your Students

Students create an account and you share your personalized word lists with them and other users.

3. Embed a Customized Widget in Your Blog or Webpage

Create a customized widget for your blog or classroom webpage. To learn more Click here.

4. Engage Your Students in the Vocabulary Building Process

Make vocabulary building fun by assigning vocabulary video projects to your students and uploading their work to the VocabAhead website.


February 17

“I Can” Statements

I have gone back and forth and up and down creating different formats of a participation sheet that helps students track their work.  I was browsing blog sites the other day (something you should start doing if you do not already do so) and came across a series of I Can statements listed in the widget of an English Teacher’s Class Blog.

I like the idea of having the student make/write/check off Affirmation Statements that say what they can do in our class with the English content.

We are working on nonfiction and persuasive writing so I would like to use the following statements for them.

I Can statements

I can examine how the author chooses to structure the text.
I can determine how the structure contributes to the meaning of the text.
I can evaluate the style of the text and how it adds to the meaning of the text.
I can determine two or more central ideas of a text.
I can examine the central ideas of the text and how they interact together to provide meaning.
I can summarize the text.
I can write an argument using valid reasoning with relevant and sufficient evidence.
I can identify significant and opposing arguments.
I can use syntax (sentence fluency) to clarify the relationships among my claims, reasons, and counterclaims.
I can use appropriate style and tone to create a written product.
I can use correct and appropriate conventions in my writing.
I can provide a concluding statement that supports my argument.
I can present the information and supporting evidence to convey a clear point of view.
I can present information so that listeners can follow my line of reasoning.
I can use appropriate organization, development, substance, and style to establish a purpose and audience.
I can understand how language functions in different contexts.
I can make choices in language to understand reading or listening.
I can use a variety of references to understand syntax (sentence fluency) when reading complex texts.

image source: http://forums.electronicarts.co.uk/battlefield