March 21

Responding with memes

Thanks to my summer ventures into self driven PD, I had an opportunity to play with memes. I realized that I was hooked when I was saving my 20th meme.

I wanted to duplicate this engagement in a class assignment for my kids. They have been asked to create memes for 3 assignments.

1st – after reading an article about school curriculum and listening to Sir Ken Robinson discussing how School Kills Creativity, I wanted them to create pro-school memes

2nd – as part of our Rhetoric Unit I asked for memes that can be used to help me explain ethos, pathos, and logos to future classes

3rd – as a response to our study of “A Lesson Before Dying”

Some were great and Some were mediocre. They had fun completing this assignment and I had fun looking at their creations.

February 22

My Scholars are Online and Passionate

We are in the midst of Pursuing our Passions as we work through our #PassionateScholars Project. My Scholars are researching a topic that is important to them. I have decided to try out the 20% Project and allow my students to research a topic of their own choosing. This topic should be one that they feel passionate about because they will be researching it and presenting findings for it to the class in a Ted Style video.

  • What? – What in the world is 20%?
    • The basic premise of the 20 percent time project is that it is student-driven, passion-based  learning.
  • How? – Did I hear about this idea?
    • Everywhere = Daniel Pink’s book, Drive. Pink,
  • Why? – Did I think that it was a good idea for my Scholars?
    • It is important that they have some freedom and selection in the work that we do.
  • When? – Do they research, plan, share and present?
    • I have no idea. They research inside and outside of the classroom. They will share and present in about four weeks to the class annndd..???

and the final question:

  • Did? – I lose my mind? LOL
    • Yes. How can a classroom full of students all panic when told to research what they wanted to know more about and felt passionate about.

First, if you tell students that they will have one day a week to research a topic of their own, the first question is WHAT SHOULD I RESEARCH?

Second, when I asked them to create a blog, something happened to their ability to turn on a computer and click a link. 

Third, I obviously need to hold on real tight because I feel that we will have a bumpy ride ahead.

These Wordles house links to the student blogs and proposal pitch videos.

Work from my 2nd period Scholars

Work from my 3rd period Scholars

Work from my 4th period Scholars

February 22

Introducing our Passions

Here are some of the videos that were created as part of our #PassionateScholars Project. The Goal of the assignment was to create a video that introduces the class to their research subjects. I wanted them to pay attention to the subject matter so that the viewing audience would get a sense of what they found moving and important about their topic.

Their Proposal Pitch Video was to

  • engage the viewers with the appropriate use of images and design elements,
  • present the idea in a professional, well-prepared manner,
  • be under two minutes in length,
  • allow us to see what they are passionate about and how important this issue is, and
  • be posted to our class website for our class to vote on.

Jennifer Ward has shared many of the resources that she uses in her class and I am using them with my classes. This is our first try at it and I am hopeful that many of them will benefit from the experience of being able to self-select a research topic. We had limited time on the computers so I was not able to consult with them to stress and re-stress the requirements to make sure that everyone was on the same right page.

We used and I was amazed at the attention that many paid to the creation of their videos. I continuously reminded them not to get caught up in the bells and whistles of the site.

Below are just a few of the videos that my classes produced.

January 3

TodaysMeet for your 2015 class

TodaysMeet is…?

TodaysMeet is a backchannel chat platform that was designed for teachers and provides an online space for anyone to share resources, ask questions and discuss text. TodaysMeet allows teachers to create a room that helps guarantee student success.  Regardless of the subject, backchannel rooms can lead to full engagement encouraging learning that is  not limited by the constraints of a desk or a room during the regular school day.

TodaysMeet supports classroom discussions in a variety of ways. It allows for

  • quiet students to have a safe space to express their opinions and ideas
  • an online space where class notes are housed
  • participants to submit links for videos, documents, etc. that support the current lesson
  • students who need additional ‘wait time’ the time to process ideas and have the light bulb moment

Creating a room

TodaysMeet rooms are fast and easy to create. All you need to do is pick a name for your room, decide how long you want to use it and sign up so that you can track your rooms. The room WeAreAwesome becomes and your students, colleagues, parents, or attendees enter the room by going to the room’s webpage address.Free and Easy to use

You can create your room to host an online class discussion, provide a meeting room for group work, allow for a quiet conversation about a text, house your classroom in the clouds for regular days, sick/snow days, review sessions, etc. With TodaysMeet, you can create as many rooms as you need.

Entering a room

To join your TodaysMeet room, students can either scan the QR code or type in the room’s url and enter their name to join.

Joining room is easytype in your name and starting typing

How TodaysMeet can be used in the classroom

Opening up a room allows you to provide a space for students to post questions, respond to one another, share ideas, and share resources during class discussions. You could use for a review before an assessment where students post facts they have learned about a topic. Students could explain solution strategies during math. Could use for a debate around a topic where groups respond to one another. This is a great way for teachers to get immediate feedback on their instruction. You can also save the conversation for later use.

  • hold an online discussion during virtual learning activities.
  • invite feedback about a learning experience.
  • backchannel during direct instruction.
  • explain steps and procedures of assigned problems.
  • backchannel during films and listening activities.
  • class suggestion box.
  • entrance/exit tickets
  • create a digital record of a class discussion as a resource for later learning.
  • digital “inbox” for resources and ideas.
  • way to brainstorm and collect ideas at the beginning of a class, activity or unit.

Cost of TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet is a freemium product. Their free version is what I have used for months in my classroom but they do offer a Teacher’s account for $5.00 a month. The Teacher’s account allows you to have more control of your room. The transcripts can always be accessed, access of room can be limited to students only, students can be muted and prompts/topics/questions can be prominently displayed within a room.

Teacher accounts

Common Core Literacy Anchor Standards addressed

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

 My experiences with TodaysMeet

I have used backchannels several times in my English class. They have had to submit #hashtag summaries for an assigned text, answers during an online Q and A session, and thesis statements for assigned topics. My Scholars seemed to instantly and enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to have sidebar conversations. Many students were participating, responding with each other, and making insightful observations as well as answering each other’s questions. Yes, there were some students who needed to be re-directed but the opportunity to shake-up our regular class discussion giving the mic to all of my students and not just the five who normally drive our discussions was a valuable experience.



my scholars are silly

July 11

Working on Visuals for Literacy Strategies

I have been presenting sessions on Close Reading and Tech Integration.

July 10

Text+Tech=Engagement #RSCON2014

2014 Reform Symposium E-Conference (RSCON) I am presenting at the Reform Symposium Online Conference.  Here is a link to the presentation schedule in Central time.

With my state’s shift to Common Core State Standards, we are all charged with the responsibility of being literacy teachers and my session is designed to share resources about ways to fuse literacy strategies and tech resources to aid our students in their ability to read and connect to text.

Session Title: Text + Tech = Engagement  Here is a copy of the chatroom notes from my session. Martha shared some great books. Notes from Chat Room Text and Tech

Your Name: Valerie R. Burton, M.Ed.

Work Title: ELA Teacher

School or Organization Name: West Jefferson High School

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): Teachers, Librarians, Technology Integration Coaches

Short Session Description (one line): Combine Literacy Strategies and Technology Resources to help students read closely, discuss and write about text.

Full Session Description: During our session, I will discuss ways to incorporate literacy strategies and technology resources that can be used across the curriculum to help students read closely. These strategies and resources are aimed at helping students become purposeful, active readers who are able to proficiently discuss and write about text.

What does it look like when you promote the use of literacy strategies and integrate technology into your classroom in order to increase your students’ engagement and connection to text?

You and your students read closely using a variety of literacy strategies

  1. Annotating
  2. GISTing
  3. Anticipation guides
  4. Notetaking templates
  5. Vocabulary strategies
  6. Self-generated questions

Your students demonstrate the ability to connect to text by using

  1. Google Forms to assess knowledge
  2. Padlet to post impressions of nonfiction or fiction
  3. Images to provide a deeper meaning
  4. Wikis to create ebooks or book studies
  5. Blogs to analyze and reflect upon text
  6. ePortfolios to publish work

Here are slides from my presentation. 

Here is a link to a Livebinder of resources


This Livebinder contains technology integration resources.


June 29

My Summer PD

When is it time to stop learning? NEVER!!

I have recently decided to follow the BlogAMonth topics and the topic for June deals with Summer Professional Development. I have over-committed myself and I have already failed 1/6 online courses that I signed up for. oops

June PD

Teacher Leader Summit held at the Morial Convention Center (face to face)

  • takeaway: tons of tips about best practices and discussions about our new CCSS Guidebook

LACUE Leadership Summit held in Baton Rouge (face to face)

  • I presented a session about close reading and using tech tools to support literacy strategies.
  • takeaway: resources and tech tools to try in my class and to share with others.

Project Based Learning: How to Guide Inquiry, Managing Teamwork and How to Make a Project Authentic (online via Edmodo)

  • takeaway: resources and ideas about how to successfully create project based learning experiences

Making Learning Connected (#clmooc)

A collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience open to anyone interested in making, playing, and learning together about the educational framework known as Connected Learning. It extends through July.

July work

SREB and HSTW in Nashville (face to face)

Reform Symposium

  • an online global event highlighting “wow” moments in teaching and learning.

APSI in Boston (face to face)

Making Learning Connected (#clmooc)

  • a collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience open to anyone interested in making, playing, and learning together about the educational framework known as Connected Learning

Those are just a few of the learning opportunities that I have signed up for. Just a few… Knowing me, I will sign up for others.

Do you have plans? If not try

  1. Reform Symposium
  2. Edmodocon 2014
  3. ASCD Webinar
  4. Simple K12 Summer Webinars



June 29

My Morrah is Always #LikeAGirl

One thing about being connected and online is the question of how much do you share and how much do you keep to yourself. As I watch this video for the 2nd time and cry for the 2nd time, I am reminded of a time when I almost asked my 11 year old why she couldn’t be more ‘like a girl.’ If you haven’t seen it yet, please take three minutes to watch it.

Yes, I am embarrassed, horrified and ashamed to have let such a thought enter into my mind.  How dare I let society’s definition of how we should act and how we should look influence me. I have always thought out of the box so why did I allow myself to try to put her in a box? 

I was frustrated because I had just spent $75 and 3 hours getting her hair straightened and then curled into gorgeous ringlets. As soon as we got home, she combed out the curls, put her hair into a ponytail, and put on a baseball cap.  When I saw what she had done to her hair, I wanted to yell at her and ask why she couldn’t be more ‘like a girl.’

Luckily, for once, I thought before I spoke and as I looked at her in tennis shoes, gym shorts, t-shirt, ponytail and baseball cap, all I could think of was how different she was from me when I was her age. I was a ‘girley’ girl. I ran, threw, climbed trees and played football with the boys too but I did it with curls, painted nails and cute flowery pink clothes. I know that we are all not made from the same cloth and I am grateful for all of our differences.

I have a wonderfully polite, independent, brilliant, sarcastic, motivated, artistic, and opinionated daughter. She is what I call a quiet storm, she doesn’t talk back or cause commotions, she lets people skip her in line, she speaks in a very soft voice and if you don’t hear her the first two times, she stops talking so you better catch it the first time around. She is not me. I do talk back and cause commotions, I don’t let people skip me or anyone around me and I speak in a loud voice to make sure that everyone hears what I have to say.

She is MORRAH and I am blessed to have her in my life. Thank God before I could actually say it, I came to myself and was appreciative that she is and will always be ‘like a girl’ because she IS A GIRL!!!.

  • She is a girl who loves wearing short shorts, not the sexy Daisy Duke kind, but the nylon gym shorts from 30 years ago.
  • She is a girl who read Divergent and Insurgent but refused to see the movie.
  • She is a girl who painted her headboard and bedframe because she believed when she was told that she was an artist who had talent.
  • She is a girl who loves playing the piano but hates practicing.
  • She is a girl who loves wear crazy mix-matched socks in her hightop Converse shoes.
  • She is a girl and I love her.


I am so ashamed that I almost allowed public opinion to reduce my daughter into a rigid formula of being coquettish, conceited, submissive, uncertain and WEAK.



I have shared this post because I was moved to speak out against the need we (yes, myself included) have to label people. Labeling is something that I teach my students to do as we classify information, it is not something that should be applied to people.

We must remember to #RESPECT and #APPRECIATE one another. 

June 28

Year is over and I am reflecting

As I recap what I did this year, I can honestly say that I did some good things, some mediocre things and some negative things. I can honestly say that. No ifs and buts about it. I did not give 100% 100% of the time. No excuses.

will do better

My goal is to increase the good and decrease the bad. I know this and I have been working on revamping and changing my unit/lesson plans. I have attended 2 face-to-face conferences so far and I am scheduled to attend 2 face-to-face more. In between my conferences, I am participating in several MOOCs, online classes and online conferences. I am trying to get the knowledge and resources to revamp my classes and include more structure and rigor in my classes.

We have too much NEW to deal with so I must be sure that I am better prepared. CCSS is here and we have a new curriculum guide, new texts to share and a new assessment system. We have a new teacher evaluation system that I must comply with.  I am trying to create unit/lesson plans so that when school starts, I am starting off on the right foot armed with weapons.

Some of the NEW things that I want to do next year

daily center rotations:

  • bi-weekly, my classes will rotate through a variety of center stations (ie: vocabulary preparation, test preparation, journal prompts and theme/voice/tone exercises)

student blogs:

  • regular blog posts about the work that we do in class

classroom jobs:

  • jobs for 2-3 weeks on a rotating schedule

class scribes:

  • posting notes, pictures and videos to the class blog


  • there are many apps that can be used to foster collaboration and assess student work

more student training:

  • in order to establish a routine, I must be sure that I teach them not only what I want them to learn but also the way I want them to learn it

participation sheets:

they can keep track of our assignments and the standards that we have covered in class

student evaluations:

check-in with them every 3 weeks to see what needs to be improved


Some of the OLD things that I want to do next year


keeping in contact with students and parents via text messages

Class Blog

will post daily assignments

Use of visual text

images get the students to analyze and infer

Close reading literacy strategies

they will annotate, summarize, connect images to text, RAFT writes, etc.

These are just some of the things that I have decided to take on. There will be many more things before the year starts.

Will check in again