Reading Tools to Support ALL Learners at #FETC20

This past week was FETC – The Future of Education Technology Conference in Miami, Florida.  FETC® is the leading independent K-12 conference focusing on education technology. This year’s key note speaker included author, Daniel Pink discussing “Leadership, Innovation, and the Surprising Truth of Human Motivation.” Miami Superintendent of Schools, Alberto M. Carvalho, opened up the conference and was the most inspiring at the conference telling attendees, “From the impossible to the inevitable, there is only belief, skill and will.”

There were more than 600 sessions for attendees addressing the latest ed tech and practical strategies to implement educational technology,  transform learning in and out of the classroom, and showcase the noteworthy ed tech tools . Plus, the Expo Hall provided additional content opportunities with Learning Sandboxes and a PitchFest— and that’s on top of the 400+ vendors with the latest ed tech solutions available. 

My presentation on Wednesday addressed Personalized Reading and shared digital tools and teaching strategies to support all the learners in our classroom. My slide deck from the presentation is below.

I also attended Monica Burns‘ session Reboot Reading Instruction with 10 Must-Try Tools. If you don’t already follow Monica on Twitter or Instagram, I recommend you add her to your PLN. In her session Monica shared some new tools that are worth checking out. Here are three that were new to me:


In my book, Personalized Reading,  I state, instructional needs for all readers include consistent reading practice, scaffolding, and opportunities to listen to, independently read, and analyze text. The no tech, low tech, and high technology tools I spoke about in my workshop offer supports and scaffolding for all types of readers.

Teachers can empower readers to use various technologies that will help them achieve
their personalized reading goals. Give students the opportunity to leverage
technology so they can be in control of their own learning is what Universal Design Learning is all about. Educators no longer need to be on top of students, coercing them to learn how to read. The idea of empowerment—giving students the technology, Fix It strategies, and choices that put them in control of the situation. You can empower ELLs, struggling readers and even reluctant readers to work on their weaknesses and hone in on their strengths, as well as to believe they can become more proficient readers.

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Building MultiModal Text Sets & Building 21st Century Skills

The following post was a piece written for the January 2020 ISTE Literacy Journal. To read the complete journal with additional articles focusing on multimodal literacy, click here.

We live in a world where information is presented in multimodalities: visual, print, audio, digital. Yet, in schools, most teachers are still dependent on print text. Maybe there is some visual and digital texts. Audio is slowly entering the field of education with the array of informative podcasts and audiobooks to listen to great reads. If we are truly going to help students build 21st century skills according to the ISTE Standards for Students and Next Generation Literacy Standards than we need to provide more multimodal text sets for student learning and understanding. This is more than universal design learning, it is about helping students access information in all its forms, become critical thinkers of these texts, as well as creative communicators. 

When you enter my 8th grade English classroom in Rye, New York you will find students reading paperback books as well as some listening to the same text on Learning Ally or reading it on a Kindle or Chromebook. My students interact with all different types of texts depending on the unit they are studying. For example, when students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a classic text taught in most middle or high schools today, I supplement their historical, political, and socio economic understanding of the text by building text sets to expand world knowledge. 

According to, “A text set is a collection of related texts organized around a unit topic, theme, concept, or idea. The set is focused on an anchor text,­ a rich, complex, grade ­level text. The anchor text is the focus of a close reading with instructional supports. What is important is that the texts in the set are connected meaningfully to each other to deepen student understanding of the anchor text.” Text sets should go beyond print and digital texts. Photographs, audio text, and video can also be integrated into text sets. It is important to note text sets evolve and should be revised and updated regularly. 

The text set I have built around To Kill a Mockingbird includes an audio of FDR’s 1933 inaugural speech referenced in Chapter One of Harper Lee’s book.  Students view Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the Great Depression. Using material from Facing History, I partner with my social studies teacher to include primary and secondary sources about Jim Crow Laws and the Scottsboro Trial which influenced Lee’s writing.  When we get to the trial scene in the book, students complete an Edpuzzle and view a video of Richard Peck playing Atticus in the 1962 film adaptation. As students are watching Atticus’ closing argument they track his use of ethos, pathos, and logos. I have graphic novel versions of the text for us to dive deep into craft and structure specific chapters and use Actively Learn, a digital reading platform, for jigsaw activities when we read poetry that connects to the text and characterization.  To build in some computational thinking, this winter my students will be creating a cardboard city of Maycomb and will code Finch Robots to travel through Maycomb representing the Scout, Jem, and Dill’s journey throughout the novel. 

I am excited to add robotics and extend students’ literacy learning in my classroom. Although some parents have expressed their concerns of not focusing solely on literature in my English Language Arts class,  layering classical texts with multimodal text sets provides all the students in my classroom ways to access the text, understand the text, and engage in critical conversations about the text. 

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Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker as a Touchstone Text

Happy New Year and 2020!

With all of the buzz this holiday season due to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the concluding episode in the nine-episode Skywalker saga, I want to start the new year off with a post offering teaching ideas and lessons for this epic story.


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Now, if you didn’t see the movie, note there are some spoilers throughout this post.

Let’s talk theme first. This is a story about family, good versus evil, finding your inner strength, and friendships. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, co-writer of Episode IX Chris Terrio states, “When Luke says, “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect” in Episode IX, that’s Luke speaking. That’s his own character. He’s making fun of himself. He’s saying to Rey, “Please don’t make the same mistake that I did.” That’s another theme of the film. How do we learn from our ancestors? How do we learn from our parents? How do we learn from the previous generation? How do we learn from all the good things that they did but not repeat their mistakes? In that moment, it truly is a character moment because we quite deliberately set up the same situation of tossing a saber, but this time, Luke is there to save Rey from making a bad choice” (2019).

Each episode tackles its own themes about coming of age, courage, and a grand theme about family.

Star Wars is based on Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth or Hero’s Journey.


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Throughout the entire saga viewers follow Luke, Anakin, Rey, and even Kylo Ren along their own Hero’s Journey described by Joseph Campbell. As Jedi’s Luke Skywalker and Rey have similar journeys, Anakin and his grandson, Kylo Ren follow their own journeys into – and for Kylo Ren, out of the dark side.

Check out this lesson plan from Prestwick House on Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey.

Particularly in Episode IX, there is a major scene between Kylo/Ben Solo and his father’s memory, Han Solo. In Hollywood Reporter article, Terrio states, “Atonement with the father is a very Joseph Campbell idea. In a way, the great family sin of Kylo Ren was parricide — he killed his father. He committed any of number of sins throughout the galaxy; he’s not an angel. He’s done many truly horrible things, but on a level of the family saga, as in any Greek myth, it was the killing of a parent that is the central sin that needs to be atoned for.”


Following the idea of mythology and Star Wars, in the Hollywood Reporter article, “Why ‘Star Ways: The Rise of Skywalker’ is Dividing Fans, author Richard Newby states, “The Rise of Skywalker relies on the idea that people can create their own myths, regardless of the circumstances they were born into. Rey’s arc is echoed through Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren, a former stormtrooper, drug smuggler and heir to the dark side. Each of these three characters seemed destined for villainy, but The Rise of Skywalker instead acknowledges the fact that, yes, everyone has a past, but not everyone is destined to be who they are because of bloodlines or past mistakes. Rey’s parents chose to be nobody, and she chooses to be somebody, rectifying the failures of two lineages, Palpatine and Skywalker, and choosing who she is, adopting the namesake that means something to her — not because she was chosen for it, but because she chose it. She is the story she tells to herself, rather than the story others have told about her.” Thus, this story helps our students learn that they are in charge of the story of themselves, no matter who their parents are or the situations they are born into. This element of the story provides hope and encouragement for viewers.


Back in 2016, the New York Times Learn Network  provided readers with different lesson plan ideas connecting to history, science, and English Language Arts. Additional lessons bring Star Wars literacy across the content areas with math, economics, and even art and design.

The Literary Analysis of Star Wars is another aspect to examine. Obi-Wan says to Luke Skywalker during Return of the Jedi (1983), “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view,” “A certain point of view?” Luke replies incredulously. Obi-Wan responds in turn, “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

Point of view is key throughout the Star Wars movies. You might have students write their own short story or monologue from another character’s point of view. In fact, Penguin Random House published a collection of short stories written by contemporary young adult authors titled Star Wars): From a Certain Point of View by Renee Ahdieh, Meg Cabot, Pierce Brown, Nnedi Okorafor, Sabaa Tahir. This collections offers 40 stories celebrating 40 years of Star Wars.

So, what is your favorite Star Wars quote? And how do you use Star Wars in your classroom? Let’s start a dialogue in the new year.


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The Power of Storyboards

Story is everywhere, it’s all around us.

I recently participated in an ISTE Digital Storytelling Webinar focusing on The Power Behind Story & Storyboard to Inspire Imagery and Creativity. Presenter and educator, Julie Jaeger states, “storytelling is meaning making, not just media making. Storytelling is a process, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.” When creating digital stories, both words and media reveal the story through details rather than being directly stated. Craftsmanship is key.

The storyboard itself is a powerful tool in the classroom for meaning making. A storyboard is a road map and guiding influence for story making. I use storyboarding for comprehension and creativity in my 8th grade English class. Whether it is a storyboard used for a 5 Frame Story, which I describe in Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018), or sketching and stretching the setting in a creative writing piece, storyboarding requires planning, evaluation, analysis and creative thinking.

Professional storyboards a useful models and mentors for students to see how film creators utilize storyboarding for brainstorming and outlining story ideas. Julie Jaeger describes how she has students write down the feelings the frame should evoke in the viewer. Depending on the purpose of the storyboard, the details under each frame can be descriptions of types of shots, actions, and sound. The objective is to create a final product with purpose and intention for the audience.

Whereas I have students retell a short story, chapter, or sonnet in only five frames, here is a two frame storyboard activity from The Jacob Burns Film Center:

You are going to tell a visual story using two photographs.

Discuss each scene and what kind of shots you would choose to show it.

  • Two best friends telling each other a secret.
  • Looking for my favorite book in the classroom bookshelf.
  • Two kids reaching for the same favorite marker color.
  • My pencil tip breaking.

Now it is your turn to create two shots of your own to tell the story! 

  1. Choose one story prompt you would like to illustrate.
  2. Think about what shot type you would like to use to introduce the idea.
  3. Draw that shot type in the first frame.
  4. Think about what shot type you would like to use to give your audience more information about the idea.
  5. Draw that shot type in the second frame.

Once you’ve completed your Two Frame Storyboard, it’s time to turn it into photographs. In small groups, position your actors to match your storyboard. The cameraperson can move closer or further away to try to match the shot type chosen in the storyboard.

Setting Storyboard

Setting Storyboard to help students sketch and stretch creative writing.

Storyboard That is a digital platform with free storyboard templates and online storyboard creator. For a fee, teachers can create classroom accounts and sync lessons and projects with Google Classroom. As the website states:

Storyboard That’s award-winning, browser based Storyboard Creator is the perfect tool to create storyboards, graphic organizers, comics, and powerful visual assets for use in an education, business, or personal setting. The application includes many layouts, and hundreds of characters, scenes, and search items. Once a storyboard is created, the user can present via PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Apple Keynote, or they can email the storyboard, post to social media, or embed on a blog. Storyboards are stored in the users’ account for access anywhere, from any device, no download needed. Storyboard That helps anyone be creative and add a visual component to any and every idea.

Other online storyboard platforms include Boords and Canva.

From book trailers to creative story telling and movie making, storyboards help students understand story concepts and frameworks. The objective is for students gain a critical perspective in looking at images and develop an awareness of craft and structure.

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Dystopian Quest 2019

Imagine a world where information is used as a form of control. Where books and knowledge are guarded by the powerful few. Science, technology, and language are utilized for propaganda, social control, and brainwashing. 

Call to Adventure

Welcome to our Dystopian Quest where it is the mission of my eighth grade students uncover the disinformation, brainwashing, and indoctrination of the people living in the utopian/dystopian worlds they read about in young adult fiction. Students are called upon to find the heroes who are already on a path to uncover the deception and fabrication of their world and community. 

Instead of reading and completing traditional quizzes and tests about the dystopian books students are reading, they are immersed in an adventure based quest throughout their reading unit, completing different missions to uncover new thinking about their reading. Students earn game points or “XP” (Experience Points) with each mission that they later can utilize for different powers and privileges in the classroom. 

If we are going to energize our students, we need to embrace technology with teaching methods that inspire and encourage our students to be motivated to learn, collaborate, and face obstacles in a positive way. Approaching learning as a quest or a mission can inspire adventure, collaboration, and results in a better learning experience and learning environment. Gamification and game based learning captures (and retains) learners’ attention, challenges students, engages and entertains them, and teaches them.

Below is the hyperdoc that maps out the three week dystopian quest for my students. Students choose the dystopian books they want to read. YA choices include The Giver by Lois Lowry, Neal Shusterman’s Unwind and Scythe series, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard, and The Reader by Traci Chee.

Classcraft Dystopian Quest


As students are reading, they have different missions to complete that have them unpack the dystopias and draw connections between the fictional worlds and our reality today. For the final mission students write a thematic essay utilizing text based evidence. There are sidequests for students to complete for additional points and privileges. This hyperdoc and quest has taken on many different forms and this year I have it paired down to cover the elements of dystopia that will help scaffold students’ comprehension and close reading. Topics include characterization, propaganda, text connections, and hero’s journey.

Want to know more about this quest and reading unit, contact me and I am happy to share more.

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12 Holiday Gifts for Literary Lovers

The holidays are upon us and Amazon gift cards are trustworthy gifts, but if you have a friend who loves books or you are looking for something unique for your teacher friends, here are twelve holiday gifts worth giving.

  1. Library Candle from Homesick $30.00 smells of orange, nutmeg, cedar wood, and amber. The company states on its website, “Indulge in a cozy day cuddled up in a nook of bookshelves. Recall floors of literature waiting to take you anywhere. The smell of old leather and the feeling of antique pages. A peace and quiet you can’t find anywhere else. Return to that mingling calmness and curiosity that makes a library so magical.”


2. RoobyLane’s Literary Scarf $34.00 is another beautiful gift for a book lover. On Etsy you can find all different literary scarves but this one is a collection of antique book covers.


3. If your literary friend also loves board games, a subscription box to Awesome Pack is perfect for an individual or family. Awesome Pack offers two types of packs: family pack or big kid pack, both are $40.00 a month.


4. Escape the Crate is an Escape Room Subscription Box where $26.50 every two months brings different time-traveling adventures right to your door. Items include: ciphers, letters, sleuthing tools, puzzles, and more.


5. Chronicle Books has some beautiful gifts for book lovers. The Bibliophile Vase: A Compendium of Flowers for $30.00 is a ceramic vase in the shape of a book and features this inspiring quote by Oscar Wilde on the back: “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”


6. Who wouldn’t wear a t-shirt that states the fact, “Books Are Magic”? Books Are Magic is actually an independent book store in Brooklyn, New York. Whether you are a librarian, teacher, or just a book lover, you will want to wear this t-shirt $22.00.


7. Out of Print has some awesome t-shirts, totes, and other gift items. I want to talk about their sock collection. Harry Potter fans, you are going to want to check out the gift items on their web site. I am currently coveting the Banned Books Socks and the Library Card Socks, each $8.50 a pair.


8. Everyone needs bandages and Shakespearean Insult Bandages heal boo-boos while offering wit and wisdom $6.00. There are also Edgar Allan Poe Bandages.


9. Personal Library Kit $14.00 allows users to insert library cards in the books from their  personal collection. No need to worry that you might never see the book you lent to your friend with this gift. The Personal Library Kit also comes with an old time library stamp to add your own due date to the library card and pocket in the text to guarantee its safe return.


10. Paper Source designed water bottle looks like a pencil and says “No. 1 Teacher” $30.00. When I first saw this water bottle in June, it was already sold out in stores but it is back and a fun gift that allows teachers to stay hydrated.


11. NovelTeas have beautiful tins filled with delicious teas. The Pride and Peppermint Tea ($15.00) comes with a Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice inspired tin. You can also find on their website literary collections of organic teas.


12. Lastly, for your teacher friend who has everything, you might consider making a donation to your local public library or become a member.




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Growing An Idea

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the personal learning community that I have. There are so many people who I have met through Twitter, at conferences, and memberships of  educational organizations like NCTE and ISTE who have inspired me and influenced my teaching practices. When people share ideas through these communities, you are able to see people, as well as ideas, grow into amazing projects and activities that help students meet excellence.

This blog post is an ode to all the amazing educators who make up my personal learning network and who have helped me grow ideas. When I first started writing this blog, it was a space to catalogue activities, ideas, and insight with the hope to provide encouragement for other educators to create intellectually stimulating and engaging activities with your students. In the past six years it has evolved into so much more.

While at NCTE this past month I presented a game design workshop for teachers. One part of the workshop included a station rotation activity. For forty minutes participants moved around the room to five different stations playing games and discussing game based learning activities. I was inspired by this activity after attending a station rotation workshop in my school led by our technology specialist, Kristie Orlando @OrlandoKristie. She said that Caitlyn Tucker and Jennifer Cronk were two educators who gave her insight to build her own stations and lead a fruitful workshop. I will add that Caitlyn Tucker’s On Your Feet Guide to Station Rotation is a valuable resource. Kristie Orlando’s formatting of the station directions, cues, and food for thought was the catalyst for my own station design. I adapted two of her stations and add some of my own personal touches to meet the objectives of the game design workshop. This is one example how ideas grow.

Game Based Station Rotation Directions

Whereas Kristie used Headbanz in her station rotation to encourage participants to use mini-games in their classroom, I used the Heads Up game as one of my stations.

Heads Up is a game I play with my middle school students. Currently, my students are reading different dystopian novels and I made a set of Heads Up cards for them to play this mini-game in our classroom for review and check for understanding. There is a generic set of dystopian words and then sets for The Giver, The Reader, Unwind, Animal Farm, and Scythe. If you would like a copy of these cards to use with your own students, click here and print out your own set, laminate them, and have fun!

Another station that Kristie had us do was “Questions in A Jar,” students went around and answered questions about active learning strategies. This is a great activity to evoke conversation in small group and I wanted to add a little more of a game element to it. I built off the questions in a jar and added a Hot Potato to this station. Haven’t you ever seen something online and thought, “What a great idea. Now, if I add this or personalize it this way, it elevates everything.”

Game Based Station Rotation Directions-2

The questions that were utilized at this station were questions derived from Tisha Richmond’s Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom (2019). Tisha’s book has great ideas about gamification as she describes how she gamified her own culinary arts classroom. Tisha also contributed to my first book, Gamify Literacy (2017). Some of these questions include: What is your favorite television reality or game show? How could you use challenges from it to create fun and educational  experiences for your students? How can we harness the motivation that keeps our students up far past their bedtimes to play their favorite video game and bring it into the classroom?

A third station I offered was inspired by another awesome educator, Mandy Ellis @Mandyeellis. Mandy wrote Lead with Literacy: A Pirate Leader’s Guide to Developing a Culture of Readers (A Lead Like a PIRATE Guide) She blogged about a PD session she ran at her school that was based on the cooking show Chopped and the great ideas that emerged from this activity. Participants were given a “basket” of items that they needed to use to build a literacy based lesson. Mandy explains how she organized her stations on her blog and below are the directions to the Chopped station I adapted for this game design station rotation. I also share a link to Stefanie Crawford’s vlog how she creates Chopped style games in her classroom. 

Game Based Station Rotation Directions-3

There are so many eduawesome teachers that share their brilliant ideas and motivate others. 

The last two stations that were part of the game design station rotations, where two original stations I created to arouse critical thinking about gaming and game based learning. One station had teachers assess their player types using Bartle’s Inventory of Player Types and another station used speech and debate to build communication skills. This station is based off the game I Dissent.

Game Based Station Rotation Directions-4

Game Based Station Rotation Directions-5

Ideas grow, they are cultivated or a catalyst that initiates thinking into action. Sometimes ideas develop out of thin air and other times people, images, or places stir our beliefs and   ignite new knowledge and understanding.  As educators, we need to share our ideas so that we can continue to provide our students with the best practices they need to be champions themselves.


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#NCTE19 – Spirited Inquiry

The National Council for Teachers of English held their Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD with over 8,000 English teachers, librarians, reading specialists, authors and illustrators in attendance. The theme of “Spirited Inquiry” was about stopping to note, notice, wonder, question, and ponder pressing topics in the field. The range of workshops covered all aspects of literacy from reading, writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking. The workshops that I attended focused on social justice, advocacy, diversity, and student voice. Here is a summary of the powerful topics covered throughout my time at the conference.

The Conference kicked off with a key note speech from actor, author, and activist, George Takei. Takei’s graphic novel, They Called Us the Enemy, is about his experience as a child during the Japanese incarceration after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spoke of the parallel stories that he experienced during that time in comparison to the story his parents experienced. He addressed breaking stereotypes as the first Asian American Actor on Star Trek during the 1960s. He shared with the audience that ‘Star Trek’ was a metaphor for earth and the diversity that is required to successfully go beyond where no other person has gone before. ‘Star Trek’ is about acceptance, and the strength of the Starship Enterprise is that it embraces diversity in all its forms.” Civil responsibility was one of the themes of his speech and the speaking up when we see injustice.

NCTE Keynote with George Takei

Teaching Beyond Fear: Inquiry around Gun Violence in the English Language Arts Classroom was a round table session that included a dozen round table discussions on topics ranging from “empowering students to examine gun culture through rhetorical analysis,” “Teaching Beyond Fear,” and “Writing Through Pain.” This was one of the most powerful sessions that I attended hearing the ideas and research presented by researchers, professors and teachers about how they use mass shootings as a catalyst for student writing, research, and discussion.

Jonathan Bush shared a rhetorical analysis methodology used in his introductory composition course as “a means to empower students to gain an understanding of the purposes, ideologies, and ethics of the rhetor to make informed judgements about its value and place in cultural and political discussions.” He encourages students to do an ideological analysis and a logical fallacy watch to look for logical fallacies and then discuss them. He uses commercials from the NRA as an entry point to teach analysis. Consider the effectiveness of the following NRA advertisement.

I also attended the workshop Resisting Through Inquiry: Cultivating a Spirit of Resistance through YA Literature and Digital Media. Presented by 8th grade ELA teacher, Sarah Bonner and YA author, Samira Ahmed, this interactive sessions included a joint collaboration among teacher, students, and author to unpack the discoveries and learnings within a multimodal, inquiry-rich unit of student resulting in work that occurred within their communities. Students participated in a 3 week book study reading Ahmed’s Internment, a dystopian novel “set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.” Ahmed said that all of the events that take place in the novel are based on historical events including Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and Japanese Internment. The book challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today as the protagonist follows in the footsteps of young adult activists like Malala, The White Rose Organization, and even Greta Thunberg. After the students read the book they engaged in a research project to uncover injustice in their community.


The Middle Level Section Luncheon showcased YA author and speaker, Ibi Zoboi. Zoboi is the author of two novels for young adults including Pride and American Street, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her newest novel, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich is about a twelve year old girl who loves space and science fiction. The story is filled with graphic novel elements from the protagonist’s imagination. The novel celebrates Harlem in the 1980s with the music, dance, and hip hop culture that emerged from this time period and has shaped popular culture. 

What I’ve heard a lot of people talk about at NCTE: getting the right books in the hands of students, engaging students in the learning process, and teaching writing as opposed to assigning and grading writing. Thinking weaves its thread through each session at NCTE. Authors, teachers, leaders are growing through conversations around inquiry. There is still more to come.


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12 Strategies to Support Readers

What are the habits and strategies that can help students to develop their reading skills? Here are a dozen pre-reading, during reading and post reading strategies to support the readers in your classroom.

Before Reading Strategies

Anticipation Guides – These are brief sets of questions for generating conversation around the big issues or controversies inherent in the reading to be assigned. The questions do not have one correct answer, so as to surface multiple points of view or aspects of a problem. Anticipation guides involve students in thought and discussion on important issues and create powerful purposes for reading.

Anticipation Guides can be in the form of a questionnaire, survey, four corners statements, or what side do you stand on. The Four Corners strategy is an approach that asks students to make a decision about a problem or question. Each of the four corners of the classroom is labelled with a different response (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree). Students move to the corner that best aligns with their thinking.

KWL+ Charts – What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I learned is a good way to find out what students already know about the topic. These charts help students think about what they already know about a topic before reading and then connect new information with what they already know.

Word Splash – Make a list of key vocabulary and concepts associated with the content or text. The terms can be new words or commonly known words. “Splash” these words across a sheet of paper or use an online word cloud generator like Word Art.  Then, ask the students to put the words in logical order or draw connections about the words. Once groups finish, ask them to share their thinking. After all students have shared,  ask students to predict what they are going to study and what they will be looking for as they read or learn.

During Reading Strategies

Post Its – As students are reading they track thinking on post it notes at important parts the text where there is key moments or raises questions. Notes are for ideas as well as evidence. When students are reading for academic purposes, it is necessary for students to record thinking so it can be remembered and reused.

Coding & Annotating the Text – Coding the text helps readers to monitor their comprehension and remember what was read. Students can make up their own coding system. Recording thinking while reading helps a reader remember what s/he read. It also provides an opportunity for the reader to wrestle with meaning.

Asking Questions  – Asking questions about what you are reading allows you to think more deeply and better understand what you are reading. Good readers ask questions before, during, and after reading to clarify ambiguity and deepen understanding.

Making Connections – If a student can make a connection it can trigger more interest in the reading topic. Stephanie Harvey (1998) writes, “Proficient readers connect what they read to their own lives and this type of reading promotes engagement and enhances understanding. Students can make text to text connections, text to world connections and text to self connections.

When teachers provide explicit modeling of thinking processes they identify the habits utilized to make sense of the of the text.

Post-Reading Strategies

Tableaus is perfect for kinesthetic learners. To set up the tableaus, have students create frozen scenes from significant events in a text. In a a corner of the classroom where other classmates cannot see or hear what they are doing, allow students in 3-4 minutes to formulate their scene or frozen picture. Once the model group is ready to present, ask students to put their heads down. Count to five aloud while  the group is forming its scene. When you get to “one” the group is in position, and invite students in the audience to take a look at the frozen scene. The teacher can call on students from the class to identify the scene and its significance to the text.

Sketch to Stretch allows students to individually sketch a picture that represents their understanding of the key concepts, facts, and ideas.

Graphic Organizers like Venn Diagrams, Frayer Models, Episode Patterns, and Chronological Sequence can help convey large chunks of information concisely. These organizers or mind maps allow students to organize a large body of information sequentially or draw connections to represent key information.

10 Word Summary is an activity that I adapted from Kelly Gallagher. You can select any number of words but the idea is that students only have a certain number of words to summarize in their own words. Then, using individual summaries, students can generate a whole-class summary on the board in 10 or fewer words. Summary writing is another way for students to put concepts from the reading into their own words.

Quiz making is another student activity that can show their comprehension in the after-reading stage. Quiz making encourages students to think like the teacher and, at the same time, consider what concepts in the reading are key: “If you were the teacher and you wanted to test your students on this text, what would you ask?” This activity can be done as an individual assignment or in collaborative groups or pairs. Students can be encouraged to create a variety of question types.



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Choosing the Right Scaffolds for Individual Students

As an English teacher, I am always thinking strategically to sequence reading and writing assignments. As I plan these assignments I also must consider what scaffolding I will provide for students to build skills, while at the same time, make writing instruction manageable.

My students are reading books with social justice themes and to show their thinking about their reading, I had students to trace the protagonist’s actions and beliefs throughout the book against Gandhi’s principals.  Additionally, students were to show how these principals contribute to overall theme or central idea of the book. 

The on demand, short response writing assignment was: Choose a quote from Gandhi that you feel best exemplifies the protagonist and their experiences in the book.  Be sure to include two or more textual details to support your claim. Follow the ACE Strategy (Answer – Cite – Elaborate & Explain):

For some of my students, this is a complex task and I provide scaffolding in the form of a graphic organizer to better help them articulate their thinking. Scaffolding is an instructional technique where the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task. Graphic organizers help to break down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Note the graphic organizer created for the Gandhi short response:

Additionally, depending on the needs of your students, revision options or requirements can be a great way to incorporate more writing and support.  The need to implement a scaffold occurs when you realize a student is not progressing or unable to understand a particular concept. Examples are another scaffolding strategy to show models and mentor writing for students struggling to meet the learning targets. I often showcase student models to teach back to the whole class in a mini-lesson and provide an example of writing that meets the learning standard like the student example below. 

Pyramid of Hate

When more scaffolding is necessary, advanced organizers and sentence frames that are partially completed can guide students with the necessary format or academic vocabulary to improve their writing. In the revision document I created below, I provide students sentence stems and specific vocabulary to show the relationship between the protagonist and Gandhi. Hints are also included on the revision document to offer suggested vocabulary and clues to make visible student thinking about the text.

Scaffolding comes in many forms. The idea is to provide the right scaffold at the right time to help students become independent learners. Eventually, students should be able to create their own scaffolding tools to help them meet the learning goals.

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