Category Archives: Ed Tech

Back to School Stranger Things Themed Syllabus & Opening Day Activities

It’s a syllabus.

It is a hyperdoc.

It’s a menu of opening day activities for students.

Actually, it is all three rolled into one.

I saw a class syllabus from @MrsGearheart laid out like a game board with station activities for each part of the syllabus. Students read and complete the syllabus to earn badges. I loved the format but was thinking how to personalize it for my middle school students. And wallah, here is the syllabus, hyperdoc, and first days of school menu choice board for students to complete. The syllabus covers about the teacher, class expectations, each of the units we will complete throughout the year, information about standards based grading, and classroom policies.

Rather than the badges, that @MrsGearheart created – and there are a lot. I have paired down a menu of activities for students to complete the first two days of classes. For the appetizers, students choose one to complete and share about themselves with the whole class. Thinking in different formats, students can either create an infographic about themselves using Adobe Express or can conduct an interview with a peer on Flip(grid). The main course is an assignment that all students will do the end of the week. It will not be a graded assignment but will help me learn about students’ reading and writing skills, likes, and literary influences. I will share that assessment in next week’s blog post. For dessert, these are short activities to help students get comfortable with the tech platforms I use weekly and also tell me more about themselves. I am a dessert person so I thought, why not complete all these activities. I think students will be able to do the appetizers and desserts over two 40 minute class periods. If you would like a copy of this template, you can click here.

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Literacy Tools & Strategies to Support SEL with ISTE U

Made with Padlet

I’m presenting on Literacy Tools and Strategies to Support Social Emotional Learning at ISTE U’s Summer Learning Academy 2022. This professional learning opportunity allows educators to learn at their own pace about the topics we all care about, now through Oct. 14. For $64 you have can access to amazing professional development. More at iste.org/sla.

Check out the Padlet of curated resources related to my presentation on SEL with teaching tools, strategies and related research.

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Literature Circles: A Trusted Book Club Reading Strategy

I first learned about Literature Circles back in the day when I was studying to be a teacher. Literature circles are a form of book group that engage students by allowing them to respond to the text in a variety of ways and practice using reading comprehension strategies as identified by Harvey Daniels.

In literature circles the teacher chooses books that will interest students. Currently students are participating in an interdisciplinary unit on WW2 so they have a choice of six historical fiction and non fiction books about WW2, the Holocaust, and Japanese Internment to choose. Students selected the book they would like to read and were then organized into small groups of four to five for their book clubs and literature circles. During ELA class, students meet twice a week in book groups to discuss their reading. In order to hold each other accountable and encourage a productive book discussion student choose a given a role for the day. Rather than the teacher assigning the roles, the students select new roles for each book club meeting. The purpose for assigning students a role is to have each student engaged in a conversation about the section read. Students are the discussion leaders and respond to the text in a variety of ways and practice using reading comprehension strategies.

The Literature circle model is partly based on Piaget’s constructivist theory, and on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Piaget believed that learners construct knowledge through experiences. Building on Piaget’s initial theories, constructivists also believe that a child is an active learner and thinker, or a sense maker who is constructing his or her own knowledge by interacting with objects and ideas (Constructivist Education, n.d.). In literature circles there is specific role for each student and students must draw upon past experiences. Vygotsky’s theory of ZPD suggests that if children practice a new skill with the help of an adult or a slightly more capable peer then they gradually develop the ability to perform the skill without help or assistance. Literature circles engage students in active sense making and involve them in peer interactions like those expressed in the theory of ZPD.

When I first learned about Literature Circles student’s roles required them to complete an actual task or assignment and turn in to the teacher. Then a decade later, the tasked roles were removed and were said to deter students from reading engagement rather, it makes the reading assignment task oriented. Moving ahead with literature circles now, I find it important for students to complete the role requirements in their Reader’s Notebook. This scaffolding helps middle school students work on their reading comprehension and also have artifacts to bring to their weekly book discussions. The goal for a teacher is to help students become independent and self-regulated learners (Scharlach, 2008). Providing scaffolds and gradual release of responsibility helps students become independent and self-regulated learners.

I have created this slide deck for my students are you are free to get your own copy HERE. Each slide has a description of the different group roles and the tasks needed to complete for their preparation of the book club/literature circle meeting. There are five different roles and students do not repeat the roles but are to take on a new role with each book club meeting. I am also having each group submit their work on a Padlet to curate the group’s discussion reflections and group tasks to house all their work in one place and access for writing assignments and assessments.

Lee Araoz, the District Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Lawrence Public Schools in New York describes many ways to infuse technology into Literature Circles. He uses Padlet, Flipgrid, students create their own Quizizz, and Google Suite. The key is choice. Students choose their books, their group roles, and a technology platform to showcase their reading.

If you also use literature circles in your classroom I would love to know how it is going and what you have found woks well to support your students as readers and independent thinkers. Do you use role sheets and or infuse technology? What are the different roles you have found most successful for middle school students? You can share in the comments section of this blog.

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Contemporary Dystopian Fiction Playlist

Instructional Playlists are individualized digital (hyperlinked) lessons and assignments for students to follow. Whereas a hyperdoc could be one lesson or inquiry unit, a playlist provides students directions for an entire unit. Students can work through these hyperdocs and play lists at their own pace. The teacher might provide dates to help students keep pace and not leave the assignments until the last day. Additionally, since every student gets a copy of the playlist on Google Classroom, the playlist can be individualized to support the diverse learners in your classroom.

This contemporary dystopian playlist is a three week unit that is driven by students reading and book club discussions. Playlists are perfect for blended learning classrooms. Playlists are like full lessons that involve combinations of whole group learning, online learning, face to face opportunities, online learning with individual collaboration and small group learning. When you enter my 8th grade ELA classroom students spend the first ten minutes of class time reading their contemporary dystopian text and then responding in their Reader’s Notebook. On Reading Workshop days students get longer reading time in the classroom. If we expect students to read we need to give them the time to read in our own classes. For this unit, since it is only three weeks we are focusing in on the setting of the dystopian society and characterization. Students will learn about the Hero’s Journey and types of dystopian controls. Students will have multiple opportunities to work in their book clubs to share their thinking about their reading and learn from one another.

If you are new to creating playlists and hyperdocs, note that packaging is key. Think about aesthetics and the visual effect of the playlist. Make sure the organization is simple, clear, and accessible to diverse learners. Provide opportunities for student collaboration and inquiry based learning. Try new approaches to student learning. So what are you waiting for? Try out a playlist with your next unit and let me know how it goes.

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Digital Gallery Walk as a Teaching Tool

During a virtual gallery walk, students explore multiple texts or images that are placed in an interactive slideshow, Google Slide, or Padlet. Teachers can use this strategy to offer students a way to share their work with each other and build class community, or use it to introduce students to texts that they can analyze.

The traditional gallery walk allows students to explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room. Teachers use this strategy for students to share their work with peers, examine multiple historical documents, or respond to a collection of quotations. This strategy requires students to physically move around the room and can can be especially engaging to kinesthetic learners.

In a blended learning environment, students can use their own devices to explore multiple texts in one curated space. Teachers share the digital gallery with students during a synchronous session or ask them to look through the gallery asynchronously. Viewing instructions will depend on the goals for the activity. If the purpose of the virtual gallery is to introduce students to new material, taking notes as they view the sources is beneficial. For example, with the Russian Revolution Digital Gallery for George Orwell’s Animal Farm, students took notes on an interactive foldable in their Reader’s Notebook.

Similarly, students can complete a graphic organizer as they view the digital gallery, or compile a list of questions for them to answer based on the texts on display. Sometimes teachers ask students to identify similarities and differences among texts. If using an interactive application, such as Google Jamboard or Padlet, you can also ask students to leave comments on the sources.

Once students have finished viewing the sources, debrief the activity together. You can ask students to share their impressions or what they learned in small group breakout rooms or with the whole class.

How to Create A Digital Gallery

  1. Choose the platform for the digital gallery – Google Slides, Padlet, or Jamboard. I prefer to use Google Slides to create a customized art gallery look for backgrounds, frames, and layout.
  2. Determine the viewing purpose and then select the images, student work, or texts that will be on display on the Digital Gallery. Once you have your ideas go hunting for pictures, political cartoons, short primary source documents for each topic.
  3. Customize the text, layout and display of the images or texts on the document so they are easily visible and accessible for students. SlidesMania has many great interactive templates that can be a starting off point for creating a Digital Gallery.
  4. Hyperlink the images or text on the Digital Gallery. For example, on the Japanese Internment Digital Gallery above each image is hyperlinked to specific web link to provide historical information about Japanese Internment during World War II. The images are placed similar to the experience of visiting a museum or gallery. Each image has a boarder or frame around them and are numbered to correlate with additional information. Include few to no words. This is a gallery walk; students learn through visuals, not blocks of text. You might also include audio segments your virtual gallery walk if you choose. Add an appropriate song, interviews, radio shows, audio speeches, videos. To embed, simply click on insert and choose audio.
  5. Write out and post instructions for students on the digital gallery. 
  6. Create a graphic organizer where students will capture their responses as they circulate (this is optional, but it is an effective way to hold students accountable for their participation and critical thinking). For the Japanese Internment Digital Gallery students completed a “Who, What, Where, When, Why” graphic organizer or students can complete a “See Think Wonder Graphic Organizer.” Another ideas for evaluation is to create a Google Form for students to reflect and synthesize their viewing and understanding.  
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#NCTE 2021:  4 Resources & Takeaways

NCTE 2021 was virtual this past fall and although the in person experience of the conference feeds my creativity and teaching practices, there were still many gems online that I am still musing over. Below are the top four take aways that interest me right now.

1. Opening Session with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Americanah, and much more, offered a hopeful beginning to this year’s Convention at the opening general session. Here are some of the amazing quotes and ideas she shared:

“To be a good teacher is often not just about teaching the curriculum. It is also about those things that are harder to quantify: teaching confidence; making a child feel seen as an individual. Because when we value a student, we teach that student to value herself.”

“I want to argue that it’s important for us to make peace with discomfort. That there’s something perverse about expecting always to be comfortable. Life is messy. Sometimes discomfort opens us up to growth and to knowledge and to meaning.”

“There’s a certain kind of excessive ‘safeness’ that concerns me about what we think children should read or not read. We don’t need to be overly safe. We can afford to be uncomfortable.”“There’s something wonderful and affirming about reading about your own reality and reading what is familiar to you. And that particular pleasure should never be denied anyone. But it is equally important to read about people who are not like you.”

2. Story Telling Through Art with Bisa Butler & Dr. Gholdy  Muhammad

One of my favorite artists today is the fabric artist, Bisa Butler. She participated in an engaging webinar with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, author of Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy. These women spoke about teaching culturally and historically responsive education through 5 pursuits:

  • Identity – teaching students to know themselves and others;
  • Skills – teaching students the proficiencies needed across content areas;
  • Intellectualism – teaching students new knowledge;
  • Criticality – teaching students to understand and disrupt oppression; and
  • Joy – teaching students about the beauty and truth in humanity.

Muhammad recently wrote a curriculum for Butler’s work available on webpage linked above. You can also make a copy of this activity I created based on one of Butler’s Quilts and segregated baseball in America.

3. Poetry with Penny Kittle & Kelly Gallagher
Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher just published a new book which is a MUST READ for all English teachers. The new book, 4 Essential Studies covers essay writing, poetry, book clubs and poetry – discussion of this book is for a different department meeting. Kittle and Gallagher spoke on a poetry panel and here is a list of their favorite poems to check out. Why poetry? It’s short and accessible for students. Don’t just teach students to read and analyze poems but to write their own poems and emulate/imitate craft moves and styles of poetry. Here is what Kelly learned when Penny challenged him to write a poem.

4. Using Digital Texts to Deepen Understanding: Elevating Critical Thought

It is not about digital vs. print text, teachers need to read and create a variety of texts. Let’s consider multimodal texts for our English classrooms that include podcasts, digital text, and visual texts. Brandon Abdon (@BrandonAbdon), Alice Wu, Andy Schoenborn (@aschoenborn), and Troy Hicks (@hickstro) discuss how to use “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” from The New York Times as a multimedia mentor text, as ways to give students a choice in topic and approach. Although this was geared for APLit and APLang teachers, it is relevant for all teachers to help students prepare for the thinking process. Communicate ideas in digital ways to diver audiences beyond the walls of our classroom for civic engagement.

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Short Story Hyperdocs

I am a huge fan of hyper docs, a student-facing lesson designed to scaffold instruction. It is more than a doc with links, packaging and aesthetics are key. A hyperdoc allows students to first explore, explain, and then apply new learning. Holly Clark @hollyclarkedu has a great visual to showcase the elements and scaffolds on a hyperdoc.

@HollyClarkEdu created this visual to showcase the elements of a hyperdoc

This month in my 8th grade classroom, students are reading short stories around themes of identity to study and practice literary analysis. I have created three short story hyper docs to help students read, write, think critically, collaborate, and create. At the beginning of the week, students have access to the hyperdoc and they work through the lessons and assignments during the week. Each hyperdoc is differentiated and personalized for the diverse learners in my classroom. Consider these learner roadmaps for inquiries of study.

To get started creating your own hyper docs for your students utilize the basic HyperDoc template with the fundamentals of effective lesson design (engage, explore, explain, apply, share, reflect, and extend) in mind, but in no way does it reflect everything you can do. You can also get a copy of my short story hyper docs to use and or adapt with your students (note some links are not shared like Flipgrids due to privacy). Feel free to check out the array of playlists I have shared on this blog.

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do ed tech 2021

DO Ed Tech – Calm, Connected, Compassionate is an annual conference sponsored by NYSCATE. This year’s virtual conference hosted over 50 sessions on topics including District Leadership, Next Gen Learning Standards, SEL, STEM, Digital Fluency, Family Engagement, Career Development, IT Services, Community Resources, and many others. The keynote speaker was Dr. Monica Burns, ClassTechTips creator. I was honored to present a session on Building Epic Hyperdocs, Playlists and Choice Boards Peloton Style. Call it a Playlist, Hyperdoc or Choice Board – they are similar in their objective: to allow teachers to organize a unit or lesson in a clear fashion, front load student work so students can work at their own pace and even choose their own learning adventure. Participants learned how to build awesome playlists that support diverse student learners for in-person and remote learning.

Here is a link to my presentation slides and below I link all the hyperdocs I shared throughout the session.

19th Amendment Centennial Hyperdoc

Poetry Choice Board

Social Justice Differentiated Choice Board

World War II Playlist

Black Panther Playlist

Hyperdoc Template Created by Web2.0Classroom

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Podcasts Are Mentor Texts Too

According to Iowa Reading and Research Center, “Mentor texts are written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the author’s craft, or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece.” Mentor texts are samples of writing for students to model and emulate for their own writing. As a teacher, I am always reading and collecting mentor texts that I can utilize in my classroom for teaching all types of reading moves from sentence structure, vocabulary, voice, and even punctuation. An effective mentor text is one that we can read and reread to unearth the beauty in the writing.

Who is to say that a podcast can’t be a mentor text. My students are currently writing original mystery stories and when I came across Lethal Lit: A Tig Torres Mystery, I was enamored with this engaging mystery that blends Serial Podcast content with Riverdale teen drama. In the podcast series, teen detective Tig Torres returns to her small hometown of Hollow Falls, where her aunt was framed as a serial killer ten years earlier. With help from her new friends, Tig investigates the twisted mystery. But as she gets closer to the truth, the killings, each based on murder scenes from classic literature, begin all over again…with her as the final target. The podcast is six episodes, each episode under 30 minutes.

I introduced the podcast series to my students during a mini-lesson on Mood and Tone when we listened to the first episode together to understand the mood and tone in the show’s exposition. Students constructed interpretations about the setting of Hollow Falls and the people who inhabit it. I provided students with a listening guide to help catalogue the murders, clues, and suspects throughout the entire series.

Listening to the podcast the dialogue is riddled with pop culture allusions that can be another mini-lesson and the voice of the protagonist, Tig Torres is worth re-listening as students create their own characters with distinct and unique voices. In using this podcast as a mentor text, I want to “help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats.” (the National Writing Project).

Students will complete a choice project based on their listening of the entire series too.

A mentor text does not just have to be a piece of writing, it can be a visual text like a movie or image, it might be a song or poem, and even a podcast. Mentor texts can be ones that students can read independently as well as with teacher support. Think about the texts that you use as mentor texts for your students, what are the lessons that can grow out of these texts and how they might inspire our students to be stronger and more effective writers.

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Get Your Students Creating Podcasts — ISTE Blog

The following post was a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE this past week. You can read the entire post on ISTE’s Blog.

Tai Poole is a ninth grader in Canada and has been hosting the podcast series Tai Asks Why? with the Canadan Broadcasting Company (CBC) since he was 11. Each episode is under 30 minutes and delves into thought-provoking topics: How much is too much screen time, what is love, and what’s happening to my teenage brain with insight from Tai’s family members, experts and scientists. Tai is one of many young people starting their own podcasts, building an audience and brand around them. 

Why not get your students in on the podcasting action?  You don’t need fancy equipment to get started. Just an idea. Producing a podcast requires students to articulate an idea, as they showcase their understanding and learning. Students can create them independently or in collaborative groups. The content can be serious or light hearted, fictional or grounded in truth. Podcasts cover a wide variety of subjects including science, current events, history, fan fiction and storytelling. If they aren’t sure where to begin, they can listen to published podcast examples to help determine the direction and format.  

Podcasting builds skills

When students produce a podcast, they become problem solvers and enhance their technology skills. The ISTE Standards for Students call for students to express themselves in a variety of formats and platforms. Throughout the podcasting process students apply research,  writing  and verbal skills to communicate a message. When students create their own podcasts, they act as knowledge constructors and empowered learners. 

Here are three more reasons to create podcasts with students. 

  1. Empower learners

Most of the information students receive is in multimodal formats: digital, print, visual and audio. Podcasts are tools for learning information and content. Podcasts come in a variety of formats and topics. My students are currently listening to the murder mystery podcast series Tig Torres: Lethal Lit as a mentor text for their own mystery stories they are creating. 

  1. Initiate global connections & collaboration

Creating podcasts for a wider audience is engaging and authentic. The New York Times and National Public Radio both host annual podcasting contests for teens to create and record original audio material under 10 minutes on any topic. Sharing student-created podcasts with the world enriches the learning experience for the listeners as well as the podcast creators.

  1. Apply Digital Citizenship 

Sharing podcasts with local and global audiences requires students to create a positive, safe, ethical and legal digital behavior. Producing a podcast requires students to record and edit digital content. Students are required to choose sound effects, record interviews and include sound bites from experts to add engaging features that draw the listeners attention. Podcasting depends on creative communication. 

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