Category Archives: Uncategorized

What do you see? Close Reading Interactive Foldable

When we read for school and academic purposes we have to read differently than when we are reading for pleasure. When we read for school we know there is going to be an assessment of our reading during and after reading. That assessment can be a reading comprehension quiz, an essay or short response, even a project to show your understanding.

We tell our students to read closely? But what does that really mean for middle school students to close read?

I tell my students to think of an onion. There are many layers to an onion and similarly, there layers to the text we must uncover.

What does the text say?

How does the text work?

What does the text mean?

I created an interactive foldable to help reiterate close reading and the layers of reading or “ways of seeing” a text. This foldable offers students a visual and guiding questions reminding them of what is expected of them when reading in middle and high school.

The layers of close reading on the foldable are based on Fisher and Frey’s TDQs: Text Dependent Questions (2016) which I describe more in this post and connect with state assessments and the Common Core Standards in this post.

 

 

The foldable and directions are below.

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Legends of the Hidden Temple Classroom Activities & Interactive Game

Legends of the Hidden Temple was an “action and adventure” gameshow on Nickelodeon in the 1990s. The game show required teams  of two to compete in a series of physical and mental tasks: The Moat, The Steps of Knowledge, Temple Games. and the final Temple Run. Through a process of elimination, the last remaining team entered the Temple to retrieve the ancient artifact and have a chance to win a grand prize.

The temple consisted of twelve rooms, each with a specific theme (e.g., the Throne Room, the King’s Storeroom, the Observatory, the Shrine of the Silver Monkey). The rooms connected to adjacent rooms by doorways, although some doors were locked, blocking a contestant’s progress into the adjacent room; the pattern of locked and unlocked doors changed each episode depending both on the temple layout and the artifact’s location. The unlocked doors were closed at the start of the round, but they could be opened by completing a specific task or puzzle within each room. One room in the temple contained the themed artifact. Three other designated rooms held temple guards. A contestant who encountered a temple guard was forced to give up a full pendant in order to continue. The team had three minutes to retrieve the artifact and leave the temple with it. If either contestant grabbed the artifact, all remaining temple guards vanished and all locked doors in the temple instantly opened, allowing the contestant to escape unhindered.

Check out the video to watch a thrilling episode.

My co-teacher introduced me this show online and I couldn’t wait to adapt it for the classroom.

Students are reading about social justice and courage for an independent reading unit and I took on the theme of courage to create “Legends of Hidden Courage” action adventure. I revised a few of the games (the moat) and all teams competed against each other, there was no elimination. Each challenge was worth different experience points (XP). Some challenges awarded points and A Pendant of Life — to be used in the future as a free Notebook Check Pass or Free Assignment Pass.

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The game began with the Steps of Knowledge. Students had read and analyzed poetry the day before on themes of social justice so we started with a QuizletLive on poetic devices.

Then, came the first physical challenge: Students had to take a picture of all their team members making a positive difference in the school and post on Twitter.

A physical and mental challenge was third. Students had to match images of upstanders in history with the correct names.

The Inspiration Challenge required students to reflect and write about a person in history or present day who they inspires and they aspire to for their courage.

The last challenge was the Minefield physical challenge.

It was an action packed class period and there are many different ways that this game show can adapted based on the unit of study.

 

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5 WAYS TO GAMIFY YOUR CLASSROOM

The following post is a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE’s EdTekHub and was published on  1/5/2017

Many of our students are among the 155 million Americans playing video games regularly, and you might be, too. That’s a good thing. When my 11-year-old is playing video games, he’s using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context, and he gains actionable feedback he uses to win the game. When he fails to level up, he doesn’t give up, but continues playing until he progresses to the next level. He also seeks information online to help him find Easter eggs hidden throughout the game. He teaches his friends how to power up with each level of the game. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.

How can we use this pervasive and engaging gaming phenomenon to redesign and supercharge the learning experience?

Here are five ways to gamify your classroom to boost engagement, collaboration and learning:

  1. Adapt old-school games for classroom use. Scavenger hunts, bingo, dice games, Connect Four and Scrabble have been around for decades and can be adapted for classroom learning. Put vocabulary words on bingo cards and see if students can match the words after hearing the definitions. Working in groups, students can play Scrabble by spelling out answers to content-specific questions. Using the app Goose Chase, create digital scavenger hunts by sending students off to take pictures, create a video, or search for an answer online related to a specific topic.
  1. Play digital games. Students love playing Kahoot!Quizizz and Quizlet. These free platforms allow teachers to create multiple-choice questions that players answer on their own devices. Teachers can also choose from the thousands of quizzes already shared on these sites or create content-specific questions to use as pre-assessments, quizzes or exit tickets. Breakout EDU also has a collection of digital games, puzzles and ciphers that promote critical thinking.
  1. Create a quest. A quest is a mission with an objective. Every year my students participate in an adventure quest based on the weekly current events reading. Students who correctly answer a specific text-dependent question earn points. The student with the most points after six weeks wins a prize. I post additional questions on Remind and Twitter to allow students to earn extra points. Quests can also be independent projects or activities for the students who have finished their work.
  1. Battle it out with a boss battle. In gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. On the gamification platform Classcraft, teachers can create their own boss battles using questions from any content area. Teachers can also create boss battles using Google Forms or Google Slides, creating their own unique fictional boss.
  1. Earn a badge for mastery. The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts recognize mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by rewarding student accomplishments and mastery with badges, which go beyond grades because they represent more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill. Badges can be presented digitally using Classbadges or can be displayed for all to see once students have earned a specific badge.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the content area classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, they can use gamification elements to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into Common Core State Standards and address the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.

 

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Tools of Titans as a Roadmap for 2017

This past week I read Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers by Tim Ferriss (2016). This 650+ page book is a  collection of recipes – on health, wealth, and wisdom from high profile athletes, doctors, investors, and entrepreneurs. Ferriss has taken snapshots from his podcasts and put them together with his own insight and personal reflections. As an avid fan of Tim Ferriss, this book was something that I savored this holiday.

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As Ferriss writes, “While the world is a goldmine, you need to go digging in other people’s heads to unearth riches. Questions are your pickaxes and competitive advantage.” Whether looking for inspiration in the new year or interested in the daily habits of Olympic athletes, writers, professional chefs, CEOs, and creative geniuses. 

Taking from Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Ferriss extends the quote, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast” as a guide for success.

“I can think” – Having good rules for decision making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.

“I can wait” – Being able to plan long term, play the long game, and not misallocate your resources.

“I can fast” – Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.

We don’t discover ourselves, we CREATE ourselves. The information shared in this book will help you create your best self. Ferriss states, “Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits.”

Below are twenty-five quotes from Tools of Titans that stood out for me.

“No one owes you anything.” – Amelia Boone

“We’re not an object, we’re a process.” – Justin Mager, MD
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“If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. . . Learn to enjoy the process.” – Tim Ferriss

“Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” Marc Andreessen

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.” – Derek Sivers

“When you can write well, you can think well.” – Matt Mullenweg

“Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person.” – Matt Mullenweg

“Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life . . .There’s no financial investment that’ll ever match it, because if you develop more skill, more ability, more insight, more capacity, that’s what’s going to really provide economic freedom . .  It’s those skill sets that really make them happen. – Tony Robbins

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“If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy.” – Tony Robbins

“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.” – Casey Neistat

“If a narrative isn’t working, well then, really, why are you using it? The narrative isn’t done to you; the narrative is something that you choose. Once we can dig deep and find a different narrative, then we ought to be able to change the game.” – Seth Godin

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and word harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people . . . “ Seth Godin

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“Everything is a remix, but what is your version of the remix . . .What is the unique mojo that I bring, and how can I try to amplify that? Amplify your strengths rather than fix your weaknesses.” — Chase Jarvis

“Stories are a primary ingredient.” – Alex Blumberg

“When you complain, nobody wants to help you . . .If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people.” – Tracy DiNunzio

“Ask for help. Fix it. DO whatever’s necessary. But don’t cheat.” – Chris Young

 

“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room – until you change that with results.” Tim Ferriss

“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky

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“Think of problems as gold mines.  The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.” – Peter Diamandis

“Are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? I think we need to be training people on how to change the world.” – Peter Diamandis

“I have always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward. . . The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Critical Thinking Essential in Education Now

As the smoke clears post election most of the educational institutions that I am a part of have issued statements about their mission to “empower EVERY student by providing an exemplary educational foundation that includes critical and creative thinking, social-emotional learning, physical education, music, and the arts in a collaborative and inclusive learning environment.”

My children’s school even went further to state, “Whatever your political view, this is a time to pause and reaffirm our shared commitment to learning, to our discovery, to our diversity as a strength, and to our inclusive community as core values. We will continue to have zero tolerance for bullying or disrespect towards any member of our community, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other perceived difference. We will continue to promote kindness and empathy towards every one. Our mission and these beliefs will remain a beacon as we move forward in the coming months and years and will guide us in all decisions regarding your child’s elementary school experience” (Northeast, 2016).

Now as I watch and listen to the news, it has become more and more important that work I do not only focus on preparing students to be workers, college and career ready. My purpose is to teach critical thinking, caring, and social responsibility. Nel Noddings (1991) wrote that “caring should be the foundation of our curriculum, including caring for ideas, friends, family, the earth and its ecosystems, human made objects, and strangers and distant others.” Empathy and social justice are at the hear of my curriculum. The books we read, the stories we write, and the texts we discuss all address the essential questions:

How can one person make a difference and impact positive change?

How do/can our actions impact the world around us?

What is the connection between injustice and empathy?

How and why should individuals build empathy for others?

Here are three videos that address EVERYONE’S responsibility to critically question the texts we engage with and promote kindness and empathy towards everyone.  They can be used along side of great books. Each share similar messages about caring, acceptance, and accountability.

Grace Lin’s Ted Talk “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf

 

Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony Acceptance Speech/Sonnet for Hamilton

 

Christiane Amanpour’s 2016 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award Acceptance Speech 

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Notable YA Books of 2016

It’s that time of year again when people begin reflecting and recounting the best, the top, or the most of one thing or another. So many great books were at the forefront of 2016 but these are the books that have left a lasting impression on me. Stories that I shared with my graduate students and read with my middle school students. I wanted to share the best young adult books that I have read this past year as I look forward to many interesting titles being published in the year ahead.

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The Reader is set in Kelanna,  a place where written words do not exist and there is no written language, except for the few protectors of “the book.” Some believe that the book has magic and can “turn salt into gold.” Sefia is a orphan after her father is murdered and her aunt is kidnapped. Sefia seeks to find her aunt and understand more about the mysterious book that was her father’s. With the help of a stranger, Sefia goes on an adventure to seek revenge,  find her aunt, and learn more about the powers of the book.

I cannot rave enough about this book. The play on words and double meanings of this adventure tale evolves into a story about the power of literacy and learning to read. Traci Chee has hidden a series of secret puzzles and mysteries to solve. This is a book that once you get to the end, you want to go back to the beginning and start reading again.

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Another debut author, this book is a story of friendship and love. It is also about not letting your parents define you or who you can become.  This story is about three teenage outcasts who lean on each other in good and bad times. There is love, death, secrets are revealed, and although there is no happy ending, Dill and Lydia learn to move on from their pain. This is a great book for someone who has exhausted John Green and Rainbow Rowell’s novels.

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THIS IS NOT A YOUNG ADULT BOOK, but I am going to include it anyway because it was fascinating. Most high school students are reading Holocaust historical fiction and I would consider using parts of this book for a select group of high school students studying the Holocaust. Pearl and Stasha are twin sisters brought to Aushwitz with their mother and grandparents during WWII. Due to the fact that these sisters are identical twins they are taken by Dr. Mengele, a physician who was known to experiment upon concentration camp prisoners. Stasha and Pearl are tortured by Mengele and meet other children who are part of his zoo. Told in the sister’s alternating voices there are elements of strength, hope, resistance, and deep pain.

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I can tell you exactly where I was on 9.11: riding a train into New York City for work that stopped short of the city to let out passengers due to the circumstances after the first plane hit. My brother had just started his first year of college at George Washington University, two and half miles from the Pentagon and was walking to class. My sister was flying in from California on the red eye. Game Polisner, author of Summer of Letting Go, writes another heart wrenching tale about two teens and an unlikely friendship. Kyle was in school when the planes hit the towers and walks home across the Brooklyn Bridge where he finds a young girl covered in ash. Kyle brings her home to help her and the two watch the tragedy of the day unfold.

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So many young adult books tell the story of young people who feel alone, are considered outcasts, or ostracized by their families. In David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite, five individuals find each other and help each other each with their own personal struggles. Vic’s father died after battling cancer and now his mother has a boyfriend who is moving in with his family. Vic finds list of places where his father wanted his ashes spread and the Kids of Appetite help him on his quest to fulfill his father’s last wishes. This quest helps him to make friends, fall in love, honor the kindness of strangers, and open up to the possibility of living a full life without his father.

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Fans of The One and Only Ivan, will fall in love with Pax. Told in alternating voices between Pax, a pet fox and Peter, Pax’s owner. Peter has raised and domesticated Pax since the fox was a small pup. Now that his father has been called to duty he makes Peter get rid of Pax by setting him out into the wild. Peter runs away in order to find Pax. This is the story of both their journeys in the wild until they find each other.

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The highly anticipated sequel to The Red Queen; my students and I were in love with Aveyard’s first novel last year and couldn’t wait for book 2 to hit print. In this fast paced dystopian novel the demise of this crooked kingdom raises more questions than answers between the silvers and the reds. King Maven is a bad character who no one can trust. There are new characters with new special powers and tension between between Mare and Cal feelings for each other is not even close to being resolved. Mark you calendars now for King’s Cage February 2017.

What books would you include? Share your titles in the comments section below.

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Genius Ideas, Projects, and Outcomes

This year I gave my students a menu of Genius Project possibilities. I didn’t tell them what their project had to be about, rather I categorized four types of genius hour projects (see below). This allows for students to “try out” different kinds of projects throughout the school year as they tap into their passions and curiosity. The projects were diverse, engaging, and student driven.

Here is a few of the inspiring genius projects students completed this first quarter of school.

Help Make the World/Community A Better Place – For this genius project choose a problem and find a solution that will benefit others on a community or global scale.

Helena devoted each Friday in designing a website to help Hurricane Matthew survivors in Haiti. Her website listed and linked websites with information about their missions and goals, and also allowed users to make a donation which would help the citizens of Haiti. She wrote blog posts about the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, updates, and shared pictures. From this experience, she learned how to make a website, became informed about the impoverished island of Haiti, and how to problem solve when it comes to technology.

The UnGoogleable – This genius hour project requires students to research something that goes beyond facts and summary but requires analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  Students will look at multiple theories and present their findings.

Create/Innovate – For this genius project you will create or make something. You can build, design, or create something from scratch.

Learn/Master – For this genius project students will spend their hours practicing and mastering a personal passion of theirs.

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Beneficial or Bogus? Seeking Valid & Reliable Supporting Evidence: Lesson Plan

I am beginning a scientific investigative journalism inquiry project with my students this month and the final project will be an annotated bibliography and feature article. As we embark on the features of a nonfiction investigative journalism piece, the topic of valid and reliable supporting evidence is at the forefront.

Essential Questions:

  1. How can you tell if a resource contains valid information?
  2. How can you determine the saliency of information?

Objectives (KUDoS) By the end of this lesson, students should:

KNOW:

  • Saliency = the most important, relevant information
  • Self-reliance = depending on one’s self
  • The steps to composing a persuasive speech (Prior Lesson)
  • Types of supporting evidence include: testimony, statisitic, fact, and example (Prior lesson reinforced in this lesson)

UNDERSTAND:

  • The importance of supporting an idea with ample examples of valid evidence
  • The importance of skimming information to filter the most important facts
  • How to check the validity of a source

DO:

  • Analyze the saliency of information
  • Skim articles to identify relevant details to support a thesis
  • Locate a valid resource from the internet

 

PROCEDURES

Anticipatory Set: DO NOW

How do you know if information you’ve been told is valid? How do you know what to believe?

Write your response on the post-it notes and post your response on the SmartBoard.

Teacher will read some of student responses with the large class. Questions to further discussion and student thinking: “When researching a topic, how do you know if the information you find is valid?”

Instructional Activity: Station Activity

I. Students will travel to three different QR Codes in order to find evidence to support the supplied thesis/claim. Each QR Code links to an article, video or website for the students to draw out support material (evidence, testimony, statistics, etc). Students will complete a support material research chart as they evaluate each piece of evidence. In addition, students will assess the validity and benefits of QR Code. The articles of information have already been selected by the teacher to assess students’ abilities to judge reliable and valid research documents.

Students will use the 2-D graphic organizer to record their findings from the QR Codes they visit.

Selected Articles, Videos & Websites:

Source 1 – Does Video Game Violence Make Teens Aggressive?

Source 2 – Could Violent Video Games Reduce Rather Than Increase Violence?

Souce 3 – 10 Ways Video Games Can Help or Harm Your Brain from the Huffington Post

Source 4 – Video Game Revolution – The two computers in the classroom will post this website for students to read through the myths about video games. The article was written by a MIT professor debunking the myths about video game violence

Source 5 – This article has no specific information on video game violence but is about the teenage brain. This article is being used to see if students can decifer that this article has no specific connection to the thesis.

Source 6 – The pros and cons of video games. There are many statistics and additional links on the website from this debate website.

Source 7 – Onion Network Video “Are Violent Videos Preparing Adolescents for Apocalypse”

II. After students have had the opportunity to find support material examples from the various stations, students will find a partner who utilized the same sources to discuss and confirm their findings.

III. In large class discussion reflect on student findings.

Questions to ask:

Which research sources were beneficial to finding support material? How do you know?
Did any one find invalid research? What lead you to conclude it was invalid?

IV. One the back of students’ research charts they are to list three ways to validate a resource (exit slip).

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Gamification & Literacy at #NCTE16

Classrooms of the digital age are interactive spaces where literate lives are groomed through the analysis and synthesis of content. Perspectives formed during collaborative conversations give rise to innovative ideas but not every teacher is ready to be part of the digital change. How can classroom environments become havens of active learning and schools encourage students to make wise technology choices to become independent learners with authentic voices?

As part of a round table session at National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference, I presented gamification ideas and strategies for engaged, active, student-centered classrooms where choice leads to increased voice.

Here are a few of the games and activities referenced in the slides that I have created for my students that correlate with units of study.

MidSummer Night’s Dream Symbolism Connect Four

Roll the Dice or Think Dots

Here is how this activity works, using a set of dice [or have task cards Think DOTs that have assignments on one side and colored dots that match a “dice” roll on the other side], students can “roll the dice” to see which activity or question they have to complete. You can use different cubes for different students depending on their readiness, interests and learning profiles. The example that I provided below is a for reading response questions for To Kill  Mockingbird. There are two sets that are differentiated based on students level of understanding.

And for a random Dice Challenge

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What’s With TEXAS Paragraphs

It wasn’t until I arrived at my current school that writing was streamlined across the middle school with a specific format for introductory paragraphs, body paragraphs, and conclusions. We follow a TEXAS format for the body paragraphs of argumentative and literary essays. TEXAS stands for:

Topic Sentence

contExt

textual eXample

Analysis

So What?

The body paragraphs are the meat of an essay. Body paragraphs must include specific textual evidence to support a claim and provide analysis of the textual evidence describing how it supports the claim. Stating “This quote proves . . . “ is not enough. Analysis needs to hold the reader’s hand and walk them through the connection between the textual evidence and the claim. At the eighth grade level, students are required to include three or more examples (2 direct quotes and one indirect example) per paragraph to really prove a claim is valid.

The hardest part for my students is the analysis after finding the strongest evidence to support one’s claim. What is good analysis? And how do students know what to say in the ANALYSIS? I tell my students to get rid of the word “proves” and begin with the words “This shows that” following the quote. This will forces students to EXPLAIN and elaborate on their thinking without summarizing the connection between the evidence and the claim.

Let’s look at a student exemplar.

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So to help students write off of a quote and practice analysis, I created this graphic organizer

It is not enough to find valid evidence, because evidence itself doesn’t support an argument. What supports an argument is the way students UNPACK or EXPLAIN evidence. Students need lots of opportunities to help articulate their understanding of a text. Explaining and elaborating is a skill students build throughout schooling to help unpack the layers of a text.

How do you help students analyze and articulate their understanding of a text? Share your ideas in the comment section of this blog. I am always interested to know what is working for other teachers and students.

 

 

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