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Intentional Word Work

I have written about teaching vocabulary often on this blog and share different ways to help students become word learners. Recently, my eighth grade students started reading nonfiction historical graphic novels with social justice themes and there are two dozen words that my students might not know. Some are specific the to historical events like legions, furor, and internment. Whereas other words provide vivid vocabulary like scrupulous and flabbergasted. In order to be more intention with student’s vocabulary building, I created a hyperdoc to help bring word work to forefront of the classroom.

When students do not understand an author’s vocabulary, they cannot fully understand the text.

Good vocabulary instruction emphasizes useful words (words students see frequently), important words (keywords that help students understand the text), and difficult words (words with more than one meaning).

In improving vocabulary instruction teachers can help students by:

  • Activating their prior knowledge
  • Defining words in multiple contexts
  • Helping students see context clues
  • Helping students understand the structure of words (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots — SPROOTS)
  • Teaching students how to use the dictionary and showing them the range of information it provides
  • Encouraging deep processing — integrating new words into working vocabularies
  • Giving multiple exposure
  • Focusing on a small number of important words

Janet Allen, author of Words, Words, Words(1999), states, “Children and adults need to see and hear a word in meaningful context multiple times in order to know the word, somewhere between 10 to 15 times.” And with middle school and high school, variety is the key. Teachers cannot teach vocabulary the same way every time.

Reading is perhaps the most important element in vocabulary instruction. 

So, how do I teach vocabulary in my English class?

I use interactive foldables with my students and early in the school year I give them a foldable to remind them of effective word detective strategies. These strategies include:

Context Clues – Read before and after words that might help explain the words

Word Parts (SPROOTS) – Look for word parts that are recognizable. Students can decode words by knowing prefixes, suffixes, and root words

Connotation & Tone – Take the word and apply it to the character and what the character is doing in order to understand the passage. Does this word offer a positive or negative tone?

Outside Connections – Have I heard this word in a song, movie, or maybe world language? Connect the word with what you already know. 

In addition to the foldable that students have in their notebooks to refer to throughout the school year, I mix up the different ways that I teach vocabulary. Here are five additional ideas to teach vocabulary in any content area classroom:

1. Take a Poll – Using an online polling website like Polleverywhere.com I poll my student about a definition of a word. Students use their mobile devices to select the best definition for a word.

2. Idea Completions – Instead of the traditional “write a sentence using a new word,” provide students with sentence stems that require them to integrate a word’s meaning into a context in order to explain a situation.

3. Questions, Reasons, Examples –

What is something you could do to impress your teacher (mother, friend)? Why?

What are some things that should be done cautiously? Why? 

Which one of these things might be extraordinary? Why or why not? 

-A shirt that was comfortable, or a shirt that washed itself? 

-A flower that kept blooming all year, or a flower that bloomed for 3 days?

-A person who has a library card, or a person who has read all the books in the library? 

4. Making Choices – Students show their understanding of vocabulary by saying the word when it applies, or remaining silent when it doesn’t. For example: “Say radiant if any of these things would make someone look radiant.”

-Winning a million dollars. 

-Earning a gold medal. 

-Walking to the post office. 

-Cleaning your room. 

-Having a picture you painted hung in the school library.

5. Act It Out – Add some theater in your classroom and have students present a scenario or tableau that represent the word.

There is no one method for teaching vocabulary. Rather teachers need to use a variety of methods for the best results, including intentional, explicit instruction of specific vocabulary words. Teachers can also encourage creative approaches to spark enthusiasm.

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Integrated Thematic Hyperdocs

Integrated Thematic Instruction offers students a chance to learn in an environment where lessons in all subjects are woven around compelling themes that are expanded and explored throughout the year. This method of learning helps students connect lessons to real-life experiences. For students to be fully engaged, the content must have an application and be meaningful to their world. The standards are presented in theme-based units that allow for frequent connections.

I am currently teaching a college course titled Literacy in the Content Areas with pre-service teachers and current teachers from all different content areas. ALL content area teachers must play an active role in teaching students disciplinary literacy skills. The purpose of this course is to help teachers and teaching candidates learn how to integrate literacy (reading, writing, viewing, and communication) into content area classrooms so students can construct meaning in discipline-specific ways. Emphasis is on helping candidates acquire an integrated and balanced approach using literacy as a discipline-specific tool –  for supporting reading, writing, speaking and doing – as defined by the New York State Next Generation Learning Standards. 

Helping students to think about supporting students as writers, add history and bring in aspects of sports, I created this hyperdoc to help students learn about the segregated history of baseball and then make connections to athletes as social activists today. Below you can see the different aspects of the hyperdoc to allow for cognitive skills such as reading, thinking and writing in the context of real life connections that also allows for creative exploration.

Integrated thematic units can result in a lot of thoughtful conversations about the interconnectedness of the disciplines we teach.  There are so many reasons why using integrated thematic units can benefit your learners.

  • Helps students engage with the content being taught
  • Allows students to apply content throughout curricula
  • Learners are able to make connections
  • Draws from past experiences and prior knowledge
  • Develops vocabulary and comprehension skills

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Jumpstart Your Lessons With Some Movie Magic

This past weekend was the ISTE Creative Constructor Lab where educators gather to tinker, try and create media-rich projects with cutting-edge technologies. I am honored to be part of the amazing educators presenting during this virtual lab to share ideas that inspire creativity, innovation, and invention.

The last day of the conference I presented about the power of incorporating short videos and movie making to promote student engagement. Educators were encouraged to try one of these fun movie magic projects and make a quick video to share with the CCL community! Here are some of the movie projects shared:

I. CLONE YOURSELFEver wanted to know what it would be like clone yourself multiple times and do fun things together? 

Materials:

  • iPhone or iPad
  • Ghost Lens app 
  • A tripod or a place where the camera can be propped up and not moved AT ALL.
  • Tape or something to mark the floor
  • A person or very cooperative pet

Directions:

  1. Plan out your split screen by taking a piece of paper and splitting it into two. Assign what one clone will do on one side of the frame and what the other clone will do on the other side.
  2. Practice and time it out to see how long it will take. You will need to do both sides, film it at different times, it will look like it’s happening at the same time.
  3. Place the camera on a tripod or propped up where it won’t be moved!
  4. Divide the frame into two or three by placing markers on the floor (tape is a good idea). We recommend starting with one marker in the middle of the frame to divide the image in two. *Note: Marker is there so the subject knows where not to cross. If you cross, you will disappear so be careful!
  5. Open up the Ghost Lens app.
  6. Choose the template where it divides the image in two vertical sections.
  7. Film yourself twice.

Idea Starter:

  1. Start sitting on one side of the frame reading or doing an activity. 
  2. Look up at one point frustrated and go back to doing your activity. 
  3. Now film the second half by coming in from the other side of the frame being noisy and trying to get the attention of your clone. You can either walk out or stay in the frame giving up.

Helpful tip! Go behind the scenes of The Parent Trap (1964) using the split screen technique to clone the actor, Hayley Mills, as identical twins. Watch it HERE.

II. BOSS BATTLE VILLANSIn 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. 

Materials:

  • Digital Device
  • Snapchat app 
  • A tripod or a place where the camera can be propped up and not moved AT ALL.
  • Any necessary props

Directions:

1 . Plan out who is your boss battle character. You can choose to browse the different filters on Snapchat under “Explore” to find a “boss” students will battle.

Need more inspiration, check out @thebesteducator on Instagram to see the awesome bosses he has created for his 5th grade students. 

2. Collect necessary props or costumes to create an engaging profile.

3.Practice and time your boss introduction. 

4. Film and and share your intro boss video when students compete in their next boss battle. 

Gamification Note – Boss Battles are fun ways to prepare your students for tests and quizzes and assess their learning. They are meant as a way to review for formative assessments during class, and students answer questions out loud in the classroom.
Boss Battles can be created as a whole class game on Google Slides or Powerpoint or can be individualized self paced Google Forms set up as a Quiz. 

III. MOVIE MAKEUP MAGICEver want to learn movie-make-up magic to create fake bruises and more? Check out this tutorial to learn how to create bruises, cuts, and gashes that will scare your friends and family. Try them out on your yourself or your family members and create a portfolio with four or more examples of your work. 

Here are some other videos to help you with your own makeup special effects: 

  1. Black Eyes
  2. Bruises I & Bruises II
  3. Zombie Tutorial

IV. BACKWARDS MAGICSome of the best special effects are done just by reversing movie footage without any CGI or green screening. Using this trick of showing footage in reverse creates some of the most jaw-dropping moments you will ever see. How would you like to defy gravity? Make an object fly into your hands, or have your hair instantly dry after being totally wet?

Materials:

Directions:

  1. Plan out a movement where the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end. *Check out the “Backwards Movement Ideas” below for some ideas.
  2. Grab a prop(s).
  3. Open up your app, film your movement, and then reverse it.

Backwards Movement Ideas:

  • Shake off a hat from your head and make sure to film the hat landing on the ground. *The hat will fly from the ground onto the head.
  • With parents observing, jump from a low stool to the ground *You will look like you are floating up onto the chair.
  • Film a few seconds of yourself with dry hair looking into the camera then have someone, or yourself, pour water over your head. *It will look like the water is pouring back into the container and you become instantly dry.
  • Write something on a piece of paper *The pencil will “eat” up the words or drawing.
  • Now come up with your own!

Backwards Magic in Action!

Watch this lovely story about a lonely man trying to connect with someone in a backwards world in the short film, Love in a Backwards World

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Reading Guides to Support Reading Comprehension

Reading guides help develop students’ comprehension. Teacher-created reading guides provide prompts as students read an assigned text. These Guides help students to comprehend the main points of the reading and understand the structure of a text. Reading guides do not just have to be questions about the events in the book but can incorporate reading strategies to help students practice the habits of proficient readers. For example, reading strategies include visualizing, activating schema, questioning, inferring, determining importance, monitoring for meaning and synthesizing. A student might stop and sketch a vivid image from a scene in the text or make an inference or prediction of what is going to happen next. Students can benefit from close reading strategies (involving slowing down and re-reading difficult passages) to help monitor comprehension.

Reading Rockets provides ways to differentiate reading guides for second language learners or students with disabilities:

  • Vary the difficulty of questions on the reading guide. Modify the quantity of questions.
  • If the student struggles as a reader, allow access to an audio copy of the text.
  • If the student has trouble with working memory, provide a note-catcher to highlight and or record the key information in the text, so they can refer back.
Ransom of the Red Chief Reading Guide
Reading Guide for O’Henry’s Short Story Ransom of the Red Chief

Reading guides are a strategy that allows students to read a text independently but with coaching that does not require the teacher to read alongside the student. Students can work with a peer to read and complete the steps in the reading guide.

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The Benefits of Physical Notebooks

Even in this digital age, the benefits of a physical reader’s and writing notebook outweigh the paperless ideals. Yes, interactive notebooks can be messy with all the glue and paper scraps, but the ways in which paper notebooks aid in learning and understanding, I am adamant to bring them back into my classroom after a year of going 1:1 and paperless.

This past year with the pandemic our school issued every student a Chromebook. Going 1:1 reduced my paper consumption in the classroom tremendously but at the same time and I moved into utilizing digital notebooks for students to access content and showcase their learning. Throughout the school year I noticed aspects of digital notebooks did not meet the same prosperity the paper interactive notebooks in English Language Arts had in the past.

Interactive notebooks help students’ process information, study and review for assessments and personalize the content knowledge being presented. In my own English class I allow my students to use their notebooks on assessments because I am not testing them on memorized information but helping them grow as readers and writers. If they need to access the foldable and notes on different ways to start an essay or follow a guide to writing a body paragraph, then they have that support in front of them. Writing helps students process their thinking. Yes, there are benefits to digital notebook too like multimedia and the fact that students cannot lose their notebook in the cloud. At the same time, the actual tangible notebook is what is key. Students need to touch, see, read, reread in order to help them learn deeply.

On the blog Minds in Bloom it states, “An interactive notebook works as a textbook for students that is theirs. Not only are they taking beneficial notes, practicing, and reflecting on material, but they are also using that information as they work on future activities. Students are going back and reviewing the prior pages repeatedly and therefore building exposure to the material each time.”

◈ The purpose of the interactive notebook is to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers. 

◈ Interactive notebooks are used for ALL class notes and other activities where the student will be asked to express his/her own ideas and process the information presented in class.  

◈ The interactive notebook is a resource for students to build throughout the school year, refer back to during assessments, essays, and quizzes.

This year I created a hyperdoc that helps students set up and organize their notebook so we are ready to learn with them the first week of school. I am excited to get back to physical notebooks with students and observe how using them along side of their Chromebooks help to support learning in a blended environment.

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Creating Immersive Experiences in the Classroom

We are one month away from the start of school and after experiencing Van Gogh’s Immersive Experience and walked through the ultimate sensory exposure to Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.

Upon entering the experience, the expansive open rooms are rooms are dark until the Van Gogh’s paintings appear along the 20,000-square-foot room featuring two-story light projections and animations that bring Van Gogh’s paintings to life in front of your eyes. The paintings bleed into each other and music carries the story of his paintings, life, and struggles through his art work.

The images barely tell the story, because they only capture still images when this exhibit moves and changes shapes throughout the 40 minute experience. Overall, the experience was breathtaking and I walked away with a new appreciation of Van Gogh’s work. I was also interested in knowing more about him. The immersive experience heightened by understanding, gave me a strong sense of background knowledge, and encouraged me to ask more questions by peaking my curiosity.

How do we create similar immersive experiences with our students to teach our content areas: provide necessary background knowledge, deepen understanding, and ignite inquiry?

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Invite all our senses. I am reminded of Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate who says, “Provide a classroom environment that will allow your students to interact with the lesson and with their peers.” In order for all members of the classroom to be engaged and learning, students need to feel the learning experience and content being presented in your classroom. This might include props, music, and full on immersive experiences. Learning does not just include sitting at one’s desk, but can be kinesthetic and hands on.

2. Create a Gamified Experience. Gamification immerses students into the learning experience and game by sustaining playfulness with challenge and purpose. In gamifying you classroom you need to choose a theme, create epic learning experiences, and set up the game mechanics. You might use current games like Kahoot and Booklet or life size Scrabble to great a gasified experience. You might even turn your entire class and unit into The Great American Food Truck Race like Tisha Richmond describes in her book Make Learning Magical. I love starting a unit and lesson with a fun game to get everyone involved in the activities and learning. I might even layer the elements of the games like with my Legends of Hidden Courage game I created based on 1990s Nickelodeon game show Legends of Hidden Temple to kick off a unit on social justice. You can read more about this game here.

3. Problem Based Learning & Project Based Learning. Include problem solving and collaborating on activities that require speaking, critical thinking and analyzing to spark interest among students. I am talking about hands on, student driven learning that challenges them to engage them in the learning experience. Put your students in the drivers seat and ask them what they want learn about, research, create, and solve. Immersive experiences support real-world connections to lessons and help students develop life long skills.

4. Immersive Technology. I am talking about AR and VR – augmented and virtual reality. As Discovery Education highlights, “Immersive technologies add layers of powerful impact to learning. Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality have the power to astound and engage learners while helping educators present complex concepts more easily, and with a depth of understanding that other technologies cannot always achieve.” Providing these AR and VR experiences with students allows them a front row seat around the world, under water, walk into history, and do so much more. If you are a Nearpod user, you can access the AR available in their platform or use an AR or VR platform like Discovery Education, Google Expeditions, Merge Cube, and more.

5. Teach with Passion. Passion is enthralling but it can take so many different guises. Again, I am going to refer back to Dave Burgess because he invites teachers to think about their Content Passion, Professional Passion, and Personal Passion. If you are not passionate in any of these three places than why would your students be passionate and curious to learn with you? Identify what you are passionate about and embed these passions into your teaching. Be present for your students and help them see the power of curiosity and learning.

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A Curated List of Hyperdocs, Playlists, & Choice Boards Presented at #ISTELive21

Playlists, Hyperdocs, & Choice Boards . . . What’s the difference?

Playlists are a series of activities focused on specific content and matched to student needs. The intent of playlist-based instruction is to differentiate instruction while providing students control over various aspects of learning, including path, pace, or modality. 

Hyperdocs are interactive digital documents where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle.

Choice Boards or Learning menus as Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning defines “are a form of differentiated learning that gives students a menu or choice of learning activities. It is simply a menu of choices from which students can choose. Student choice is the big idea behind learning menus and choice boards.”

Here is a list of different playlists, choice boards, and hyperdocs I have created in the past three years for middle school students (and showcase at edtech conferences). Feel free to make a copy of these and adapt for your own classroom use. Please be sure to credit those whose materials you are using, adapting, and borrowing. 

Humanities:

Anti Asian Hate Now & Then: Parallels W/Japanese Internment & WW2 

WW2 & The Holocaust

World War II Military

The History & Fiction of Hunters on Amazon Prime

19th Amendment Centennial

Literature & ELA:

Animal Farm Week One & Week Two 

Raymond’s Run Hyperdoc

Ransom of the Red Chief Hyperdoc

Poetry Choice Boards

Mystery Writing

Social Justice Choice Menu

Movie Viewing & Media Literacy:

Black Panther Origins (Pre-Viewing Guide) & Viewing 

Black Panther Movie Analysis Choice Board

Twilight Zone

Getting to Know Your Students:

Get to Know You Think Tac Toe (Choice Board)

Link to Slide Deck

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Multigenre Projects

In my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I introduce a multi genre project my students create based on a World War II topic, research, and historical fiction.

As stated in the book, “Why just box students into writing one genre per unit? There are limitations to teaching narrative, informative, argumentative writing in isolation. Each genre has its strengths and drawbacks. In fact, when we read essays and articles these genres are often blended together.  If teachers allow students to show their understanding and knowledge of a topic with a variety of genres there is choice and creativity. This goes beyond just allowing students to choose the genre or format to showcase their understanding, what if students could blend genres in one assignment to produce a multi-genre piece.  In this chapter I introduce  the concept of multi genre writing: the ability to write in more than one genre to present understanding and build new knowledge.”

Multigenre Projects are not new, educator and author, Tom Romano describes in, Blending Genres Blending Styles (2000),  “In short, multigenre projects entail a series of generic documents that are linked by a central premise, theme, or goal. They may forward an argument, trace a history, or offer multiple interpretations of a text or event. They are rigorous forms of writing, involving all of the elements of a traditional research paper: research and citation, coherence and organization, purpose and aim of discourse, audience awareness, and conventional appropriateness.”

As an end of the year project I wanted to create a multi genre project where my students were at the forefront. Since we just finished reading books and discussing themes of identity, I adapted a project I found online that focuses on our stories and identities. Students were to create multigenre project as a means of reflecting upon middle school and how that has shaped us into who we are today.

Here are the specifics: 

  • A title page with a creative title.
  • An introduction serving as a guide to readers.  This will introduce the event you’re reflecting upon and help us understand why this topic is important to you.  Likewise, it gives you an opportunity to explain how we should read your documents.  This should be ½ to 1 page long.
  • Three (3) separate documents from three (3) different genre categories:
    • The  Narrative Writing Category
    • The Persuasive Writing Category
    • The  Informational Writing Category
    • The Poetry Category
    • Visual Artistic Category

*You can add a fourth category and document for extra credit

  • An artist statement paragraph for each document at the end of your project answering the following questions in complete sentences:
    • What is the message of this document? 
    • Why did you pick this genre for this specific part of the story? 
    • How does this document show the larger theme of your story? 

At the end the year it is inspiring to see students write with gusto about topics related to friends, sports, uncertainty, grades, losing a loved one and procrastinating. One student even said to me that this was the best project they have worked on so far — that is something you do not hear often when it comes to a writing assignments.

As for the different writing examples within the genre categories, students had lots of choices.

As these final projects are turned in, I cannot wait to share some of the highlights.

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Where I’m From Book Assessment

I came across the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, an American author from Kentucky, who has published in many genres, including picture books, poetry, juvenile novels, and articles.:

Where I’m From

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

it tasted like beets.)

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,

          from Imogene and Alafair.

I’m from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons,

from Perk up! and Pipe down!

I’m from He restoreth my soul

          with a cotton ball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,

fried corn and strong coffee.

From the finger my grandfather lost

          to the auger,

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

The poem has so much vivid imagery. The moments are also metaphors and requires students to make inferences reading and rereading the poem. The reader gets a clear picture in their mind of the childhood farm George Ella Lyon grew up on in Kentucky. The poem highlights the role of family, culture and childhood help to develop ones sense of identity.

My students read the poem silently first and then I read the poem aloud. After hearing the poem and reading the poem students sketched an image that stood out from their understanding of the poem. Students shared their sketches with their elbow partner.

Students were asked to work in small groups to deconstruct the poem:

  1. Go back into the poem and count how many times the lines begin with “I’m from…”
  2. Find a sensory description with vivid imagery using smell, touch, taste, or sight
  3. Find a metaphor and decipher it’s meaning
  4. Identify the memories vs. present time
  5. What else do you notice?

After ten minutes we returned back to the large class to discuss our findings. We discussed how each of the choices that Lyon made when writing her poem were significant, small items in her life that helped to shape who she was. T.

Now I love the idea of students creating their own “Where I’m From” poems about themselves but since we have been reading choice novels about identity, I had students create an “I Am From” poem based on the protagonist in their reading book. Students were asked to think of significant items in the protagonists life, things that helped shape their identity, family beliefs that molded what they believe, and a description of their place within their family using figurative language. The results were awesome.

The first student example is based on Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad is Untrue:

I am from a land that no longer welcomes me

A country where I cannot return, despite all the people demanding I do

Surviving, not thriving, in a new land that is almost as welcoming

Stuck with a name that isn’t my own

Where it is normal for me to leave school bloody and beaten

Working with classmates who refuse to acknowledge who I am

Who continuously mix up my home country with another, collectively deciding to turn away and disregard the differences

I am from a mom who is stronger than any hero

A sister who’s as smart as a textbook, but as cold as my favorite ice cream

We don’t talk anymore, all that’s left behind are memories

And even those are fading

I am from a step-dad who beats my mom to a pulp, but also keeps us afloat

A biological dad who decided we weren’t worth the trouble

Who moved on without a second glance in our direction

I am from riches and wealth, turned to dirt and no lunch

I am from a wonderful childhood, cut too short

Forced to grow up too soon

Missing my culture that encourages respect 

Unlike my new home, where respect is scarce 

Trying to keep my light alive by cracking jokes, although they are always met with silence

I am from everyone I had to leave behind

Everything I couldn’t save

Everyone I couldn’t protect 

I am one with the stories of the past, only true to me

Built from the everlasting tales, allowing me to live and learn

I am from a jasmine house where the memories are fond and my life began

Reminiscing in the scent of flowers, swans, sapphire blue rivers, and chests full of gold doubloons

I am from everywhere, everyone, and everything

A mosaic 

A reflection

A montage of the past

A collection of moments

Here is another student example based on Elizabeth Acevado’s Poet X:

My family is from the small religious island of the Dominican Republic

Where my Mami fled for America

But I am from the city

Where nobody sleeps

The part of Harlem where creepy men lurk at every corner 

I am from a school just a train ride away

Where most students skip class and fool around 

I am from a town that sees me not as a person but an object to mess around with

My life welded to live invisible, trying to hide from all those demanding to play with me 

I am from a life in which I can trust only me to stick up for myself

I am from a family in which respect is nowhere to be found

From disappointed looks and lecturings parties

From church every Sunday and an Earth rotating around God

I am from a mother who resorts to violence at every given second and a father who seeks no part in my life 

I am from a safety net that is my twin brother by whom I am connected to by twin powers

Yet from a family in which my gay brother is unjustly unaccepted and my freedom seeking self is restrained by thick chains and barbed wire

I am long gone from the days of the ice skating rinks and peaceful church with Father Sean

No longer remembering the love my Mami and I once shared

I am from a suffering family through and through working to mend our knotted, beaten family back together 

I am a little girl inside a big body who seeks safety and acceptance yet gets met by hatred and harassment

I am a girl who wants everything she’s never supposed to have

Someone who wished for a boy but gets meet by misogyny 

I am from hours of being discriminated against and named a ‘cuero’ and days of questioning who I am 

I am from a tight ship revolving around strict rules

From a confusing and curious brain that goes against my family’s teachings 

And a girl who wishes to write poems peacefully 

From a life scarred by the appalling cent of my burning notebook filled with my problems I never solved 

I am from the secret poetry club restricted by my hate filled Mami and knees that burn from the rice buckets 

From the safe warmth of Ms. Galiano the only women who showed kindness and encouragement

I am from a world of great bravery learning how to express my pain and share my joy

A place in which I shall share my poems freely and safely to the world

I am a woman who shall honor and stay true to herself

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End of the Year Activities for Students

Here are five fun literacy activities you can use with your students to close out an interesting year of blended learning due to the pandemic.

1) Send thank-you emails

What better way to end the year than helping students learn how to craft notes of appreciation and sending them to faculty, staff, and other students?  Everyone has worked hard the last few months and could use kind words.  In times of quarantine, social distancing, and hybrid learning, taking time to stop and acknowledge individuals with heartfelt gratitude helps students realize both others’ impact on them and their impact on others.

2) Progressive stories

Begin a new document with a list of randomly-ordered student names with your class.  Write a starting sentence in the document and share the document with the first person on the list.  The first student has to continue the story with a sentence of their own, then share the document with the second person on the list.  Continue this sequence until every student has contributed.  For variation, start a couple of different stories with the list of names in different order.  See what creative and humorous stories emerge!

3) Found poem gallery

Students can use their mobile devices to snap a photo of an existing block of text (such as a page in a book).  Students can use an annotation tool to strategically and thoughtfully mark out words, leaving a small number of words uncovered that result in a poem.  Students can post their finished poems to Padlet or some other platform for others to comment on their creations.  You can see an example on Kate Hutchinson’s blog.

4) Six-word memoirs

Students can summarize their pandemic-shortened school year in six cleverly-chosen words.  You can read more about this project idea HERE.

5) Video & Film Challenges

Give your students a prompt to make a short video to close out the school year. Tim Needles @timneedles always has some inspiring video and art challenges from untraditional selfies to self portraits. You can find a lot more creative ideas on his YouTube Channel and the Jacob Burns Film Center Education Blog also posts different film challenges students can partake in.

Hopefully these five suggestions get you started thinking about other ideas you can incorporate. 

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