Tag Archives: Non Fiction

Non Fiction Book Bingo: A Sidequest

NonFiction Bingo Image-2

Last week I shared the Citizen Journalism Quest my students are working on this fall. One of the requirements during this adventure quest is for students to choose a nonfiction book to read independently. Students will refer to their independent reading books for content knowledge as well as craft structure presented throughout the text. I have added a Reading Bingo for a Sidequest as part of the entire adventure quest.

In video games Sidequests come in a variety of forms, and completing sidequests generally brings reward to the player such as additional equipment or abilities, areas to explore, supplemental plot related details, or fun unlockables. Gamasutra breaks down some dos and don’t of designing side quests on their blog.

For the Non Fiction sidequest I created Bingo. Students have a choice to complete one row or column for 125 XP (Experience Points) or students might choose to complete the entire board for a total of 500 XP. This is the second sidequest offered throughout the Citizen Journalism adventure quest. The bingo tasks are short and require students to use technology and critical and creative thinking to complete. Some are simple and fun like take a selfie with your reading book or design a ten question quiz on Kahoot. Others tasks include creating a book trailer and writing a review on a class Padlet. In thinking about Universal Design for Learning, this sidequest offers flexibility in the ways students access material, engage with it and show what they know.

NonFiction Bingo Image

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Text Pairing for To Kill a Mockingbird

With the Common Core initiating a push for more informational text into the ELA classroom, teachers are always in search for rich informational texts for close reading.

With my eighth graders this year, I have adopted Kelly Gallager’s Article of the Week assignment. Each week my students are required to read, annotate, and write a one page reflection to show evidence of close reading and their thinking about the reading. I have compiled historical texts, primary documents, contemporary articles, and even some poetry for the Articles of the Week. Below is an annotated list of informational texts I assigned to my students to coincide with their understanding and reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee Biography

FDR’s Inaugural Speech “The Only Thing We Have to Fear . . .”         Connect with the allusion mentioned in Chapters 1

Gender Codes in the 1930s: An Interview by Claudia Durst Johnson          This is an excerpt from a chapter in Using Informational Text with To Kill a Mockingbird by Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle (2011).

The Scottsboro Boys (PBS)

Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here’s Why. by Nikole Hannah-Jones (ProPublica)

Deadly Force, In Black and White by Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones And Eric Sagara (ProPublica)

Blink Your Eyes by Sekou Sundiata

Fear Factor: How Herd Mentality Drives Us (CBS News) This is a great article to pair with the Mob Scene in Chapters 15 and 16.

Letter from Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Jury in TKAM: What Went Wrong by Judge Royal Ferguson

Harper Lee’s Failed Novel About Race (The New Yorker)

Do you have informative and engaging informational text pairings for To Kill a Mockingbird? Please share your ideas in the Comments section.




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When A Story Captures Our Attention: The Unsolved Case of Kendrick Johnson and Connections to America’s History

The holidays are times spent with family and friends. I, myself, have taken the past two weeks to spend time with my family, disconnect from the computer, reflect on the past year as I make plans and set goals for the upcoming year. I know that while I have the luxury and ability to spend time with my family, others do not. 

The week prior to going on winter holiday I was driving home from school listening to NPR only to hear a news story about a fifteen year old African American male, Kendrick Johnson, from Valdosta, Georgia who was found dead, rolled up in a cheerleading mat at his high school last January.  What is disturbing about this case is that even though there are 3,000 students attending this high school, no one has come forward with any information. And even though there is video surveillance from multiple angles showing Kendrick walking into the gym and never coming out, the school has only released a few minutes of video and has held the rest of the video to protect the identities of other students.  What was ruled by the sheriff’s department as an “accidental” death, this case seems more and more suspicious of fowl play than anything with the school responding with “no comment.” Kendrick Johnson’s parents paid to have his body exhumed and sent for a second autopsy which ruled Johnson’s death due to blunt force to his neck.  This case has gotten national attention as the family continues to call for additional investigations.

I was so intrigued by the radio report about this case that I went home and read as much as I could online.  In my classroom I was preparing my students to read To Kill a Mockingbird and my students spent time investigating both The Scottsboro Boys and Emmett Till.  The Kendrick Johnson case had many parallel’s to Emmett Till, a fourteen year old African American male who was brutally murdered in the south in 1955. 




I shared with my students an article by Jordan Conn from the Grantland Newspaper. Although the article is written in multiple parts making parallels between the history of lynchings in the deep south and Kendrick Johnson’s death, I gave my students the first part of the article to draw their own conclusions, raise questions, and make connections.  My students were enthralled with the case and an emotional discussion followed our reading of the article.

Here is the version of the article I gave to my eighth graders with a short response I assigned focusing on the author’s tone in the article. 


As we begin to read To Kill a Mockingbird this winter, I know my students and I will be thinking of Kendrick Johnson and his parent’s fight for justice just as Atticus Finch seeks justice for Tom Robinson.


During this holiday season I wish you peace and happiness to you and your family.



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