Tag Archives: Reading

Dystopian Quest 2019

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

Call to Adventure

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

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

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

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

Classcraft Dystopian Quest

 

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

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

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12 Strategies to Support Readers

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

Before Reading Strategies

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

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

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

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

During Reading Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Reading Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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5 Activities for Close Reading, Collaboration, and Discussion

David McCullough, author of John Adams and 1776, said during an interview on NPR, “To teach history, use pictures to fuel students’ curiosity.”

We want students to get into a text (whether a primary source or historical fiction) and get a sense what people experienced during other time periods.  Then, students fill in the text with what isn’t being said by sketching, improvs, writing. 

Creative activities help students walk in a particular time period and ignite student interest in the past. Teachers can bring new life to a unit of study by integrating the tools of creative drama and theatre – tools like pantomime, movement, improvisation, scripted drama, oral interpretation, debating, public speaking, readers theatre, storytelling, and the many other ways we use our body or voice to creatively communicate ideas to others. 

Content is what we teach, but there is also the how, and this is where literacy instruction comes in. There are an endless number of engaging, effective strategies to get students to think about, write about, read about, and talk about the content you teach. The ultimate goal is to build a student’s comprehension, writing skills, and overall skills in communication.

Here are five activities to do with your students to promote deeper comprehension, communication, and close reading.

It Says, I Say, So What? – This  reading strategy from Harvey Daniels helps students by guiding them through the process of drawing inferences from the written text. Also, it provides an opportunity to synthesize the information with prior knowledge. I have adapted this many times to include images for students to read closely and articulate what they see and then what does it make you think.

Image Detectives

Reading Detective

10 Questions – Another reading strategy that I employ with my students was adopted by Kelly Gallagher, author of several books. Students read a chunk of text, the first chapter of a novel, or a passage from a nonfiction text and then brainstorm ten questions they have after reading the text. These questions become a frame for further reading and discussion about the text.

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Speed Networking – This activity provides an opportunity for students to make connections and exchange a variety of ideas with their peers in a productive manner. A student and a partner will discuss a given topic for three minutes, then switch to a new partner and discuss again. The number of rotations will depend upon the time available and the topic. The three rules include: 1. Stay on topic, 2. Keep talking until it is time to switch, and 3. Talk only to the person across from you.

Write Around – Students read a passage or a chapter then write a question at the top of a sheet of paper. Students pass their papers to one another or post them in a gallery for everyone to write a response to the open-ended questions.

Student to Student Dialogue Journal – Rather than creating a T-Chart where students record passages they thought compelling and writing a response, there is space for students to share their responses to the students’ double entry responses. Padlet is a great digital tool to collect student response and summaries in the write around and dialogue journals.

And one more . . .

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Mystery Envelopes – Hand small groups a mystery envelope with an index card inside that has a question for the group to answer. Working collaboratively, students formulate answers with evidence to support the text dependent question(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Field Trip: George Washington’s Mount Vernon

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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

In John Trumbull’s painting of George Washington the artist blends history and portrait. George Washington was the commander in chief during the Revolutionary War. This painting epitomizes heroism and nobility.

In the same Yale University Gallery, upstairs from the American paintings, stands Titus Kaphar’s Shadows of Liberty in the Modern Art Gallery with similar characters and colors. Yet, his painting tells a very different story and tone. The golden yellow cape wrapped around Washington is a shredded list of enslaved people held up with rusty nails like a collar and covering his mouth.

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You will not find Kaphar or Trumbull’s painting at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, what you will find is an “authentically interpreted 18th century home,” lush gardens and groundsmuseum galleries, and immersive programs.

Mount Vernon was George Washington’s home. It was also home to hundreds of enslaved people who lived and worked under Washington’s control. In 1799, there were 317 men, women, and children enslaved at Mount Vernon’s five farms, which covered 8,000 acres. They made up more than 90% of the population of the estate. The exhibit states, “Washington’s views on slavery changed over time. Economic and moral concerns led him to question slavery after the Revolutionary War, though he never lobbied publicly for abolition. Unable to extricate himself from slavery during his lifetime, Washington chose to free the 123 enslaved people he owned outright in his will. He was the only founding father to do so.”

Both the Enslaved People’s tour and the museum gallery “Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon” offer a watered down view of slavery and set the tone that the first president of the United States had conflicting views about slavery.

George Washington, ca. 1787–1788 wrote, “The unfortunate condition of the persons whose labour in part I employed, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret.”

History is not one-sided. When teaching about this time period it is important to look at history from multiple perspectives and voices. If you are teaching this time period, here are a few additional resources to add to your repertoire about George Washington.

Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive. 51eu07btpel._sx330_bo1204203200_

Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

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For older students, Dunbar’s original book was a Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction offering a startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family. When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Hmmmmm, that is very sneaky, Mr. Washington! So, when teaching this time period. Let’s just be sure to paint the whole picture. We can bring in artifacts and texts from multiple perspectives and people.

In your are in the Washington, DC area, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate is worth visiting. Also, online there are multiple resources for teachers with lesson plans, virtual tours, a digital encyclopedia, and artifacts. For those who are fans of Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton the Musical, there is a webpage on the Mount Vernon website that looks at how each song from the original cast recording relates to Washington.

 

 

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Let’s Get Ready to Battle . . . Battle of the Books

For the past three months my fourth grader has been engrossed in Battle of the Books. This annual events kicks off the beginning of March with a book party and students receiving a special package of story maps, books, and a book list. The 100 fourth graders are sent off on a mission to read as many books as possible for the battle that occurs the end of May. Each class battles against the other to obtain the title of “Book Champion” by answering questions identifying the books and authors for the 80 titles in a spelling bee – like event that parents are invited to attend with a celebration at the end.

The day of the battle, the entire fourth grade had read more than 1,400 books in that time frame and my daughter’s class of 17 students was the top class to read 509 books. For three months she was determined to read 40 books. Every night we would read an hour before bed and talk through the characters and stories. She was on a mission and the night before the final count, at 37 books she came home from school to powerhouse through three books to meet her personal reading goal. The books ranged from picture books to chapter books. I suggested reading the easiest books first (those with the fewest pages) before getting to Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was intense the last week of the battle.

Amazed by the excitement in the air among the fourth graders the day of the battle, I thought how can I do this in my own classroom and make the Battle of the Books relevant in middle school. Already gamifying my classroom, why not add another layer with a school year long battle of the texts.

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Click on the Image to view the entire book list for the Epic Book Battle

My list contains 100 titles – some still to be determined. The books are in order of the reading and writing units we have throughout the year. You will notice that I have included poems, books, essays, TED Talks, and even podcasts. Why not include a variety of texts for students to read and engage with. My students will have a notebook specifically for their reading notes and sketch notes. The directions for the notebook are below. I am using the directions from English teacher and podcaster, Brian Sztabnik Summer Reading Assignment for his students.

For every book you read you will keep two (or more) pages of notes/sketchnoting to organize your thinking about the text.  “How you organize those three pages is up to you. I know that this is vague and undefined, but look at it another way. I am empowering you to do what you feel is right. You have the freedom to do what you want. You can create whatever you want. All I’m asking you to do is create three interesting pages of notes about your reading experience. When there are little to no rules, the possibilities are endless. It is up to you to make it awesome!”

I am planning the last Friday of each quarter to hold a battle – of sorts. In Classcraft teams students will be asked questions related to the books. The team with the most questions answered correctly will earn treasure to use in class. The 4th Quarter the entire 8th grade class will battle all their classmates. The winning team of the epic battle will earn an even bigger advantage on your final exam.

For every 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 books read and notes completed, students gain XP and various prizes to be utilized in class for their benefit. The student that reads all 100 books . . .  well you will have to wait to collect your fortune! — As for my daughter’s class, there was one student who read all 80 books and won a $100 Amazon gift card. 

The energy and excitement during the battle among the fourth graders was contagious. I was amazed how many books the students read and their collaboration to work together during the battle supporting one another. This is something that I want to recreate with my students in the upcoming school year.

 

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25 Titles for English Language Arts Teachers

One of my graduate students recently asked me what are the most influential books I have read that shaped my teaching philosophies. This student is in the process of studying for her New York State Teaching Certification Exam and English Language Arts CST and is looking for additional material to help her prepare for this test.

I had to think about all the books that I have read, which are the ones that have left a lasting impression that I still refer to today when planning and preparing my lessons. Below is a list of twenty five books that have shaped my teaching and practice over the past twenty years. Additionally, these are the books that I refer to often and use as teaching tools in my graduate courses. The books below are in no particular order.

In the Middle by Nancie Atwell – This is the first book I read in my English Methods class and has left a lasting impact on reading and writing workshop in my own middle school classroom. As Atwell states, “this edition represents my current best set of blueprints for how I build and maintain a writing-reading workshop-the expectations, demonstrations, models, choices, resources, rules and rituals, pieces of advice, words of caution, and ways of thinking, planning, looking, and talking that make it possible for every student to read with understanding and pleasure and aspire to and produce effective writing.”

Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit – An analysis of contemporary classrooms, Lisa Delpit develops ideas about ways teachers can be better “cultural transmitters” in the classroom, where prejudice, stereotypes, and cultural assumptions breed ineffective education. Delpit suggests that many academic problems attributed to children of color are actually the result of miscommunication, as primarily white teachers and “other people’s children” struggle with the imbalance of power and the dynamics plaguing our system.

Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks – “To educate is the practice of freedom,” writes bell hooks, “is a way of teaching anyone can learn.”  Another book I read as part of my educational classes working towards my certification, this book shaped my pedagogy.

The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers and Erin Grunwell – Don’t see the movie! Read the book and see how one young teacher was able to teach empathy and global awareness among her students through literature and writing.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller – If you don’t know Donalyn Miller and you are an English teacher or aspiring ELA teacher you must read this book. Miller helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring.

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kyleen Beers and Bob Probst – In Notice and Note Kylene Beers and Bob Probst introduce 6 “signposts” that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourage students to read closely. Learning first to spot these signposts and then to question them, enables readers to explore the text, any text, finding evidence to support their interpretations.

Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess – This is a mandatory reading requirement in my Literacy in the Content Areas class I teach each semester. Dave reminds all teachers to plan and teach with passion, engagement, and a love of teaching. Never have your students sit through a boring lesson when you can use one of the many hooks described in the book.

Literacy Essentials by Regie Routman – If you are looking for practical, easy-to-implement tools to help students develop as self-determining readers, writers, and learners, Routman focuses on excellence, equity, encouragement, and engagement throughout her book.

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher – Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. This is a book for all educators no matter the subject area you teach to understand the depth of struggling readers and reluctant readers today.

Book Love by Penny Kittle – Following Gallagher’s Readicide, Penny Kittle sheds light on her classroom practices showing teachers ways to promote reading in the classroom as a positive and engaging activity. Students need to be able to read for pleasure and enjoy words, not just reading for textual analysis.

Shades of Meaning: Comprehension and Interpretation in Middle School by Donna Santman – This book shows you how to teach readers the skills and strategies of comprehension and interpretation within the framework of a reading workshop. Shades of Meaning takes you through Santman’s own rigorous workshop, describing the teaching that allows students to stretch and empower their imaginations.

From Texting to Teaching by Jeremy Hyler and Troy Hicks – Grammar is a part of teaching English but the traditional ways of teaching grammar have left a negative impact on people and teachers alike. Hyler and Hicks offer technology tools and teaching strategies that will help students and teachers understand the depths of grammar and become better writers.

Good Thinking: Teaching Argument, Persuasion, and Reasoning by Erik Palmer – The Common Core Learning Standards are big on claim evidence reasoning and Good Thinking provides effective exercises and templates to lead students into improvements in articulating their thinking and backing up their claims.

Teaching Interpretation: Using Text Based Evidence to Construct Meaning by Sonja Cherry Paul and Dana Johansen – Sonja and Dana also provide specific ways for teachers to introduce or review the various concepts that are essential in teaching interpretation to help our students become better critical thinkers. The design of the book allows for teachers to easily incorporate any of the ideas, lessons, assessments, graphic organizers, and list of text resources into an already existing curriculum.

Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen – The basic message of Jensen’s book is that we have a much greater ability to affect the learning of students than we realize. Some of the many topics covered in his book include how to prepare children for school, how to motivate students to participate, how to influence emotional states, how to design smarter schools, and how to enhance memory and critical thinking skills.

The Journey is Everything by Katherine Bomer – Katherine Bomer reclaims the essay as a tool for writing and communicating our ideas. Throughout her book she offers countless mentor texts and ways to teach writing that gets away from the bossy thesis statement and closer to poetic writing.

A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts – Kate Roberts uses the reading workshop approach to teach choice novels, book groups, and whole class novels. She gives permission to teachers to utilize whole class novels to teach key elements of literature without spending too much time teaching books, rather teaching readers.

Text-Dependent Questions, Grades 6-12: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading by Douglas B. Fisher , Nancy Frey, et al. – What does the text say? How does the text work? What does the text mean? What does the text inspire you to do? Fisher and Frey break down close reading into four cognitive pathways to help students peel back the layers of text for deeper meaning.

Teaching English by Design by Peter Smagorinsky – Teaching English by Design is practical, providing examples of units and support for how to create them.

Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson – This is my philosophy: If you are doing all the hard work and the heavy lifting then you are doing all the learning. Jackson’s seven principles will help your students be the lead learners in your classroom an effective facilitator for learning and understanding.  

Using Informational Text to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird by Audrey Fisch & Susan Chenelle – The new Common Core State Standards mean major changes for language arts teachers, particularly the emphasis on “informational text.” How do we shift attention toward informational texts without taking away from the teaching of literature? Fisch and Chenelle have written four books all focusing on different core texts still taught in high schools today.

Sparks in the Dark:Lessons, Ideas and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney – In Sparks in the Dark, Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney share their experiences as educators who purposefully seek to spark a love for reading and writing in the learners they serve. The reason is simple: Writing and reading have the power to change the trajectory of a life.

Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12 by Kelly Gallagher – I will read anything by Kelly Gallagher and this is another must have book for teaching English. The book is filled with many ideas to teach literature and respond to texts. Kelly also provides guidance on effective lesson planning that incorporates strategies for deeper reading.

Do I Really Have to Teach Reading? Content Comprehension Grades 6-12 by Chris Tovani – Building on the experiences gained in her own language arts classroom, Cris shows how teachers can expand on their content expertise to provide instruction students need to understand specific technical and narrative texts. The book includes: examples of how teachers can model their reading process for students.

 

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Murder Mystery Quest

This month I have dusted off classroom copies of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and added Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious to this reading and creative writing unit sending my students into this dark and chilly subsection where everyone is a suspect, red herrings are all around us, and reading is a game of “who done it.”

The Murder Mystery

I thought why not bring some creative fiction writing into the mix in lieu of an essay based on our reading. Hence, students are writing their own murder mystery short stories. I set up three “laps” around this genre to support my student learners.

#1 – Description of a Place

Show the setting of your creative murder mystery fiction through the effective use of sensory details (see, taste, smell, hear, feel) to help readers imagine and live inside this setting.

Write a minimum ONE page (double spaced, 12 point Alegreya Font) description of the place and setting of your murder mystery. Use word choice to create a believable, consistent narrator’s voice. Choose a tone for your story that matches your intent; use literary devices such as metaphor and simile to expertly craft words and sentences. Emphasize words or phrases that are most important; how do you want us to feel about this place?

Check out this example from one of my students:

Ronnie had heard stories about the mansion before, not good ones, but it was honestly much more chilling in person. The gate at the entrance was made of black matte barbed wire, shaped and crafted with jagged swirls and it went up about 12 feet. The mansion itself was something out of a horror story. The window were cracked, the bricks a faded mauve, and the front entrance had two large knockers, gargoyles, with huge black empty eyes.

#2 – Story Map

Utilizing a graphic organizer created by the teacher or designing your own story map, plot out the key elements of your murder mystery short story. Be sure to include: detective, the crime, the victim(s), the suspects, rising action, clues, climax, capture, solution, and resolution.

#3 – Murder Mystery Short Story

Create your own short story based around a crime or a mystery. Your story must be AT LEAST one page, but NO MORE THAN four pages. You MUST be sure to include all the parts of the story we have discussed (characters, setting, clues, red herrings, clues).
Possible Story Starters
1. It was a strange night, there seemed to be a chill in the air…
2. As soon as I arrived, I could sense that something was out of place…
3. One night, as I looked out the window, I saw the neighbor…
4. I was watching TV when I looked up. There in the window I saw…
5. I decided to go for an evening stroll.  I walked about three blocks when I felt it…
6. They would have been fine if they hadn’t stopped for the stranger…
7. Everyone avoided the big old mansion. It was believed to have…
8. They said she was able to utter a few words before she died…
9. Something is drastically wrong! Every time I pick up the telephone…
10. Sometimes I think my friend has strange powers. Every time he’s around…
11. All of a sudden I was trapped!
12. “DID YOU HEAR THAT?” I screamed…
13. As I walked through the door, all I could focus on was the blood that covered the floor…
Since we have started the unit students are immersed in murder mystery and crime fiction. I introduced my students to some addition books and podcasts to help them learn as much as they can about this genre as models, mentors, and writing seed ideas. Here are a few of my favorites:
A six-part scripted podcast series. Teen detective Tig Torres investigates the twisted mystery of the infamous Lit Killer murders. 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.
It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Yes, this is the Cormoran Strike series that J.K. Rowling writes under a pen name.

One of Us is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus by Karen M. McManus

This book is basically The Breakfast Club meets Gossip Girl. Five students walk into detention, but only four walk out alive. The murder victim is Simon, the creator of Bayview High’s very own gossip app, and all four suspects have a motive.
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10 Professional Titles that Inspire & Change the Trajectory of Teaching

I am one of those people who has a stack of books overflowing on my nightstand next to my bed, another pile taking over my desk, and an Amazon wish list twelve books deep what to read next. Professional books are ones that I read closely with a pen to annotate and bring back to my classrooms. This past year I have read ten professional books that I have blogged about in detail and here are a few more worth mentioning.

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180 Days by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle (Heinemann, 2018)

After sitting in a round table session with both Kittle and Gallagher at NCTE back in 2017 I was awaiting this book to see an inside look at how both these amazing high school teachers planned the year in their classroom teaching reading and writing. For any English teacher, this book is a must read because it gives an honest perspective to the demands of teaching reading, writing, and critical thinking.

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A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts (Heinemann, 2018)

I have been lucky enough to take a week long class with Kate at Teachers College Reading and Writing Institute more than ten years ago and have followed her because of her ideas and energy. What is great about this book is how she balances book choice and whole class novels in the reading and writing workshop. She seems to teach reading units in small 2-3 week bursts but that helped me to look closely at how long I may be drowning my students in a reading unit. I am more selective about what I choose to spend time teaching with each whole class novels so that my students can enjoy the books we read together.

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Workshopping the Canon by Mary Styslinger (NCTE, 2018)

Another recommended title for my ELA and Literacy colleagues. This book demonstrates how to partner classic texts with a variety of high-interest genres within a reading and writing workshop structure, Mary E. Styslinger aligns the teaching of literature with what we have come to recognize as best practices in the teaching of literacy.

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Shake it Up Learning by Kasey Bell (DBC, 2017)

When I ran into Kasey Bell at #ISTE18 we swapped books and I sat in the airport awaiting my flight home reading her book. Her ideas are straightforward in helping to create learning experiences for students that empower and ignite curiosity and critical thinking. Her book is accessible to all and she has practical ideas to shake up your teaching and student learning.

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Sparks in the Dark by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney (DBC, 2018)

Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis (DBC, 2018)

This summer I wrote a longer post about the key ideas that I took away from these two books. If the title states or suggests anything to do with literacy, I am going to read it. Both these books are filled with literacy activities that help support the reading and writers in our classrooms and Mandy’s book is all about building a culture of students who love literacy.

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Be Real by Tara Martin (DBC, 2018)

Tara has this infectious personality that is so authentic. After spending time with her at SPARK and ISTE this past year, I am a follower and fan. From #booksnaps and building relationships, Tara is all about “you be you and know that you are awesome.”

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Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond (DBC, 2018)

I consider Tisha a friend ever since we connected through Twitter four years ago. She is an amazing person and always inspired me with the wonderful things she did with her high school culinary students. I am so excited that she has published her first book. Laughter, fun, and gamified experiences can make school a place where students are inspired, empowered, and immersed in learning–and it doesn’t require illusions or smoke and mirrors. The actionable techniques Tisha shares will equip you to put your students center stage in their learning experiences. You want to be in her classroom after reading all the great things she does with her students.

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Hacking the Writing Workshop: Redesign with Making in Mind by Angela Stockman (Hack Series, 2018)

I am on a Makerspace quest and thinking how the writing process and design thinking process of the maker movement parallel each others. I have been doing research and a lot of reading how I can bring making and writing together to boost students writing and creative thinking. Angela Stockman’s book was the start with some key ideas to help me on this quest.

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The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection by Colby Sharp (Little Brown, 2018)

Speaking of creativity, Colby’s book is filled with creative writing prompts that published authors shared with him and answered other people’s creative prompts. These are great prompts to read and complete with your student to inspire creative thinking and growth mindset.

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Get Happy with Hyperdocs

Authors of The HyperDocs Handbook, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis define HyperDocs as

a transformative, interactive Google Doc replacing the worksheet method of delivering instruction, is the ultimate change agent in the blended learning classroom. With strong educational philosophies built into each one, HyperDocs have the potential to shift the way you instruct with technology. They are created by teachers and given to students to engage, educate, and inspire learning. It’s not about teaching technology, it’s about using the technology to TEACH.”

I love that with hyper docs students are able to work at their own pace to learn and showcase their understanding. I think of hyperdocs as roadmaps or game boards for learning input and output. When creating hyperdocs for literary analysis in my middle school English classroom, I consider the important elements that I want students to take away from the text and what are different or differentiated ways that students can showcase their thinking about reading.

Since my students are reading different dystopian texts, I have created different hyperdocs specific to the books they are reading to help build background information about the texts, for students to keep track of their thinking while reading, and to showcase their thinking about the reading by writing a thematic literary analysis essay.

Animal Farm HyperDoc

To check out the HyperDocs with links and activities, click here.

Hyperdocs come in different formats and layouts. This teaching tools allows students to work at their own pace and gives me more time to conference and work with students in small groups or individually. They are multimodal and offer blend learning opportunities.

For more examples of hyperdocs that I have shared on this blog click here.

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Superhero Weapons, Narrative NonFiction, & Citizen Journalism Adventure Quest

I have turned an investigative journalism reading and writing unit with my eighth grade students into a unique citizen journalism adventure quest. Below are the elements of the quest broken down into ten journeys. Each journey/activity is based off a superhero weapon for students to build a toolbox of needed superpowers in deciphering truth and fiction.

Breaking News – In an age where the truth has been attacked, news is unreliable, and journalists are considered deceptive, WE NEED YOUR HELP. We are living in a “POST TRUTH” apocalypse and you must navigate the landscape to overcome the threat of fake news and apathy of knowledge. We must bring information to the forefront and STOP the desemination of disinformation. This map will guide you towards a truth, but you will choose the path that will get us back to a reliable and trustworthy free press and free society.  Here are some tools, lent by many Superheros to help you on this mission.

1 – Thor’s Mjoinir – Providing you with a tool to seek truth, what are the elements of Nonfiction that we must pay attention to? This lesson will provide you with background information to help you on your journey where landmines of information and disinformation look too much alike.  At basecamp we will spend today working together in basic training.

2 – Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth – How do you know if what you read online is true? At basecamp for basic training, we will concentrate on Good Thinking. Learn three modes of persuasion that date back to ancient times – Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Like Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, these three rhetorical devices are your greatest weapons in our Post Truth Apocalypse to investigate truth.

3 – Green Lantern’s Power Ring – The Green Lantern’s ring isn’t just a snazzy accessory; it’s a weapon that can create more weapons! You will choose your own Narrative Nonfiction independent reading book to serve as a communication device and a force field of protection. Consider it a gift that keeps on giving, this will be a wealth of information as well as bring attention to the craft moves and modes of persuasion that our predecessors have embodied.

NonFiction Mentor Text: Booksnaps

You must send me artifacts of your thinking, observations and learning. It is not just what you read but how you critically consume the information. The information and craft moves in this book will guide you. Send me your weekly Booknaps of the Notice and Note Signposts and other key findings weekly so I can see your perspective.

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NonFiction Mentor Text: Thought Journal

You must send me artifacts of your thinking, observations and learning. It is not just what you read but how you critically consume the information. The information and craft moves in this book will guide you. Prepare a Thought Journal highlighting the Notice and Note Signposts and other key findings in your text weekly so I can see your perspective.

4 – Silver Surfer’s Board – The Silver Surfer’s board is one of the most unassuming weapons in the universe. It’s nearly indestructible, it can absorb energy or people (if needed), it can travel through time faster than the speed of light, and it’s mentally linked to the Surfer. Similarly, research is an unassuming weapon for your research, writing, and understanding of “truth.” As you embark on this part of the Journey – Metroid’s Open World – you will need gather Ethos, Pathos, and Logos for your nonfiction narrative topic. Then, choose which is the best path for you to display your knowledge and skill: Annotated Bibliography OR Infographic.

5 – The Helm of Nabu – On the surface, this helmet may look silly, but it’s much more. The helm embodied the spirit and powers of Nabu, a sorcerer and Lord of Order who had some serious control issues. With the helmet, the wearer gains enhanced intelligence, awareness, flight, dimensional manipulation, teleportation, telekinesis, the ability to see the past and future. Before we go any further, we must stop back at base camp to try out the Helm of Nabu to understand Nonfiction Text Structures and consider how one might structure their own Narrative NonFiction Essay.

6 – The Mother Box – This mystical supercomputer can transfer the energy of a being, work as a telepathic device, open boom tubes (teleportation portals), and sustain life.

You will write your own narrative nonfiction essay on a topic that is of interest to you. Include ethos, pathos, and logos to help bring to the forefront a truth that others have yet to see about your specific topic. Use your WitchBlade, Board, and Eye of Agamotto to make yourself and others more informed.

7 – Witchblade – This is another example of an accessory that’s more than meets the eye. The Witchblade looks like a simple piece of women’s jewelry, but it’s deadly. If you’re deemed as unworthy to wear it, it will dismember you. Yes, it has an attitude. If chosen, it bonds to its owner, giving her state-of-the-art armor, swords, daggers, shields and chains. Plus it has healing powers and can reanimate the dead. The opening Lede of your essay needs attitude and should be powerful to engage and inform your reader with valid and reliable ethos, pathos, and logos.

8 – Dr. Strange’s Eye of AgamottoThis artifact has a built in B.S. filter, which releases a light that sees through all lies, disguises and illusions. It can weaken the physical state of any evil being mystical or human, it can open portals, and most importantly it can explore an opponent’s mind to see their deepest and darkest thoughts. To defeat the boss of disinformation you must use the Eye of Agamotto to spread truth and accuracy. Like your Lede, the closing of your essay is a call to action, leaving your readers with a dearth of knowledge and understanding. 

9 – Blade’s Double Edge Sword – Like a double edged sword, peers editing and revision can have multiple benefits when used correctly. Blade’s  sword’s edge is covered in acid, and the handle is rigged with a security device (multiple spikes), which can shatter the hand of anyone who tries to steal it. Only Blade himself and a choice few are aware of the hidden button that can prevent the gruesome reaction. Find a peer in class who will give you feedback to help you make your essay one that stands out and quickly gets you to the last level.

10 – Batarangs Additional Sidequest – Batman is a gadget and weapon master, and one item he never leaves home without is his batarang. It’s a bat-shaped combination of a boomerang and a shuriken that he uses to fight crime. There are also different types of batarangs, including sonic, electrical and explosive versions. As a SIDEQUEST you will record your Mother Box for a creative informative podcast. Check out sample podcasts to hear the elements of this interactive and audio based essay.
Congratulations, you are now part of S.H.E.I.L.D. – Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division within Marvel Universe. You obviously have superpowers, so what is going to be your superhero name and powers you will use to continue to protect the world? Your next adventure quest awaits.

 

For Further Resources:

New York Times Learning Network “Evaluating Sources in a Post Truth World

Descriptions of Superhero Weapons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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