Tag Archives: teaching ideas

10 Strategies and Tools to Activate Knowledge

Understanding what your students already know is key to building initial knowledge that they need. Activating Prior Knowledge is important in students understanding, because it allows them and helps make connections to the new information. Using what students already know, helps teacher assist students with the learning process.

Most teachers utilize a K-W-L Chart for activating knowledge and in 2012 I wrote a blog post Beyond KWL Charts describing eight different strategies, I thought it was time for an update with some new strategies and tools that help “honor what students bring to the classroom and provides them with necessary context and connection to the purpose and payoff of what is to be learned. It is essential to culturally relevant pedagogy,” according to Jeffery D. Wilhelm, Adam Fachler, and Rachel Bear are the authors of the book Planning Powerful Instruction: 7 Must-Make Moves to Transform How We Teach–and How Students Learn.

KWHLAQ – These updated charts extend the range of a basic KWL chart to incorporate more metacognition, and follow-through towards continuing learning and related action. This chart includes How, Actions, and Questions alongside of the traditional what do you already know, what do you want to know, and what have your learned.

BRAIN POURS/BRAIN DUMPS – Brainstorming comes in many forms and asks students to write down everything they remember about a topic or subject. This is similar to a free write where students write all the things that come to their mind or they are thinking about without worrying about spelling, punctuation, and proper usage.

CAPTION THIS – One of my favorite activities from Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook, the teacher selects an image and students annotate, comment, and even write a story to describe what they see in the image.

PADLET – This platform is great for collaboration and curation of ideas and activities. I use Padlet with my grad students and middle school students to share ideas, explain concepts, and collaborate in the brainstorming process.

ANSWER GARDEN – Another great online tool to post a question to the class and have students respond in 140 or 170 characters, what is great about this platform is that it creates a word cloud of all the responses with the most repeated words larger than others.

ANTICIPATION GUIDES – An anticipation guide is a comprehension strategy in any content area that poses statements or questions for students about the larger themes and ideas presented in the unit. I use anticipation guide often prior to a reading unit to gauge students thinking about themes connected to the unit of study. You can preview the one I created on Google Forms on WW2 and the Holocaust

GALLERY WALK – During a gallery walk, students explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room. I use this strategy for students to respond to a collection of quotations, images, and textual excerpts. This strategy requires students to physically move around the room, it can be engaging to kinesthetic learners. Texts should be displayed “gallery style,” in a way that allows students to disperse themselves around the room, with several students clustering around each particular text. Texts can be hung on walls or placed on tables. The most important factor is that the texts are spread far enough apart to reduce significant crowding. Students walk around the room to read or view the texts around the room and then respond or comment on poster paper, a graphic organizer, or later during a large class debrief.

GAMES like Kahoot, QuizletLive, Quizalize, Quizizz – Test what students already know about a topic or idea by asking a series of questions on a game platform. Students love these games and they are perfect to access prior knowledge with low stakes or can also be utilized at the end of the lesson to see what students learned.

SURVEYs/QUESTIONAIRES – Make a list of 10-15 statements related to the subject content, including commonly held misconceptions. Have students mark “true” or “false” next to each statement.

WORD WEBS – Provide students with a word web of key words and concepts related to the topic or concept to be learned. Ask students to circle the words they already know or write a sentence using a 4-5 of the words that explains the connections between the ideas presented in the word web.

Have more ideas that work well with your students, share in the comments section for our readers.

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8 Activities to Help Students Understand & Experience the National Parks

I recently took a family trip to Maine for a week and during our trip we visited Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. Visiting the park that was breathtaking, the gorgeous views of the ocean and surrounding Maine Islands. We travelled up to Cadillac Summit, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard – note I am afraid of heights so this was scary and it took me awhile to get out of the car as my kids jumped around on the rocks! We drove down to Jordon Pond, a glistening 187 acre pond formed by the Wisconsin Ice Sheet during the last glacial period. Driving around Park Loop Road we stopped to take in the incredible rock formations, cliffs, ocean, and tried to hear the waves crash at Thunder Hole.

Our excursion made me think about the research reports that students have to do about the park and does that really give them an immersive experience to the awe-inspiring beauty of the National Parks. Not really, so here are some alternative activities to help students see the beauty of our planet, maybe become rock nerds, and experience the gems of nature.

  1. Take A Virtual Trip to a National Park – Many of the National Parks like Yellowstone and Channel Island National Parks allow people a 360 Degree Video of the geological features in each national park. Some parks provide videos and virtual tours for students to immerse themselves in the rich marine life underwater at Channel Island National Park or watch the sun rise over Garfield Peak in Crater Lake National Park. Check out this virtual tour down to Jordan Pond in Acadia.

2. Geology Connections – America has a rich geological legacy and the National Parks help us understand the Earth’s history and formation. Students can study rocks and minerals, plate tectonics, land forms, geologic time. Ask students to look at the rocks in their neighborhood and community as an entry point to understanding larger geologic fundamentals. Or students might create a chocolate Rock Cycle model.This topic is also lends itself to a lesson on weathering and erosion.

3. Learn About Indigenous Land – Maine is the homeland of the Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn. At the beginning of the trail to Acadia National Park is the Abbe Museum, which showcases the history and cultures of the Native people in Maine, the Wabanaki. All of the land in the United States and Canada was the homeland of Indigenous people and we need to recognize that and teach students about the people who came before us. There is a history before the “explorers founded and settled on American soil. This can include lessons on deconstructing stereotypes, Colonization, and Human Rights.

4. Observe & Respect the Wildlife – Our national parks is home to incredible wildlife. Wildlife Webcams allow students to observe the incredible wildlife in our National Parks. From bear cams to ocean cams, and eagle cams, students can see these animals in natural habitats. Watch, study, and research more about your favorite animal living in the National Parks to share with others.

5. Let’s Play Games and Challenges – What do you know about our National Parks? The National Parks Service has curated a page of games and challenges that any students can play. Test your knowledge of wildlife and bird calls, draw, design, or create something inspired from the parks, or play virtual national parks bingo. Students can try out one or many of these games and challenges or create their own game. If you love games, Underdog Games created a fun game that I have played with my family called Trekking the National Parks board game to learn more about the National Parks and makes you want to visit all of the 60 National Parks across the U.S.

6. Literature & Poetry – Through America’s history, writers and poets have found beauty and inspiration in nature. After taking a virtual tour of the National Parks or sharing images from different parks around the United States, students can write their own poetry and writings inspired by the landscapes. Forest Poetry, POV piece from a Grizzly living in the park or coyote climbing Bubble Mountain, write a narrative based on the people who first lived on the land, these are three different writing activities to inspire students creativity and learn more about the National Parks.

7. Read Literature and Writing Inspired by Nature – There are many writings about nature that students can read and analyze or use as mentor texts for their own writing. The National Parks Service has a lesson plan deconstructing Carl Sandburg’s Poem “Fog.” Here is Book Riot’s curated list of 33 poems on Nature that Honor the Natural World.

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BY CARL SANDBURG

The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 

It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.

8. Conservation is Key – Conservation is the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of natural environments and the ecological communities that inhabit them. According to the recent United National Climate Report, Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.” It is imperative that we take bigger steps to helping reduce this window to climate crisis. Students can use this report as a catalyst to conducting projects and reports to show ways we can all make a difference to slow down climate change. Educators 4 Social Change publishes articles, lesson plans, videos, and informational sites to help teach climate change.

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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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Jammin’ with Google’s Jam Board

This week my school quarantined due to a COVID outbreak. As a result, the next two weeks we are teaching synchronous lessons remotely. Students and teachers are online from 8AM – 3PM; that is A LOT of screen time. How do you keep students engaged in live online lessons?

This semester I have found Google’s Jamboard to be a great chameleon-like tech tool for any content area teacher to utilize. Here are ten suggestions how you can use Google’s Jamboard for collaboration, classroom hooks, showcase understanding, exit tickets, and even assessment. What is even more awesome, you can open or create a Jamboard right in Google Meets.

Now this tool is not all cotton candy and rainbows. An important thing to note is that just like any of Google’s other collaborative tools, once you share a Jam with your class they have full editing power, meaning they could write on any and every sticky note provided for the class (or do a number of other devious things. So, setting clear expectations with students is imperative.

This quick video shows students adding ideas and observations to a class Google Jamboard during a Google Meet after reading aloud a student’s essay on gun control. Students add sticky notes with their observations of the craft moves in the essay.
  1. Stickynote Brainstorming – Ask a question. Students respond and reflect. Jamboard is great for student brainstorming to share their thinking in a collaborative way.
  2. Annotate a Text – Consider Jamboards a giant whiteboard and the teacher can add print text, a key quote or even a picture. Students can each annotate and write around the text to show thinking and understanding. FYI, if you teach science you might post an image of a cell or rock formation and students flood the board identifying and labeling elements of the image. This video provides more detail how to annotate texts in Jamboard.
  3. Graphic Organizers – The teachers can use a Jamboard template to create a Frayer Model or Sequence Chart, or Mind Map. Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook offers lots of graphic organizers for Jamboard you can copy and use in your classroom.
  4. Jamboard templates – Want more? this post on Ditch that Textbook provides 10 Jamboard templates for distance learning (with Kris Szajner)
  5. Exit Tickets are easy to create on Jamboard. Students can post something they learned, a question they have or even rate the lesson. The tech fairies recommend for exit tickets, keep it as simple as students dragging their sticky note to a column (or image) that was labeled with what they learned, what was interesting, or a question that they still have.
  6. SEL – Since many students are learning in isolation being remote, teachers are now being asked to focus on social emotional learning. Beginning your lesson with a check in using emojis, pictures, and icons, and asking how are you feeling allows teachers to take a SEL temperature among students.
  7. Freewriting & Sketchnoting – Give students the space and time to sketch and write responses, prototypes, even brainstorm story and design ideas. Provide students the opportunity to debrief afterwards and share their thinking with others.
  8. Storyboarding – Students can put sticky notes of events that happened in a story or book to create a plot pyramid. In History class students can design a timeline or if students are creating a movie they might sketch and write out the types of shots to plan the beginning, middle, and end of the story presenting.
  9. Show What You Know – Math teachers can use Jamboards for students to show their work and explain how to solve a problem or define a math concept.
  10. Towering Ideas – Google has a collection of Jamboard activities for students in grades 6-12 that focus on critical thinking and collaboration. You can read more about them in this document: Student Centered Learning with Jamboard.

Before Jamboard I used Padlet and I still am, but as a paid platform I am limited in the amount of padlets I can create using the free version. With Jamboard, I can create unlimited Jamboards and allow for similar collaborative features that Padlet provides. Plus, teachers are getting even more creative using Jamboards for blackout poetry, games, and 6 word stories and more. Perusing social media and Pinterest, you can find lots more ideas to adapt for your own content and students learning.

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Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker as a Touchstone Text

Happy New Year and 2020!

With all of the buzz this holiday season due to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the concluding episode in the nine-episode Skywalker saga, I want to start the new year off with a post offering teaching ideas and lessons for this epic story.

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Image from ign.com

Now, if you didn’t see the movie, note there are some spoilers throughout this post.

Let’s talk theme first. This is a story about family, good versus evil, finding your inner strength, and friendships. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, co-writer of Episode IX Chris Terrio states, “When Luke says, “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect” in Episode IX, that’s Luke speaking. That’s his own character. He’s making fun of himself. He’s saying to Rey, “Please don’t make the same mistake that I did.” That’s another theme of the film. How do we learn from our ancestors? How do we learn from our parents? How do we learn from the previous generation? How do we learn from all the good things that they did but not repeat their mistakes? In that moment, it truly is a character moment because we quite deliberately set up the same situation of tossing a saber, but this time, Luke is there to save Rey from making a bad choice” (2019).

Each episode tackles its own themes about coming of age, courage, and a grand theme about family.

Star Wars is based on Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth or Hero’s Journey.

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Image from AttackoftheBooks.com

Throughout the entire saga viewers follow Luke, Anakin, Rey, and even Kylo Ren along their own Hero’s Journey described by Joseph Campbell. As Jedi’s Luke Skywalker and Rey have similar journeys, Anakin and his grandson, Kylo Ren follow their own journeys into – and for Kylo Ren, out of the dark side.

Check out this lesson plan from Prestwick House on Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey.

Particularly in Episode IX, there is a major scene between Kylo/Ben Solo and his father’s memory, Han Solo. In Hollywood Reporter article, Terrio states, “Atonement with the father is a very Joseph Campbell idea. In a way, the great family sin of Kylo Ren was parricide — he killed his father. He committed any of number of sins throughout the galaxy; he’s not an angel. He’s done many truly horrible things, but on a level of the family saga, as in any Greek myth, it was the killing of a parent that is the central sin that needs to be atoned for.”

 

Following the idea of mythology and Star Wars, in the Hollywood Reporter article, “Why ‘Star Ways: The Rise of Skywalker’ is Dividing Fans, author Richard Newby states, “The Rise of Skywalker relies on the idea that people can create their own myths, regardless of the circumstances they were born into. Rey’s arc is echoed through Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren, a former stormtrooper, drug smuggler and heir to the dark side. Each of these three characters seemed destined for villainy, but The Rise of Skywalker instead acknowledges the fact that, yes, everyone has a past, but not everyone is destined to be who they are because of bloodlines or past mistakes. Rey’s parents chose to be nobody, and she chooses to be somebody, rectifying the failures of two lineages, Palpatine and Skywalker, and choosing who she is, adopting the namesake that means something to her — not because she was chosen for it, but because she chose it. She is the story she tells to herself, rather than the story others have told about her.” Thus, this story helps our students learn that they are in charge of the story of themselves, no matter who their parents are or the situations they are born into. This element of the story provides hope and encouragement for viewers.

 

Back in 2016, the New York Times Learn Network  provided readers with different lesson plan ideas connecting to history, science, and English Language Arts. Additional lessons bring Star Wars literacy across the content areas with math, economics, and even art and design.

The Literary Analysis of Star Wars is another aspect to examine. Obi-Wan says to Luke Skywalker during Return of the Jedi (1983), “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view,” “A certain point of view?” Luke replies incredulously. Obi-Wan responds in turn, “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

Point of view is key throughout the Star Wars movies. You might have students write their own short story or monologue from another character’s point of view. In fact, Penguin Random House published a collection of short stories written by contemporary young adult authors titled Star Wars): From a Certain Point of View by Renee Ahdieh, Meg Cabot, Pierce Brown, Nnedi Okorafor, Sabaa Tahir. This collections offers 40 stories celebrating 40 years of Star Wars.

So, what is your favorite Star Wars quote? And how do you use Star Wars in your classroom? Let’s start a dialogue in the new year.

 

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Lessons from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

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Aretha Franklin (image courtesy from npr.org)

LEGENDARY singer Aretha Franklin died today. The music icon, who influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968) has left an indelible mark on the History of Rock and Roll, Civil Rights, and Women’s Right’s Movements.

Franklin cemented her place in American music history with her powerful voice that stretched over four octaves. In her decades-long career, her hits spanned the genres, from soul to R&B, to gospel and pop. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.

Of Franklin’s dozens of hits, none was more closely linked to her than the empowering 1967 anthem Respect with its inspiring “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” refrain.

Franklin had more than 10 Top 20 hits in 1967 and 1968 and was pictured on the cover of Time magazine. At a time of rebellion and division, her records were a musical union of the church and the secular, man and woman, black and white, North and South, East and West.

Growing up in the 1950s, Franklin was surrounded by civil-rights activists from a young age, and spent her trailblazing career supporting those who fought for equality—and setting an example herself as an American success.

Franklin was raised primarily by her father, C.L. Franklin, a Baptist minister and a civil-rights activist that organized the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom, which was the largest civil-rights demonstration in U.S. history until the March on Washington displaced it two months later. Martin Luther King Jr., a friend of C.L. Franklin’s, delivered an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Detroit march.

In 2016 interview with Franklin, Elle Magazine noted it was written into her contract in the 60s that she would never perform for a segregated audience. Franklin said she was glad that the song became linked to feminist and civil-rights movements. She added that the line “you know I’ve got it” has a direct feminist theme.

“As women, we do have it,” she says. “We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

Aretha Franklin’s lyrics and life story are teaching tools for our students. Whether reading a biography about the Queen of Soul or analyzing her song lyrics, Franklin offers many lessons throughout her music that touch on topics of activism, relationships, and power.

Listening to Franklin’s lyrics one could analyze:

  • What is this song about?  What message is the singer trying to convey?
  • Do the lyrics remind you of anything you have learned about concerning the civil right’s movement and or women’s movement in the 1960s?
  • What craft moves and music elements influences in this song? — Possible answers include call-and-response, complex rhythms between different instruments, and/or a Gospel performance style.
  • What elements of music have popular artists today borrowed, modeled, and mentored from Franklin’s music?

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Hidden History

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In the Author’s Note of Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea she writes,

Every nation has hidden history, countless stories preserved only by those who experienced them. Stories of war are often read and discussed worldwide by readers whose nations stood on opposite sides during battle. History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance. Books join us together as a global reading community, but more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past.

What determines how we remember history and which elements are preserved and penetrate the collective consciousness? If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memoirs, and personal testimonies available. There are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them.

Please give them a voice.

Sepetys’ work of historical fiction is a collection of vignettes told in alternating voices of young adults who are refugees trying to escape their war torn countries during World War II and hoping to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will take them to safety. Caught between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia’s Red Army, many of these young people left their homes and families behind on a quest for freedom and safety.

During World War II the Wilhelm Gustloff was carrying more than 10,000 refugees, five thousand who were children,  when on January 30th, 1945, a Soviet submarine torpedoed the ship, sinking with majority of the passengers on board. That is more than the lives lost on the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet I did not know any of this until I read Sepetys’ book. In fact, she writes that “in the year 1945 alone, over 25,000 people lost their lives in the Baltic Sea due to ships being bombed and sunk.”

I want to hone in on the idea of “Hidden History.” What is the history that gets told and taught in our schools. This concept sparked two different projects for a history/humanities class.

Hidden History Project –  Students research and uncover a piece of “hidden history.” Students can write about or create a video about some aspect of history that has been lost (like a piece of art or artifact), uncover a mystery, or share the story of a survivor or witness.

For example, National Geographic’s video on the mysterious Amber Room, considered the Eighth Wonder of the World, was lost during WWII when it was looted by the Nazis. The Amber Room, a world-famous chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors, originally constructed in the 18th century in Prussia.

Historical Testimonies – When I taught a middle school drama class I asked students to interview a family member one or two generations older than the students and then turn the interview into a monologue to present to the whole class. This assignment has two parts. First students select a family member to interview and brainstorm a list of questions to ask the person about an important time in their life — See the Great Questions from StoryCorps. The second part of the assignment would be for students to read through and edit the interview responses to create a monologue that tells a memory moment of this particular family member. Students can dress up and bring in an artifact of the person when presenting the monologue.

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5 Professional Books to Strengthen Student Learning

I have spent the past two weeks binge reading professional books published this year. Reading professional books about teaching allows me to reflect on my own teaching practices and look into new ways to support the learners in my classroom. All of the books   inform my thinking about literacy in order to strengthen students’ reading and writing.

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Let’s begin by throwing out everything you know and teach about the literary essay in secondary school. The formula for teaching essays in schools is not really an “essay.” Katherine Bomer’s The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them (Heinemann, 2016) shares some of the most beautifully crafted essays throughout her book as she calls for the need to revise what we think we already know about teaching and writing essays. Each chapter of her book takes the reader through the “essaying” process from reading closely to crafting powerful essays. Bomer defines essays as “nonfiction prose, whose author unveils a central idea about the world and its occupants and invites – with bold, sometimes lyrical exposition and interesting kaleidoscope of facts, observations, memories, anecdotes, and quotes from others – readers to watch him or her think about that idea for a few pages.” (p.22) She argues the problems with standardized essays forms and supports utilizing the essay for the practice of “writing to think.” Bomer offers strategies to help get ideas down on paper and hones in on the craft moves of great essayists. The book includes powerful essays and essay excerpts from Brian Doyle, LeBron James, Roxane Gay, and dozens more.

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Fisher, Frey, and Lapp’s, Text Complexity: Stretching Readers With Texts and Tasks, 2nd Edition (Corwin & ILA, 2016) addresses the quantitative and qualitative measures of text complexity so teachers can make instructional and assessment decisions to support students as readers. The authors discuss all the characteristics of the reader and a text to consider.  For example, when considering the reader teachers cannot ignore background knowledge, fluency, cultural knowledge, and vocabulary knowledge for text selection and teaching. When choosing a text, teachers must analyze the text for levels of meaning or purpose, structure, language and knowledge demands. These considerations allow teachers to “plan appropriate instruction and strategically guide the development of their learners.” (p. 67) The book contains a number of checklists and tables that highlight the strategies and skills needed to build students’ knowledge. Fisher, Fray and Lapp describe teacher led tasks like Think Alouds, Close Reading, Scaffolding, and Collaborative Conversations as examples of strategies to help students read more, read widely, and read deeply, in order to develop life long readers.

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Years ago I read a book by Robyn R. Jackson titled Never Work Harder Than Your Students (ACSD, 2009) which addressed having students do the difficult work of learning to build stamina and knowledge. Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris’ book Who’s Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse, 2016) takes a similar vein to Jackson’s work and looks specifically at Read Alouds, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading in order for teachers to push students towards leading the conversations about books and reading. By asking students, “What could you try?” puts students in the driver seat instead of scaffolding, front loading, or telling students the answers. We want students be in the driver seat rather than autopilot in our classrooms to thinking deeply and construct meaning versus teachers constructing meaning for students. Constructing meaning should be done by our students and Burkins and Yaris offer strategies and prompts that make stronger readers. Looking to maximize our students’ roles, teachers become facilitators so that students can apply what they know and think.
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Both Who’s Doing All the Work? and Text Complexity address a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006). As Dweck states in an article for EdWeek, “Students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. Finally, we found that having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) could foster a growth mindset and its benefits.”

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Struggle is natural and learning can be challenging, it’s how students respond to challenge, struggle, and the hard parts is what really matters.  Gravity Goldberg’s Mindsets & Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge (Corwin, 2016) is an ode to growth mindset in the classroom. Building on the works of Dweck, Angela Duckwork’s Grit and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Goldberg describes the new role of teachers as miners, mirror, models, and mentors to encourage a “stronger appetite for learning” among our students. Teachers must first admire their students, give detailed and effective feedback, show students what we do as readers, and then guide students towards ways of reading that work for them. Goldberg offers a visual tour of effective classrooms through pictures, descriptions, charts, and lessons.

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Kate Roberts & Maggie Beattie Robert’s DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence (Heinemann, 2016) offered four teaching tools to bring into the classroom as scaffolds and supports for student learning. Teaching charts, Bookmarks, Micro Progression Charts, and Demonstration Notebooks are four visual tools that explain ideas, clarify, and illustrate skills and techniques so students can turn around and recall key ideas taught.  As a teacher who already uses charts and demonstration notebooks, the micro progression charts and bookmarks were two artifacts that I plan on bringing back to my classroom and utilizing with my students. The micro-progressions of skills chart articulates criteria for students the different levels of that skill and creates a model for each level. Below is a picture of an example of a micro progression chart.

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image from https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/565312636_295x166.jpg

We all have our favorite professional texts for teaching reading and writing. The books mentioned here offer great insight and teaching moves to support students as critical thinkers, readers, and writers.

If you have any professional books you recently read and find helpful with teaching literacy, please share in the Comments section on this blog.

 

 

 

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Adventure Quests: Learning About Current Events & the World

An Adventure Quest is a mission with an objective. A quest is a long and arduous search for something.

Currently, my students are working on an investigative journalism unit, so I created an Adventure Quest based on current events addressed in the news each week.

With the use of ActivelyLearn.com, Twitter, and Google Forms I created a series of Trivia type questions. Each week one question is posted on my Teacher Website and students submit their answers on a Google Form. Each question is worth 50 XP or Experience Points. Additional GP or Gold Points points could be earned by the die- hard fans by going onto Twitter and searching the hashtag #RMS8RQuest to find more Adventure Quest Questions. The student with the most points at the end of the Adventure Quest, earns an additional 1,500 XP Classcraft Points PLUS a Treasure (a gift card).

Each week students log on to Actively Learn and read an Article of the Week. Both the Article of the Week and this Adventure Quest are optional homework.  I do not give homework in my class but encourage students to read to build their reading skills and knowledge about the world.

Actively Learn is a digital reading platform that contains books, articles, poems, and speeches. Students join a “classroom” created by their teacher to read assigned digital texts and complete assignments within the workspace. Actively Learn offers teacher designed assignments with ready made questions or teachers can design their own questions and prompts.

The articles that students have read read for the Adventure Quest include

Anthony Cuthbertson’s Newsweek Article “APPLE CEO TIM COOK REJECTS ORDER TO UNLOCK SAN BERNARDINO GUNMAN’S IPHONE”

NPR’s RadioLab Podcast on the Galapagos

Mark Jeffries article on Why We Don’t Wipe Mosquitoes Off the Face of the Earth”

To address International Women’s Day Ann A. Simmon’s article “Women Around the World Still Have a Long Way to Go”

The Twitter quests are not based on readings but events happening in the news that specific day, hence they are worth less points. Twitter questions have included Who did President Obama nominate for Supreme Court? and What Lego mini figure was unveiled this week?

Many of my students have been excited and enthusiastic to participate in the Adventure Quest. It is completely optional and has brought about healthy competition among many of my students.  I have a Leaderboard  or score board posted in my classroom for students to see who is on top.

I am going to have to create a really difficult question to break the quadruple tie that is happening right now!

Adventure Quests are fun side activities for motivated or motivating students to learn about a specific topic. The Adventure Quest that I planned fit seamlessly into my classroom since the trivia questions evolved based on what was happening in current events. Students were reading more and paid attention to what was happening in the news and the world around them.

Adventure Quests can be adapted to any content area. Students are in charge of their own learning and it helps them engage with content material in a new way.

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No Tech Game Based Learning Activities

I work with some awesome teachers. One colleague, Kristie Orlando,  is a Spanish teacher who has a fun filled interactive classroom that promotes learning. Her students are actively engaged and enthusiastic being in her class. Today I got to sit in her classroom and see her in action. I got to see two action packed review games that she facilitated to help her students review for an upcoming test . This got me thinking about other “No Tech” games and kinesthetic activities teachers can do in their classrooms to energize classroom learning while at the same time reinforcing skills.  

The game I observed in Kristie’s Spanish classroom was GRUDGE Ball. The following directions are from Kara Wilkins’ blog To Engage Them All. Here is how to play:

1.Students were divided into five teams of four-five students each.

On the SMARTBoard was a slide with each team listed and 10 Xs under each of the teams.

On the back of the classroom door is a basketball hoop.

2.Each group gets a question.  If they get it right they automatically get to erase two X’s from the board.  They can take it from one team or split it.  They can not take X’s from themselves.

3. Before they take off these X’s, though, they have a chance to increase their ability to get the other teams to hate them.  They get to shoot a Nerf basketball into the basketball hoop.  There were two lines with masking tape.  One is a two point line while the other is a three pointer.

4. If the student shoots from the two point line and get it in, they can take four X’s off the board.  If they go from the three point line, and make it in, they can take five off the board.  If they don’t make it they still get to take the original two off the board.

The object of the game is to knock everyone else off and people are going to get upset but that is okay (hence the name GRUDGE ball).

Another game Kristie shared with me was Bazinga which I have adapted for my students using Classcraft points. The directions for the game below are from Simplifying Radicals Blog.

This game can be played with multiple teams. Each team starts with no points and earns one point every time they answer a question correctly.  If the team answers correctly they earn one point and choose a Bazinga card.  If they answer incorrectly, the question then goes to the next team.

Here is the breakdown of the different Bazinga Cards:

Cards about Points:

– (3) Erase one point from all other teams.

– (3) Double your score.

– (3) Take away two points from one other random team and give them to your team.

– (6) Add two points to your score.

– (3) Erase two points from one other random team.

Action Cards:

– (2) Randomly switch one player from each of the other teams.

– (2) Randomly have a player from the winning team go to the losing team.

– (2) The team with the least points must collectively do 10 pushups.

– (2) The team with the most points must collectively do 10 pushups.

The Bazinga Card:

Take Half of Every Team’s Score.

Particularly in middle school, students need to get up and move around. The next three “No Tech” games are ones that I have organized to help my students review course material, use their kinesthetic abilities, and work cooperatively.

Reviewing for a quiz or a test? Why not make it a Review Relay.  Divide the class into four teams Each team would have two beach pails about 20 or so yards apart or opposite sides of the classroom (just make sure to clear the desks to run from one end of the classroom to the other). Place all the review questions in beach pails on one end of the classroom.  Each team starts at the same time.  They pull out questions one at a time and work together as a team to answer them.  When the question is answered correctly they peel the tape off the back of the question and see if they got it right.  If they got it right they run and put the question into the other pail.  if they got it wrong they keep it with them (outside of the pail).  They can’t try again if they get it wrong because they will already have seen the answer.  This will put the pressure on them to get the right answer the first time and not guess.  When the runner returns the next question can be taken out.  The team who finishes first wins, unless they got questions wrong and another team got more questions correct than them.  

Make a Life Size Scrabble to review vocabulary and spelling words. Using 8 ½ X 11 paper, print enlarged Scrabble letters. The letters should be distributed as follows:

  • 2 blank tiles
  • 1 point: E ×12, A ×9, I ×9, O ×8, N ×6, R ×6, T ×6, L ×4, S ×4, U ×4
  • 2 points: D ×4, G ×3
  • 3 points: B ×2, C ×2, M ×2, P ×2
  • 4 points: F ×2, H ×2, V ×2, W ×2, Y ×2
  • 5 points: K ×1
  • 8 points: J ×1, X ×1
  • 10 points: Q ×1, Z ×1

Give each team the letters and have them spell out the answers to questions.

Lastly, I have had a few teachers share with me how they use Jenga in their classrooms. In my ELA classroom I created Literacy Jenga with questions about reading fictional texts. You can find the instructions to play Jenga on the Milton Bradley website. The questions that I have taped to the Jenga blocks are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy level of complexity. Questions ask about the setting and characters to sharing a different ending to the text. Students are working in small groups playing Jenga and answering the questions on the Jenga blocks to rebuild a tower.

To play, one player pulls out one block anywhere in the tower. Reads the questions out loud and answers the question to the group. That player re-stacks that block on top to create a new row.  Students switch turns repeating the first part of the directions. Players keep playing until the tower falls down.

There are great games to play with students to energize the classroom and keep students moving, boost brain power, and even improve memory.

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