Tag Archives: Video Project

Purposeful Vocabulary and Grammar Instruction


Jeremy Hyler and Troy Hicks’ From Texting to Teaching: Grammar Instruction in the Digital Age (2017) is filled with grammar and vocabulary lessons that utilize technology. Their premise is to help teachers and students learn to “code switch” between academic, formal language and cultural text speak. Each chapter illustrates how teachers can weave grammar into authentic classroom experiences, rather than skill and drill.

When speaking of grammar, this includes usage, rules, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Grammar matters because “it offers us options – both as speakers and writers – for creating meaning” (pg. 4) Looking at the Common Core Standards, grammar is now under the Language Standards” and students are expected to gain commands of conventions and show their knowledge of language and conventions when reading, writing, speaking and listening,

Hyler and Hicks’ approach teaching grammar with digital tools, utilized flipped lessons to learn parts of speech, utilize social media, Google Docs, and other digital tools to enliven vocabulary, master mechanics, and learn sentence style with formal and informal writing. Grammar matters because the standards suggest it, digital citizenship has become an essential skill, and revision matters.

“Technology can enhance writing instruction. Smart grammar instruction – coupled with smart uses of technology – will help improve students’ understanding of how to use various sentence patterns, phrases, punctuation, and other stylistic techniques in their own writing” (pg. 24). 

Consider the grammar lessons you teach and how you might enliven them to help students master language conventions to be effective and creative communicators. Here are three ideas from Hyler and Hicks to help you infuse grammar with technology in effective ways.

A teacher made screencast or podcast is a great way for students to demonstrate new knowledge, learn new topics, or listen to a review. Use the tool screencastify or screencastomatic to plan and script an instructional screencast or podcast. The benefit of  a flipped lesson is that these lessons are at students disposal to review when needed. Plus, the best flipped lessons have students do more than a lecture to watch, often teachers provide thoughtful, scaffolded activities associated with the video that students watch. Hyler utilizes a “Watch, Summarize, Question (WSQ)” tool or guide for students as they view the flipped lessons and utilize conventions in their own writing.

To help students learn sentence styles and study great writing, examining sentences in the texts we read help understand the nuances and beauty of writing. Posting a beautifully crafted or complex sentence from a class novel on Padlet is one way to have students analyze sentences and think carefully about writing. Or a sentence that needs revising can be posted on Padlet and students can use revising strategies to help revise the sentence.

For vocabulary building Hyler and Hicks recommend having students “create videos with web tools like WeVideo depicting a real world use of vocabulary words. If real world connections can be made with vocabulary and spelling, students are sure to retain more of the information they have learned and see the relevance” (pg.81). Students storyboard their video draft ideas and are required to draw connections between the vocabulary word and the text students are reading. Lastly, reflection is necessary to gain feedback about the process and new understanding.

Grammar should not taught in isolation. Nor should not be left by the wayside in the English Language Arts classroom. Teachers must constantly reflect on the technology and learning landscape and how we can blend the two to creative relevant and engaging lessons that help our students succeed.

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Springtime Sonnet Projects

In Sonnet 98 Shakespeare wrote,

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight
Drawn after you, – you pattern of all those.
    Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your shadow I with these did play.
Spring seemed to be absent this year with cold rains and fickle weather. That did not stop my students from exploring Shakespeare’s sonnets and learning more about the wise and witty bard. In addition to close reading and textual analysis of the sonnets, my students also participated in a few visual projects to help showcase their understanding of Shakespeare’s prose.
Here are three sonnet projects to inspire creativity and fun while at the same time helping students master Shakespeare’s text.
1. The 5 Frame Sonnet – I talk about this project in length my book, Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018). For this project students work in groups to present Shakespeare’s sonnet visually in only 5 photographs. Students must read, interpret, and summarize the sonnet. Using only images, students showcase the summary and main idea presented in the sonnet. The student example below showcases Sonnet 138.
2. The Sonnet Project – Based in New York City, this organization produced videos of all Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets with professional actors dramatizing the sonnets. Each sonnet video also highlights a specific part or place in and around Manhattan and the Five Boroughs.
Check out their Sonnet 29:
After viewing these videos, students were assigned a sonnet and group to work with to present in video format. This project also required students to read closely and interpret the sonnet in order to create a video to present the sonnet’s key ideas.
Here are two sonnet videos that students created after working to understand :
3. Pop Sonnets – I came across this project after reading an article in Time magazine about a Tumblr page that turns popular songs into Shakespearian Sonnets. Actually, a book has been published to showcase many of these pop sonnets created. Every Thursday the blog shares a new sonnet. Inspired by this site, I gave my students the following assignment:



Here is how I assigned the project to my students:

A. Take your favorite song and transform it into a sonnet. You do not have to write it in Shakespearean English. You do have to use Iambic Pentameter.  However, if you use Shakespearean phrases correctly, you will get 10 extra credit points!
         How to Start —

  • Paraphrase the lyrics.
  • Highlight keywords you want to work in to your sonnet.
  • Condense and reorder your paraphrase into the key parts.  Start with the Volta* and Couplet** and work up to that.
  • Modify the language to follow the sonnet rhyme scheme. Extra credit if you use Elizabethan terms correctly and authentically (10 pts).


The outcome from my students were awesome.

Check out this one a student wrote based on Dua Lipa’s IDGAF:

Thou hath approached me in cordial temper

Regarding me in fond sincerity

I hath turned deaf to thine lies so tender

I harbor no more time nor love for thee

Find thine lady who shall hear thy ramblings

Too many a tear I hath shed for thou

Thy ong reign over my heart is ending

You come bearing apologies and vows

In mine heart for you I hold no regard

Thee hath lied and lain with other women

Shun thy pleading words my heart I hath barred

Thou hath plagued me but I am not broken

You hath nary been kind nor true nor fair

Thine time is over and I no longer care 


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Choose Your Own Adventure Video Project: Deconstructing Disney Princess Films

Do you remember the choose your own adventure books when you were back in elementary school? The reader gets to choose what will happen next.  The CYOA video project is the same idea, the viewer gets to choose what he or she would like to view next by clicking on a link embedded on the video.

In my media literacy elective, Media Savvy Kids, I have my students watch Disney animated films to learn and understand critical theories of gender, race, class, and age.  As a culminating project I decided to have my students create a Choose Your Own Adventure video project to highlight their understanding of critical theory by applying one of the critical theories to Disney’s princess films.  The idea of a Choose Your Own Adventure Project was inspired by  Greg Kulowiec’s high school social studies CYOA video project  that was shared with me at a recent ed tech conference.

First, we watched Tangled in class. Afterwards, I presented my reading of the movie introducing and applying each critical theory to the film.  I defined the critical theories for my students and showed examples how the critical theories can be applied to the movie.  The following week, we watched Brave together in class.  The idea behind these two movies was that they are the most recent Disney princess films and are suppose to present a more updated and feminist princess.  But is she really?  That was one of the guiding questions for this unit of study.  Students had to apply the critical theories and pull put specific examples in the movie Brave.  For the assessment project I selected the student partnerships and each group chose the critical theory they would present in the video.  Students were required to offer three to four specific examples from the movie to support their claim and critical reading of the movies.  Students were also allowed to bring in additional examples from other Disney princess films.  Students collaborated writing their scripts and then we went into production filming the videos.

Here is what the project looked like on paper in the planning stage:


Here is the rubric I created for the project:

Here is the final project:


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