Year in Review Flipagram

My student had a Flipagram running on her phone yesterday and I became obsessed. This is an awesome free app that creates a speedy slide show with music (free for 30 seconds) to one’s pictures. So, I just had to create a year in review slideshow to share with everyone the highlights teaching eighth grade English this year.

Here’s a list of the biggies:

The Literacy Lounge
Interactive Notebooks & Foldables
Common Core Standards
NCTE Annual Convention
Bubble Head Responses
Close Reading
Give More Hugs Partnership
Genius Hour
Tunnel Books
Twitter Chats

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I WIll Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

After three days of tedious testing I feel the need to share this video.

I have mixed feelings about the Common Core aligned New York State test designed by Pearson Assessments.

The 2014 eighth grade exam consisted of a total of twelve reading passages (majority non-fiction), 49 multiple choice reading comprehension questions, eight short responses, and two essays.

Students were asked repeatedly questions about the author’s craft, evidence to support the claim and main idea, the author’s point of view, vocabulary in context, and how the author develops his/her argument or central idea.

The most challenging text was a poem by Newbery awarded author, Laura Amy Schlitz. Her poem, “Edgar’s Falcon,” from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (2007), about life in an English village in 1255 as told by the local children, was the one text my students lamented about after the exam.

In light of these three exam days, teachers and parents need to remind young people that test scores do not determine their success in life. Our students are more than a number.

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Dystopian Worlds: Mash Up & Unit Overview

This week I am beginning a new literature unit, dystopian literature circles. Due to the success of The Hunger Games and the forthcoming Divergent series, my students will select to read one of the following three dystopian novels for our next unit of study:

The Giver by Lois Lowery
Unwind by Neil Shusterman
Animal Farm by George Orwell

To begin the unit, I am starting by changing the rules in my classroom and then have students react and reflect on the rule changes in the classroom. I will introduce the idea of a dystopia and give a book talk about each of the book choices.

Day 2 Pre-Reading Activity consists of a lesson on key themes in dystopian literature

Day 3 Pre-Reading Activity students will complete a QR Code Quest addressing dystopian ideas presented in poetry, music, and art.

Day 4 Pre-Reading Activity is a non fiction text pairing with an article by Rebecca Solnit about the similarities between The Hunger Games and the current political climate today. The main idea presented in the article is that for as much as science fiction and dystopian literature is about the future, it always turns out to be very much about the present.

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Get Your Learn On!

A pep talk to teachers and students from Kid President. No matter who you are you have to look for the awesome everyday. Keep studenting. Make history and make every day the best that it can be. You are intelligent and have the power to do amazing things as you show me everyday in school.

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Digital Citizenship Through the Lens of Social Awareness

This fall my students are participating in the Flat Classroom Digitween Project, one of many global collaborative project founded by Julie Lindsay and Vickie Davis. Students around the world participating in the project study and explore digital citizenship and how to be responsible and reliable online learners. The purpose of the project is to educate and promote responsible online choices as well as immersing students in an online educational community for learning and collaboration. Students collaborate researching and writing a report using a wiki and create a school-based action project that is documented on the wiki.

In our technologically advanced world today, digital citizenship can mean a lot of things. The project is organized according to the five areas of awareness that relate to being a digital citizen: technology, individual, social, cultural, and global.

To help introduce the five areas of awareness to my students I showed my students the two videos “I Forgot My Phone” and “Emma, Le Trefle.” Both videos are funny that make big statements. Many argue face-to-face society is being impacted negatively by technology causing inattentiveness of people to their own families and friends. Cell phones interrupt movies, celebrations, social events, and often become intrusive. This aspect of digital citizenship falls under Social Awareness.

After viewing and discussing the two videos in class I asked my students to create a code of conduct for cell phone use in public places. This was not an easy task. Students debated whether talking on the phone and texting was appropriate at the dinner table and shared other stories about award experiences with cell phones. It was a lively discussion.

Students need to engage in conversations like these so they can make good decisions as digital citizens when it comes to etiquette and respect, responsibility and safety.

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Nerdcore: MC Frontalot’s Tongue – Clucking Grammarian

I am all for teaching with music and videos. Driving home this afternoon I heard an interview on NPR’s “Science Friday” with Damian Hess aka MC Frontalot who raps about everything from grammar to computer science. Very cool, I thought. An inspiring teaching idea to have our students create their own raps about content area learning. Teachers beware, there is some explicit language in his music.

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Gender Stereotypes in Advertising

The Super Bowl sometimes is more famous for the commercials that air than the actual game. This year was no different with the Go Daddy Ad.

The spring semester I teach a media literacy class to middle school students. I always begin the semester examining persuasive techniques in advertising. I have my students participate in a number of advertising scavenger hunts looking through magazines and finding advertisements expressing various situations: beautiful people, star power, heartstrings, bribery, putdowns. My Media Savvy Wikispaces has a list of all the persuasive techniques discussed in class.

We eventually address the gendered stereotypes advertising and I ask my students do another advertising scavenger hunt specifically focusing on gender representations in media. Students are asked to find the following:
1. A person’s body is used to sell a product.
2. A person’s body is “dismembered” in the ad (one part of their body is shown, not the entire person).
3. The person presented in the ad is grossly thin.
4. A woman’s mouth is covered (as if to silence her).
5. Woman against woman – women fighting with each other.

Even in the current day and age, women are presented in advertising as dependent, dismembered, submissive, clowning, and subjected to violence. This Snickers ad from Malaysia from last year is a great example that gendered stereotypes still exist today in advertising.

For more, Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 documentary and Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s Miss Representation address gender in advertising.

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60 Second Snapshot of Writing a Novel

Author Spencer Seidel came in to speak with my students this week about being a published writer and making a career as a fiction writer. My students were engaged and got into a conversation with Spencer about reading for school versus reading for pleasure. He spoke about his own appetite for reading and also abandoning a book when it doesn’t captivate your attention. He shared with students that he has even abandoned his own writing when he has lost interest – even after 60,000 words of a potential book. Spencer shared with us this great video he made about writing his novel, Lovesick.

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Education Evolution

The majority of classrooms need to change from a physical and technology stand point. Classrooms need to incorporate more collaborative work among students and integration technology in authentic, meaningful ways. Thank you to Edudemic for sharing this video. Fore more information about the creators of this video check out their blog.

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