Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are we teaching writing wrong?

Dean Shareski shares his thoughts on writing recently and in particular, questions the use of things such as 6 Traits and writing benchmarks.

The post and embedded links, as well as the comments that follow, are a lot to digest. I think that writing digitally is very different than writing on paper - but for lots of different reasons.  And I am pondering the pieces of his post about drafts and revisions.

And I can't help think about the districts I work with - where teachers are struggling to teach writing because they were never taught how to do that themselves.  And now we are asking them to teach writing in uncharted territory...digitally.  Not an excuse - just thinking about the change process, especially in education.

I'm pondering a lot of what he has to say - and wonder what you think.  Post your comments on this blog or that - but weigh in!

Monday, September 13, 2010

I See What You Mean!

"Write your answer and if you have time left over, you can draw a picture."

This all-too-familiar instruction to children sends the unfortunate message that writing has content and value and will be graded, but drawing is optional and will be ignored.
Yet these assumptions are not true of real-world information texts, whether they are reference books or CD-ROM resources. Information can come in pictures as well as in words, and more usually in the kind of text that combines images with words. Teachers across the curriculum, therefore, have an obligation to teach students how to read and write these visual texts.

That is the book description for Steve Moline's book I See What You Mean. Powerful stuff!!

And if you have been working with your students on visual learning - Steve and his publisher Stenhouse are looking for samples of student work to include in a new edition.  You can submit your work at this Ning or just check out the fabulous resources they have there on visual literacy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Get them organized!!

It's that time of the year when organization (or lack thereof) raises it's ugly head as you meet your new students.  Marrying technology with the need to be organized there are some great tools out there that you might want to share with your students (or your Response to Intervention team):

Soshiku is designed for middle and high school students and has a great feature that allows you to receive a text when an assignment is due!! I really like the long range view that the site gives - showing overdue assignments, things due that day as well as the next and a monthly calendar.  Time management is a big factor in disorganization and this site could help with planning.

Remember the Milk has been around a while and is one that I use on my iTouch.  This application is nice because it allows you to organize your tasks in a way that makes sense to you - list format, tagging, making notes, etc. As someone who travels, I can also use the map feature to make sure that I don't book things too close in time when there is a lot of driving involved.

TrackClass looks interesting as in addition to keeping track of tasks and sending reminders, it allows you to keep notes and assignments (like essays and presentations) together in one place.

If you are more of a "lister" than long-term tracker, Ta-Da Lists might be the site for you! And if you are more of a post-it kind of person, try Square-Leaf!

Of course, at the end of the day - there is always the good old stand-by: the back of a napkin!!

Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers for some new links!!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Words to Write By

Over at Two Writing Teachers, they shared some inspirational quotes to share with students and paste on the inside of writer's notebooks.

And if you are looking for ways to launch your notebooks - you should check out this great idea they got from a conference.

My resources for writer's notebooks are over on my wiki - including my favorite Unlucky Writer's handout that can be shared with parents and students.

And I leave you with some of my favorite quotes to inspire writing:

  • The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustav Flaubert
  • Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. William Wordsworth
  • If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing. Benjamin Franklin
  • You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club. Jack London
  • Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. Jacques Barzun

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Manual of Style

Style manuals for writing always crack me up - they are pretty dense and have lots and lots of writing rules.  Most of which, I am not sure I follow.  I guess that is why I am a writer not a Writer!

The 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is out and has some interesting new, "state of the art" style conventions I found interesting and thought I would share:

  • The title of a work that ends in a question mark or exclamation point should now be followed by a comma if the grammar of the sentence would normally call for one or, in source citations or in an index, if a comma would normally follow the title. 6.119, 8.164, 14.105, 14.178, 16.54.
  • Brand names that begin with a lowercase letter followed by a capital letter now retain the lowercase letter even at the beginning of a sentence or a heading. 8.153.

And in case you are interested, you can go here and download a free electronic copy of the first edition (1906) to see how things have changed.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Get up and READ!!!

I know that it is Labor Day weekend - a federal holiday in America that is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers but all to often marks the end of summer and beginning of the school year.  Barbecues - last minute school shopping and the like generally are the hallmarks of the extended weekend.

But while you are out - consider the fact that September is Library Card Sign-Up month!! Encourage your students to get out and get a card and use their local library!!

Why? Well - here are 52 reasons why.

And it's not your grandmother's library anymore - check out this recent article in my hometown newspaper to see how times they are a'changing!!

And while you are out - be nice to those people who are working this holiday!

Friday, September 03, 2010

FREE e-book: Critical Thinking and Web Research Skills

It seems like the common answer to "What is.....?" these days is "Google it!"

Not an entirely incorrect answer given the wealth of digital devices at our disposal lately - but it does make me wonder if everyone really knows HOW to Google it!?!?!

This free classroom guide from Microsoft geared toward middle and high school students covers the following:

Read it - you might just learn a tip or two as well!!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Back to School - Back to Blogging!!

Here it is - the start of a new school year in Western New York!

About half of our districts start this week - with another half starting next.  I know my own family is split - with the eldest two nieces starting today and the youngest niece and nephew starting next week.

So - like me, now is the time to get into blogging!!

Whether you have been neglecting your class blog or just been too hesitant to jump write in - the Edublogger Student Blogging Challenge will begin soon!!

What is it?
  • 10 weekly tasks designed to improve blogging and commenting skills
  • Connecting with a global audience!
  • Open to class blogs and individual student blogs
  • NOT limited to blogs hosted by Edublogger
  • FREE!!
Click here to see more and most importantly, to register!!  And then share the links of your class/student blogs so we can see the fun and development!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I see dead people...

Just kiddin'.

But as a social studies teacher, I love this idea via Free Technology for Teachers.  Facebook for Historical People!!

Using this template (which does not create an acutal Facebook account) - kids can write about historical people in a manner they are likely already using!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I didn't want to do it....

I have enabled comment moderation on this blog.

It's not that I am swamped with comments or anything - unless your name is SPAM.  In that case - you are a dedicated reader and follower!!

But I don't want to go through having to take it down and they are pretty persistant.

So I still want to hear from you if you are a living being who cares about what I write.  Or wants to push back.  Or share some of your stuff.  And I don't want you to have to enter those silly nonsense words to prove it.  It will just take me a bit to make your comment public.

So come on now folks - let's beat them at their own game and comment more than SPAM!

Can writing keep us well?

That was the group writing prompt posted over at Confident Writing this summer.  I came upon it again today and thought it timely.

Writing can keep us well.  It can help us get out our thoughts - in the most raw and basic form.  And then they can be refined and molded to send the message we want to deliver to the person (people) we want it delivered.

Or it can never be seen again.  My mom teaches my nieces and nephews that when they are angry - they need to write it down and then shredd it.  Words never to be seen, never to be uttered.  Get it out of your system and let it go.

Or it can be read aloud.  Two of my nieces are writing books this summer.  They like to read them aloud to show progress and to share their thoughts.  Funny how their characters sound/look a lot like them.  They hear that in each other - but never in themselves.

It can be frustrating - I am writing web page text.  Not fun.  The words don't sound right and when they are translated to the web, don't look like.  But nothing worth doing is ever easy.  Ask any teacher.

Writing helps me be well. And still. And creative.

What does it do for you?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Not Your Mother's Kindle!

I don't hide it.  I am a slave to my Kindle.  You all know it because you have read about it here and here and here.

My mom has one.  My sister-in-law has one.  My aunt has one.   We can just swap Kindles the way we used to swap books.  I thought we were ahead of the curve.

And then they launched this...

You can read more about it here via Kindlerama blog.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Not Your Father's Principal

When I presented at the NYSCATE Leadership Summit in mid-July I was very disappointed to learn that my session was up against a leader that I truly wanted to see: George Couros.  George is a K-12 principal for a district outside of Alberta, Canada and is truly inspiring.  (Visit his blog and you will see why! I am especially partial to his post on "Play")

George recently presented at the Reform Symposium, an online conference.  You can catch his presentation on a fantastic school movement called "Identity Day" here.  It's a long session (just over 2 hours) but incredibly inspiring!  On Identity Day, everyone within the school community shares their passion.

George had me at "Relationships are central to everything...and are more important than academics."  But beyond that it is that they start with what is in the best interests of the students and work backwards from there.  He share the link to Daniel Pink's trailer for Drive in which he asks "What's your sentence?" a powerful force to have students write and think about.

How are you transforming learning? What's your sentence?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Not Your Father's Research Paper

Via The History Channel This is Not Blog - integrating technology into the old fashioned research paper.  In two posts based upon a recent presentation, Nate talks about how he integrates tools such as Diigo, RSS Feeds and Zotero into his student research paper assignment.

The first post gives an overview of the session and the second post shares the slides.

I  have made a personal summer goal to learn more about Diigo and integrate it into my work as I think it has some great potential.  I'd love to hear how others are transforming the research paper!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Not Your Father's Book Report!

Via Free Technology for Teachers, a fantastic alternative to the traditional book report can be found at Book Trailers for Readers.

In addition to some great trailers on YA lit that you can share with your students, there are links to book blogs and other goodies.  It is also a great model for what you could create within your school to promote reading and have students create reviews!!

How are you transforming the traditional book report?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Non-Fiction Mentor Texts

The Stenhouse Blog always provides some nice resources and lots of free online learning.  This recent tip on selecting non-fiction mentor texts is from Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, authors of the recent Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-8.

I love the list of books they provide in this short post (I am already adding to my wishlists!) and the fact that some of them are picture books!!

You can read Chapter 1 of their book online in case you are interested in learning more!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

There's no writing in math class!!!

Oh yes there is!!

I would only do a disservice to Karl Fisch if I tried to summarize or in any other way tamper with his brilliant post on how he plans to integrate writing into his Algebra class.  Go read it now! (But please come back for a moment!)

One of the most powerful things about the post (and to be honest, most of his posts) is how transparent he is in his thinking.  He admits the roadblocks to implementing his plan, he lays out his plan with some links to his other work and references the work of others, and he acknowledges that he may not get to all parts of his plan.

But he uses his blog to publically announce his plan and ask for feedback.  That is one example of what blogging is all about!  Did you start your blog yet?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CLEAR the way to reading critically

Stumbled across this post from my Twitter friends about reading critically.  Roland Paris, a professor at the University of Ottawa, helps his students with an acronym for critically reading text in the course:

1.       Claims:  What are the main claims or arguments in the text?  What is the author’s main point?
2.      Logic:  How does the author reach these conclusions?  What are the steps in the author’s reasoning or logic?  Is this logic sound?
3.      Evidence:  What evidence does the author present to support the argument(s)?  Does the author offer enough evidence?  Is this evidence convincing?  Can you think of any counter-evidence that would challenge the author’s claims? 
4.      Assumptions:  Does the author rely on hidden assumptions?  If so, are these assumptions correct? 
5.      alternative arguments:  Can you think of alternative arguments that the author has not considered?
 It has me thinking about peer review (a topic of much discussion since I am at my annual Communities for Learning retreat!) and wondering if we might be able to use this for students to give each other some helpful feedback on expository writing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


"It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act. It starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more."

It's a powerful political poem but this stanza has me thinking about a lot of things.  Here - on this writing blog - my thoughts turn to writing.
I have always thought that we need to empower students to view themselves as writers.  To say "I am a writer" the same way I also expected them to say "I am a historian" in my social studies class.  School needs to be more than just going through the motions and getting something done - it needs to be about learning, growing, doing and sometimes not doing it well.  There needs to be forward movement.

At first, they resist.  No middle schools student wants to identify themselves as a writer.  Few elementary, high school, college, graduate school  or life students do either.  It is daunting.  It is public.  But it is doable.  Only if WE believe with certainty that is what we want for our students.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taxonomy of Reflection

What I find incredibly interesting about writing is that if you want it to, it will never end.  At some point it should - it should be published so that you get feedback, so that you can say "I am a writer" and so that others can discover your voice.

When I say published I don't mean in a book necessarily, it could be a blog post or it could be read aloud or it could be share in a somewhat final format with another human being who helps you to make it better.  But even with all of those things, sometimes we just need to reflect upon our own writing and our process in order to be better writers.

That is where reflection comes it.  It isn't easy.  I have found that I often had to explicity teach how to reflect - to both kids and adults alike.  I really like this model from Peter Pappas:

How might you use this with your students?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ranting and Writing

Great post over at Two Writing Teachers on some powerful writing activities that she engaged in. (Yes. You must go there. Now. And read about them. Go - I'll wait!)

And I learned about "Rant Poetry" - something I had never heard of but apparently has a very long history!  Following the steps in that link - behold my rant poem:

"Write an essay" the teacher tells them
They should know how to do that
They are in high school for Pete's Sake
"Just write an essay"

But what is an "essay?"
How many paragraphs should it have?
What should it say? How should I say it?
"Just write an essay!!"

But no one ever really taught me how to write an essay
I mean I know how to write but I don't know how to
make my words come alive
convey all that I know
organzie my brain so it makes sense to yours
self-edit to catch my silly mistakes

Everyone says "Just write!"
But no one ever taught me to write!

Well that felt better - what would you like to rant about?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writing and Wikis

I have spend the last two days at the NYSCATE Leadership Summit in Troy and been inspired by some of the great things folks are doing out there.  Two wikis really caught my eye and have me thinking about how I can support teachers and how teachers can support one another in writing.

First, Patrick Higgins shared the work his previous school district had done on creating a new middle level ELA class for all students to integrate technology into writing.  This wiki is an amazing example of collaboration as well as the type of lesson ideas that just might jump start some of you this summer!!

Then, George Engel shared a wiki that he created with his math students for them to reflect.  The use of videos and reflections here is incredible - but be sure to check out the discussion tabs for each student to see the peer review feedback.

It has me thinking about how I can model some of these elements in my workshops. I tend to create wiki or a Google Site for most things as a respository of resources but I think I need to make it more collaborative and more reflective.  More you - less of me!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Story Cubes

Love this idea and love it more now that it is an app!!

And then I started to think about the "low tech" way that we could re-create this using web images!!  What fun stories we could create!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Evolution of a Reader

"I envy the way my oldest son reads, stretched out on the living room couch, all of a sudden this year taking up most of three cushions. Watch his face: his lips move, his eyebrows raise and lower in drastic measures, he smiles, winces, gapes and falls still all in a mere breath.
He practices the clich̩ Рhe devours books. But, even better, the books devour him."

You'll devour this essay over at The Millions.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Readers of this blog know I love my Kindle.  But this might be one way to start to get e-books to students in a cost-effective manner!!

NOOKStudy is an application that will be available from Barnes & Noble in August - with access to over 500,000 free e-books!!

"Designed by students, for students" it seems that it will make a nice electronic backpack for students. I'll be interested to see how it actually works and how it might be used with secondary classrooms.  And I'll let you know!

Thursday, July 15, 2010



As a middle school teacher of social studies, it was something that I hoped to evoke in my students as we studied certain periods in US History as a way to have them  understand why it is important to learn about our past.

We read primary sources, viewed photographs, watched videos - all to help with the learning process.

I've also been doing some reserach on service learning and thinking about how to integrate it into our curriculum so that our students have an impact on our world - and help create as sustainable future.  Not entirely related to writing but I thought I would share this video!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tag This! The Book Seer!

Via Free Technology for Teachers, I found The Book Seer - a book recommendation site.  You just need to type in the name of the book and the author of a favorite book and it will search both Amazon and LibraryThing for other books you might enjoy.

Below is the list of recommendations for Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (a fun ghost story!)

This would be fun for students to search for other books that might interest them based upon ones they already enjoy!!

Tag this!!

For a visual site that does the same type of thing-tag YourNextRead!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Literacy Through Art

I am facilitating a workshop for middle school teachers on vocabulary instruction today and thought I would share one of my favorite new resources!!

Literacy Head provides resources for using visual arts for teaching literacy.

If you scroll to the bottom of the page - you will see the visual dictionary.  For each of the week's vocabulary words, there are three images that illustrate the word and one that is the opposite.

The words come from the book of the week - which also uses images for pre-during-post reading activities.

Not only fabulous resource - I can see students doing something similar as a fantastic activity.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life in A Day

July 24th.

Capture your life in film and submit.

Be a part of a global experiment.

Wouldn't it be fantastic to re-create this within your class or school?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Challenge Based Learning

Continuing on with the theme this week of 21st Century writing/literacy/teaching, I am intrigued by the idea of challenge based learning.  In a nutshell,

Challenge Based Learning is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and
learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily
lives to solve real-world problems. Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and handson, asking students to work with peers, teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to ask good questions, develop deeper subject area knowledge,
accept and solve challenges, take action, and share their experience.
Part of a larger collaborative effort by Apple, the sample challenges described here seem to get at the heart of what we need in education: relevance, collaboration, communication. So - how do we start making learning more challenge based and less textbook based?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Networked Literacy

Spending time at ISTE this past weekend has given me a lot to chew on regarding writing and literacy and tech integration and many, many more things related to my work and those that I work with.  Interestingly, while searching for more on 21st Century writing (see Monday's post) I see that Jeff Utecht shared his thoughts on the topic .  He has created the visual below to represent the amount of time we are currently teaching different types of literacy.

I don't think many of the teachers I work with would disagree with Jeff's assessment.  And I am wondering what we are going to do about it.

What I am finding even more interesting is that while at this conference, I experienced an interesting lesson in "networked literacy."  Jeff's working definition:
 Networked literacy is what the web is about. It’s about understanding how people and communication networks work. It’s the understanding of how to find information and how to be found. It’s about how to read hyperlinked text articles, and understand the connections that are made when you become “friends” or “follow” someone on a network. It’s the understanding of how to stay safe and how to use the networked knowledge that is the World Wide Web. Networked Literacy is about understanding connections.
The conference opening keynote was on Sunday.  While I chose not to go in person, I did follow the "Twitter stream" (the flow of "tweets" from those at the conference giving their thoughts and take-aways from the conference.)  Interestingly, the flow of tweets soon turned a bit harsh, despite the conference organizers putting out some "rules."

It made me think about digital footprints and what proper networked behavior should be (all a part of literacy.)  And it made me think even more about trust - which seemed to be a secondary theme running through the conference.  And it made me think about the "chilling effect" watching Sunday night unfold may have had on teachers/administrators new to Twitter as well as to those who still had to present.

So it doesn't surprise me that networked literacy is not taught often.  It seems we are still developing the rules.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thinking About Change

Who seriously believes that locking 25 students in a small room with one adult for
several hours each day is the best way for them to be "educated"?

Monday, June 28, 2010

21st Century Writing

I'm a little over the 21st Century tag since we are part way through it, but my participation at the ISTE 2010 Conference in Denver this past weekend has made me realize that in many, many ways we aren't teaching in it.  

I am not just talking about the use of technology.  I am talking about thinking about what we want our students to learn and why.  I heard an incredible keynote by Chris Lehmann, principal of SLA in Philadelphia in which he stated the goal of education should be to create a citizenry, not a workforce

To that end, I have long believed that writing is the most important skill that our students have.  Writing empowers them. Yet somehow, we manage to confuse the art of writing with a chore.  Something to be done and not necessarily perfected.

I was reminded while at this conference that NCTE has taken a similar stance on writing: Good writing may be the quintessential 21st century skill.

Recognizing that we are in a time of tremendous change, NCTE notes:
  • Our schools and our nation need to recognize and validate the many ways we all are writing.
  • We need to develop new models of writing, design a new curriculum supporting those models, and create models for teaching that curriculum.
  • We need to make sure that all students have the opportunity to write and learn in intellectually stimulating classrooms.
  • We need to recognize that out-of-school literacy practices are as critical to students’ development as what occurs in the classroom and take advantage of this to better connect classroom work to real-world situations that students will encounter across a lifetime.

The site includes some pretty good reading on teaching writing in the 21st century that I encourage everyone to read. And I'm wondering what teachers need the most to address the points above. I'm also contemplating a new project to address some of what we must begin to do as educators to start to address this need.  I'll keep you posted!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tag This! Thesis Builder

Writing a good thesis statement sometimes feels like seeking the Holy Grail - legend says it is out there somewhere but darned if you can find it!!

Thesis Builder seems like a nice resource to help students with persuasive essays.  Typing in phrases in response to prompts provided, pushing a button creates a magical thesis statement that seems like a pretty good start.  My sample is below:

81 Days and Counting 
a Persuasive Thesis Statement on State Budget:
Even though need to be fiscally conservative with a bankrupt budget, NYS Legislature should pass a budget on time because public services such as road repair, unemployment, etc. in jeopardy and threatened shut down of the government.

Obviously, it needs some editing but not too shabby a start!! Click next on the outline builder helps the writer flesh out their arguments and indicates where transitional elements should appear.  A great help for writers struggling to get their argument off the ground!!

Tag this!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Note Making - In a Digital World

I am a Kindle addict - and I happen to love the recent update that allows me to send my highlights/note to Twitter if I choose and the way that I can now categorize my books.  Now that I have had it a while, I have also fallen in love with how I can tag and make notes digitally and then view my "clippings."

There is one new feature, which allows me to see the most favorite highlights of the book I am reading.  I have to admit that after one chapter, I turned this feature off.  It was a little like buying the used textbook in the college bookstore that someone had already hightlighted.

I worked hard to teach my students "selective highlighting."  It was important that they didn't randomly highlight text but were thoughtful about what (and why) they highlighted portions.  I encouraged them to interact with the text and came up with lots of ways to "highlight" the textbooks (highlighter tape, use of overhead transparencies, etc.)

But now - the possibilities are endless.  Just read this recent blog post and see how students can digitally make notes and use them.  I am trying to think outside my Kindle and play with the other applications mentioned in order to help teachers use the tools they (and their students) have handy.  I don't think this will replace the traditional note-taking/highlighter method, but I do think it will change our practice.

What do you think?

(BTW - there seems to be a pricing war with e-readers lately.  If you are looking for one, now might be the time!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Read it Online: Make Me A Story

The writing process and digital storytelling go together naturally. Just as writing can be a process of discovery, so can digital storytelling, where images, words, and music all work together to create meaning.

Lisa Miller describes the power of digital storytelling as a tool for teaching writing and engaging elementary students in her new book Make Me A Story.  And now, you can preview the entire text online!!

My initial preview of the books shows that it focuses on good reasons for integrating the technology (i.e. it isn't just about the tool!) and has some call out boxes of tremendous resources.  The hard copy book also comes with a CD of resources including student samples of works referenced in the book.

This is one to add to the wish list!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rules for Writerers

The sources is unknown but this list came to me via innovation3 blog:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
There are about 30 more but this one is my absolute favorite:

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Morning Musings

"I was raised on words. They tumbled off the kitchen table onto the floor where I sat: grandfather, uncles, and refugees flung Russian, Polish, Yiddish, French, and what passed for English at one another in a competitive cascade of assertion and interrogation. Sententious flotsam from the Edwardian-era Socialist Party of Great Britain hung around our kitchen promoting the True Cause. I spent long, happy hours listening to Central European autodidacts arguing deep into the night: Marxismus, Zionismus, Socialismus. Talking, it seemed to me, was the point of adult existence. I have never lost that sense. "
Read the full article (and rejoice in the use of words) here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm bored...

...not really.

But schools in New York State will be wrapping up soon and I am counting the days until the first of my nieces and nephews utters these words this summer.  As much as they dread the routine of school, after a while there is only so much television watching - swimming - crafts - reading - iPod/DS playing that can happen before they utter those words.  (And bless my mother for running her summer camp for them!)

If you need ideas to send home with your students or share with parents or maybe even for you - check out the links below:
  • Printable journals - a list of journal prompts and activities you can print to encourage writing this summer!
  • Summer Reading Recommendations - a list of summer reads for kids and adults collected by by virtual colleagues via Twitter!! And a great model that you could create for your school!
  • Let's not forget the summer reading challenges from both Borders and Barnes & Noble - can't beat a free book!
  • Over at Teacher ReBoot Camp - Shelly Terrell encourages folks to participate in the 30 day challenge (there is a free e-book!!)
  • Locally, Mike Fisher has put together a Live Binder full of summer learning opportunities for teachers! Check out his Virtual Summer Camp!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Digital Literacy Tour

On Monday, I asked whether you were teaching Information Literacy.

Today - I ask about Digital Literacy and the all important aspect of Digital Citizenship.

I take the approach with the teachers and administrators that I work with that we need to teach students (and teachers and administrators) the right way to "act" online and how to be critical consumers of what is available.  I don't believe in the Dateline "scare" approach to using the Internet.

With student having greater access to digital tools and devices and with school districts being confronted with having to make decisions about what is "allowed" while balancing how to engage students in a global world, a curriculum with digital and information literacy embedded is critical.

Google has once again come to the rescue with their Digital Literacy Tour. With three great "workshops" and tons of resources, this is a fabulous resource for teachers to explore and begin to think about including in their teaching.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tag This! Fun With Words

Thanks to a fun post on creative mistakes and malapropisms from Writing Tools, I stumbled upon this fun site!!

At this site  you can:
  • Play Boggle online
  • Read genuine malapropisms from the web
  • Learn about other kinds of fun with words like "Tom Swifties"
Tag this!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Providing feedback on student writing

Lots of conversation lately about a recent study showing teachers using red ink scored papers more severely than those scoring using blue ink. (Read the Boston Globe article on the topic here or the published study here.)

Essentially - three different experiments were set up for the study.  In one, volunteers read two paragraphs from an essay they were told was written by an English language learner and were instructed to mark errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar and word choice.  Half used a red pen for correcting and half used a blue pen; guests using the red pen found signifcantly more errors than those using blue.

In another experiment, students were asked to grade a one-page paper written by an eighth grader - half with a red pen and half with blue. The paper had no spelling or grammar errors but was written at a fairly basic level.   Once again, those scoring in red gave the paper lower scores than those marking in blue.

In reading the comments on the articles and blogs related to this study, many seem to feel that the papers should be marked in red.  If we don't find the errors - how will students learn? Others point to the psychological aspects of being returned a paper covered in red marks.

I have always been a fan of giving manageable feedback to students.  That is - mark them on whatever aspect of writing/content that we were focusing on and acknowledging other strengths of the paper.  For example, if we were concentrating on word choice - the greatest amount of feedback would be on that aspect of the writing. Any glaring errors, or ones that should have been "mastered" by that point, might be pointed out but the focus should be on the skill that we are assessing for.

Teaching writing is complex - which makes assessing writing complex.  The key is to make the feedback, regardless of the color that it is given in, meaningful and something that the students can use in future work.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


I am really liking the site Storybird to help students with creative writing.  Billed as "for family and friends" there is no reason to not be using this tool in the clasroom!!

In fact - to help support that, a new Storybird Ning has been created to share ideas!! Be sure to join!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SYNC this!!

I am not a big fan of audiobooks but know that many middle level and older readers would prefer this format. Good new!! Sync is offering free downloads of contemporary YA with a classic starting July 1st.

Check out the details here!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Words as Pictures

Via my Twitter feed!!

"Wait" is my favorite!

words from jacques khouri on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Friday, June 04, 2010

A Novel Idea

Found this idea for a novel study that integrates some wonderful (free!) technology tools:

5B has just completed a novel study using the VoiceThread multimedia tool. The visual component of this VoiceThread project has allowed grade five students to showcase comprehensive volcabulary words, setting/locations and core characters from their novel study captured in a free tool called Wordle.

Check out what these kids did and how the teacher integrated technology - I promise you will be impressed!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tag This! Einztein

This came at me from several sources so I finally sat down to check it out.

Einztein is a brilliant "knowledge network" for locating college level courses and materials.

I know you are all busy wrapping up the end of the school year and thinking "what on Earth will I do with myself this summer?"  No worries - I am here to help!!

I started with a general topic search for writing - and among the many offerings found this course on historical writing using documents that I think I will check out to help round out my ideas to support teachers with writing DBQs.  A topic search on something this broad seemed to give me varied results so I opted to try browsing the subjects available.

Searching under education - I found this gem being offered through the University of Michigan: Individualized Reading Instruction in the Elementary Grades.  It's all there - lectures, assignments, reading lists!

Being a social studies teacher - I was thrilled to discover this course on Making Civics Real and this one on Teach Global.  There are many, many more courses available - all free.

If you are looking for staff development resources, are planning to develop an online course or just want to learn, I encourage you to Tag This!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


There are some days I am tempted to do this just to see if anybody is out there.  But I can't stand homophone abuse!!