Course Reflection.

I would say I’ve found more resources in this class than all of my other education classes combined.

Here are some of my favorites:

*I chose this second grade class blog because of the ideas it gave me. They pose challenges and communicate with other classes through their blogs. I thought it’d be really cool to find a “sister class” and share our work and projects with them. I’d love for students to do peer-review with a sister class and maybe learn a little something about students who may be a world away from you. It would also be helpful to the teachers of these classes as they could share resources and lesson ideas while their students communicate about assignments.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying to find resources for my students. I have three huge binders filled with activities, handouts, worksheets, writing guides, and other stuff that I’ve saved and collected since high school. Even with all of that, I’m always on the hunt for something new or a variant of an activity that I could modify for older or younger students, for disabled or handicapped students, for different disciplines, and a million other ways. You never know when you’ll end up with a difficult class or child that you need to find a different way of reaching them; the more you have to work with, the better!

I would like to continue this blog, for sure. Even if it’s just a place for me to store my ideas and resources, I’ll definitely keep using it. I don’t think I’d share this particular blog with students but I would definitely share it with teachers or even might be able to use it as a networking tool. I do, however, like the idea of my students using blogs. It can be an easy, always accessible, way for students to keep in touch with me and their classmates, find resources for their assignments, keep up with the course calendar, find copies of assignment sheets that I know they’ll be constantly losing, or just a place to ask questions. Blogs can also be a good way for students to keep up with their work. If they have a digital copy of something, they can put it on their blog and know it’ll always be there, even if their computer gets fried or the file is corrupted, they have a back-up on their blog.


Composing a Playlist for a Character

Composing a Playlist for a Character

Grade Level:  7-12
Content Area: Filed under English, but could certainly be used for a variety of other subjects. For example, students could make a playlist for a historical character (Social Studies/History) or a famous artist (Art), or even about a natural disaster or weather event (science).
Theme/Topic:  Critically analyzing both music and a text and putting them together; students must first understand the song and text separately and be able to apply their understanding of each to the other.

Common Core Standards: There is at least 20+ standards for this lesson, so I’ve picked out a few that I think are most important.

  • 9-10.RL.3: Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • 9-10.RI.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • 9-10.W.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

I really liked this lesson because I think it’s really interesting and would be fun for students but is also a meaningful activity. I like having fun in the classroom but I think there needs to be a purpose other than just because something is enjoyable. I love the idea of incorporating music into my lesson plans. I constantly listen to music and get ideas, clarifications, and advice from music, so why not apply it to something else I love: literature. I think this gives students an opportunity to show a little of their personality in an assignment, which I don’t think they get to do very often. Besides picking out songs, they have to validate their choices with some sort of rationale from the text, which is always a good skill to work on.

Students should be able to:  Put their selves in the mind of the character, think about music in relation to a text, rationalize their song choices, and cite situations from the text that relate to their songs. I believe the requirement that students use textual evidence in their rationales is a “long-term learning” skill because they will be doing it throughout high school and college, just in different contexts.

Students are actively engaged by choosing songs that they know, by having the opportunity to choose from their repertoire and explain their thinking. I think students like to share their taste and music choices with their peers, so I think they’ll be really into this activity.

I would probably not change this activity much at all. I would take out the letter to the character because I don’t think it’s necessary along with the rationale for each song.  I also think it’s necessary to add something about how the songs should be school appropriate, or at least censored to make them so. One thing you need to ensure with this lesson is enough library or lab time, seeing as every student may not have internet or computer access at home.

A Professional Development Initiative for Developing Approaches to Vocabulary Instruction with Secondary Mathematics, Visual Arts, Science, and English Teachers


I’ve always been an advocate for all subject areas teaching vocabulary, not just the English department, so I agreed with a lot of the main ideas of this article. I especially enjoyed the sample activities that were included with all the research; I despise reading articles about educational stuff and them having nothing included from students or teachers. I also like looking at samples of student work, which this article also had. I Vocabulary instruction always seems to end up on the shoulders of the English teachers and it’s nice to see ways in which students can learn useful reading and decoding skills in other disciplines as well. By working on vocabulary in a lot of classes, students start to pick up on the patterns to be found within our language (adverbs usually end in –ly, how words change forms, etc). Learning about prefixes, suffixes, roots, and patters is a really useful skill. Even if you’re only thinking about the scope of EOC testing;  a student could easily come across a word they don’t know but could break down by using their knowledge of words.

  • ” The studies…suggest that the most effective methods for instruction ’emphasized multimedia aspects of learning, richness of context in which words are to be learned, active student participation, and the number of exposures to words that learners will receive.’ “
  • Highlighting cross-curricular connections is very important; it helps students to make meanings of experiences and with different examples. They learn about the flexibility of words and how they can mean different things in different contexts, situations, and disciplines.
  • Allowing students to learn about words and their meanings in a variety of ways is more likely to work. Give them opportunities to work with written, oral, and visual representations of words.
  • Being activity/socially based is a good thing. It builds social skills, ability to work with others, and gives students perspective from somewhere else they may not have seen or heard about otherwise.
  • Most importantly: students need to see the connection and relationships between words in order to make a “rich meaning” of language and be able to manipulate or use it in their favor.

Multigenre Research Paper: Increasing Interest, Motivation, and Functionality in Research

Summary Points:

  • Teachers AND students hate research papers; they’re dull, uninspiring, boring, and are usually unrelated to students lives
  • Changing the format can increase student interest and effort. Things like having students research unsolved murder cases, adding graphs and visuals to papers, writing news articles about the topic are a few options to change up the regular style of research writing.
  • Multigenre Project = students research a topic but instead of the traditional paper they write about the subject through a variety of different genres including birth certificates, news articles, poems, letters, wanted ads, and journal entries.
  • This format doesn’t necessarily provide a smooth flow of information or lead to the proving of a thesis; it does require that students think about the topic and interpret it from the subject’s point of view or from their time period.
  • This type of project requires students to be creative and use knowledge about many types of writing, organization, and formats
  • It includes a bibliography but no in-text citations.
  • End notes provide an explanation of each genre, the source for materials, and how/why the genre was inspired or chosen.
  • Most of the endnotes showed more knowledge than the actual genre writing.
  • Students were able to explain how and why they wrote what they did; most research projects do not allow room for students to discuss their thought processes and inspirations.

Thinking Questions:

  1. How will students react to this assignment? Will they view it as more work or an opportunity to learn something and present knowledge in a new, hopefully more interesting, way.
  2. How will this type of project be graded? What’s the most important thing? How will I quantify the knowledge they gained?
  3. Will this actually prepare students for researching and research writing they will be required to do in their college work or future?

“I” Poems Main Points & Thinking Questions

  • Having students write in first person allows them to find their own voice and express themselves and also deepen their understanding of literature. 
  • The narrator becomes a person, place, or object that speaks directly to the audience. When writing these poems, students are put in place of their object, thinking about their feelings and thoughts and how they’d be expressed.
  • Composing allows students to go back and rethink things they may have missed the first time. Students will (hopefully) think about things in a deeper way when they think about events/characters/themes from the perspective of something other than the original presenter in the text. 
  • “Students understand and remember ideas better when they have to transform those ideas from one form to another.” (Pg 519) 
  • Pre-Reading: Get students thinking about setting or background of the text by writing from those perspectives. In the author’s case study, students saw Sarah’s (From Sarah, Plain and Tall)  sense of dislocation (she moves from the coast of Maine to the plains of Kentucky)  more clearly by writing the “I” poems.
  • Post Reading: Students responded to a novel written entirely in poems by writing the same type of “I poems” found in Out of the Dust.  They learned how to express things about themselves in the way that the narrator does in her poems. 
  • Students can write from the perspective of objects witnessing important events or hearing the thoughts of a character. They can put together perspectives or ideas that wouldn’t usually interact because they’re from the mind of a character. 


Thinking Questions

  • How can students use this strategy during reading a text instead of just before and after?
  • How will students respond or learn from each others’ work? Would they benefit from peer reviewing/editing if the aim is simply for each student to explore the text more deeply and discover their own “voice” for writing?
  • How could students use this strategy to make predictions during pre-reading or about the events that follow the end of the text (what happens to the characters/situation after the author closes the book?)


Post Reading Strategy: Somebodoy-Wanted-But-So Chart

Post Reading Strategy: Somebodoy-Wanted-But-So Chart

Source: Teaching as Leadership website

Link: (pages 75-76)

The Somebody-Wanted-But-So chart is a post reading technique to get students to think about the main plot points of a text. Students fill out the four-column chart as shown below. The “Somebody” column is where the character is identified. Followed by the “Wanted” category, where students describe what the character wanted in a story; this doesn’t have to be a tangible item or permission to do something, it could be an internal conflict or even something that the character may not realize that they want. Next, the “But” column is to be filled out according to what the student thinks is holding the character back from what they desire. Finally, the “So” category is completed by discussing the consequences or next move for the character. It isn’t included in the description of the activity from the link, but I would have my students find evidence (quotes) from the text as well as including a short (2-3) sentence explanation for what they wrote.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

I think this is a post-reading version of a KWL chart. I like this activity because it can be applied to the simplest or most complex texts. It can be used simply to summarize events and consequences or to analyze intricate character thoughts/motivations/desires. They will be reviewing the events of the text as well as thinking about what they mean, how they fit together, and how they progress to the next event. Students applying this strategy to more complex literature may be able to breakdown more “between the lines” types of desires/motivations that aren’t stated outright in the text. They will get practice using text to support their claims which is a requirement of the CCSS and is also a large component of AP essay writing. Another useful thing about this activity is that it is continuous. Students can go track a character and their desires all the way through a novel. They could use this as a character study or even as an outline for a paper/essay of some sort. This could also be used as a during reading activity.

Here is an example chart I made based on Lord of the Flies       —     SWBS


During Reading Strategy: Haiku/Limerick Collection

During Reading Strategy: Haiku/Limerick Collection

Source: 103 Things to Do Before/During/After Reading from The English Teacher’s Handbook by Jim Burke


Haiku/Limerick Collection: Choose one character in the work to follow. Write a haiku or limerick that is related to that character for each chapter/section/important event. (The original directions just say “create one about a character,” but I wanted to take it a bit further to make it more like a character study. I think it’d be a more interesting and creative way for students to interact with a text as opposed to just writing an analytical essay. This would fit best with a longer novel with clearly defined chapters or sections because it makes it easy to designate how many poems are required. If a chapter/section is longer than others or includes multiple events that are important for the character they have chosen more poems would be required.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2d Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

I think this approach will work in a variety of ways for a variety of things. I think students will have to think critically about the characters and what’s happening to them in order to represent that creatively through poetry. Students will also gain a better understanding of “domain-specific techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy” when they are using these conventions themselves to convey an idea or feeling. Along with the critical analysis they’ll be doing, they will gain valuable writing experience. Since haikus and limericks are very short, structured poems, students will have to think carefully about their choice of vocabulary, which is also in line with CCSS.

What to do when no one raises their hand…

What to do when no one raises their hand….



Thought this was a cool way to pick someone instead of the whole popsicle sticks bit. Plus you can randomly group students and it has a “rate their answers” feature you could use for discussions.

Pre-Reading Strategy: Brainstorming Map

Title/Name of Strategy: Pre-Reading Brainstorming Map
Source: Study Guides and Strategies website []
Link: [] gave me the idea to make a map
[] a Google search helped me find this map maker

  • Brainstorming Map “Write down the most important word or short phrase (in my case the title, Black Boy) in a circle/bubble in the center. Post other important concepts (in this case, ideas that the students think of that will be related to the book based on the title) Think about the relation of outside items to the center item, add other key words and phrases (or questions). Combine concepts to expand your map, talk about how the concepts are related and discuss/ask questions.” I thought this would be a good activity to do on a computer to incorporate technology, so I used a search engine to find a map-maker. You could do this on a SmartBoard or on a computer that is connected to a projector. If these aren’t available, just a regular overhead or chalkboard would work and students would copy it down and add to it instead of having an online copy to edit. This activity also has an added bonus; you can start this as a pre-reading activity and expand it, answer the questions, expand words/phrases, and add more ideas to make this a during reading activity. For a post-reading activity, students could use this as a sort of outline for an extended definition or culminating paper or essay.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1: Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5: Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
    • The text it’s self is mentioned in the CCSS “ELA & Literacy in History/Social Studies Science, and Technical Subjects – Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks” Page 12, under Informational Texts: English Language Arts for 11th Grade and up.


  • This strategy would be useful in engaging student learning because it helps students to activate their prior knowledge of the history of racial injustice in our country in order to begin thinking about a novel they will read. They will already have a scene set in their head before they begin reading the novel so they should be able to connect ideas from the text to what they already know about the situation the author lives in. Students will be coming up with ideas themselves to add to the thinking map. They will be coming to the computer or going to the board/SmartBoard to add a bubble representing their question or idea. Students will get a chance to voice their opinion and talk with other students about their connections to the text.




Here is an quick example I made to show how it would look. Students can make an account and make their own bubble maps and save them so they can add to them as they go through the book.






Materials Review 3 for 11th grade/English III

Materials Review 3 for 11th grade/English III

I would use this as a introductory activity to a Shakespeare text or unit for an 11th grade English III class. (The Common Core State Standards require that students study one Shakespeare play each year of high school.) This activity helps to achieve the following Common Core State Standards:

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1b: Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5: Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.


I would use this in a way to “break the ice” for students before delving into what is dreaded by high school and college students alike – Shakespeare. This activity is a simple game where students would use their own knowledge to figure out whether the line is from a Shakespearean play or a modern rap song. I would have the class do this all together so they can use not only their knowledge but learn from their classmates as well. By making this a class activity, there only needs to be access to one computer and the class will be practicing communication and discussion skills to come to a consensus together. Students will be activating their prior knowledge of language and the Elizabethan time period to analyze the words to correctly categorize the snippets of text. I think this is a fun and engaging activity for students to do before they start with Shakespeare to show them that they can actually understand the text. Millions of high school kids all over the country listen to rap music with complex lyrics, double entendres, sexual innuendo, metaphor and figurative language (all of these are also conventions of Shakespeare’s work) every day, so I think this is a way to use something they’re familiar with to scaffold their learning and build their confidence up before starting on something more difficult. 

As a result of this activity, students should…..

  • Know: that they can understand Shakespeare’s work just as easily as they can the music they listen to on their own time
  • Understand: the similarities between the music and art that they see/listen to and that of Shakespeare, that Shakespeare’s work isn’t indecipherable jabber but has a relevance even to today’s world
  • Do: work together as a class to discuss the elements of the language and democratically come to an agreement, think of Shakespeare like something they are already familiar with, be more familiar with the style of Shakespearean language
Teaching for Understanding

What does it mean to be literate in your discipline?