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Saturday, August 23, 2014

This is a very creative - doable idea for composition. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief!

Ky. elementary school uses Twitter in classroom lessons
A Kentucky elementary school is embracing Twitter as an instructional tool, with students composing tweets that will be compiled into stories and maintaining protected Twitter feeds. In addition to using the social media site for academic purposes, educators say they also are teaching students what they should -- and should not -- post online. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.) (tiered subscription model) (8/4)Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 18, 2014

This is an important study. Students are coming in with lower anguage nation wide. It is important for teachers to help students catch up early on. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Study highlights language-development benefits of inclusion
A study of 670 Ohio preschoolers found that students with disabilities gain significant language skills when they learn alongside peers without disabilities who have strong language skills. Data show some students' skills improved by almost 40% when interacting with the most highly skilled peers. (7/29)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I have begun reading this book and think it is great. It is available on Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success

n her new ASCD book, mentor teacher and instructional coach Regie Routman shares proven methods on how teachers and principals can ensure effective literacy instruction for all K–12 students, including second-language and struggling learners. Routman shares best practices for teaching reading and writing skills that reduce the need for intervention, offers tips on giving productive feedback to accelerate student and teacher learning, and provides a foundation for building professional literacy communities that help educators create sustainable school change. Learn more. Pick up your copy.Bookmark and Share

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This is a great - enjoyable way to learn. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief

Authentic learning through real-time Twitter chats
Once a week, students in New Zealand participate in Kidsedchatnz, a teacher-moderated Twitter discussion of various topics that leads to authentic learning for students, teacher Stephen Baker writes in this blog post. Baker also includes tips for establishing schoolwide Twitter chats, including setting up a blog to post topics and questions, and designating student experts who can help their peers with the tweeting. Media blog (7/10)

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

On June 21, 2014, I posted an article on taking notes - or annotating - in history. Today I have posted an article written by a teacher on how students can use technology effectively to take notes. It is great and doable! Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

How students can improve note-taking with technology
With students increasingly using technology to take and record notes in class, teacher and author Vicki Davis in this blog post shares a five-step process she's developed to help students succeed with electronic note-taking. She also suggests several applications and platforms that can assist with the process, and advocates that students be literate in text, audio or video for note-taking. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education (6/20)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Literacy is now a priority in all content areas. This is a great post. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

How annotation can help students understand historical texts

06/8/2014 | MiddleWeb
Teaching students how to take notes as they read and study historical texts can encourage them to read and understand what they read, according to middle-grades teachers Aaron Brock and Jody Passanisi. In this blog post, the educators each explain their challenges and approaches, including dividing students into tiers based on skills, but the core instructions were the same. They also note how they will deal with "overzealous page painters" who highlight without explanation.
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Monday, June 16, 2014

We all struggle with finding a better way to teach vocabulary. Here is a great article from Corbett & Dena Harrison, Writing Fix authors. Enjoy!

                                                               My fellow teachers/writers,
What a nutty end of the school year here!  I learned that I will be switching school sites this upcoming Fall, and saying good-bye is always hard--both to my current students and my current team of teachers.  Physically packing up and moving is always hard too, and I realize that I am a quite behind in posting my monthly lessons here at the ning, but that will all be rectified as soon as I have safely and completely moved my materials from the old site to my new one. Over the summer, I will be posting numerous lessons that I hope will inspire you to consider trying something new during your next school year.  My best school years in the past have always been those years when I returned in the Fall determined to try new things and to do them well.  I have been collecting/developing/revising some great new lesson ideas this past spring, and I am excited to share them with you slowly throughout the summer.  Look out for my occasional e-mails that will catch me up so we can get the promised "first of the month" lessons back on track.  Thanks again for your patience during this transition for me.
THE BEST WORK I DID THIS PAST SCHOOL YEAR?  Without a doubt, without any hesitation, I will say my continued work in developing writing skills while teaching my students to simply stop and appreciate vocabulary words they don't recognize in their reading has been the new teaching skill I continue to do my best work with.  Last year, Dena and I published the first eight of ten lessons that promoted Common Core-friendly writing skills through vocabulary-based exercises.  Early this year, we finalized all ten writing lessons, and my students' Vocabulary Final Projects just proved to me how significant this work has been to developing them further as skilled writers.  I am sharing with you some images from their final exam projects which, I believe, showcase what powerful writing/thinking skills they have developed over this past year with me.  If you're interested in seeing some powerful student writing, please visit the next paragraph!
Today, I posted a pretty detailed explanation of my "Vocabulary Final Exam Project" here at the ning at this blog post:  Please note there are photos below the post that showcase some of my students' best "overall vocabulary collections."  Right in the middle of the lengthy post (sorry if it's wordy!), there is a download link to a 15-slide PowerPoint (or a PDF file, if you don't have PowerPoint) that showcases my "top writers" (as nominated by their classroom peers) who used the ten unique vocabulary-inspired writing activities I have been requiring of my students the whole year.  I am really proud of the differentiated nature these ten writing activities attempt to appeal to, and I can confidently say that I will never teach vocabulary words in the future without first integrating several (if not all) of these ten writing activities we have been designing.  
If for no other reason than to celebrate some smart kids' thinking that uses hard vocabulary words, I hope you will visit the blog post in the last paragraph and celebrate my students' writing along with me.  It's pretty impressive; it truly is.
Teachers, look forward to some fresh and interesting, Common Core-friendly ideas involving writing assignments over the summer from me through this blog to you.  If you have the summer off though, make sure you take plenty of extra time to simply be away from school and its rigid expectations.  We all need to deflate a bit over the deflate!  Deflate!
Have a great June!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Here is a great article. It supports how we think about preparing students for the 21st century. Reading for a real purpose creates real readers! Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

CTE programs help improve math, reading proficiency in N.D.
Career and technical education programs are helping raise math and reading proficiency in North Dakota, especially among American Indian and low-income students, according to state education data. Data show students who took two or more career and technical education classes in the same program last year scored 18% higher in reading and almost 9% higher in math than the average of all students during the 2011-12 school year. What's more, American Indian students in such programs showed a 30% increase in reading and 20% in math. The Bismarck Tribune (N.D.) (5/22)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Here are some great ideas for students and teachers on how to keep literacy going during the summer, written by Heather Wolpert-Gawron. Courtesy of ASDC SmartBrief.

Avoiding the Summer Slide in Reading and Writing

Photo credit: Thinkstock 
As an eighth-grade teacher, I constantly hear from high school teachers how "we" don't teach certain topics in middle school. The students, they claim, don't know how to write a thesis statement or don't know how to use proper grammar, and this is clearly because we don't teach it. News flash: We're not just twiddling our thumbs down here in 'tween-land. It's taught. Retaught. Revised. Reworked. All those gaps you might see as deficiencies in the middle school teaching are misguided. What you are seeing, however, is the curse of the summer slide.

Perhaps high school teachers don't realize that this summer slide can happen to the best of students in the shortest of time periods. That's why scheduling finals after winter break is a bad idea. Perhaps, however, there is greater slide between middle and high school because these young humans are constantly morphing in so many ways anyway. Their retention of material, despite our most innovative or rigorous of efforts, can be overshadowed by the changes that these kids are going through physically and chemically.

Regardless, I'm here to report that while some of it might be unavoidable, there are steps to at least help lessen the gap of knowledge leakage.

Some Language Arts Activities to Lessen "Summer Slide"

Below I've focused on some activities to help students continue to interact with words and reading throughout the summer.

#1. Introduce students to what's out there in the media. Research the based-on-books movies that are coming out during the summer months. Show trailers the last day of school (like when the kids from your first period are trapped in your classroom for three hours while promotion is going on elsewhere). Show these trailers and hand out a list of books that correspond to each. Challenge students to read the books before seeing the movies.

#2. Have students develop a way to recommend books before summer begins. Before the end of the year, have students look back over their book logs from the school year. Then, have them write a review (in other words, a form of literary analysis) for 10 of their choices. Have them develop icons that represent their opinions of the literature (thumbs up, stars, books, whatever). Post these reviews on a website that students can click through for recommendations all summer long.

#3. Develop a way for students to contribute the titles of what they are reading all summer long. If you know the students you might have the following year (as I do with my speech elective or my honors classes but not with my mainstream classes) set up a Google Drive document for kids to add to throughout the summer about what they've read. Create a Google Form that they fill out with each book, or they can directly enter them into a public spreadsheet.

#4. Model reading and discussing all summer long by sending out a newsletter or email blast with every book read or literature-based movie that you enjoyed. You can even share thoughts on ones you didn't enjoy. Design a newsletter via MailChimp and make your reports a monthly newsletter (two or three times over the course of the summer). You will find a good percentage of students respond in one way or the other, but even if they just open the newsletter, any interaction over the summer about the love of reading is a valuable interaction.

#5. Work with your local library to develop student-run volunteer programs. Create a program for your students to help run the sign-ups in your classroom so the public library doesn't have to do the legwork of registering volunteers. Provide peer helpers from your own pool of readers. I know my local library has middle schoolers come in during the summer as guides for the kids to learn how to use the library. 'Tweens also run the monthly crafts table. Create the outlet to continue being surrounded by books. So many students don't interact with books once the summer bell rings. Change their summer environment.

#6. Inform parents about their local Youth Writing Project. Much like a summer institute for teachers to hone their writing skills, the Youth Writing Project is a summer program with WP teachers at the helm to guide kids of all ages through innovative writing activities. It's writing camp! Check local college or university campuses for information on whether they are hosting a youth program this summer.

But is a Little "Slide" Really so Bad?

I think it's important to note here that while we would all clearly love to see kids retain every fact and skill ever taught from year to year, this is simply not a realistic expectation. Heck, I have to relearn the darn grading program every year as if I've never seen it before, and this sends our office manager into fits of eye rolling. Given that "slide happens" (perhaps that should be a bumper sticker), I'd like to make a case here for the necessity of a little slide and the need for summer break for those students.

For one thing, summer is important to get a different kind of education. It's the time for soccer camps, theater camps, debate camps, cooking camps. It's the time for building forts made out of branches between the hours of nine and three, for meeting other kids down the block, for reading the books you want to read, and for vacations in far off lands or in campgrounds in your own backyard. As a Facebook post I saw the other day claims, "A child only educated at school is an uneducated child."
Transference is a skill with which K-12 struggles overall. How do students transfer skills from one level to the next, even from one classroom to the next?

The answer comes with making school applicable to the outside world. But that will come, not with more time in a formal school setting; it will come when we all philosophically decide to articulate the skills that students must know in a way that they recognize as applicable to the real world.
Perhaps that's not happening and that's why kids go to their brain's computer and "empty trash" at the start of each summer. Or perhaps it's more about what we all do: take a break from learning one way and instead learn in another.

Perhaps the real goal here is to recognize and exploit the different lessons that have been learned over the summer months rather than condemning students or teachers for lessons seemingly lost. Incidentally, I don't think they've been lost, just packed away in a trunk somewhere for the new teacher to help unfold.

What are your thoughts and ideas on this post? Please share in the comments section below.
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Here are some great articles on the use of wall displays. Take a look. They will help you plan for next year. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
May 24, 2014 - Issue #384

Walled Readers
A boundary is not that at which something stops, but that from which something begins.

                                               Martin Heidegger
This spring I visited Gigi McAllister's fourth-grade classroom in southern Maine. When I entered the room, my eyes were immediately drawn to a large and colorful display of book covers. Inspired by Donalyn Miller's work, Gigi has created a visual record of her reading throughout the year with four categories. "Currently Reading" is featured at the top, followed by the headings of "Just Finished," "What's Next," and "Read This School Year."
I asked Gigi about the display, and she explained that it was a challenging wall space to fill. It's an awkward spot, not visible from most of the classroom because it's wedged between the coat area and supply bins. Yet students see it first thing when they arrive each morning. They walk by it as part of their morning ritual of taking off their coats, hanging them, and then stepping over the threshold into the room.
Every classroom has a few nooks, crannies, and bits of wall space that aren't easy to use for instruction or storage. We often forget about them till the classroom is nearly bare in late spring.  Gigi uses her odd wall as a way to hold herself accountable as a reader -- if she forgets to update the display, one of her students is sure to remind her. The listing of books is a fun way to see how quickly a list of books read grows throughout the year, and it's a catalyst for dishing on new titles and authors with students.
As teachers begin to break down and clean up rooms, it's a wonderful time for rethinking wall displays -- which ones build and refine thoughtful work, and which ones have lived beyond their usefulness. Wall displays are our focus this week -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All

[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Katherine Sokolowski writes about how she handles the challenge of Creating Anchor Charts with Multiple Classes using the same classroom:
The Chartchums blog has advice from Valerie Geschwind for using wall charts to record classroom talk:
Do your classroom walls need a refresh? Do students even refer to the materials you've posted? Margaret Berry Wilson shares some questions to ask yourself as you think through wall displays in If Classroom Walls Could Talk from Responsive Classroom:
Franki Sibberson leads the online 12-day course The Tech-Savvy Literacy Teacher June 5-16. This interactive course includes three webinars, Franki's newest book, a professional development DVD, and an introduction to scores of resources on the web. For more details and to register online, visit this link:

Will you join us July 16-17 in Wrentham, Massachusetts for the Coaching the Common Core Workshop? The two-day event includes presentations by Jennifer Allen, Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, and Jason DiCarlo. For details and to download an informational brochure, click on this link:
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