Igniting Excitement for Inferences: “The Black Cat” Inferences Challenge!

One of the standards that students struggle to master in 8th grade Language Arts is ELAGSE8RL1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. This standard involves abstract thinking, and for 8th graders whose brains are still developing, this … Continue reading Igniting Excitement for Inferences: “The Black Cat” Inferences Challenge!

Scaffolding Student Panel Discussions for Success

Earlier this month, I was inspired to try student panel presentations in my classroom with 8th graders. Due to safety related restrictions, it is near impossible to do many of the face to face discussion strategies I have used in the past, so I wanted to try something that would allow in-person discussion with minimal … Continue reading Scaffolding Student Panel Discussions for Success

New Publication: “The Classroom Is a Mirror: Learning Spaces as a Reflection of Instructional Design”

I am delighted to share that Dr. Stephanie Loomis and I have co-written an article about my classroom design and how it is driven by instructional design; this article, "The Classroom Is a Mirror: Learning Spaces as a Reflection of Instructional Design," is available now in the September 2020 issue of NCTE's Voices from the … Continue reading New Publication: “The Classroom Is a Mirror: Learning Spaces as a Reflection of Instructional Design”

Mission Impossible: Preparing to Teach in a Covid Red Zone State

As we begin our third week of pre-planning in my district, it's hard to find the words to write this post.   It is almost too painful to articulate the fear, anger, and anxiety that has been building inside me the last six weeks or so as the beginning of the school year has drawn closer.  … Continue reading Mission Impossible: Preparing to Teach in a Covid Red Zone State

Poems from Quaranteens: A Virtual Poetry Chat in Flipgrid + An eBook

As part of our continued study of poetry and a celebration of National Poetry Month 2020, my students composed poems last week using a wide range of strategies.  In this post, I'll outline how we not only composed original poems, but I'll also explain how we used Flipgrid to share those poems and interact with … Continue reading Poems from Quaranteens: A Virtual Poetry Chat in Flipgrid + An eBook

Double The Donations: Donors Choose #FillEveryShelf Campaign Starts TODAY!

I am thrilled to share that today is the beginning of a special 5 day campaign with Donors Choose:  #FillEveryShelf .  What is this awesome campaign? Right now, any contribution you make to my project will be doubled by a group of anonymous donors. This is an amazing opportunity for my classroom! Your donation will … Continue reading Double The Donations: Donors Choose #FillEveryShelf Campaign Starts TODAY!

Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 3: from Gallery Walk to Collaborative Noticings and Reflections

In my previous two posts, I outlined the activities that were our first points of inquiry into argumentative writing and essays.  In the last post, I shared how I organized a gallery walk (via tables instead of walls) for students to explore a variety of "texts" and to identify the argument.  Students posted their thinking … Continue reading Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 3: from Gallery Walk to Collaborative Noticings and Reflections

Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 2: Arguments in the Wild Analysis Safari

In my last post, I shared how we began to take an inquiry stance to explore what we thought we knew about argumentative writing.  For the next part of our inquiry, I set up a gallery walk of sorts with a variety of different texts that presented an explicit or implicit argument.  We reviewed our … Continue reading Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 2: Arguments in the Wild Analysis Safari

Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 1: Anticipation Guides, Partner/Trio Talk, Everyone Up, and Pop-Up Discussions

Earlier this past week, we formally began our extended argumentative writing unit of study.  As I'm often wont to do, I wanted to find a different way to introduce the unit.  I wanted to get a sense of what students already knew while infusing inquiry into the first few days of learning activities. We began … Continue reading Beginning Our Argumentative Writing Unit with an Inquiry Stance, Part 1: Anticipation Guides, Partner/Trio Talk, Everyone Up, and Pop-Up Discussions

ConverSTATIONS with Book Clubs: Cross-Pollinating Thinking Across Texts

We finished our literary nonfiction and memoirs on January 31; I wanted students to have a way to discuss their books and share their thinking across texts.  While I really wanted to do a "Peeling the Fruit" or "Circle of Viewpoints" thinking activity, I didn't feel like my 8th graders were quite ready for this … Continue reading ConverSTATIONS with Book Clubs: Cross-Pollinating Thinking Across Texts

Discussion Structures and Tools for Supporting Book Club Discussions in 8th Grade

In my last blog post, I shared the note-taking strategies for reading our book club texts more closely and choices for taking reading notes.  In this blog post, I'll outline the discussion structures/strategies for each book club meeting and scaffolding I provided for meetings and refinding notes for each of my classes.  Whether you are … Continue reading Discussion Structures and Tools for Supporting Book Club Discussions in 8th Grade

Reading Workout with Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs

Inspired by the always innovative Sarah Brown Wessling, I adapted an activity she shared this past December that she calls Reading Workouts for independent reading time.  I made a few modifcations to account for a shorter literacy block of time and the needs of my 8th grade learners, but here is my version that was … Continue reading Reading Workout with Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs

Introducing Book Clubs with Partner Reading and Noticings About Themes, Central Ideas, and Issues

Yesterday, I introduced book clubs by issuing students their books with their reading tickets/schedules (see previous blog post, please).  Students also got new seating/table assignments when they arrived; I projected these onto the board as students arrived.  Students are either seating with their entire book club OR in a "subgroup" of a larger book club … Continue reading Introducing Book Clubs with Partner Reading and Noticings About Themes, Central Ideas, and Issues

Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs: Organizing Groups and Resources for Success

We just started our literary nonfiction (my favorite genre!) and memoir book clubs yesterday!  In this post, I'll outline the "legwork" I did to get the clubs formed and ready to go. Book Sampling/Book Tasting We began with a book sampling/tasting in early December; compared to years past, I kept this activity pretty low key.  … Continue reading Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs: Organizing Groups and Resources for Success

Revisiting and Exploring Tone in Nonfiction and Fiction

Last week, we engaged in some targeted mini-lessons and learning activities to grow our understanding of tone.  We had practiced analyzing tone earlier this fall, but since this is sometimes a challenging concept for 8th graders and because I knew they would have a constructed response about tone on their 2nd quarter benchmark, I designed … Continue reading Revisiting and Exploring Tone in Nonfiction and Fiction

I Scream, You Scream, The Students All Scream for Gimkit!

Have you tried the hottest learning tool in the edtech universe, Gimkit?  Fellow Language Arts teacher Jeanne Rountree first put this technology on my radar during preplanning in August, but I didn't actually try it with my students until November.  According to Gimkit's creator, high school student Josh Feinsilber, Gimkit is: "...a game show for … Continue reading I Scream, You Scream, The Students All Scream for Gimkit!

Annotating for Active Reading: Post-It Notes and File Folders

This fall my 8th graders have practiced Notice and Note annotation strategies as well as those from Cris Tovani.  I have not required my 8th graders to annotate their independent reading, but earlier this month, I felt annotating their reading for an in-class reading day would be beneficial for my students.  I also felt this … Continue reading Annotating for Active Reading: Post-It Notes and File Folders

Powerful Practice: Read Aloud Reading Partners with Informational Text

One of the simplest but most powerful practices this fall has been read aloud reading partners.  I love the learning structure because it's so versatile and can be used in multiple ways. On a simple level, I used it last week when I lost my voice and needed students to review instructions for an annotation … Continue reading Powerful Practice: Read Aloud Reading Partners with Informational Text

Growing Our Conversation Skills with Socratic Seminar

We are continuing to grow our discussion skills in my 8th grade classes with a variety of conversation strategies.  Prior to Thanksgiving break, we engaged in a Socratic Seminar over a variety of related texts.   If you want to see some additional interesting twists on Socratic Seminar, check out this great blog post. While I've … Continue reading Growing Our Conversation Skills with Socratic Seminar

Accelerating Student Dialogue with Speed Dating Discussions

In recent years, I've been very intentional about integrating student discussion strategies along with the hard academic skills and soft social skills inherent in student conversations for learning.  Our state 8th grade English Language Arts standards also value speaking and listening as well as comprehension and collaboration: ELAGSE8SL1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative … Continue reading Accelerating Student Dialogue with Speed Dating Discussions