Final Draft Mind Maps Mini I-Search#2

The students created their final draft mind maps by spreading papers and markers across tables or  on the floor. I was impressed by the wide range of topics:

One student had read an article in her native language ,Korean, about the impact of viral marketing on the restaurant business.


Another, always in dire need of sleep, chose an obvious topic of personal interest:


Another ELL student, a fan of movies, decided to compare two blockbuster series:


And yet another of my students is haunted by the refugee crisis:


I handed out sticky notes for them to  peer review at least 3 maps; reminding them of warm, fuzzy feedback and constructive cool feedback.  The room fell silent as the students walked around, concentrating on the concepts, questions and preliminary sources expressed on the maps.  I was impressed by the caring and insight of the feedback post its.


Once again I followed the directions and printed the feedback handouts in The Unquiet Librarian’s post.





Mini I-Search #1

I decided to focus on the process rather than a full research paper.  This meant scaffolding the pre-search, research, drafting, citing and peer review .  The final product will be an anatomy of a paper with a detailed outline.

In order to design this unit I referred to my ELL Writer’s Workshop Pinterest Board.  This led me to the Unquiet Librarian  posts on scaffolding research and topic choice. Using Jim Burke’s unit design template, I synthesized my sources into a month long unit.


We are spending a lot of time on pre-search.  I unashamedly admit that I followed the steps outlined in the post I mentioned.   The images and videos embedded in the posts make this so easy for a teacher.  The mini lessons included:

choosing a topic

mind mapping topics in order to narrow the choice

generating questions with the help of the Question Lenses

discussing possible sources apart from the obvious Wikipedia and Google

evaluating sites

annotating a text

peer feedback

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The Hook – a flying start

Remember Madeline Hunter‘s  7 Steps lesson plan?

I will never forget the ‘anticipatory set’.  My students have set up, as my physical trainer would say,  and are waiting  to begin.

I recently watched an original, active start to the lesson by Teacher Toolkit

The anticipatory set, hook or entry card is often a short formative assessment on the previous lesson’s homework assignment.  Today my ELLs wrote down the big idea from the reading on scrap paper and proceeded as in the video.  The lesson did get off to a flying start with a brain break, laughter, discussion as well as trying to decipher each other’s handwriting.




Assess with a Tableau

Still in theatre mode.

It was Jeff Wilhelm who first introduced me to the idea of students composing tableaux in order to make sense of a text.  In his thorough, clear way, Wilhelm takes both student and teacher through the steps for creating a tableau.  The Unquiet Librarian reminded me of this activity and also mentioned Assessment Live by Nancy Steineke.  This got me excited.   In addition, I could use this activity as an alternative assessment. I quickly ordered Steineke’s book which arrived in time because we still haven’t finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Haddon.

My students created the tableaux as a 2nd Draft Strategy (see my previous posts on Gallagher’s book).  Following Steineke’s guidelines,  we discussed what makes a good tableau which became our checklist (p.140).  The students had the opportunity to practice.  Their ‘2nd drafts’ were so much more expressive than their first ones.

One of the criteria for a compelling tableau is that students should gain a deeper insight into the text by paying attention to details through a different point of view.  This is exactly what happened.  One group chose the scene where Christopher discovers a box of letters his mother had written to him.  They visualized  the box.  However, after watching the tableau,  the students saw the box in context – in a wardrobe, on the floor, hidden among hanging clothes.


They were also able to feel the pain and anguish of Christopher and his Mother.


What creative assessments do you use?

Peer Review

So far I have tried 2 ways to encourage students to talk about their own as well as their classmates’ writing.  It is all based on warm and cool feedback.

But first we always revise the elements of collaborative, academic discussion.  This year I am using Teaching the Social Skills of Academic Interaction by Daniels and Steineke,  and created the anchor paper that we always refer to.

IMG_5596 (1)

This seems so basic but is a crucial part of any successful collaborative activity.

The Teaching Channel teachers offer engaging ways to get students to talk about and revise their written work. I chose:

  1.  Critical Friends.  I actually showed the students the video because it gave me the opportunity to show how students (as well as the teacher) contribute to the success of the  feedback.    I am scaffolding a writing unit on how to craft an effective argument.  The students’ first assignment was to write a persuasive paragraph using a visual prompt from an original site 


We reviewed the criteria for an effective persuasive paragraph:

topic sentence

precise examples that support the main idea

analysis (Why should the reader care?)

strong clincher.

After sharing their first draft pieces on Google Drive, the students offered the ‘warm fuzzy’ feedback followed by precise suggestions for improvement.  It was interesting that the students were keen to discuss the writer’s argument and offer their own views.

However, this time the focus was on composing a cohesive perfect paragraph.  I reminded the students to try and give the feedback in the form of a question (see second activity below) which forces the writer to come up with her/his own ideas for revision.








2:  Warm and Cool Feedback  Once again, I used the video as a way to take the students through the steps and model them in this revision activity.

Warm and Cool Feedback – A Feedback System


What peer review activities do you use?










Sizzling Salsa Words

Jordana, a young ELA colleague, celebrated word choice with a Salsa party for her 10th graders.  My ELLs were not to be outdone so I planned a party for them.

It  began with tasting rice cakes and corn chips dipped into a bowl of not-too-hot salsa.

I think that eating rice cakes is like eating styrofoam (not that I’ve ever tried).  Salsa sizzles.  The students thought the rice cakes were boring and the salsa words were original.

It was messy and fun.

My takeaway:  I was sure the students would find the rice cakes dry and inedible.  However,  I learnt that hungry teens will devour anything especially before lunch.  I thought I over catered.  But no!


We no longer talk about word choice.  We discuss salsa words.

2 activities & The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I had read the book by Mark Haddon when it was first published in 2003 and went to see the powerful award-winning play in London last year.  I was inspired.

I have read so many studies of how students are feeling less and less empathetic.  What a great chance to raise the students’ awareness of other people’s views of the world, of those who are “different, not less” (Temple Grandin).

One of  my favorite activities is the gallery walk because the students have to move and think.  They are all engaged. So I decided to use this strategy to “frontload” ( a term coined by Jeff Wilhelm in one of his oh so teacher friendly resource books   Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension) .   In small groups, the students walked around the classroom, responding in words and images to 4 significant quotations written on poster paper.   In analyzing the quotes, the students  predicted the attributes of the main character as well as the themes and  conflicts that may emerge.  Once the groups responded to all the quotes, they returned to their original prompt. Each group synthesized the main ideas  of the final quote, and reported out to the rest of the class.  We then held a general discussion.


The second activity was  a drama workshop where the students practiced non verbal communication.  After a few exercises, the drama instructor divided the students into small groups. Two of the groups presented a short scene highlighting conflicts that arise at home through lack of communication. One group enacted a scene from the novel.




New Year = Goals

We should encourage our students to set short term goals.  I do this a few times a year, using different activities.  This time, I divided the goals into 2.  First,  I asked my students to set goals that are not connected to ELL.  I like Dave Stuart Jr’s term ‘long – term flourishing’ and decided to use his ‘back from winter break‘  SMART goal setting activity.


The second activity was for the students to focus on themselves as English language learners.  I asked them to write down what is working and what they need to work on; a form of feedback I learnt from Jim Burke.


Next my students will go back to their goals and evaluate how they are doing.


How long does it take to reach proficiency in English?

I am reminded of  Jeanne D’Arc’s last line in Bernard Shaw’s Joan of Arc:


‘How long, O Lord, how long?’

I was so happy to read that it can take up to 3-5 years to reach oral proficiency.    We want our ELLs to succeed in their regular classes.  In order to do so, some students may simply need more time.

Thank you to one of my mentors: Larry Ferlazzo.

On average, how long do your students remain in your ELL program?

The Ubiquitous Icebreaker – an Upgrade

I am always searching for a new, original icebreaker to begin the year.

Since identity is a recurring theme in various texts, I like the idea of building  individual and class identity webs as a community builder.

I even have my first writing activity:  to reflect on the identity charts, find differences and commonalities.

My thanks to Sarah Ahmed.

A tweet by Traci Gardner sent me to an interesting article  that gave context to the identity concept maps.  I will pair individual and class selfies  with photographic and painted self portraits. And then … I will let you know next week.

Thank you Traci Gardner.

Do you have a favorite icebreaker?