Fahrenheit 451: Censorship #1

“It was a pleasure to burn”.

That’s how Ray Bradbury opens his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.

Ilana, our librarian,  designed an interactive presentation to provide my ELLs with background knowledge to help them make sense of one of the central themes in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  

She began by showing the students a powerful video.

After a class discussion about the big ideas in the video,  Ilana continued with the main activity.  She had selected several books that had either been banned or challenged.  On the table were strips of paper with the reasons for the challenge.  Each student selected a few books and tried to match them with the reasons by reading the blurbs.



The students were intrigued by the various reasons given for banning or challenging books.  They were surprised that books they loved as kids such as Winnie the Poo, Where’s Waldo or Where the Wild Things Are, had been challenged.  Banning Orwell’s 1984 made more sense.  In the first follow up discussion, one student remarked that perhaps a government should control what people read in order to prevent them from getting strange ideas that might harm themselves and others.  “What about Mein Kampf?” he asked. Our conversation moved on to freedom and personal safety.

This discussion will be continued next week when Ilana reads a recently published children’s book that has been challenged.

I am looking forward to the ‘ahah’ moments.





We tend to use this word lightly – an inspirational talk, video, book.  However, today I want to thank Dave Stuart Jr., whose teacher friendly blog I have been following for some time. I want to thank Dave for introducing me to Barrett Brooks.  His compelling post expresses so succinctly what education is all about.

Brooks’ 6 principals surely make up the profile of our learners.


Our responsibility is to teach our youngsters



exposure to a variety of topics


design thinking


These principals are challenging and energizing.

Who or what inspired you this weekend?



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.




Our Buzzing Library

Our librarians are always on the go.  As soon as they finish one event, another one takes its place.  This week our library celebrated.  Remember Drop Everything And Read?  Well, the goal is the same – turn students onto reading.  However, the method is different.

Welcome to Library Tech Week.


There were stations and competitions.  However, my class decided to learn how to create an app in 4 minutes, play a few moves of chess and create Book Cover Selfies.

Yes, there certainly was a buzz.

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?

Just Read

The more I read about reading, the more I am convinced that this is THE key to the freedom, creativity, insight, and success of our learners. (I am not adding anything new to the argument).

So, I do not need to justify the short time we spend every Reading Workshop engaged in what  Krashen calls SSR – sustained silent reading, reading for PLEASURE.

If only I could turn a reluctant reader into a reader…

So here are the books I have added to our class library.


I will order some more titles once I have got to know the passions of this year’s ELLs.