Now Where Was I?

I know I didn’t really need permission to continue where I left off; but Elizabeth Gilbert, in her latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,  gave me the ‘permission’ I felt I needed.  (Now I know I don’t need it). Towards the end of this gem of a book, Gilbert “urges” the reader to “forget about passion.”  It was then that an aha moment hit me.  How often do I talk about passion in class?  Too often it seems.  Gilbert argues that telling someone to follow their passion may leave the ones who are struggling to find it, “confused and blocked and insecure.”  Rather encourage curiosity.

So when a student is struggling to find a topic he/she cares enough about to write a persuasive piece, I will ask the following:

“Is there anything you’re interested in?


Even a tiny bit?

No matter how mundane or small?” (p.237)

In fact, that is why every Friday

is TOW (Kelly Gallagher’s Text of the Week).  I hope to nudge my students’ curiosity by reading interesting articles, viewing engaging TED talks as well as a powerful image from The New York Times weekly  ‘What’s Going on in This Image’.


2015-16 sources of inspiration

These books comprise my new sources of inspiration, for now,  for next year.

IMG_0377 (2) copy

My vacation is almost over and I haven’t even begun reading professional books.  While leafing through Nancie Atwell’s In The Middle, the words ‘At the end of our first class …’  jumped at me.  Since I want to teach well on my first class of the year, I will begin reading it.

By the way, I love the whimsical book marks you get with a Book Depository order.


Summer Slide not

But, I prevented my summer slide by reading lots of tweets.  I am amazed at how many teachers continue to post during their vacations.  I am grateful.

I began to fill the July pages  of my new Moleskin planner.


Notes on offline and online learning by David Brooks.  Online is like being part of ‘he greatest cocktail party ever.  Learning offline is ‘like being a member of a book club… solitary, intentional reading’ that takes TIME.

Alex Quigly argues that we should be assessing for progress rather than performance.

I was intrigued by an original metaphor for learning.   Robert Siegler, a cognitive psychologist,  describes learning as ‘a gradual ebbing and flowing of the frequencies of alternative ways of thinking with new approaches being added.”  How compassionate and safe .

I learnt about a downloaded an app called Word Swag.  How could I resist the name?

And, of course, close reading continues to be in the limelight.  I liked Doug Fisher’s definition of annotated reading as being ‘a careful, purposeful rereading of a text.’  Kelly Gallagher’s latest book suggests original, creative doable strategies for deeper, ‘second draft’ reading as he so aptly puts it.

I learnt that students ‘think-tank’ instead of ‘brainstorm’;  using They Say, I Say prompts such as ‘I used to think …, but now I think …’

 Frank Bruni points out that getting enough sleep  is ‘a gateway’ not an ‘impediment to dreams.’  So I will continue to exhort my students to get their 7 hours of sleep.

I am expanding my vocabulary by following HaggardHawks Words on Twitter and this is what I did this summer: I slurged (lazed around) drinking several pints of mahogany (cups of coffee) trying very hard not to look for molligrants  – imagined illnesses.


Raise your glasses…

I read a wonderful post on a short end-of-the-year activity that enforces public speaking skills as well as reflection and collegiality.

However, the schedule for the last day this year is different, so that students spend more time with their peers.  Unfortunately, I could not experiment with the Pop Up Toasts.

However, I plan to  toast  the new academic year in August.  Each student will give a ‘cheers’ in their own language and then continue (in English) with what they’d like to be able to do this year that they can’t do now.

Then we’ll toast and reflect on the end of the year on our last lesson.  Talk about backward design!

Celebrating Poetry Month in April

We returned to our new found space in the library for a couple of activities to celebrate poetry.

Our supportive librarian, Ilan, displayed a variety of poetry anthologies.  The students had to dip in to them and lift interesting, powerful lines and write them on colored note cards.

The students then searched for color, fonts and meaning to help them create Headline Found Poems.

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Ilana proudly taped the final products


You know we talk too much

The best way to increase student talk time is through discussion.

I just read Larry Ferlazzo’s tweet about a teacher/student friendly competitive fish bowl discussion.

I have  downloaded the Socratic Smackdown.

Thank you Rebecca Grodner and the Institute of Play for sharing.

I don’t know why, but I am always amazed at the generosity of educators who share their ideas and resources.

What’s the Story?

The Teaching Channel is a wonderful resource.

The talented teachers share creative activities and guide the viewer through them in short videos.

I decided that our first discussion on Lord of The Flies would be a variation of the formal Socratic Seminar.

I lifted the ideas directly from this video.

I did not begin with a purpose questions, but asked the students to reflect on their reading by completing a handout. (The same one that is used in the video).

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As part of their ‘takeaway’, the ELLs had to reflect on the activity.  The consensus was that this was an activity that encourages participation by  the whole group,  and the discussion helped clarify main ideas etc.