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.


Teach better tomorrow via a Tweet


It just so happened that I was planning tomorrow’s lesson on the first two chapters of Lord of the Flies


when I came across this tweet:

I chose the following EQ:

“How do you differentiate between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’?

After a ‘quick write’, we came up with a few ideas.  e all admitted we were stereotypingIMG_0235.

The Best-Kept Teaching Secret?

The Best-Kept Teaching Secret.

The authors, Harvey ‘Smokey” Daniels and Elaine Daniels are experienced educators who have published many books.  I have read four of them: Mini – Lessons for Literature Circles, Inquiry Circles in Action, Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading and Texts and Lessons for Teaching Literature.  These books are rich in reading and inquiry-based activities  for the ELA as well as ELL classrooms.


Intrigued, I promptly ordered the Best Kept Secret and as soon as it arrived, rushed to read it before we got too far into the school year.

The secret?  Written conversations but in the form of letters.

The book is easy to navigate with a summary of each conversation;  goals  and clear directions for the teacher on how to plan the activity. I  came away with a few interesting ideas.

Daniels suggests we take a break in the middle of our lessons for students to exchange brief notes with a partner expressing understanding, or asking for clarification. (81, Daniels).

The writers call the entry note-card an ‘admit ticket.’ I used this as a homework assignment (Daniel’s idea) and all the students came to class prepared to discuss the prompt I gave them.  I asked them to draw a concept map of what/who influences their identity and used the note-cards as a hook for our unit on Civil Rights.


And here is what influences their decisions, values etc.


The Daniels have upgraded the old ‘quick writes’ with a silent, visible think-aloud called ‘write-arounds’.  (168, Daniels).  I used this activity to pique the students’ interest in the main ideas of a short story  ‘The Fan Club’.

I divided the class into 4 groups and put a different question on each table. Each student received a piece of paper and responded to the prompts.

When I rang my Bhutan bell

IMG_0194after 2 minutes, the students passed the papers on. When the paper reached the original writer, the group chose 3 big ideas and one student reported out to the class.

Daniels claims that these written, silent conversations “push kids’ thinking” (3, Daniels) and the students concur.

“I saw the clear opinion of every person in the group”.

“People who have a louder voice didn’t eclipse the ones with quiet voice”.

“I had to expose myself to new ideas and opinions”.

“It was silent, so I was able to be more focused”.

“My sentences are better structured”.

“It’s fun to work in groups”.

However, some students found they did not have enough time to think and write.

“I usually take a super long time to produce ides out of my brain”.

They also enjoyed working in groups and sharing ideas.

Do you have a teaching secret?

Film English

by Kieran Donaghy

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