Monday, December 14, 2015

The Great Gatsby Science and ELA Integrated Lesson

This past summer I had the opportunity to take a two-week science and English integration class for teachers. It was an eye-opening experience to learn just how differently science and English brains work. As a fun way to wrap up our first Friday of this class, we did an easy oil and water experiment. As I watched the mesmerizing colors seep down through the oil, I immediately thought of how I could use this fun experiment with my Gatsby Color Symbolism Unit. Five months later, I finally got to test out this lesson, and my students thought it was SO cool. It was a hit for sure!

(This is me on the right being very excited about my first ever lab coat!)

The Great Gatsby Science and ELA Integrated Lesson: 

1. First, I set the pre-filled water bottles out on their desks (I just asked my coworkers to save me their recycling). 

2. I asked the students to predict what would happen when I poured the oil in the water. Most of them knew what would happen, but hardly anyone could explain WHY. So, I had them read an informational text on why oil and water don't mix. 

3. After reading, they filled out their flipbook page by writing down oil and water properties. 
(My lesson is in a book format, so that's why Tom is on the other page) 

4. Then, they had to switch from their science brain to their English brain and decide who or what in The Great Gatsby represents oil and who or what represents water. I had a lot of unique answers to this question, so the oil and water analogy really sparked critical thinking! One answer was that Daisy is the oil because she only cares about herself and is uppity (oil has zero charge, so it is only attracted to itself and sits on top of the water). 

5. Next, we got to the fun part--adding the food coloring! Since we have been doing a color analysis of The Great Gatsby, I had students describe the symbolism of each  drop of color before putting it into their bottle. Again, lots of great discussion with this! 

(Gold  and riches mixed with "blood" red to show Myrtle's desire to climb the social ladder ended brutally)  
 (Green for the green light that represents Gatsby's envy) 

6. Then, we did a close reading of the last passage of the book: 

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic   future that year by year recedes before us. It  eluded us then, but that’s no matter–  tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning—- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

7. Lastly, I had students add a small, plastic bead to the bottle to represent a boat.We then held the bottle on its side and created waves. I told the students to try and get the "boat" to the "light" at the end of the bottle. Of course, this didn't happen because the boat went against the current, "borne back ceaselessly into the past." I have tried to teach this passage at least 10 times now, but this single activity brought it to life for my students. They really got it! 

Full Gatsby Unit Here: 

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Don't Hate, Integrate: How to use Smartphones in the Classroom

I've been utilizing cell phones in my classroom for so long that I had forgotten some teachers are still putting up the good fight to control cell phone use in their classrooms. Back in 2010, my school implemented the "If you can't beat them, join them" mentality and started encouraging teachers to put cell phones to use in their classrooms rather than to try in vain to keep them out. The results have been tremendous. Basically, each teacher has the freedom to implement their own cell phone policy, and I can tell you that the ones who try to integrate cell phones in their lessons have fewer issues than the ones who don't. If students know that they will get to use their smartphones at least once during a lesson, then it seems to ease that itch to check it at inappropriate times. Also, this teaches a KEY life lesson: Cellphone Etiquette.  Smartphones can make us more efficient, eliminate paper waste, and help our brains engage, but not being consumed with a phone at inappropriate times is a lesson that must be taught.  There are respectful, life-long learning benefits of smartphones, and I want my students to learn these lessons.

If you are worried that using smartphones in the classroom will highlight the have and the have-nots, then think about some solutions rather than skipping out on these powerful learning tools altogether. Most of us have two or three old phones around the house. Our friends and family could add at least 10 more. Once the pictures and messages have been deleted, they can serve as spare smartphones in your classroom. They won't have the phone service, but once connected to the internet, students will be able to use them for all of the activities listed below. Another solution is to always make sure those without cell phones are paired with someone who has one.

How to integrate smartphones in the classroom: 

1. Remind: Most of us have heard of this service. It's a great way to contact parents and students to remind them about due dates, but it's also a great way to send out items students will need in class. I use it to send links to articles or websites that we are using in class each day. For the internet only spare cell phones, you can set up a generic class email for those phones then link the remind messages to it.

***FUN ALERT*** Another not-so-obvious way to utilize the Remind app even further is a little game I like to call "Quick Draw Paws" where you play a review game based on who has the quickest texting "paws." You can play this by putting students into groups (making sure at least one of the group members is signed up for your remind). Then, you start a chat with each team leader. Now, the chat should be open so that after you ask a review question, the answer that comes back to your chat the quickest wins the round.

*** FUN ALERT #2*** I figured out another awesome way to use Remind this week when I had my students use Snapchat to interpret The Canterbury Tales. Instead of my having to follow them, I had them take screen shots of the snaps then send them to me in Remind. It worked perfectly and was actually fun to grade! Ha! If you happen to teach The Canterbury Tales, you can find our more about that lesson here: The Canterbury Tales meet Snapchat Stories 

2. Overdrive: This app is a MUST HAVE. I'm so surprised about how few people use it. Once you link your local library account (our school library even has an account!), you can check out digital books just like you would from a brick and mortar library. Except for the special occasion where I don't want to wait for a book that's on hold, I haven't paid for a book in over 2 years. My reading rate has also drastically increased because it's so easy to pull the book up one my phone when I have extra time. This app also helps students gain access to more books, and they are able to use the dictionary and note-taking functions for close readings. 

3. Lark by Storybird: This is the type of app that I just can't believe is FREE. I'm a huge fan of Storybird, and this extension app didn't disappoint. Obviously, this app is used to create poems, but here are some not-so-obvious uses: Exit-tickets (have students create a poem to represent a key concept or how they felt about the lesson in general and flash their phones on the way out the door), Mood (have students showcase the mood of a story or speech by representing through art and words). Want to see an example of this app, read about it in this post: How to use Storybird with older students 

4. PollEveryWhere: Here's an oldie but goodie. Students text answers and codes to a provided number and the results show up on the screen in real time. Polleverywhere also allows for web responces. 
Here are some examples of how I have used it in the past: 

A poll to go along with this Crucible website: You're Accused! 

Only do the free response option if you are very brave ;) I use this one as a hook for the Wife of Bath's Tale from The Canterbury Tales. Students get a kick out of how their answers are VERY similar to the responses given over 600 years ago!! 

5. YouDoodle: See how I use this app to do close readings and blackout poems--Technology-Based Poetry Stations 
Here is an example of a close reading done with YouDoodle: 

6. Hokusai: This is a song editing app that allows you to very easily cut and splice songs together. They can also add in their own voice recording. Students can use this to create one mixed soundtracks for different assignments. Historial soundtracks, soundtrack of a character's life, and mood changes throughout a story are just a few ideas. You may also enjoy reading: Fun ways to use music in the English classroom 

7. Music:  Speaking of music, why not go with their desire to have their earbuds in at all times and design a lesson that incorporates their love of music? My history teacher husband uses this lesson with his middle schoolers for each world history lesson he teaches, and his 7th graders never get tired of it...never. Music is their lifeblood.

8. Bubble:  This app allows students to add thought bubbles to photographs. They could take selfies then give their thoughts on a topic, or they should take a screen shot of a character or historical painting and add captions about what the people in the photograph they are thinking.  I got this idea from this history teacher: History Tech . Go check out his example!

9. Other Photo Apps: Most likely your students already have an app that will allow then to add text to a photo. These apps can be used to make memes  to showcase learning in a funny way or to mark up photographs for different reasons. You can also use Skitch that is mentioned above for this. 

 Here is an amazing example of how this strategy can be used: 

10. Kahoot:  Another one most people have heard of by now. My high school students get SO into this game. They love it! I love it because I have yet to have to make  my own kahoot. I simply search the community of kahoots and find what I'm looking for from other fabulous teachers who have saved my booty numerous lesson-ends-10-minutes-too-early- times. ;) 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween High School and Middle School ELA Activities: Fun and Rigorous ELA Lessons Plans for Halloween

Raise your hand if you are tired of seeing elementary teachers getting to have all the fun around the holidays!!! (both hands raised).

I somehow got persuaded to teach at an after-school program for elementary students recently, and what amazed me the most from that experience was how EXCITED those little kids were over EVERYTHING. Why should the fun stop after 5th grade? Why can't secondary teachers help older students bring back a little of that enthusiasm for learning?

Here are a few of my favorite fall and Halloween inspired lessons from around the web that are fun enough to add a little holiday cheer to your classroom and rigorous enough to where you wouldn't be embarrassed if administration walked during the lesson. ;)

As a bonus, since I hate messing up my normal flow of lessons, these activities can be done with ANY piece of literature; this means you can use them no matter where you are in your curriculum when Halloween rolls around!

1. Have students write about the "ghosts" that characters face

Extend this lesson by adding in some informational text found here: 8 Ways to Release Ghosts from the Past and be Happy in the Present  and having students apply that advice to their character in an informational writing format. 

2. Work on writing revision by having students find overused words using a word cloud generator then replacing those words with more precise language. 
Download this free tombstone template here: RIP Words 

3. Have students think critically about symbols and color connotations by designing a pumpkin for a character or author. 

           Link to this lesson here: Painted Pumpkin Symbolism and Halloween Writing 

Don't you just love that Harry Potter pumpkin!? Also, I  MUST tell you about my favorite YouTube station of all time. This extremely talented person has created hours and hours of Harry Potter Ambient Sounds and they are everything. I'm playing this one on repeat on Halloween day.

ASMR Halloween Ambient Sounds 

4. Bring in a little reading cheer with this free Halloween bookmark-

You can download this zen doodle bookmark here: Hanging Out With All My Friends 

5. Add creepy literary device posters for mentor texts and decorations. 

5. Work on root words by practicing with Halloween-inspired roots
Here's a list of 10 of the 30  Halloween roots words in this lesson: 

Abnormal -from, away
Carnivore-flesh, meat
Hemoglobin- blood
Horror- dreadful
Morgue- death 
Sci-fi - science 

These are so fun to use with little creative writing assignments such as a response to a Poe reading or an original Halloween poem. 

6. Sneak in a little test prep by doing a Halloween informational text close reading

7. Tap into students' desire to dress up by acting out scenes from any story, book, or play. Any time students get the chance to put on silly costumes or props, they love it! This is my go-to activity for when my class starts feeling stale because it can be done on a whim (just have students make costumes using paper and items from your room), requires productive group work, and makes students read independently! The key to this assignment is to make sure groups have a small, but important section to read then act out in ONE class period. If you give them until the next day, it's inevitable that a group member will be absent and their play will be "ruined." Plus, putting a pressing time frame on this assignments really brings out their creativity! Students can use cell phone lights, music, and random items from your classroom to act out their play. 

If you want a no-prep way to bring your text to life through mini plays, you can find my assignment here which includes task cards for each group member and emoji critique cards. 

8. Wear a festive shirt to school- Every year I design a T-Shirt for charity around the holidays. Here is a picture of last year's shirt:
"Professor McGonagall is my mentor teacher" shirt from 2016 

This year, I did a vote on my Instagram account @BuildingBookLove and here is the winner for 2017: 
If you want this by Halloween, be sure and order early because it takes 10-14 days to arrive. You can order this shirt in different styles here: #SquadGhouls

For an after-hours shirt, I also made this one ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How to use Storybird in Secondary ELA

I've been using Storybird since 2012 with my high school students, and it's one of my absolute favorite websites. If you are a secondary teacher, you probably either haven't heard of this gem, or you think it's too elementary for your older students, but I hope this post will persuade you to give it a try in your high school or middle school classroom because it's seriously AMAZING. 

Basically, this is a free website that hosts artists' work and allows students to create poems, online storybooks, and long-form chapter books. The platform is really simple to use. Remember, it is mostly used by elementary students, so it's designed with a simple platform. The only thing that gets my students confused is that once they choose an artist, they must stick with that collection-- they can't pick and choose art from different artists. I actually find this to be a good thing though, or else they would spend way too long on choosing art and less time on the actual activity. 

Secondary ELA Storybird Ideas: 

1. My number one use for this tool is to check for comprehension of complex concepts. For example, when we do our unit on Shakespearian sonnets, I have students choose a sonnet to reword into modern day language. We use the storybook option for this, and each page is a line of the poem. They must end up with 14 pages that show they understand iambic pentameter, sonnet rhyme scheme, and comprehension of the meaning of the poem. 

Here are a couple of lines from one of my student's interpretation of Sonnet 130 


My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips' red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks; 
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare. 

This technique can be used with any text! Retelling in their own words is an essential aspect of complete comprehension. Storybird makes this task a little more fun. :) 

2.  Use Storybird as a tool in satire lessons. When we read Gulliver's travels, I use Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book  as a scaffolding technique to teach satire. I follow up this lesson by assigning a project in which students write a children's book addressing a controversial issue by using satire. For example, one of my students chose a later school start time as her issue, and she wrote a children's book using Storybird. She found "animals sleeping" art and came up with a fantastic concept to illustrate how going to school at 7:30 goes against scientific studies on the brain. I can't find her story now, but you can find other examples by searching "satire" on the Storybird website. 

3. Use Storybird as a platform for theme extension. Sometimes it's not enough for secondary students to simply identify themes in literature. Once they have mastered this concept, I want them to apply their learning and up the scale of Bloom's Taxonomy by creating an original story with the same theme. For example, after reading Thoreau, I have students read Henry Hikes to Fitchburg as a mentor text for how an author extends the themes in Thoreau to create an original work in the form of a children's book. 

Next, I have students create their own original story that illustrates a theme in Emerson or Thoreau's work. 

4. Use Storybird's Poem Feature for Seasonal or Thematic Poetry Activities. I really love using the poetry feature on Storybird! It can be used to create fun, or you can use it strategically. For example, if you need a holiday activity, you can have students create seasonal poetry that uses literary device concepts you have been working on. Here is a summer themed example that uses alliteration and imagery: 

Another way I have used this feature is to have students write a thematic poem. This one is from Gatsby's point-of-view and reflects what Fitzgerald believes about the American Dream. 

You can't choose the words you want to show up on Storybird's platform, but if you want to take this idea further, you can create your own word banks with vocabulary words or words found in the literature you are reading by making your own template. More about that here: 

Poem Puzzle

5. Have students narrate grammar concepts using Storybird. 

If you are not an English teacher, here are some ideas that can be used in other subject areas: 

Math class ideas: 
The math teachers at my school do a lesson on "if/then" conditional problems. I can't remember the details, but I know that secondary math teachers will know what I'm talking about. Anyway, to illustrate this concept, they have students write a story that is like the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Students make up their own stories that show how this will lead back to the beginning, creating a full circle concept. Storybird would be great for this activity!

History class ideas: 
I saw a tweet from Storybird this week that showed a history teacher using Storybird to have students explain the constitution from different points-of-view using the art perspectives. 

Science class ideas: 
I'm taking a science and ELA integration class right now, and one thing we are learning is that it really helps science students to be able to narrate the concepts they are learning in class. These narrations normally involve personification of a science concept.  For instance, my partner and I did a lesson on "Travels with Carbon" in which a carbon molecule goes from coal to a fossil to being set free. This type of personification of science concepts could easily be done with Storybird. 

Foreign language class ideas: 
The language teachers at my school base their units on common themes such as "clothing." I think it would be so fun to practice new vocabulary by using new words to associate with the art found on Storybird! 

I would love to hear your ideas and add them to this post! If you are using Storybird with older students, please leave a comment! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yoga in the Classroom

I get a lot of my creative classroom ideas during my morning workout session, but this one is by far the most literal. While in the flat-back pose, I was thinking about how one of my yoga teachers described this pose by telling us to breathe deeply but remain static. That spark of memory led to this ELA concept:

After that initial idea, I was able to come up with 12 more poses that are inspired by literature concepts. You can find all of these poses here: Literary Yoga 

How I use these poses in class: 

1. Getting my students up and moving when the "zombie stares" set in. Before coming up with this lesson, I would just have students "stand up and stretch" when we needed to wake up during a particularly long bit of reading. However, that always ended up being a bit awkward because it seemed like the only stretch I could ever think of was the same ol' hands over head one. Now, I have an array of poses to use, and they actually have meaning to them. For example, after reading a lengthy passage, I will say "Stand up and get into your eagle pose, and let's figure out what point-of-view this passage is in. Is it told from an eagle's point of view or a different kind of point-of-view?"

2. An impromptu story or novel review. Often I "forget" to make reviews before tests. Sometimes when I "forget," I will search Kahoot and find a premade game on there. Other times, I will be even more lazy  resourceful and have students review by going through the yoga poses and applying them to our review piece. I have done this three different ways. One way is as a whole class activity where I play the PowerPoint with the yoga slides while we answer as a class. The second way is by using the center posters and having students go in groups around the room doing the pose and answering the questions with their partners. The third way is by using my task card basket and having groups pull out a card, do the pose, then answer the question to get points for their team.

3. Exit tickets-  I make multiple copies the task cards included in this lesson and put them in a basket. I then let students select a pose from the basket and do the task. For their exit ticket, they must either teach another student this pose and task, or they must write down their answer on a sticky note before leaving.

Most of the time I use these activities to wake my high school students up and get the energy flowing, but if I were teaching middle school again, I would use this to help focus students. If you use it for focus, be sure to create a calming presence in your room before beginning. Turn the lights down low and put on a yoga station. My favorites are Pandora'sYoga Workout Radio and Harry Potter Sound Track also on Pandora. 

Check out the hashtags #yogaintheclassroom and  #yogakids to find more yoga inspiration on Instagram! My favorite yoga  instas to follow are: 

This is a fellow English teacher who does classroom reflection via yoga poses in her classroom, and she is SUCH an inspiration not only through her poses, but also through her words. 

This yoga educator does so much with the use of yoga to promote self-esteem in students. She is amazing. 

Lastly, this teacher is someone who knows how to have FUN with yoga. I love her quirkiness! 

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Into the Wild Unit Plan

One thing I've noticed from teaching Into the Wild the past three years is that if I can keep my students on track with the complicated plot, then they absolutely adore this nonfiction novel. However, if they get lost in the flashbacks and changing settings, then I've lost them forever. To ensure that all students are able to keep up with and connect to this beautiful story, I have designed a flipbook that will keep ALL of their novel activities, notes, and evidence in one nicely organized location. 

As an added bonus, I channeled the teachings of nature lovers like McCandless and Thoreau and designed this flipbook to be double-sided. It uses EVERY inch of both sides of copy paper and requires NO cutting. It only took me about a 100 tries to get the fonts turned the correct way to accomplish this feat. Ha ;) 

You can find this Common Core-Aligned unit plan (includes activities for EACH chapter, teacher unit notes, answer keys, and final unit test with answer key) in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store: Into the Wild Unit Plan 

If you would prefer to watch a Youtube video giving instructions on how to put this flipbook together, follow this link: Into the Wild Flipbook . I got into greater detail in the video, so I suggest watching it at least once! 

Updated: I have now added in a regular handout option to my unit for those who prefer to use the activities as individual activities rather than in a flipbook format! 

Here are the written instructions for the flipbook:
1. Fold each sheet of paper on the "fold" line provided. Each fold line is numbered so that they are easier to keep organized in case papers go awry.  Please make sure to fold to where the "fold here" words appear on the top, visible crease. 

2. Slide each newly folded paper into the one before it 

Keep going until you are out of papers (there are 9 double-sided pages for each student)
Once you get to the last page, you should be able to flip that page up and see 9 new (once hidden) tabs. The first one will say "Into the Wild Continued" 

 If it looks like the photos above, then you have it right. Once you are certain everything is in the right location, straighten your flipbook ensuring each page is tucked tightly into the others. Then, put two staples one the first tab where it says "Staple, Staple." 

Here is what the finished product will look like: 

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