Does Competition Have a Place in the Classroom?

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Tis the season of the testing, falalala la la la laaaa. (yes, sing it to the tune). Let’s face it, testing is real. We can all sit on our high horses and say what we want about state testing, common core testing, or whatever brand of testing you happen to give… but it is a fact of life. With testing comes a certain sense of competition. The question, however, is whether or not competition has a place in the classroom. Continue reading

The Importance of an Audience

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Can I get your attention please. Please… everyone… attention please. If you find yourself repeating something along these lines often, then odds are, your audience isn’t all that into you, or more accurately, what you have to say.

Students, believe it or not, have the same issue. I truly believe that students want to write. The problem, they don’t always want to write about what you want them to write about. How can we really know what level our students are writing on if they don’t really care about what they are writing?

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Openebooks.net – A Great Resource

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You have likely seen it all over social media. It seems that Twitter is exploding with tweets about the Openebooks initiative. Being an English teacher who believes reading holds the key to many of life’s treasures, I jumped right in and took a look.

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What is Rigor, and What is NOT

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Call this a vent session. Call it a soapbox moment. Call it whatever you wish, but this needs saying, if for no other reason than to get it off my chest. Rigor, the buzzword being tossed around like cheap candy at a parade. Everyone claims they want to increase the rigor in their classrooms. Principals tell us to do it. Professors tell education students to increase it. Teachers claim they are doing it. But, are they? Continue reading

Choral Reading for Poetry in Middle Grades

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I teach 7th grade English. Let’s be honest for a moment about 7th graders. They can be a persnickety bunch. They are starting to develop personalities, or changing I should say. They think they are grown up, but don’t yet want to be grown up all the time. Continue reading

Using “Fakebook” to teach Point of View

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So, a few months ago I stumbled upon Fakebook. Fakebook is a tool put out by classtools.net that allows students to create what looks a lot like a Facebook page.

I used this while the class read The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. I assigned one of the three major characters to each student, and they were tasked with creating a Fakebook page for their assigned character. Continue reading

Vocabulary… Teaching versus Giving

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Vocabulary lists. These are the things that students often hate more than anything else, and perhaps there is some justification for that. We have all been guilty of giving the dreaded list at some point in our careers. In fact, I still give a list, I just treat it differently than I did before.

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Wattpad, a way for everyone to get out there

For years, teachers have been telling students to get out there, write something. The problem for many was having an audience. When an author has an audience, they are much more inclined to write, and write well.

Teens, as many of us know, tend to be a different breed altogether. They are discovering who they are, or, more accurately, molding themselves into who they want to be. They write for school, and maybe even for friends. The problem is, when they write for teachers at school, they feel limited.

Yes, I know, many of us tell students they should feel free to write what they think, what they feel, etc. At the same time, many teens want to write things they are not so willing to just hand over to their teacher, more for fear of school imposed consequences. This is not to say that what they are writing is inappropriate, just that it may push limits of school rules.

Teens will be teens, and, as such, they will find an avenue to express themselves. If you have students who are aspiring authors, wattpad.com may be a tool you want to show them.

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Wattpad allows the student (or anyone, for that matter) to set up an account, free of charge. They can build in a certain level of anonymity, using nick names, etc. They are then able to search out stories to read. The best part about wattpad is it provides an audience for writing.

Wattpad becomes infectious. A few students start writing and sharing, then more want to write and share. Eventually, you end up with students who finish classwork, and ask if they can work on their wattpad writing. Hmm… let’s think about that one. Kids, begging to write? It doesn’t take long to figure out the obvious answer to that one. Students end up thinking, formulating story ideas, plot twists, character motivations, etc. doing something they choose to do, on their own, for fun. Maybe it’s just me, but that seems to be a pretty good deal.

To make life even easier for students, yes, there is an app for that. Wattpad is accessible via the web, or their mobile app.

So, if you are looking for a way to provide your students with a meaningful audience, a place to read other stories, and critique and comment on them, wattpad is the place for you.

Using Goodreads as a classroom checkout system

I was having a Twitter conversation with Eric Démoré (@EricDemore) about books for classroom libraries. Check out his blog as well, it has some quality stuff. (http://demore.ca) After going back and forth for several minutes, the conversation turned to our blogs, and eventually, to the use of www.goodreads.com. 

We discussed the strengths of Goodreads, such as being able to have a list of “to read” texts, a way to keep up with books you have read, and a place to find suggestions for one’s next great book. It is made even better by the fact that one can download the app to a mobile device, and add those books straight from the bookstore, using the UPC barcode scanner.

Eric then mentioned that he would like to find a way to make it work as a means of keeping up with student checkouts; a way to keep up with what student has what book off the classroom shelf. I had not thought of that before, so I was intrigued.

Quickly, I poured myself another cup of coffee, and got to it. As it happens, it is far easier than one would think.

Step one:  Log into your account at www.goodreads.com (or make one if you don’t have one and really want to be cool)

Step two: In the header section, click MY BOOKS

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Step three: Click ADD SHELF on the left side, and name it something like BOOKS BORROWED

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Step four: Next, click the new folder (whatever you named it), then click settings. Here you can change what is viewable in that folder. You will want to uncheck several of the items, as you probably are not as interested in the ratings and such in this area. Be sure you keep title, author, and date added. Also, click the box to add NOTES. This is where you will put the student’s name who has the book.

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Step five: Finally, you are ready to add books to this shelf. You can either scan them from the app, or add them by typing the name. After you add the book, just click the little “edit” link in the NOTES column and add the students name. When they return the book, just delete it from the shelf by clicking the X at the end of the line.

Now, get reading!