Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

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Twitter-size Reviews

I am so behind on reviews!  Between reading for school, reading fo r the Cybils, grading, planning, and running the dogs every day, there just isn’t enough time in the day!  So I am succumbed to the pressures of my towering to-be-reviewed pile.  Over the next few days I will be posting short, Twitter-sized reviews of books I’ve read recently.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Blick- So creepy and made my skin crawl. I don’t like zombie books. I loved this one. Dystopian and dark, I couldn’t put this down. Highly recommended for high school libraries.  The characters are engaging and the story will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Warning- not a book to read as you are eating lunch or dinner!  I wouldn’t even snack while reading this one…

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins- An interesting look at high school cliques.  Not a huge fan of the choice to include a teacher as one of the subjects (especially as her status isn’t revealed until later in the book).  Definitely thought-provoking.



Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz- I picked this up because I have two extremely intelligent dogs and wanted to know more about animal behavior, specific how the canine brain works.  This is a science book that won’t overwhelm the casual reader and I learned some interesting things about how dogs view the world.  Recommended for dog lovers- it may change the way you interact with your pet.

National Day on Writing Round-up

I am the luckiest teacher in the world.  I work with the most fantastic teachers and this year I’ve connected with some of the English teachers in other buildings in our district.  Michelle and Kelly are awesome and we are so on the same page when it comes to tech and promoting English in our STEM-oriented schools.

Earlier this year Michelle and I were brainstorming ways to do more inter-academy activities in the humanities.  Michelle mentioned that she used Googledocs to run some fun writing contests in her classes and I brought up the idea of taking that idea and extending it to all of our academies.  Thus was born the first annual inter-academy writing contest!

We ended up holding a flash fiction contest.  Students were charged with writing a 6 sentence story (no more, no less!) and were give about two weeks to enter.  All entries were collected via the Googledoc survey.  Students could enter as often as they wished until the deadline and we advertised the contest in all five of the academies.  Within just a few days we had entries from every school!

After entries closed, we all popped into the Googledoc to choose the finalists.  We wanted two finalists from each school and we were able to hide the column showing the name of the student who submitted the entry, so we were able to judge “blind”.  Using the chat feature in Googledocs, we were able to discuss our choices as we made them.  We ended up with 160 entries, which was INSANE.  It took us a lot longer than we planned to narrow down the choices so we didn’t have the finalists chosen for the National Day on Writing, as planned.  However, I’m ok with that because we managed to get so many students involved in the contest!

Our finalists have been chosen and the anonymous stories are now posted in a single googledocs survey.  We posted the survey tonight and students are able to vote until Wednesday.  The winner will receive two trophies- one for them to keep and one for their school trophy case.  The school trophy will be passed to the winning school every year, like a Super Bowl trophy.  Yay for writing!!

How did you celebrate the National Day on Writing?

#NCTE11, Here I Come!

The registration is paid, the hotel room is booked, and my presentation is ready!  I will be in Chicago for NCTE next month and I am very excited!  (No ALAN for me this year- Just wasn’t in the cards. 😦  But when the convention moves to DC and Boston in a few years?  I’m in!)

I will be presenting bright and early on Saturday morning, so come on out and see us!  I will be with Donalyn Miller, Meeno Rami, Cynthia Minnich, and Colby Sharp.  I am very excited about our panel.  I know it’s early, but come on out to see us!

Online Discussion in the “Real World”

At the beginning of this school year, I was thrilled to learn that our district would no longer be blocking social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.  I immediately took my class Facebook page live and activated my class Twitter account.  But before my freshman dove headfirst into the murky waters of social media, I wanted to make sure that they knew how to have a conversation online.  And in all honesty, it was the perfect opportunity to review classroom discussion decorum.  (In my freshman classes, which I co-teach with my history colleague, there are 35ish students in the class at a time.  Rules are important!)

I knew when we unblocked social media that I wanted to focus a lot this year on the importance of digital footprints.  When my freshman graduate from college they will have digital footprint of over a decade.  They are only 14 years old right now.  They can’t even fathom that!  I brainstormed a few different ways to talk about online discussions but nothing really stuck with me.  Then the NYTimes Learning Blog posted about their newest endeavor: The Learning Network Reading Club.  Every so often they planned to post an article that they felt would be of particular interest to students.  They would then ask students to share their responses to the article in the comments.  The catch?  Each response also had to reference someone else’s response.    In that way, a true conversation would be born.

I decided to use the Reading Club as a jumping off point for our online discussions.  In class, we talked about what good in-class discussions look like.  Together, we brainstormed a list that included looking at the speaker, being an active listener, responding to specific classmates, not just focusing on the teacher, and helping to move the conversation forward.  Then we talked about the different types of online interactions my students participate in on their own.  Facebook, Xbox, Twitter, and forums were all mentioned.  We talked about asynchronous discussions and how they differ from face-to-face discussions and the way they should be approached.  As practice, my students worked in groups and logged on to our class wiki where I had posted a link to a recent NYTimes article about the effects of Spongebob Squarepants on young children.  Talk about an engaging article!  My students had some very strong feelings about the results of the study!  The students read and responded to the article and we worked through a variety of technical problems.  This allowed us to talk about how to approach online discussions for school, as most of my students will take online classes in the future.  Things like “don’t leave it til the last minute!” were very important.  🙂

The best part of the lesson was the homework assignment.  Each of my students was charged with reading the article chosen by The Learning Network Reading Club and posting a comment, according to the posted guidelines, within a week.  Can I tell you how impressed I was with their work?  The club ended up receiving 536 comments from all over the world, and the conversation grew organically.  Every time I checked the article I was blown away by what I read.  My own students were responding to one another and students from other schools.  Some of my students even went back, on their own, and responded a second time!  It was brilliant!  Even better?  They started applying some of the same strategies in-class, during our class discussions.  My students are responding to one another by summarizing the speaker and then adding their own thoughts.  They refer to others by name in their own comments and they frequently look at their classmates rather than just addressing the teachers in the room.  It’s fantastic!

I can not wait to see what The Learning Network Reading Club chooses next.  I know my students will be participating again and I encourage you to try it with your classes.  The Learning Network recently posted a round-up of some of their favorite responses and five of my students are quoted!  Needless to say, they were thrilled.  It’s a fantastic new initiative and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


I write because I have always written.  I write because it feels strange not to write.  I write because I want to write.


Why do you write?  Today is the National Day on Writing and thousands of people all over the world are participating in #whyIwrite.  The National Writing Project has compiled a list of the following ways to participate today:

Participate in Why I Write

Here are different ways you can participate or celebrate “Why I Write”:

Submit student essays to Figment.com: Figment will be accepting submissions from September 28 through October 29. Since “Why I Write” is a celebration of writing, there are no prizes, but a curated anthology of selected submissions will be available as an e-book later this winter. Submit to Figment.

New York Times Learning Network: The New York Times Learning Network will present a series of interviews with reporters who cover a range of beats and explore their writing process. These interviews will serve as the basis for lesson plans, prompts for students, discussions, and inspiration.

Edutopia: Edutopia will be celebrating “Why I Write” with a series of blogs by NWP writers. Each blog will then invite readers to share why they write with others in the Edutopia community. These conversations will take place on the Edutopia.org website and within our communities on Twitter and Facebook.

NWP Radio: On October 20 at 7 p.m. EST, the National Writing Project will air a live radio show to celebrate the National Day on Writing with interviews with New York Times education reporter Fernanda Santos, New York Times Learning Network editor Katherine Schulten, Figment founder and New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear, Figment teen writers, and NWP teacher and author Ashley Hope Perez, among others.

Tweet #whyiwrite: Tweet why you write and include the hashtag #whyiwrite so that everyone can see the many reasons people write.

Post on Facebook: We’d like everyone to post why they write on their Facebook pages on October 20 and encourage others to do so. Let’s create a national dialogue about writing!


Visit Why I Write for more information and links to essays from tons of authors about why they write.