Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

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Slice of Life #26

Today we went to the beach in search of the seals that have been hauling out in Skeleton Hill Island. 

There were no seals today but the dogs had a lot of fun! They swam, ran, and rolled in the sand. On the way home we visited my sister at the ice cream shop where she works and she gave the dogs some free ice cream treats. A great day for them!
And finally, on the way home I got the great news that a dog I’ve been working on getting pulled by a rescue was pulled yesterday! 

Slice of Life #25- Another Hamilton Post

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If you haven’t checked out The New York Times Learning Network’s Hamilton lesson plan you should stop reading and go do it right now.  Come back in 30 minutes when you are done.  It’s long and intense and AWESOME.  I’m thrilled that I was able to be a part of it!

While helping with the lesson plan I came up with a lot of ideas for using Hamilton in the classroom.  Not all of them made it into the final post so I have decided to share them here.  Are you teaching with Hamilton?  Let me know how you are using it!

A Few More Ways to teach with Hamilton

  • Annotation:  Recently I have been experimenting with digital annotation. I love how tools like hypothes.is allow students to discuss texts and contribute to a larger conversation. it allows students to interact with a text.  Hamilton has taken on a life of its own at Genius, the annotation website.  Even the composer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has contributed to the annotations!  Have students create their own annotations and then compare them to the annotations on Genius.  (See more ideas for using annotation in this post).


  • Write Your own Literary Figure Poem/Rap: Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton while reading Ron Chernow’s lengthy biography of the same name.  He has said that he immediately saw parallels between Hamilton’s life and the lives of some of his favorite hip-hop and rap stars.  Miranda first planned to create a hip-hop concept album about Alexander Hamilton and he performed the opening number at a White House event in 2009.  You can see his performance, where he plays Aaron Burr, on Youtube. After watching the performance, challenge students to use Miranda’s song as a mentor text as they compose their own poem/rap about a character in the novel they are reading.    


  • Concise writing: Composer Lin-Manuel Miranda is a prolific user of Twitter and one of his most famous social media moves is to frequently change his Twitter biography.  As a result, his bios are often quirky and his followers try to draw out the meaning behind them.  Use this Skills Practice | Concise Writing lesson to help students create their own Twitter biographies.  After creating their own, challenge them to create a biography for a historical or literary figure.  Lin-Manuel Miranda has said Alexander Hamilton probably would have been a Twitter user, so what would his biography have looked like?  What would Julius Caesar’s look like?  What about Oliver Twist or Katniss Everdeen?


  • For the love of a book: In a 2015 Artsbeat blog entry, Lin-Manuel Miranda is quoted as saying, “I’m going to keep it really simple today. The whole thing started because I picked up a book and fell in love,”  before reading aloud the first five paragraphs from the prologue of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton. This 832-page tome is not what many people might view as inspirational.  But that’s the magic of books; what inspires one person to take action and change the world around them might have little effect on another reader.  Ask students to think about the book or books that have changed their outlook, viewpoint, or even lives.  Have them share their reading history with each other through infographics, essays, or posters.  

I hope these ideas inspire you!  If you have not yet listened to the cast recording or checked out the recorded performances available online I think you should drop everything you are doing and start listening now.  It’s fantastic and many of my students are as obsessed as I am!  I’m slowly working my way through the Chernow biography (I’ve switched to the audiobook, which is working better for me).  What’s even cooler is that I have a few 9th grade students who are also reading Chernow’s book after being introduced to Miranda’s music!  It’s pretty incredible and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share this experience with my students.


Slice of Life #24- What I Learned Driving from NJ to the Bronx

I love and adore my grad school program.  I’m working towards my master’s in biology through Miami Ohio University/Project Dragonfly’s Advanced Inquiry Program. It’s a hybrid program and classes are split between an online component and in-person class meetings at my master institution.  My master institution is the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City so most of my classes are at the Bronx Zoo.

I had class tonight and while sitting in traffic I started thinking of all of the non-academic things I’ve learned while driving back and forth from NJ to the Bronx.  Enjoy my slightly facetious and sarcastic list!

  • The Hamilton cast recording is the perfect length to get me through the whole trip.
  • Related, I can play all of the parts in when performing it in my car.  Still working on Daveed Digg’s ridiculous rap in”Guns and Ships”, though.
  • I hate traffic.  There’s a reason my work commute is 25 minutes through rural-suburban towns.
  • The commute to the zoo can take anywhere from 1 hour and 20 minutes to 3 hours.  Tonight it took almost 2 and a half hours.
  • The George Washington Bridge is ridiculously long.
  • I can drive in the Bronx.
  • I can drive in Fort Lee.
  • I can hold my own with crazy New York drivers.
  • There is a distinct lack of public transportation options between NJ and anywhere that is not Manhattan.
  • None of the March Madness games are broadcast on the radio.
  • Hamilton by Ron Chernow is a great audiobook to listen to while commuting.
  • I’d rather take the long way up the Henry Hudson Parkway than suffer through the hell that is the Cross Bronx Expressway.
  • I can identify most of the gorillas in Congo (exhibit) by sight.
  • It’s pretty cool walking through the dark, empty zoo.  Lots of animals make noise at night when there are no visitors!

These are just a few of the things I came up with while driving home tonight.  Thankfully, the ride home only took an hour and thirty minutes!

I love this program and I learn so much every time we have class.  But man do I dread the commute!



Slice of Life #23

One day more. One more day. 

Spring break can not come fast enough. I’ve graded thousands of papers in the past few weeks, written many responses for my own classes, attended way too many meetings, and been otherwise stressed out. 

One more wake up. One more wake up. One more wake up. We can do it! The kids are ready, the teachers are ready, everyone is ready. Come on, spring break!

Slice of Life #22


5:45am- wake up and walk the dogs

6am- back home, feed the dogs, get ready for the day, watch the news about Brussels, frantically scroll through a list of friends who could be there, breathe a sigh of relief when it seems like no one is, pack a lunch, head out.

6:40am-7:10am- drive to school, stop for gas and a drink at Wawa (I need the caffeine), continue on towards school.

7:15am- sign in

7:20am- grab my stuff and head up to the copy room.  Talk with colleague while waiting to use our copy machine.

7:30am-7:35am- Copy vocab tests and then rush to homeroom.

7:40am- attendance.  Pass out vocab tests and Zipgrade answer sheets.  When a few hands go up remind students I can’t define the words for them.  Die of embarrassment when a student points out they don’t know the words because I copied the wrong test.  Panic and find someone to cover for me so I can run upstairs and copy the right test while the students enjoy some extra study time.

7:50am-8:51am- give out correct test.  While students work I grade reading journal entries.

Repeat (minus the wrong test part) for 3 more periods.  Have a lockdown drill and panic because of the events in Brussels.  Sigh of relief when it’s just a drill.

11:15am- LUNCH.  Eat very quickly, copy quiz for seniors.

12:00pm- repeat vocab test for 4th period (and last period) of freshman.  Grade reading responses.  Book talk.

1:09pm- Seniors!  Great conversation about Jekyll and Hyde and the duality of man.  Listen to some amazing two voice poems the students wrote.

2:35pm- head home.

3:00pm-4:00pm- Let the dogs out and deal with 100 things going on.  Lots of phone calls.  Returning calls, listening to messages, cleaning out inbox.

4:20pm- Change and head out to walk the dogs.

4:45-5:45- 2 mile walk and bird watching with the dogs

6:00- read/reread 4 chapters of Your Inner Fish for my own class and work on dinner.  Start drafting discussion question for class on Thursday.

7:30pm- dinner with Chris.  We watch Last Week Tonight while eating and cleaning up.

8:00pm- let the dogs out and give them their bully sticks.  Settle in for an episode or two of House of Cards and post my discussion question.  Cross that off the to-do list!

10:00pm- finish House of Cards for tonight.  Chris switches to Agents of SHIELD.

11:00pm- get ready for bed.  Read over student slices for today.  Realize I forgot my own slice.  Brew tea and brainstorm.

11:59pm- post and go to bed!

Slice of Life #21

Whenever I am feeling run down I brew myself a cup of tea before bed.

Last year I ordered a box of tea on Amazon.  Little did I know, this was the nesting doll version of tea.  I received one large box of tea with many smaller boxes within it.  Inside those smaller boxes were tiny tea bags.  There were dozens of flavors and I knew there was no way I’d get though them all. (Side note: does tea expire?)

All of the teas are Sleepytime tea, the best kind ever. There’s vanilla, chamomile, mint, honey, peach, and many other flavors.  It’s a whole world of tea flavors that I didn’t know about until my giant order of tea arrived.

Tonight I am feeling run down.  Tonight I am drinking peach sleepytime tea.  Tonight I am hoping to sleep well!