Reflections on My Picks for the Top Three Education Blogs

  1. Blog #1: The Learning Network
    1. I have used this blog in the past in my classroom to support learning and to develop lesson plans. My favorite thing about this blog is that the material is current and relevant and is also aligned to content that has been written about in The New York Times. Additionally, many of the posts are interactive and often contain contests for students to participate in as part of the lesson or as an extension to the lesson.
  2. Blog #2: MindShift
    1. This is a new resource for me. My favorite thing about this blog is that it is broken down into subtopics that cover a vast array of educational issues. Not only is this blog relevant to lesson planning or delivering content to students, it is a useful tool for staying current in areas such as Educational Psychology and Educational Philosophy. The articles— such as “How Creating Imagery Can Help Dyslexic Students Who Struggle with Shakespeare”—are of high interest and relevancy to my practice.
  3. Blog #3: TeachThought
    1. This is also a new resource to me, and I am so glad that I found it. One of my favorite things about this blog is that it also includes a podcast. Because I am often in the car— running errands, traveling to and from work, transporting my daughter— being able to enhance my practice while also completing other life tasks is crucial. Additionally, I like that the site also includes many lists of tools— i.e. “12 of the Best Vocabulary Apps for Middle School” and links to other useful resources.

Could the Hunger Games Really Happen?

A reaping? Embedded tracking devices? A televised “fight-to-the-death?” The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a work of fiction; yet, could the Hunger Games really happen in today’s society?

Today in class, students learned about editorials and what constitutes a strong argument. They read the following sample student editorials (that I created in conjunction with this assignment), completed comprehension questions based on these selections, and determined which editorial was more convincing.

Student 1 Editorial

Districts, the Reaping, Avoxes, and a world turned upside down after war? At first glance, it seems like the Hunger Games could never happen in real life, but when you really start to analyze the text, you begin to see that fiction really could become reality. There are many reasons why the Hunger Games could become real life sometime in our future.

 One reason that I think that the Hunger Games could really happen is because events like the Hunger Games have happened in the past. Throughout history, mankind has treated one another in horrible ways. In Medieval times, people were be publicly executed in the middle of town for committing a crime. Large crowds would gather to watch the deaths. More recently, lynchings in the South drew crowds of onlookers who watched the inhumane acts.

 Another reason why the Hunger Games could really happen is because many of the natural disasters that caused North America to change in the novel are predicted by scientists to occur in our future. Just last year, a large tsunami hit Japan. We have earthquakes and tornadoes every year. Additionally, global warming is threatening to continue to change our climate, thus affecting our landscape.

 Finally, I believe that the Hunger Games really could happen because many of the citizens of our country focus more on so-called beauty and fashion, instead of on how to become giving and productive people.  Just like the citizens of the Capitol, many Americans would rather own expensive clothing and accessories than make sure that other people in the country have food. They obsess over makeup and jewelry, but let many others suffer without shelter.

 Overall, based on these facts, I believe that the Hunger Games really could become a reality. i hope that our country is able to turn around and become a better nation, but until it does, I leave you with one farewell notice: “May the odds be ever in your favor.” 

 Student 2 Editorial (sample)Suzanne Collins wrote the Hunger Games as an example of fiction: a novel to be read for entertainment. Like a Hollywood movie, the Hunger Games is filled with action, romance, adventure, and plenty of drama. But like a Hollywood movie, could it come true? No, I don’t think the Hunger Games could really happen and neither do any of my friends.

 The things that happen in the Hunger Games are not realistic. We could never lose our country due to natural disasters. Hurricanes sometimes destroy places like they did in New Orleans, but they could never make a whole nation go down. The same with tornadoes: they reek havoc and cause destruction on towns, but never a whole continent like North America.

 In today’s world, our leaders would never let people treat each other the way that they do in the Hunger Games. We are taught now to treat each other with respect. I am nice to others, and they in turn, should be nice to me. There are not people out there who are evil like they have been in the past.

 Finally, I don’t think the Hunger Games could happen in real life because it would be illegal. It is glorified murder and no one would allow it.  

 In conclusion, the Hunger Games could never happen in real life. No one thinks it will. Don’t waste your time training: you won’t need it!

So, what do you think: Could the Hunger Games really happen? (Please post responses here…)

Lights, Camera, Action!: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Film Adaptation Review

After feasting on our first novel of the year, it is only appropriate to indulge in the deliciously funny movie adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.  This Thanksgiving week, students watched the film in class and used a Book and Movie Compare and Contrast guide (adapted from ReadWriteThink) to complete notes on the film.

The film activity served as a great incentive for our novel unit and also gave students a glimpse into how filmmakers and screenwriters make decisions in the filmmaking process.  Students compared and contrasted the film and the novel and then used their notes to write movie reviews including literary elements from the film, as well as their own opinion of the successfulness of the film adaptation.  Please read and enjoy our reviews posted in the comments section of this post.

Poetic Experiments: Building Blocks of Poetic Expression

Check out the blog section, “Teacher Resources” for several new poetry templates for use in your classroom.

Throughout the school year, I present poetry in a variety of modalities.  One of the most impactful means of doing so is through the use of “poetic experiments” and templates.  As an English major at Temple University, I would often be asked to perform a poetic experiment—simply to model a poetry piece after one of the pieces that we read for class.  At the college level, the assignment was formed very loosely: I could choose to play around with the words of the poem by rearranging them or reassigning them; I could emulate the structure of the poem and toy with its meaning; I could use line structures, rhythms, and word patterns from the poem to write an entirely new piece.  The possibilities were nearly endless.  Overall, I found that when I wrote poetic experiments, I was highly successful at creating quality works.  I was also able to take a step into the mind of the poet and to experience a writing thought process similar to the author’s.  Thus, when I teach poetry to my middle school students, I use poetic experiments and (more much more rigidly, but of a similar model) poetry templates.

As always, please let me know if you use these materials and offer any feedback.

(Note: All materials are copyrighted.)

“Not Waiting”: Philadelphia Teachers Sound Off

“Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” Justice too long delayed is justice denied. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Tuesday, November 8th, Philadelphia public school teachers at Wagner Middle School in the city’s West Oak Lane section will be viewing the controversial documentary, Waiting for Superman.  The objective of this film viewing is to spawn a discussion among educators about best practices that can used to ensure that none of Wagner’s students ever experiences the heartbreaking phenomenon experienced by one of the film’s spotlighted students, Daisy.

As a high performing, neighborhood public school, Wagner adheres to the mantra that all students should be given the best possible education by highly qualified, dedicated educators. As they view the film, Wagner educators will use this blog post as a soundboard to voice their opinions of what is purported in the film, but more importantly, as a breeding ground for innovation in developing a school wide plan of action.

Despite the film’s negative connotations in terms of its treatment of public schools and public school teachers, this activity will also serve as a school pride builder for Wagner faculty and students.  As an extension activity, teachers will show the film in their classrooms and hold a discussion with students who will also create poetry and artwork inspired by the topic, “Why we are not waiting.”  Stay tuned for student work which will be posted in the “Student Work” section of this blog.

Please feel free to join in on this discussion by commenting below.

For additional information, please visit: IFC News, Washington Post, and Rethinking Schools.


Teachers Institute of Philadelphia at UPenn

Last year, I served as a Fellow at the Teachers Institute of Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. The Institute acts as a postgraduate-like academic course in which world class Penn scholars lead professional development seminars on a variety of educational concepts.

During the 2010-11 school year, I studied Children’s Literature with Dr. Peter Conn. At the summation of the seminar, I wrote a curriculum geared towards struggling and reluctant readers using graphic novels and comics.  My unit is entitled “Super Books!: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Enhance Literacy Instruction.”  The following is an excerpt of the abstract:

“Struggling and reluctant readers: they exist in classrooms across our nation, presenting seemingly insurmountable challenges for educators who attempt to engage them in the wonderful world of reading. Yet, despite the efforts of many of these educators, struggling and reluctant readers seem to lack an enthusiasm for the written word. For some, it is because they find traditional texts inaccessible; for others, the ever-persistent language barrier rears its ugly head yet again. Caught up in the system, many of these students are misunderstood and considered lazy” or “unmotivated.” For these students, who have traditionally experienced failure with reading, using graphic novels as an instructional and motivational tool may prove fruitful for students and educators alike.

Implemented into the literacy curriculum, graphic novels are accessible, relevant, high-interest reading materials that appeal to a variety of learning styles. Differentiation is inherent in the novels, which can be used for interdisciplinary studies as well, with the ever-increasing variety of texts available on the market today. Reading graphic novels and comics invites students to think critically and sequentially, analyze the connection between visual and print messages, and use deductive reasoning skills. Used as a vehicle to re-engage disengaged readers and empower struggling readers, graphic novels are invaluable resources in the modern literacy or language arts classroom.

This unit examines the use of graphic novels and comics in the 6th grade literacy classroom as a vehicle for developing reading comprehension skills and fostering a love for reading and provides lessons and activities that encourage struggling and disenfranchised readers to appreciate and gain a fresh perspective of the written word.”

You can find a link to my curriculum unit here:

Super Books! (link to TIP website)

Please feel free to use it and the other great units included on the website!








“Time flies over us…”

With the first month of the 2011-2012 school year complete, it is an appropriate time for a blog update. The summer months sailed by, and with them September, and October is already in our midst.

First and foremost, it is important to highlight some of the exciting things that have been happening in Room 201 this school year. The Writers Matter program is underway and some truly fabulous writing is already in production. Students’ first poems, their “I Am From” poems, will be posted in the “Student Work” tab in the coming weeks.

Students have also been working on a national pilot program for the Common Core Standards initiative.  After designing a performance task for students, I implemented the task in the classroom to determine the effectiveness of the performance task vs. traditional testing in assessing student learning.  For the performance task, students gained background knowledge on the Harlem Renaissance by completing a web quest. They then chose a figure from the Harlem Renaissance, and through investigative research, wrote an informative essay the demonstrates their understanding of the individuals’ impact on history and progress.  Sample essays will also be posted in the “Student Work” section of this blog in the coming weeks.

So, with October in our midst, there is much to look forward to in the horizon for Room 201. In the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Time flies over us, but it leaves a shadow behind.”