Alternative grading methods including standards-based grading, going gradeless, and ungrading have gained popularity in recent years, especially in higher education contexts and in response to the pandemic. As NJ-educator Matt Morone warned me this summer, there’s a rabbit hole of online resources on these topics. After getting a bit lost down that rabbit hole, I found Point-Less to be a helpful introduction to alternative grading refreshingly written specifically for an audience of high school English teachers. Zerwin presents her approach clearly and flexibly, encouraging readers to take what works for them and ignore the rest. One suggestion that resonated with me is to have students write reflectively at the end of a semester or school year about their learning, citing their own classwork as evidence of their growth. [ . . . ]Read More
Since becoming a parent, I’ve ventured into some writing and advocacy work in the parental health realm. For this educator and literacy researcher, it’s been refreshing to develop my voice and leadership skills outside of my trained areas of expertise.
In honor of New Jersey’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I am sharing some of the work I’ve been involved with in partnership with New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). NJEA is working on several projects connected to parental health, including a “Building a Family” workshop series addressing important topics such as pregnancy loss, overcoming infertility, and the adoption/fostering process. Inspired by this workshop series, I’m working with the Lactation Rights Task Force to develop additional workshops on parental health topics. [ . . . ]Read More
When the NCTE convention’s unplanned shift to an all-virtual format resulted in the cancellation of many previously accepted sessions, the editors at Teaching/Writing put out a brilliant call for manuscripts to capture some of the ideas that couldn’t be shared at the conference. [ . . . ]Read More
“This issue addresses a variety of topics, including Young Adult literature, social justice, artificial intelligence, climate change, and mindfulness. We are proud to share work from writers across the country, including pieces by first-time authors, graduate students, and early-career teachers” (Editors’ Note). [ . . . ]Read More
Are you interested in digital literacy? Would you like to do some professional learning from the comfort of your living room? Then read on to learn about 11 upcoming opportunities to jump-start your digital literacy knowledge!
Drew University’s DrewTEACH program is offering a full slate of free virtual professional development on digital literacy this spring. Learn about topics such as collaborative annotation, fake news, and ethical communities from the comfort of your couch by registering for the free series that begins January 21 and runs through April 7. [ . . . ]Read More
In the statement, authors share four beliefs to consider when integrating technology in ELA, with applications for K-12 teachers and students, teacher educators and students, and literacy researchers. [ . . . ]Read More
I’m thrilled to share my review of Tanny McGregor’s wonderful book, Ink & Ideas (2018), featured in the current issue of English Journal.
Ink & Ideas is an indispensable guide for any teacher looking to introduce or enrich sketchnoting (aka visual notetaking) in their classroom. Read the full reviewfor several examples of how McGregor uses visual notetaking to enhance “engagement, comprehension, and thinking” across P-16 classrooms and subject areas.
Here’s an quick excerpt from my review posted on Twitter:
To learn more about my experience teaching sketchnoting and to access my favorite instructional resources for visual notetaking, check out the following posts:
Experienced and amateur sketchnoters alike will find ample resources to choose among on their site, including their blog, newsletter, podcast, and Slack channel. They also organize annual festivities for January’s World Sketchnote Day!
Special thanks to Mike Rohde and Sketchnote Army for sharing our work!
Congratulations to rising senior Brianne K. for being selected as a winner of The New York Times annual poetry contest! Her blackout-style poem, “Triggers,” is prominently featured on the NYTimes website, alongside the other winning selections.
Brianne’s powerful and timely poem (pictured below) reads, “to be in a School is to survive algebra, social studies, and gun violence.”
The NYTimes also published the following author’s note about the inspiration for her poem:
As a tribute to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting tragedy, my poem is 14 words to symbolize the day that innocent students, sons, daughters, teachers, and friends lost their lives and loved ones on February 14th, 2018.
Congrats to Brianne on behalf of her teachers and classmates!
The activity fit perfectly into our modern and postmodern fiction course— students noticed the “fragmented” nature of the found poetry exercise, and also commented on the modern feel of their short but powerful poems. I also timed our poetry writing day to coincide with state testing, so the exercise itself brought a welcome change of pace.
Here’s an example of a poem we read for inspiration:
When all three of my classes had completed their poems (and submitted photographs of their work to the New York Times contest), one class suggested that we create a hallway display. That class worked together to first mount the poems against white paper, and then arrange them on a large bulletin board in a high-traffic hallway.
Here are some fantastic student examples (shared with permission):
How did you celebrate April’s National Poetry Month? It’s not too late to get your students involved in this contest! All entries must be received by Thursday, May 9.
In the piece, we describe our chance meeting on Twitter that inspired a collaborative learning experience between our high school and higher education classrooms. We detail our use of KAHOOT! as a teaching tool to review MLA format and academic integrity, reflecting on the value of play and games in the classroom. Additionally, we discuss the benefits of collaboration across grade levels and institutions, sharing opportunities to facilitate such collaboration through professional organizations and virtual networks.
The spring issue of JoLLE also includes podcast interviews with all of the issue’s authors. In our podcast, we discuss topics such as the role of technology in the classroom, the value of games and play, and professional uses of social media.
We really enjoyed the process of working together—first by connecting our classrooms, and later as collaborative writers of this piece—and we hope that our authentic joy comes through in the podcast and the article itself.
Join me on March 30 at the New Jersey Council Teachers of English (NJCTE) Spring Conference, “Doorways to Teaching in a Digital World.” Check out the full program scheduleand register here. Featured speakers include authors Ibi Zoboi, Georgia Hunger, and Nora Raleigh Baskin.
If you can’t attend in person, join the conversation virtually with the Twitter hashtag #NJCTE19, or by following @NJCTENews.
Write for New Jersey English Journal
I will be presenting with Dr. Emily Hodge in our new roles as Co-Editors of The New Jersey English Journal (NJEJ). Our session, “Reflecting on Your Practice: Write for The New Jersey English Journal” (10:35 am – 11:20 am, Learning Commons), will provide information about the 2020 call for manuscripts, as well as workshop time for attendees to brainstorm and begin drafting submissions. We hope to see you there!
The theme for the 2020 issue of NJEJ is “What’s Next? Embarking Upon a New Decade of English Language Arts.” Access the full call for manuscripts, here.
NJEJ welcomes single and co-authored submissions from both veteran and early-career teachers, and we especially invite new writers, pre-service teachers, and graduate students to develop submissions. (Please note: Writers do not have to live or work in New Jersey.)
Review for NJEJ
One of the best ways to develop your own voice as a writer is to serve as a reviewer for a journal. Anyone interested in serving on the review board can fill out this brief survey. Please spread the word about this opportunity to your ELA colleagues across grade levels and institutions.
Sneak Peak at NJEJ’s New Digital Platform
Behind the scenes, we’ve been working on a new digital platform for NJEJ. In partnership with Montclair State University, we’ll be hosting the journal on their digital commons. Here’s a sneak peak at our new site, which should also streamline the submission and review process.
We’ve uploaded the latest 2019 issue, and are in the process of archiving back issues. We hope you like it!
High school students in Lauren Zucker’s Honors Modern Fiction & Nonfiction class recently created sketchnotes for two texts written nearly one hundred years apart: Franz Kafka’s classic novella, The Metamorphosis(1915), and the latest release from Netflix’s popular Black Mirror series, the interactive film, Bandersnatch(2018).
Zucker first introduced students to sketchnoting by using excerpts from Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook, a YouTube video of Rohde’s “Sketchnote Mini-Workshop” (that allowed students to draw along with Rohde), and McGregor’s Ink & Ideas, a sketchnoting book for educators.
Zucker suspected that Kafka’s highly descriptive and visual text—in which the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, famously transforms into an insect—would lend itself to beginner sketchnoting. Though Kafka himself did not want readers to draw the insect, even Nabakov ignored Kafka’s wishes, doodling a rendition of the bug in his personal teaching copy of The Metamorphosis.
After showing students several ways to structure sketchnotes from The Sketchnote Handbook (e.g., modular, vertical, radial), Zucker suggested that students organize their notes for The Metamorphosis in three sections to match Kafka’s three-part structure for the novella. For a more detailed post about Zucker’s introduction to sketchnotes, see here.
Students were given the option to complete their work digitally or on paper. About two-thirds of her students created sketchnotes digitally, while about one-third opted to take notes on paper.
Depicting Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch
When the class viewed Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, students were instructed to take notes while viewing the film; though visual notes were not required, many students elected to take sketchnotes. This might be due to the story structure itself—a choose-your-own-adventure style narrative path determined by the viewer’s decisions.
Here’s a pair of sketchnotes that depicts all of the narrative paths in Bandersnatch. [Note: Major spoilers ahead!]
World Sketchnote Day “Daily Doodle” Activity
To celebrate World Sketchnote Day, which coincided with this series of assignments, Zucker’s students did a variation of the Sketchnote Army’s “daily doodle” activity, in which participants spend one minute sketching the word of the day on a post-it note—anyone interested can participate on the Sketchnote Army Slack Channel.
In Zucker’s class, students had one minute to depict a topic (related to Bandersnatch) on a post-it note: technology, mirror, or adventure.
Since completing these tasks, several students have opted to continue taking visual notes in Zucker’s English class.
See the slideshow below for examples of these talented high school students’ Metamorphosis sketchnotes!
Are you a teacher using visual notetaking in your classroom? Comment below with your feedback and ideas!
Lastly, see below for Daisy L.’s (11th grade) Metamorphosis sketchnotes drawn in OneNote. Scroll down (or zoom out) to view them in full.
After three years of experimenting with digital badges with both high school students and adults, I’m still exploring ways to integrate and share them.
For those new to badges, here’s a simple definition I wrote in an earlier post. To access additional introductory, intermediate, and advanced resources I’ve curated on digital badges, see this slideshow.
In a nutshell, badges are digital ways of recognizing accomplishments or skills. Open badges are tied to evidence of learning and designed to be shared, so recipients can showcase their skills across digital platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).
Mozilla announcedthey’ve be encouraging Backpack users to migrate over to Concentric Sky’s (@ConcentricSky) Badgr (@Badgrteam) platform. After creating a free account, I found the platform to be very easy to use.
Badgr’s features for sharing/displaying badges: [ . . . ]Read More
How can you celebrate World Sketchnote Day? Here are some suggestions from the Days of the Year website, courtesy of Sketchnote Army(see below):
…Start by using social media as the grounds for sharing your work. Submit your notes to the Sketchnote Army and see if they like your work. You can also post your notes on social media using the hashtag #worldsketchnoteday and explain to people why you use the visual sketches in your notes to remember ideas.
This Friday, there’s a Pass the Sketchnote project (@PTSketchNote) that groups participants into teams to create collaborative sketchnotes throughout the day. Sign up, here. I might be brave enough to join in on the fun!
I recently came across Sketchnote Army, an international group dedicated to all things sketchnoting. I’ve just scratched the surface with their resources, but they have a blog, a podcast, and a very active Slack channel for group messaging.
The Sketchnote Army Slack channel includes a forum for daily doodles: quick, 20-second doodles on post-in notes that respond to a given prompt. I might adapt the “daily doodle” concept in my English classes to celebrate World Sketchnote Day. We may also begin a collaborative draft of a blog post on our recent sketchnoting of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.
However you celebrate, don’t forget to post your sketchnotes on social media with the hashtag: #worldsketchnoteday
When I returned from a recent conference with boxes of books and swag, some of my colleagues asked how they could score their own free books for course consideration.
Several publishers will provide educators with free copies of their books to examine and consider for adoption in a course or curriculum. Many books are sent by mail, but some are offered as e-books. Publishers have their own requirements, but many require that educators sign up with a school email address, and some require that books are sent to a school address.
See below for ways that high school and college instructors can request free (and significantly discounted) examination copies. Happy hunting, book lovers!
High School Teachers
W.W. Norton & Company offers free examination copies for high school teachers, searchable by subject area. There are many more gems under their “instructors” tab—especially the section devoted to English. Norton’s regional sales representatives can help teachers navigate their catalogue and find new materials.
Penguin Random House offers low-cost booksas examination copies for high school teachers: $3.00 for any paperbacks that retail for under $20, and 50% off for any hardcovers or paperbacks that cost over $20.
The NCTE Convention is consistently one of the best professional development experiences of my year. But a conference of this size can be difficult to navigate–especially for new attendees–and unfortunately, not every interested teacher is able to attend.
Here are 12 ways to enjoy the convention, even if you can’t attend in person:
P.S. I am so excited about next month’s conference that I drew sketches (below) to accompany my tips. (Educator and author Tanny McGregor inspired me to start sketching at the 2016 NCTE Convention.)
If you can’t attend in person (and even if you can):
Join the conversation on Twitter with the conference hashtag (#NCTE18). You can’t attend every session, but the Twitter feed will expose you to ideas that are resonating with others. And many presenters will post their slides and materials.
If you can attend in person (lucky you!):
Leave room in your suitcase for goodies snagged at the exhibit hall, or plan to ship a small box home from the convention center’s shipping store. Check the program for the schedule of author signings, which take place in the exhibit hall.
Take a lightweight bag that fits your favorite notebook and/or computer, pens, charger, water bottle, and a snack. Wear sensible shoes for long walks or sightseeing between sessions.
Bring healthy, portable snacks with you–nuts, protein bars, fruit–to fuel your mind between sessions. If possible,
make coffee or tea in your hotel room [ . . . ]Read More
Six-word memoirs were a quick and excellent way to get students writing, revising, and crafting digital texts.
At the start of every school year, I look for a fun way for students to introduce themselves to each other and to me. Last year, I asked students to craft visual autobiographies on Padlet. This year, since I’m teaching a course for 11th and 12th graders on Modern Fiction and Nonfiction, I also wanted a quick activity to get my students writing their own modern stories. Enter the Six-Word Memoir! (Just in time for the National Day on Writing! #WhyIWrite)
An invitation originated by Smith Magazine, everyone from NPRto Oprah has invited writers to pen their own stories in exactly six words. This activity turned out to be an easy way to get students back into writing mode after the summer break. As a bonus, the legendof Hemingway’s six-word story (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) was a perfect way to begin a conversation about modern writers.
I asked students to introduce themselves to the class in six words. “It doesn’t have to capture your life story,” I reassured them. “It just needs to reveal something about who you are.”
They got right to work. They wrote at different paces, so I encouraged students who finished early to write additional stories, while allowing more time for those who needed it.
Towards the end of the shortened, first day class period, we had barely enough time for each student to say their name and read their six-word story aloud.
The next day, I projected my own six-word memoir that I had published on the Six-Word Memoirs website.
I joked that the open-source image I paired with my story didn’t exactly look like me.
Then, I talked about my challenges as a writer and enlisted their assistance in revision. I wanted to capture a tension between being content in the present and itching to make progress, I explained. We played around with my verb choice. (We were already talking about diction and copyright on the second day of school!)
All-in-all, six-word memoirs were a quick and excellent way to get students writing, revising, and crafting digital texts.
I gave them a chance to revise their stories, talking with a partner about what they were trying to accomplish through language. Some students asked to draft new stories, which I happily allowed.
After writing their stories, students enjoyed pairing them with images and posting them on the Six-Word Memoirs website. I later realized they could embed their stories into their first posts to welcome readers to their class blogs.
Here some examples of their six-word memoirs (posted with permission by eager volunteers):
A few students were interested in the website’s monthly writing contests, especially when I pointed out that with the right six words, they could boast that they’d won a national writing contest. I hope to announce the contest topic each month (October’s topic is “Secrets to Take to the Grave”) to encourage participation.
For a relatively low-maintenance writing assignment, the six word memoirs yielding great rewards. It helped us introduce ourselves to each other without having to share a recycled “fun fact” about ourselves. In just a few minutes, students were able to see themselves as writers and talk about our writing choices. And we were all able to have fun with a digital publishing without the pressure of a graded assignment.
I’ll leave you with several student examples. If you decide to try this out yourself (or in your classroom), feel free to comment with additional ones!
Special thanks to Lindsey Caruso for feedback on this blog post–especially for your suggestions for the conclusion.
For this month’s Digital Literacies Collaborative(DLC) social reading, I invite you to read and annotate Troy Hicks’ (2018) excellent piece from Voices in the Middle on “The Next Decade of Digital Writing.” In addition to joining the ongoing discussion throughout the article, I especially invite you to think publicly about your next steps or goals as a teacher of digital writing.
In the article, Hicks reflects on the evolution of digital writing instruction and highlights five educators’ innovative practices. Hicks describes his purpose as follows:
Reflective digital writing educators themselves, DLC members should have a lot to say about Hicks’ suggestions for our next ten years of work. October 20 is NCTE’s National Day on Writing, so October is the perfect time to reflect on our digital writing instruction.
**Plus, Troy Hicks will be visiting Drew University on October 25 as the featured speaker to kickoff the #DrewTEACH Lecture Series.**
“Take a chance. We’ll be right there with you. Together, we hope to create something magical.”
The sign-up sheet made the following, modest offer:
“We’re hoping you will be open to working on creating one digital piece of art or story. We will then stitch our stories together into an interactive Alchemy Lab.”
I later learned that NetNarr referenced Networked Narratives, a co-located class taught by Alan Levine at Kean University and Dr. Mia Zamora at the University of Bergen, Norway. (Learn more about the structure, here.)
A colleague had suggested I try out Adobe Muse to create digital animations, and I figured that a CLMOOC invitation was the perfect time to “tinker, fail, and explore,” to borrow a phrase from Renee Hobbs.
In case you can’t guess from the image above, my contribution to the lab is a lock (located on the bottom shelf of the purple case at the center of the above photo). The lock graphic itself — and all of the others in the lab — were drawn by the talented Susan Watson and shared via a Google doc that asked contributors to first claim an image, and later drop in a link to their finished product.
Even though I was tempted by other images (the already-claimed neon green flask, especially) I chose the lock because I thought it would be a convenient method, conceptually, to move from one piece of the transmedia text to another.
Clicking on the lock in the Alchemy Lab links to a website I created using Adobe Muse. Taking a cue from the style of the original invitation, my goal was to make an animation that moved a key graphic towards the lock to open the next page of the lab. I was somewhat successful.
Media Jumping: Triumphs and Challenges
In the spirit of Connected Learning, here are my reflections on creating my piece of the Alchemy Lab.
✓ Win: The design of my site matches the look and feel of the original invitation to join the NetNarr media jumping experience.
X Fail: The original invitation did not really inform the look and feel of the finished Alchemy Lab.
✓ Win: I found a cool looking key image. After hours of trial and error with animations in Muse, I was able to move the key (down and to the right) to meet the lock.
X Fail: The key meets the lock perfectly on my Windows-based work computer. Unfortunately, it does not perfectly meet the key on my Mac, or on my mobile phone.
✓ Win: At first, I was unable to publish my Muse webpage on this WordPress site. After a few false starts, I was able to host my Muse website using Adobe’s free service, Adobe Business Catalyst.
X Fail: About one month after the Alchemy Lab was published, I received an email from Adobe Business Catalyst that it will be discontinued in March 26, 2020.
✓ Win: After a few days of research, and several emails with patient WP developers, I was able to migrate my site from Adobe Business Catalyst to this WordPress site, using the free, MWuse plugin. [Luckily, digital texts are especially conducive to revisions.]
Continue saying yes to offers from the CLMOOC community, even if I don’t really understand what they entail.
Do a bit more research before committing to a platform. Had I known what headaches Adobe Muse and Business Catalyst would bring, I might have found a better alternative. Next time, I’ll ask my PLN via Twitter.
Know when to ask for help. I enjoy the challenge of tinkering myself, but I realized I was in over my head long after I felt committed to a platform.
Are you looking to add mindfulness or social and emotional learning (SEL) activities to your teaching?
My two latest publications discuss mindfulness and social and emotional learning in the English classroom. Both articles share tech-free lessons that can be adapted across grade levels and content areas.
“Mindful ELA: Lessons from a Grassroots Wellness Initiative” (see below) tells the story of a teacher-led movement to increase wellness in a high school, and then zooms in on several mindfulness lessons from two English teachers’ classrooms.
“An Imaginary Party Sparks Academic Conversations” (see below) describes a lesson that uses improvisation and play to help students develop their speaking and interpersonal skills while discussing academic topics.
Glancing over my shoulder during a session at NCTE 2016, I spotted the following notes:
While I knew I could never create notes as beautiful as Tanny McGregor’s (above), I realized immediately that her method could revolutionize my own notetaking. A quick Twitter search led me to the name of the method: sketchnoting. Sketchnotes are “rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines” (The Sketchnote Handbook).
I left the conference determined to learn how to sketchnote both for my own, professional learning and in my classroom. Here, I share reflections on these early sketchnoting experiences, as well as tools and tips for getting started.
An Educator’s First Attempt: Live Sketchnoting at a Conference
I threw myself into my first live sketchnoting experience at the DrewTEACH 2018 Winter Conference. I took notes on two conference sessions in pen to help me commit, and then went back later to add color. I shared the notes on Twitter and tagged the speakers, who re-tweeted the notes to a wider audience.
Students’ First Attempts: Sketchnoting a TED Talk [ . . . ]Read More