Embracing Visual Notetaking: A Review of McGregor’s Ink & Ideas

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 review for 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: [ . . . ]  Read More

Students’ Visual Notes Featured on Sketchnote Army Website

In an earlier post, “Students Sketchnote Classic Kafka and Contemporary Black Mirror,” I described my students’ first efforts at sketchnoting.

I am happy to report that their sketchnoting is being featured on the Sketchnote Army website, an international hub for the sketchnoting community.

Special congrats to Kendall S. and Emily B., whose notes were chosen by sketchnote extraordinaire Mike Rohde to be highlighted in their blog post. Head over to the Sketchnote Army website to read the featured post. You can also read more about my journey as a sketchnoting educator[ . . . ]  Read More

Congrats to Local NYTimes Poetry Contest Winner!

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.

My high school students all wrote beautiful poems, and they were especially proud to see a classmate’s entry selected as a winner. For more information about how students crafted their poems, see this post.

Brianne’s powerful and timely poem (pictured below) reads, “to be in a School is to survive algebra, social studies, and gun violence.” [ . . . ]  Read More

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Blackout Poetry

In honor of April’s National Poetry Month, my students created Blackout Poetry for the New York Times Annual Spring Poetry contest.

To introduce the task, I first shared Austin Kleon’s “How to Make A Newspaper Blackout Poem” video, and then shared the New York Times contest website and rules. Lastly, we searched for inspiration on Twitter, looking up the hashtags #newspaperblackout and #blackoutpoetry and finding countless student examples. For many students, looking at mentor texts generated some healthy, competitive energy. [ . . . ]  Read More

Playful Learning Through Games and Collaboration

Audrey Fisch and I are excited to share a publication we’ve been working on for the Spring 2019 issue of the Journal of Language and Literacy Education (JoLLE).

Our article is entitled “Play and Learning with KAHOOT!: Enhancing Collaboration and Engagement in Grades 9-16 through Digital Games.”

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. [ . . . ]  Read More

Meet NJ English Educators at NJCTE’s Spring Conference

Attend the NJCTE Spring Conference

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 schedule and 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! [ . . . ]  Read More

Students Sketchnote Classic Kafka & Contemporary Black Mirror

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. [ . . . ]  Read More

Four Easy Ways to Display Your Digital Badges

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). [ . . . ]  Read More

Get Ready for World Sketchnote Day!

Get your flair pens and styluses ready! This Friday, January 11 is World Sketchnote Day!

What is sketchnoting? According to Tanny McGregor, the simplest definition is “words and pictures.” Want to know more? See my post on visual notetaking (aka sketchnoting).

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. [ . . . ]  Read More

Teach High School or Higher Ed? Want Free Books?

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. [ . . . ]  Read More

We’re the November Classroom of the Month!

Thank you to Six-Word Memoirs for selecting my Honors Modern Fiction and Nonfiction class as their Classroom of the Month! Their feature article describes our use of six-word stories as an ice-breaker activity on the first day of school. (For additional information on this assignment, see “Even Reluctant Writers Will Love Six-Word Memoirs.”)

Here’s some student pieces highlighted in the article. Click the stories themselves to see the full compositions published on the Six-Word Memoirs site: [ . . . ]  Read More

12 Ways to Enjoy the NCTE Convention (Even From Afar!)

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’re thinking about attending:

It’s not too late! Ask your institution to sponsor your attendance. NCTE offers talking points, testimonials, budget spreadsheets, and sample letters to help you get approval to attend. [ . . . ]  Read More

Even Reluctant Writers Will Love Six-Word Memoirs

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) [ . . . ]  Read More

Let’s Annotate the Web! Meta Digital Writing with Troy Hicks

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: [ . . . ]  Read More

A Transmedia Writing Project by Global Collaborators

Thanks to a series of well-timed clicks on social media, I recently became one of twenty, international co-authors of a collaborative digital writing project, the NetNarr Alchemy Lab.

How I Got Involved

Scrolling through social media, I was intrigued by a playful invitation that teased the possibility of a transmedia, collaborative story.

“Come. Join us,” the invitation stated.

“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: [ . . . ]  Read More

Mindfulness & Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom

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. [ . . . ]  Read More

Sketchnotes: An Educator’s Adventures in Visual Notetaking

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). [ . . . ]  Read More

Reading Graphs and Economic Trends: The “Great Gatsby Curve”

When I spotted the following preview of a discussion thread on NCTE Connects, I had to read more:

Vermont educator Donald Tinney was looking for short companion texts to teach in conversation with The Great Gatsby. I had just finished reading Fitzgerald’s novel with my 10th grade students, and was curious to learn how other educators help students relate its themes to present day.

In the discussion that followed, several educators shared texts and tips (including P.L. Thomas’ post, “The ‘Vast Carelessness’ of White America”). [ . . . ]  Read More

Teens and Libraries Reunite via Virtual Field Trips

At the beginning of the school year, I asked my students to obtain or recover their public library cards. Since my students commute from several towns, this involved three local libraries. I hoped the assignment would encourage students to take advantage of the many resources available through the library.

I asked students to upload a photo of themselves with their library cards, and offered additional points for photos that conveyed “a love of reading.” Here are some examples (shared with permission). [ . . . ]  Read More

Get Your Public Library Card!

The start of the school year presents an opportunity to encourage a new group of students to fall (or stay) in love with reading.

To kick off our yearlong independent reading unit, my students are signing up for library cards at the local library. As a homework assignment, students will obtain (or dust off) a library card, and snap a photo of themselves holding their cards. After talking it over with students, I decided to offer additional points for photos that convey enthusiasm for reading. Check back for an update of student photos posted with permission. [ . . . ]  Read More

Experimenting with Digital Badges in ELA

I’ve been tinkering with digital badges for a few years, but this spring marked my first effort to test them in the classroom. I’m still in an exploratory stage, but I wanted to share some initial reflections.

What are Digital Badges?

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).

If you’re new to badges, check out the Open Badges website and this article on badges in the classroom. The graphic below illustrates the elements of an open badge. [ . . . ]  Read More

What Reading Looks Like

When we think about what reading looks like, we might picture someone curled up with a good book in a comfy chair with a hot beverage nearby. We might picture someone perusing the news over breakfast, or reading an e-book during the morning commute.

If you ask someone outside of the education field what teens’ reading looks like, however, they might not picture anything. For example, when I mention to someone that I’m researching teens’ reading, many lament, “kids these days don’t read anymore!” [ . . . ]  Read More

Poetry for the Reluctant Poet

In honor of National Poetry Month, here’s a poetry lesson that can inspire writers of all ages.

On Valentine’s Day, a day when emotions are heightened in high school, for better or worse, I trotted out an assignment that would invite students to have fun writing poetry. These were ninth graders—generally willing to play along when I call something fun even if they don’t think it is—but I did my best to present them with options they’d find inherently appealing. They even laughed politely when I joked that if they wanted, they could write their poem on colored paper and cut it out in a heart shape. [ . . . ]  Read More

Using Literacy for Advocacy

In honor of Advocacy Month, the Writers Who Care blog has invited educators to talk about literacy and advocacy by posting a 90-second video on Flipgrid. My students decided to tweak their prompt to reflect on how we use literacy for advocacy.

Here is the video response from my classroom.

From Of Mice and Men to Advocacy

After students finished reading Of Mice and Men, I challenged them to investigate a contemporary issue raised by the classic text. Students researched and wrote about issues such as sexism, racism, ageism, and ableism. Then, they researched advocacy organizations that aligned to their arguments. Some students reached out to their advocacy groups to learn how to get involved. [ . . . ]  Read More