Literature & Writing: Exploring Character with Word Hoard Activities

word hoard post

 

How many times do you come across a great activity and your mind is instantly racing with all the ways it could be applied to create more dynamic or student-centered learning?

I had exactly this reaction to a Word Hoard activity shared by librarian and young adult author Megan Frazer Blakemore as part of the Teachers Write virtual writing camp for teachers this week.

First, check out the original sources for Word Hoards and Teachers Write:

  • 1907364_876609592353825_1937506217078596531_nTeachers Write: Author Kate Messner is the co-creator and host of a fabulous “virtual writing camp” for teachers and librarians, called Teachers Write. Follow that link to Kate’s blog for more about the program and all the fabulous authors who volunteer to lead it. This is my second year participating.
  • Word HoardsCheck out Megan Frazer Blakemore’s Thursday Quick Write prompt which shares how she first discovered Word Hoards, the uses she’s found for them and her writing prompt for exploring your own characters. You’ll also see the dozens of examples participants shared in the comments.Blakemore_MeganFrazerWeb

What is a Word Hoard?

As Megan explains, a word hoard is a list of words that can be generated by a group to start a writing activity. (Really, go back and read her post — in respect of her copyrights, I’m not repeating it here.)

How I Used a Word Hoard for my Novel

Following Megan’s prompt, I used her activity as a way to more deeply clarify my understanding of 6 key characters in the novel I am revising.

I immediately felt the value: to generate a word hoard for each character, I had to close my eyes and imagine myself fully inside that character’s skin. Shallow efforts would not have been meaningful: I emotionally wallowed down into each, letting details from the writing bring them into view. I imagined details of their backstory or the setting of one of their scenes or their history with another character or a particular possession or memory.

Once I was fully “there,” I wrote down one word that character would think of, and then another until I had at least 10 words per character. Some feedback on how the process worked for me:

  • My format: I could have done this in a journal or on a legal pad, but I do all my novel work in Word. In Word, I used the simple insert-table button from the toolbar to create a table 6 wide and 2 tall (1 column for each character, 1 row for their names then I listed the words in a second “row”; I could have made 10 rows, but this was simpler). See activities below for how students might vary formats.
  • One at a time or all at once? I tried rotating through the characters, listing one word at a time for each. This was fun, as I felt the contrast as I went along, but it was inefficient going in and out of character (which would tempt someone not to take the time to get deep into character), so I finished the lists one character at a time. That pattern — one word each, then finish each character’s list — might be a good way to go, as you get the benefit of contrast and efficiency.
  • Make it work: I let the list be shorter (say, 5 words instead of 10-15) for minor characters.
  • An editor’s pass. Although this is a brainstorming activity, make your hoards powerful by going back when you’re done. Mark out words that aren’t that strong, or add definition to those that really resound. If I said motorcycle for my main character, I might add crash or the make and model of the bike his father raced, or one powerful sensory detail like the smell of oil.

Word Hoards as a Writers Workshop Activity to Develop Character and More

word hoard screenBy the time I had 2-3 words per character, I could immediately distinguish clear differences between my characters. Each character’s word hoard revealed a very different voice and tone. One character wants peace, another wants action, one wants revenge, another to save the world. And the young son? Just wants to play with his cars.

Clearly, the voice of each character would reflect that.

In guiding students to write fiction in a workshop, reflect and practice how that would extend throughout the writing:

  • dialogue — what the characters say but also what they hide; how emphatically they speak or when they choose to be silent
  • actions — including hand gestures, nervous ticks, irritation or boredom
  • author’s tone toward the characters
  • relationships between characters — what does it reveal if a character says he wants peace but falls for a woman who wants action? how might a son who just wants to play with his cars be impatient with a mother obsessed with solving a crisis? Extend this to the world around them: how will the character who wants revenge be punished or judged?
  • setting — what elements of time or place impact the words in your character’s hoard, or how are the story’s time or place obstacles to the character?
  • other details — writing settings and details is not just about painting a picture, but about revealing the filter through which each character sees the world. How does each character’s hoard suggest the kinds of objects or details that character would notice? Add those.

Literary Activities Using Word Hoards

Considering how fun it was to watch my character word hoards take shape and how deeply they pulled me into understanding character, I immediately envisioned ways to use hoards for fun literary activities.

  1. What character am I? In literary circles, pairs or even whole group, students each envision one character from a book that the class or circle has been reading. It should be from a book with several characters, or else students might select characters from a short list of books that they’ve all recently read (hey, great way to review for midterms or finals). On a card or in their journals or blog, students imagine they are that character, really working to get as deep inside that mind as they can — this is the fun of it. Students brainstorm a list of 10-12 random words that would come to that character’s mind. They do not write down the character’s name on the list (they might use one side of a card for the name and the other side for the list, like a flashcard). Game options:
    • In pairs, students call out or reveal one of their words at a time, taking turns. Goal: see who can guess the other’s character first. When finish, trade partners with another group, working around the room for as many cycles as desired.
    • Small groups could face off against each other, similar to the game for pairs, keeping score to see which team could identify the most characters.
    • The same thing could be done whole-group, for reading groups needing closer modeling or review.
  2. Individual Practice. As an alternative literary review, students work independently, creating a T-chart or other graphic organizer with space for each major character in a literary work. Students then either brainstorm their own words from the minds of characters, or identify the actual words used by the author to signal the distinctive characteristics of each.
  3. Organization for literary analysis. Student creates a graphic organizer as a brainstorming step prior to writing a literary analysis that evaluates a single character or compares different characters from one or more works. The student can evaluate the power of the words in their brainstorming: weak words can be crossed out. Really powerful words might be highlighted or circled, and the student might look for quotes from the text to illustrate them. Arrows or other relationship signals can be drawn to develop connections that might be made during their analytical essay. These relationships can be numbered, to begin organizing them into paragraphs. Ultimately, the word hoard should generate character-specific and revealing word choice to be used in their analytical writing.
  4. Creative fun in interactive reader notebooks.  Word hoard lists might be a menu alternative for interactive reader’s notebooks. I am a huge fan of the participatory nature of interactive notebooks. Rather than in a structured list or chart, hoarded words could be written in illustrative fonts, circled in concentric ripples, written in colors, illustrated with doodles, drawn with icons indicating relationships between other hoard words or other characters, illustrated in ways that connect the character to setting or other literary devices, or just reveal the fun and excitement the reader feels about the book or character. This kind of an interactive notebook page could be taken further with flaps, envelope pockets, or other 3-dimensional options.

Cross-Curricular Connection: Historical Figures

I also happen to be a history teacher and could see these same activities being adapted to play with famous historical characters.

  1. Add a word hoard to a lapbook on a famous explorer.
  2. Use the who am I? game above to review important people at a unit’s end.
  3. Use the same process of organizing for literary analysis to compare key figures when writing an essay comparing inventors or political figures.

*     *     *     *     *

How About You?

If you have been participating in Teachers Write, do say hello in the comments here. How have the prompts been going for you, or what inspiration have you found?

Summer is a great time for brainstorming and expanding our professional learning networks. What resources or a-ha moments have been most revealing for you?

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option or via email. I love to connect with other educators and writers.

Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T's Middle Grades

Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T’s Middle Grades

More on this site:

Advertisements

Friday Links for Educators 06.27.14

summerAs much as we educators sigh a relaxing ahhhhh at the thought of our summer months, for most of us, the months “off” are a time for reflection, reading, and deepening our understanding of all that we do in the classroom.

This week’s Links for Educators captures some of the best articles I’ve come across recently. If these resound with you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments — or share your own links (including those to your own posts), as well.

*     *     *     *     *

Technology in Writing Workshop: When Students Take the Lead

Two Writing Teachers has long been one of my favorite blogs, and this post by Tara Smith shares great insight into how Google docs and other technology have enriched successes in her writing workshops.

Notes on Teaching Writing Using Tech

More along those lines… Heard of grass-roots PLN ed-camps? This document shares a list of resources that were shared by various teachers at EdCamp Chicago for using technology in teaching writing.

How to Engage Your Strongest Readers

I came across this great post by Pernille Ripp when link to it was tweeted by Edutopia. Activating gifted or advanced readers is an important class focus, and Pernille gives great approaches for keeping these readers inspired and challenged.

Are Children’s Books Darker Than They Used to Be?

Whether you’re a librarian, English teacher, teacher stocking a classroom library, writer of children’s lit or a parent… you’re bound to, at times, have questioned the themes of certain kid-lit or young adult lit today. Teens fighting to the death for the right to eat? Kids in deathly battles against evil lords? Kids telling lies that end in murder? What on earth?! This article at The Guardian is an interesting discussion of what place darkness has in children’s and teen’s literature.

Preventing Bullying with Emotional Intelligence

This article at Education Week acknowledges that bullying awareness has left educators well-versed in defining bullying and perhaps with an arsenal of approaches for clamping down on symptoms, but contends that punitive approaches do not solve the problem. Rather, educators should focus on teaching emotional intelligence, enabling potential bullies to learn to regulate their own emotional state and for bystanders and victims to better cope.  A useful definition of emotional intelligence appears several paragraphs in.

9 Questions to Optimize Your Collaboration

I loved this list of questions shared by John Wink at his Lead Learner site. If you plan with a teaching team, you can relate to how this list of questions would help optimize the effectiveness of every collaborative meeting to the benefit of teachers and students.

 

*     *     *     *     *

What About You?

What resources are inspiring you most in reaching your summer goals?  Feel free to share your thoughts on today’s links in the comments, or share great links you’ve found, including to posts on your own blog.

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email. I love to connect with readers and fellow teachers or writers.

More on this site:

Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T's Middle Grades

Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T’s Middle Grades

 

*     *     *     *     *

Friday Links for Educators 02.21.14

February has been far from a “quiet” teaching month in my 5th grade.  All the average planning has been interrupted, one after another, with special tasks:  Planning itineraries and menus and walking groups and field notebooks for March’s overnight field trip to St. Augustine… Planning, coaching and hosting the Lower School Spelling Bee… A day away from school to attend the Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest awards ceremony and luncheon… Time out to attend the 2nd grade play, to celebrate our Valentine’s Day party and a day off for Presidents’ Day…

Award CeremonyThey’re great distractions.  Two of my boys placed 1st and 3rd in the Spelling Bee.  In the exciting final rounds, my student was up against his 4th grade brother, the 2 of them cheering each other on in a fabulous finish for 1st and 2nd!  In the DAR essay contest, girls from my Social Studies classes won 1st, 2nd and 3rd for 5th grade, and our school took 12 of the 16 awards, overall!

But, next thing you know, the month is nearly gone.

As we continually adjust our schedules to fit in these events in lower school, my big focus has been on writing and rewriting my lessons and their formative and summative assessments.  Each week, I come across such fabulous resources through the organizations and individual educators I follow online, and I share some of the best links I came across, below, as the second installment of Friday Links for Educators.  Enjoy reading!

*     *     *     *     *

7 Questions to Ask Before Giving an Assessment

This piece is partially directed at educators responsible for purchasing assessment tools, but struck me as a great series of questions to consider in everyday assessments — whether tweaking last year’s assessments for a coming unit, writing new assessments or modifying assessments for differentiating learning.

An Interview with Grant Wiggins: The Power of Backwards Design

Principal Ben Johnson’s November interview with Grant Wiggins on Edutopia is a powerful discussion on the value of putting assessment at the center of planning rather than as “an afterthought.”  I was glad to read this, as I was just looking into a workshop with Wiggins and Tighe (his co-author).

Newsela

This isn’t a single article but a whole site I’ve just come across and really love. Newsela is a fabulous opportunity to help students build literacy skills with some of the most stimulated reading: daily news articles appropriate for differing reading levels.  It’s an empowering opportunity to allow students to select an article that interests them, while sparking their interest in reading through real world events.

The Best Teachers Don’t Do What They’re Told

I actually happen to get great advice at the school where I teach, so can’t say I entirely support this title, but I like this piece for teacher, Terry Heick’s, insistence on preserving passion above cowed compliance.  While her title sounds defiant, her strategies are clearly about being at the top of your game, using researched practices, well-planned and demonstrated lessons.  In this sense, her advice is about keeping out ahead of the curve of administrative feedback.  I’m all for “Olympic level” teaching.

You Think You Know What Teachers Do, Right?  Wrong.

Don’t skip reading this powerful essay by Sarah Blaine.  The link above takes you to where it has been shared on the Washington Post Answer Sheet column, but it originally appeared on Sarah Blaine’s blog, Parenting the Core.  Blaine was once a classroom teacher, then a parent, and left teaching for law school.  This essay is a powerful tribute to all teachers do, beyond what nonteachers might imagine.  It’s one of my favorite recent reads.

*     *      *      *      *

What About You?

How has your teaching week been, or what great reads have you found?  Feel free to share your thoughts on today’s links in the comments, or share great links you’ve found, including to posts on your own blog.

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email. I love to connect with readers and fellow teachers or writers.

More on this site:

Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T's Middle Grades

Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T’s Middle Grades

Friday Links for Educators 01.24.14

Tour of NASA, Cape Canaveral, FL. c Elissa Thompson

Tour of NASA, Cape Canaveral, FL. c Elissa Thompson

Ah, January. Starts out slow: everyone back from holidays, refreshing December’s learning, slowly starting new units… Not so much!  Somehow, entering dates for spring semester makes it clear how quickly we shifted from the “start of the year” to “is that really May I’m planning for?”

With all the demands of regular planning, we’re also looking ahead with resolutions for a new year. For my own part, I’m reflecting on what has been going well, but pushing myself to where I want to grow and improve next.

All of that includes some great online reading.  Below are some of the best reads for this week.  As always, be sure to let me know what you find useful, what you would like to see more of, or leave your own links in the comments.  Have a great week!

*     *     *     *     *

What Students Can do When the Reading Gets Rough

This is actually one of my favorite reads, lately: a great article that gives concrete advice on what is really needed when students bog down in reading — concrete to-dos for student and teacher, alike.

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented

As much attention as education might put into differentiating to reach struggling students, it can be to easy to overlook the need to differentiate with enrichment for gifted students. This site is rich with information and links for resources to benefit gifted learners.

Say What? 5 Ways to Get Students to Listen

This is a great piece on Edutopia with approaches to modify to engage student listening — a great tool for to increase student success by avoiding missed instructions or learning.

A Simple Way Teachers Can Learn to Make Apps

Make our own apps?  This link utterly fascinates me and terrifies me, at once.  Haven’t you had a moment where you thought, “If only there were an app that would…”?  What if you could write (and sell?) that app yourself?  If anyone tries this out, be sure to let us know how well it worked!

Re-dos, Retakes and Do-Overs

The idea of do-overs was hotly debated in a recent Twitter thread, as the need to differentiate and allow genuine learning is held out against a fear that do-overs devalue grades. From a series of videos on differentiated instruction,  Rick Wormeli gives his perspective.

*     *     *     *     *

What About You?

This week, my reading came about while looking for resources on specific approaches in differentiation and assessment.  What goals are you working on in your teaching?  Are you registering to attend a workshop or conference, or are there blogs or links you’ve found useful?  Let us know what your challenges, successes or favorite resources have been, by sharing in the comments.

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!animal-bird-arctic-blue-bird-done-blue

More on this site:

Friday Links for Educators 01.03.14

399541_3011751576580_1346241175_3144364_1580577812_n_crop1

From a trip to the Museum of Natural History, c. Elissa Thompson.

On my other blog, one of my favorite ongoing resources has been a weekly roundup of Friday Links for Writers. In the same spirit, today begins the first post of Friday Links for Educators.

Although I run across dozens of great resources each week (how else do we get to thousands of pins on our Pinterest boards?), the Friday Links will focus on the 4-6 articles or resources I found most meaningful.

With each post, I encourage you to let me know in the comments which resources were most useful, what you’d like more of, or share your own finds or posts of the week.

*     *     *      *     *

Taught by Finland

Have you had the “Finland is no. 1 in education” statistic thrown in your face during a dinner party debate, while non-educators list what should be corrected with United States’ education? (I’m raising my hand to that one.) So, wouldn’t it be interesting to hear from an American educator now teaching in Finland?  It was interesting to read what teacher Tim Walker says he is learning from teaching in Helsinki — not necessarily what one might expect.

50 Education Leaders Worth Following on Twitter

This list, shared by Jeff Dunn on Edudemic, may be from October 2012, but is up to date in sharing many of the educators I recommend following on Twitter. (If you want my own list, or want to share your own favorites, check out my Twitter for Teachers: Best Tweeters and Hashtags for Educators to Follow.)

Classroom Behavior? There’s an App for That

In this article at Edutopia, 5th grade teacher from Newark, DE, Lisa Mims, shares her recommendations for the classroom behavior app, Class Dojo. A great 8th grade teacher at my school had shared his experiences using this app within his subject-area classes this past year, but it was great to hear Lisa’s experience in using the app with 5th graders — particularly with how using the app on her phone allows her to report remotely as she differentiates with groups in and out of the room. The headline link takes you to her post; link on the company name takes you to their site for vendor info.

Common Application Essay Questions

The post, from Veritas, shares the common application essay question topics that were revealed for college applications for 2013-14, and may be of interest for anyone teaching writing to students 5th grade and up.  My school places a heavy emphasis on writing and on character, and I agree with the post’s concept that reflecting on one’s own experiences is a writing challenge that stumps many young writers.

*     *     *     *      *

What About You?

How has your teaching week gone, or what resources are you most excited about this week?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email. I love to connect with readers and fellow educators!

More on this site:

Peter Pappas's Taxonomy of Reflection

Peter Pappas’s Taxonomy of Reflection

Using Pinterest in the Classroom

Mrs Ts Middle Grades Pinterest scrn

If I were to share one way that technology contributed to great classes this week, I’d have to say, “Pinterest.”  Here’s the thing: friends might assume I mean using Pinterest to find great resources. That is true.  I do find examples of good organization and learning approaches on Pinterest.

But what I’ve come to love about Pinterest is the way I use it as an interactive bulletin board for sharing resources with students throughout learning.  Since last spring, I have been using Pinterest as an interactive, technologically empowered bulletin board of resources.  Not only does it keep multimedia tools readily sorted for use, but it is an engaging tool in our class community as students use certain boards throughout our day.

This post shares how I use Pinterest in the classroom in 3 parts:

  1. How I set up a Pinterest account specifically for use in the classroom
  2. 20 strategies for how I use boards
  3. An example of Pinterest in a lesson this week (which continues a lesson first mentioned in this post, 3 for Thursday: Checklist for Project-Based Learning, Request for Retest and Taxonomy for Reflection).

Here is my Mrs. T’s Middle Grades Pinterest account, mentioned throughout this article. Follow me so I’ll see yours as well.

*     *     *     *     *

First, here is my Pinterest set-up:

  1. Create a classroom account.   Before using Pinterest in the classroom, I set up 2 separate Pinterest accounts.
    • For the classroom, I set up a separate Pinterest account called Mrs. T’s Middle Grades specifically for resources used in class. Nothing goes on there except what would be appropriate for students to view.
    • Anything else I want to save — pretty places I’ve traveled or great shoes I saw or anything else personal, and even professional links not related to teaching — goes on a personal Pinterest account that students don’t see.
  2. Store pins where you’ll find them quickly.  The key to making Pinterest a useful resource is to store pins where they can be accessed quickly.  The best strategy is in how you name your boards, since Pinterest allows you to name and move boards, whereas pins remain sorted in the order you pinned them.
    • For subject-content pins, name boards by subject and unit. For example, I collected lots of great pictures of animal species and articles on discovery of new species onto a board named “Science  {plants & animals}” making it easy to view all these pins together during our current life science unit. Similarly, content-area pins on the Boston Massacre and Declaration of Independence go onto a board named “US History {Road to Revolution}.”  For English, creating a board for a novel unit allows you to collect pictures and other resources students use to visualize an historic novel, for example.

      Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T's Middle Grades

      Boards set up by subject, unit or skill. Mrs. T’s Middle Grades

    • Where resources overlap, create boards for subject area then skill.  Language Arts skills tend to be used throughout the year rather than in single units, but can be sorted into boards for Reading (which I break into fiction, nonfiction, reading notebooks, etc.), Writing (with individual boards for certain skills, like research, inference, and comparison/contrast), Spelling and Vocabulary, etc. I set up a single board for Grammar, but have considered dividing pins into separate boards for nouns, verbs, sentences, etc., to be more organized during units.
    • Name boards by process. I’ve grouped other pins into boards that name the process I use them for, such as “Reading Notebooks,” “Writing Prompts,” “Reading {alternatives to book reports},” “Groups and Discussions” and “Interactive Notebooks.” In these cases, I’ll be looking for a pin example while performing one of those processes (see more on how I use them below).
    • Special activities. See more about students, below, but I have boards of resources we use during classroom breaks, indoor recess, holiday crafts, etc.  A “Technology” board groups links to Pandora and other tools we might use in class.
    • Where it’s helpful, I’ll repeat a pin onto more than one board, so the hunt for a pin goes faster. For example, a popular song we used for learning state capitals shows up in “Geography,” as well as in “For Students” and “Recess.”
    • Periodically shuffle your boards so your most relevant boards are quickly visible near the top.  My boards are organized so that student boards are at the top, then start-of-day boards, then subject area boards for current units, then tools, etc.  Unit boards for other times of the year are allowed to shuffle to the bottom.
    • (Notice I’m only listing boards for pins I use with students. I do also have planning boards for things like classroom organization or assessments, and professional development. These are kept toward the bottom.)
  3. Follow good people, and save only useful pins.  You “follow” people or organizations on Pinterest to see what others are pinning.
    • I follow some of the amazing teachers from my own staff, some great blogging teachers, several professional organizations (Edutopia  and ISTE are fab pinners), and other educators I admire.  Here are people I follow on Pinterest .
    • I only pin materials that I think will be useful, and I readily prune — deleting pins or unfollowing as needed to focus what I’m seeing. (It goes without saying: I screen carefully and don’t pin things that are controversial or inappropriate.)
    • Half of my pins are repins of sources I found on Pinterest, but the other half were found through email, newsletters, Twitter, searches and other reading. (I’ve shared more about best ways for educators to use Twitter here and best tweeters to follow here , or here is my educators list on Twitter.)
  4. Create a fast link to Pinterest.  I am able to access any link stored on Pinterest as fast or faster than any other app on my system.  A simple Favorites tab gets me there readily while online. If you wanted students to have quick access, you can include a direct link in the links list on your Edline class page or other school webpage. Students can be given a direct link to a pin by including it in an assignment posted on Edline or email.

How I Use Pinterest While Teaching

That was all just set up.  How do I use Pinterest boards with students?  Like many teachers, I use several of my boards during unit planning. For example, in our recent nouns unit, I created a noun rules foldable for our interactive notebooks from an example I found on Pinterest.

But I’m more focused in this post on sharing how I use my boards as an interactive resource during teaching or as independent resources for flipped learning.

  1. Quick access to multimedia links for teaching.  Pinterest is one of my favorite ways to stash fast links to film clips I’ll use during lessons.  For example, my “US History {Road to Revolution}” board has links from the History channel, as well as several of the John Adams HBO series clips I loved using to capture the emotion colonial delegates went through in debating war with England and ultimately ratifying the Declaration of Independence.   I may also have these links imbedded in a PowerPoint or Smart file for a class presentation, but can get to all of them quickly through the board without having to open other software.  I can use comments on the pin to note how I use the individual clips. Or, see below for how those clips can become flips or bellringers.
  2. What’s great, is the “flipped” aspect of a Pinterest board, as the resources are always available, not hidden in a computer file.  For example, half a dozen students in my grade are currently researching to write essays for the Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest. I can steer them to my Road to Revolution board to use the same resources I’ll use later in the year as flipped learning.
  3. Display samples. The process-based boards mentioned above are great go-to’s for visual examples when introducing a project, previewing lapbooks or interactive notebooks or options for book reports, holiday crafts, etc.
  4. A filter. Using any online resources, one concern is in being able to control inappropriate material that pops up in frames or ads. One reason I like opening resources in Pinterest is that I don’t have to click through to the original source when viewing with kids, which helps screen against some of those unknowns on YouTube and elsewhere. I like having this one extra layer of protection in screening materials for students.
  5. Bellringers and prompts. Throughout my boards, I have photos, videos or articles pinned with a comment beneath them for how I can use them as a bellringer, prompt or other class activity.  For example, a “Science {bellringers}” board has a dozen How Things Are Made clips for students to watch. These could be used as a flipped assignment, small group activity, opportunity for cross-curricular connection, or bellringer, with little additional planning for implementation, as they are already loaded for student access.  Because the boards were designed for student use, I can safely direct students to the board to complete the activity.
  6. I have several boards that are specifically intended for students, and I sort those to display as the top row of boards.boards for kids 3
    • Games, videos and websites for home study and practice are saved in a board titled “For Students.”
    • If I come across resources parents might be interested in (like an article on setting up a homework space, or how to encourage a reluctant reader, or ways to study spelling), I save this kind of link in a board titled “For Parents.”
    • My next few boards are titled “Books” and share anything on great reading for (broken down into boards for each of these) upper elementary, middle grades and young adult.  They include books I love, or books highly recommended by students or others, to help when students are looking for a reading suggestion.
    • The next few boards are for students to use during our morning warm-up and break times. “Classroom inspiration” is an option for one of our classroom jobs, as the student can select an inspirational saying to display during morning work time. “Random funny stuff for kids” is a hit, collecting silly things we watch for fun when rain forces an indoor break or recess.
  7. Quick access to frequently-used tools. My boards are full of resources I use often, from music, to videos, to games, to maps or pictures.  I may have equally convenient links to these tools in various PowerPoints or web pages, but know I can find them quickly from a centralized Pinterest board.

A Recent Lesson using Pinterest

Last week, my students had just finished a 2-week project where they pretended to be scientists discovering an island of new animal species, observing animal traits (in a pile of stuffed animals) and then researching online to find the actual taxonomy of the 7 levels of scientific naming and then sorting relationships between the different kinds of animals.  It was a fun project.

Monday, I wanted to transition from their own experience to the next material we would cover. Our “Science {plants & animals}” Pinterest board provided the perfect interactive segue.  The dozens of great animal pictures I’ve pinned onto the board created a vivid visual. Just scrolling through the pictures together was more stimulating than pictures in the textbook would be. But over recent weeks I had pinned several articles from scientific publications announcing actual discovery of new species and even a new genus.  Opening this board in class on Monday, I allowed student interest to drive our discussion.  Students shared their project experiences, and we explored different pictures from the board to follow their continuing curiosity to learn more.

I would have been okay opening any link they expressed interest in (knowing I’d only saved links safe for this purpose), but knew I would ultimately steer them to one of the scientific discovery articles to anchor the lesson.  As we reached that article, I was able to make Common Core connections to reinforce the parts of nonfiction text, while making real world connections between the project they had completed and the process scientists actually go through when discovering a new species in the field. Text in the article helped them practice scientific naming conventions, observation of animal traits, and relationships between living things, while building their confidence to know that what they had just done paralleled real world scientific discovery.

A Parting Thought

Later this week I was struck by comments shared by Innovative Educator Lisa Nielsen (in her post Has Google Replaced Teaching?) where “digital native” students expressed their preference to follow their own curiosity in seeking answers through technology, rather than being led by a teacher’s instruction.  While I’m sure she was polling older students than my 5th graders, I think her concept is key in the satisfaction I sensed in students in using the interactive plane of a Pinterest bulletin board rather than me leading a more linear plan through the lesson.  My classroom feels empowered and energized when we use our Pinterest boards — as these resources are something we own together, rather than something I “do” to the class.

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!animal-bird-arctic-blue-bird-done-blue

More on this site:

Twitter for Teachers: Best Tweeters & Hashtags for Educators to Follow

animal-bird-arctic-blue-bird-done-blue

Earlier this year, I posted Twitter 101 for Teachers: Steps for Getting Started on Twitter, sharing the key steps for how educators can crack Twitter and discover its usefulness as a great information resource and way to connect with other educators around the world.

If you are new to Twitter or social media, read that post to discover how to make Twitter useful for you.

One of the keys shared was to find useful people and organizations to follow.  A good tweeter to follow is not only someone with useful information, but one who uses Twitter well.

The list below shares more than 30 of the most useful people, organizations and hashtags I’ve found on Twitter, for educators. Clicking any of the user names will take you to that tweeter’s profile on Twitter, where you can then click the “follow” button to add them to your feed. (You need to be signed in to your Twitter account.)

Find me on Twitter:  @elissafield – I tweet about teaching, writing and current events.

In addition to the users below, check out the most currently updated members of my teaching tweeters list on Twitter: Elissa Field’s Teach list

Resources:

@edutopia – Edutopia: “Inspiration and information for what works in education”; one of my favorite educational resources

@ASCD – “The international education association dedicated to providing programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner.”

@MindShiftKQED – Mind Shift “explores the future of learning, covering cultural and tech trends and innovations in education”

@edudemic – Edudemic: “A dedicated community of educators and technologists looking to enhance learning.” (Cambridge, MA)

@ChildMindDotOrg – Child Mind Institute: “a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming mental health care for children everywhere. Follow us for up-to-the minute news on child mental health.”

@NYTimesLearning – New York Times Learning Network – an online resource for teaching and learning, using news published in the NYTimes.

@IRAToday – International Reading Association

@writingproject – National Writing Project: a favorite, “focuses the  knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning”

@TCRWP – “The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project is one of the world’s premier providers of professional development in the teaching of reading and writing.”

@Newsela – this is one of my new favorites: a website that serves up news stories on myriad topics, searchable by reading level, offering great current event reading for students of all ages.

@RWTnow Read Write Think. org – “free access to the highest quality materials for reading & language arts instruction”

@TED_ED – TED-Ed: “TED’s education initiative, is an online library of short, captivating videos that engage inquisitive learners all over the world.”

@LearnwithTED – similarly, a resource for using TED talks in learning

@KhanAcademy – Khan Academy: “Working to make a free, world-class education available for anyone, anywhere” — one resource, although not my favorite, for flipping classes

Top Educators, Researchers & Speakers:

(Several educators whom I admire – such as Carol Ann Tomlinson – are on Twitter, but seldom tweet, so are not included on this list.)

@RickWormeli – Rick Wormeli is one of my favorite educators

@arneduncan – go official: this is the official Twitter account for the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan

@judywillis – Judy Willis: “neuroeducation consultant/lecturer, physician/neurologist, former teacher, How the Brain Learns author.” (Santa Barbera, CA)

@SirKenRobinson – Sir Ken Robinson, best known for his inspiring TED talks on education reform (Los Angeles, CA)

@buffyjhamilton – Buffy Hamilton: “Librarian & Learning Strategist for CPL who loves learning, literacy, stories, social media”

@unfragilekids – Leonard Sax, MD, PhD: author of several studies on gender differences in education (rarely tweets)

Teachers Who Tweet:

Lots of educators tweet (you, too? leave your user name in the comments below) and I follow nearly a hundred, but these are ones who resonated with me at the time I compiled this list.

@JulieDRamsay – “Educator with passion for student-directed learning; author of Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing? Collaborating in Class and Online;NBCT; blogger” (Birmingham, AL)

@stumpteacher – Josh Stumpenhorst: “father, husband, teacher, blogger, runner, presenter, learner, and disrupter…always looking to be better and stay relevant. (2012 IL Teacher of the Year)” (Chicago)

@InnovativeEdu – Lisa Nielsen: “Educator. Innovator. Author. Blogger.” (Manhattan)

@whatedsaid – Edna Sackson: I love this teacher’s blog (Melbourne, Australia)

@RobinDubiel – Robin and I routinely trade each other’s Pinterest recommendations, and she is often a great fellow-tweeter

@ChrisLehman – “Educator, speaker, author, dad”

@MicheleCorbat a co-moderator of #COLchat

MG and YA Authors:

@camphalfblood – Rick Riordan, author of Percy Jackson series and more

@RolandCSmith – Roland Smith, author of I,Q series, Elephant Run, Peak and more

@realjohngreen – John Green: “I write books, including Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. (Books are like tweets, except longer.) I also make videos with my brother.” His videos are a hit.

@rebstead – Rebecca Stead, one of my favorite authors: “My books for kids: First Light, When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy.”

@KateMessner – Kate Messner: “Children’s author, reader, dreamer, educator, & TED2012 speaker”

@novaren – Nova Ren Suma: author of young adult books including Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone

Hashtags:

#educhat or #edchat – matters related to teaching and education

#FLedchat – chats on Wednesdays at 8 EST via Tammy Neil (@MathNeil)

#edtech – tweets related to educational technology

#mschat – chats for middle school educators

#sbgchat – one of my favorite chat-threads, on standards-based learning and grading

#COLchat – community of learning chat – fab, positive energy

#STEM – tweets addressing focus on science, technology, engineering and math – including writing that addresses these

#gtchat – chats about education for gifted and talented students, for parents and educators

#MGlit – used for chats and other tweets related to middle grade fiction

#YAlit – used for chats and other tweets related to young adult fiction

#litchat – literary or book chats held several times each week

#YAlit, #MGlit or #kidlit – chats about young adult, middle grade & children’s lit

Twitter trick: Have you ever wondered what a hashtag stood for and didn’t know how to look it up?  Try this: http://tagdef.com/

(If you’re curious about a meaning and the tag is not listed on the tagdef site — as happened for me with #WTLconf12 — you can always tweet someone using the tag to ask them the meaning.)

* * *

Feel free to add your suggestions or your own Twitter ID in the comments, and do look me up: @elissafield

Housekeeping takes time: if we are already connected on Twitter, check to see if I added you to the twitter list you would fit on by checking here. If not, private message me so I can add you.

* * *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s follow option, or via email. I love to connect with like minded bloggers!

More on this site:

Teachers Write – An Online Summer Writing Forum for Teachers

551587_350866134982451_1589772556_n

Do you teach writing — whether it is your subject area, a cross-curricular skill or one of several subjects you teach as an elementary teacher?  And, for fun or professionally, do you write, yourself?

Last year, I was still exclusively teaching middle grade Writing. As summer approached, I also had a fresh novel draft and a growing writing blog, and I wanted nothing more than to turn those long summer days-off with my sons into a finished novel and thriving blog. So I was happily surprised to stumble across a fabulous, dynamic and free resource for teachers: Teachers Write.

Teachers Write is the equivalent of an online writing camp for teachers. The forum is hosted by middle grade/young adult fiction writers Kate Messner, Gae Polisner and Jo Knowles.  Kate and Gae announced the project in spring 2012, and you could hear the excitement in their updates when more than 700 teachers nationwide signed up. Participation this year is over 1,000.

Teachers Write posts daily writing activities to help teachers stay motivated in pursuing individual writing goals during the summer months. There are teachers at all writing levels, working in all formats. While the daily prompts help set up a healthy routine (dare we say discipline?), participants are encouraged to set their own goals for involvement. Says Kate, in announcing the schedule: “Schedule is kind of an ugly word for summer, isn’t it? So let’s call this the plan-of-the-day instead. Feel free to participate in whatever floats your boat and skip the rest.”

It’s Summer – Why Write?

If you love to write, that’s not even a question for you. There are lots of teachers who write on a regular basis, and participants in Teachers Write cover the full range from those keeping a journal, creative writing or blogging as a hobby, to professional, published fiction and nonfiction writers. Wouldn’t you bet a large percentage of participants are those who have always loved to write, dreamed of writing, but rarely claim the time?

On the other hand, many participants say they have come to Teachers Write because they never write, are afraid to write or that teaching writing is the subject they feel least confident about. They have the right idea: many professional development programs agree that teachers are better able to model good writing practices when they practice writing frequently, themselves.

The National Writing Project lists as the second of its four core principles: “Knowledge about the teaching of writing comes from many sources: theory and research, the analysis of practice, and the experience of writing. Effective professional development programs provide  frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically” (emphasis added).

Whether out of love or trepidation, participants join Teachers Write to be motivated and encouraged through the forum’s routine.

The Basics – How It Works

Teachers Write posts activities every day except Saturday. There are mini-lesson Mondays and a Monday warm-up, Tuesday quick-write, Wednesday Q & A, Thursday quick-write, Friday “happy hour” and Friday Feedback. There’s a Friday bonus and a Sunday check-in, to share how your week went. Whether lessons, prompts or Q & A, participants are motivated by insights from published authors — including the program hosts as well as visiting writers.

There is lots of encouragement… but no real whip cracking. If you are interested but worry you won’t be able to participate every day or even every week, you won’t be the only one. It’s summer for the hosts, too, and they talk frequently about fitting writing in while playing with kids, sitting poolside, vacationing or (gasp!) working.

Where do participants complete their work, and do they have to share? That’s up to you and — for teachers on vacation — that flexibility is one benefit.

Teachers Write 2013 button. Visit the site for more info.

Teachers Write 2013 button. Visit the site for more info.

When a participant asked where to share their work today, Kate explained: “You can share short excerpts in the comments for each blog post/assignment. Some people share more on their own blogs, or simply keep a notebook or file for Teachers Write. How/when/where you share is up to you.”

The resources shared by the hosts and fellow participants is another great benefit. For example, a participant at the Facebook forum today said she wants to set up a blog and wondered whether to use Blogger or WordPress. There was immediate useful feedback from fellow participants, sharing their experiences ranging from simple impressions to detailed advice.

Join In – Where to Find Teachers Write

Enough already… if you’re interested, you should really go check out the official site:

  1. To start, go to Kate Messner’s site for the Announcement of Teachers Write, with an explanation and sign-up form. There is no cost, but you’ll see a reasonable request that you consider buying books by the hosting writers. They’re established writers and it’s a fair approach.
  2. Most daily prompts will be on Kate’s site.
  3. Monday warm-ups will be on Jo Knowles’ site.
  4. Friday Feedback is at Gae Polisner’s site.
  5. Sunday check-ins are on Jen Vincent’s Teach Mentor Texts site.

Here are other ways to connect and interact:

  • Teachers Write Facebook page: this is a central place where updates are posted. Participants post questions and interact with each other here, as well. (It is not a forum for self-promotion.)
  • Teachers Write Roster: Want to build platform, get other teachers reading your blog or otherwise connect with participating teachers? Use the form on the Facebook page to add yourself to the participants’ roster. I’ve met some great teachers this way.
  • TW list on Twitter: if participants list themselves on the roster, above, writer Joanne Levy will add them to this member list on Twitter.

Be sure to show some love for the writers who give so much of their time to this project. Here are links for more information on their books:

*    *     *    *     *

What about you?

Are you a teacher who writes? Is summer your free time to write, or is budgeting time for writing a concern for you? How might Teachers Write or other groups or prompts help you stay disciplined in your writing… or would they be a distraction?

If you’ve never dared write before, how might Teachers Write or other writing prompts help you brave it?

Good luck, whatever your summer goals might be!

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with readers!

For more on this site:reading list

Where else you’ll find me this week – from my writing blog:

Twitter 101 for Teachers: Steps for Getting Started on Twitter

animal-bird-arctic-blue-bird-done-blue

Before I began teaching, I was a professional writer, working freelance in a variety of print and web venues. As a writer, I participate actively in doing what is called “building platform” — this means using a variety of social media forums to connect with audience or peers around the country or around the world.

As a teacher and as a writer, I have been astounded at the depth of information and personal connection available through social media, including teaching blogs, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

Twitter Rules

Of all the social media venues, even writing friends are often surprised that Twitter is one of my favorites.

Twitter is the venue that can feel most cryptic to new users, because of its 140-character format. When you log onto Twitter, you view a feed of current posts by anyone you follow — which means a long stream of unrelated, abbreviated posts. As new tweets post, older ones are pushed down and eventually out of sight.

For those new to Twitter, the stream seems fragmented. They can’t imagine anything meaningful could be communicated in 140 characters.

But I promise you, Twitter is the one social media forum I return to most reliably. Over time, it has been one of my richest sources of news and information.

As a history teacher interested in current events, I frequently learn of breaking news through tweets from frontline reporters hours before televised news catches up. As a teacher interested in sources for dynamic teaching approaches, I find great articles from educational organizations and top speakers in the field.

Biggest surprise of all: tweeting can be surprisingly intimate. Think of it as a universal water cooler where you have the ability to bump elbows with people you could not walk up to in the physical world: I’ve had friendly exchanges with some of my students’ favorite writers, with publishers of textbooks, with reporters on scene and with educators around the country and around the globe.

This post will break down the key steps to cracking Twitter and making it work for you.

Before we start, I welcome you to connect with me on Twitter with questions or to share resources — find me here.

*     *     *     *     *

Step One to Getting Started: Create Your Profile

If you are not on Twitter at all, start by opening an account (access Twitter here; opening an account is free). You will create a user name and password, then personalize the display by adding a picture and short description of yourself.

Creating a user name and deciding which email address to use can stump some teachers. Best social media practices suggest that you use your real, professional name, as this is how people search for you — however, it is not uncommon for teachers to establish a “brand” name for their professional identity online. Many teachers use a nickname or the name of their blog as their user name. This helps to make clear that you are posting in a professional capacity, and not a personal social media forum.  I use “Mrs. T’s Middle Grades” for teaching, and my maiden name for fiction writing, both of which are separate from my private, personal accounts. I also use a separate email address for social media, rather than my email account at school. Don’t worry if you’re stumped about your user name: you can change it if you change your mind later.

Don’t skip the picture or profile. Twitter includes an “egg” icon for new users, and you’ll want to substitute a headshot or other picture to show your professionalism.

For your profile, you’ll write 140 characters of information to describe yourself. Some people are funny, but really it’s best to use words that genuinely reflect your interests. Examples could be: “Teacher, Father, author of articles in Parenting,” or “Teacher, recent college grad, in masters program at UF.” Make sure to include a link to your website if you are trying to drive traffic.

Step Two: Follow Key Players

A successful start on Twitter begins with finding meaningful people and organizations to follow. Since not everyone uses Twitter well, you are looking for people whose information or ideas you respect, and who are active on the site. This often rules out some experts while highlighting ordinary educators who actively forward great information.

4 ways to find good tweeters to follow:

  1. Steal a list: In my second post in this series I will share my list of some of the best people and organizations I follow on Twitter. (Here is link to Best Tweeters & Hashtags for Educators – click it now or find it at the end of this article)
  2. Search out your heroes. Hero is an exaggerated term, but the standard approach for finding people to follow is to search for names you respect. Reading a great book on differentiation? Search the author’s name. Belong to a teaching organization? Search for that group. Have peers you want to connect with? Look for people you teach with, went to school with, or have connected with in other venues, such as at professional workshops, on Pinterest, on blogs or Teachers Pay Teachers.
  3. Mine their leads: while on the profile for a tweeter you respect, click their “followers” list to see whom they follow. Sir Ken Robinson, of TED fame, does not follow a lot of educational experts — more Hollywood sorts. On the other hand, Rick Wormeli, my favorite resource for differentiation and middle grades, follows several great educational resources and actively tweeting teachers. Scrolling through his list, you might spot other educators or resources you’d like to follow.
  4. Use hashtags or participate in chats. More about hashtags and chats in step 4… but they are a good way to find tweeters who post actively on a topic that interests you.

How to do you follow someone? While logged in, click their user name until you reach their profile, then click the “follow” button. When getting started, consider following at least 40-50 people so that you are seeing enough material in your feed to find what you are looking for. If you later change your mind, prune your list by clicking the same button, which will now have turned to “unfollow.”  Tip: you can group the people you follow into categories by creating lists from your profile page. For example, here are a few of my lists: my Teaching list , my YA & MG lit list, and list of journalists & news I follow.

Step Three: Interact

Connection is key to finding meaningful benefit from social media. Twitter is frustrating to new users until they begin connecting with others. Practicing effective Twitter habits will draw others to follow you so that your posts are being “heard.” Heads up: meaningful connection begins to kick in about the time you have 40-50 followers… so get started, but have patience.

Here are the basic ways to connect using Twitter:

  • Share a link: If you read an article you think others would like, then tweet a short description and link to the article. You should also do this to share your own blog posts. Hint: use Google url shortener or other tools to shorten links. Be sure to include enough description or comment to help followers decide if it’s worth clicking the link. For example, I might share link to my reading list post by tweeting, “What are you reading this summer? Teacher’s Summer Reading http://wp.me/p3B1JY-l” Tip: Notice I used a question to engage, rather than just sell. In truth, answer to that question would be interesting interaction.
  • Other ways to share: Use “share on Twitter” buttons throughout the internet to share blog articles you like or items you post on Pinterest (which will include a picture of the pin).
  • Practice concise writing skills to share your stories: it’s possible to share a great experience in 140 characters or less! “Awesome lab w Red Bull and milk helped kids visualize chemical change” or “MG writers wrote amazing narrative essays to bring Rev War to life” are great mini stories of how your day went. Even if no one responds, these mini stories help other Twitter users get to know you.
  • Reply to interesting posts. Answer questions tweeted by others or respond as you would to an overheard conversation in public. If a person dropped a bag of groceries on the sidewalk in the real world, you’d stop to commiserate and help pick them up. It’s the same in the twitterverse: it’s human to reply “so sorry to hear it” if someone posts sad news, or well-wishing if they post good news.
  • Share the love by retweeting. Retweeting supports the initial poster as it improves their rankings, and benefits you by sharing with your followers the kind of information you found useful. (Side benefit: it serves to bookmark the article by saving the link in your feed.) Tips for mastering retweeting: While logged directly into Twitter, when you hit the “retweet” key it will simply repeat the original tweet in your feed with the original tweeter’s icon next to it. A better practice for building platform (creating connection with others) is for you to create a new tweet that quotes the original. Using an app like Tweetdeck or an app from your iphone makes this simple, as a second button is available that automatically quotes the retweet.  Otherwise you have to do it manually (copy/paste the original post into your new tweet, including the original poster’s id). Example of a retweet: “Get your questions ready: RT @GuardianBooks: Webchat 6/14 w Neil Gaiman http://t.co/gPSyv2FeoS  Notice that I added my own comment (“Get your questions ready”) and the letters RT, which stand for retweet; the original tweeter is identified (@GuardianBooks) and then their original tweet is included. If I had edited their original tweet to make it fit, I would have used the letters “MT” instead of “RT” to show that it is a “modified” tweet.
  • Thank people — post a thank you tweet including the user’s name any time someone follows you or “favorites” or retweets one of your posts.
  • Participate in Twitter chats. Huh… what? People have actual conversations? Read about hashtags in step 4 to understand this better.

It is important to know: manners really, really matter on Twitter and other social media. Try searching “twitter manners” or “twitter etiquette” for tips on how to behave. It’s generally as obvious as the golden rule — treat others as you would like to be treated. Be personable and friendly in interacting with others, but keep it professional. If you want to promote your blog or other work, do so sparingly and mixed in with other genuine conversation.

Step Four: Use Hashtags

Hashtags are those shortie expressions preceded by the # symbol. They are just plain ugly — but they work.

The key to finding and connecting conversation threads on Twitter is similar to how crab grass grows: ideas don’t follow that linear news feed, they have to branch sideways to connect to people outside your established flow. Hashtags attach your own posts to a conversation, pulling your tweet to where it will be seen by more than those following you — specifically by those interested in the topic you are posting about. And they help you find tweets and tweeters active in ideas you are interested in.

Even more awesome: hashtags pull people together to participate in Twitter chats. These are organized conversations that take place at set times throughout the week, on dozens of subjects. I participate in weekly chats with groups of writing and teaching professionals, and have jumped into a variety of chats on technology or conversations with favorite authors. Every chat has an assigned hashtag. You may discover them by reading your new feed of people you’re following or else I’ll share a few in the next post (link here, or find it at the end of this article).

Two major rules for hashtags:

  • Rule 1: whenever possible, attach one hashtag to the end of your post to connect it to the main topic it is about. “#MGlit” is a great one to add if I’m sharing a link about favorite middle grade authors. “#edtech” is a great one to add to a post asking for recommendations for ipad apps for learning state capitals.
  • Rule 2: unless you have a really, really good reason, never use more than 2-3 hashtags per post. It’s a bad ad strategy, like spam email. In that last example, I might add “#MGss” to specify middle grade social studies, but not more than that.

Okay, now is a good time: to find hashtags for topics or chats you are interested in, check out my second post: Twitter for Teachers: Tweeters & Hashtags to Follow.

*     *     *     *     *

What About You?

Are you a teacher who has tried out Twitter or other social media forums? What questions do you have, or what advice would you share? 

Feel free to share your Twitter name in the comments so we can look you up as well. If you followed the steps here to get started, keep us posted on what works or hurdles you find.

*     *     *     *     *

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with readers!

For more on this site:

More from other Educators:

Teacher’s Summer Reading List 2013

reading list

While I fidget over small details like whether I really like the orange background or why I can’t load an automatic links page on this new blog site, it occurs to me that a great first post — on this first day of summer break — would be to post my summer reading list for 2013.

May Spent Assigning Summer Reading

My peer teacher and I seem to have spent the last month going back and forth with each other over exactly what we were going to assign as summer reading for the current fourth grade, as they rise up to meet us in August.

We had our one book the kids always read — Scat by Carl Hiaasen. But what to choose as the second book? Last year it was the first book in the Books of Elsewhere series — but then that was on Florida’s Sunshine State Readers list last year, so students may already have read it. We put forth one possible book and then another, shooting them down for a complicated series of reasons. I have fallen head over heels for writer Rebecca Stead and arrived nearly breathless one morning positive I’d found the perfect book: When You Reach Me. But wrong age level. There were books too advanced for the 4th graders and books too simple. Books too complicated or too specific or too close to something assigned in another grade.  I considered another new favorite — Edgar Allan’s Official Crime Investigation Notebook by Mary Amato — but Scat was already a school-centered mystery with a boy as a lead.

In the end, our “second book” has students choosing one from among 3 classic Newberry award winners. We like the opportunity to expose the kids to a book they might not otherwise pick up, while allowing them options. We differentiated further by letting them choose from options for how they would reflect their reading. My favorite is the option to write a mini travel brochure for the setting — bound to be a little tongue in cheek since the possible books are Island of the Blue Dolphins, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and A Wrinkle in Time.

Fair’s Fair: Now It’s My Turn

Now that the ink is dry on student summer reading assignments, it’s time I think about what I plan to read this summer.

My Summer Reading List 2013:

Adult Fiction

Middle Grade & Young Adult Fiction

  • The Princess Bride (1973) by William Goldman. This nearly-cult classic — often best known for the film version out in 1987 — is the topic of conversation for the month of June among a great group of writers I chat with on Twitter (#WSchats on Wednesdays). It is likely to become the summer’s first nighttime read-aloud with my boys.
  • And Then There Were None (1939), by Agatha Christie. Not originally “young adult,” but I look forward to revisiting this old favorite while reading along with my rising-7th grade son’s assigned summer reading. Language warning: in re-reading, we discovered 2 unnecessary uses of an offensive word; email me for advice if you considered assigning this one.
  • The Lemonade Wars (2009) by Jacqueline Davies. As with the one above, I’ll be reading this one along with my rising 4th grader, who selected it for his summer project. I’m glad as I’ve been curious about this book.
  • A Wrinkle in Time (1963). I look forward to rereading this long-time favorite by Madeleine L’Engle, which we included on students’ summer reading options. I may reread Island of the Blue Dolphins as well.
  • 17 & Gone (2013) by Nova Ren Suma (recommended reading level: 9th and above).
  • I, Q: The Alamo (releasing July 1, 2013). This will be the 4th in Roland Smith’s I,Q series, which has been one of my son’s favorites. I’m only braced, as Smith is joined by a co-writer on this one. Hmm.

Professional Reading

For both of those last two assigned books: I teach with a really driven, supportive group of teachers, and it’s great to have a summer “book circle” where we share what we each learned from books read while we were apart.

*     *     *     *     *

Side confession: posting a quarterly reading list has become a little tradition of mine. I’ll likely post a slightly altered Summer Reading 2013 list on my writing blog.

To check out my prior reading lists on that blog, click: Winter 2013, 2012 Year of the Book, 2012 Award Season, Fall 2012 or Summer 2012.

If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, or via email or RSS feed. I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

How About You?

What are you reading this summer — or what did you assign to your students? Parents, what are you reading with your kids?