Class Selfie

File_000 (1)After the Pop Up Toast, we did a Class Selfie..

I got the idea from a teacher friend and I thought it would be fun, but I didn’t realize what it would actually do. Moving 30-40 students in a corner of the room for the selfie requires these ninth graders to get close. At the beginning of the year, I believe they wouldn’t want to do this, but at the end they are happy to do it. To me it represents the unity that we have created. A unity that will forever be captured in a photograph.



Pop Up Toasts

Every year, I end my classes with a little “good bye and good luck” speech. It is relatively anti-climactic. This year, I was looking for something more. I stumbled across Dave Stuart Jr.’s Pop Up Toast Idea.

I thought this was a really good way to end the year and I will definitely do it again. It was a great culmination to the year, it taught an important life skill, it required the students to also be reflective (as opposed to me doing all of the reflection), and it was cheap to do.

I’ll start with the latter first. It was cheap. I bought 200 dixie cups and 12 liter bottles of Sprite. It cost be $18. I WAY over-bought. I only needed about 4 liter bottles for 5 classes. The cups only hold about an ounce of soda. I will remember to buy much less next year. In the meantime, I will be looking for interesting uses for Sprite.

I loved the life lesson that it taught the students. As Dave says, the toast is an important aspect of life. My 1.5 year old already knows how to say “cheers”. This isn’t an indication of how much we drink. It is an indication of our belief in the need to celebrate small and large accomplishments with a clanking of classes and a “cheers”.  I explained this to my students and explained to them that I wanted them also to have this skill.

Usually the reflection on the year is very much a teacher task. I feel like students are so excited to be on break that they don’t take time to think about where they have come. I wanted this year to be different. On finals day, my students completed a reflective essay and then we started the Pop Up Debates. Using the quickwrite and the Think Pair Share, every student thought about the class community and our shared experiences.

When it came down to the sharing with the class, few students actually shared. We all have different relationships with different classes and each class has a unique dynamic. This toast was an indication of the sense of community in each class. Classes with a strong sense of community  had a lot of students share. In other classes, very few students shared. It definitely made me think about the classes where a lot of students shared. Had I done anything different in these classes? Was it just the dynamic of the kids? I did notice that even the classes where more students shared, there was still an uneasiness to standing up and speaking. We have written a tremendous amount this year and the uneasiness of writing has definitely dwindled. In order to lessen the uneasiness with speaking, my students need to speak more often throughout the year. I may try to incorporate some Pop Up Debates and other forms of public speaking.

Overall, I thought that it really ended the class on a good note. I gave the final toast. I actually created a Google Slide show (insert eye roll). I used their notes on our class wall to drive my ideas. I thought it was fun and I was pretty happy with how the end product came out (see my presentation). After it was all over, I made my class get together for a class selfie. All in all, I thought this was a much better way to end the year. Much better than my thrown together good-byes of the past.


6 Word Memoir

6 word memoir

I usually put up butcher paper and let the kids write, but this year some of the writing got a little out of hand. We start the year with narratives, so I like the idea of doing the 6 word memoir and having the kids write their memoir on the paper. This might keep things a little more in control.

Here are a couple of links that might be helpful for this:

Podcasting in the Classroom

I am interested in Podcasting as part of Project Based Learning in my literacy classroom. Here are some interesting links that I have collected:

An interesting argument to start with

Links to lesson plans utilizing podcasting

Podcasts to Listen to

Links to Review of Programs to Record

Links to Reviews of Equipment

Guided Choice vs. Open Choice

The EDGE book comes with a guided library. Should I have my students select from the books aligned with the EDGE book? Or do I let them have free reign and choose their own self-selected texts. I find myself constantly at odds between the assigned district curriculum and ideas and theories from experts in the field. I want my students to develop as readers and develop in their desires to read for enjoyment. Next year, I plan to do much more reading, but I am trying to figure out whether or not I should use the recommended novels from the textbook or let students choose what they want to read.

Routman (2003) explains that increasing reading time will help readers improve and Atwell (2007)  explains that giving choice can be a  very powerful motivator, but Routman (2003) brings up an interesting point: “If students are reading mostly difficult books, if they don’t understand what they read, if no one is monitoring their progress, not much changes. I have been in far too many classrooms where students are staring at books they cannot and do not read and where sustained silent/independent reading is largely a waste of time.”  It seems like choice is more effective that non-choice, but that “just right” books are more effective than books that are too difficult. How do these options get weighed? It is best to limit the choice in order to guarantee that books are within the students ZPD and not within the frustration level as outlined in the QRI-5?

For me, this comes down to time. Do I have time to teach the students to select “just right” books and then monitor whether or not they are selecting correctly? The answer to this should be “yes!” If I want my students to improve as readers, I need to teach them to be readers. And “being” a reader means selecting appropriate books that you choose. I like how Dave Stuart Jr. has his students self-select books and while they are reading, he goes around and monitors their progress. Through this type of monitoring, I can give them freedom to choose while checking that they are able to make progress as a reader.

This post has made me realize that if I am going to do independent reading, I am going to allow full choice. I have also realized that I create a dichotomy in my own mind between independent reading and whole class reading. My thought is that if I move to independent reading, I will just get rid of any units with a common novel, but reading a post by Eric Beaton has made me think that there might be something to be said for A Combined Approach. I may have to do some more reflection about this topic. What is your perspective?

Structuring My Literacy Class

I am not consistent. My husband eats the same cereal every day. This drives me crazy. I am constantly oscillating and this behavior applies to my classroom.  For my c0llege prep students, I have a few structures in place, but we vary what we do based on the unit and lesson.

I think this is becoming an issue for my literacy students. I have noticed that my literacy students do well when they know that to expect out of the classroom and when they understand the lesson. Additionally, I have been reflecting on a need to be more systematic in terms of reading strategies and grammar skills. I believe that a more rigid structure might better facilitate this system.

Here is what I am thinking:


  • Video building background for AOTW
  • Assign AOTW and instruct on Weekly Reading Strategy (WRS)
  • Model Weekly Reading Strategy with section of AOTW
  • Independent reading using WRS


  • Grammar Work warm up (I could use DSJrs. or Edge)
  • Review grammar topic and apply to exemplar writing
  • Look at exemplar writing for Writing Task
  • Writing Time focused on grammar topic (Blogs?)


  • Grammar Work warm up (I could use DSJrs. or Edge)
  • Review grammar topic and apply to exemplar writing
  • Look at exemplar writing for Writing Task
  • Writing Time focused on grammar topic (Blogs?)


  • Grammar work warm up
  • Check in with  AOTW and instruct on Weekly Reading Strategy (WRS)
  • Independent reading using WRS


  • Tech Project (if students finish AOTW and weekly work)
  • Make up (if not completed with work)


What I need to figure out is whether I am going to use the EDGE textbook and just modify it to meet this structure, or whether I am going to create all of these things. I know other teachers would agree that there is a fine line between using textbooks and recreating everything.

Adolescent Motivation to Read


As we are at the end of the school year, I’m really lacking motivation . . . and so are my students. The term “motivation” has made me think about one of the best assessments that I use: The Adolescent Motivation to Read Profile. This assessment is based on the Motivation to Read Profile (MRP) developed by Gambrell et al. (1996) and then was revised for use with adolescents by Pitcher et al. (2007). I usually give this assessment at the beginning and end of the year, but it is a long and tedious process.

Both the original MRP and AMRP have two parts to the assessment: a reading survey and a conversational interview.Here is how it works:

  • The reading survey for the AMRP is a twenty-one-question survey. The first question asks their gender and does not receive a code.  In the rest of the survey, there are 10 questions to assess the students’ self-concept as a reader (questions 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18) and 10 questions to assess the students’ ideas on the value of reading (questions 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20). All 20 questions use a four-point scale. Questions 2, 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19 are regularly coded. This means that when a student circles A it is equal to one point, B is equal to two points, C is equal to three points, and D is equal to four points. Questions 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 15, 18, 20 are recoded so that A is equal to four points, B is equal to three points, C is equal to two points, and D is equal to one point.  The raw scores are calculated out of 40 for self-concept and value and then added together out of 80 to get a full survey total.
  • The conversational interview component consists of 14 questions designed to encourage deeper responses about narrative and informational reading and general reading engagement. The AMRP uses similar questions and format as the original Motivation to Read Profile but includes more questions about the use of electronic sources, what types of texts students choose to read and write, and instructional techniques that students enjoy (Pitcher et al, 2007)

I go through these crazy calculations each year. And it drives me batty. I am going to work on putting this into a digital form this year. But in the meantime, here is the assessment: Adolescent Motivation to Read Profile

Happy Motivating!