Student Book Glog: I Survived the Titanic by Lauren Tarshis

We didn’t have too many students choosing non-fiction in our independent reading and I know this is something I am going to have to work on (ie, Common Core). I even wonder if I am setting it up in such a way to encourage more non-fiction. And, to be honest, I don’t have a ton of non-fiction books in my classroom (other than graphic novels, magazines, and shorter pieces). This student has been interested in the Titanic, particularly with all the hoopla over the anniversary. So, he read one of the I Survived series about the Titanic.

Peace (when we stay afloat),

The Rage Maker Comic Tool: Why We Teach

teaching comic
I saw Larry Ferlazzo mention this comic creator called Dan Awesome’s Rage Maker, which the New York Times featured in an article about the trend of venting via comics (I had not heard of that one, though). I had to give the tool a try, and thought: what could I rage about? How about an anti-rage? My comic is about the bashing of teachers, and how that one comment can make all of the difference in the world.

Peace (please),


Student Book Glog: Lone Wolf by Kathryn Lasky

Last year, I had a lot of students reading The Warriors series, and its offshoots, but not so much this year. It’s funny how those trends come and go. I do have a group of students who are devouring other animal/character novels, however. Here, this student read Lone Wolf and seemed to enjoy it. Me? I look at the cover and think only of Jack London.

Peace (in the wild),

Using Movie/Television Clips to Teach Philosophy

I have a friend, Julie Akaret, who is a documentary filmmaker, and she is working with a professor at Mount Holyoke College to develop a website called What’s the Big Ideas? that will help teachers introduce basic philosophical ideas through the use of Hollywood movie clips and network television shows. Right now, they have content up there around bullying and lying, with additional topics to come.

The other day, as my students were finishing up the wonderfully different novel, Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise, we were tackling the idea of lying, so Julie visited our class as we unpacked what it means to lie, when it seems OK to tell a lie, and when (as with the book) a person using their political power or government post to tell a lie for personal gain. My students really got into the discussion, and the film clips we used at the What’s The Big Idea? site (from Liar Liar, Jaws, Freaks & Geeks, Seinfeld, and Breaking Away) perfectly hit on a lot of our discussion points.

See this sample:


All the materials at the site are free (thanks to a grant) and I encouraged Julie to develop the topic of Environmental Ethics next, as I personally would love to use that part of the site for our environmental writing unit, and I think that the connections between media, writing and science could be a benefit to a lot of teachers now considering shifts into the Common Core curriculum. I also like that each video clip has an introduction to the concept, and sets the stage for the video. Julie is also developing handouts and resources related to the content for teachers to use as guides.

What’s The Big Idea? is worth your time and another way to engage our students in critical thinking skills that moves beyond the black/white of important issues by leading them into the grey area, with movies and television shows as another way to engage them in these important conversations.

Peace (in the big ideas),



Video Gaming in the Classroom: Case Studies

This video playlist of three case studies of teachers integrating gaming into their classroom is worth a look if you are still wondering about the benefits of video game design. One teacher talks about using Minecraft; another, about how her traditional use of board games and design naturally shifted to video gaming when her school began to get computers and technology; and the other works at the Quest to Learn school that has a philosophical base built on gaming.

You can also check out my video game design resource, which maps out all of the work we did earlier this year around designing and publishing video games with a science-based theme.

Peace (in the game),

Student Book Glog: Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This book project is from one of my more avid readers — you know, the one who can’t get enough books in a week and the one where now I feel as if I am running out of books to put into her hands — and she and I often talk about the books she is reading. I like that she is a critical reader. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is. And her interests in various genres is far-ranging. Even so, I was surprised to see her reading Palace of Mirrors, since the whole “princess” genre does not seem like something she would be interested in. It turns out, it was the mystery of the plot that hooked her.

Peace (in the mirror),

Conversations About Tech 3: Writing, Brain Research and More

This is the last in a series of three podcasts that captured a conversation I had at a local elementary school around technology. Part one was Monday and it covered topics of outreach to the community and student engagement. Part two was yesterday and it delved into ideas around digital literacy and equity issues.

The final part of the podcast moved into our expectations of the future (and how to prepare our students for the unknown), considerations of the effects that technology might be having on young minds, and even the divide between formal and informal language (and therefore, the audience you are writing for and what that does to your writing).

Thanks for listening!

Peace (in the podcast),

Conversations about Tech 2: Digital Literacy, Equity and More

This is the second in a series of three podcasts that captured a conversation I had at a local elementary school around technology. Part one was yesterday and it covered topics of outreach to the community and student engagement.

The second part of the podcast revolved around what we mean by digital literacies for young people, how this school (like mine) is shifting into interactive boards and what that means (or doesn’t yet mean) for the classroom, and then we moved into a really important part of the conversation: the idea that schools has an imperative to provide access to technology for ALL students and how equity has to be part of our conversations in schools.

Tomorrow, the last part of the podcast will be shared, and it covers some views around writing and ideas around how the modern world of media and technology is shaping our young people.

Peace (in the podcast),

Student Book Glog: The Skull of Truth by Bruce Coville

I was never a huge fan of Bruce Coville, so I can’t comment much on this book choice by one of my boys. I suspect he liked it only because he had to have some reading book and because the word “skull” was in the title. This student is one of those tricky ones — given a real choice, he would not read … at all. But his digital poster shows some thinking about what he was reading, anyway. I suspect he wanted something a little better.

Peace (in the skull),