Argumentative Commercials

So this year I have been “trying on” Writer’s Workshop.  I have had little to no training and little to no support, but I understand the general concept, so I thought I would try it out.  I have LOVED pieces and parts of it and one of the ideas that I love is that we don’t always have to publish every essay we write.

My 8th-grade students did a flash draft of their essay on What is the biggest problem in the world today?  I lead them through 5 mini-lessons where they gathered ideas, “tried on” some topics, did some research, and then they wrote their little hearts out and man did some of the write!  It was amazing.  So instead of editing/revising and publishing our piece, I walked them through storyboarding and they created an Argumentative Commercial.  This allowed them to see a real-world reason for writing an argumentative piece.  And of course, I don’t have to remind any of you but ADOBE SPARK VIDEO is the best!


They loved it and it was simple and quick.  I loved their thinking, collaboration, and creativity.

Here is a link to three of the videos they created!




Interpretting and Creating Data Statements from Graphs

Wow!  It has been a long time since I have posted here.  I miss writing about what I am learning and how I am growing.

In the last two weeks, I have implemented the use of Gallery Walks to have my students practice analyzing, understanding, and creating data statements from graphs.  We have spent the last few weeks identifying bias in articles and understanding how an author angles a piece of writing to convince their reader.  Well, in our reading we have come across a wide-range of statistics (Logos) being used to support an author’s opinion.  I have also expressed that statistics are not ALWAYS reliable.

So I decided to teach them how to read graphs and draw conclusions from the graphs.  Obviously, it would be great if they could begin to draw the conclusion that you can make a wide-range of “misleading” statements about data.

I pulled a wide-range of graphs and walked them through one example, completed one as a collaborative class, and then the gallery walked in partners through 4-5 to practice the skill.

They were truly engaged in the process and learned a LOT!  I don’t think they fully understand the way in which you can angle statistics to match your bias, but they were definitely challenged to think through graphs and what they represent.

Here were the questions posed in the 1st round:

  • What does the graph represent?
  • What are some facts/statistics you can pull from this graph?
  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?


Here were the questions/tasks posed in the 2nd round:

  • What does the graph represent?
  • What are some facts/statistics you can pull from this graph?
  • What information is missing?
  • Write a 2 sentence persuasive statement that uses the data to convince your audience of your opinion.



Authentic Audience is Essential

There is something powerful about students create something for somebody other than their teacher.  I read this quote on Twitter the other day and was reminded of how important it is for students to be able to share their thinking and creativity with PEOPLE, not just their teachers.C_awGq_U0AA3yNv.jpg

Out of this idea, I worked with Mr. Osorio on a Narrative Essay Unit.  In past years, students in 8th grade at Currie have written 1-2 narrative essays following a very structured and purposeful layout.  This year we decided to try something different.

We began by anchoring our thoughts and discussions in standards, essential learnings, and what we want students to be able to know and do.  This is what we came up with:

After developing our unit, we decided to have our 8th graders create a picture book that they could share and present to 1st and 3rd grades using the skills taught throughout the unit!  It was wonderful!  Not every book was great but there were a few that were amazing.  Who knows…maybe it inspired someone to become an author in the future.

Physical Education Fellow Finding Inspiration

I LOVE how excited my Physical Education fellow is this year!  She expressed to me that she loves meeting with me because it rejuvenates her and sparks joy in her teaching.  I also love how willing she is to try anything and everything.

So she just recently fell in love with Google Forms.  So we created a Google Form to test students knowledge of their muscles in a wide range of different ways.

Of course after creating the form, assigning the form and analyzing the results of the form we clearly realized that the teaching that was done to prepare the students did NOT actually prepare them.  They did NOT have a true understanding of the muscles except for period 5!

After much discussion of what to do moving forward, we concluded:  Let’s have period 5 TEACH the other classes.  This would give period 5 an authentic audience, a chance to share what they know, and challenge them to go above and beyond.  So we created a project where they are going to do some research about their muscle group and build a video to teach the other classes about the muscle group, what activities use that muscle group, and how to best stretch and strengthen that muscle group.  Students will also be required to create their OWN Google Form quiz.

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I was super excited that she was willing to differentiate her instruction and challenge herself and her students.  She was hesitant that her students would be able to perform and produce something quality, but I KNEW they could!  Here is an example!

She is now no longer afraid to step into the realm of allowing her students to create and teach.  She has moved from a teacher centered classroom to a more student-centered classroom.


Voice Creations from Middle School to High School

I have facilitated quite a few projects lately where students have engaged in critical thinking and collaboration through creating voice overs.

The beauty of this lesson is that it is very versatile.  I implemented it in a middle school Spanish, drama, and ELD class and a High School Spanish class.  This lesson supports writing and speaking by allowing students the opportunity to creatively communicate their thinking independently and make connections to and around oral expression.

  • The lesson begins with teachers using this Google Doc to inform students of the project.
  • Students can write their script digitally or on paper.  Some teachers gave them a graphic organizer, but we found that they didn’t really use it.
  • Students choose from one of these videos to voice over.  Here are instructions for the teacher on how to get videos to the students if using iPads.
  • Using iMovie, students pull in the video and record their voice over the clip.
  • This lesson can be adapted to laptops by using Edpuzzle.  Here is a direction sheet and video to help students through the process.


iMovie can be used on iPads and Macs


EDPuzzle can be used on PCs


Here are a few student samples:


Okay everyone!  I have stepped into the world of HyperDocs and begin to see the beauty and fun!  So here is my first ever created and implemented with students!

So there are a TON of different uses and layouts but I really like this template:

Although it did feel like a lot for me so I stuck to just a few of the steps:

Engage (short collaborative activity to get kids thinking)  Here are two examples of easy and effective ways to engage


Explore (students are given a variety of different resources with a wide range of types of media to explore and learn about the topic)

Explain (students engage in responding to the new knowledge)

  • Use of Essential Questions.
  • Provide sentence frames

Share (students collaboratively share their ideas with the class or an authentic audience)

Create (I added this…I want students to take what they have learned and build, model, form something original to really apply what they have learned)

If you would like to explore the world of HyperDocs, you should begin in these two places:

HyperDocs Website and this Padlet!

Made with Padlet

To Grade or not to grade…that is the question!

I have had so many conversations with teachers about grades and it has challenged me to think about the purpose, effectiveness, and the challenge of grades and HAVING to assign grades to students.

Some of the deficits that I see in using a grading system:

  • How is it possible that 1 letter grade can truly capture what a student has/hasn’t learned?
  • How much of a student’s grade is based on work that was completed at home?  Are grades supposed to represent what they learned/did at home or what they learn at school?
  • All students are different, how is it possible to build a “grade book” that shows student growth even if the “growth” is different?
  • Too many teachers use grades to “teach” students the importance of responsibility, but is that really what grades should be about?
  • Weighting…oh the problem of weighting…

Ex. I am a teacher and I weight my gradebook so that 50% is assessments, 40% classwork/projects/HW, 10% independent reading.  Let’s just say, I only have 1 assignment in independent reading and it is worth 5 points.  They either did the assignment or not.  So let’s say a kid didn’t do the assignment and can’t make it up.  That means this student automatically goes from an A to a B in my class.  No matter what this student does, his/her grade cannot go above a B because he/she received a 0 in independent reading and that is 10% of the grade.

  • I know that this might not happen often but it does happen.  Teachers sometimes don’t think through the concept that weighting plays a HUGE role in final grades.

It is sad to me that we are stuck in a system (in middle school) where we, as teachers, are forced to assign a letter grade to a student.  My daughter is in 1st grade and her report card is 100% standards based and I LOVE it as a teacher and a mom.  I do see ways that it can improve but it is at least moving in the correct direction.

I do not claim to have the answer, but I know that if I have to work within the system of “Letter Grades” there are a few things that I would make sure and think through before “assigning” a kid a grade.

  1. I would NOT weight.
  2. I would allow students to re-write, re-take, re-do.
  3. I would ask myself every week:  “What did my students learn this week?  Is their learning represented in the grade book?”  If not, how can I make sure that it is represented and I would re-assess what I am including in my grade book.
  4. I would be flexible in how I grade, always noting changes, added points in order to meet the needs of all of my students.

I love this Tweet from Alice Keeler and agree that reflecting on grading and what it represents is so valuable and necessary!

I am not sure what the answer is and to be honest this topic has been the hardest part of being a teacher for me.  I have tried so many ways, so many methods and still don’t feel that the single letter grade I give a student truly represents their growth in our class, but I will keep trying until I find a way within the broken system to create a grade book that truly represents what students are learning and how they are growing!

So while I cannot yet abandon grades, I do like the shift of language (in tweet below) that I can use and teach my students to use to re-frame our thinking.


Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Communication with Actively Learn

I LOVED being in a class where I saw students take control of their learning and work together to read and understand text.  Students in Mr. Osorio’s class brought in their own articles, shared them with their peers, and read and annotated together.  From that, they worked together to answer some Text Dependent Questions and some Under the Surface Questions.




Two Engaging Strategies

The past two weeks I have supported a fellow in implementing two engaging strategies to get his students talking, discussing and sharing ideas.  The first one is called:

Speed Dating

Essentially this is a strategy used to get students to talk to multiple people, multiple times, in a short time frame.


Image from:

CORE — I love this strategy and have seen it been used in a variety of different ways.  He wanted the students to practice their presentations and presentation skills.  So they were literally saying the same thing to each partner but each time they would receive feedback on their content in their presentation and their presentation skills.  After three rounds, they were ready to present!

MATH —I have also seen this used in a math class.

  • Each student receives a problem.
  • They become an expert on their problem.
  • They think through all the different ways to solve the problem and make sure they have the correct answer.
  • Then the start with a partner.
  • They exchange the problem with their partner.
  • They have time to work through and solve their problems.
  • Partner A explains to Partner B the work they did and their answer.
  • Partner B listens and corrects them if they made a mistake.
  • Partner B explains to Partner A the work they did and their answer.
  • Partner A listens and corrects them if they made a mistake.

Professional Development —I have actually ran this in a PD.  I called it Speed Geeking (Crystal Kirch is the originator of this idea).  Here is the Slides Presentation to explain


The second strategy that I have seen is called:

Gallery Walk

This is a strategy to engage students in collaborative, conversations while they walk through the classroom.  Stations or posters are set up around the classroom, on the walls or on tables. Small groups of students travel from station to station together, performing some kind of task or responding to a prompt, either of which will result in a conversation.  In our lesson we placed QR codes up that linked to images.  Students had to discuss:

  • What do you see? (literal)
  • What does it mean/represent? (figurative)
  • What one word or short phrase summarizes the image? — this they write with a marker in the circle map.

As they progress through the stations, they are not allowed to repeat a word so it becomes more difficult as they go.  Here is a Youtube Video that walks through the ins and outs of a Gallery Walk.

Jennifer Gonzalez also discusses this strategy on her blog.