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    Students Starters Enhance Teaching

    Student Starters Now is a good time to plan on releasing more responsibility for learning to your students. The first quarter/semester is when you model reading and writing strategies, making, connections,

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    Thoughts to Share with Students

    Children’s Books Teach Us All We sometimes think children’s book are only for children. But there is wisdom to be gleaned for us all. Invite your students to bring in their favorite children’s

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    Prepare in the Fall for Spring Assessments

    Practice Debates ⇒Argumentative Essays Meeting Common Core State Standards is not the only reason to have students learn to think about claims, reasons, counter-aguments, and evidence.  The four major assessments

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    Maximizing Meetings and Maintaining Morale

    Department chairs regularly seek for ways to use meeting time more efficiently and to keep up the spirits of their department members.  Attached are ideas planned for the “Learning to

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Digital Storytelling

Computers - Two

Cross-Curricular Writing

Teachers in elective courses sometimes struggle to INDISCIPLINARYdesign lessons that teach the content and skills of their courses when students are challenged by the demands of the required courses.

Consider drawing on content matter from other courses as you teach the information and skills related to your course.

Here’s an article, “How Digital Storytelling Improves Learning” that may inspire you to try that this year.  Remember, you do not have to be an expert in the science or social studies’ facts students utilize in their creative writing.  As students conduct peer edits, their classmates will confirm or question the accuracy of those kinds of details.

And don’t forget Bill Zimmerman’s free comic generator, MakeBeliefsComix.com, to include in our digital storytelling resources.

Even better, than working alone, collaborate with a colleague in another content area and design lessons for which your colleague reads for accuracy of content and you read for literary traits.

Either way, your students will be less likely to put assignments in their elective course on the back burner to fulfill assignments in their required courses and vice-versa.

Wishing you a wonderful school year.

Students Starters Enhance Teaching

Student Starters

Now is a good time to plan on
releasing more responsibility for learning
to your students.

The first quarter/semester is when you model reading and writing strategies, making, connections, incorporating a wide variety of examples in your own instruction, and also informing the students that you’ll be sharing the teaching opportunities with them to reach the COMMON CORE STANDARDS or AP Standards or those specifically for your course.   Thus, more students will be paying more attention and thinking about what they will be able to do.  This pedagogical practice works well with students of all ages and abilities from those in upper elementary grades to middle school to graduate school in college.

When I’ve given this assignment, I’ve left the details pretty wide open because students always come up with appropriate things I’d never have thought of suggesting. 

Of course, the students will want to know how much it’s worth.  I’d say about 5% of the quarter grade.  Enough to make a difference, but not enough to make them apprehensive.  Kinds of connections?  See HOW? below.  Leave it as open as possible in your teaching situation.  Trust them to do the right thing,

Most students are interested in the 5W and H?

  • Who? You
  • What? Whatever seems appropriate to you that shows some connection to what we’re studied in the past week.  See HOW?
  • When? On the date you’ve signed up during the first 5-7 minutes of class.
  • Where? Here in our classroom.
  • Why? Because what you have to say can help us learn.  This is a way for you to practice your presentation skills and earn full credit for an on time, within time, and appropriate presentation.
  • How? Your choice of what’s appropriate.  Could be a dramatic reading from the text; a poem, song, or video clip (previewed by teacher) that
    • relates to, explains, explores and expands the topic we’re studying;
    • makes a relevant connection to something studied in another course;
    • is something experienced, observed, or viewed on TV or on-line.

If administrators or parents ask what’s going on, you can direct them to Pearson and Gallagher’s pedagogical theory of Gradual Release of Responsibility


Activating Strategies for Reading

Reading: Activating Thinking

Here is a chart strategies to get students thinking about new units, new books, or new readings.  Many are interactive and though they come from a site prepared for elementary school students most can be adapted for use with students of all ages.  You’ll recognize many ideas that are commonly known and used and will welcome learning about new ones.

Teachers of middle, high school and colleges, I invite you to adapt some of these strategies that probably already are familiar to your studentsThinking is thinking and sometimes when working with a familiar set of terms, students can get right to work without having to figure what the teacher means when new terms are used with new strategies.

Check out this chart of Activating Strategies compiled by teachers from Chatham Elementary School.

Revamping Senior Course?


Two senior courses that worked well for college prep students have  a required semester one course with tradition titles followed by semester two their choice of an elective.

The first semester REQUIRED includes the traditional classic titlesHamlet recitation
Ralph EllisonModern Novel (20th Century)

We read one assigned novel for each of three decades and then students selected one novel they have always wanted to read but never had time.  In each case, the essential question that focused our discussions and writing was “In what way does this novel reflect the social, economical and political milieu of the times in which it was written?”  This opened opportunities to link what they had and were learning in history, social studies and science.

Rhetoric: Written and Oral

In the second, we first studied Aristotle’s art of rhetoric, read, viewed, discussed and analyzed speeches Speakingand essays, and then three full length fiction works looking at ways those rhetorical devices were used by characters in literature


The unifying tasks: What strategies do characters use to bring about a change in belief or behavior?  How effective were they?

We watched films clips from each book, and considered similarities and differences in message from reading and viewing.

Students wrote essays and presented gave a variety of persuasive speeches to demonstrate their understanding of various strategies for argument and persuasion.

Closing event: Evening of Speech to a Guest Audience of family, friends, faculty, and administrator(s)




I am delighted to be on the editorial team for a new book, SWEETHEARTS OF ZION’S HILL, a sequel of sorts to my book, ON ZION’S HILL: A Novel published last summer.  The new book, a collection of memoirs writing by and about couples who met on our church campground, Zion’s Hill, and later married. It’s due for release in August, 2016.  But you can get a preview in this trailer.  Turn up the volume and enjoy the traditional favorite, “I Love You Truly” by Carrie Jacobs-Bond.  Proceeds from sales will go towards scholarships for Youth Ministries of the National Association of the Church of God, West Middlesex, PA.

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