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2009 Distinguished Service Award

Congratulations to Anna J. Small Roseboro, the California Association of Teachers of English 2009 Distinguished Service Award winner. In our profession, so much is required in order to be everything our students deserve. The demands are great; this is no career for the uncommitted. Teaching well takes diligence, knowledge, passion, energy, flexibility, and skill. More »

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Earth Day – Lyrics and Punctuation

Earth DayEarth Day Inspires Writing


April 22  is Earth Day as proclaimed by the United Nations in 2009.  Here’s an English Language Arts  activity you can incorporate into your lessons that will raise awareness of some of the issues important to humankind and especially to Michael Jackson as expressed in his “Earth Song“.  Focusing on lyrics fits in nicely with Poetry Month that many observe in April.

Print and provide copy of lyrics to  Earth Day – Michael Jackson for each student.

Play ”Earth Song” that you have downloaded in a format you can play in your classroom.

Invite the students to read along as they listen.

Then instruct students to add correct punctuation to the handout of lyrics.  Turn and compare editing with a partner.  Discuss and resolve different marks of punctuation.


Project the lyrics on white board and invite students one by one to come forward and add punctuation one line at a time.

Consider using different color markers for different marks of punctuation.

Next, project a copy of the poem punctuated your way.  Discuss any differences and how the marks of punctuation influence meaning.

If time permits and technology is available play the video that accompanies the song on this Michael Jackson website.  How does their response to the song change when they see the images in the video?

You could close the Earth Day lesson asking students to respond to the closing question with a resounding “YES!” and commit in writing to one thing  they will do to show they give a “darn” about the earth.



Earth Day 2014 Image


Picture Books in Middle and High School

Picture Books
for Older Students

In many schools, May is the winding down month of the school year.  Depending on where you are in the country, you may be assigning your final big project for which your students will demonstrate the breadth and depth of learning for the school year. You will be trying to figure out how you can get the majority of them up to standard while maintaining the interest and enthusiasm of those who already have demonstrated proficiency.

After seeing Keith Schoch’s article for teaching literary terms and providing prior knowledge before teaching full length works of literature, Picture Books Across the Curriculum, I thought of adapting this idea to an end of year project.

Why not do something novel?   Invite students to bring in their choice of a fiction or non-fiction picture books.  This could be an old or new favorite.  One you may like to share could be A Faith Like Mine by Laura Buller.A Faith Like Mine by Laura Buller


Design a number of tasks that will align with the standards you have set for the year for reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, critical thinking, and using technology.  You could even decide to make the final assignment a community service project presented to a local elementary school or senior citizen’s facility.  Consider making this a small group assignment with each student completing his/her own written component.

Students could transliterate the picture book

write and present a one act play based on one or two of the  stories in the group

write and illustrate a trio of poems based on the book(s)

——one that rhymes or has an identifiable rhythm pattern

——one written from a different point of view (maybe that of a character in a piece of fiction or non-fiction studied this school year)

——one that patterns a particular structure  or just the form of a poem studied this school year

create comic strip or video of the story to which they add music and narration

 Students could

practice reading their stories and then go read them to younger students in a nearby elementary school or to a older folks at a senior citizen facility.

rewrite the story set in another time or place and that includes a character from one of the pieces of literature you’ve studied together this year.

create a piece of abstract art that reflects two or three  important aspects of the story.

select or write a piece of music that represents three or more characters in the story.

A significant component of this assignment should be a one or two page written reflection in which students are required to explain the choices they made and what they learned doing the assignment.  The response should include answers, in no particular order, to 5 Ws and H questions like those below.

Who could be an audience for your project other than your classmates?

What have you learned about yourself from doing this project?

When did you first read this story?

Where do you think is the best place toa display or present your project?

Why is project an effective way to show what you have learned this school year?

How does this project show about what you’ve learned this school year about reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, using technology, and anything else?

If leaving school is not practical, collaborate with another teacher and each of your present your projects to the other one’s class.  You could arrange exchange visits to  one another’s classrooms on different days.  For example, you could host and present one day, and your colleague could host and present another day.

Do help keep students on track, decide the minimum requirements a project must reflect to earn a C and share that information with the students.  Consider using a version of these GENERAL GRADING GUIDELINES.


Picture from

Shakespeare’s Birthday

Happy 450th Birthday, Will!

April 23rd is the day many celebrate the birth of William Shakespeare, one of the more widely read dramatists of all times.This year is his 450th!

Prepare your students to understand Elizabethan society a little better.

Have a go with your students and have them take a Humours Quiz  to determine their own basic personality traits, then see how they’d rate characters in the plays you have them study.  Teens in the US will have fun with this quiz written in British English by our colleagues at TeachIt in the UK.

I also include one my students’ favorite pictures of Shakespeare – with the earring which suggests how “hip” William Shakespeare still is today.  See Words and Phrases from Shakespeare.  


For this special birthday, you may want to create your own birthday sonnet, or invite your students to write an record one like this:


Poetry Month April 2014

Inspiring Poetry Cartoon

Challenge your students to work in small groups to find poems that could be “filed” in the different departments as examples of each of the signs or captions in this cartoon. Who, by the way, is the current Poet Laureate of the United States?

If students have access to lots of books in the classroom or to the internet, consider making this a timed assignment to be given and completed during the same class period. Depending on the age/grade and experience of your students, it may be useful to identify the terms and provide a link or resource with definitions of the terms the day before giving your choice of the following assignments.

  • The first group who finds and documents or copies and pastes with URL on the page, a example of each of the terms.
  • OR the teams with the most poems by the end of the class period.
  • AND, bonus points to the team with the most appropriate poems no one else has!

Then consider prompts below based on student access to technology.

  • Who was the laureate when your students were born?  Were in third grade, sixth, grade, ninth grade and twelfth grade?
  • How many poets have won the Nobel Prize for Literature?
  • Which literary device is your favorite?
  • Using your choice of three of the devices mentioned in this cartoon, write a poem about today’s weather.
  • If they are quick enough, your students may be to identify at least three places in or around the building this poem this poem by Sekou Sundiata could be filed correctly because the poem “Blink” includes poetic devices identified on that floor or in that section of the cartoon.


Tempt Reluctant Readers with Biographies

FishingReading about Real People

Reading about real people may be just the hook to catch reluctant students attention and tempt them to become avid readers.  The books don’t have to be long or complicated, just about people doing things that interest the student.  Several publishers have created series written just for the young or inexperienced reader that include the kinds of text features that support independent learning,

Many of the series,  like  DK by FollettBound, include text-features such as definitions to enhance comprehension of key ideas, side bars, timelines of events, and lots of photos of the featured person.  to help engage readers and clarify content.  Your new to non-fiction readers may enjoy reading through the series, learning about the people, the places, and events that really happened.  Here are slides for book talks to get you started. Book Talks – Reading about Real People

Teachers across the content areas can assign reading of biographies as a way to expand students understanding of the topics taught in the curriculum.  Then, invite students to create Venn Diagrams that show similarities and differences between the reader that the person in the book.  Students often are pleasantly surprised to discover  how much they have in common with famous people around the world.

Here are a couple of book reports options to consider:

Compare and Contrast and Literary Strips