February 19

What makes a good writer?

When I was in the classroom, I often was asked, “How do you get your student writers to be so good at writing?”  Trust me, they were not good writers by accident!  They were good writers because we wrote – A LOT!  In my class, students wrote every single day.  It was a requirement.  They knew it from day one.

At first, they grumbled a lot and some were quite resistant.  After a week or two, it became something that they knew could not be avoided and they accepted it.  After a month or so, they looked forward to writing time.  How did we get to that point?  By writing – A LOT!

You see, as the eighth grade English/Language Arts/Reading teacher, I was charged with getting those students ready to write on-demand for the state assessment.  The state writing assessment carried a lot of weight.  It counted as 25% of the middle school state report card’s accountability score.  Then, their state standardized ELA/Reading score counted 25% of the remaining 75% with math, science, and social studies scores rounding out the remainder of that 75%.  Therefore, performance in my class was important for the entire school – for sixth and seventh grades as well as the eighth grade.  So, in my class, students wrote – A LOT!

Times have changed when it comes to accountability scoring but the emphasis on being a good writer is still important for all grade levels and accountability reporting.  For that reason, students still need to write – A LOT!

To this day, I always look for writing inspiration that I can share with teachers to help develop their student writers.  Oh, there is more to developing writers than just challenging them to put words on a page, for certain.  Students need a mini-lesson on a regular basis to help guide them in knowing the conventions of the language – grammar, spelling, mechanics, etc.  They also need to read continually and especially to read and discuss good writing.  After all, without a model, learning is just trial and error and schools today do not have time to allow for a lot of trial and error – some, yes, but not a lot.  Guiding and developing student writers is an on-going task for any teacher in any content area.  However, the most important ingredient to the recipe for developing good student writers is to have expectations for writing – A LOT.

Today, I revisited a site that I have enjoyed periodically as inspirational – something that inspires me to be more appreciative of my blessings and encourages me to strive toward being a better person.  As I read a couple of stories today, my thought was, “Wow!  Wouldn’t this be a great model for student writers?  Some student writers could use this as a model and run with it.  They could become noticers and voices to tell bits of another’s story.”  Sometimes what a person needs to rejuvenate his/her writing life is a bit of inspiration.  So, my suggestion for today is, share Humans of New York with your students and maybe one or two might be inspired to develop his or her own Humans of… series, sharing an interesting bit of someone else’s story.

Write on!

And, write – A LOT!

October 12

Messy Provides Opportunities for Revision

Yesterday I shared a Fresh Perspective.  I was inspired by a blog post and decided to share.

One of the concepts mentioned was a quote from George Couros, “Learning is messy and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision.”  As a teacher of writing and a life-long writer, the word revision stood out to me.  So, I went back and read the quote again.  I chuckled a bit to myself because when I was in the classroom, things were often messy.  You see, I was learning (and still am) to be an educator and my students were learning to be…well, to be grown-up human-beings.  I hope they were learning reading and writin8-things-to-look-for-in-todays-classroomg skills.  I hope they were learning to love literature and the written word.  I hope they were learning to be life-long learners.

The chart included in the blog post is one that we need to keep in front of us as teachers to remind us when we are planning learning opportunities for our students.  It would be hard to see each of these eight things in a classroom every single day.  Over time, however, these things definitely should be a part of our classrooms.  Each of them contributes to the classroom being messy but they all contribute to good practices.  As I begin a new quarter with a fresh perspective, I plan to keep this chart where it is easily accessible and use it as a reminder to guide my work with teachers.  I hope you use it to guide you and your lesson-planning as well!



May 6

Mentor Texts as Writing Inspiration

Many years ago I facilitated my first workshop at the National Council for Teachers of English conference.  Three other teachers and I worked through a practical, interactive workshop with a focus on writing in a reading classroom.  We shared ideas and suggestions for interactive spelling lists, trying multiple types of writing genres and prompts, and reading like a writer/using mentor texts.

During my segment of the workshop, I got the opportunity to share a read-aloud using one of my favorite mentor texts, Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher.  I chose to read the chapter entitled “War” and then challenged participants to use it as a mentor text for their next ten minutes of writing.  During the sharing time there were some phenomenal pieces read – well, after all it was a conference for English teachers!  Then, I outlined ways to use this in the classroom.

We looked at the neighborhood map at the beginning of the book.  I shared how I modeled drawing a map of my own neighborhood for my students and asked them to create their own map.  Then, I modeled how I selected 3-5 spots and starred them on the map and gave a 1-3 synopsis of a story relating to that map (most of them involved childhood games and playing like Fletcher’s).  Then, I asked the group to select one of the stars to be my first written piece and explained how asking students to do the same with a partner provided an immediate audience for their first written piece.  Plus, the exercise also began building a close classroom community of writers by letting students get to know more about their partner/neighbor.

That book became a mentor text for us for the first portion of our school year as I used it to model several different writing strategies.  It also became a favorite of my students because when they saw me with that book in my hands, they knew they were going to get the opportunity to enjoy an entertaining read-aloud in class.  No matter what age, it seems students revel in a read-aloud.

There are so many great children and young adult books – and some adult reads that make wonderful mentor texts when teaching folks to read like a writer.  Plus, sharing little snippets of a mentor text encourages reading by advertising a good read.

Read like a writer – then, write!

April 11

Doodling Sparks Learning

Did you notice the Google Doodle yesterday?  I thought it looked so springy and fresh and I noticed the sitar because my granddaughter, Lillie, created a musical instrument for her science class this week.

Lillie instrument

Here is a grainy cell phone photo of Lillie with her guitar.

Lillie was quite pleased and took it to school to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star for her classmates.  Most of the time when the Google Doodle pops up, I feel like I’m just too busy to see what is going on with it and I just enter my search info and move on.  I decided that I should check out the Google Doodle with the sitar this week, though.  Did you see it?

Sitar Google Doodlevia

The read was quite interesting.  I learned all about Pandit Ravi Shankar who introduced the Beatles to the sitar.  At the bottom of the article is a cool infographic which gives a brief outline of the history of Google Doodles.  The top of it looks like the image below but I encourage you to scroll to the bottom of the afore-linked article and read the whole thing.

doodle timeline

Being the nerd that I am, I wasn’t satisfied with that.  I also dug in a bit and went to the Google Doodles webpage.  There were many that I had never paid one bit of attention to and didn’t even recall.  Those things are really cool, though!

You also might want to go to The History of Doodles where you can learn where the idea for Doodles came from and who designs the Doodles and how many doodles have been created.  You can also go to the Doodle 4 Google link and see the 2015 contest winners.

What else held my fascination for all this doodling?  Well, I have seen my friend Andi do some beginning sketchnoting but that is another story for another day.

andi's sketchnotes

The topic became one of extreme fascination and I felt much like a foxhound sniffing around for a pesky fox after a bit.  Isn’t that really the way learning should be, though?  Shouldn’t we have something that sparks our interest and then something else that urges us onward?  Reading all this information certainly inspired me to dig deeper and learn more – even on a topic that isn’t earth shattering.  Why don’t we allow students to find inspiration such as that which will spark their learning?  I’d be willing to bet that if I were a music teacher, for example, or a civics teacher, I could have posted something similar to the Google Doodle which would relate to my lesson and off my students would scamper sniffing and learning.  In fact, I know for certain it does.

One of my lessons when I was in the classroom and introducing a unit of study focused on the Holocaust went something like this:

  1. I selected a strip of paper out of a stack about a person whose name could be found in a stack of USHMM Identification Cards that I had printed out for students.
  2. I found that person’s card and drew a rough outline of a butterfly on the white board.  Then, on one wing of the butterfly I began sketching different things which would be a symbol for that person – interests, family members, occupation, etc. – all sketches – no words.
  3. On the other wing of the butterfly I sketched symbols which represented me and things of importance in my life – my children, my hobbies, etc.
  4. Next, students selected a strip of paper and got the ID Card of their chosen name.  Using construction paper, markers, foam pieces, stickers, etc., students created their own butterflies.  We strung thes from the ceiling and left them hanging for nine weeks.
  5. At the end of the nine week study, students learned the fate of the person listed on their ID Card.  If the person survived, the the butterfly was left hanging.  If the person did not survive, the yarn holding the butterfly was snipped and a pile of butterflies was made on a table at the front of the classroom.

There was so much learning with this simple project!

  1. Students made a connection to these people living in a difficult time without so many luxuries as we enjoy.
  2. The reality of a life being cut short because of a horrific situation was symbolized with the construction paper butterfly and certainly made students pause and think.
  3. The students learned that folks living during that era led lives very much like our own.
  4. Students were distracted by the swaying butterflies in our classroom at first.  As the days went by, we began to ignore them – just like the Concentration Camp folks and bodies were treated during the Holocaust.

I know that there were many more lessons learned by a simple set of doodles made on construction paper but the idea is that here were big ole’ eighth grade boys who were creating something with construction paper, pipe cleaners, glue, markers, etc.  and were enjoying the learning at the same time.

Later, when students were asked to select a topic of interest for a long-term research project and formal essay report, most of them had ready topics and were very curious and interested to know more about it.  They dug in and learned and I often had to remind them to stop searching for more information and get going with the compilation of their paper!

Sometimes a simple doodle is all it takes to get students thinking and learning!

April 7

What is it about Selfies?

I know that I have written about this topic before but in an age where our culture seems self-absorbed and folks are constantly posting some sort of Selfie to social media, I think I can get away with writing about it again.

Everybody is making Selfies these days.
Have you noticed?
One of the hot Christmas items this past year was a Selfie stick.

I tried to make a Selfie once to show off my new haircut and it took me at least a half-dozen shots to get one that wouldn’t be featured in one of those spoofs called Selfie-Gone-Wrong.

My daughter has told me that at one time she tried to make a photo using her cell phone only to learn that it was full.  Wah-wah-wah.  What?

Upon checking, she saw that it was indeed full – mostly of Selfies made by her oldest daughter who is now nine-years-old.

One of Lillie’s many Selfies

When she scolded Lillie about taking so many photos using Mama’s phone, she suggested that this little photographer use her own tablet or iPod to make Selfies.

Lillie Selfie Collage

That was when she learned that Lillie had already filled up her own tablet and iPod by making Selfies and video tutorials about styling her My Little Pony’s hair or something like that. Yep, on her own, my nine-year-old granddaughter creates tutorials about things which seem important for others to know.  I hope her teacher has made a note of this and uses the concept to encourage learning by creating picture or video tutorials with the third-graders in her class.

Lydia’s Selfie Collage
Selfie making is not limited to the eight-year-old granddaughter.  The soon-to-be-seven-year-old has to get some practice in, too.  And notice that she is photo-bombed by the nine-year-old in the photo at top right (who is probably tutoring her on her technique) and the cute little (at-the-time-six-month-old) sister is photo-bombing and doesn’t even realize it, yet.
Luci’s Selfie (along with Mama and Lydia)

So, we better get her in on the act, too.  We wouldn’t want her to miss out on such an important part of popular culture these days.

Harris and GrandB’s Selfie

Their cousin is an accomplished member of the Selfie crowd and we had to share the limelight in order to send out a photo of his bruise earned climbing on something.  Pretty impressive, huh?

Harris’s Solo Selfie

He thought he’d better get one all by himself without sharing the limelight…just for posterity’s sake.

Levi’s Selfie Mock-Up

Not to be outdone, one of the other grandsons had to show off his skills, too.  (This one is not really a Selfie but I thought it looked like one!)

Girls Group Selfie
*Note:  All the previous selfies are about a year old.  I wouldn’t want to mislead folks.

Don’t forget that there is also a time when it is important to make a group Selfie as well.  (Notice the silly kissy face that the eldest grandchild is making in the group Selfie above.  I hope her mother discourages such silliness in future Selfies!)

I was watching television during my snow days last year and even took in some of the commercials because I wasn’t watching a DVR version that I could forward through the commercials.  One commercial was featuring that talk-show host, Ellen, had broken the Internet by using Twitter with her Selfie at the Oscars a couple of years ago.

That started me thinking…

What is it about our culture that has developed such a climate that we constantly take photos of ourselves?

Are we so self-centric that we cannot find another subject interesting enough to focus our eyes upon?

Obviously, I am not the only one who has considered this phenomenon.

Others are probably more intrigued by this concept than even I am.

It seems that folks of every age and every walk of life are into Selfies these days.

Are we so wrapped up in ourselves and what we are doing that we are ignoring the world around us?

So, what is it about using our mobile devices to make photos of ourselves that appeals to people so much?
I cannot for the life of me figure it out.
I can figure out a way to make it work for me, though.  Why couldn’t we encourage students to look for other classic artworks like those featured on my source website?  Here is how I see the lesson playing out in a social studies class but I wouldn’t limit myself to that content area because I think it would work for any subject area…
  1. Teacher asks students to create a definition of Selfie and post it to Socrative.com or into a Google Form.  Then, asks students to consider one another’s definition and vote for the best one or to combine and collaborate their definitions to come up with the world’s best definition.
  2. Next, students should be assigned into groups of three or partners.  Ask students to create a Selfie of their group, create a slide by adding it to a collaborative class Google Slide collection, add their group Selfie and label each team member.  (Later they will add another link to the collection created as they research and learn more about a topic.)
  3. Groups could choose (or be assigned) a topic relating to a current study or set of standards.  An example might be:  Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Francis Wright, Elihu Embree, John Brown, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, David Farragut, Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Brownlow, Sam Watkins, and Sam Davis.  (All these names are listed in standards focusing upon southern slavery and The Civil War for 8th grade social studies.)
  4. Each group would be responsible for creating a series of Selfies which their assigned person of historical prominence might have posted and explain the significance of their post and its relationship to: the impact of the abolitionist movement; the Compromise of 1850; The Civil War; famous speeches of the era; the conditions of southern slavery; and political impacts of legislation during the early 1800s.
  5. Students might create their own collection of Google Slides featuring their Selfies and explanations or they could create an infographic using Piktochart or Easel.ly or maybe just a simple Google Document with the Selfies and explanations.  The group would add a link to their collection onto their Selfie page in the class collaborative.
  6. After the Selfie collections are completed, students might participate in a Gallery Walk or a Science Fair type share session and provide one another with stars and wishes as feedback.  (Stars would indicate ways each group’s collection shines and wishes would indicate suggestions for revision or improvement.)  Students could make revisions based upon feedback before they submit their collection for an official class grade.
  7. Finally, students could create a reflective document, collaborative table/three-column-chart, or blog post outlining what they learned and what they think they might need to know more about.

I’m not necessarily an advocate for encoouraging a lot of things that take place in our culture which focus on self-centered behavior.  However, why not use what is popular and what is iconic in our favor as a learning tool?

P.S. You might want to look at my source links below the artistic renderings for other entertaining ‘Selfies’ and information.  You also might want to check back for another edition of Selfies in tomorrow’s post.

January 13

Conversations from Photos

At this time of year, I find lots of teachers who are looking for ways to inspire students to write.  In classrooms everywhere we would love to have a wealth of resources for that wouldn’t we?  Yet, I recall that this time of year sort of seems like crunch time for getting students prepared to take on-demand writing assessments.  I would even go so far as to say that Prompt Writing might even be considered a genre much like Persuasive Writing, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Expository Writing, etc.

I know that in the case of my students, they did need to practice a certain type of writing such as Persuasive or Expository because that is what would be expected and scored on the state assessment.  Practice in this vein, they did, too.  Yet, I firmly believe that simply experiencing lots of writing is really what made my students score high – more than anything else.  I also firmly believe that if you were to ask any of my former students, they would assure you that we did spend a LOT of time practicing writing!

Even though I’m no longer in a traditional classroom, I still see many things and think, “Wow, that would be a great way to inspire some student writers!”  So, when a teacher asked me for ideas on how to help her middle school students have purposeful practice using quotation marks and punctuation, I was glad to pass along a couple of ideas.  Today I decided I’d share one of those ideas here.

Why not take an unusual grouping of photographs that students probably have never had exposure to and use them as prompts.  For example, the collection called Incredible Photos Show New York City in the 1900s posted at 22 Words is something I like.  My assignment would probably look something like this:

  1. I would assign students to pairs or small groups.
  2. The images would be posted in a Google Classroom assignment or printed and posted in various locales within the classroom.

    graded for accuracy of punctuation usage, cohesiveness with the image, grade level appropriateness, and interesting or intriguing vocabulary/conversation

    After crashing in Central Park, a vehicle balances on the edge of a bridge. via

  3. The assignment instructions might state: A website informs us, “Have you ever wondered what the ‘concrete jungle’ of New York City looked like more than 100 years ago? Thanks to the Library of Congress Flickr account, now you can see hundreds of remarkable images documenting New York City at the turn of the century. It was an era of unprecedented change for America, and it’s amazing to see how things have changed since then. Here are a few highlights of photos from between 1910 and 1915.”  Using one of the photos as inspiration, write a conversation which might have taken place when the photograph was taken.  Your conversation will be graded for accuracy of punctuation usage, cohesiveness with the image, grade level appropriateness, and interesting or intriguing vocabulary/conversation.

    A group of babies in New York’s Lower Eastside. via

    A group of babies in New York’s Lower Eastside. via

  4. Each group would work with one image for about 10-15 minutes creating a conversation that might be taking place when the photograph was taken.
  5. Students would be required to hand-write or key into a document correct punctuation usage including quotation marks and commas.
  6. At the end of the designated time, students would change to a different image and create a new conversation, rotating until the end of class or all the images have conversations created by the team.

    A man receiving a straight razor shave a barber at the Hotel de Gink. via

    A man receiving a straight razor shave a barber at the Hotel de Gink. via

  7. The conversations would be posted for peer groups to offer feedback, critiques, and questions.
  8. Conversations would be graded for accuracy of punctuation usage, cohesiveness with the image, grade level appropriateness, and interesting or intriguing vocabulary/conversation.
  9. Students could vote to determine their take on the different concepts previously mentioned.
  10. Students would write reflectively to express what they learned, how they self-monitored the usage of appropriate punctuation, and how they felt growth as a writer as a result of the activity.

    Apparently swimming at the Coney Island beaches wasn't fashionable. via

    Apparently swimming at the Coney Island beaches wasn’t fashionable. via

If you put this concept into practice, I’d love to see what images you and your students use and the conversations created!  Happy writing!

December 4

Down the Stretch (Part 5)

Now that Thanksgiving is past and the end of the calendar year is coming to a close, it seems as if the gates have been opened and we are at a gallop.  I’ve been sharing a series of ideas relating to collecting data in preparation for the cumulative semester exam.  We have looked at various concepts for gathering quick, formative data including:  exit slip, list-making, a two-column-chart, and waxing poetic.  I am a firm believer in the power of writing.  I adhere to the concept that we don’t really know what we think till we see what we write.

Students don’t have to be limited to writing in an English class.  Writing for math (or science or art or social studies or any content area) can be just as powerful.  It also really can spell out what a student understands and for what he/she doesn’t have a complete grasp.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the power of blogging.  I am still a firm believer and consumer of blogs.  I learn loads from reading the blogs of others but I also learn loads from writing my own blogs, both this one and my personal blogs: Out of the Blue and Recipes from Out of the Blue.  There are all sorts of tools available such as this one, Edublogs, and using a Google Site as a blog.  These are not static documents and offer students a chance to collaborate and offer feedback and converse about education.

Journals are also powerful ways to clarify and assess student thinking.  Think about using an intrigue journal as an assessment tool.  Ask students to list a certain number of interesting, controversaial, or resonant ideas found in the reading material or a video or a lesson as a whole.  A requirement to include page numbers or a link and a short rationale for their selection.  Their response could be limited to a word count or not.  Online posts could also require responses or comments from their peers.

A misconception or a truth could be posted and students be required to explain why they agree or disagree with it.  Again, documentation to justify their response can be required to provide support for their perspectives.  Once again, there could be a requirement for students to share their posts and offer comments and feedback to one another.

A sixty-second post is a quick, easy way for students to provide information via writing outlining their knowledge of a topic or concept.  Simply set the timer and expect students to write all they know.  If a Google Document is utilized and submitted, students can revisit their work and revise it to include documented support and references to resources to improve their grade or to earn a recorded grade.

For short, quick works, such as the sixty-second post, a tool such as a Padlet wall could be used for crafting the post or for linking to a Google Document.   Google Classroom might be used as a way to post to a discussion board or submit a document.  Using a simple checklist provides students a means for crafting their post with a purpose and provides the teacher with a simple and quick means for assessment.  Here is a simple example:

  • Includes pertinent facts and information relating to the topic
  • Follows the conventions of the English language for grammar, usage, mechanics
  • Provides supporting documentation
  • Statements are accurate and on target
  • Demonstrates grade-level work
  • Completed in a timely manner

Now that we are headed down the stretch and racing against time to be certain that students have a grasp of content knowledge and required skills, formative assessment is more important than ever.  It truly guides what is taught or what needs re-teaching.  It informs us of what is understood and what needs more work.  Most importantly, it helps to clarify student thinking and solidify that knowledge in their brains.

For more ideas about formative assessment check out:

Dipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding

53 Ways To Check For Understanding

December 3

Down the Stretch (Part 4)

As we head down the stretch to wrap up the first semester of school, this formative assessment series has focused on ideas for collecting data in order to determine concepts and ideas that might need revisiting prior to a cumulative summative exam.  So far we have looked at various ways to use an exit slip or list-making, and a simple two-column-chart.  Another way to add a spark and challenge students is to employ the use of poetry.  I know, I know.  Everybody isn’t an English teacher and doesn’t have to teach poetry.  However, that doesn’t mean poetry isn’t a powerful way to challenge students to think.

Students might begin by using the listing technique – listing a specified number of key words from an assigned resource.  This could be the textbook, their notes, a primary document, an online supplemental resource, etc.  Then, students could create a free verse poem with the words.  They might write a summary poem of their reading, notes, or a combination of resources based upon words chosen from a list compiled collaboratively as a class.

They might collaborate with a partner to create a poem for two voices explaining a concept or describing a process, person, or event.

Students could create a biographic poem using a formulaic approach or free-verse approach.  An example of a formulaic approach could include:

Line 1 – 3 adjectives to describe

Line 2 – 1 relationship

Line 3 – 2 nouns or things

Line 4 – 3 verbs or actions

Line 5 – 2 wants, needs, experiences

I think it would be interesting to read a poem about an animal or plant cell using such a formula.  It would also demonstrate a stronger depth of knowledge when the student is describing a biome or a historical person or event.

Making a list of different types of poetry and have students choose one type is a good way of providing differentiation while still challenging student thinking.  For example, students could choose from creating an: Acrostic, Haiku, Limerick, or Riddle.  Check out other poem types from which to choose.

Just because we are in that short stretch and heading toward the end of the semester, it doesn’t mean that we need to ease up or slow down.  Why not challenge students to think and report their knowledge in a way that is different and interesting at the same time?

December 2

Down the Stretch (Part 3)

We are in the midst of a series focused on formative assessment.  As we are in the stretch headed toward the end of the first semester, we often need to collect data in preparation for the major exams.  First, we looked at different ways to implement an exit slip or list-making.  Why not use another tried-and-true technique?  Today, let’s look at a simple T-chart as a means of formative assessment.

Students could be asked to list their opinions about content matter on one half of the chart and support those opinions using evidence from primary documents or the textbook or other resource materials.

Theories, ideas, or facts could be identified on one side of the chart and a comparison or contrast could be offered on the opposite side.  Students could be expected to explain or describe the similarities and differences between two concepts or ideas.

The steps of a math problem could be written out on one side of the chart and a descriptive explanation written on the other.  Steps of a scientific experiment or process could fill one side and an illustration sketched or photographed, uploaded, and added to the other side.

Important people or events might fill one side of the chart and an explanation of their importance noted opposite.

Things-I-know-for-sure might be detailed on one side of the chart and things-I-wonder or questions-I-still-have might be offered on the opposite side.

Again, a simple sheet of paper could be used for such an assessment but it would also be quick and easy to integrate technology as a substitute.  Tools such as a table in a Google Document or a Google Sheet are obvious and easy to create and submit as a check-for-understanding.  Another way to create a quick and simple two-column chart is through an infographic tool such as Piktochart or Easel.ly.

December 1

Down the Stretch (Part 2)

Yesterday I began this series with a post promoting the concept of using an exit slip as a means of formative assessment.  Today, let’s look at another way to collect feedback from students and encourage them to reflect on thier learning.

How about asking students to create a list?  I live and die by my lists.  I’ve mentioned that I use all sorts of tools to help me keep up with the many lists I need to keep me on track.  For example, Google Keep helps me track books I want to read, my grocery list, and other reminders.  I use my calendar heavily to help me know where I need to be and when I need to be there.  I keep lists to remind me to complete tasks and lists to clarify my short-term and long-term goals.

Why not ask students to create a list to clarify and demonstrate their learning?

This could be done with the old David Letterman trick using humor and counting down.  What are the ten most important take-aways from this unit or this lesson?

Students might be expected to create a list of steps.  This would lend itself easily to science where an experiment was completed.  It would also fit well for a historical study where students listed steps that led up to an event or occurrence.  Of course, the list of steps for the solving of a math problem are obvious.  Students could also list the steps from exposition to resolution in a written piece.

This list technique could be done by asking students to create a vocabulary list.  The vocabulary might be an outlining of the most important concepts relating to the lesson, the unit, or a long-term study.  Students might be required to compile a vocabulary list describing a famous historical event, person, scientist, mathemetician, musician, artist, the main character of a fiction piece, or any other number of topics.  Then, a quick explanation of why the vocabulary is important or a definition of the term in relation to the topic of study would follow.

I often would ask students to make a list of things that might be found in the wallet of a famous person or a character in a story and explain what the significance of that item has to the wallet owner.  This clarified their thinking and made them look at the subject with a different slant.  This concept wouldn’t have to only apply to a famous person, it might apply to an animal in a certain biome or a character in a piece of fiction or a Terra Cotta Soldier in a tomb or a particular type of equation in math or a drop of water in the water cycle or…well, I think you get the idea.  I’ve asked them to list and explain the items in a vehicle’s glove box when the vehicle transported…  Again, critical thinking is required but a simple list is pretty easy to compile.

We use lists for ingredients and students could be asked to compile a list of ingredients for the topic at hand.  Then, take that list one step further and ask students to write an entire recipe.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to read a recipe for a Samarai or an X Chromosome or a peace treaty?

Integration of technology isn’t a must for such an exercise but it is also easy to seamlessly incorporate.  The list or recipe could be completed as a Google Document and submitted via Google Classroom.  It could also be created using a Padlet, Socrative, or a Google Form as mentioned in the previous post.  Lists can be created, illustrated, and verbally explained using Educreations, Doodle Buddy, ShowMe.  Lists could be completely audio with a tool like Vocaroo or fun and humorous as well as audio with Chatterpix Kids or Sock Puppets.

Just because we seem to be in the stretch doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be stretching student thinking.  Why not put your own twist on that age-old technique of making a list?