Category Archives: Language Arts

Peel The Fruit Slides Activity

UPDATE 10/13/2020: Here are links to some more Thinking Routine activities I made on Google Slides: 3-2-1 Bridge and Step Inside Monster Box.

I am a gigantic fan of Harvard’s Project Zero Thinking Routines. As distance learning has become a necessity for many teachers and students, I have been pondering what these routines might look like when conducting virtual discussions. I was in the middle of designing an interactive Google Slides presentations for one of my favorite routines, “Peel the Fruit,” when I saw a tweet from Dr. Catlin Tucker sharing some slides that she had made for Thinking Routines. Fortunately, my work was not a duplicate, as her slides are for 5 other great routines!

For my “Peel the Fruit” presentation, I linked the source I’ve adapted it from in the first slide. You can also see some other important links on this blog post. The 2nd slide in this presentation was actually designed on a Master Slide so that students don’t inadvertently change it. The slide has links to each of the student slides, so that when it is time to discuss, the teacher can click back and forth from each “layer” of the fruit. The home button on each student slide brings you back to the original diagram.

I envision that once a class has begun to study a topic, the teacher can assign students to begin on different slides, typing their comments in the tables. They can move onto a different slide once they have commented. If you need new slides, I would add them to the end, or else your hyperlinks will need to be changed. Once students have added their thoughts, the teacher can discuss with the whole class, and go over the reflection at the end of the slide show.

If you have not used this Thinking Routine before, you can see videos of it in action with a 4th grade class here. (Scroll down.)

To make a copy of my Peel the Fruit presentation for your own use, click here.

Dear Mr. Shakespeare

I confess that I have never been a huge Shakespeare fan, and I have never read or seen the play, Othello. But when I first came across this short film from 2017 by artist, Phoebe Boswell, I was captivated by her poetic interrogation of the playwright about his intentions when he created the main character, “the Moor” in Othello. Boswell’s amazing masterpiece questioning Shakespeare’s tragic play is intensely thought-provoking, as she manages to compare the racism that surely existed during Shakespeare’s lifetime to its continued hold on our current society. When I finished watching, I immediately wished that I was teaching high school again so that I could invite my students to analyze the play and Boswell’s response.

Dear Mr. Shakespeare simultaneously highlights how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. This is why I’ve committed to devoting one post a week to the topic of anti-racism, hoping that an educator will use one or more of these resources to help eradicate the bigotry and stereotypes that linger today.

Here are my past anti-racism posts in case you have missed them:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.

Write. Right. Rite.

Last week, I mentioned the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and Youby Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.  Reynolds is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and he has joined with the Library of Congress to make a series of short videos challenging children to authentically express themselves about different topics.  The Write.Right.Rite. series currently has over 20 prompts, and each one is a personal invitation from Jason Reynolds to think creatively.  From asking you to design an award for yourself  to writing a song for the shower, this list of ideas would be fun for any writing classroom – and I really wish I could see some of the responses!

If you haven’t ever picked up a book by Jason Reynolds, you can get a quick idea of his unique voice by reading one of the wonderful, “Grab the Mic” newsletters he has authored.  Also, the Library of Congress has curated an impressive list of resources that give more information about this incredible author.

For more innovative writing ideas for your classroom, check out this post about 826 Digital, a project for young writers by another wonderful author, Dave Eggers.

Child Writing
Image by free stock photos from from Pixabay

Texts for Talking About Race

As I continue to educate myself on anti-racism, I have vowed to devote a weekly post to this cause.  I have been curating resources for this at a rate that is impossible to sustain, and it has been a bit overwhelming.  I don’t want to dump a lot of links on you because you can basically get any list that you want from social media.  Following the tradition of this blog, I will attempt to share no more than a few quality resources with each post.

Today’s very useful resource is brought to you by CommonLit.  I’ve written about CommonLit a couple of times on this blog, and it is heartening to see that this website has continued to improve.  Provided by a non-profit, CommonLit also has remained free for teachers.  As you know, (and I mentioned in yesterday’s post), quality ed tech tools are difficult to find, and sometimes don’t last very long.

CommonLit has compiled 59 texts for talking about race.  It appears that the grade range is from 4th-12th.  Here is an example of a poem called, “The Child,” by J. Patrick Lewis, that is suitable for 4th grade and up.  As you can see on the right-hand side, activities are provided to go along with the text, including questions and discussion suggestions.  Students who are logged in on a computer (not a mobile device at this time) can also annotate the text.  They can have the computer read it out loud, or translate to another language.

At the top of the page, you will see tabs for paired texts, related media, and parent/teacher guides to go along with the specific text.  You must be logged in for some of these resources – but remember it is free to register!

If school is already out in your neck of the woods, be sure to bookmark this resource for next school year.  Parents, you don’t need to wait, since there are guides for you to use if you want to start the discussion now.

Stop Racism
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The Young Editors Project

Dave Eggers, award-winning author, founder of McSweeney’s, and co-founder of 826 National, recently invited students in grades K-5 to participate in The Young Editors Project.  This is a great example of how students can get involved with authentic learning.  Teachers can e-mail the person noted in Eggers’ article to be paired up with a real manuscript that is in progress and matched to their age group.  Students can then give comments and suggestions for improvement.  Once the manuscripts go to final print, the children who gave feedback will have their names mentioned in the book.  This is an opportunity for students to learn about revision, the value of soliciting different perspectives about your work, and what a book looks like before it gets placed on the shelves.  Making the editing process relevant and real-world will have a huge impact on your students.  Click on the above link to learn more about this unique project!

Image by VIVIANE MONCONDUIT from Pixabay

The Creativity Project

The Creativity Project is a book edited by Colby Sharp, a 5th grade teacher in Michigan who is one of the co-founders of “The Nerdy Book Club Blog.”  For this book, Sharp reached out to forty-four authors and illustrators of children’s books to ask them to send him two creative prompts.  After receiving these, he mixed them up and mailed two of the prompts to each contributor, who could then select one to which they would respond. The chosen prompts and results are collected in this book, along with the forty-four unused prompts.

As you read the book, you will be astounded by the imaginative collection of short stories, comics, poems, and illustrations that the creators chose for inspiration, as well as the responses they whimsically crafted.  You may feel like you are immersed in an exposition of improvisation that appears on the pages instead of the screen.

I wanted to list some of the authors and illustrators who participated, but then I felt like I would be granting those names more importance than the ones omitted.  For the full list, you can look at this page on Sharp’s website.

If you know someone who struggles with choosing writing topics, this book is a great gift to give or share!

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay