3-12, Language Arts

Main Side Hidden Digital Template

In The Power of Making Thinking Visible (2020), Ron Ritchart and Mark Church detail what they call, “The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden.” I love how this routine really encourages inferencing and systems thinking because students not only discuss the main idea of the image or text they are analyzing, but the routine promotes critical thinking as the students delve deeper into connections and what may be directly and indirectly affecting what appears to be the obvious story. With appropriate scaffolding, the routine can be used with any grade level and any subject (though it may be a stretch to use it in math), though this digital template is best for 3rd grade and up.

I talked about this routine in detail in a post in March, and shared one of the templates I made for a PD on this routine for librarians. This summer, though, I happened to see a template from the one and only Paula at Slides Mania that would work perfectly for this routine. So, I asked her permission to use the template and share it with you. You can find her original template, “Top Secret,” here. (Please go to her link if you want to download the template for anything other than “The Story Routine.”) And here is a link to the version I modified to be used with “The Story Routine.”

Click here to access your copy of The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden Template

I have been collecting all of my resources for digital templates for Visible Thinking Routines in this Wakelet in case you want to see what I’ve posted in the past. If you’re not familiar with Visible Thinking Routines, I definitely recommend reading the book (also the first one in the series), visiting the website, and some of the other links I have in the Google Slides presentation.

The most important thing to remember, in my view, is that these routines are designed to encourage deeper thinking through discussion so, although some of us provide digital resources, they should not be done in isolation. The routines are also what I like to call, “self-differentiating activities” because, by default, they allow students to bring their own individual strengths to the conversations and feel valued.

So, bottom line – more value to the students with less prep time for the teachers. Win/win!

3-12, Bloom's Taxonomy, Books, Language Arts, Teaching Tools

A Journey Through Lumio with Bloom’s Taxonomy

This post is sponsored by Lumio. All opinions are my own.

The best educational technology tools out there are: easy-to-use, engaging, empowering, and elastic. By “elastic” I mean that they have flexibility, which applies not only to the devices on which they can be used but the settings in which teachers would like to use them. Many programs out there, for example, can be great for checking student memory retention with multiple choice questions, but they won’t work for activities that address the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as, “Evaluate,” or “Create.” On the other extreme, you may have an educational technology tool that has an endless number of applications, but it’s incredibly time-consuming to learn how to use it – so it becomes another wasted resource. Lumio, however, separates itself from these polar opposites because it fulfills all four of the essential criteria.

You may recall my initial post, “5 Smart Ways to Engage Your Students with Lumio,” in which I described the versatility of this free digital learning tool suitable for any classroom with student devices. In that article, I wanted to give you an overview of some of Lumio’s features. Today, I’d like to do a deeper dive into Lumio by giving you some concrete examples of how it is: easy-to-use, engaging, empowering, and elastic. To do this, I’d like to demonstrate how simple it is to address any level of Bloom’s Taxonomy with Lumio.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you are a teacher who has just finished reading the novel, Tuck Everlasting, with your students.

Once you’ve finished reading the book, you want to get an up-to-date snapshot of how the students are doing when it comes to remembering the important story details, so you quickly whip up a Monster Quiz because you know it will give you good information and your students thrive on friendly competition.

Using Monster Quiz to “Remember” Tuck Everlasting details.

Following completion of the online quiz, you decide to gather even more information with another quick formative assessment so you can hit the “Understand” level of Bloom’s. You move to the next slide in your presentation, and students are greeted by a Sorting Activity with one container for Angus Tuck and one for The Man in the Yellow Suit. Students show both their understanding of the novel and these two main characters by dragging quotes you’ve selected to the correct options.

“Understand” Tuck Everlasting with the Sorting Activity from Lumio

After students reflect on how they did on these activities, you are ready to make a plan to continue reviewing with students who may need it, while others can advance through some of the higher levels of Blooms. They can work at their own pace either independently or in groups as they perform Lumio’s Matching Activity to apply what they know and have inferred about the characters. You assign them to match characters from the novel to how they would react in completely different 21st century situations. Which character would most likely spread fake news on social media? Who would be the first volunteer to start a colony on Mars? 

“Apply” what you learned from Tuck Everlasting with Lumio’s Sorting Activity

So far, these have all been activities where you might expect certain answers, and Lumio’s tools will check them for you and provide results. With the interest of introducing more rigor, you want to design some higher order thinking activities that are more open-ended. You decide to have students discuss and analyze in collaborative groups by providing them the Venn Diagram from Lumio’s set of graphic organizers to compare/contrast two of the characters. Though could be done on paper, having it in Lumio makes it easy to display responses to the whole class so they can debate the responses while using supporting evidence from the novel. You also have a digital record you can refer to later to look for misunderstandings or learning growth.

“Analyze” the characters of Tuck Everlasting with the Venn Diagram Template in Lumio’s library.

When you feel like students are prepared to advance to the Bloom’s Level, “Evaluate,” the Lumio Ranking Tool is perfect. One feature of this “elastic” tool is that you can select, “Don’t Check,” when setting up the activity, and you definitely expect and hope for different responses as you ask your students to rank the characters in Tuck Everlasting from the least to most courageous. This will generate enthusiastic discussions in your class as the students defend their choices with examples from the story. 

“Evaluate” the courage of the characters in Tuck Everlasting with Lumio’s Ranking Activity

Finally, your students are ready to create. You elect to give them several choices using the Tic-Tac-Toe Board Template in Lumio, including both physical and digital options. Ones that they could do within a self-paced Lumio activity might be: creating Black-Out Poetry with a PDF of a page from the novel you’ve uploaded, creating an advertisment the Man in the Yellow Suit might design for his magical water, or making a scrapbook page for one of the characters using images the students upload with Lumio’s safe-search tool.

“Create” with this Tic-Tac-Toe template from Lumio.

As you can see from these examples, Lumio is a robust collaborative learning tool product that allows both teachers and students to work at different levels. From designing the lesson to implementing it and revising as you go along, teachers can set themselves and their students up for success.

Want to begin using Lumio today? It’s free. Click here to get started!

Crossword Puzzle
3-5, 5-8, Language Arts, Vocabulary

Crypt-O-Words

Many of you may also follow my friend, Donna Lasher, at Big Ideas 4 Little Scholars. She also has a Facebook group, and sends out a newsletter. If so, you may have seen her recent blog post in which she announced some new puzzle books she has just released: Crypt-O-Words (Grades 4-7) and Crypt-O-Words Jr (Grades 2-5). You can currently purchase the e-book or paperback versions of each of these here.

These books are designed to teach advanced vocabulary through the use of riddles, puzzles, and games. Click on the link for each individual book to preview some sample pages on the website for Critical Thinking Co. As you work through the books, there are “call-backs” to previous words, so that students continue to review the vocabulary and using it in different contexts even as they are adding new words to their repertoire.

With 30 lessons in the Crypt-O-Words book for Grades 4-7, students will have the opportunity to learn and practice using higher level words that were gleaned from recommended PSAT and SAT word lists. Even better, the students will have fun discovering the words and applying them as they solve a wide variety of puzzles that will challenge their logic and critical thinking skills as well.

The books begin with short explanations and general suggestions for integrating the books into your class. One unique feature of the book, however, is that it continues to give specific teaching tips for each lesson, along with suggestions for extending learning.

While most students doing these activities will not be learning a new language, the process for acquiring unfamiliar vocabulary should include the steps outlined in this article from Babbel: Selection, Association, Review, Storage, and Use. In Donna Lasher’s Crypt-O-Words series, students perform these actions consistently without it seeming repetitive — due to the incredible assortment of different types of puzzles. Each exercise begins with a riddle that hints at the word being introduced so students can make predictions, a puzzle to help students “discover” the word so they can find out if they were correct, and multiple challenges to help them practice the words in context.

Whether you are a parent who has noticed your child has an affinity for language, or a teacher who is searching for an enrichment resource for children who would benefit from some extra challenges in language arts, the Crypt-O-Words books are engaging and worthwhile purchases that make learning vocabulary fun instead of a chore.

By the way, I’ll be adding this to my Brainteasers and Puzzles collection. Check it out if you are hunting for some diverting challenges for your students!

3-5, Books, K-5, Language Arts

Memoirs of a Tortoise

When I was asked to write curriculum for some picture books, I jumped at the chance. Without a young child at home any longer, I don’t spend as much time in that section of the bookstore very often — and I miss it. I was given a few books to begin the project and pulled one out randomly, settling in happily to immerse myself in the illustrations and simple prose of Memoirs of a Tortoise, by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.

By the end, there were tears in my eyes.

Memoirs of a Tortoise is a year in the life of Oliver, an 80 year old tortoise, who spends happy days with his human friend, Ike. Though Oliver is comparatively young in tortoise years, Ike is not. One day, Ike does not return to their garden, and Oliver must make a trek to visit his 137 year old mother 10 gardens away to find out why Oliver’s “pet” human couldn’t stay with him.

Though the book gently addresses the theme of loss, it is not sad. There a few humorous lines, and the story’s ending is a reminder of the fact that we may not be able to enjoy someone’s physical presence forever, but we can be grateful for the time we had them and hopeful that we will continue to encounter new friends along our journey.

I love a book that you can repeatedly re-read and discover new delights each time. Memoirs of a Tortoise is one of those books. I need to read the other three “memoirs” by this author/illustrator team, but it’s difficult to imagine they will have the same kind of impact on me as this beautiful story.

To order Memoirs of a Tortoise and learn more about the author, click here. (I did not recall until I looked at the site that Scillian also wrote a book I used frequently with my students, P is for Passport.) I also highly recommend reading Scillian’s bio, which shows him to be quite the Renaissance Man with a variety of interests and talents. Tim Bowers is equally fascinating, and you can learn more about him here.

3-12, Creative Thinking, Language Arts, Writing

Golden Shovel Poetry

Gwendolyn Brooks published the poem, “We Real Cool,” in 1963. In 2010, Terrance Hayes published a poem called, “The Golden Shovel.” If I was teaching a poetry unit, I would have my students read both poems and see what they notice before suggesting a direct relationship. Students would probably immediately recognize the title of Hayes’ poem appears in the second line of Brooks’. But it would be fun to see how long it takes them to see that Terrance Hayes actually structured his poem around Brooks’ by making each word in her poem the last word in each line of his poem — in order.

With “The Golden Shovel,” Hayes created a new poetic form, and it’s one of those challenges that compels and delights students with its opportunity for creativity through constraint. Take your favorite poem, favorite sentence from a book, or favorite passage from an article, even a newspaper headline and use each word, in order, as the last word for each line in your new poem. Be sure to credit the original author, but don’t limit yourself to their subject. You can see a perfect video explanation from the North Vancouver City Library for their “Teen Tuesday” series of how to write a Golden Shovel poem here. The Poetry Society offers a good lesson plan here.

Here is another example of a Golden Shovel poem, written by Michelle Kogan, and built from the words of the poem, “I Dream a World,” by Langston Hughes. If you want to see some work from actual students, this page shares some Golden Shovel poetry written by 5th and 6th graders based on poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Golden Shovel Poetry reminds me of the Found and Parallel Poetry that I used to do with my students, often resulting in pieces that surprised all of us with their insight. I’ll definitely be adding this link to my Poetry Wakelet Collection, and I would love to see any examples that your students write!

Side note: Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Poetry Out Loud presentation or something similar, and award one or two students these cute little golden shovel utensils?

Arab Boy and Girl
Anti-Racism, Geography, history, K-12, Language Arts, Social Studies

April is Arab American Heritage Month

I know that it can be overwhelming to see all of the “special months, days, and weeks” that get paraded on social media. And I also know that it is not the best reflection of our country that we feel that we must assign months in the calendar to remind people that our nation is comprised of many cultures and ethnicities. However, one bright spot that I do find in bringing attention to some of these is that more resources become readily available. So I do want to highlight some of the ones that I’ve found for Arab American Heritage month.

As a reminder, many Muslims are observing Ramadan this month. However, you may be surprised to learn that, according to this source, only about 24% of Arab Americans are Muslims, and the majority of them are Christians. This is one of the many misconceptions we often have regarding Arab Americans, and you can read more here.

The American Arab Institute is one place to start when looking for resources, as it has a picture of the letter President Biden has written to acknowledge the month and also highlights the contributions of some incredible Arab Americans. There is also an interactive map where you can learn more about the demographics and trends in your area.

The Arab America Foundation has a curriculum kit for educators that you can find here. They also offer an abundance of links on this page. If you would like to combine your study of Arabian history and culture with an appreciation for poetry (since April is also National Poetry Month), you may want to do a study of the some of the works of Khalil Gibran or Naomi Shihab Nye (a fellow San Antonio resident!). I particularly enjoy this poem on Teaching from Gibran that I just discovered while researching this post.

I will be adding this post to both my Anti-Racism Collection and my April Holidays one. If you can take a moment to learn one new wonderful fact about Arab Americans and share it with your students, we will be taking another small step toward eradicating racism in our country.