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The (wicked-tricky) Case for Social Media in the Secondary Classroom

There's no denying the raw power of social media.

From Facebook's role in the Arab Spring in 2011, to Twitter as the core platform for taking on gun control laws in 2018, social media serves as the birthplace of awareness-building and action-taking in a digital era.

It’s also been the incubator for messages like #1000blackgirlbooks, the heart of resilience in #neveragain and the bravery of #metoo.

As we speak, it's giving people all around the world a voice and the ability to break down social, political, and cultural barriers in ways we could never imagine before.

It's helped us argue, advocate, mobilize.

Support, strengthen, sound-off.

It's arguably the ultimate learning tool (and one of *the* most accessible ones for all, at that).

Intentional use of social media can provide a professional pathway for learners to:

  • network + collaborate with others
  • seek out mentors
  • communicate ideas
  • explore interests
  • celebrate talents
  • and exchange world views



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We Can't Pour from an Empty Cup: mental health is for teachers, too

pedagogy sel + wellness Dec 03, 2019

If you've ever flown on an airplane, you know well the following 'in-the-event-of-an-emergency' directive by heart:

'Please secure your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.'

--Flight Attendant (preferably one of the ones who let's me stuff all my crap under the seat)

I'll admit, it stings a little every time I hear it (no matter how many times!); because at face value, it seems a little counter-intuitive to the average Hero in all of us.

(Like, 'don't I *want* to put others before myself? 'cuzzzz the Bible tells me so...?')

Yet in the event of that kind of emergency, the most logical thing to do is--in fact--follow the dang directive (it's sheer oxygen + science, y'all).

Meanwhile, to a teacher, it's still straight-up blasphemy-talk.

By signing the dotted line to be an educator, we pledge (at minimum) the following:

  • to put our students on a path toward productive citizenship,
  • to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed for success,
  • to lead by example,
  • and to...
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Creating Podcasts in the Classroom: 8 reasons podcasts deserve a place in your ELA class (and in your life!)

21st century tools Oct 07, 2019

Listening and creating podcasts in the classroom lead to critical reading and writing growth, and both deserve a place in your ELA classroom.

When it comes to creating podcasts in the classroom, I can see where you’re skeptical.

  1.  What the heck *is* a podcast even, and 
  2. How the heck am I supposed to align these with my ELA standards?!

In other words, how can audio consumption + production genuinely lead to critical reading--even writing--growth?  

Good thing you showed up today because this post has some A’s for your sweet Q’s.

Having your students listen to podcasts has its benefits. But it's pretty magical, actually, just how much of the writing process, in particular, is tucked neatly inside the creation of a single podcast episode: from brainstorming to field research, crafting catchy intros, organizing ideas, and more.


...let’s talk podcasts!  

Do you listen to them yourself?  

According to Jay...

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Escape into Learning: using 'escape rooms' in ELA

21st century tools Sep 24, 2019

If I could have one wish in my classroom, it would be for my writers to approach their essays the way they do their video games.

Gamers will die a thousand deaths and get right back up again as they fight relentlessly to secure that next ‘save’ spot.  But when they put down the joystick and pick up their pencils, unfortunately, our writers leave that mindset next to their gaming consoles.

You can call Writer’s Circle all *week* if you want, but if there’s no intrinsic driver calling those students to duty, forget it.

But if we combine this knowledge with what we know about today’s students, we just might find space to pivot, after all.

Game On

In Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith’s text, The Google-Infused Classroom, they outline 10 important characteristics of today’s learners, two of which are key to this post.

Today’s learners:

  1. prefer hands-on and interactive projects, and they
  2. want to win; they (use strategy and)...
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Getting Started with Persuasive Pitches in ELA

Not all of our students will go on to be entrepreneurs.  But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn to think like them...


We live in an entrepreneurially-minded world, where skills such as problem-solving, creativity, grit, and teamwork are the backbone of innovation and progress.  

In having these skills, our learners will better understand themselves and the needs of our society.  

Yet one-too-many teachers (former Self, including) operate on the belief that entrepreneurial skills and cognitive learning targets can’t co-exist in the same lesson plan. 

(Think Harry-Potter-and-Lord-Voldemort, here)

There just isn’t enough *time*, we tell ourselves, to dedicate toward teaching self-direction!

But if I’m speaking the God’s Honest on a Sunday: that’s a bunch of malarky.  Hogwash.  

Straight rubbish! 

After all, what’s a good, written argument if there’s no...

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The Silent Debate: getting quiet as a strategy for speaking up

Teaching argument in the high school classroom is pretty much a ‘must,’ right?  

Somewhere between core learning standards in academics and an increasing need for critical thinking and problem-solving in the real world, the-art-of-argumentation-as-unit continues to gain its momentum (and rightfully so!)

In my own classroom, just before my students launch into arguments of their own, I take the opportunity to first explore some of the greatest debates of all time.

We peer into those monumental court cases, from Brown v. Board of Education (1954) to Texas v. Johnson (1989), but we also highlight those issues so near and dear to students’ interests, such as New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985) and Board of Education v. Earls (2002).

If there’s a Constitutional right my students most fervently have something to speak up about,’s Amendment 1 (see how I did that?!).

Cases like Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988),...

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What it means to 'make' writing + 3 strategies for getting started

As a writing teacher, I'm sure your students write a lot, right? But how often do you give them time to 'make' their writing?

How often do you let them get lost in the 'parts' of writing instead of merely plugging out draft after draft?

How often do you let them create?

In this Facebook Live video, I offer some fresh perspective on teaching writing in the high school classroom, and I offer three ways to 'make' writing as a means for getting started.

Check it out, and leave a comment below!


I look forward to turning this into a blog post soon, but I want to give credit now to the 'make' expert herself, Angela Stockman, who inspired my direction with this 'vlog' post!

Now get making!

PS...Some of the book links in my posts are affiliate links, which means I can make a small commission from them.  There is *zero*, additional cost to you, of course. Consider it my ‘tip jar’ for spittin’ all this free wisdom at you ;-) In all...

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What I Do Matters: using photo essays to teach arguments

21st century tools Mar 18, 2019

According to Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith, who offer up 10 characteristics of today's learners in their text, The Google-Infused Classroom, it's pretty standard practice for our students to speak in images these days. From emojis as a frequent replacement for text, to snapshots and video 'stories', images are the Gold standard for teen communication in the digital era.


Teens like images.

Photo Essays use images.

Therefore, teens must like Photo Essays!

Yes, indeed...the Photo Essay is a great way to teach students the foundational concepts of writing without actually writing!


But whoa, now...hold on! I'm certainly not suggesting students avert the written word altogether...that's just plain silly (and sooo anti-ELA of me!).

However, when we throw students straight into the writing process (AKA the ever-famous 'writing diagnostic') to see how they float, a steady stream of moans, groans, and lingering resentment for the writing process usually...

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Truth or Triumph: why the classic 'debate' activity deserves an update

pedagogy Mar 11, 2019

Just as you can count on fireworks on the 4th of July or leftovers on Boxing Day, you can expect a good ol' fashioned debate in the high school classroom.

Whether it take the form of a single-day activity or a weeks-long research project, many of us rely on the classic 'Debate' activity as a means for scaffolding the writing process, teaching students about the importance of research, and helping them hone the craft of public speaking.

But perhaps one of the best things about running a debate is the engagement it inspires. Suddenly, students who've never said *boo* during class discussion are on their feet, arms flailing, pens scribbling, whispering feverishly with their partners as they hastily prepare what they're going to say on behalf of the team.

And much of this magical behavior has to do with the interest teens take in winning. They enjoy a challenge, and they're motivated to be on-point as a reflection of their own, personal best.

What's more (they don't even...

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The Brainstorm Artist: Color Carousel Brainstorming

remix archives Feb 26, 2019

The following is part of the 'Remix Archives', a catalogue of articles I'm 'recalling to life' from my days of blogging over at the Global Pen (circa 2012!). Specifically, this archive involves those posts my audience has known and loved over the many years we've been colleagues and friends, so consider these ones 'back by popular demand'! Enjoy!

The original version of this post was published on: April 8th, 2015 @ the Global Pen.

Talented writing teacher that you are, you've been hand-picked to host our Global Gallery exhibition!  In this post, ideas will be brought to life, arguments will be expressed in-living-color, and the final product will be showcased for all to admire!

That's right, we're mixing the written word with some colorful creativity to make our masterpiece.  Our muse?  The globally-issues essay prompt. Our canvas?  The brainstorm sheet.  Our masterpiece?  A finely crafted judgment.

Just as any Gallery Owner knows, it's...

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