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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From passion to purpose: getting started with student-led projects

21st century tools Jan 21, 2019

In a recent post, I talked about why our students are learning without us these days, and how it has a lot to do with an imbalanced emphasis of cognitive work over building those tangible (AKA, 'soft') skills which are just as necessary in doing the real work of the world.

Now don't get it twisted here...cognitive work is important.

But even if the emphasis of our instruction is on higher-order thinking skills (HOTS), a lot of the cognitive work students are doing is exclusively carried out in the name of test preparation.

Case in point: consider why we teach students to write an argumentative essay.

First of all, it runs the gamut of HOTS, doesn't it? Among the highlights, they're learning to:

  • apply information, by including evidence and examples to back their claims
  • analyze information, when they consider the weight and relevance of the evidence they find
  • evaluate information, when they draw conclusions and drive home their point or perspective
  • express themselves...
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Using Twitter to Empower Classroom Learning

21st century tools Nov 15, 2016

So there I was, thirty sets of eyes on me, fumbling awkwardly at my computer, trying desperately to get the school’s video announcements going before my class went into technological mutiny.

The Wifi appears to be working…that’s not it.

I tried refreshing the page…that’s not it.

I even pasted the link into the browser myself…no such luck.

Why won’t the video play, dammit?! With the ‘abandon all hope’ sign looming ominously above my computer, I started quietly praying to the YouTube gods for access into the Multimedia City before this band of teenagers ties me up with my own HDMi cables and hangs me from the overhead projector...

“Um, Miss?” I heard a voice proffer. “I think you just need to log in to your YouTube account. Just...hit the button in the top-right, there.”

First, I felt the golden warmth of a miracle descending upon me before the sting of stupidity snuffed...

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A 'Handy' Brainstorming Strategy for Secondary ELA Writers

If there’s one thing our writers tend to invest in the least (ahem, besides revision!), it’s brainstorming.  To them, generating ideas for an essay or a project usually conjures cold memories of a threateningly blank piece of paper or a blinking cursor -- and that can be *really* intimidating. 

Meanwhile the benefits of brainstorming (in the classroom and in the real world) are countless.  It helps creators:

  • Gain a sense of vision surrounding a task
  • Organize thoughts into more manageable and meaningful chunks
  • Move forward in a designated direction and stay on track
  • Iterate on/elevate ideas further; innovate

Yet our learners largely lack an idea generation system that’s structured enough to actually support them and 'speak back' inspiration…that is, until now.

  • Whether you’re a teacher who’s brainstorming plans for this year’s curriculum, or you’re co-creating classroom content with your learners; 
  • Whether...
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10 Great Ideas for the First 5 Days of School

21st century tools Aug 08, 2016

August finishes out a season of rest and respite for the teachers of the world and invites a period of rejuvenation to follow.  It's a time when spirits are high, and a fresh whiteboard is waiting for us to color it with our trade.  It's also the time we begin our ceaseless search for new ideas and innovative approaches to shake up last year's material.

So to help you on your quest for a fresh start, I've put together an edgy little guidebook for you, which will hopefully inspire you to 'edovate'!

By clicking on the image above, you'll get instant access to this super awesome guidebook in your inbox, AND you'll officially be part of my mailing list 'VibeTribe'...those awesome people who'll get access to many, many more resources like this to come!

You in?!


I can't wait to navigate this brave, new, 21st-century world of education with edovative idea at a time.

Happy Trailblazin',


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