Category Archives: Uncategorized

End of the Week Update 1/7

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We actually did fairly well with pacing and made it through the plans as I had them set. Sort of. We had class meetings called, so I had to cut something. I decided to cut out the extra part of the class designed to fit the weekly structure.

The Caught ‘Ya bell ringer and etymology system is still working fantastically.  I love this system. As long as I teach, I will never, ever, ever use another system. The data speaks volumes.

We did, however, find time for a task card review of the definitions of the primary elements of figurative language that I want them to have mastered. I made them from scratch, and I promise I will put them in my TPT store and link them here this weekend.  Right now it is just the term and definition, but it will grow into identifying the examples and creating their own examples through the next few weeks. After all, you have to start somewhere.

For instruction, we did a SOAPSTone analysis of “Tribute to a Dog” as planned.  You can find this text at the website below.  We were able to read and annotate the text, move into a discussion about what he said, how he said it, and how it affected the audience.  Then, we completed a SOAPSTone analysis.  First, I had them complete the analysis individually. Next, they shared and compared with a partner.  Then, I had them write a paragraph to explain the differences in the student work and what changes they thought they might need to make to increase the quality of their analysis.  Then, I did what I think was the most powerful part: I showed them my answers and we discussed each of them in detail.  Why did this matter? Well, it allowed the students to see the expectations for college-level responses over the minimalist approach they normally take.

Text Resource:

In looking at student work, I needed them to focus on thesis statements and topic sentences, so I added the instruction of using the prompt as a sentence starter for the response into the lesson for tomorrow. And tomorrow we are going to watch a clip from The Colbert Report and do a SOAPSTone on that.  This will allow me to address satire, parody, and mockery in a quick blurb about a topic that is relevant to them.

Considering the learning regarding the depth of the SOAPSTone itself, I’m going to model it, but then I’m going to have students do it individually so I can collect that before I show them my answers.  For closure, they are going to complete a reflection on the quality of their work and how it has changed during the week. They will list differences in their work and my work in order to create a plan for achieving at a hirer level in the coming weeks.

Hopefully, this was as effective in the long terms as it appears to have been for the last few days.  If not, I’m sure they will get it. They are going to SOAPSTone the crap out of EVERY SINGLE TEXT WE READ. #sorrynotsorry #youllthankmeoneday


AP Lang: Week 1

The first week starts tomorrow, and I’m beginning feeling excited that my syllabus was approved. Hooray!

To help me get in the hang of this whole blogging thing, I’m going to start by posting my weekly plans. I can see that I do have readers, so I’m hoping that you can take from my page just as much as you will be willing to comment ideas for my classroom use. If you see I have something that is a terrible idea, tell me. If you have a suggestion, tell me. And if it seems cool, I’d like to know that also. Somehow in education, it always seems that the lessons you’re most excited about are the ones that totally fall apart with implementation.  Alas, week one.

  Standards/Objectives Detailed Agenda


No school for students.


Bell Ringer: Through the study of “Puritans” students will be able to monitor GUM and identify the meaning of unknown words.


Course Expectations: Through the study of AP Course Guide, students will be able to identify the expectations of this class and explain how it is different from other classes offered at AE.


Sunday News, Monday Views: Through the study of current events, students will be able to rhetorically analyze a chosen article from the weekend news.

~Note: This assignment becomes weekend homework due EVERY Monday.


Bell Ringer: 15 minutes

Caught ‘Ya (L11.1-3)

Etymology (L11.4-6)

~ G/AF: Sentence Corrections with guided questions with assigned weekly partner

~ Share outs (based on pacing)


Course Expectations: Raising the Bar (15 minutes)


Sunday News, Monday Views:

O: Ss will learn the assignment expectations. (10 minutes)

D/App: Students will pick an article (5 minutes) and complete the analysis (15 minutes).

E: Ss will share with a partner for feedback (5 minutes each) and make revisions before submission (6).


Reflection Closure:

How does last semester’s learning seem to fit into what you now know about this course?




Bell Ringer: Through the study of “Puritans” students will be able to monitor GUM and identify the meaning of unknown words.


Writing Wednesday: Through the study of The Art of Styling Sentences, students will be able to write thorough and concise sentences.


Quick Review: Through the study of “Tribute to the Dog”, students will be able to rhetorically analyze a given AP article, including analysis of S answers and T answers.


Bell Ringer: 15 minutes

Caught ‘Ya (L11.1-3)

Etymology (L11.4-6)

~ G/AF: Sentence Corrections with guided questions with assigned weekly partner

~ Share outs (based on pacing)


Writing Wednesday: Sentence Pattern 1

O: Ss will learn sentence pattern one through short writing lecture.

D/Ap: Ss will create sentences using the pattern by arranging groups of words and when starting from scratch. Mastery 2/3 in each group.


“Tribute to a Dog” (Application and Analysis)

O: Ss will use reading partners to annotate the text.

D/App: Students will complete a SOAPSTone analysis of the text and compare with a partner to find the perfect answer.

E: Ss will compare perfect answer to teacher answer and identify areas of growth for future SOAPSTones.




Bell Ringer: Through the study of “Puritans” students will be able to monitor GUM and identify the meaning of unknown words.


SOAPSTone, Take 2 FINAL Review: Through the study of “Colbert Report”, students will be able to rhetorically analyze a given stimulus text, including analysis of S answers and T answers.


Bell Ringer: 15 minutes

Caught ‘Ya (L11.1-3)

Etymology (L11.4-6)

~ G/AF: Sentence Corrections with guided questions with assigned weekly partner

~ Share outs (based on pacing)


“Colbert Report” Visual Analysis SOAPSTone

O: Ss will view the text and take notes to help complete the SOAPSTone.

D/App: Students will compare a SOAPSTone analysis of the text to assigned partner.

E: Ss will review video and make changes if needed. S work to be collected.

Closure: Think about your answers and T’s answers.   What do you notice? What did you do well? What changes might you need to make?



Bell Ringer: Through the study of “Puritans” students will be able to monitor GUM and identify the meaning of unknown words.


Diction and Tone: Through the overview of diction and tone, students will be able to identify and analyze denotation and connotation of specific text examples.


Bell Ringer: 15 minutes

Caught ‘Ya (L11.1-3)

Etymology (L11.4-6)

~ G/AF: Sentence Corrections with guided questions with assigned weekly partner

~ Share outs (based on pacing)


Writing Wednesday: Sentence Pattern 1

O: Ss will learn sentence pattern one through short writing lecture.

D/Ap: Ss will create sentences using the pattern by arranging groups of words and when starting from scratch. Mastery 2/3 in each group.


Diction and Tone Overview

O: Ss will REVIEW diction and tone as literary devices supporting effective use of rhetoric.

D/App: Students will practice identification throughout the scaffolded lesson.

Closure: Think about your answers and T’s answers.   What do you notice? What did you do well? What changes might you need to make?


Snow is in the forecast, but I’m sure we can get through this first week with limited interruptions.  I’ll try to post an update later in the week because I’m sure I will need it.

Teaching a New Course: AP Lang


Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 4.50.35 PMAP College Board mandates the course be open to any and all students who are willing to try.  In short, that means we are going to get along great.


I’m waiting for the approval of my syllabus, but I’m starting the first week Tuesday.  Since I’m not very good at the blog and I get so much email correspondence asking what I’m doing and how well it is going, I’m going to begin by posting my plans.  And, if you’ve been following me for a while, there are a few updates you’re going to need.

Technology: This course is not going to be designed for a full PLE structure.  While there are elements of the class that will be running through Canvas, the LMS used in our district, the majority of instruction is going to be for full class, traditional instruction.  I know. I’m sad too.

Time and Blog Commitment: Yep. I’m still just as busy as ever, but that has changed a bit.  I have completed and earned my Master’s in Learning and Technology, so it would seem I’ll be able to update at least weekly like I have always envisioned.  I do at least keep a journal to write my thoughts each night and an Individual Growth Plan to keep a journal of student achievement and teacher actions in the classroom, but sometimes the blog just gets left behind.

Resources: I’ve always thought that the smartest people in the world are the ones who know they have much more to learn. Perhaps that is because I hide it well.  While I’m posting, please keep in mind that I am still learning to be a great teacher. I’m still working to refine my classroom implementation. And now, I’m learning a new course.  I didn’t take AP in high school, and we haven’t offered this course in our school in the eight years I’ve been here. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

What will I teach this year?

“So think of the SPIs as the trees.  They are the base. They give us the Tier 3 Academic Vocabulary.  And think of Common Core as the forest.  That’s what TN Ready is doing for us.”

That’s a quote from the TNReady Training I attended last week.  In a room full of people, I specifically asked what we were to teach, and that answer is quite complex.  Basically, we are to teach the Tennessee State Standards (look it up – they are the same as the Common Core Standards but changing the name seems to have appeased the public), but the skills of the SPIs are “a great starting point” for the skills still needing to be addressed with our students.

If our training had a team name, I think it would have been “NYD” for “not yet determined” as that seems to have been the answer for a vast majority of the questions asked.  So that begs the question: Is Common Core really that bad?

In short, no.  The concepts of Common Core are, in my humble opinion, very similar to the instruction in an AP class… Very similar, in fact, to the education I received.  I had the pleasure of attending this training with my English teacher from when I was in high school.  We spoke about the standards, and I questioned why I felt like she held us to such a high standard.  I explained that when I started teaching some of the same things she expected us to do, none of the students could reach proficiency of the skills being assessed by the task.  She agreed – she’s had to lower her standards and water down the curriculum because of student inability based on a serious lack of foundational skills.  Thanks to Common Core, she explained, she was going to be able to raise the academic bar once again.

But what specific skills are the teachers going to teach the students? Take rhetoric for example. Students need to be able to analyze speeches with effective rhetoric.  How many rhetorical devices are there? And which ones should I teach my students? Which ones are going to be assessed? Normally, I would look over the standards and the test samplers, but there isn’t much in the way of test prep for our students this year.  But that’s okay… Because as our presenter explains, “Good teaching involves critical thinking and problem solving, not an entire course on test prep.”  Too bad my effectiveness is based on this test.

But I’ve been teaching using the Common Core standards for three years now, and my students are doing fairly well.  I will say this: Students will meet the bar you set. They will walk the line and try to see what you will let them get away with.  Keep your expectations high.  Foster relationships. Build motivation.

Alas, the big questions seem to be about the test because we are all indoctrinated to teach the test even though we all know that one test on one day doesn’t really show student mastery of the course as a whole.  So what has been released about the testing?  I’ll tell you what little we know.

First, the “Tennessee State Standards” are the same as Common Core Standards.  While the name on the state page changed, the adoption date from 2010 did not.

Next, TNReady is the assessment piece, and it is broken into two separate parts.

Scoring: More details will follow (and be released from the state as they are determined), but the big thing to know is that you will only get one score set back and it will not be until AFTER both parts have been completed and scored into the final grade.

Part 1: This part is the written component of the test. For the high school setting, this might be argument, informative/explanatory, narrative fiction, narrative nonfiction, or informational. While there will be two actual prompts, one is scored and the second is intended as a field test.  This section is planned to be scored by human beings, but who will grade it or how it will be done is not yet determined.  What we do know is the rubrics will be the same as we have been using the last two or three years with the exception that the categories for Focus and Organization and Development will be doubled and represent a total of 8 points each (instead of the four in the rubric the way it is written). This section of the test is intended to be taken at 70% course completion, and it will be mathematically combined with the score from Part 2 for a total score. Alone, the written component of the exam offers a total of 31 score points and 34% of the test itself.

Part 2: This part is the select-the-answer part of the test. Maybe I should call it the objective part of the testing. Either way, it’s a bit different from what the students have come to know and love.  Considering the types of questions, there will be some that are multiple choice (answer choices will have a circle to select), multiple multiple choice (answers will have multiple correct answers to select and these will be a square), evidence-based selected response (two-part MC questions where students find the correct answer about a question in the text and then have to select the evidence that best supports the correct answer from the first part), and “technology enhanced items” (which might include drop boxes, drag and drop, or highlight options).  Walking away, you need to get on MICA so you know it and you need to get your students on MICA so they know it.  Considering make-up of the test, there is supposedly going to be 5-7 reading passages with 8-14 questions per passage.  Testing categories are divided in such a way that Conventions are 7 items with 7 point (12% test total), Reading Literature is 12-15 items with 16-20 points (18-22%), Reading Informational Texts is 22-25 items worth 29-33 points (32-37%), and Vocabulary with 4-8 items carrying a value of 9-12 points (10-13%).

Confused?  Don’t be. This may be accurate as of today, but chances are some part of it will change in the very near future.

Multimedia: Creating a Class Avatar

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Though I’ve been working to flip learning in my classroom for a while, one of my tasks for school was to create a short instructional video.  If you are interested in seeing just how easy it can be, read below!

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Task 3 asks students to create a multimedia presentation for use in instruction. As I work to build the new content for my 1:1 English III American Literature Class, I decided to create a video to guide students through the creation of their personal avatar using Bitstrips on their school-issued iPads. This task will be assigned to students the first day of class as the avatar is used on a daily basis to monitor progress on a visual bulletin board on display in the class. Additionally, students will use their avatar and the Bitstrips App itself for a variety of classroom assignments throughout the year. The video for this lesson has been uploaded on my class page and can be found at

Planning the Video

Instructional Purpose

Austin-East Magnet School of the Arts is a 1:1 school where all students have been assigned iPads and all teachers are expected to find some manner of incorporating them into the class curriculum. English III, however, piloted the iPads and now operates in a Personalized Learning Environment with limited whole class instruction. To help monitor progress, student avatars are clipped onto the current module in the course. Additionally, students will use their avatars to demonstrate mastery of specific skills and concepts on a variety of assignments throughout the year. Therefore, the purpose of this lesson is to guide students to create a personalized classroom avater using Bitstrips. This application was selected as it is exciting and always changing, hopefully engaging students in the curriculum like never before. Learners in the lesson will consist of 125 juniors enrolled in English III. Technological skills of these students is somewhat limited as there is no formal technology class, though the students have had access to the iPads during the previous school year.

Concept Mapping

            Before creating the video, I created the lesson plan and determined how I wanted to create the video. First, I listed out exactly what I needed to include in the lesson. Then, I created a powerpoint file with slides for explaining the objective and the steps of the task based on what I generated in my planning. I also included a sample of my Bitstrip and how the avater would be beneficial to me as a student within the content of the slides as well. In scripting my voice over for the lesson, I used a graphic organizer to track key details I needed to include. Finally, I decided it might be helpful to include a few screenshots of the process of creating the avatar on Bitstrips. To get the screenshots, I reset my account on Bitstrip so that I could start from the beginning and have pictures of what the students would actually see during their process. I have been creating videos for classroom instruction for a while, so I planned my video using the same graphic organizer I have used at Austin-East.

Objective: Through the use of Bitstrips, the student will be able to create a personalized avatar for monitoring progress and completion of future classroom assignments.Steps:

1. Students will download and install the app.

2. Students will create the avatar.

3. Students will submit the avatar through Canvas for grading.

Slide/Screen Image Description/Notes/Scripting
Intro Slide Welcome to the course; general purpose of creating the avatar to guide the PLE.
Objective/Steps Read objective to students as expected by TAP guidelines. Transition into a review of the steps to complete the lesson.
Step 1 – Screenshot of app in the app store. This will help ensure students are getting the right app. Also, students will be instructed to pause the video here, continuing after the installation of the app.
Steps – 2/3 Continue with explaining students will create the avatar and submit it to Canvas for grading.
Meet Bitstrip Steph~ Avatar

~ Picture of Module Progression

Show my Bitstrip as an example, including images of the purpose of the avatar.~ Module Progression – Point out that the images are the lessons and the things hanging on the bottom are the avatars to signal where students are in the lesson.
Sample Bitstrip Assigmnet Show sample of a final product using Bitstrips.
Screenshots of Avatar Creation Include screenshots to let students see the process of creating the avatar once in the application. This helps get students excited about all of the options they will have for creating the avatar to resemble them as closely as possible.
Closure Slide Remind students they can ask for help at any time.


Creating the Video: Process Explanation

Once I had the plan, the powerpoint slides, and the screenshots, I began to create my instructional video using Explain Everything. I selected this application because it is the easiest screencasting application I have found while working to flip my classroom. While the process followed may seem confusing at first, the icons make the application a fantastic method for building and editing videos that can easily be shared to Youtube.

Step 1: Import the powerpoint slides into a new project.

The easiest way to import the powerpoint slides is directly from email. After creating the powerpoint on my computer, I email myself the file. On the iPad, I open the powerpoint. Once the powerpoint is open, I hold down the icon to open the file with a specific program and select Explain Everything. When Explain Everything opens, the program defaults to creating a new project with the incoming images.

Step 2: Add any additional images or slides desired.

To add slides, I simply clicked the plus sign on the bottom left of the screen. This area shows the total number of slides in the film strip. After the powerpoint, I was starting with nine slides. When I added the screenshots from the Bitstrip app, I needed two more slides. To add the screenshot of the app store, I navigated to slide three and added a slide there. To install the desired picture, I clicked the add button from the left menu. When the add option menu opened, I selected to add from existing photos. This opened my camera roll so that I only needed to touch the desired photo to add it to the slide. Once added, a photo editing menu bar appears. I enlarged the image to fill the screen completely and moved on to working on another slide. At this point, I was ready to add the screenshots of actually using the application so students would know what to expect. For this, I decided I wanted to add all three images on the same slide to save time. To do this, I went to the tenth slide and click the plus sign to add a slide. On the new slide, I again selected the add button from the left, navigating through adding from existing photos and selecting the images from my camera roll. To save time, I included only four images: the main entry image for gender selection, the first screen to pick the facial shape, the menu of categories for creating the specific looks and accessories for the avatar, and the final approval of the avatar. Having all of my slides entered into the project, I was ready to begin recording the voice over.

Step 3: Record the Voice Over.

To record the voice over, I kept my planning guide on the screen of my laptop while working from the screen of my iPad. Starting at slide one, I touched the red circle that signals the record button and began talking. When I was finished with the slide and ready to go to the next slide, I clicked the pause button before advancing the slide. I find the pause button before advancing the slide is a helpful step in case editing is needed to individual slides – you don’t have to worry about cutting off in the middle of a sentence or cutting the audio too close because the extra second pause gives the time to make the splits and adjustments if they are needed. Because I operate the video just as I would in the classroom, though, I also use the writing tool for emphasis. On the slide with the screenshot of the app store, I used the writing tool to circle the app I wanted students to download. On the slide where I show the examples of how the avatar is helpful, I used the writing tool to underline the avatars that were hanging on the course module display to draw emphasis to their presence.

For each slide, I follow the same process of recording, playing it back, and moving to the next slide. When I find I don’t like the way a slide sounds, I simply record over the audio and start fresh. To do this, I select the button to show audio and pull the cursor over to the zero on the audio timer. The screen automatically verifies the desire to film over the existing script, and once affirming this action I am able to record the slide again. Once I felt like each slide was where I wanted it to be, I held down the play button for a few seconds to make the magic play button open. The newly created play button is slightly larger than the stationary button on the screen because it allows the video to play in its entirety for once more preview before uploading or exporting the video. After watching my video, I realized I just barely made it under the two-minute maximum and decided I was ready for publication.

Step 4: Publish the video.

Publishing the final product in Explain Everything is also very easy. To publish, I simply touch the export icon on the lower right of the screen. A new menu option opens that allows me to select the method for sharing. I selected Youtube, and another menu opened up for me to add the name of the video and set the viewing status. I named the video for the task, and I set the video to public. From here, the work is done because the application automatically exports and uploads the video to my Youtube channel. Upon completion, the application opens a prompt with the link of the video and an option to automatically email the link. Out of habit, I email the link to myself and then click the link to verify the video has finalized correctly.

Benefits of Preplanning

When I first started making videos for my students, I did not take the time to create an outline of what I was going to say. This led to rambling in the videos, making the videos longer without any real reason for the length. Students would disengage from the videos, and I would tire of the hours waiting for the videos to export and upload. Then there was the challenge of storage. Creating an outline of the video was a natural progression that helped to make the whole process flow and produce a better final product with clear expectations and concise communication to the students.

When I am recording the video from my iPad, I have my graphic organizer outline of the video on the screen of my computer so that I can use it as a guide. Creating a plan for the video helps ensure the purpose of the video is met without leaving out vital details. Specifically considering this assignment, I knew I needed to get through the video instruction in less than two minutes. By planning the slides of the video in advance, I only included the bare minimum needed for the purpose of helping students create the avatar. By planning the description of what I was going to say, I was able to get directly to the point of the slide and not take too much time. By having the plan in front of me while working, I was able to stay focused and produce a clear video in a fraction of the time I would have taken otherwise. The greatest benefit I find, however, is that when I have created a thorough plan and reflect on the plan while working on the film, I stick to the plan, I say what needs to be said, and I don’t have to spend a large amount of time proofing and rerecording each individual slide.






Bitstrips. (2015). Bitstrips (Version 1.8.142). [Android Application Software]. Retrieved from


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How to Create an AMAZING Classroom Website

Need to return to my electronic portfolio on Weebly?  Click here.

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Interested in creating a classroom website? Consider Weebley. Here’s what you need to know…

In my Educational Technology course works, the Technology Design Portfolio Task 1 asks students to create the shell of a website to demonstrate technological abilities associated with the task. In time, my website will become a real resource for prospective employers to review to see a variety of products that exemplify of my technology skills. Please access my site by visiting
Creating a Website
In looking to create your own website, the first step is to identify the purpose of the page. For me, I wanted to create a page that could serve as an electronic portfolio of ways I have personally used technology in my English III American Literature class. Because this is intended for prospective employers, the examples of materials included in the page will come from a variety of places throughout the curriculum I have been creating with my students.
Once identifying the specific purpose, the next step is selecting a website development tool. Though I have a paid personal blog on WordPress, I decided to use the free version of Weebly to create a website that would double as an e-portfolio to demonstrate my technological skills because it is the site recommended by local districts in my area. Additionally, Weebly is incredibly easy to work with as it operates by a simplistic “drag and drop” design element for adding content. While Weebly does have a Help Center to give additional support, I decided to skip the hour-long video and play around to learn how to use the site on my own.
Setting the Stages
Once creating an account in Weebly, the basics will be set up for you, and a prompt will direct your path through creating a website theme. In selecting a theme, I scanned for themes that were free, visually appealing, and available for computer and mobile devices. This was important because in an interview, the panel members are more likely to have a mobile device than an actual computer to access my page. After selecting the theme, the prompt will direct you to choose the website domain. As you enter your selected text, a green check will show that your domain is available whereas a red letter x will show you that you cannot use a domain. I wanted to select something that would relate to my purpose, so I selected “MrsStephKirk”. At this point, the stage is set and you are ready to move into building your site by filling the home page and adding and desired additional pages.
Once in the editing phase of your website creation, Weebly divides the options into manageable chucks of Build, Design, Pages, Store, Settings, and Help. This section will help guide users through creation of the site before selecting Publish, which is highlighted in orange on the right of the page.
Building a Website
Under the Build option, your page will preview on the right while a menu of options is available on the left. Weebly is set to automatically create a table of your design elements, but you may select any element, drag it onto your previewed page, and drop it into the desired position. Options for the elements include text, images, maps, embed codes, structural elements such as spacers and dividers, and media elements.
In building my page, I started out with the default page of an image on the right with a title and small text on the left. To change the text, click on the text field and start typing. It is that easy. For images, I selected an image of my own classroom. To add my own image, I clicked the cog representing setting and uploaded my image from my computer. Next, I wanted to be able to add images to link to the pages required as a part of TDT Task 1. For this, I dragged over three images and a text field beneath each image. For the images that will act as the links to the additional pages, I created a graphic using WeeMe on the iPad and removing the image background in powerpoint. I added the text of the desired linking page and saved the slides as images, uploading them to the page by following the prompts. Next, I added a spacer from the drag and drop menu on the left and created a title for Additional Links. Under this title, I knew I wanted to place a link to my personal blog and to my personal Teachers Pay Teachers store. Therefore, I dragged over to image placeholders and a text section beneath each image so that I could describe what the links would go to. For these images, I simply visited the pages and created a screenshot to upload. After creating this shell for the main site page, I needed to create the pages that would serve as the links.
Adding Pages
With the basic elements on the first page, I was ready to add additional pages. To do this, I selected the Pages heading on the top options menu bar. The default on Weebly sets you up with three pages, but you may have a total of five on the free version. By clicking the page titles on the left, I was able to customize my pages as desired. For my pages, I selected Welcome, About Stephanie, Graphics, Multi-Media, Resources and Files, and Contact. In setting up the page, I clicked the title of the page on the left and made adjustments to the page by using the prompts on the right. The first change I made was to set the basic page headers to landing page. Next, I decided whether or not to make the page option show up in the site navigation. In looking on the main page, anything over three didn’t make the final cut on the home page and defaulted into a drop-down menu labeled as more. Rather than leave the more option, I wanted a less cluttered visual and decided to hide About Stephanie and Contact from the navigation options. Those links will be on the page, but not listed in the menu itself. Next, I clicked Advanced Options to see what else I could do with my pages. Since Task 1 is to create a shell, I decided to select the option to hide all pages from search engines. With the shell set up, I wanted to sculpt the outline of the pages before submission. To do this, I clicked the page on which I wanted to work, moving back to the Build option on the top menu bar. At this point, I followed the drag and drop steps I followed when building the site until I had each of the desired elements in a position I found visually appealing on each of my pages.
Designing the Details
Once my pages were created, I wanted to explore the Design menu option from the top menu bar. This selection area allows changing fonts, including font sizes and colors. Just as I read from left to right and top to bottom, I started working on my individual pages from left to right and top to bottom. This part was easy: the scaffold was there, so I clicked around the website elements and identified the text style, size, and color I liked best when looking at the preview on the right side of the page. Once I moved through each page, I clicked save on the bottom right. This saves all changes made on the page and gets the page ready to publish when ready. However, there is one more step before publishing the page.
Applying Links
After creating the pages and adjusting the design elements, I needed to set up my links where I wanted them to be. To do this, I started with the default link settings of connecting to external URLs because I knew that would be easiest. By clicking on the pictures for the additional links, another box opened with options for the image. I selected the option reading link, which opened a variety of linking options. To add the link to the external URLs, I selected external site, the default setting, and typed in the address to my personal blog and to my TPT store as directed by the image selected. Next, I moved into adding the links to the pages within this site. For this, the steps are similar except that you must change the default from external URL to Standard Page. Once selecting Standard Page, a drop down menu will populate with the pages you have created. To add the link, I only needed to verify the desired page for each image and select the page I wanted the image to link to.
Finalizing the Page
Having the feeling that my page was complete, I selected the orange publish option on the top right of the Weebly interface. This informed me that my page was live and gave me a link to view the page. As a final preview, I opened the link in a new tab and clicked around to make sure all links worked and that I liked the view of the final product. Fortunately, everything worked as I expected and I was pleased with the published site. As a final check, I emailed myself the link, logged out of Weebly, and examined the page again. Success.
Updating and Editing
At this point, the shell of the page is created enough to submit my Task 1. When I am ready to add elements, I will simply log into my Weebly account and view the page on the right with the editing tool menu on the left. Depending on what I want to add, I will follow the same steps I have outlined as I created this shell. Hopefully, this page will be a living document of my technological skills as they advance during my studies and help me find future employment in technology-rich schools.

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American Lit: PLE, VLE, 1:1 Tech, (not really) Flipped Classroom, and 85% Proficient or Advanced

I am sold on the use of effective technology and goal setting in class.  While I wanted to see more last year, it didn’t happen. But the results were still pretty incredible: 85% proficient or advanced on the Tennessee State English III EOC. While I know I can take some credit, the reality is that my students rocked it out. And setting high expectations, monitoring progress, and engaging students in goal setting are the biggest reasons for such success. So, now January 8, I have a new group to repeat the success. Except I’m going to do it better this time.

This week, I’m going to spend time establishing procedures and expectations. We will complete all diagnostic testing as well, so that will act as the start for goal setting for the students. What resources are we using? A variety of free and paid services…

Monday – No school.

Tuesday – Teaching the Caught ‘Ya and etymology process. Students will complete an information sheet to help me get to know them and plan for rewards. We will then set up the interactive notebook and begin taking a few notes on key information pertaining to the course and how to pass. I promise to post my interactive notebook plan when I have it set. UnfortunTely I don’t have all of the kinks worked out for this,but I do know that even in a digital class, students need the actual written notes.

Wednesday – Complete the Caught ‘Ya and Etymology.  From here, students will learn to put documents into the interactive notebook by placing our course user’s guide in the notebook. Next, I will introduce the PLE process with a few screenshots and have students use any avatar creator app to create the avatar they will use to track theirs Rogers’s throughout the curriculum. I’m going to print the avatars and makes trading cards out of them. It’s going to be awesome.

Thursday – Students are going to take a Pretest on Noredink. This is a mostly free site where students can take a test and you can create lessons for them based on their areas of weakness,  I required students to complete two lessons a week on NoRedInk, all outside of class.  It went well, and I’m looking at doing on lesson the first nine weeks and two the second nine weeks,  I haven’t entirely decided yet. Before they can do the pretest, the site gives an interest survey so all of the questions are about things they are interested in. You should give this app a check by visiting

Friday – Reading Plus. This is a paid service that I’m still not convinced produces the types of gains we were told to expect. However, it is on the approved RTI list for the state. The students take diagnostic and insight testing, and then the program outlines a reading lesson plan learning path for the rest of the year that is intended to get them performing on grade level. Some students are assigned nine lessons and some only four. For accountability, I graded the lessons in terms of completion because the system gives the teacher a percent completion of the suggested lesson. If students do all of the suggested lessons, I will give them them the highest earned score in the grade book. This has helped about a third of students in the past, but I’m holding out that I will see Reading Plus as a more effective tool this time around, I will keep you posted.

This will round out the first week, and it will take us to our PLC meeting. We are moving into the Tennessee EOC Benchmark, goal setting, and How to Read Literature like a Professor, but you’ll have to check back for more details.

I am not a very good blogger.

Well, here I am trying again to master the blog aspect.  I have a few elements that are going to make me much more effect at this.

This isn’t my first time. I’ve taught this class a few times, so I have a better idea of what I’m doing. Since I won’t be starting from scratch, I should have the time to inform you of our efforts. Also, I’m working on my Master’s, and I’m using this content to help me along the way.  No, I’m really going to finish this time.  

Today was the first day with students, and I’m excited to have a very nice transitional lesson – Accountable Talk.  We’re using this as a school wide strategy, but we have to do some field testing to see how it will work.

I utilized the same introduction to the course, “What does it mean to be American?”  With all of the ISIS stuff on the other side of the globe, the students were a bit more engaged in the concept than previously seen.  

My first step at build in Accountable Talk was to loosely structure it and watch what happened.  I gave the prompt and individual think time (Shout out to Grouping!), then I said, “Okay, so let’s discuss.”  And no one said anything.  I called a few non-volunteers, but no one was really that interested in it.  I restated the question.  “Okay, so I asked a friend of mine who is a Marine.  He said it is being a patriot.  But what does that mean?”  I’m fairly confident we heard crickets.  Bugs smacking into the window.

I changed pace by showing a video of American images, and students were able to come to a stunning conclusion: “At the end of the day, we have nothing to connect to that. None of us know anyone in the military or a big lawyer or anyone that’s a hero on that level. So why would be know what being an American was about?”


Redraft.  I had students start with the letters of the alphabet on the left and write in words that started with that letter on the line.  Once we had words – Voter, United, Democratic – we were able to start thinking about what it means again.

Then I noticed I had only thirty minutes until the bell.

Darn. But this is a great place to introduce our first source of the course: a Buzz Feed article from the Japanese perspective on how to recognize an American.  From here, students read and compared each “trait” of the Americans (from the outsider perspective).


Homework was two-fold:

1.  What is the point of this article? Be prepared to discuss it tomorrow.

2. Watch the news. Find something to stir something patriotic inside of you.


Step 1 – Intro the Course (Establish a Purpose)

Well, with this “polar vertex” we didn’t have much of a school week.

First, we were deprived our teacher work day.  Now, I love a snow day as much as the next guy, but everyone is excited to get out for the winter break. When you know you have that work day to plan and print information before the first day of the next semester… well, procrastination is just natural.  

Fortunately, I have this whole high-risk pregnancy going and I had the moment to print out the course syllabus and extra copies of the Scarlet Letter summer reading project for each of the students.  I also called home to make sure each parent knew about the assignment since only two students completed it or turned it in as expected, but out of an entire class, only three phone numbers were correct in the computer system.  (So if you are a parent, please make sure your child’s school has the right phone number in case there is an emergency.)

None the less, planning for the actual lessons was going to be a struggle since the PLC meeting was not going to happen.  We had to wing it based on the conversation we had in December about what we thought we were going to do in January.  And then we would use our planning time on the day back to finalize everything.  …But I HATE being a last minute planner!

For the first day, I started with the bell ringer structure of the Caught ‘Ya system. We have had such great success with this, and we have the files built since we used it last semester as well.  When students entered, there were two piles, the syllabus and summer reading assignment, for them to gather materials on the way in.  On the board, the Caught ‘Ya was displayed with directions for students to write the sentence as correctly as possible on a slice of paper.  (Use of the word slice just makes them smile for some reason.You should try it.)  From here we corrected the grammar together and moved into our daily vocabulary strategy.  Starting with content immediately sets a good tone for the course.  Plus it gives the teacher time to do attendance and make sure everything is ready for the day.  Next, I had key points from the syllabus on a PPT to review.  Before I went through my key points, I had students preview the page and ask if they had any questions based on what they read.  Then, I had questions for them to answer on the PPT.  If the answer was correct, I moved on. If not, I went over that part of information to make sure students know expectations.  Then, those questions turned into a syllabus/expectations quiz for the next day.  This is their first grade, but it lets them start out on a positive and holds them accountable for knowing what is expected.  And then you take away the victim-itis of “I didn’t know” in the near future.

After review of the syllabus, I tried to start a short discussion to let students bash American Literature for a moment.  They all claim to “hate” writings of “old, dead white guys” for various reasons, most of which they don’t seem to be able to explain.  I introduced the course-long essential question as well: What does it mean to be an American?  The idea here is to try to build a little patriotism in the study of the founding documents and to help them create their own identify as an American.  I want them to be able to do this on their own rather than just regurgitate someone’s ideas or believe every word they hear.  The first step was to have them create a definition for Americanism.  I gave them a moment to think and write, and then we shared out.  I was careful not to say anything to sway their ideas.  After they shared with a short discussion, we watched a video I created for the class (find it at  Students were given time to think and rewrite, and then since the bell was about to ring I had them submit their answers so I could read them.  I would say it was informative.  

A note on the video: Feel free to use this or create your own.  The beauty of this one is these heroes are all local, and the images of their families are people the students would have seen.  In particular, my brother is there as well.  Students will take a topic the way it is presented. They see it matters to me, and putting a face to an idea makes it more worthwhile.  So if you have access to these heroes in your area or students from your school, use that instead of this.  You can easily create a video with Windows Movie Maker (free program), .jpg images of your choice, and an overlay of patriotic songs.  

For here, we moved to our Common Core Workshop.  This is intended to introduce Common Core with specific attention to close reading as a process, text-dependent questions with REQUIRED answers WITH evidence, and writing with a focus on claim development.  This semester, we have to hit this even harder because they are taking the TN Writing Assessment on Feb. 4.  

If you are interested, you can find this file for FREE at  You will also be able to make changes as you see fit in order to help your students.

 Please stay tuned for the next entry on the Common Core Workshop, how it is implemented, and how it helps student achievement.  Have questions, comments, or ideas I should try? Let me know.  You and I actually play on the same team in educating our future.

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I have abandoned you for a while. I have no excuse… I had to let something drop and this was the one thing with the least effect on anything else pertaining to the school year. It was a new curriculum to plan and teach, and in many ways I had to master it myself because I haven’t experienced American Literature like this since college.

But now I’m ready.

I have studied, learned, tried, failed, revisited, succeeded, tweaked, and survived. Now we are moving on to the second semester, and I feel more like I can keep up the blog to network with other teachers and get ideas or feedback or whatever you have to offer me.

So, that said, I’m back.