Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NCCTM Conference

I presented a workshop about the math-based novel, The Absolute Value of Mike, to math teachers from all over North Carolina.

On November 1st, I was fortunate enough to present at the NCCTM Conference.  It was a wonderful experience because this English/Language Arts teacher from Cumberland County Schools was able to intermingle with math teachers from all over the State of North Carolina.  I shared with math teachers a wonderful math-based novel entitled The Absolute Value of Mike.  We discussed how math teachers could utilize The Absolute Value of Mike to teach the 8 Mathematical Practices.  Click on the video below to see a recap of my visit.

On February 15th, I will travel to Wilmington, NC to present the same workshop at the NCCTM Eastern Regional Conference.

I am particularly pumped about my upcoming session because I am going to reveal a great tool to use with novels called the Plot Profile.  This tool involves math as well.  I will provide a sample to my readers in the coming weeks!

Kinesthetic Learning in ELA Classrooms

Here are a few learning styles that must be integrated in today's classrooms!

As English/Language Arts teachers, it is a definitely a challenge to incorporate some learning styles into our content area.  Kinesthetic Learning can be particularly cumbersome for ELA educators because we sometimes struggle with how to engage our students in physical activity.  I welcome the challenge.

I recently attended a rather boring party.  As I watched the crowd "groove" to various line dances, I realized that line dances or any type of dance that involves specific choreography is conducive to ELA classrooms.  Thank goodness for that lackluster shindig because I would not have thought to take line dancing to my classroom if I was having a great time.  My mind would have been elsewhere.

Think about it...if you are following the step-by-step directions of the dance, you are employing Chronological Order whether you realize it or not.  I set out to use choreography to review not only Chronological Order, but Author's Purpose (to teach) and 2nd-Person Point of View.

My students and I have been reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.  After reading Chapter 15, my students and I compiled a list of scenarios from the book that you could teach people such as How to Swim, How to Extract Snake Venom, How to Drive to name a few.  I tasked the students with writing step-by-step directions for the scenarios within the book using 2nd-Person Point of View (You do this first, then you do that).  Altogether, there were about 15 scenarios.  I assigned a scenario to each student meaning that at least two students had the same scenario.

Before my students got started, I showed them the Teach Me How To Dougie Instructional Video.  I told everyone to get up, and we danced as two choreographers taught us How to Dougie.  I wanted to show my students that different people teach differently.  After we finished the video, my students wrote their step-by-step directions for the Walk Two Moons scenarios using 2nd-Person Point of View.  Next, they compared their step-by-step directions with that of their classmates in order to exemplify that people teach differently.

In actuality, this activity involved Chronological Order, Author's Purpose (to teach), 2nd-Person Point of View, and Compare & Contrast.  Click on the video below to view the Teach Me How to Dougie Instructional Video.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Explore the Common Core

South View Middle recently held our Curriculum Night, Explore the Common Core.  The event took place on Thursday, January 16th from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM.  We transformed our school into South View Town Square.  Our 500+ participants (students, parents, CCS Central Services Personnel, and CCS Teachers from John Griffin, Anne Chesnutt, New Century, Nick Jeralds, & Gray's Creek) investigated the curriculum through rigorous real world scenarios.  Click here to view my first post regarding Explore the Common Core:

They were able to visit the following locations: South View University, South View Public Library, South View Health & Fitness, South View Poetry Cafe and Lounge, South View Town Hall, South View Hot Dog Hut, South View Casting Agency, South View Recycling Center, South View Urgent Care, Travel Agency (On the Move), The Bobcat Times, South View Board of Elections, South View Career Center, and South View Credit Union.  Take a gander at a few pictures.

Here I am advertising the event.  Don Elliott (Art Teacher) designed this sandwich board. 

Ms. West operated our Welcome Center.  She was very hospitable.
The Bobcat Times allowed students to hone their editing skills, caption pictures, and create ads.

Mrs. Holland and Mrs. Staley recorded over 60 auditions (plays and commercials).

Mrs. Bryant helped students to explore careers in the arts.

We also had a booth regarding the Military, which was adjacent to our Hot Dog Hut.  The Hot Dog Hut earned over $500.

We had a packed house!

Students were also able to visit the Employment Security Commission.

Ms. Spellman, one of our science teachers, exposed students to the recycling process.

Our math teachers exposed the students to banks, mortgage companies, and credit card companies.
The Career Center helped students to match students with careers that complemented that skills and interests.
Every business displayed appropriate signage and cordiality.

Explore the Common Core was a magical opportunity for South View Middle School to show the relevancy of our Curriculum, and we were overjoyed because all content areas/departments were represented.  I will post more pictures and videos soon!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Literary Nonfiction Resources and Examples

Literary Nonfiction is sometimes referred to as Creative Nonfiction or Narrative Nonfiction.

Literary Nonfiction is an essential genre that is often overlooked in secondary classrooms.  Teachers readily opt to utilize conventional informational text because it is easier to locate and apply.  However, Literary Nonfiction is probably the easiest way to transition our students to factual information because it embodies numerous characteristics (character, plot, description) of fiction (the endless love of most young readers).

Here are the sub-genres of Literary Nonfiction with examples:

Personal Essays
The purpose of the personal essay is to recreate a single event in the writer's life. In One More to the Lake, E. B. White (famed author of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web) recounts his return to an enchanting lake from his childhood.  This visit is distinctly different because he is accompanied by his son.
Click here to read the essay for yourself:

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the greatest speech writers to ever live ("I Have a Dream" anyone?)  Click here to view several MLK speeches that may be unfamiliar to you:

Opinion Pieces
A great site to visit that is overflowing with opinion pieces is Room for Debate, created by the New York Times.  This site offers multiple viewpoints about news events and other timely issues from knowledgeable contributors.
Click here to visit the website:

Essays about Art and Literature:
Art must be deliberately embedded in literary conversations.  The art must complement the literature, and the literature must complement the art.  In order to achieve a "full-circle" moment, conclude the art/literature conversation with an essay about the artwork.
Here is an essay about the famous Mona Lisa

A couple of years ago, I read Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage with my 6th Graders.  The school did not have a class set so I turned the book into a PowerPoint Presentation and utilized the Cloze Procedure.
Click here to learn more about the book:

Reading a memoir might feel like a daunting task for some middle school students.  On the other hand, they might reconsider if they were introduced to a memoir by one of their favorite authors, Lois Lowry (The Giver, Number the Stars, Gathering Blue).
Click here to listen to an excerpt from Lois Lowry's Looking Back

Students should write and read journals in the English/Language Arts classroom.  The Journals of Lewis and Clark exemplify historical journals that are rich and sound.
Click here to peruse the Journals of Lewis and Clark:

Historical, Scientific, Technical, or Economic Accounts
An account is simply a report or description of an event or experience.  The Shriver Report led by THE Marie Shriver has a large bank of reports written by influential people all over the world.
Click here to make a withdrawal:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Curriculum Night and The Cosby Show? A Beautiful Pairing!

South View Middle School will host our Curriculum Night on Thursday, January 16th from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM.  It's based on an episode of The Cosby Show.

Who would have imagined that The Cosby Show would be the inspiration for a middle school Curriculum Night?  I was recently watching an intriguing episode of the show entitled Theo's Holiday.  In the episode, the Huxtables turn their brownstone into the real world in order to teach Theo about responsibility, money management, and a host of other skills.  He had to rent an apartment, buy furniture, and pay for food.

After finishing the show, I was stimulated to turn the situation into a brilliant concept for a Curriculum Night.  We could transform South View Middle School into South View Town Square in order to show our students how the curriculum truly connected to real ife.  

Here is a brief description of what we have planned for Thursday, January 16th from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM. 
  • South View Middle School will be morphed into South View, NC.  The students will investigate the curriculum through rigorous real world scenarios with visits to South View Public Library, South View University, South View Health & Fitness, South View Credit Union, South View Acting Studio, South View Travel Agency, South View Snack Hut, and so much more!
I cannot wait to see how everything turns out!  It's going to be so much fun!  I'll keep you posted.

Click on the link below to view Theo's Holiday for yourself.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter Activity - College Comparison Assignment

Winter Vacation is a wonderful time to allow students to rest and relax.  However, I also believe that Winter Vacation can be an excellent opportunity for students to review and practice pertinent skills through research and project-based learning.  Below is the Winter Activity that I assigned to my 6th Graders.  I cannot wait to hear their dialogue about the project and process.

 Team Lynx Language Arts
College Comparison Assignment
Please Complete During Winter Vacation!

Important Due Dates!
January 6, 2014 (Blue Day Students)
January 7, 2014 (Orange Day Students)

As a team, we have analyzed College Road Trip in conjunction with Walk Two Moons (our class novel about a life-changing road trip).  We watched as Melanie (the protagonist from College Road Trip) grappled between Northwestern University and Georgetown University.  We even determined if Sal (our protagonist from Walk Two Moons) should attend Northwestern or Georgetown.  We looked at key factors such as expenses, distance from home, historical facts, majors offered, and diversity. 

Now it is your turn to find an ideal college for yourself…three to be exact!  Use the template below to document the characteristics of each college you are researching.  Review all the qualities of each college to determine your first choice, second choice, and third choice.

Name of College:

Name of College:
Name of College:
Does this college offer a 2-yr degree and/or 4-yr degree?

Is the major you’re interested in offered at this campus?

Is the college you are interested in accredited?

What is the typical class size?

How big is the campus?

Is the college located in a rural or urban setting? How far is it from home?

What is the size of the town the college is located in?

If the college is in a rural area, how far is the city from the college?

How big is the student population?

Male/female ratio

What is the ethnic breakdown of the student population?

Is the college religiously affiliated?

How much is tuition and fees?

How much is room and board?

Estimate amount needed for books, supplies, transportation, food, etc.

How much does it cost to apply to the college? If accepted, how much is the deposit?

What is the deadline to apply for financial aid?

What forms must be submitted?

What percentage of students receive financial aid?

What kinds of scholarships does the college provide?

When is the deadline to apply?

Which admissions tests do you need to take?

What is the average SAT or ACT scores, GPA, and rank of the incoming students?

Is this a “safe,” “match” or “reach” school?

What are the residence hall requirements?

What kinds of dining options are available?

What kinds of clubs or organizations are you able to join?

What kinds of athletic or intramural programs does the college provide?

Are there opportunities to participate in fraternities/sororities?

What kinds of resources are available to help you do well in your first year of college?

Contact INFO
Admissions office
Phone number:

College choice ranking:

Let's Make Middle School Students College Ready!

A significant portion of the Common Core is College Readiness.  As middle school teachers, our contribution to College Readiness is so much more than just teaching our curriculum so students will be ready for high school and subsequently ready for college.  We have to infuse college discussion into our middle school classrooms.

To accomplish this task, my 6th Grade students watched College Road Trip (starring Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symone) because Walk Two Moons (our class novel by Sharon Creech) revolves around a life-changing road trip. 
  • In Cooperative Learning Groups, my students visited College Ready Stations to complete a College Planning Sheet (below) to determine if Sal (our protagonist from Walk Two Moons) should attend Georgetown University or Northwestern University (Melanie's top choices from College Road Trip).  The students evaluated the crucial areas of Expenses, Majors, History, Diversity, and Location.  The stations were filled with a plethora of information regarding these crucial areas.
Over the Winter Vacation, my students had investigate their "dream" colleges and universities using a template.  For some students, I am planting the seed of "dream" college or university, and it's so rewarding!  I cannot wait until Monday to see what colleges and universities that they chose!

College Planning Sheet
Utilize this sheet to decide which university would be the perfect choice for Sal (Protagonist of Walk Two Moons): Georgetown University or Northwestern University.


Room and Board

Books and Supplies

Personal Expenses

Transportation Expenses

Cost of Attendance
Per Year


1. Sal decided to attend Georgetown University, how much money would she pay over the course of four years?

2.     Which university costs more per year?  How much more?  If a university costs more than another, does that mean the university is superior?  Why or why not?

Bonus: Create your own word problem related to the cost of Georgetown University or Northwestern University.


3.     How would you define college major?

4.     What would be a suitable major for Sal if she attended Georgetown?  What would be a suitable major for Sal if she attended Northwestern?  How did you arrive at this conclusion?

5.     Which university offers the best majors?  Georgetown or Northwestern?  Why do you believe this to be so?


6.     Most students searching for a college consider the history of the university.  Which university has more significant historical events that would impress Sal?  Why do you believe this to be so?

7.     Please arrange the following historical events in Chronological Order.  Place a “1” beside the first event and a “6” beside the last event.

Georgetown University

Northwestern University
Start of Library

Five students receive bachelor's degrees at Northwestern's first commencement.
George Washington Visit

The School of Law opens.
Georgetown Baseball

The University officially opens on November 5.
First Student

U.S. Senator Barack Obama gives the commencement address.
First Female Student

The first football game is played against Lake Forest College.
Abraham Lincoln Visit

The first Dance Marathon is held.


8.     Create two bar graphs that depict the percentage of each race/ethnicity and the percentage of women/men.

9.     Based on the female/male percentages or race/ethnicity percentages, would Sal choose to attend Georgetown or Northwestern?  How did you arrive at this conclusion?

Location/Distance from Home

10.   Which university would be closer to home for Sal?  How many miles closer?

11.   Do you believe that Sal would want to attend college close to home or would she want to travel to a new place?  Please explain your answer.


Sal should attend _________________University because____________________________________.