Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chapter Assessors Using Gridded Response - More Math in ELA!

The Gridded Response is utilized on all types of Math Assessments.

Some students struggle with the format of the Gridded Response, which has been added more heavily to the North Carolina End of Grade Math Assessments.  Common mistakes include writing a Mixed Number in the answer grid and moving the decimal in percent problems.  I want my students to excel in this area so I have found a wonderful way to integrate this concept into English/Language Arts.

I have conceived Chapter Assessors Using Gridded Response.  The document has about 6 Gridded Responses.  After reading a chapter from our class novel, my students will have to grid their assessment/view of the chapter.  The range is -5 to +5 just like the Plot Profile ( that I previously used.  They will also be able to insert decimals.  For example, some student may believe that the chapter was a 3.25.

This is a great tool to employ because it will generate an immense amount of dialogue.  Students will have diverse opinions regarding the chapters so they will certainly insert different values into the Gridded Response.  However, all students will receive great practice with the grids.

This concept can definitely be adapted to fit any subject area.  I cannot wait to hear what my students have to say about the strategy.  Let me know what you think.

 Chapter ______                  Chapter ______

      Chapter ______                  Chapter ______

      Chapter ______                  Chapter ______

Sunday, February 16, 2014

NCCTM Eastern Regional Conference

Watson College of Education, the site of the NCCTM Eastern Regional Conference.

On February 15th, I traveled to UNC-Wilmington for the NCCTM Eastern Regional Conference.  I was happy to trek down to New Hanover County because I had grown quite bored with being sequestered from the outside world due to numerous snow days.  I am particularly pumped anytime that I can share my experiences with the math-based novel, The Absolute of Mike.

Here is footage that recaps my interactions with all of the math-perts (math experts) as well as highlights from my presentation.

In the video below, I provide an overview of the Plot Profile.  This strategy allows me to incorporate more math into my ELA classroom.

Here is a Prezi that reveals my complete presentation:

After my presentation, I attended numerous sessions.  I enjoyed them all. However, I was particularly impressed with Talking the Talk: Strategies to Get Kids Discussing Mathematics.  

Whitney Richardson-Reinert (6th Grade Teacher from Shallotte Middle School) was the facilitator, and if she is half as good with her students as she was during this presentation then her students are in GREAT hands.  She shared tons of fantastic and useful games/activities (You Sunk My Valentine, Roll for One, Cue Cards, ABC Brainstorming in Math, and The Restaurant) that will certainly jumpstart academic dialogue. 

Here is her email address ( if you would like Mrs. Richardson-Reinert to conduct Professional Development for your school or district.  A session with her would definitely benefit your staff and students!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Can I Do When There Is Not a Movie Version of My Class Novel?

Novels are frequently adapted into movies.  However, there are numerous titles that have not been adapted.  What's a teacher to do?

When reading class novels, here is frequent asked question that I receive, "Is there a movie?"  If I earned a penny every time that I heard this question or some variation of this question, I could easily build my dream home without a mortgage.  

Students love watching film adaptations, and I wholeheartedly believe that film adaptations can be a great way to extend learning. There has never been an occasion in my class where we just watched the movie.  I always incorporate intentional activities that serve as remediation or enrichment.

Now here is the question...what can I do when there is not a movie version of my class novel?  In those scenarios, I actively search for movies that have similar themes and topics.  It can be a challenge to find the perfect fit, but a fun challenge nonetheless.

Here are some samples of my mergers:

A few years ago, I developed a complete Author Study on the beloved Roald Dahl.  We read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The first book has two movie versions while the second book does not have one.  I searched and searched until I found The Astronaut Farmer starring Billy Bob Thornton.  The movie like the book revolves around a character named Charlie who travels to space.  Their paths to space are quite diverse, which led to engaging classroom dialogue.

The movie version of The Giver is currently in production.  When I read the book last year, I had to improvise.  I opted to utilize The Princess Diaries starring Academy Award Winners: Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway.  In both the book and movie, a character is selected for a huge responsibility as well as trained by a knowledgeable, seasoned mentor.

The Absolute Value of Mike and The Odd Life of Timothy Green both depict strong, protagonists who change the lives of the local townspeople that they encounter.

I like to utilize the ABC Brainstorming Sheet (Below) when relating a novel to an unconventional movie.  The movie title functions as the topic, and I have the students to put the book title in parenthesis. I instruct my students to search for connections within the movie and write the word or phrase beside the appropriate letter.  In parenthesis, they write how the word or phrase relates to the book.

For example:
Topic: The Odd Life of Timothy Green (The Absolute Value of Mike)

A- Adoption (Mike tries to help Karen adopt Misha)

I personally believe that teachers can sometimes get more mileage out of comparing/contrasting books to movies that are not the exact story because it drives the students to watch the movie more intensely and critically.  Plus, they have to evoke key scenes and memories from the book.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Plot Profile: Math in the English/Language Arts Classroom

Using the Plot Profile allows the ELA Educator to incorporate Math into the ELA classroom.


I am constantly searching for ways to strategically incorporate other content areas into my English/Language Arts classroom.  I strive to expose my students to as much as possible.  Last year, I developed a complete thematic unit around the math-based novel, The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine.  I'll share more in the coming weeks. Specifically, I'll provide details about the Common Core Manuals that we created.

One day while in Barnes and Noble, I discovered a wonderful reading strategy entitled the Plot Profile.  With this strategy, students plot their assessment of each chapter based on the tension and conflict.  I love this strategy because students review key math vocabulary such as X-Axis, Y-Axis, Quadrant I, Quadrant IV, Positive Numbers, and Negative Numbers to name a few.

The X-Axis (horizontal line) represents the chapters.  The X-Axis is always positive because we cannot read negative chapters (-Chapter 7, anyone?).

The Y-Axis (vertical line) represents the tension/conflict within each chapter.  I like to use a range of -5 to +5.  Using a specific range instead of low to high forces the students to be more precise.

After we read a chapter from our class novel, my students have to write objective summaries as well as complete their Plot Profile.  This strategy has been conducive to dynamic conversations and debates.  It also helps to clarify where we are within the Elements of Plot.

In the following video, I explain the Plot Profile at the NCCTM Eastern Regional Conference in Wilmington.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tar Heel Teachers Episode 2: A Special Interview with Clay Aiken

Layout of The Official Twitter Page for Clay Aiken's Congressional Campaign

On February 5th, Clay Aiken announced his decision to run as a Democratic Candidate for the 2nd District Congressional Seat in North Carolina.  If he advances in May's primary, he will square off with Incumbent Renee Ellmers (Republican) in November.

Saturday (February 9th) before the Moral March on Raleigh, I spoke with Clay regarding his decision to run.  My interview serves as one of his first since announcing his Congressional Bid.

Click on the link below to hear what the former Special Education Teacher had to say.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tar Heel Teachers Episode 1: Teacher Tenure/Pay in NC

Two teachers supporting the NCAE's Decline to Sign Campaign

All eyes are on education in North Carolina, and unfortunately the discussions are not about Curriculum and Instruction.  Legislative Adjustments to teacher tenure or career status and a new contract system (25% of the teachers offered 4-year contracts while the other 75% will receive 1-year contracts) have everyone talking about the politics of education.

North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) has been very vocal.  The Association has sued the state, challenging the elimination of tenure and school voucher laws.  Decline to Sign, their most recent campaign, is rapidly gaining supporters. 

Recently, I sat down with Joseph Sorce (President of CCAE, Cumberland County's Local Association of Educators/Affiliated with NCAE) to discuss the campaign and other related topics.

Click on the link below to watch the interview, which serves as the first episode of our new video series.

Share your thoughts on what's going on in NC.