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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring has sprung?

Hello, all.  Horribly rainy this weekend, but a good opportunity to update the blog and TeachPoint and write UbD units and catch up on senior research papers (70 days or so to graduation)!

MRA is coming up next week in Quincy, MA.  Can't wait to see old friends and learn something new.  I am working on my half of a presentation on Secondary Close Reading.  

Last weekend, I went to my first EdCamp event: EdCamp Grafton.  What a cool day!  I'm hooked!  I made new friends, got new resources, and had terrific conversations about trends in education.  I learned about lots of cool Web sites and tools.  Free too!  Next year's will be March 21, 2015.

New to EdCamps?  Check out this link:  Also, a quick video about "unconferencing:"

The next nearby EdCamp is EdCamp Boston to which I am hoping to score a ticket:

From new friend Jennifer Leung from Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School (@jleung10 and blogging at, I got this amazingly simple and smart way of viewing writing for an exam: Why Writing an Open Response Essay is like Delivering a Pizza.  It's a terrific metaphor, and I hope to use it with my kids next year.

I've also been having fun with Twitter chats, especially #nctechat and #engchat.  #Engchat is every Monday night at 7 pm: see for more info.  Even if you can't make it, the archives are good.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

First days of Spring!

Hello, all.  This school year is really flying.  I'm gearing up to teach A Tale of Two Cities, Night, and A Midsummer Night's Dream before the end of the year.  I've never taught them before, but colleagues have been very helpful with materials.  I generally HATE teaching any book for the first time, but once it's added to my toolkit, I am grateful and ready to improve for the next time!

I've spent a lot of the year trying to build a classroom library.  I haven't checked out these used bookstores yet, but I hope to do that soon because I've heard good things about More Than Words:

I'm also hoping to get into the Ed Camp movement.  There's two local events coming up--one in Grafton, MA and one in Boston.

I am working on a presentation on secondary close reading skills for MRA in April.  I am still exploring the idea of close reading and defining it for myself.

I've been looking at a couple books on the topic: Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts and The Art of Slow Reading by Tom Newkirk.  I was able to see Newkirk speak recently at the Rhode Island Writing Project spring conference, and that was a real treat.  Even though many leaders have been critical of the Common Core, it's cool to hear how their ideas have changed and how they're integrating their timeless good ideas with new directions for thinking.

Lehman and Roberts's text is very practical and offers ideas for close reading in all genres.  Their basic premise is three-fold: pick a lens through which to view the text, read through that lens and gather evidence that reveals patterns, use the patterns to construct meaning.  It's super simple, and I think it works.  I tried something like this with Catcher in the Rye, calling the patterns motifs, and it worked well.  Huh, Holden mentions the ducks a lot.  Where does he do it?  What might it mean?

Newkirk's book is more theoretical, but it's very enjoyable for a person who loves to read as much as he does.  I did enjoy the section on "Learning by Heart," as my students do for Poetry Out Loud.

I had a colleague (read her terrific blog) who believed that the structure of the frameworks give us a sense of how to closely read: 1) read for key ideas and details; 2) on the second read, read for craft and structure; 3) on the third read, read for integration of knowledge and ideas.

I'm still getting my ideas together, but it's great to experiment and see what works in my setting.

Off to follow #nctechat tonight!  If you've never tried one of these before on Twitter, check one out.  It's so cool to see people from across the country in one (virtual) place!