|Professional Development News|
ReadWorks is a free site that lets you choose and use readings for your students that relate to your subject and at the lexile you choose. Even better, you can sort by skill! Perfect for thinking skills, close reading, content-based reading, and more.
To use Readworks
So many choices. For example, here are 7th grade life sciences readings
if you are a sixth grade teacher you can use any of the other blue tabs as well since they are K6, but only the Reading Passages tab is grade K-12
Perplexors are word puzzles that require close reading and or math skills plus deductive reasoning to solve the problems.
Introduce Perplexors the first weeks of school next year as group activities, then you can incorporate them into your lesson plans throughout the year any time you need:
Since my last lesson idea post was very standardized EOG prep, I thought this was a good time to mention two math and reading skills resources you can incorporate into class that will help your student not just with standardized testing skills but also with logic and higher order thinking skills that will help them well past the time their standardized test taking days are over.
Ms. Lyttle and Ms. Malone saw Perplexors in use during their PL visit to Park Road Montessori's sixth grade.
Perplexors offer free samples and here is the Link To Purchase if you like the samples. Specific types of perplexors such as Grid perplexors, Venn Diagaram perplexors and more books are available on Amazon and elsewhere.
Perplexor Tutorials are available on Youtube:
Basic level Math Perplexor Sample:
Expert Level Math Perplexor Sample:
Basic level Perplexor sample
Level D Perplexor Sample
Here's an embedded perplexor for you to see:
Some teachers say " Don't bring your drama into my classroom" Mr. Milligan requires it. His Pigman reenactment is a Piedmont tradition.
Over the years Mr. Milligan has honed the Pigman Trial project into a complete interdisciplinary lesson that encapsulates the best of IB, reading comprehension, creative thinking, multiple intelligences, and real-world skills development. That's a pretty impressive list from just one unit but it is an all-encompassing one that is true PBL, project based learning.
Even if you don't want to copy Mr. Milligan's full unit (and honestly who else could?) you can easily adapt pieces of dramatic-based learning to help your students master your content. It could be as simple as having students perform skits to explain units of a text, vocabulary charades or as complex as putting an aspect of your own content "on trial" or having students create a character from your content area and remain "in character" through a full class of interaction.
See Ms. Gurthie for more ideas or to plan together.
A student videographer prepared this full-length documentary video of this year's Pigman trial. Sure it's three hours long, but anywhere you click will show students thinking and arguing their point, and helping each other develop understanding in the process.
Thanks, Mr. Milligan, for using your own gifts in designing this active learning experience for Piedmont's seventh grade! For more information you can view some of Mr. Milligan's unit from his presentation on the Pigman Trial PBL year's North Carolina gifted conference here .
Are you considering trying a STEAM-infused student-choice-driven product into a curriculum that is usually paper and pen based? Ms. Brown and I use these talking points to introduce Maker Movement STEAM-infused learning into her sevent grade English Language Arts class for a novel project.
Here is the basic gist of how we introduced it together that you can adapt to suit your needs:
"The Maker Movement is something teachers are excited about in education because it gives you an opportunity to use your gifts that may not be traditionally gifts you can use or show off in school.
Now some of you are straight A students (is it cool to be straight A? Yes it is!) and for you writing might be your gift. You should choose to re write the ending.
Maybe writing is your thing but you are usually a songwriter - then write a song.
Maybe you struggle with words but you are good at building. This is your chance to use that skill. Many people say that the future will need you to use your skills for entrepreneurship more than we had to in Ms. Brown and my's day. So you need to know what your good at and how to sell yourself as a brand so people will want to hire you.
Don't choose the art choice if you don't have still in drawing. Don't wait til the last day and try to draw something on the bus when you have no skill, haven't made it special.
If you know what makes you special, then do that. If you don't know come see me in the media center and I'll help you choose.
One skill that is becoming more and more important is the skill of videography. (Tell story of $75,000 Belk Video Contest) If you'd like to do a video trailer of the book, I will be back next week to show you how. You need to really tell the story with video. Make a trailer, but don't make a video that doesn't really speak to the book or show your knowledge of the characters.
Maybe you'd like to create a 3D Object- Choose the whirligig building choice. If you know someone who is good with tools and that is something you'd like to do ask them to help you build with wood. You can also just cut paper and straws. But whatever you do make it great.
One of the points of maker movement is to use skills we don't always give you a chance to develop in school. You can code a whirligig in Scratch, engineer one to move, anything you want. But start work early so you have time to do a good job, or to fail and decide you want to change. Don't wait unitl the due date. Show off so I can post it and make you famous! Hopefully what you make will inspire other students to be their best and other teachers to try more projects like this.
Many teachers here at Piedmont have used student-created movies to teach their content. Above are just two examples - a stop motion film of an scene from Seedfolks for Language arts and a video of a student created Minecraft Pyramid from Mrs. Kay's social studies Ancient Egypt unit.
Try these lesson plans to get started
Our School Resources:
Recommended BYOT apps for movie making :
If using a shared ipad, you can upload and download the video as needed from Google Drive:
(Sorry I ironically broke the cardinal rule of movie making - NEVER HOLD YOUR DEVICE LONGWAYS Learn from my mistake!)
This video shows how to upload and share from your device
This video shows how to turn in a video link for an assigment on Google Classroom
b22238Thanks to @btcostello05 on Twitter who pointed out to me that that this is the last year any k-8 students would have been born before 9/11. His school event and the members of his Voxer group also inspired this post. And thanks to@artlaflamme for suggesting the documentary.
The following lesson was created after reading the children's book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein.
It tells the true story (nonfiction alert for your Common Core needs!) of Mr. Phillipe Petit walking the wires between the Twin Towers when the World Trade Center was first built.
Documentary footage here
The stunt embodies beautiful messages of hope in humanity and of optimism and creativity.
It should inspire some good conversations if you read it and discuss with your class.
It can be an accompaniment to a more traditional memorial lesson or a good note to end on that may help heal hurts.
5 Steps Lesson :
Introduce the purpose. "Today is 9/11 and on this day in history we memorialize those who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City among other locations.
The Twin towers were the tallest towers in the world - a quarter of a mile high. One little-known fact about them is that when they were first built, a high rope walker actually walked on a wire between them! He snuck up to their roof, shot an arrow with a wire on it across to his friends on the other tower and then performed for amazed onlookers for more than an hour in the sky!
That daredevil's name is Phillipe Petit and he has some inspiring words for you about how to follow your dreams and achieve the impossible.
2- Read storybook and/or show one of the following video clips, depending on the ages or interests of your students:
3- Discussion Questions and larger lesson tie ins:
"He looked not at the towers but at the space between them"
Issue: Thinking "outside the box" and an artist temperament:
Have you ever seen something totally differently than most people would? Do you see yourself as an artist in how you see things? Why or why not?
"Of course he knew that ...the police and the owners of the towers would never allow it. You must be crazy! they would say. You'd fall for sure"
Issue: Positive Deviance:
Was he wrong to break the law? What is the role of public and private safety versus an artistic dream...
Issue: How far should you go for a friend? for your job?:
Would you have helped Phillipe carry the 440 lb reel of cable up 180 stairs to the roof if he was your friend?
Would you have walked on the wire to stop him if you'd been a cop then?
"Bad luck" thought Phillipe but he did not quit.
Would you have quit trying amidst his setbacks? Should he have? How do you motivate yourself past your strings of 'bad luck?' do you believe in bad luck? good luck?
"Though during his performance some boys playing on his wire jerked it and Phillipe fell...but caught himself"
Have you ever done something accidental or on purpose that messed up someone else? How did you react?
Have you ever "caught yourself" and fixed a problem that was about to be big?
"He could feel the towers breathing.
He was not afraid.
He felt alone and happy and absolutely free"
Issue: Figurative language: Why does the author say 'he could feel the towers breathing" when we all know towers don't breathe?
He was not afraid Have you ever felt unafraid when others would be scared?
When have you felt absolutely free?
Issue: metacognition and taking another's point of view: Why do you think I read this book with you today? Why did we spend this time discussing it? How would you commemorate 9/11 if you were a teacher?
4- Physical activities:
Did you get a feel for Phillipe's bravery (see the added talks below for more on that) doing all that up in the air so high! Would you try high wire walking? What physical feats are you proud of/impressed by?
5- Conclusion and/ Links to Further Exploration:
Let's all try to honor the victims of 9/11 today by not giving up when things seem hard and by believing in ourselves and our dreams.
To learn more about what Mr. Petit can teach us,
Click below To view Mr.Petit speaking (some adult language- please preview and show clips as needed) TED Talk-style on the highly educational topics of:
"Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently" - Maya Angelou
Poet, performer, professor, and powerhouse Maya Angelou died today in Wake Forest NC at age 86.
If you would like to honor her today, you can read a poem of hers or ask students to do so.
Here is one that can also be used as a point of discussion on her passing, or the passing of any great person in students' family or society at large:
Discussion questions and activities follow. If you wish, select a few that you'd really like to try. I am a big believer in not asking a question unless you are TRULY curious what the answer will be.
If you don't want to discuss the poem, you can start by asking students if they agree with the lead quotation above.
When Great Trees Fall
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
"We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike." - Maya Angelou
Discussion Questions and Activities -
Which one of these images is most powerful or disturbing to you? Why?
Try Personalizing learning with a Tool like BlendSpace next lesson.
Ms. Bailey has been trying out the site Blendspace in her classroom. She uses it through Edmodo, and is getting great results with it as a tool to personalize learning according to her students needs and move them up in skills. She reports also that she can see exactly how they are doing via Bendspace teacher reports. Read on to see photos of how Ms. Bailey uses it and for links to get started if you'd like to try it!
Want to know more about Blendspace ?
Here is a BlendSpace about Blendspaces made by a middle school teacher
If you like the idea of blogging and shared learning, notice that blendspace also posts students work so they can collaborate and share.
I really want someone at Piedmont to try with their students to create this milk jug igloo Canadian teacher Ray Hoppins posted on Twitter last night.
. Besides the obvious social skills such as perseverance grit and teamwork- I'll help you brainstorm how this can fit into your content objectives as well - because I selfishly really want to see one in person!
And just imagine, when the lesson is over, you've got an awesome chill spot or reading nook!
This post was inspired by CMS's own Malik Richardson's (@mrich1191 on Twitter) tweet of this article:
Ms. Burick (@NerdAlert497 on Twitter) devised a method of using backchannel in class with non-fiction reading that can work with any discipline anytime of the year. It also is a great first step at BYOT integration for teachers who are not sure how to use devices in class to increase learning. She simply opens a backchannel and projects it on her screen as student thumb through books on the topic she has provided. As students encounter facts they want to share, they post them for each other. This can be done even with a textbook chapter, but students love to see a large selection of inviting library books in the room to pick from.
Not only does "Nerdalert Backchannel" allow all voices to be heard, Ms. Burick reports it motivates the students to read more as they challenge each other to come up with the "best" facts. It allows sharing to happen at a convenient time for both the reader and the writer, so the entire class does not have to stop reading when someone wants to share a fact. Students can look up from their reading as they wish and contribute at their own pace. It also forces students to think through their thoughts a bit more than just raising their hands, and gives instant feedback for sharing in the form of "oohs and aaahs" from classmates!
I am Lisa Gurthie the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary, holistic education, and unschooling school to make it more real and relevant. One day I will modernize my "about" page. Check out the other blogs on this site for Lesson Ideas, Celebration of Good Teaching, and Piedmont PD