Sunday, January 5, 2014

Unit and Lesson Planning Template

I couldn't find anything simple enough for every day use so I created my own:  

Topic of study: 

Why is this topic important?

Essential Questions:

Common Core State Standards addressed in this Unit:

Differentiation Choices:
-- Socratic Seminar                                   --Blooms Taxonomy                 -- Vocabulary Webs                              --Paul’s Reasoning
--Webb’s Depth of Knowledge                --Flexible Grouping                   -- Literature Webs                                  --Hamburger Model
--Multiple Intelligences                             --JGB Model                             --Problem Solving                               --Grouping                                                (Junior Great Book)
--Experiments                                           --Debate                                     --Choice
--Compacting                                           --Acceleration                             --Tiered lessons                 
--Project-based learning                           --Advanced materials                  --Independent study         
--Active Learning Strategies                    --Real world topics/issues

Differentiation Choices
Content –. Use of more advanced or complex concepts, abstractions, and material. Content modified to include greater focus on multicultural concepts, issues, themes, events, and people.  Curricular resources and materials are multicultural. 
Process – Activities are redesigned to be more intellectually demanding.  High-level thinking, problem solving, inquiry-based learning are used, as well as acceleration.  Instructional strategies including teaching styles are modified to match more closely the learning and cognitive styles of culturally diverse students .  Students’ cultural backgrounds and characteristics are given substantive consideration in instructional practice.

Product- Students share their learning in varied ways particularly by producing products that are authentic, address real issues, and have real audiences.  Students might develop products that address issues and solve problems germane to culturally diverse populations.
Project-based Assessment at the end of the unit:

Daily Lesson Plan Template (modified from

Date: ______________________

Day: M  T  W  TH  F

Materials Needed:

Text ________________________



Bloom’s Taxonomy:
Evaluation __
Synthesis __
Analysis __
Application __
Understanding ___
Knowledge __

Types of Activities:
Co-Op Learning __
Independent Work __
Small Group __
Teacher-Assisted __
Hands-on __

Kept the lesson aligned __
Used data to plan the lesson. ___
Stated my objectives clearly ___
Engaged students__
Integrated Bloom’s Taxonomy __
Provided time for interaction ___
Gave feedback ___

Standards/Objectives:  What should students be able to do at the end of the lesson? 

Instructional Procedures:

Opening hook for learning (How will I get students’ attention?)

Direct Instruction (How will I present new material and make learning relevant?

Guided and Independent Practice (How will I get students to practice what has just been taught?)

Closure (How will I bring closure to summarize learning and enhance retention of the material just taught?)

Assessment (What data will give me information about students’ understanding of today’s lesson?)


Follow Up (How will this assessment/evaluation be used?)

Additional Resources:

Teaching/learning reflections

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giftedness as expressed in art and literature...

Ten comments from this new biography about Norman Rockwell's childhood, American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon that express the challenges and delights of being young and gifted:

  1. Growing up, Rockwell felt neglected by his parents and overshadowed by his older brother, Jarvis, a first-rate student and athlete who was one year ahead of him in school.  Norman, by contrast was slight and pigeon-toed and squinted at the world through owlish glasses (pg. 27)
  2. His grades were barely passing and he struggled with reading and writing - today, he surely would be labeled dyslexic (pg. 27).
  3. When did Rockwell realize he wanted to be an artist?  He first demonstrated a talent for drawing when he was "six or seven," as he recalled (pg. 30) 
  4. Rockwell won his first prize in December 1905, for a now-lost drawing he entered in The New York Herald's Young Contributors Contest.  He was eleven years old (pg. 31)
  5. He went through public school in Mamaroneck and already art was his main interest.  It was, in truth, the only subject on which he could concentrate, that forced his sprawling thoughts into focus.  Whenever a teacher turned to face a blackboard, or looked down at a lesson book for any length of time, he would resume drawing on the pad that he carried with  him (pg. 35). 
  6. Ms. Julia M. Smith, his eighth grade teacher… would ask him to come up to the front of the classroom and draw pictures in chalk on the blackboard as the other students watched (pg. 35). 
  7. Miss Smith fussed over his drawings.  She made him feel that he was artistic and hence special and not required to live by the rules, that being artistic somehow made up for his failure to excel in baseball.  He would keep in touch with her for the rest of her life, and she is one of the few people from his childhood for whom he admitted to feeling a special fondness.  Later he would marry three times and each time he married a schoolteacher (pg. 35).
  8. On September 7, 1909,  Norman began his freshman year at Mamaroneck High School and three years of unremitting academic struggle (pg. 35). 
  9. He got a grade of 50 in algebra in his first quarter, which must have seemed like a new low, until his third term when he scored an impressively abysmal 28 (pg. 35). 
  10. He was seventeen years old and his boyhood was over.  But it would live on his paintings.  Boyhood would be one of the great themes of his art and it would give him the chance to rewrite the whole story (pg. 38)
This is a wonderful biography about a great and gifted American artist.  If you don't have time to read the book, enjoy this 45 minute biography available online on the Biography Channel:  Norman Rockwell on the Biography Channel 

Another source of information about the biography is the NPR interview with Deborah Solomon.  Beyond my lifelong love and admiration for Norman Rockwell's art - this interview inspired me to purchase the book.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monday Debate Club and Tuesday Robotics Club


The topics for the second session include: 
No country should have a veto on the UN Security Council

This is a challenging topic for students aged 11-13.  They have limited knowledge about the United Nations and the Security Council.  This week we invited our seventh grade World Cultures teacher to speak to the students.  We spent a good hour + in conversation.  Then we watched a video by William Spaniel.

Our debate is on Saturday, December 14th. Students are using Google Docs to organize their arguments. 


We moved the First Lego League table into my tiny office.  I will get a picture of the cramped situation for my entry next week.  However, it is better there than on the stage.  Why?  Because in order to leave the table set up so that students can practice their missions - we need to leave all of the pieces on the board.  Those clever lego pieces will not last on the stage in the cafeteria (previous location) - they will become lego toys for middle school students.  Disaster.  Therefore it is taking up a big chunk of my office.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Book Discussion

There is more than one way to burn a book.  And the  world
is full of people running about with lit matches. 
Ray Bradbury author of FAHRENHEIT 451

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Ten comments about this book: 
  1. I could not put it down - I read until I finished it at 1:30am on a school night. 
  2. The author is Laurie Halse Anderson and she knows her books are controversial.   
  3. I had deep concern, empathy, and compassion for the main character, Melinda. 
  4. I read the book because I have middle school students who are cheerful and happy and then I have those who are suffering from depression caused by challenging experiences in their lives.  This book helped me think about how that difficulty might manifest itself in the middle school setting - so that I can offer support and guidance as needed.  
  5. I am not sure I would read this book with my eighth grade book group.  I'm not sure I feel comfortable discussing the rape of a 13 year old with my 13 year olds… 
  6. I will share the book with other teachers.
  7. I will put the book on my bookshelf so that students who want to read it can. 
  8. Another book that causes me similar angst - Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  The book is on my bookshelf and kids check it out, but in middle school I am not willing to be the one to discuss such violent topics with my students. 
  9. When I was 12, I read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings .  The book changed my life.  I was able to think quietly about issues like racism, incest, loneliness, confusion, and moving beyond difficult times in life.  I did not need to read this book in a group - I "got it" on my own, by myself, and I liked it that way. 
  10. Reading is a personal experience - reflection, interpretation, and the pondering of ideas is part of the joy of reading all alone, late at night, in your room…. 
Final note - should you, or I decide to read and discuss this book with young people, Laurie Halse Anderson has a website with tools to assist in that process.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Reflections

Three new education reforms in Maryland are causing so much stress for teachers that some say they are feeling the need to take medication.  The three new programs include:
  • a new testing system 
  • new ways to evaluate teachers 
  • a new set of education standards: Common Core State Standards 
Since I am no longer classroom-based - I do not feel the same anxiety as teachers - but I witness it and I hear their concerns: 
  • What if my students score poorly on the test? A test none of us has ever seen before… 
  • Am I properly preparing my students to do well on the test? 
  • I have an assignment to type up a lesson plan for an observation - this can take up to six hours over the weekend… 
  • I need to learn to write objectives in CCSS language - every day. 
  • When can I find time to write units of study and my own curricula since none is available in my district? 
  • Should I give students essay assignments as assessments rather than projects? Because there are lots of essays on the assessments we've seen so far… However, projects involve more creative and critical thinking and students enjoy them...
  • When am I going to get technology to support this new way of teaching and learning?  
  • Are my students having fun? 
  • Are my students challenged? 
  • Am I having fun?  
  • And so much more…. unnecessary pressure and worry… 
My self supporting solution to all of this angst: Transcendental Meditation and R.Carlos Nakai.  

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Character Sketch Project 2013

This is a creative writing assignment and art project
using descriptive vocabulary, similes, and metaphors.

Assignment:  Create your own character: it can be a real person, an animal, an imaginary creature, even an alien.   You will tell your audience (classmates, teacher, other students in the school what your character: does, thinks, and says in order to help them infer the character traits of the character you created).  

Think about the personality you want your character to have.  How does your character look?  What about your character’s feelings?  What does your character do and think?  A written character description is called a character sketch.  You will be creating a character – making a model of that character – and writing a one page character sketch. 

Here are the requirements for your project:

1.    Your character’s name.
2.    A physical description.
3.    Your character’s greatest strength.
4.    Your character’s greatest weakness.
5.    Your character’s favorite hangout.
6.    What does your character wear or carry around?

7.    A major goal of your character.
8.    A least two similes  or other figurative language (alliteration, personification, etc…)

9.     At least eight adjectives.
10. Your character’s likes, dislikes, and some actions, etc.

Additional information: 
·      Adjectives:  describe or modify nouns:  She had long, green hair (What kind of hair? – long green)
·      Similes – compare two unlike things using the word like or as:  Her long, green hair was tangled as spaghetti.

Your MUST add an illustration (maximum size 8 ½ by 11). 
You can type the assignment if you choose and put the illustration in a text box or at the end of the character sketch.


Meet Pearlina the poet.  Perlina is sixteen years old, 6’1” tall ,and slender like a stick.  She has curly black hair that frequently falls in her fawn-like eyes.  Pearlina’s greatest strength is her ability to write creative original poetry.  Her greatest weakness is mathematics and she struggles to solve problems in her algebra class.  Pearlina likes to hangout at Bus Boys and Poets a restaurant located in Hyattsville, Maryland.  She loves to go there because it is named for the greatest poet in the world (this is Pearlina’s opinion), Langston Hughes.  Pearlina carries around a brown leather journal so that she can jot down poems as soon as they come to her clever mind.  Pearlina wears black boots with brass buckles, and a baby blue skirt.  She always wears a vest over her white shirt.  Her shirt has a brightly colored peace sign stitched to the front.

Pearlina’s major goal is publish a book of poetry for children.  She wants all children to learn to love poetry just like she does!  In school Pearlina is a loner and likes to sit alone at lunch and in class so that she can write poetry.  Lately though Pearlina has become popular because Beyonce bought some of her poems to use as lyrics for a new song.  Pearlina takes it all in stride though because she just writes poetry because she has a passion for the spoken word.  Peace.

Adjectives in this essay:
·      Tall
·      Slender
·      Curly
·      Creative
·      Greatest
·      Brown
·      Black
·      Baby blue
·      Brightly colored

Similes in this essay:
·      Slender like a stick
·      Fawn-like eyes

·      Falls into her fawn-like eyes
·      Black boots with brass buckles and a baby blue skirt

Cultural Experiences: Creating Circles

Maggie N. Nassif, PhD, MBA the Administrative Director at the National Middle East Language Resource Center at Brigham Young University came to Kenmoor Middle School today to teach a group of students about Arabic language, culture, and art.  Very informative - these lessons last a lifetime.  

Grace's notes about Arabic words. 

Students learned to write their names in Arabic. 

Students sharing ink and pens to write their names. 

Maggie leads the discussion. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

This Year's Shared Reading Book!

I feel like I almost missed this book.  Fortunately, I didn't!  

Each year I start with a shared read-aloud.  I have to write grants to get money so that I have enough copies for each student.  This year - that will be more expensive because this book is only available in hard back.  Here is some information about Wonder - provided by

Follow this link to see a video trailer about the book: Wonder trailer.
Follow this link to see a video by the author: R.J. Palacio.

Other great books for starting the year: 

More on shared read-alouds: who, what, where, when, why and how... later!