From May, 2014

Vocal and Visual Delivery (and “Power Posing”!)

Delivery of information can sometimes be more powerful than the message itself- for better or worse.  In support of this, Amy Cuddy gave a TEDTalk describing a study that showed how individuals who used “power poses” for two minutes before interviewing were ranked as more appealing in job interviews than those who did not.  These different “poses,” such as the Wonder Woman, actually increase testosterone and cortisol.  The way individuals present themselves while speaking has an impact on their biological chemistry and on their perceived effectiveness.

Laura Rillero and I worked together on a lesson focused on visual and vocal delivery methods while giving speeches, and this piece of information (along with a modeling of power poses) was a small piece of that.  The intention of the activity was to prepare students to give “toasts” as characters from history or popular culture for a “Transcendental Tea Party.”  (Here is the description and resources for that assignment.)  The lesson idea originally came from Springboard, and then Melissa Larisch made these resources.  (Thanks Melissa!)

The lesson had the following learning targets:

  • ›I can define characteristics and examples of vocal and visual delivery.
  • ›I can practice and enhance my delivery skills by creating and utilizing appropriate vocal and visual techniques.

We began by having students brainstorm three examples of visual and vocal delivery and share out findings.  Then, we went over the following terms on a a Power Point (see below for this resource):

  • Tone
  • Volume
  • Pace
  • Pause
  • Non-verbal/Visual Cues

Students then followed this with a small group activity where they had two minutes to do one of the following before sharing out with the group:

  • ›Tone – Give five examples of tones and verbal or non-verbal cues for each
  • ›Volume – When should the volume be high? When should it be low? Give an example of each.
  • ›Pace – When should the pace be fast? When should the pace be slow? Give an example of each.
  • ›Pause – Give three examples of when you should pause while speaking and why it would be effective to do so in that moment
  • ›Non-Verbals – Give five examples of “visual” delivery cues for a confident speaker

After students shared out responses, then each student was given a “scenario card” that described a situation in which they would say the line, “Hi Honey.  I’m home.”  Scenarios ranged from “you just lost your job” to “you won the lottery.”

Before students delivered the line, they had to fill out a short graphic organizer outlining the visual and vocal methods they planned to utilize for the activity.  Then, after each performance, the other students had to guess the scenario the performer was depicting.

For the most part, students did an awesome job with this portion of the activity.  The “you have the stomach flu” scenario was one of the most interesting.  I was quite surprised by the level of animation students employed.

At the end of the lesson, students completed an exit ticket where they considered their own Transcendental character and what visual and vocal cues they wanted to use for his or her speech.

Here are resources for the lesson:

Smiles Ahead: Planning for Summer


I took this picture while on a run by my house recently. There are many “smiles ahead” as teachers and students take a much deserved break and regroup for next school year. : )

As the year winds down, I wanted to remind everyone of a few great tech resources that might be helpful over the summer.  All of these listed could be used in classrooms with students, but they are also applications that I use for my own professional development (and personal uses).  Enjoy!

  • Feedly is an online, free application for reading and saving rolling content from the web.  This article describes how the Feedly app and website can be used to gather, save, and share articles from your favorite blogs.  I use this application for writing and education resources I like to follow, in addition to cooking, poetry and other interest blogs.
  • Diigo, another free, online application with an app and website, is the tool I use when researching online.  This article gives step-by-step instructions for highlighting and saving information in your Diigo account.  I usually save articles in Feedly and then highlight specific information and add comments and tags for my Diigo account.
  • Canva is also free and available online.  It is an easy-t0-use tool for creating web graphics, presentations and posters that are polished and professional.  Here is an article describing many of the functions of the program.  I use this application to create graphics for my website and to make embarrassing media for my friends on their birthdays (see examples below).

Birthday Slide

Birthday Pic 21

Lastly, when you are setting up your Feedly account, here are some sites to get you started:

Education Sites

Writing/Poetry/Literature Sites


Literary Analysis Stations: Lord of the Flies Activity


This was the “Dinner Table Discussion” station where students were asked to inhabit a character in writing and in discussion in order to explore a specific symbol in Lord of the Flies.

Sarah Harris and I worked together on a lesson for her English 12 classes modified from this Teaching Channel video, “Literary Analysis Through Interactive Stations.”  The lesson provided a scaffolding for students to do the following assignment independently:

Write a one-page literary analysis where you explore what a symbol in Lord of the Flies represents within our society. Include text evidence to support your perspective.

For the lesson, we set up five stations in the classroom:

  • Visual Symbolism– creating a visual interpretation of the symbol
  • Dramatic Symbolism– creating a frozen tableau (or scene) that interprets the symbol
  • Dinner Table Discussion– discussing the symbol as characters from the text
  • Quote Connections– finding quotes about the symbol and making connections to them
  • Graffiti Responses– answering questions and responding to other students’ comments about the symbol(s) and what they say about the society

Classes were split into groups, and each was given a symbol from Lord of the Flies (the conch, Piggy’s glasses, the Beastie, or fire).  Student then had two minutes to come up with three possible meanings for the symbol, which they shared with group members.  These initial responses served as the basis for the rest of the activities.  Here are the directions and resources for each of the stations (directions are also available as a handout at the end of this post):

Station One:

Visual Symbolism Directions


  1. Choose one possible meaning for your symbol
  2. Determine how you might visually represent this symbol without:
  • Using a picture the symbol itself
  • Drawing a scene from the novel
  • Using words
  1. Create a visual representation of the symbol, focusing on shape, color and images
  2. Be prepared to share and explain your visual to the class
  3. Post your visual on the board and make sure your names are on the back

Station Two:

Dramatic Symbolism (Tableau) Directions

  1. Choose one possible meaning for your symbol
  2. Determine how you might represent what this symbol means through a frozen scene
  3. For your scene, determine how you will use:
  • Facial expressions
  • Body language
  • Any props

To portray your scene to an audience of your peers

  1. Be prepared to share and explain your scene to the class

Station Three:

Dinner Table Discussion Directions


  1. Choose a person in your group to be a note taker for the discussion that is about to follow
  2. Each seat has a character name on the table. This is the character you will be for this discussion
  3. Begin by completing the quick write (see table for papers to use):
    • Consider your symbol and what it means. What does your character think about the symbol in question? How do they feel about it? What would they like to say to the other characters at the table about this symbol?
  4. Have the leader in the group choose from the following questions to ask and lead discussion:
  • How do you feel about _____________ (symbol)?
  • What should we do about _____________ (symbol)?
  • What questions do you have about _____________ (symbol)?
  • What concerns do you have about _____________ (symbol)?
  1. Make sure to keep your notes from the discussion when you move to the next station

Here is the quick write for the discussion:

 Station Four:

Quote Connections Directions

  1. Use the first couple of minutes to review your notes and your books. Each person needs to find at least one quote dealing with your symbol (they CANNOT all be the same) and write it on one of the pieces of paper provided
  2. After the quote write one comment after it that makes a connection:
  • Societal Connection (Something in the world: news, song, etc.)
  • Personal Connection to the quote (Something in your life)
  • Text Connection (Something else you have read)
  1. Pass your paper to the person to your right.
  2. On the quote paper you have just received, make a personal, societal or text connection and comment/build on what someone else has written.
  3. Continue passing papers to the right until everyone has his or her original paper.
  4. Share out what is written on the papers
  5. Make sure to keep your quote connection papers when you move on to the next station

Here is the worksheet for this station:

Station Five:

Graffiti (Silent) Response Directions


  1. Begin by independently answering the questions on the large sheets of paper (try to have two people or less per sheet. After you have answered the question yourself, read what others have written and comment on those points.
    1. Consider your symbol. What is William Golding trying to say about our society through this symbol?
    2. Based upon Lord of the Flies, how does Golding feel about how human beings behave toward one another?
    3. What would you say to challenge the author on in his worldview? In other words, in what ways do you think you disagree with how Golding sees the world and society?

Here are the questions for the posters for this station:

Originally, we were going to rotate every five minutes, but after the first session, we changed each station to ten minutes.  At the end of ten minutes, the dramatic and visual interpretation groups shared and explained.  At the last minute, we also added a “Bonus” Haiku station for students who finished early.


The stations took about two class periods, but on the second day, we ended ten minutes early to reflect upon the activity and begin introducing the literary analysis.  For the reflection, students were read the final assignment (see beginning of the post).  Before we went over the specific criteria, students were asked to write down two connections between the stations and the literary analysis.  (In other words, how would doing these activities help them.)  We then discussed answers, and the following connections were made by students:

  • They heard other perspectives and ideas about the symbols through all activities, especially the Dinner Table Discussion station
  • The Quote station helped with finding textual evidence and connecting the symbol to their own experiences and lives
  • The Drama and Visual stations helped develop possible meanings of the symbol and interpret the symbol in more meaningful ways
  • The Graffiti station helped make connections between the symbol and society

Here are some additional resources to implement this lesson.  They could easily be modified for almost any literary analysis assignment or text a teacher wanted to use:

After reflecting upon the lesson afterward, we both felt as though the “bonus” station was a good idea because some activities took longer than others.  In addition, students were creative about how they used the haiku format.  Here are a few examples:


What could be out there?

The darkness reveals all of my fears.

Is anyone coming to help?


Fire raging high

Smoldering, the flames go out

Hope for rescue, lost

Amazing Race: AP Prep Style

“The world is waiting for you. Good luck… travel safe… go!”

-Phil Keoghan, Host of Amazing Race

Ben Baptist planned an Amazing Race review activity for his AP students before the Language and Composition AP test where students worked in teams traveling around the school and finding AP questions and answering them together.

Before the race, teams were assigned in groups of four or five and each team came up with a name for themselves.  Baptist also found teachers who were willing to put envelopes with AP questions in their classrooms. In each envelope, he put the team name on the outside and the question on the inside.

Directions for the race were as follows:

1.  Find the first envelope for the group in the classroom, read the question, and come up with an answer together

2.  Give an answer to the teacher to be given the next envelope’s location

3.  After each location, come back to the classroom and give an answer to the teacher

4.  The best total time after five station is the winner

On the day of the race, Baptist had a chart on the board with each group’s name and times:

Amazing Race Chart

If students got a question right, he wrote down the time in the box for each station.  For each question wrong, he put an “X” which meant they lost twenty seconds on their final time.

Some of the rules were as follows:

  1. One group leader would be assigned to give an answer for the group.  This is the only person from whom Baptist would accept an answer
  2. Groups were not to run in the hallways or disrupt classes
  3. Groups were not to “hide” clues or they would receive a zero

The students were very engaged in the competitive nature of the activity.  They seemed to really enjoy the review exercise.  In the future, Baptist and I agreed that there should be more questions for students to answer because some groups were able to complete the entire race in less than 9 minutes!  We also discussed the possibility of “activities” at stations in addition to the multiple choice questions.

Additional Resources

This ELT teacher used an “Amazing Race” in her classroom where students had a circular route with five “stations,” each hosted by a “clue master” who would assign the task, monitor students, and then sign the “Task Completion Sheet” when they were finished.   She suggested tasks such as, “…storyboard writing, memorizing tongue twisters, making a short movie, presenting a speaking topic, or solving a puzzle.” 


PARCC Breakdown: Performance Based Assessment Analysis

Standardized testing is not always a popular implementation.  One reason for this may be that many standardized tests of the past could be criticized for only meeting the lower-levels of thinking (recall, comprehension etc.) or for being “formulaic” (the five-paragraph essay).

In this particular regard, there is some good news in regards to the new generation of standardized assessments, particularly PARCC, the assessment Ohio will be adopting in 2013-2014.  The level of thinking students will be required to do will be of a much higher level according to national research:

“’We don’t know if we are getting any better unless we can document it,’ said Marc Chun, program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. He commissioned a National Center for Research, Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) study to evaluate the Smarter Balanced and PARCC tests for various aspects of deeper learning. The study found that the test actually does measure content and critical thinking better than any other test and it does a reasonable job at measuring written communication.

Ultimately what we want students to be able to do is solve problems they’ve never seen before,” Chun said. That’s why he thinks even nationally administered tests like those being used to evaluate Common Core standards can be effective.”

– “More Progressive Ways to Measure Deeper Level of Learning” from Mindshift by Katrina Schwartz

The PARCC assessment will have two parts in English; those two parts will be the English Language Arts End-of-the-Year test and the Performance-Based Assessment.

End-of-the-Year tests will be available in the fall of 2014, and Performance-Based Assessments are available right now.  You can take these Performance-Based Assessments online at this link.

I have explored the tests now available, focusing on the tenth grade assessment which has all three PBAs: Narrative, Research and Literary Analysis Tasks.  A couple of key changes were tasks that required Here is a document outlining the tenth grade performance tasks for PARCC: