Tagged Professional Development

Technology Post: Feed your Brain with Feedly

RSS Feed

This is the symbol to get the link for RSS feeds. Most blogs (websites with content added regularly) have a link that will either look like this or have the text “RSS Feed.” You can click on these links and get a web address to add to your “feed.”

I recently learned what an RSS feed was.  According to Press-Feed.com, an RSS (“Real Simple Syndication”) “is a content delivery vehicle.”  A “feed” is when the content is disseminated to an audience.

Why is this interesting?  You can load these “feeds” into a “feeder,” and you don’t have to visit all of the websites to get the information any longer.

I have started using one of these recently that I LOVE.  It is called Feedly. If there are already sites and blogs you check out regularly add those, but they also offer categories of information with lists of suggested sites.  For example, my categories include: writing, teaching, cooking and news among others.  These are some of the sites I have in my “teaching” feed:

This is the website where you can load your feeds:

Feedly JPEG

Really, the best thing about using Feedly is that it can be downloaded as an app, and then you can quickly review the headlines, read the articles, and save/email/post the ones you want from your phone.  the app looks like this once you download it:

Feedly App JPEG

It is very appealing aesthetically, but it is also very user friendly.  After you review the articles automatically fed into Feedly, you can mark the list as “read,” and they disappear.  In addition, you can also place the articles in a “Save for Later” category by holding down on the headline until it blinks.  Then, you can go back and decide what to do with them, whether it is print, post, read or email, all of which could be done from a smart phone.

I have learned a lot of new information about technology and resources for education through using Feedly.  It is a fast, easy way to process information.

Science, ELA and Art: CAWP Presenter

“Learning can be transformed into understanding only with intrinsic motivation.  Learners must make an internal shift; they must choose to invest themselves to truly learn and understand.  This need for creative engagement applies to all fields…  In the arts, teachers specialize in creating environments that encourage learners to set aside the usual rules of school and invest themselves intrinsically.  It requires an act of courage.”

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner, taken from Caren Truske’s 2013 CAWP Fall Conference presentation

Caren Truske is a chemistry teacher and member of Project Aspire (an arts integration based inquiry group) who had her her students work displayed at the Columbus Arts Festival this year.  She presented at the Columbus Area Writing Project fall conference and modeled for teachers some of the techniques she used to engage and motivate her students in the thinking and research processes for science.  Caren was a member of my CAWP cohort two years ago.

Here is a summary of her process with students:

  • Product: Research, create and present a written and visual interpretation of the important aspects of an element from the periodic table.
  • Students research an element of the periodic table and then “mind map” the phrases and terms associated with it on paper
  • Students use the mind maps and their research to create different forms of short poetry or other creative writing
  • Students create a visual representation of their element using a “stamping” process where they first create a Styrofoam stamp and then use it to create a reverse image
  • Presentation: These projects were displayed at the Columbus Arts Festival

In her presentation, we used the same process without research, and I worked with one of her students.  He “mind-mapped” music, so I mapped poetry on the same paper.  As we did this, we circled and connected our common words.  Then, she gave us some short form poetry examples to use as a model.  The student and I both had the word “rhythm,” so I used an acrostic poem (a form I usually don’t like) to write about that:

Repetition of sounds- thumping and

Humming with the beat

You find your own

Tapping, rapping on the table

Human noises

Make music

We practiced another poetry form with the same topic, and then created our stamps to go with either work and made the final product of writing and visual combined.

Truske asked me how I would imagine this in the ELA classroom.  I think that the “stamping” process would be a good way to introduce symbolism of abstract concepts to students.  I think that the mind-mapping free association is a good way to start that process, too.  In addition, I think short poetry forms are a great way to address content issues and use formative assessment.  For example, I could see teachers asking students to write:

  • a haiku about claims
  • a definition poem about “connotative meaning”
  • a senryu describing the theme in a story

Truske said any teacher can ask to have their students work displayed at the Columbus Arts Festival.

She referenced the work on Tony Wagner in her presentation, so here are some links to his work:

Doing What We Teach


Being a teacher, especially the first years, gave me a chance to explore, and exhaust, my mental facilities and creative energies.  Teaching is rewarding, but it can sometimes (especially with grading) leave little “mind” to explore other endeavors.

However, most English teachers began as writers, or at least great appreciators of the art of writing, and my guess is what we wrote, read, and loved was not a non-fiction, primary source text about the creation of the Declaration of Independence.  Not that this information isn’t important, exciting or worthwhile, but most teachers of English began the job because they love art and the emotional and intellectual benefits it brings.

As a teacher, I think I had forgotten the initial spark that brought me into the English classroom.  However, after my first couple of years, I got involved in an arts integration program for my students that reignited my love for creative expression.  That summer, I applied and was accepted into a Columbus Area Writing Project cohort, which is an organization under the umbrella of the National Writing Project.

In the two and a half weeks that I was part of the program, I connected with other professionals who were also passionate about education, innovation, and writing.  I was inspired, and still am, by all that I learned from them.

In the program, I learned the power of meaningful modeling at the teacher’s level.  It only really  works when the teacher can have an “aha” moment that is as meaningful as the students will have in the classroom.

I learned the power of reflection.  When we learn, it needs to be discussed.  It needs to be processed.  That is how we know we have learned; it is when learning becomes meaningful.

In addition, I wrote.  So much… Too much.  It helped me to connect to the part of myself that I want to bring into the classroom.  The part of me that does what I teach.

CAWP offers summer programs every year that result in “teacher-consultant” certification (respected and well represented within the NCTE community), I would be happy to share more of my experiences with that.  In addition, they offer a fall conference which I just attended.  This is my second year as an attendee and presenter.

This week, I will post some of the insights and resources gained from this conference in additional posts.

Resources for Teaching Narrative

Last week I attended the Pages teacher orientation and professional development at the Wexner Center with Mandy Fetty, a teacher-partner this year, and the teaching artists we worked with had some ideas for sparking students’ creativity and interest in writing.  I will try to post some of these throughout the year.

This first learning activity would be helpful in acclimating students to narrative, which I think is the first unit in each grade level’s current curriculum plan.

Here is the activity:

We were asked to bring in landscapes, living creatures and inanimate objects from magazines.


Then, we put them all in the middle of a table and randomly picked from the larger pile, making sure to choose pictures from each category.  In discussion afterward, we all agreed that choosing one’s own images created an expectation that limited creativity- so this might be a situation to avoid with students.

We used these to create a scene by placing the pictures on top of one another- no glue required.

This was a piece of my scene created from magazine pieces.

This was a piece of my scene created from magazine cuttings.

The artist then asked us to create a story from the picture and write it out in ten minutes.  Before this part of the activity, it might make sense to review the narrative vocabulary and ask students to focus on a specific aspect (for example narrative arch, imagery etc.).  Melissa Larisch created this useful Academic Vocabulary for Narrative resource that follows along with the ACT Common Core rubric North is planning on using for the quarterly assessment.

To further collaborate and expand on ideas for writing, we discussed having students rotate around the collages first and discuss possible ideas or themes in the pictures.  We also discussed having students write a line for each one and then rotate to the next one.  After the activity, one could also have the students underline the protagonist, imagery, point of highest conflict etc. and turn it in as a formative assessment.  In addition, it might be helpful to discuss the process and see how students came up with ideas before they wrote to give a chance for reflection.

If you try this one, let me know how it goes in your classroom or send me pictures of your collages or pieces of writing so that I can post them on the blog.  Also here is a link to the Pages blog where you will find numerous resources for language arts educators.