My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve our lives through research based on our interests. What will we learn? What message will we share? This blog is a log of our learning experiences, mine and the students'... HOME - SEE ALL POSTS . Check out the LiveBinder to see what other teachers are doing during their Genius Hour time!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Questioning Using Padlet

At the start of our short unit on science fiction, we're focusing strongly on questioning. Here were our plans for our the first five days. Keep in mind that I have an 80-minute block, and we spent 10-15 min on grammar and three science fiction book trailers from this list at the beginning of each day.

Day 1

1. Discuss the goal of the lesson - to write as many questions as you can about this story. Make sure students have something with which to write, and on which to write.
2. Discuss WHY we're writing questions. What's the point?
3. Students read the story one time independently, writing down their questions.
4. Students share their questions with their table groups, and see which ones their friends can help them answer.
5. Teacher reads the story aloud, asking students to write down more questions, and/or cross out questions that were answered from this second reading.
6. Each table group gets a device, and is asked to go to a Padlet site and add the question(s) they consider important or interesting. Ask them to have only ONE question per box. I tried this with each student the first time, and it did NOT go well. Doing this in groups of three or four makes the Padlet questions much easier to manage.
7. Students return the device when they're finished (makes managing the rest of the Padlet easier).
8. Explain the three ways of thinking listed below. I convert this to types of questions - ONE at a time.

Taken from Whole Novels for the Whole Class by Ariel Sacks...
9. I introduced the "Literal" question idea, typed it on the Padlet on the left side, and asked students to find the questions that go under that "literal" label.
10. When I introduced "Inferential" and "Critical," I did the same.

This is how our Padlet ended up looking like for "Evil Robot Monkey"...

We noticed...
--> We're missing question marks!
--> We have some vague pronouns (which "he" do we mean?).
--> One didn't fit into any category from this class (Spencer's on the bottom right).
--> One we could not agree on. --> Spencer - "is this a school for animals"
--> One had two questions on one box, so we put it on the bottom in the middle - students decided that the first part was literal, and the second was critical.

On this night, #ELAchat was rockin' with ways to keep students engaged. One I tweeted about was Padlet today. I received this tweet from Karen Desjadon with a link to what a Padlet looks like EMBEDDED in a blog:

Days 2 & 3

1. Review WHY we are spending so much time asking questions.
2. Begin reading the story - students' job is to write questions as we read.
3. After a certain page, I handed out this reading check, and we did questions 1-4 together, discussing which type of question each one was. 
4. After the entire story was finished, students shared their questions about the story at their tables, and were able to get answers to some issues they did not understand.
5. We completed an "elements of science fiction" chart for this story, and gave evidence as to where the elements were in this particular story.
6. We revisited the questions from the reading check. Instead of answering the next five in class, we opened up the Padlet once more, and categorized them under "literal" and "inferential."
7. We discussed trends we noticed - 
          Why were there NO critical questions on this reading check?
          Why were there almost an equal number of literal and inferential questions?
          Why do teachers have literal questions on their work for students?
          Why do teachers have inferential questions? What do the answers show the teachers?
8. We circled our two (three in one class) inferential questions, and I let them know I'd be grading these, along with the other literal questions. I gave them two different grades, and redos ended up looking like this.

Day 4
"Zero Hour" by Ray Bradbury

1. Review WHY we are spending so much time asking questions. How will these questions help us in "real life," as well as in school?
2. Begin reading the story - students' job is to write questions as we read.
3. After reading this one, students got into groups, shared their myriad questions, and came up with one or two to which they wanted to know the answers.
4. Each group received an iPad on which to put their questions. This time, the definitions for each type of question were already on the top of the Padlet. However, I did notice that they just put their questions any place, and we ended up moving them around again together.
5. Sort some of the questions, until you have at least SIX under "inferential."
6. Have students weed down the number to FOUR "great inferential questions." I explained a "great" question as one we THINK we know the answer to, but we'd have to find hints from the author in the text itself.

These are the four one class came up with - notice the two they rejected are crossed out. We moved them away from the list.

7. Quickly delete the other questions (hint: click the trash can on each first, then go back and click "OK, Remove" on all of them for a quick clearing).
8. Move each of the four remaining questions to a corner of the Padlet, signifying the corners where discussions will take place in the room.
9. Ask students to bring their text to a corner of the room and be ready to answer that question using support from the text. (5-10 min)
10. Have each group select a spokesperson to share the ideas of the group. (5-10 min)

We noticed...
--> One question from one class (I can't remember it!) they realized was NOT an inferential question, but a critical question, as they could not find any hints in the story to suggest an answer. They thought they had an answer, but realized they were relying on their background knowledge instead of the text.
--> It's fun answering our OWN questions, instead of the teacher's questions!

Day 5
Continue with "Zero Hour." This is not part of the Padlet activities, but I had to share this one!

1.  Ask the following question of the students - Who is responsible for the alien attack?
2.  Give them this sheet, asking them to be ready to defend their answer. 
      (This idea is from Michael W. Smith & Jeffrey D. Wilhelm's book, Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements, 2010.)
3.  Ask students to go to the four corners of the room, depending on who they think is the MOST responsible, sharing text evidence.
4.  Students write in response to this question after the discussion.

The Following Days...
We cover these stories during our science fiction unit, and this will lead into great fishbowl discussions to answer questions that are more critical!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I don't know what the Edublog awards are, except for the fact that on some blogs they have "badges" for being nominated or a finalist for their content. Makes sense, as it's from Edublogs.

What's this, then? What's this "Best Individual Tweeter" idea? Seymour Simon sent me a tweet to this today, and I am truly honored -  not to be nominated - but to be in such stellar company. I already follow more than half of these tweeters, and I love that their tweets are all about education. They are professional, kind, and generous. Thank you to those ... um ... who do I thank for this??  However I got on this list, I'm just very honored to be in such great company!

Check out the list to start following passionate educators. While you're at it, check out the years prior!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Quick Tip #4 - Student Choice

"Question of the Day" - I cut a sheet of magnet (that can go through the printer), ask students to write their names on them, and then have students answer the question each day...
**BONUS: This is also an easy check to see who's not in your class - which names haven't been moved?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014