Archives For Blogger

January weather forecast? Frigid.
Blogger forecast? Sunshine.
Specifically, “Sunshine Awards.”
Nominating or receiving a Sunshine Award is a way for bloggers to get to know each other. There are unlimited winners to this award because this operates much like the chain letters of old. Get an award from a fellow blogger, and then nominate 11 other bloggers to participate. I suspect that sooner or later, every blogger in the world will be nominated proving the blogging universe has no degrees of separation blogger to blogger.
That said, I was delighted to get a mention….really!!
The Sunshine award does give other bloggers an opportunity to learn about each other, although I am not sure any of the following random facts on me will be useful.
There are five “official” rules (in green):

RULE #1 Acknowledge the nominating blogger:

For me, that was Vicki Vinton of To Make a Prairie “A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life.” Her blog is an amazing combination of education application and literature tie-ins. Her blog looks so organized and engaging. I know if I am thinking that something might be possible, Vicki proves that what I am thinking is doable. I will reread her posts before I write on a topic (ex: Cautionary Tale Close Reading).You owe it to yourself to visit her blog.

RULE #2 Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Okay…..11 random facts about me:

a. I have 31 nieces and nephews (no twins) from my eight younger brothers and sisters.

b. I made my prom dress in high school; I thought pink calico was adorable!

c. The famous clown Emmett Kelly, Jr. patted me on the head when I was a toddler; I am terrified of clowns.

d. I learned to drive a stick shift on my family’s white 68 VW bus that we called “Moby Dick”; consequently, I also know how to jump start a car with a stick shift.

e. I have one “attached” ear lobe and one “unattached” earlobe which is not the genetic abnormality  you might think.


Kindergarten narrator

f. I was the “lead”narrator in my kindergarten play which surprised my mother and father. NOTE: I am still comfortable onstage.

g. I can recite Marc Anthony’s speech from Julius Caesar III.i.253-275(“O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth…”) because my high school teacher made me memorize a soliloquy.


Lock on the Pont L’Archevêché in Paris

h. My husband and I (married 32 years) left a lock on a bridge fence in Paris near Notre Dame in 2011.

i. I tear up at at flash-mob videos. Example? (USAirForce Band at Air & Space Museum)

j. I buy white cars because I want to be seen at night. Paradoxically, these cars always look cleaner than black cars.

Haunted House

My Halloween Haunted House

k. For many years,I had a haunted house for Halloween in my barn while my two sons were young. Now, I shut off all the lights on October 31st and pretend I am not home.

RULE #3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.

(Yikes….11 more facts? Aren’t you tired of all this?)

1. What book would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
How to Build a Ship and Navigate if You Are Ever Stuck on a Desert Island. The more romantic answer, however, would be James Joyce’s Ulysses or Ulysses S. Grant’s letters. Both are on a “to do” list that would require hours of uninterrupted reading time (the connection to Ulysses trying to get back home should not overlooked either…)

2. What did you learn from your mother?
I learned how to cook for a family of eleven; food was plentiful at our dinner table. Cooking is a great skill, but this early training resulted proportion miscalculations and substantial weight gain for my husband. I just cannot get used to cooking for two.

3. Where do you write?
There is a small table in my kitchen where I do much of my writing, but when the weather is nice, I will write on my back patio table. I imagine if I was driving by, I would think, “Oh! I would like to be writing there!”

4. Where do I find joy in my classroom or my work?
When I hear a student correct another student by saying, “a lot is two words.”

5. What do I do to recharge?
I watch movies. I am a movie addict which is not surprising given my addiction to stories.

6. What was my favorite book as a child and why did I love it?
Without question, my favorite book as a child was Little Women. I am the first born, the practical Meg, but in my heart, I am the second born Jo March.

7. If you could have dinner (or coffee or drinks) with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you want to ask him or her?
Sister Ella, my first grade school teacher who taught me to read. I want to know if she predicted my interest in reading. She was incredibly -almost frighteningly- tall, and I could never tell if she was smiling or not.

8. Do you have a quote that you keep (in your mind, a notebook, a pocket, your desk, etc.) that captures something that seems important to you? If so, what is it?
The most recent is by Carl Sagan, “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.” That’s impressive.

9. How do you feel about the age you are currently in?
Emotionally, I am fine with being 57. I have come to terms with things I will never accomplish (play piano, hike the Appalachian Trail) and still hopeful on other things I want to accomplish (PhD in English, speak French). Physically, I am surprised at how often I need to get up from reading or writing so I don’t get stiff and cramp up. Mentally, I am surprised that 57 sounds old, but 58 sounds wise.

10. What are you afraid of?
I do not like turning off the lights downstairs. To this day, I will race up the stairs as if something is chasing me.

11. If you could go back to one moment in time, when & where would that be & why?
In Our Town Thornton Wilder cautions against revisiting the past; the character Emily finds it too painful. Therefore, I would choose to relieve something I did as a child but not go as myself. I would go back to the 1964-65 World’s Fair in NYC and spend the day with all the exhibits that “predicted” our future.

Now for the fun part:

RULE #4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!

NOTE: Should any of the following bloggers want to accept this award WITHOUT the chain letter-like activities, they have my permission. I have no demands for their participation in what could be a Ponzi-scheme of blogging. These bloggers represent a cross-section of  Bloggers and Tweeters that I read regularly.

 HOWEVER, readers who visit these blogs will benefit. I learn so much from all of these writer/educators…I feel their “love”:

1. First and foremost, my dear friend Catherine Flynn blogged so often in 2013 on Reading to the Core that I could not keep up. I walk with Catherine on the weekends (and I can hardly keep up!), so I am always interested in how our conversations show up in a post. She is a literacy specialist…and a specialist in keeping me focused on the real issues in literacy.

2. I love Bryan Crandall, Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) Director at Fairfield University. He supervised my CWP experience in 2012. His blog this year is Creative Crandall and his entry for January 1st, 2014, reads: “I will spend the next 365 pontificating what creativity means to my world, the people I love, the students I work with, and the teachers that need desperate rejuvenation. The goal is to counter the dreary, maddening, and absolutely criminal doings of governmental leaders and corporate partners who are undoing public schools.” Love that.

3.  Another amazing Connecticut Writing Project Director is Jason Courtmanche at the University of Connecticut. His blog is The Write Space. His posts on Facebook/Twitter alert me to any gem I might overlook in the news that is tied to literature/education. He has worked very hard to outline the transitions of Common Core State Standards to the Early College Experience at UCONN for hundreds of high school teachers.

4.  I met Kate Baker of Baker’s B.Y.O.D.– Bring Your Own Device, Dog, & Deconstruction of Literature in person at the Council of English Leadership (#CEL13) this fall. I had seen many of her posts/tweets. The meeting was kismet…in minutes we had covered The Odyssey, Moby Dick, and other classics. She gave a dynamite presentation of Stop Bleeding Red Ink! at the conference. (FYI: Kate already has posted 11 random facts about herself on her blog!)

5. My mom is in Idaho…and so is Glenda Funk at Evolving English Teacher. I first read her entries on the English Companion Ning; then, I stalked her at the National Conference of English Teachers in 2011.  I LOVED her post about the impact of high school sports on academics: “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Ed Reform in the U.S.A.” In that post she discusses the everyday impact of sports from practice schedules to concussions. Very informative.

6. I read Judy Artz at her blog  Intergrating Learning and Technology-“Here you will find ideas for promoting literacy through the use of technology.” I met her in person also at Council of English Leadership (#CEL13) where I greeted her as an old friend. That is because she tweets (@JudyArtz) at a rapid fire pace, and sometimes mentions me!

7. I also met Daniel Weinstein of The Creativity Core at the National Conference of Teachers of English (@NCTE13) this November. I have used his ideas in my classroom, especially the semantic mapping, with enormous success. The blog is gorgeous with student work as exemplars.

8. Guilty pleasure? The observations of the Anonymous Blogger @ English Teacher Confessions. Entry “This book made me vomit” about Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God is an intriguing homage to McCarthy’s genius as well as a warning. Reading this post will give you an appreciation for this blog writer’s style…who is no slouch herself!

9. Buffy Hamilton, former high school English Teacher and current school librarian, writes at The Unquiet Librarian. She provides interesting and very practical ways to engage students in literacy (Writing Around Texts) through this dual lens. I am more appreciative of advice from educators who have actually been in a classroom.

10. I have participated in the “Slice of Life” challenge series originated by Ruth & Stacey:Two Writing Teachers this year. I admit, I do not always follow the rules (responding to others?!?), but I appreciate their tireless support of teacher writing. I have found that writing my blog (and slices) are the most educational experience I can have. They are to be congratulated for pushing teachers to engage in writing regularly.

11. Not sure where to start? Try The Reading Zone, Sarah Mulhern Gross who writes, “My blog focuses on reading, with a lot of writing and writing workshop thrown in. I also talk about my classroom and classroom projects.” What makes her blog even more legit? She is a regular contributor to The New York Times Learning Network Blog, my “go-to” spot for literacy in content area classrooms. (See how I snuck in two blogs on one entry?)

RULE #5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.

Here are Vicki’s 11 questions to me, and they are as good as anything I could design. I am plagiarizing them:

  1. What book would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
  2. What did you learn from your mother?
  3. Where do you write?
  4. Where do you find joy in your classroom or work?
  5. What do you do to recharge?
  6. What was your favorite book as a child and why did you love it?
  7. If you could have dinner (or coffee or drinks) with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you want to ask him or her?
  8. Do you have a quote that you keep (in your mind, a notebook, a pocket, your desk, etc.) that captures something that seems important to you? If so, what is it?
  9. What are you afraid of?
  10. How do you feel about being the age you currently are?
  11. If you could go back to one moment in time, when & where would that be & why?

So, dear selected Sunshine Award recipient, here is YOUR choice. You can answer any or all of the 11 questions listed above OR (and I am breaking the rules here) answer this ONE important question….

1. Why write on a blog?

Thanks again, Vicki of To Make a Prairie….this was fun to do on a bitterly cold winter afternoon!


This is the bold notice at the top of each of five blogs that the grade 10 teachers organized for teaching William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. This survival game is played in the English World Literature course at the end of the school year. The intent is to engage an entire grade level of 10th grade students in discussing a text without the limitations of the class schedule.

The game is simple: there are five teams (red, yellow, blue, green and orange) that are invited to a blog to respond to posts within a short period. Once the students are sorted onto teams (2 or three in each class period on one team), they respond to a post on their team’s blog using the comment box. Points are awarded on the percentage of team participants who respond to a blog post, and the winning team receives a 100% test grade.

The five posts on each blog are scenarios adapted from a number of similar activities I have found on the Internet. We used Blogger for our platform without much difficulty last year; this year their new interface has been glitchy, but since the game is about survival of the fittest, we have soldiered on! Each post deals with a scenario similar to the daily experiences of Ralph, Piggy, Jack and the choirboys, etc. The posts are uploaded over the course of a  two week period.

Post #1 deals with a list of 15-20 resources that were “recovered from the plane.” The post asks students to comment individually, “What do you do now?”

Post #2 poses the next complication suggesting that a giant storm seriously damaged their resources, “So, what happened to the supplies you gathered yesterday?” (ex: Bed Sheets: blew away in the storm last night; mosquito netting: large gashes/holes created by trees in the storm)
“What do you and your fellow survivors do now? What supplies do you have remaining? How are you using these remaining supplies?”

Post#3 Provides directions for shelter, fire and potable water. The post reads, “While you and some members of your group were building the shelters, digging the fire pit, and setting up the water supply; two (2) of your members decide that they are tired of working and want to go swimming instead. What do you do with the slackers in your group?”

Post #4 begins, “You wake up on the third morning to find that half of the food you had taken from the plane and gathered since is gone. Either some sort of animal has taken it, or one of your group members has taken it and hidden it for himself or herself. You start out the day suspicious of the other members of the group – and hungry!
• What sorts of rules/procedures are you going to put in place to make sure your food and water supplies do not get stolen or contaminated?
• Now that you are suspicious of your other group members, how are you going to act around them? Are you going to be able to continue to work together? What is your plan for discovering who took the food? What will you do with that person when you find him or her?”

Post #5 is the final opportunity for students to participate. The post reads, “A ship is in sight! You are going to be rescued! Now that rescue is in sight, how do you feel? What was your favorite part about being stranded? What was the worst? Compare your situation to the boys in Lord of the Flies. Who had it better? Why? If you had been stranded with the characters, what would you have done?”

This year’s comments were similar to responses from previous years with team members discussing suggestions for survival:

  • Nobody goes off exploring alone, pretty much NOBODY GOES ANYWHERE ALONE. We don’t know what’s on the island but if we stay together and work as one, unified, force; we will get off of this island alive. There’s no doubt in my mind that we WILL get off of this island. 
  • Water will be gathered by our “plastic bags” that we have laid out in a hole, held together by rocks. The water will be collected by nearby dewey grass etc. The rest of our plastic bags will be placed in a hole on top of a cup-or carved out fruit shell if cups are not available. 
  • The food has already been taken. Yes, it is maddening that one on our own team would have taken food from their own, but what can you do? I would move on, with a warning that if this ever happens again, whomever dared to steal twice will be exiled.
  • To deal with the ones that aren’t helping, we should put dead fish in their beds and then we’ll see who doesn’t wanna work then. 🙂 
  • Our slackers on the other hand will be banned from any rations of food caught by our hunters. The only way to become accepted is to find food elsewhere, and make sure (the slackers) they are able to feed the rest of the group.
  • To keep the fire going there should be a 2 person shift, and while one sleeps the other maintains the fire. The shift will be rotated i.e. 2 new people every night. 
  •  im surviving so as long as the slackers arent affecting me then they’re not my problem, if they were affecting me then id prbably end up killing them in a survival situation
  •  You never know who it could be so there’s always that feeling of suspicion while you’re near and working with the other group members
  • For the slackers, they can continue to eat the food and stay in the shelters. Karma will get em.
While Golding did not write Lord of the Flies as an adventure story that is in the same genre as Robert Louis Stevenson’s  Robinson Crusoe or Robert Zemeckis’s film Castaway with Tom Hanks, there are elements of survival that make the book appealing to 10th graders. Once they are placed on “Sophomore Island,” the Blogger platform lets them communicate their expectations as to what might happen in the unlikely event they were marooned with classmates. Not surprisingly, they often found themselves frustrated and caught in similar power struggles as those between Jack and the hunters and Ralph and Piggy. Once they are on “Sophomore Island” they discover Golding’s real reason for the novel, for the Lord of the Flies who challenges them by asking, “I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”  Their virtual experience on “Sophomore Island” helps them understand why Ralph would weep “for the end of innocence.”

Our English classrooms have been provided net books to use in class this year, making each classroom  a 1:1 classroom. Teachers have been using these net books for student blogs with seniors, or in responses to literature. The Freshman class was blogging about Of Mice and Men using Google’s Blogger software. The combination of reading with authentic writing was the incentive for one of my New Year’s resolutions in 2012, to improve student blogging beyond the “I like your post” response.

Our 9th grade team blogs are organized across the grade; students from different class periods or with different teachers collaborate as a team on the blog. For this assignment, we developed four journal questions in order to engage the students in discussions related to the universal themes of  Steinbeck’s novel; questions were centered on the ideas of goals, dreams, loneliness, privacy, and companionship. These journals were posted two or three days apart as students read the novel in class during silent sustained reading (SSR) or at home. An audio tape of the book was also available for some students who needed support with reading independently.

In order to begin the discussions, students first needed to post a response to each journal question, then they need to respond to another teammate’s post. Since the goal was to improve student responses to another student’s post, a set of criteria was suggested to help student in their response:

Good Student Response to another student on a blog will be:

  • thoughtful
  • consistently positive
  • respectful

Good Student Response to another student on a blog will also:

  • clearly add to the original discussion (compare, contrast, contribute, ask questions)
  • take advantage of the medium (linking, video, audio)
  • follow the standards of good writing

There were four journal prompts to Of Mice and Men; student responses to another student’s post are below each journal prompt:

Journal One:  What is your hope for life, goal, or even dream?  What do you think you want from the future?  Not the fairytale, but the reality?   What could you live without, dream-wise?  What couldn’t you live without? What matters, what are your priorities?

Patrick, I think your blog is good! It shows that you really want to be stable with your life. That you don’t need big things but you just need the things that make you happy and not stressful. We both don’t want to be stressed out and that’s something that a lot of people don’t want I think!

Sean, I think that my house would be similar to yours. I too would like to live in the woods away from big cities and government. I think it would be great to live in a log cabin style house with a large woodstove too. It would really give off that self dependent feeling, were you would have to chop your own wood, and produce many of your necessities.

Sara, It seems to me that you seem to know what you want to do when you grow up. Well, I have no idea really, so I envy you. I am disappointed to see you would move away from here, I love it here. good luck with all your plans!

Journal Two:  Do you have a pet? a younger sibling or cousin?  If so, describe your feelings and relationship with them.  If not, what do you think it would be like to have them?  How do/would you feel as the one on whom they depend?  How important do you think it is to care for or nuture others?  Do you want to be a mother/father?  Why?  What do you think about the role of parents, brothers, sisters, and family?

Johnny, I think you need to appreciate your sisters a little bit more!! Even though they can be a pain, they’re still always there for you and won’t leave your side.

I am commenting on Regan’s post: She did a very good job, she went into detail about each question such as when she explains how it makes her feel “It makes me feel good when he looks up to me and tries to do stuff that I do because It lets me know that I do have an effect on his life and when he does.” It is simular to mine because our brothers act the same way, she gets along with her brother too and we both have younger brothers.

 I’m commenting on Sara’s…I can definitely relate to when people say they want a sibling and you’re thinking ‘NO WAYYY….’ because they haven’t lived with one their whole life! But I’m also the same way with how I realize that I do have an effect on my little brother’s life and choices… it just wakes you up and helps you make good decisions.
Journal Three:    How important is privacy and space to you?  Can having privacy get too much like being lonely?  What about being with people all the time?  Which is worse, being always with or always without others?  How much alone vs. social time do YOU need?  Why?  When do you most need each (alone/social)?

I agree with you, Zach. Like when I was around mt best friend. We did EVERYTHING together. At first, it didn’t really bother either one of us. We where content always being in each others business. We knew EVERYTHING about each other. And by accident one of us (not saying who), spilled a big secret. That’s why it’s not a good idea to be around the same person ALL the time!

Riley I think your take on privacy is very good. I agree with you about how there are times that you dont want to be around people and if you are it can be annoying and distracting at a time where you’re trying to do your homework. What are some times that you do like being around people? Would you rather be alone or with someone else? Overall, you did a good job, those are just some things you could have included.
Journal Four:  What would you do to avoid losing your dream?  Are dreams easy to replace?  What would life be like if you didn’t have a goal, dream, or hope?  Can others take away your dream or not?
I am responding to Taylor’s blog. I have similar dreams to Taylor’s, how I dream of what I like to do. I dream a lot about going to the beach with my friends. Also I agree with Taylor’s thought of dreams being “easily replaceable”. I think that some dreams are hard to replace if they mean a great deal to you. Other than that dreams come and go very often. I also agree with Taylor that life without goals will not be very boring and you would not have anything to achieve!
 Agreed, Emily. I haven’t really thought about it that way, but after hearing your opinion, I have to say, I agree. If your dream doesn’t come true, it means that your destiny lies somewhere else. Unfortunately, destiny rules over dreams. Just like with Lennie, it wasn’t his destiny to “tend to the rabbits”, he was too strong and dumb to do that.
Ultimately, there has been some improvement in student responses on the blog. Many students wrote thoughtful responses which indicates that they understood that simply praising another writer’s blog was not sufficient. Students did like reading the post responses, however, I was actually surprised how empowered some of the students became and did not anticipate how seriously they would enforce the criteria in the original posts.
The only problem I see here is that you did not describe how you look up to your family… Everything else is very well done. I see no errors in spelling and no errors with how you described the way they acts, but remember to try and stay on topic” 
Your blog was good but it was not 200 words and it needs more detail so you should answer more questions in your blog to make it flow and so you make it longer and to answer the question more clearly.”
One month into the New Year 2012, and the 9th grade students are improving their ability to respond on a blog with something other than “good work!”
I’d say that is “great work”…but I obviously need to improve on my response!