Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: May 2016

Summer Reading for GBL & Game-Loving Teachers

I’ve had a few people on Twitter ask me for suggestions of books to read this summer, especially if you’re interested in delving deeper into gamification and/or game-based learning. Here are some I highly recommend and plan on revising this summer myself:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.03.46 PMGamify Your Classroom by Matthew Farber: This books is quickly becoming a seminal read for anyone who wants to start using more games in the classroom. Farber covers the gamut, from game elements to serious video games to gamification to…well, just about everything you might be interested in related to games in the classroom. This is a great starting point!




Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera: A component in the Teach Like a Pirate series, Explore Like a Pirate takes you inside Matera’s gamification classroom and is jam-packed with ideas about not just how to use gamification but also examples of quick games that you can modify to meet your needs. Super informative and extremely practical. (I reviewed it several months ago here.)





cover-300wMake It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel: This book has nothing to do with games or gamification and everything to do with how we learn. Peter Brown takes the brain research of Roediger and McDaniel and transforms it into a supremely readable text with real-life examples and real-life teachers. This book will change how you plan and execute your teaching.





imagesFormative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading by Marzano & Company: OK, OK, I’ve heard it from my own local colleagues. Few people find Marzano riveting material for summer reading, but I honestly did. I’m a proponent of standards-based teaching in a traditional school with a traditional grading system. Marzano helped give me ideas about how to approach grading in my own classroom and at least make my own assessments more standards-based within a traditional system. I read it in a day and loved it. (Really.)


Non-Techy Efficiency: Bullet Journaling

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I realize that it’s uber-ironic that as much as I love technology that I don’t use it exclusively to organize my life. I use Google Calendar for scheduling appointments and important dates, but most of my planning is done in my pretty notebook.

In honor of National Notebook Day today, here’s my notebook and journaling system:

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I use my own version of Bullet Journaling, a simplified form of journaling that you can modify to fit your style.  The Bullet Journal website has a version you can adopt, but I simplified it further. I only write my to-do lists on the RIGHT side pages of my journal. I write the date, reminders of appointments I have, and then my list of to-dos. My current page is below (it’s summer vacation now, so my lists are shorter than usual!).


What goes on my LEFT hand pages? Random notes, lesson plan ideas, slide deck plans, free writing, notes from books I’m reading–whatever I feel like. Sometimes an entire layout–left and right side pages–get taken up by my brainstorming, and that’s okay, too. I don’t restrict myself to rules, because the more structured I try to make it, the less I use it.


However, if you try it, you should adapt it for yourself. Make it more structured, or less structured, for what works best for you. Some people use coded symbols for their to-do list. Others create a monthly index in the back of the journal. To be honest, I love the idea and tried it, but couldn’t keep up on it very well.


Chrome is aplomb with fantastic to-do apps and extensions, but if you’re like me and you still need that feel and immediacy of pen and paper, try bullet journaling for yourself and see if it works.


Final Senior Assignment: Found Poems

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I can count down the number of contracted days left on one hand, and let me tell you, I’m ready. More ready than I’ve been in a while. I changed so much in my curriculum this year, and teaching four preps instead of my usual three kept me busier than usual, too.

Result: My brain is fried.

So were my seniors’ brains. The last few days of every seniors’ final years–for most of them–seems to be a final crawl to the end of that marathon line, especially if their grades are pretty well set. However, I’m not one to stop with a week left. I wanted some language/writing activity for my composition class that didn’t actually feel like writing.

Answer: Found Advice Poems.

I gathered old magazines from the school library that are free for the cutting. Then I created my own found poem, cutting out a few dozen words and phrases from headlines. Gradually, I found some that stood out more than the others, some that created parallelism, and some that could make a good opening. In the end, I formed a poem that shared my final advice for the seniors.IMG_1027

After showing them my poem, it was their turn. They grabbed scissors and dug in, spending the next 2-4 creating their own advice poem for either their classmates or for the underclassmen.IMG_1026

Result: Success!

The seniors had a lot of fun–to be honest, most high school students still love playing with markers, glue sticks, and scissors. And some of their poems turned out pretty darn profound. Check out some samples below: IMG_1040 IMG_1048 IMG_1053

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