Helping Students Make the Most of Graphic Organizers to Improve Reading and Writing

What are Graphic Organizers?

As educators we are aware of the different ways students are able to learn. It’s why we don’t just stand at the top of the classroom each day and lecture. Students, especially school-aged students, need a variety of stimuli in the classroom. They need a range of strategies to experiment with to find the best ways for them to complete a set task. Graphic organizers are a great strategy to add to their toolbox.

So, what exactly is a graphic organizer? Simply put, a graphic organizer is a means of organizing information by expressing concepts, knowledge, thoughts and ideas in a visual manner. As a student fills in their graphic organizer, links and relationships between concepts are displayed. Generally, graphic organizers are used as instructional tools and to facilitate learning. Some well known types of graphic organizer include mind maps, Venn diagrams, story maps, and compare and contrast charts.


Introduce your students to 21st century learning with this GROWING BUNDLE OF 101 EDITABLE & PRINTABLE  GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS. ✌NO PREP REQUIRED!!!✌ Go paperless, and let your students express their knowledge and creativity through the power of technology and collaboration inside and outside the classroom with ease. 

Whilst you don't have to have a 1:1 or BYOD classroom to benefit from this bundle, it has been purpose built to deliver through platforms such as ✔ GOOGLE CLASSROOM, ✔ OFFICE 365, ✔ G-SUITE ✔ DROPBOX or any CLOUD BASED LEARNING PLATFORM.

These beautiful digital templates will remove the paper trail whilst providing the opportunity to access these templates without assistance (All instructions are included on each graphic organizer.) leaving you to focus on doing what you do best... Teaching.


What Are the Benefits of Using Graphic Organizers in the Classroom?

There are an impressive number of advantages to using graphic organizers in the classroom. Just a few of these are listed below:

  • Makes content easier to understand and therefore easier to remember
  • Helps student filter information down to what is really important
  • Encourages students to become more strategic in their learning which well help in their future studies
  • Helps students display their understanding of taught material and therefore can provide useful assessment information to inform planning
  • Improves focus as it helps students organize their information and see relationships between ideas

In this article we will take a look at a few ways you can use graphic organizers with your students to improve their reading and their writing.

How Can Students Use Graphic Organizers to Improve Reading?

1. KWL Chart

Using a KWL Chart is a great way to connect prior learning to new learning. It encourages students to review what they have learned on a given topic and consider what further learning they would like to develop on the topic before they undertake a piece of reading. When the student has completed their reading task they then record what they have learned from the reading. The template for a KWL Chart will look something like this:

  • What I Know
  • What I Want to Learn
  • What I Have Learned
 KWL CHARTS SUCH AS THIS ARE USEFUL FOR ORGANIZING A WHOLE RANGE OF LITERACY KNOWLEDGE.    DOWNLOAD 101 HERE

KWL CHARTS SUCH AS THIS ARE USEFUL FOR ORGANIZING A WHOLE RANGE OF LITERACY KNOWLEDGE.   DOWNLOAD 101 HERE

2. Story Sequence

A major aspect of reading comprehension relies on the reader following the sequence of events as they occur. This is true whether we are discussing genres from fairytales to chronological reports. Story sequence graphic organizers present a text in a jumbled series that the student must read and organize into a logical sequence before sticking onto a sheet or long strip of paper. The text may be displayed as purely illustrations, or as illustrations and text, depending on the level of the students. This activity helps students internalize the structure of the genre focused on and will help bridge to later independent writing activities.

 QUICKLY ORGANIZE STUDENT THOUGHTS ON READING WITH  TOOLS SUCH AS THESE

QUICKLY ORGANIZE STUDENT THOUGHTS ON READING WITH TOOLS SUCH AS THESE

From reading to writing…

A nonfiction application can also be made called a Sequence Chart. This consists of a series of rows beginning with the topic identified in the first row with the steps to be taken to complete task to be filled below in chronological order. The sequence chart is a great prep activity for instruction writing.

 GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS SUCH AS THESE CAN QUICKLY STRUCTURE THINKING AROUND A STUDENT NARRATIVE -  DOWNLOAD 101 HERE

GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS SUCH AS THESE CAN QUICKLY STRUCTURE THINKING AROUND A STUDENT NARRATIVE - DOWNLOAD 101 HERE

3. Vocabulary Box

Reading is a surefire way to help build a wide and varied vocabulary. But often there aren’t enough contextual clues to help students figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word. Often they will look it up in a dictionary or online only to forget the meaning before they have even returned to their reading. Vocabulary Boxes are a superb way for students to really get to grips with new vocabulary. A Vocabulary Box is a simple graphic organizer that lays out a part grid for a student to record essential details when they look up a new word, including definition, part of speech, example sentence, and illustration (usually their own drawing). This can be set as an accompanying homework to reading and helps students engage in a type of active reading that is much more effective in building vocabulary.

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How Can Students Use Graphic Organizers to Improve Writing?

3. The Hamburger Paragraph

This organizer helps students get their ideas into a cohesive shape before beginning formal writing in earnest. It consists of the three main aspects of a paragraph represent visually as a hamburger - mmmm, yum! This concrete display of structure is very useful in approaching the often challenging and unwieldy task of writing a paragraph or essay.

The first part, the top bun, corresponds to the introduction or the topic sentence that indicates to the reader what the paragraph is essentially about. The following supporting sentences are  

represented by the filling of the hamburger where supporting ideas and information are listed. The final bottom bun represents the paragraph’s conclusion. The notes here will help the student later write sentences that restate the topic sentence, summarize the ideas, and bring closure to the paragraph as a whole.

 The HAMBURGER GRAPHIC ORGANIZER JUST MAKES SENSE TO STUDENTS AND TEACHERS -  DOWNLOAD 101 HERE

The HAMBURGER GRAPHIC ORGANIZER JUST MAKES SENSE TO STUDENTS AND TEACHERS - DOWNLOAD 101 HERE

4. The 5 W’s and an H

This simple organizer helps students organize their thoughts when undertaking a piece of journalistic writing such as a report. It divides the sheet into sections to jot down initial ideas based on the questions every journalist worth their salt strives to answer: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

This graphic organizer leads the student from answering the more straightforward factual questions such as who and when before leading them organically into the more complex questions of how and why. Structuring notes this way encourages students to organize their information and thoughts on that information before beginning the writing process. This is helpful in producing a unified piece of writing that builds logically as it climbs the ladder of abstraction from the purely factual to the more abstract and universal.

 THIS is an excellent tool for gathering the facts and opinions around a specific topic -  download 101 here

THIS is an excellent tool for gathering the facts and opinions around a specific topic - download 101 here

Do-It-Yourself Graphic Organizing

Open any word-processing application from Microsoft Word and Pages to Google Docs and Open Office and you’ll find a host of ready made free writing templates. In essence, these too are graphic organizers that help you to perform a number functions; anything from writing a resumé to drafting a business report. You can also use these word-processing to design your own graphic organizers for your student. For example, if you want to produce an organizer for a particular writing genre, simply take a look at the specific criteria of that genre, draw out the various headings or related writing prompts and create a corresponding table in your word-processing program. You can add graphic, images, colorful tables and fonts. Making your own graphic organizer allows you to tailor your template for the specific needs of your students and relate it exactly to your own teaching methodologies.

Use Graphic Organizers to Bring Learning to Life!

We have only just touched the tip of the graphic-berg. With the ubiquity of computers in all aspects of our lives, we have at our fingertips a wealth of free and commercially available tools to help us use sophisticated graphic organizers to bring learning to life for our students. However, not all graphic organizers need to be made to the highest of production standards. Sometime a simple table scratched onto a piece of scrap paper can help a student slide that missing jigsaw piece of understanding firmly into place. The key to using graphic organizers in the classroom is to find ways to encourage our students to discover the best ways for them to learn - tooling them up to be self-directed learners for life!

Free Printable Postcard Template

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Use these templates to teach young writers how to write a basic letter or recount.  Your students will learn about addresses and can get creative in decorating the front picture and creating a stamp of their own in the process.  Click here to download now

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Free Fake News Classroom Poster

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The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has released an excellent poster for your classroom identifying 'How to spot Fake News"

It can be downloaded here

Recently we posted an insightful article about teaching Fake News in your classroom and I can highly recommend reading it here.

Discussions about fake news has led to a new focus on media literacy more broadly, and the role of libraries and other education institutions in providing this.

When Oxford Dictionaries announced post-truth was Word of the Year 2016, we as librarians realise action is needed to educate and advocate for critical thinking – a crucial skill when navigating the information society.

IFLA has made this infographic with eight simple steps (based on FactCheck.org’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News)  to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you. Download, print, translate, and share – at home, at your library, in your local community, and on social media networks. The more we crowdsource our wisdom, the wiser the world becomes.

7 Poetry Forms Every Teacher Should Be Teaching and Why

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Poetry as a form of literature long predates the existence of the written word. Its use of rhyme, rhythm, and literary devices, such as metaphor and simile, helped make possible the memorizing of long verses long before the advent writing.

Though not as popular today amongst readers, it endures still in the popular culture, particularly in hip hop and rap. The development of an understanding of poetry, how it works, and how to produce it greatly benefits our students. Not only from the point of view of learning about our literary heritage, but also in enriching students’ lives and helping them to develop their own creativity.

Poetry, if it achieves anything, offers us new perspectives on things we are already familiar with. It attempts to restore our childlike curiosity about the world by presenting us with familiar things in a new light. There are many types of poetry and in this article, we will look at seven poetry forms every teacher should be teaching and how students will benefit from their teaching.

haiku poetry represents deep thinking with minimal text

1. Haiku

Definition:

Traditionally, a haiku is a prescriptive form of Japanese poetry that follows a tight syllabic structure that juxtaposes two subjects, usually related to a natural or seasonal phenomenon.

Form:

●      3 lines

●      17 syllables in total

●      First line of 5 syllables, second line of 7 syllables, a final line of 5 syllables

●      Does not usually rhyme

●      Usually written in the present tense

Benefits:

This is a short form of poetry that requires students to consider closely the sound of each syllable. This reinforces the importance of poetry’s origins as a spoken art form. It can be quite meditative too, as it requires considerable concentration on the student’s part. Often haikus will utilize literary devices such as metaphor or personification, so they can be used as a means of consolidating work in these areas. Students are also afforded an opportunity to be introduced to some elements of Japanese culture.

2. Calligram

calligram's are visual form of poetry

Definition:

A type of poetry where the shape and layout of the letters and words on the paper relate to the poem’s meaning. Calligrams are also commonly called Shape Poems.

Form:

●      The shapes made by letters, lines of poetry, or verses expresses or is informed by, the meaning of the poem

Benefits:

Calligrams bridge the gap between literary and visual art forms. They encourage students to weave together their understanding of the written word with their artistic side. Work on producing calligrams can often easily be linked to learning objectives in art and design based subjects. Students are often very inspired by this form of poetry and can surprise with their astonishing creativity. Calligrams also make for great content for a display board which students can take pride in.

Student's always find limerick's fun

3. Limerick

Definition:

With origins that stretch back to the early years of the 18th century, the limerick’s popularity endures. Usually humorous, the limerick often veers into vulgar territory, so depending on the age group, be sure to lay some content ground rules!

Form:

●      Strict AABBA rhyme scheme

●      The first line usually introduces a person and a place

●      The place name usually ends the first line setting up the rhyme for the second and fifth lines

Benefits:

Students will often be familiar with this form and take great delight in producing their own. The rhyme and rhythm of limericks is extremely regular and can be a great way to introduce the idea of metre in poetry. Limericks also offer wonderful opportunities for exercising of the funny bone!

 Sonnet's go by many names...

Sonnet's go by many names...

4. Narrative Poetry

Definition:

As the name suggests, narrative poems essentially tell a story.  As poems were easier to commit to memory, narrative poetry has its origins in oral traditions. This form employs literary devices, often regular metre, to tell a story frequently in the voice of a narrator and/or the characters in the tale.

Features:

●      Written to be read aloud

●      Includes the usual elements of a story: characters, setting, conflict, dialogue, climax, resolution

●      Employs literary devices such as simile, metaphor, figurative language etc

●      Often rhymes, but not always

Benefits:

Students creating their own narrative poems will avail of an opportunity to reinforce their understanding of the narrative arc. This form also makes fluid links to dramatic performance, as it is usually a straightforward process to adapt a narrative poem for the stage.

 STUDENTS  find Kenning's an easy entry point to poetry

STUDENTS  find Kenning's an easy entry point to poetry

5. Kenning

Definition:

Kennings are derived from Old Norse verse. They are poetic compounds used in place of a single noun. The compound will relate to the characteristics of the original noun itself. For example, battle becomes spear-din. We can see examples of Kenning-type coinings frequently appearing in our everyday speech in words such as, bookworm, mind-reader, and  motormouth.

Features:

●      A compound expression usually referring to a noun

●      Possesses a metaphorical meaning, e.g., ankle-biter referring to toddler

Benefits:

Setting your students the task of writing a series of kennings based on a particular word is a great way to get them to think deeply on that word. They must deconstruct their understanding of the given noun and build two-word phrases that describe the thing in all its roles. This can be a super task to set as a prewriting exercise before embarking on an essay or other longer piece of writing.

6. Free Verse

Definition:

While the word ‘free’ in this form may conjure up images of the wild scribbling of emotional ‘vomit’, there is more to this form. While the structure is extremely loose in comparison to the tyrannical nature of the sonnet described below, it is not mere prose. Check out the features below to get to grips with this often misunderstood form.

Features:

●      Characterized by irregular rhythm and rhyme, though both may be used at times

●      Irregular line length

●      Literary devices often used, for example, alliteration, assonance, metaphor, simile, repetition, internal rhyme

Benefits:

The comparatively unrestricted nature of this form gives students’ imaginations freer rein. This means too that free verse is a superb form to give students opportunities to practice their use of the literary devices mentioned above.

7. Sonnet

Definition:

The sonnet is an extremely technical form of writing that stands in stark contrast to the relative anarchy of free verse. Though its origins can be traced to at least 13th century Italy, there are numerous structural variants. Its popularity among poets such as Milton and Donne exposed a wider English-speaking audience to its rigorous structures. Many students are first exposed to this form through Shakespeare’s sonnets and that is the form whose features we examine below.

Features:

●      14 lines of iambic pentameter

●      3 quatrains and a heroic couplet

●      Rhyme scheme is: abab, cdcd, efef, gg

●      The narrative usually includes the introduction of a problem, building toward a solution by the close of the poem

Benefits:

As mentioned, this is an extremely technical, and therefore demanding, form of poetry. Students will need a lot of illustration with examples. Luckily, Shakespeare provides us with 154 beautiful ones! This will present students with opportunities to get to grips with complex terms such as iambic pentameter, quatrain, sestet, couplet etc.

The difficulty of the form also provides one of its greatest benefits. It is fun in the same way challenging activities such as sudoku or crosswords are fun. Writing sonnets will test any student’s problem-solving abilities to the max, but the rewards are high!

The Final Stanza

As we have seen, the benefits of poetry in the classroom are extremely varied, as are the forms of poetry itself. Developing a student’s poetic abilities not only has implications for their poetry writing capabilities, but will improve their writing skills in general. Literary devices are not the exclusive domain of poetry, we see them everywhere in the written word, from novels and scripts, to advertisements and newspapers.

Poetry too teaches creativity and that reflection is required to really see into something. It teaches the importance of prewriting planning, drafting, and redrafting. It shows students that getting artistic with words is not so much about inspiration as it is about craft and that skilled craftsmanship comes only with diligence and perseverance.

Is there a better lesson to teach our young people than that?

5 Innovative Ways to teach Fables to students

 Teaching fables is a highly engaging way to get students excited about learning the 'craft' of storywirting

Teaching fables is a highly engaging way to get students excited about learning the 'craft' of storywirting

Regardless of their cultural background, every student in your class is likely to be familiar with fables. They are often one of our first introductions to the joys of storytelling. Of course, their merit lies not only in their huge entertainment value, but the fact that they are designed to teach us moral lessons.

In Western culture, the influence of fables, particularly those of that wily old Greek Aesop, permeate our everyday speech. Everything from Don’t count your chickens before they hatch to Out of the frying pan and into the fire can be traced to the wisdom of fables.

Given they are generally relatively short, very entertaining, and students are likely to have some familiarity with them already, fables make excellent resources for improving literacy skills. Read on to get more 5 interesting ideas on how to incorporate them into your lessons.

1. As Sly as a Fox

 IF IT'S 560 BC OR 2021 AESOP'S FABLES ARE JUST AS POIGNANT

IF IT'S 560 BC OR 2021 AESOP'S FABLES ARE JUST AS POIGNANT

Though fables can reveal to us much about human nature, it is interesting to note that the central characters are most often animals. This is true even in more modern versions of fables, such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This anthropomorphism can provide a great in for some very fun writing activities.

Have younger children match personality traits to animals. This simple animal adjectives task consists of providing a list of adjectives and a list of animals. Students must match each adjective with the most suitable animal based on the fables they have been working on. You can further categorize adjectives in lists relating to size, shape, color, feeling, tone etc. This will open up learning opportunities for punctuation work too.

Differentiation Ideas:

Older students can undertake a similar activity, but incorporate their understanding of poetry techniques to write similes or metaphors based on the animals in the fables they have read. To broaden out their characters, students could also be asked to develop bios for each animal.

2. And the Moral of the Story is...

As mentioned, these pithy little tales convey morals to readers. Indeed, back in the days of togas and scrolls, the Greeks would use fables to teach their society how to live the virtuous life. Encourage close reading skills in your students by having them identify the moral of a variety of fables.

 TEACHING MORALS IN THE CLASS TODAY CAN BE DIFFICULT.  bUT FABLES OPEN UP THAT CONVERSATION.

TEACHING MORALS IN THE CLASS TODAY CAN BE DIFFICULT.  bUT FABLES OPEN UP THAT CONVERSATION.

As many of these stories date back over 2,500 years old, copyright is unlikely to be an issue! You can find tons of free versions of Aesop’s fables online. Print a selection off, organize your class into groups, give them copies of the tales, and set them the task of reading and identifying the moral of each one.

Differentiation Ideas:

This activity is easily differentiated by the language level of each version. There are numerous versions of Aesop’s fables available for download online. Choose the version that best suits your class, group, or individual’s needs.

For younger students, or students of lower ability, you may wish to provide the group with a list of morals from which they have to choose to match up with the appropriate fable.

3. Getting Your Ducks in a Row

 FABLES CAN MAKE YOUR CLASSROOM A PLACE OF BEAUTY AS WELL AS A GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

FABLES CAN MAKE YOUR CLASSROOM A PLACE OF BEAUTY AS WELL AS A GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

Sequencing is very important in storytelling; in fact, it’s very important in all writing genres. Having a firm grasp of the importance of good sequencing helps students organize their writing at the planning stage.

There are many possible variations of sequencing activities you can set your students. Very young students can be given a series of jumbled up pictures of scenes from a fable you have already read to them. They are tasked with putting the pictures in chronological order and sticking them onto a strip of paper. They can then use these as prompts to tell each other the story in their own words.

Differentiation Ideas:

This activity can easily be modified to challenge stronger students. For example, you may provide a set of corresponding captions that must be matched to the pictures before organizing chronologically. You can further differentiate by introducing non-conventional story structures such as In Media Res where a story starts in the middle. Students will likely have some awareness of this from its frequent use in the movies. Have them play with the sequence of events and try different starting points for effect. This can reap great creative rewards in their writing later.


This HUGE BUNDLE offers a mix of hands-on, printable, and digital media resources. By the time you have finished this pack, your students won’t just be able to READ and COMPREHEND fables, but will also be WRITING their own unique fables with structure and purpose. That’s it's one our most popular products –Keeping kids excited and engaged for weeks as you work through...

✔ What Is a Fable and Its Purpose?
✔ Who Is Aesop, The Father of Fables?
✔ 12 Famous Interactive Fables by Aesop (Professionally Narrated) 
✔ Scripted Fable Theater - Turn These Fables into a Drama Class
✔ Deconstructing Fables for Meaning
✔ Planning and Assessment Rubrics for Writing Fables
✔ Fable Writing Workshop
✔ Character Traits Worksheets and Activities for All of Aesop's Creatures
✔ Digital and Paper Based Resources for Publishing Fables
✔ Fable Glossary and Curriculum Links.


 FABLES CHALLENGE YOUNG PEOPLE'S THINKING

FABLES CHALLENGE YOUNG PEOPLE'S THINKING

4. Divide and Comprehend!

Just as scientists can understand the inner workings of a frog by dissecting it, students can understand the inner workings of a story through the same process. Hopefully though, the magic of storytelling survives the process, unlike the poor frog!

Use a fable your students are very familiar with to teach the essential parts of a story: character, setting, problem,climax, and resolution. Discuss the characters in the story and have them identify the setting. Discuss the links between types of character and suitable settings. Broaden this idea out to other writing genres such as science fiction, westerns, and horror. What patterns can your students uncover about the relationships between characters and settings?

Now it’s time to get scientific! In groups, have students draw a graph with time along the horizontal axis and action along the vertical axis. Have students plot the various parts of the story (introduction of the characters and setting, problem, climax, resolution) as points along the axis. The points should move from left to right as they occur chronologically in the story. The higher the point is, the more dramatic the action. This is a great way for students to see the physical shape of a narrative arc.

Differentiation Ideas:

A simple version of this activity may involve students simply plotting the points and labeling them introduction, problem etc. However, more advanced students can also write captions that describe the action at the different stages.

You may also wish to take the opportunity to make some cross curricular technology links here and have students construct their graphs digitally with a suitable software program.

5. Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the 21st Century

  Anthropomorphism - LOOK IT UP WITH YOUR STUDENTS.  eXCELLENT LITERARY CONVERSATION.

Anthropomorphism - LOOK IT UP WITH YOUR STUDENTS.  eXCELLENT LITERARY CONVERSATION.

Though many of traditional fables date back to around 500 BC, they have survived due to the timeless nature of their messages and the generality of the characters and settings. Now your students have a good understanding of how they work, have them rewrite the fables for the modern day.

This will require them to get specific. Characters will become human and locations will be defined. This is a great way to reveal to students that the same theme can be given a number of different treatments; stories that seem markedly distinct can share an underlying moral.

Differentiation:

This activity can be differentiated by outcome, whereby more able students will produce more complex stories. While the less advanced students may stick tightly to the original, more advanced students may completely reinterpret the story with only the central moral remaining intact.

A Word in Summary and an Extra Idea or Two

The activities above can be used as one-off lessons or as a series of lessons exploring different aspects of fables: character, moral, sequence, and story structure.

There is also a lot of scope here for continuing work based on the initial fables. Time spent getting to grips with a story can be utilized in other genres and for other learning objectives too.

Perhaps you want to teach the writing of playscripts? You can teach the criteria for the genre and then set your students the task of adapting a fable to the playscript format.

To develop public-speaking skills, have the students engage in an oral retelling of a fable or make a dramatic presentation of the story. There are innumerable opportunities, but don’t be in too much of a rush, for if The Tortoise and the Hare have taught us one thing, slow and steady wins the race...

Free Fable Planning Tool

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This tool assists students to create engaging fables based upon the model we have been using for generations.  It is best printed in a larger format so as your students can visually represent their ideas alongside written ones and is completely free and available here.

How to teach students about fake news in the real world

 Fake News has been with us for generations

Fake News has been with us for generations

Whatever Donald Trump’s legacy as president of the United States becomes he will forever be known as the protagonist for bringing two key terms to the modern vocabulary.  “Fake News” and “Alternative Truths”

Whilst Trump’s delivery and intent of these terms are contentious there is no debate he called out the elephant in the room when talking about news and journalism in the context of modern technology.  

Facebook, Twitter, blogging and an endless army of social media tools have provided a platform for anyone with a WiFi connection and a device the opportunity to voice their opinion and consider themselves a journalist, social crusader, paid opinion or blatant liar...

The propagation of questionable “news” content has skyrocketed out of control at pace with the growth of the internet.  Content creation today is virtually free without any need for fact-checking or validation.  Today’s news cycle is now driven by the need to be first as opposed to providing insight, truth and depth behind a story.

Our students are growing up in a world dominated by fake news on the platforms they look too most frequently for truth and reassurance.

21st-century media is out of control, living off the reputation of two centuries of professional journalism operating within an environment in which printing, publishing and televising news was an expensive and competitive game in which “fake news” and “alternative truths” could sink an organisation and end a career in instantly.

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook creator and founder has the loudest voice on earth, with 3.15 billion active users log into Facebook at least once per month.  He has the loudest voice in history, and it’s not even close.  No individual or organization has actively controlled what half the earth’s population can see, say or share.  And all without any regulation.

Facebook is valued at over $500 Billion, with Zuckerberg’s wealth entirely generated by selling our data.  The flow of this data is controlled by algorithms.  Secret algorithms that are completely hidden by Facebook.  This denial of transparency underpinned by our governments who clearly value the profitability of big business over free speech, privacy and protection of our rights.

We must understand that Facebook is drinking water from a fire hydrant here and get a lot more wrong than right.  Mark Zuckerberg is still wiping the egg from his face after he was forced to admit they completely bungled the flow of information and content from Russian hackers that may potentially have put Trump in office.

For Zuckerberg, a man with an endless cash flow, and the largest soapbox in history and surely has an eye on the White House at some point will be forever dogged as being asleep at the switch in a critical moment of global history.

As educators, we must value this understanding of fake news, and a greater understanding of algorithmic design and suppression and release of data as an essential skill for our students.  And we are already starting from a long way back.

As teachers and education systems what are we doing to move fake news from the top of our news feed back to the “News of the world?”

What skills and knowledge do our teachers and students need to outsmart a journalist who got their degree from Walmart.

Sugata Mitra, globally renowned educational researcher believes today’s students need only three essential skills beyond a basic elementary education that are based on sorting facts from fiction, enquiring and acting.

Skip ahead to 9:54 to hear Sugata Mitra discussing his three essential skills for modern students

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Information Search and Retrieval Skills
  • Teach students to both question and believe things they read and see.

Mitra identifies these skills as essential for students in arming them with the skills to oppose doctrine and think and act for themselves.

Teaching “Fake News” in the classroom is surely an essential skill for any student with access to social media and uses the internet to seek out information about the world around us.

We need to teach them the key elements of fake news

  • Rumor Mill
  • Satire
  • Paid Opinions
  • Click bait
  • Bias
  • Fake News

What are they?  What is entertainment? What is news?  How can I report or respond to this?

The internet is not driven by free speech or good will, but by search engine optimization and keyword stuffing.  Internet success is more about being page one on Google or first with a news story rather than being correct or the best at what you do.

We have an obligation to our students to share this knowledge with them from a very young age.

We need to explore and discuss what living in a world in which we cannot trust the media and news, in general, might be like.  It’s quite frightening.  Facebook is currently creating regime of doubt and mistrust in news and media as we speak but assures us “they have got this”

Of course, we will never know as there is no transparency or government regulation around the content they run on Facebook.  Ironically the government could shut down NBC tomorrow for major breaches of ‘Fake News” but they can do nothing to control Facebook.


FAKE NEWS (3).png

IT'S ALL HERE

A complete unit of work on how to teach students to analyze news and social media to get verifiable facts.  ALL CONTENT, RESOURCES AND ASSESSMENT TOOLS INCLUDED.


 This is the type of FAKE NEWS we can live with

This is the type of FAKE NEWS we can live with

We must teach our students the difference between a fact and opinion.  Twenty years ago it used to be what someone thinks as opposed to what was published in a nonfiction book such as an encyclopedia.  Today a student probably considers what Siri tells them to be a fact, and maybe what their teacher tells them to be an opinion.  The lines have become very blurred but we cannot avoid dealing with this issue.

How do students seek a second opinion, be it on the internet or otherwise and what weight can I place on different news sources?  These are all issues we just took for granted in a post-internet world.

Technology is not going anywhere, and nor is our dependence upon it for news.  Ignoring this issue will not make it go away.  Become a teacher who understands and accepts that we are the products of organizations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon and if we see content or behavior in these spaces that simply does not pass the sniff test that we can either call it out or step off the train until we are comfortable it is taking us to a better place.

Fake news has and always still exist but we just need to start teaching our students that in the real world they do not have to accept it.

50 Literary terms every English teacher should know

 My english teacher knew more cliche's than you can poke a stick at

My english teacher knew more cliche's than you can poke a stick at

Every aspect of life has its own vocabulary.  Jargon, lingo and terminology which is essential to function in that field of expertise and appear credible to those around you.  

As an English teacher, tutor or even a student there are some essential terms required to run and participate in an effective English class.

Knowing these literary terms and their meanings will greatly enhance your students learning opportunities and enhance your own professional understanding of your craft.

Hopefully, you already know most of these but here is the definitive list of what you need to know in order to 'walk the walk, and talk the talk' as a quality English teacher

Accented:   a word, syllable, or musical note or chord) stressed or emphasized.

Allegory:  A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

Alliteration:  The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. ‘the alliteration of ‘sweet birds sang’’

Analysis:  Detailed examination of the elements or structure of something.

Assonance:  Resemblance of sound between syllables of nearby words, arising particularly from the rhyming of two or more stressed vowels, but not consonants (e.g. sonnet, porridge), but also from the use of identical consonants with different vowels (e.g. killed, cold, culled) ‘the use of assonance throughout the poem creates the sound of despair’

Ballad:  A poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next.

Biography:  An account of someone's life written by someone else.

Character:  A person in a novel, play, or film. - The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. 

Chiasmus:  A rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order. 

Chronological:  following the order in which they occurred.

Cliche:  A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.‘that old cliché ‘a woman's place is in the home’’

 Comparison

Comparison

Comparison:  A consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people.

‘they drew a comparison between Gandhi's teaching and that of other teachers’

Contrast:  The state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association.

‘the day began cold and blustery, in contrast to almost two weeks of uninterrupted sunshine’  

Description:  A spoken or written account of a person, object, or event.

Dialogue:  A conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or film.

Drama:  A play for theatre, radio, or television.

Epic:  A long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the past history of a nation.

Fact:  A thing that is known or proved to be true.

Fantasy:  A genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, especially in a setting other than the real world.

Fiction:  Literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people.

A figure of speech:  A word or phrase used in a non-literal sense for rhetorical or vivid effect.

Fairy Tale:  A children's story about magical and imaginary beings and lands; a fairy story.

Folk Tale:  A story originating in popular culture, typically passed on by word of mouth.

Form:  The structure of a word, phrase, sentence, or discourse.

Generalization:  A general statement or concept obtained by inference from specific cases.

Genre:  A style or category of art, music, or literature.

Hyperbole:  Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

Idiom:  A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light).

Imagery:  Visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work.

Inference:  A conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.

 Isn't it ironic?

Isn't it ironic?

Irony:  The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

Kenning:  A compound expression in Old English and Old Norse poetry with metaphorical meaning, e.g. oar-steed = ship.

Metaphor:  A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

Metonymy:  A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

Moral:  A lesson that can be derived from a story or experience.

Motive:  A reason for doing something.

Narrative Poetry:  Poetry that tells a story.

Narrator:  A person who narrates something, especially a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem.

Non-fiction:  Prose writing that is informative or factual rather than fictional.

Novel:  A fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.

Ode:  A lyric poem, typically one in the form of an address to a particular subject, written in varied or irregular meter.

 Onomatopoeia:  in action in many comics

Onomatopoeia:  in action in many comics

Onomatopoeia:  the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoosizzle ).

Oxymoron:  A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

Personification:  The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something non-human, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.

Plot:  The main events of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.

Poetry:  Literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.

Point of view:   (in fictional writing) the narrator's position in relation to a story being told.

Predictions:  A thing predicted; a forecast.

Rhyme:   A short poem in which the sound of the word or syllable at the end of each line corresponds with that at the end of another.

Rhythm:  The measured flow of words and phrases in verse or prose as determined by the relation of long and short or stressed and unstressed syllables.

Science Fiction:  Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

Sequence:  A particular order in which related things follow each other.

Setting:  The place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place.

c45b9069a0_1460642333779.jpg

Simile:  A figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g. as brave as a lion).

Solution:  A means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.

Stanza:  A group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem; a verse.

Theme:  An idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.

Voice:  The distinctive tone or style of a literary work or author.

How to automate reading diary collection in your classroom.

digital_reading_log

I have to share with you one of the best teaching resources we have encountered in a very long time.  It will save you and your students a world of frustration and time when it comes to collecting data and evidence about reading at home.  

"Never collect a reading diary or log again" is the promise associated with the Digital Reading Log and I can totally verify that this to be true.  It also  offers so much more potential for you as an assessment tool than chasing reading diaries on a regular basis.  I will never go back..

It took me about 15 minutes to set this up for my class for the year and now I just log into my computer for a detailed analysis of my students reading habits... That's it I'm sorted for the year...

I get crucial information about aspects of reading that challenged my students and data I can use to guide future English lessons and my data collection for reports on reading is all here in one place waiting for me.

Check out the link and the video for yourself.  It cost me the same as a couple of cups of coffee but I would pay double in a heartbeat to have done this earlier in my career.  

Check it out here for yourelf, and if you have used this or something similar we'd love to hear about it. 

Free Adobe Spark Video Planning Template

 

Getting younger students to record their ideas in a logical and engaging manner can be tough.

If you have reluctant writers in your classroom, you will appreciate how difficult it can be to get work from them demonstrating a clear understanding of what you have been teaching them.

Finding alternatives to written work is not always easy to come across especially if there are deeper issues than the student simply being a reluctant writer such as a diagnosed learning condition.

To counteract this issue I find Adobe Spark Video to be an incredibly easy to use on all devices.  It is a powerful tool which as the name suggests relies mainly on visuals and images to share knowledge as opposed to writing down line after line of text.

The other great thing about Adobe Spark Video is the polish it adds to presentations that make them far more engaging than your traditional PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.

Simply giving students Adobe Spark Video and directions around a specific topic can sometimes leave them confused and seeking further clarification.


To remedy this I have created a free template which you can download here that will ensure your students stay on task and have a clear direction about what they are supposed to be doing.  Best of all the template can be adapted to any age group or topic area

Free Facebook profile activity for English students

You kids will love creating their own Facebook Character Cubes with our completely free and simple to use template.

This versatile mock Facebook cube can be applied to any number of activites such as a character profile from books, films, games etc, quick biography task, all about me or plenty of other alternatives.

It contains the 6 elements of Facebook most relevant to students.
- Photo
- About
- Status Updates
- Friends
- Timeline
- Share a memory

It is completely editable and can be undertaken as a simple pen and paper task or an editable PowerPoint and Google Drive (Slides) task for students who have access to a technology.

Simply follow the instructions and away you go... NO PREP REQUIRED!!

Download it here completely free today!!

Argumentative Essay Graphic Organizer Freebie

Argumentative writing may sound like a new concept or approach, but it is not.  This term basically means to argue one’s opinion while understanding that there is an opposing side. 

Brought to the forefront with the adoption of the new ELA Common Core Standards, middle and high school students alike need practice in developing argumentative writing.  This allows them to increase their comfort level in choosing a side on a controversial issue and developing their opinion using persuasive language and techniques.  From there, writers should be able to think about the arguments or counterclaims that the opposing side would make in response.  Not only should the author seek to provide these counterclaims, but to add support that dismisses the opposition’s argument.  

The argumentative graphic organizer is a strategic teaching tool that better equips students to develop this type of writing.  This graphic organizer is designed to anticipate the needs of the readers, as well as have the author utilize a variety of detail types to develop their opinion with more than just fluffy, eloquent language.  

To download this resource for free click here and to view over 100 of our resources click here

Tips for Managing Guided Reading with Large Class Sizes

This list was compiled by Christine Fankell, Elementary Literacy Facilitator, Livonia Public Schools, MI

Create a guided reading group meeting schedule. Vary the frequency that you plan to meet with each group. Meet more frequently with struggling readers and less frequently with proficient readers.

  • Use a timer to keep your guided reading lessons to 20 minutes. In Next Step Guided Reading, Jan Richardson makes suggestions for the length of each part of the lesson. You can also time the individual parts of the lesson to get a feel for the recommended pace of the guided reading lesson.
  • Work with short texts. The text that you use should be something that can be read in one or two guided reading lessons.
  • Have all the materials you will need for the guided reading lesson organized and ready so that you don’t need to search for things once the lesson is underway. There are suggestions for organizing materials on Jan Richardson’s website as well as in Spaces and Places (Diller).
  • Consider what you can prep ahead of time to save precious minutes during the lesson. For example, you might consider tabbing the student text to mark spots where the students should stop and write about their thinking.
  • With a larger class, you may also have to increase the size of your guided reading groups. Ideally you would want your groups to consist of no more than 6 students. With larger class sizes this maximum may have to be increased to 8 for students reading on and above grade level. Keep your below level groups at six or less.
  • Try to limit the total number of guided reading groups to no more than five. Remember that you can form groups of students that are reading a few levels apart. For example you might have an M/N guided reading group that has a common instructional need. For upper grades, you might work with students who are reading at levels S, T, and U because they all need to work on summarizing.
  • Where it makes sense to do so, thread the teaching point from your reading workshop mini lesson into your guided reading work. This will give you the opportunity to provide additional scaffolded support for students who need it.

Dear Santa Letter Template Freebie

With the festive season almost upon us you might be considering doing some letters to Santa as part of your Christmas writing sessions.

This easy to use template is completely free to download looks great and will definitely inspire young writers to put in plenty of great ideas and effort.

Click here to download this free Dear Santa writing template, and stay tuned to literacy ideas for plenty of other great freebies, resources and templates.

Snapshot Writing Tool Freebie

Snapshot Writing is a great way to get students to write about an exact moment in time.  It is an opportunity to laser focus on how our senses and emotions react to the world and events around us.  

Using this tool students simply write what they see, hear, feel, smell, see and taste. This is a great task to aid students to create imagery within their writing.

It is always written from a first person perspective and will force your students to think outside the box when describing any event or action in future.

We are giving you this free great planning tool which makes Snapshot Writing accessible to anyone.  Download it here. 

Snapshot writing is greatly enhanced when used alongside a visual prompt such as a photo or video. 

It will enhance any writing session and give a great deal of confidence to reluctant writers.

If you are looking for a collection of amazing visual writing prompts and an editable version of the snapshot writing tool which can be found here. 
 

40 Amazing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Teaching ideas

This week we are giving away a freebie to one of the most loved children's books of all time.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This matrix offers over 40 activities for students based on Bloom's Taxonomy and Gardiner's multiple intelligence's for Roald Dahl's timeless Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  It is a must have for students and teachers looking for new and innovative ways to teach this great story with you Over 40 great Wonka Activities

Click here to download the freebie and if you really want to go all in Charlie and teach a complete unit on it I can strongly recommend this 57 page book full of great ideas about Willy Wonka and his amazing chocolate factory.

Explanation Writing Checklist Freebie

Help your students to independently edit and proofread their own explanation writing pieces or explanatory essays with these engaging checklists and rubric. 

There are three age variations in the bundle for Junior (Ages 5 - 7), Middle (7 - 11) and Senior (11 - 15). Each bundle contains both a student checklist for independent assessment and a student / teacher rubric for conferencing. Check the preview for a visual example. 

Click here to download the freebie

The version you are looking at is the free PDF version. If you are looking for an editable version you can find it here

Editable Writing Checklists

These editable checklists are specifically for narratives and explanation writing at the moment. However we will are currently creating more for other writing genres in the coming weeks which will be added.

Each age group has been stylised and written to appeal to different age groups.

With six to a page you can easily print these out and distribute to students an re use them over and over. 

Best of all they are completely editable if you wish to change any element of it.

Give your students the tools they need for great writing.

Free Fable Planning Tool

Fables are an excellent genre of writing that has served a purpose in literacy and society for thousands of years. 

Fables were originally created as short stories intended to teach children a message or moral through great story telling.  Almost everyone is aware of the story of "The boy who cried wolf" and any child can make the connection from the story that consistent lying will cause you grave harm.

Aesop is the undisputed master of the Fable and he created hundreds of them using animals as key characters to portray certain human traits.

The reason a fox is referred to as cunning or the lamb as a perpetual innocent victim comes from Aesop's fables.

This tool assists students to create engaging fables based upon the model we have been using for generations.  It is best printed in a larger format so as your students can visually represent their ideas alongside written ones and is completely free and available here.

The fable planning tool is part of a massive 90 page unit of work around fables.  It has been incredibly popular (read the reviews.) and is available as a premium product here.

42 Amazing Spelling Activities for your students

This evergreen resource will come in handy for fresh ideas for students to use their spelling words more effectively and creatively.

It has been downloaded over 8,000 times and is one of our most popular resources.

The matrix is built on Blooms Taxonomy and addresses all areas in simple to understand language for students of all ages.

Best of all it's completely Free!!!   Click here to download.

 

25 Awesome Emoji Writing Prompts for students

This freebie Contains 24 different Emoji used as writing prompts to spark some excellent story / creative writing in you classroom.

Just simply print out the emoji included and present them to you students. 

Each strip includes a Written Prompt and Emoji Prompts based on characters, setting and plot.

You can alter this task in a multitude of ways as you see fit.  Enjoy

Click here to download this Free Resource

Say hello to our free narrative writing checklists

Teach your students to independently check their own narrative / story writing with these beautiful checklists and rubrics. 

There are three age variations in the bundle for Junior (Ages 5 - 7), Middle (7 - 11) and Senior (11 - 15). Each bundle contains both a student checklist for independent assessment and a student / teacher rubric for conferencing. Check the preview for a visual example. 

Each age group has been stylised and written to appeal to different age groups.

With six to a page you can easily print these out and distribute to students an re use them over and over. 

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE NARRATIVE CHECKLISTS HERE

The version you are looking at is the free PDF version. If you are looking for the premium editable version you can find it at

EDITABLE NARRATIVE CHECKLIST AND RUBRICS

Give your students the tools they need for writing great stories.