Monday, February 27, 2017

Technology Presentation: Swivl

Image taken by Patick Donovan.
Have you ever wanted to observe yourself teaching or hear a small group's discussion after class?

Swivl is a tool to record and observe students using an iPad or iPhone, and it also records sound using the microphone on the tool itself

The teachers I sat with said they use this tool to record themselves in order to self-evaluate and record student presentations like poetry slams.

Here's how to upload and edit the Swivl video in YouTube:
1. Log into YouTube channel
2. Export to YouTube
3. Set as private
4. Go to picture in top right corner > Creator Studio > Create > Video Editor
5. Edit however you'd like. Zoom in to clips with bottom right magnifying glass, cut clips with blue scissors on line, or add text for title
6. When done, click "Create Video"
7. To rename your edited video, go to My Channel > Video Manager. You can set your video as private, public or unlisted.

Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Minute Valentine's Activity: Conversation Hearts

If you're anything like me, you probably have mixed feelings about Valentine's Day. I love an excuse to eat chocolate and heart-shaped pizza, but I am not a fan of pretty much everything else associated with it.

Whether you love Valentine's Day or dread it, tomorrow is February 14th. If you're looking for a meaningful way to give your students a bit of candy, laugh, practice creative writing, and spend just a small amount... Look no further!

Activity: Conversation Hearts & Short Stories

Materials Needed:

1 bag of conversation hearts candy
1 short story or poem that you've covered in class
Paper/pencil or online writing tool for students


Using a short story/poem/sonnet that you've already read and discussed as a class, give each student 3-5 conversation hearts with messages that they will insert into the story. Students will rewrite a scene from the story through incorporating the messages from their hearts.

The point of this activity is to experiment with how words and phrases can change the tone of the story. Remind students there is not a right or wrong way to do this. They can either insert their messages into existing dialogue or rewrite the dialogue completely between characters.

Since conversation hearts usually have messages like "kiss me" or "so fine," this tends to lead to rather humorous dialogue. Students will likely want to share their stories. I suggest splitting students in small groups once they are done writing so everyone has a chance to share what they wrote.


We did this activity in my Teaching of English course this morning. We had the option of using our conversation hearts in "The Cask of Amontillado" or "The Yellow Wallpaper."

I chose "The Yellow Wallpaper," and below is an example of how I used my hearts (the underlined text):

"John is practical in the extreme, but he is so fine. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures. I'm crushin'. #DreamDate."

The hearts clearly change the tone of the story.


Remember, this is meant to be a quick, fun activity to do on Valentine's Day. It is not meant to be stressful for students or assessed for a grade. Enjoy the laughs and candy!

Credit for idea: Dr. Sheila Benson, University of Northern Iowa

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Literacy is Like Cacti

Image by Ian Lucero, used with permission from Flickr.
Literacy is like a cactus. This is a sentence I never thought I would write, but literacy and cacti have more in common than one might presume. A student’s exposure to reading and writing affects their literacy development, just as a cactus’ exposure to sunlight affects its growth. A cactus cannot grow without sufficient sunlight; a student cannot become literate without sufficient outlets to practice creative thought. As a cactus retains the water it is given, a student who embraces the reading and writing opportunities they are given will further develop their literacy skills and (hopefully) retain them.
            The idea of what it means to be literate is constantly changing. For example, consider reading and writing texts, emails, blog posts, Tweets, and captions for photos on Instagram. All of these demand a different kind of literacy than what people have needed to be considered literate in the past. This example also shows how literacy appears in our culture in a variety of forms. In comparison, cacti change in their physical appearance throughout their lives depending on their surroundings. Some have flowers, some are tall, and some are fat. Just as one cactus is not inherently better than another, one form of literacy is not inherently better than another.

            Although literacy is a noun, it is intangible, and it is difficult to define without offending someone. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to touch the surface of a cactus without getting poked. Perhaps it is these obstacles that both literacy and cacti present which contribute to their persistence and adaptability through time.
Does this metaphor seem to hold true to you? What is something you might compare literacy to?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Global Collaboration in Literature Circles

For my final project, I have chosen to do a global collaboration unit on literature circles.

Here is the link to my website.

Or, here is the link to copy/paste if you prefer:

The tabs on this site are sorted as follows:
  • Welcome
  • Overview
    • Standards & Goals
    • Schedule
    • Tasks
    • Technology
  • Assessment
  • Contact
    • Reflection
    • Sample Projects
    • GEC Presentation
If you have any questions or suggestions for me, please visit the "Contact" tab on the site, comment on this blog post or respond to my discussion thread on eLearning. Thanks!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

(Revised) Visual Symbols in My Life

Describe how visual symbols affect your life on a daily basis. (include visual examples)

Rereading my first blog post on Visual Symbols in My Life from August,  I did a good job of explaining the obvious visual symbols in my life, such as writing, books, painting, and creating bulletin boards:

 However, I think I missed the point of visual literacy, and visuals, altogether.

Visuals aren't just what humans make intentionally for people to look at, such as a piece of writing or a painting. Rather, visuals are everywhere and everything. For those with the sense of vision, they make up and influence nearly every aspect of our lives:
The sign for my voting precinct on election day this year.

Ellen Hopkins signing her books (shown in front of her) at the NCTE conference.

As discussed in class, visual literacy is a spectrum ranging from symbols to campaigns. At the most simplest level, visuals are lines, dots, shapes, white space, shading, etc. At the most broad level, visuals are the combination of these small parts to form some sort of meaningful message, such as a documentary like Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Visuals are also a power. We have the ability to utilize visuals to design something that can potentially change the world. As we saw with our Save the World presentations, visuals have the capacity to move people to act. Visuals influence logos, pathos and ethos. The PSA campaigns we watched in class show how the visual messages humans produce can cause people to donate, volunteer or even just think a little more about a serious issue, like global climate change or domestic violence.

 I see visuals as having a limitless potential. They have the power to be used for either better or for worse, such as the ads we saw during the political season. In this way, there is a sort of responsibility that accompanies visuals and visual literacy. We need to educate students on how to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate, offensive and unoffensive, and right and wrong in terms of visuals.

What did you gain this semester? 

This class has forever changed the way I view the world around me. In my other classes, I find myself thinking about the visual layout of my classmate's presentations and what they could do to make it more visually appealing. In my TESOL classes specifically, I think about how visuals are going to play a huge role in helping my students make sense of the classroom and the world around them. On social media, I think twice about a visual image before I post it in case it could possibly offend someone. Even on this blog, I'm thinking about the visual layout of my text. I'm even considering creating a new blog entirely using Wix instead of Blogger because my posts "look" unprofessional, and if employers see this blog, they make think I'm unprofessional based on my blog's appearance rather than its content.

For example, this class really helped in the creation of my Modern & Postmodern Poetry website to guide students through a 2-week unit on poetry. I intentionally made this site with visuals in mind and made sure to incorporate some sort of design element on each of the webpages.

Reflect on how will an increased knowledge of Visual Literacy help you to create, understand, classify, and appreciate visuals.


With my increased knowledge of visual literacy, I want to create visuals that better reflect me and portray the image of myself that I would like the world to see. For instance, I am going to be much more careful about what I post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If I want people to see me as teaching professional, I need to appear as a teaching professional with the visual content I create and share. For example, if I'm only posting visuals of myself as a young careless college student, no one who follows me is going to think I'm professional because my visuals make me look irresponsible. The same is true for the way I dress during professional events. I need to put more care into the image of myself that I am creating every day.

A photo I took (and Tweeted) with Kelly Gallagher, an English teacher and author on the philosophy of English teaching.


With my increased knowledge of visual literacy, I am much more skeptical. I am no longer the type of person who says "see it and I'll believe it." Visuals have the capacity to lie and to persuade. They can sway the truth and try to make you believe something is true or correct when it isn't necessarily based on fact or research, especially in advertisements.


With my increased knowledge of visual literacy, I have learned how to better group and organize visuals. I am aware that most visuals have multiple players to them. For example, a political cartoon usually references other past or current events within the cartoon itself, and the reader needs to know about these in order to make sense of the cartoon.


With my increased knowledge of visual literacy, I have a much greater respect and appreciation for visual creators such as movie directors. The films we watched in this course would not have been nearly as impactful if the director did not care about visual content. When I see a quality photo or a short video that makes me stop and think, I now pause and think about how the creator achieved this through the use of visuals to make this effect on me.

While this course may be over after this upcoming Monday, my journey with visual literacy is just beginning. I'm constantly pushing myself to learn more about visuals and just how important they are in our lives to help us make sense of new ideas. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Modern and Postmodern Poetry Unit

If you are looking for a 2-week unit to do with your class to engage students with poetry, look no more:

This is a student-centered unit that focuses on student voice and choice in regards to reading and writing poetry. Students create their own portfolio and partake in a writer's workshop as well as a poetry slam. Keep in mind that this could take more than two weeks depending on how well your students are able to stay on task during class and how much prior experience they have with reading, writing and public speaking (especially with poetry).

While I created this site with 10th grade students in mind, it could be easily adapted for middle school or high school grades. It is also made with Iowa Core standards in mind, but the Iowa Core is fairly similar to the Common Core.

If you use any of the resources or lesson plans from my site, please let me know either in the comments below or through the contact page on my website. Since I am a pre-service teacher, I have not had the opportunity to try my two-week unit with real students.

I'd love to hear from you and receive any feedback (positive or constructive) on my site. Or, if you've done a similar unit and have advice or tips on what worked well for you, please let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Aha Journal: December 4th

PSA ads

As I scrolled through Facebook today, I stumbled across this rather powerful video:

Wow! I was so caught up in the love story that I missed every single sign.

This video is part of a campaign for violence warning-signs. A Sandy Hook group started this campaign to help prevent future school shootings.

In my opinion, this type of PSA campaign is effective because it is not looking for time or money. Rather, it is looking for people to be observant. The video shows people how easy it is to be oblivious to something that is happening right in front of us.

When I watched the video, I admit I completely missed out on all of the warning signs. Since I knew the video was about a school shooting, I wasn't surprised when a shooter walked into the gym, but I was disappointed in myself for not realizing all of the signs pointed to a particular person throughout the video. This reinforces the idea that a lot of times, school shooters aren't people who randomly wake up and decide to kill that day. Rather, shooters are people who have been planning and thinking about it for quite some time. If someone would have noticed, maybe they could have been stopped.

What are your thoughts on this PSA campaign? Why do you think this particular video is effective or ineffective?