Flipboard Magazines with Google Docs

Two years ago, our language arts class tweeted photos explaining text-to-world connections while reading The Giver. That was an eighth grade class well versed in social media. This yescreenshot_2016-12-12-23-20-47ar I teach sixth grade and though Twitter doesn’t enforce their age requirement of 13, other social networking services like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram do enforce theirs. As a result, social media is still a few years away from most of my sixth graders – I’m not complaining!

Creating a Flipboard magazine from the student tweets was simple. All I had to do was assign a unique hashtag for the assignment, search for the hashtag in Flipboard, and flip the results – simple.

It’s not so easy this time, but I’ve found a solution that I want to share.

  1. Clean up the Google doc: Things like paragraph spacing and picture placement can make the post look odd if it’s not done right. What I’ve found is that tabbiscreen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-26-28-pmng the beginning of each paragraph and keeping pictures in line with text work best. Make sure the title of the document is the title of the article and that student last names are removed.
  2. Publish: Click ‘File’ and ‘Publish to web’. This will open a window that gives you a link to the published document. Copy and paste link to open the published document.
  3. Flip it!: To complete this step, you’ll need the Flipboard + Flip It Google Chrome extension – get it here. Once you’ve added the extension to Chrome, click the extension to add the published document to your Flipboard magazine.
  4. Enjoy: Now that your published Doc has been added to your Flipboard magazine, you can share it with your students and colleagues.

Our students wrote newspaper articles loosely based on research they had done to create a video for the worldof7billion.org student video contest. Since they submitted their articles in Schoology via Google Drive, I can make a copy of the original documents to ‘clean up’ and then publish.


Differentiated Writing Instruction with Google Docs

Google Drive and its integration with Google Classroom has made a huge difference in my classroom. One of the biggest advantages I have seen so far is the opportunity to provide differentiated corrective feedback on student writing synchronously. This means I can give students (a whole class of students) comments and suggestions, and highlight errors as they write. The comments below show the range of support a teacher can provide based on the level of each student. Each comment asks the student to self-correct or clarify, though the effort required to make the correction varies in each comment, matching the ability of the student. As you look through comments, ask yourself what each comment requires the student to do to make the correction. In the past, differentiating writing feedback was a time consuming, ink-draining process that seemed to have little or no effect. Now, I feel like I can support the students appropriately while they are in the process of creating writing. Going through these processes with the teacher will help students retain what they learn.


Online Literature Circles: Week 2

In my most recent post, I outlined the steps necessary to set up online literature circles using Edublogs. Since then, the literature circles have begun, and we’ve just finished the fourth week. In this post, I’ll share some samples to show what is actually happening in the circles, and discuss the challenges and issues that have come since they started.

As you read, keep in mind that the students are already maintaining their own personal Edublog and are familiar with all of the procedures and tools necessary to post on the class blog. As a precaution, I made a short tutorial (click here for video) and gave a short reading assignment (chapter one of The Giver) to practice posting and commenting. I didn’t spend the entire weekend reorganizing student posts, so I have to say they were successful.

Each student receives a schedule, like the one here, which tells them what they are responsible for each week. It includes their role and a checklist that describes the three things that need to happen every week.


Throughout the week, students read the text and develop the post for their specific role. Posts are due at the end of the week, and the summarizer in each group has up until the day of class to complete their assignment. This gives them a few days to read through all of their group’s post and summarize.


Literature Circle Instructions

Role Descriptions

The links here are to the documents that are embedded in the class blog. These documents describe the overall assignment and the specifics of each role.

Example #1: Discussion Director


This example shows the five questions that a discussion director asked their group. It also highlights one of the mistakes many discussion directors made in the first few weeks. While it looks like there are five questions here that cover the main points of the reading, the student failed to follow the specific instructions that come with being discussion director. Each question is supposed to serve a different purpose. For example, question one should be a closed question that makes sure everyone noticed an important plot detail. Question three should be a a question to the author, Lois Lowry. This question is supposed to spark discussion about something that would help readers better understand the text. In this example, the student is on the right track, but the way the question is formed is incorrect as the author would know who the old are.

In the future, I know I have to spend more time going through each type of question and provide more examples. Now that we’re in week five, most discussion directors are getting it right, but the confusion could have been prevented with clearer instructions. The response below shows that the questions did get the student to pull things together and draw some conclusions, but the product will be much better when the right questions are asked.


Example #2: Word Wizard


This is a good word wizard example. Each word comes with a sentence to contextualize it, a page number, the student’s own definition, and the dictionary definition. Many students comment on Word Wizard posts and say that they also didn’t know the selected words.

Example #3: Visualizer


Visualizer posts with Fotobabble are going really well. Students are using the sentence frames provided in the instructions and are getting creative with their drawings. Students that don’t feel comfortable drawing can use another image or group of objects to depict a piece of the text. Last week, a student used his younger brother’s Lego figures to set up a scene from the reading instead of drawing a picture; it was well done and the class enjoyed it.

Example #4: Connector


So far, the connector seems to be the most popular role as it receives the most comments. Students are doing a good job of making real world connections; however, in the future, text-to-text connections need to be a requirement. They are by far the least common connection that I’ve seen so far. Here are some comments to the above post.


Example #5: Reflector

reflectorThis example shows the reflector commenting on big ideas as they work their way though the text. Page numbers need to be included so that the group members can follow the reflector’s thoughts as they read specific parts of the text.

Example #6: Summarizer


The last student from each group to post each week is the summarizer. The summarizer’s job is not to summarize the reading, but to summarize the discussion that happened online. In this example, the students discusses the group’s response to the discussion director’s questions and the vocabulary selections. I would like to see more substance in the post and less listing. Students will often list all of the director’s questions and the vocab in a effort to lengthen the post, which is unnecessary. There is enough material in the posts and comments to write a good summary that highlights the most interesting material.

Though there are many small things that need tweaking before the next time this happens, the literature circles are making the reading that happens at home active and promoting a deeper understanding of the material through discussions and peer feedback. In our school, where many of the students need language support and lack the confidence to speak during classroom activities, the online literature circles are providing opportunities to request clarification, check comprehension, and to demonstrate understanding prior to class. This results in more participation and interaction and ultimately, more language development.

Storified Twitter Chain Stories

“In the depths of New York City, on top of the Empire State Building, a creature rested.” This is the first line of @ manyvoices, a Twitter story written collaboratively by 140 elementary and middle school students across 6 countries. The story began with Mr. George Mayo, a teacher in Washington D.C., and was eventually edited and published. You can find a free pdf here.

We are using a similar model in our 8th grade language arts class to begin our unit on creative writing. the major difference between @manyvoices and our assignment is that Mayo created one twitter account for all contributors to share while we are using hashtags to collect and present the story using Storify. The hashtag and Storify make it easy to publish the finished stories, but we lose 11-12 characters.

Here are the instructions we gave to students:



Once all of the students tweet, it’s easy to search for, and individually drag them into the story.

storify main editing page

The above screenshot shows Storify’s main editing page. The menu on the right-hand side allows you to search for many different types of content. For our story, I clicked on the twitter icon, then typed in the the hashtag for the class I was working on.


Here you can see that my search grabbed all tweets containing the hashtag I had specified. Since the hashtags for each class are unique, the search doesn’t grab anything unrelated. From here, you can drag the posts into the main story. I think it’s easier to drag them individually since they show up with the most recent first, which is actually the final tweet of the story.

The next step is publishing the story. After clicking the publish button at the top of the page, you can change the way the story is displayed.


Clicking the template button brings up this menu. Here you can choose the way your story will be displayed. We chose the slideshow because it worked best with the way we wanted to read the finished story in class.

Here is what it looks like:

storify slideshow

Since most of the students hadn’t read their entire story, or the stories from other classes, reading them together was truly a fun experience, as you can see here:


Our next step is to do another story with the entire 8th grade. From there, we may ask other classes to join, as Mr. Mayo did. Another thing I really like about this is that we can use the tweets to focus on language. Eventually, we’ll use them to create editing exercises that we can do as a whole class or in small groups.





Informational Text teaching resources

Links for teaching informational texts:

  1. Intro to Informational Texts 
  2. Best ever literacy tips for teaching informational text structure
  3. Strategies for Teaching with Informational Texts
  4. The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide – again, long but full of good info and ideas
  5. The power of non-fiction +video


Reformulating Second Language Writing

The English proficiency level of the students at my current school varies greatly. This presents a challenge when dealing with corrective feedback on writing assignments because we don’t know exactly what each of our students knows; we know what they were taught in 7th grade (I teach 8th grade), but with new students coming in all the time, it only helps so much. Corrective feedback on structural and/or grammatical topics the student has never learned gets them nothing except more confused, as it does with oral correction. We needed a way to help the student notice their errors, provide corrective feedback, and NOT overwhelm them with a page or red ink.

The answer to our question was first presented in 1978 by Levenston. I wasn’t around then, but it was a great year – Darkness on the Edge of Town and Van Halen were released, so ‘reformulation’ is in good company. Reformulation is when a native speaker rewrites a student’s piece of writing. The native speaker writes to make the piece sound more natural, making organizational and grammatical corrections while preserving the content of the original text. For more information on the history of reformulation and present status of reformulation research, read “Reformulation, Noticing, and the Development of L2 Academic Writing” by Jackie Dannatt.

We chose to use this technique with our struggling writers because it is naturally scaffolded and student-centered (Reid, 1994, Cited by Tardy, 2006). As you can see in the example below, we ask the student to do several things. First, they have to identify the change and write the original text and reformulated text in the table. Next, they have to describe the change. What I like about this is that it allows all students to comment on the change. The student could say something like ‘moved words’ or ‘fixed fragment’, depending on how much they understand. Finally, they have to check yes or no to let us know if they understand the change. This will help us plan follow-up support for the student, in groups or individually.

wp_essay reformulateAfter getting the completed tables back from students and doing this on future writing assignments, we’ll be able to plan more appropriate practice as students pre-write and draft.

I’ll be updating this post in the next few weeks with some samples of the completed tables so please check back.


Levenston, E.A. (1978). Error analysis of free composition: The theory and the practice. Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 1–11.

Tardy, C. (2006). Appropriation, ownership, and agency: Negotiating teacher feedback in academic settings. In K. Hyland & F. Hyland (Eds.), Feedback in second language writing: Contexts and issues. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lit. Circle Crash Course Results and Feedback

In this post I will share the results of a survey I conducted to see how students feel about the literature circle readings and assignments that they’ve worked on over the past 8 weeks. If it’s your first time here, you can read about my initial experiences planning the assignments here and here. A quick google search yielded several useful results that I used to create this survey. Of the 14 students in the class, only 10 of them responded. Though the group is small, the overwhelmingly positive feedback has cemented literature circles as a feature of all my future reading/writing classes – and it may just spill into my TESOL courses. Here are the results from the likert-scale questions:

How much of the book did you honestly read? 

The literature discussion on Wednesdays helped me understand the book better (1-totally agree, 4-totally disagree).

The literature discussion on Wednesdays helped me connect personally with the book.

The literature circle on Wednesdays made me think about things in the book that I had not thought of.

The literature circle on Wednesdays made me feel pressured to keep up with the reading and do my homework.

How much did you enjoy your book? (1- I really enjoyed it, 4-I really didn’t like it)

So far the results are generally very positive. On their own, though, these numbers don’t really say much about how students perceive the experience themselves. The following responses shed some light on how students perceive the literature circles as a whole.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of literature circles?

  • Normally I don’ t have a lot of chance think about books after reading them but through this time I read some of books and I had some times to think deeply about the books. Also it helps me improve my creativity.
  • Use english lot
  • The benefits of literature circle is that you keep up with reading thoroughly.
  • I liked it because I have done this in my previous school in Canada.
  • I like how when I read, I am so focused on my role to do following role that I was provided.
  • I could find other people’s thoughts and compare with mine.
  • Literature circles made me to understand the book better.
  • It make me read books.
  • Make me r.e.a.d english text
  • I could understand some parts of story that I couldn’t understand.
  • It forces me to focus about little details in the book.
  • I think the literature circle helps me understand the book better.
  • Sometimes there are parts that I don’t fully understand. By discussing with my literature circle members, I can understand the story better.
  • I can know several opinion about the book.

What could the teacher have done to make the literature circles more fun?

  • Need more activities, roles and more interesting books
  • Choose the part umm.. everything was good! Maybe next time, choose a book with a movie!
  • We can read a book, then when its done we can see a movie together before the exam week to relax.
  • I think playing quiz game would make more fun.
  • Asking something and answering it will make the class lively.
  • Choose moer easy book….
  • Just ok :)…
  • Explain more about each role with examples?
  • Or actually participate in discussions with a role! I think you’re doing great 🙂
  • less amount of homework

What it is that you like or dislike about literature circles?

  • Everything is fine. Since elementary school, I’ve not in any literature circles and the chance of reading a book was getting lower because of studying.
  • Discussing and sharing ideas with friends are really fun and helpful.
  • It’s really a good way to expand my horizons.
  • Little bit hard to understand the book(took lots of time), so it gives me pressure
  • I liked everything about a literature circle, except the time management problem.
  • Sometimes the discussion had ended up early because case 1, some of the group members had forgotten their work, case 2, the discussion didn’t go smoothly because some of the group members didn’t even had a chance to read a book. They should be more responsible for reading.
  • I liked literature circles having many roles like summerizer, questioner, and connector etc.Because of many roles, the class wasn’t boring.
  • I like this class because it is not boring .But the book is little difficult for me.
  • Sometimes our team talks about other thing that is not related to topics. Also talking is not easy
  • I like questioner and I dislike travel tracer
  •  In my opinion, sometimes some roles do not match with certain chapters. For example, word wizard definitely is not needed for this new book, future of us.
  • I like literature circles because I can hear about different opinions and share ideas.
  •  I like we can share many thought but sometimes it is hard for me to understand the story of the book and to read a lot of amount pages.

Are you looking forward to doing this again? So, what does all of this mean for me? Well, my first thought is that my last minute attempt to run literature circles effectively worked. The success we’ve had so far, however, is a result of the literature circle itself; it does what it’s supposed to do – it gave students real reasons to read and provided adequate opportunities for students of different levels to scaffold each other. In many ways, my contribution was minimal, and I like it that way. In the future, there are several things I will do to get more out of the experience. First, I will manage the roles more effectively. At some times, with some texts, certain roles should be avoided. Second, to encourage reading and give students a choice in the roles they take, I will let them choose. Beginning with the second book this term, I let students choose their role. I made one rule, or guideline, regarding role choices that worked really well. I told students they could choose their role as long as they didn’t pick the same role as someone else in their group. Roles were selected on a first come first serve basis. So, for example, if I want to be the summarizer, I need to make sure that I post my summary on the class blog before anyone else. I found this to work really well because it pushed students to read and post earlier in the week, which resulted in more thought being put into each assignment. Like most of the of the students, I am also looking forward to the next reading. Our next writing pattern is persuasive writing and this time I’ve chosen the text. I chose the first chapter from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers. Students will write about the relationship between talent, dedication, and opportunity. As I said before, I will go through the possible roles and make sure they are all relevant to the reading before assigning it. Now, how can I bring literature circles into my graduate SLA class? Time to get into academic reading circles.

A crash course in literature circles (2)

Part 2

So… In my last post, which you can find here, I described my haphazard attempt at setting up a literature circle in the days leading up to the first day of class. In this post, I will let you  know what happened on the first day of discussion. In a later post, I will share student reactions to the circles.

Overall the first day was a success. The only major wrinkle in the first hour was the students who were unprepared because they never received the blog invitation. Though it’s time consuming, taking students through the necessary sign-up steps is a must. Students who signed up successfully posted a summary, list, or picture (depending on their role, like this…

The discussions began with the summarizer sharing the summary they’ve prepared for class. From there, the questioner leads the discussion until all participants have contributed something specific to their role. Prior to the class, I worried about timing – would 40 minutes be too much time, or not enough? Turns out that 40-50 minutes is just about right for the amount of reading they had. Once the discussions started, they continued naturally until the end of class. The connector, I believe, plays a central role. Connecting the text to events in their lives really adds life to the text and discussion. I was pleasantly surprised at this.

Writing classes are leveled, and my group is the highest level group, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant gap in proficiency levels among students. On the first day, when I asked who traveled the farthest to get here, I heard “Chicago” and “Toronto.” So basically, the class is a mix of intermediate-mid/high students whose English education has been solely in Korea, and several students who have studied/lived abroad for a considerable amount of time.

This mixed high-level class really highlights the positive aspects of the literature circle framework. Students talked, mostly in English, about all aspects of what they had read. Everything, from main ideas to vocabulary items or cultural references that were confusing, was shared. When they didn’t understand each, they explained, they provided examples for each other. They connected events from the text to their own lives. The weaker reader and writers, though quiet in class, weren’t as quite. They had a week to read and prepare something for one specific role and they did it.

So, to wrap up what happened, students discussed main ideas, specific information, and specific language related to the text; all students participated in English; and they all left with a much better understanding of what they read.

Now only if my profs had considered academic reading circles when I was doing my coursework…

In the next post I’ll share some student feedback. Thanks for reading!!


A crash course in literature circles (1)

Part 1

Last winter, given the task of planning for a new semester of English Reading and Writing, I did nothing. In the past, hours spent planning for unknown group of students led only to frustration – so this semester I waited. I waited some more, and a few days before the start of the semester I noticed that I would be teaching a high-level group (determined by placement tests). Excited at the thought of teaching reading/writing to a group of students who were not traditional dance majors, I scoured the web for information on literature circles. Literature circles had been sort of a buzz word on the 4th floor, but I was on the outside looking in as I hadn’t had the chance to try them out. First I had to figure out what they were. A cursory google search yields something like this – plenty of information to get started, right? Back to what they are…

Defining Literature Circles

1. Students choose their own reading materials

2. Small temporary groups are formed, based upon book choice

3. Different groups read different books

4. Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading

5. Kids use written or drawn notes to guide both their reading and discussion

6. Discussion topics come from the students

7. Group meetings aim to be open, natural conversations about books, so personal connections, digressions, and open-ended questions are welcome

8. In newly-forming groups, students may play a rotating assortment of task roles

9. The teacher serves as a facilitator, not a group member or instructor.

10. Evaluation is by teacher observation and student self-evaluation.

11. A spirit of playfulness and fun pervades the room.

12. When books are finished, readers share with their classmates, and then new groups form around new reading choices.

(from http://www.literaturecircles.com)

Now that we know what they are, what’s next? Well, the above #1 says students should choose their own material. I pre-selected several books that the students could choose from. Since I teach freshman reading/writing at a women’s university, and I am not Father Tiresias (thank you Genesis!), I searched for popular young adult fiction. Students settled on Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. With 15 students in the class, one group read Asher and the other two read Bach. Each member of each group had their own role each week. To make sure the students actually did the reading, I had them post a summary of their role on the class blog as comments to my original post where roles were assigned.

So, to sum up, before the first day of actual discussion I had:

a. assigned groups and books

b. posted page numbers and roles on the class blog

c. briefly described the structure of ‘discussion’ days

I will describe the first day in my next post. In a word, it was… mind-blowing.