Friday, December 19, 2014

Observations About the FSA ELA Training Tests on the Florida Department of Education Website

Writing Component of FSA ELA (March): If one of the criteria in the writing rubrics (rubrics posted on DOE website) is spelling, why does the notepad function allow students to check if a word is misspelled? Why does the tutorial included in the actual training test say students have access to a spellcheck? Are we testing a student’s ability to use a spellcheck or his/her knowledge of spelling?!

Writing Component of FSA ELA (March): When a student clicks on the tutorial for the Writing Section of the test (the "i" icon to the far right of the blue question number on the line above the actual prompt), the tutorial explains that students are allowed to use a spellcheck by clicking on an icon that is supposed to appear in the menu above the box students utilize to write their essays. In the actual Training Test, the spellcheck icon does not appear in the menu bar above the box. As I stated above, this ability to spellcheck seems illogical since students, per the rubric (DOE website), are being assessed on spelling. The lack of the spellcheck icon adds even further confusion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

FSA ELA Argumentative Prompt--Pointers on How to Respond

I provide students with the following suggestions:

The following opinions are mine, not necessarily those of the DOE. Unfortunately, there has not been the best communication about this new assessment and there is a lack of clarity on some issues. My recommendations are as follows:

Friday, October 31, 2014

FSA Sample Informative/Explanatory Writing Prompt from the Florida Department of Education Website

FSA Sample Informative Essay Writing Prompt

Write an informational essay on the relationship between clothing styles and developments in clothing creation. Your essay must be based on ideas, concepts, and information from the passage set.

Manage your time carefully so that you can
·       read the passages;
·       plan your essay;
·       write your essay; and
·       revise and edit your essay.

FSA Argumentative Writing Prompt from Florida Department of Education Website

FSA Sample Argumentative Prompt

It’s no secret that sometimes great discoveries come as a result of really big mistakes. But are they always worth the problems they cause? Sometimes the mistakes lead to greatness, and sometimes they lead to disaster. Are mistakes key to making discoveries?

Write an essay in which you take a position on whether or not mistakes are a key part of discovery. Use the information presented in the passages to support your points. Make sure to include information from all the passages in your essay.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Teaching Moments


Each week I remember important teaching moments and chronicle them in a journal. Occasionally on this blog I will post some of those entries.  I wrote the following entry several years ago.

Teaching Moments

I wrote the following journal entry several years ago, when I was teaching a famous essay by Langston Hughes entitled "Salvation."

I believe the universe is joyful, more magical, and playful than most of us realize.  Sometimes we are simply too distracted to see the goodness, to enjoy the game,
to decipher messages, or to crack a smile; we hesitate.  The letters are laid out for us like those on the Ouija board, over which I would slyly push the heart-shaped planchette, to the delight and fright of Mom and Cheryl (my childhood babysitter), when we stayed up late on a hot July night, a chorus of crickets sounding in the humid darkness outside the window. 

BEST SITE: Rationale and Research

Part One: Technology and the Internet: The Necessary Springboards for Curriculum
Integrate technology and the Internet into the American curriculum now.  In the real-world "global village" of today our students must process hyperbolic information communicated in extremes of repetition and speed.  The new world order is a cognitively dissonant place, replete with conflicting meanings and valueless values.  "Driven to distraction" (Hallowell, Driven to Distraction) by explosions of quick-cut lightening-jolt images, students try to make sense of a marketplace of ideas where no single bit of communication seems to be any more relevant than another.  The children before us have brains that are different from the brains of children who sat in those desks fifteen years ago.  We need to adapt to our changed audience by appealing to the modes of learning to which they are most attracted (or in the terminology of brain science, “for which they are wired), as well as help them make sense of the barrage of information that they are exposed to in our modern media.  Our students need to be able to “read” and critically evaluate the most influential “literature” of our day—the Internet.  In the same way that the Gutenberg printing press changed the way human beings processed information—from a more oral society to a written society—we need to help our students adapt to the current digital and image-laden world community.  A focus on Media Literacy and the idea of “reading the Internet,” should be our first priorities in education.  The age of print media, whether we like it or not, has been replaced by the age of digital and electronic communication via the World Wide Web.  We, as educators, need to re-vision our mindset and our approach to instruction.  Education needs a pedagogical revolution.

Narrative Essay Rubric

         The Peer Editing Rubric below may provide ideas.

  • First and foremost, is the narrative essay a true story?  Is the narrative essay a fresh, new, original piece of writing, and not a recycled former assignment?  If not, it does not meet the requirements for this assignment.
  • Does the Narrative Essay have an authentic “story” feel?  You should feel like you are reading a good story.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Handout: Anticipation Guide for Emerson's "Self-Reliance"

Writing Prompts

1. Have you ever felt misunderstood?  When?  Describe the

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Handout for Reading and Analyzing Angelou's "Graduation"

Read and analyze "Graduation."  Take notes; also annotate in the margins of the text and underline. 

"Graduation" is a narrative essay, a bit different from the more formal persuasive speeches that we have been reading.  An essay is a form of writing that deals with its subject from a personal point of view.  Essays are always nonfiction (true), but that does not mean they don't often employ the elements we associate with fiction.  As you read Angelou's "Graduation," I would like you to consider the following literary aspects and think about how Angelou effectively utilized these techniques.  For each of the prompts below, cite specific sections of the text (page and paragraph numbers).
  • What was Angelou's purpose in writing this essay? Remember author's often have more than one purpose.
  • How does she effectively establish setting?
  • What themes are evident in the text?
  • How does Angelou use contrast effectively? (Consider the second paragraph, for example.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Handout: Persuasive Techniques Used by Orators

Persuasive Techniques (Martin Luther King, President Obama, Patrick Henry, Jonathan Edwards, and other great orators)

The following persuasive techniques are some ways, among many, that writers and speakers effectively persuade their audiences.  Of course, not every technique is used by each speaker; and there are also additional techniques that you will learn about as we read more literature.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) Argumentative Writing Rubric for Peer Editing Sessions

The Peer Editing Rubric below was adapted from the rubric on the Florida DOE website.


Florida Standards Assessment Argumentative Writing Rubric

For each of the following, answer yes or no. Also point out to your peer the sections of the essay that could be improved. Suggest ideas for improvement.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Schools Need to Teach Students about Memory and the Brain Now

I know these experiences have happened to you.
  • You teach a lesson, and during that class it seems students are learning.  You ask questions, and the students, for the most part, answer correctly.  The next day you ask questions about yesterday's lesson, and very few students can recall the correct answers. They shout out anything that pops into their heads; at times, nonsensical gobbledygook.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Specificity is Key": How to Improve Writing Through Specificity and Elaboration

I use the exercise at the bottom of this post to help students improve their writing through specificity and elaboration. When I use this exercise, I sometimes pair students, group them, or have them work individually.  Often, I give them the choice to work with their peers or alone.  After the students complete the writing task (see below), we read the pieces aloud, and the class as a whole provides positive feedback.  I also guide students to suggest ways that the paragraphs that their peers have written could be even more specific, concrete, and elaborative.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) Informative/Explanatory Writing Rubric for Peer Editing Sessions

The Peer Editing Rubric below was adapted from the rubric on the Florida DOE website.


Florida Standards Assessment Informative/Explanatory Writing Rubric

For each of the following, answer yes or no. Also point out to your peer the sections of the essay that could be improved. Suggest ideas for improvement.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Walden" Lesson Plan--Link to HMH Collections Textbook, Grade 11, Collection 3 Resource

(Also Appropriate for Advanced Placement English Language and Composition)

Rationale for this Unit Plan

“The Literature Task plays an important role in honing students’ ability to read a complex text closely, a skill that research reveals as the most significant factor differentiating college-ready from non-college-ready readers. This task will ask students to carefully consider literature worthy of close study and compose an analytic essay” (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a developer of the Common Core assessment for thirteen states and the District of Columbia).

Standards Addressed: RI.11-12.1, RI.11-12.2, RI.11-12.3, RI.11-12.4, RI.11-12.5, RI.11-12.6, RI.11-12.7, RI.11-12.8, RI.11-12.9, RI.11-12.10, W.11-12.1, W.11-12.2, W.11-12.4, W.11-12.5, W.11-12.9, SL.11-12.4, SL.11-12.6.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Analysis of "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"--Link to HMH Collections Textbook, Grade 11, Collection 6 Resource

See link at the end of this analysis for access to a pdf of this text.

Zora Neale Hurston, an important voice of the Harlem Renaissance, was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and novelist best known for her work, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Sadly, she died in 1960 after suffering financial and medical difficulties. In 1973, Alice Walker, another famous American writer, "rediscovered" Hurston and promoted her body of work. In the classic essay, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," Hurston explores the idea that all of us have multiple selves, depending upon the context and environments in which we find ourselves.

Hurston's writing has an ebullience, self-assertiveness, and pride that is particularly evident in this text. She was a flamboyant and dramatic personality, at times clashing with fellow writers from the Harlem Renaissance, who believed that black Americans should use their art to speak out against racial oppression and the white majority.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"I Have a Dream" Speech by MLK--Text-Dependent Analytical Questions

Note to Teacher: The following questions are based on the paragraph sequence in the PDF link at the end of the question set below. If you are using the HMH Collections textbook (grade 9), consider the first two paragraphs of that textbook version to be paragraph one when using the questions below. I have provided questions for only the first half of King's speech so that students will have the opportunity to practice analyzing the latter half of the speech (without guiding questions) on their own.

A link to a teacher guide for this speech appears at the end of this post.


Sample Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) Informative/Explanatory Writing Prompt: The Black Death

Suggestions for Teacher:

Students should type their responses as practice for the exam. Although the directions from the sample test at
do not specify parenthetical citations, I would have students cite any information they use in their essays (both paraphrased text and text that students choose to quote). I would advise students to write the title or an abridged version of the title within parentheses. For example, the first text below would be cited as (“Black Death”), the next text could be abbreviated as (“Sin”) and the third text could be abbreviated as (“Depopulation”).