Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Slogans, Logos and Iconic Images

I'm having my students try to sell their version of the American dream as a Gatsby product. This little video is to help them understand what an icon and slogan are.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Six-Word Memoirs

While we were working on memoirs this year, I had the students write six word memoirs.

One of my CUWP colleagues, Andrea R., had previously said something about having her students write something in sidewalk chalk. I decided to try that with the six word memoirs -- I thought they turned out great. Here are some:

(This one above was written down incorrectly - it was supposed to be "Life's illuminated...")

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Are What You Read - My Bookprint

My good friend, Clix, on the EC Ning encouraged me to do this on the Scholastic Site, so I did it. It's pretty hard to narrow a lifetime of reading down to five books, but this is the list I came up with:

The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien

"I will take the Ring," he said, "though I do not know the way."

We all have a time when we will have the choice to stand up and do the right and the hard thing. Will we do it? Can we do it? And when we do it, can we choose the right people to stand beside us?

Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl

"Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."

I read this when I want to remember why I am here.

The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom

"Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself."

I need these words every day of my life.

The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there . . . . I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'--I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build--why, I'll be there.

Everyone is my brother, and I am my brother's keeper.

The Giver
Lois Lowry

"For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps, it was only an echo."

I re-read this book again immediately after I first read it, and then I got up at 5 o'clock in the morning and took a two hour walk to think about it. It disturbed me, it shook me, it made me think. Even with all the painful memories I have -- particularly the death of my infant son -- I would never want to give up my memories -- they are just too precious.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shakespeare Zombie Haiku for Halloween

The first one is by Dr. Chris Crowe, the second by Deon Youd, the rest are my own evil creations. Enjoy!

Zombie of Venice
skulks in shadows, hungry for a
juicy pound of flesh

Henry the Fifth speaks,
calling his zombies to arms.
No guts, no glory.

A brain! A brain! My
kingdom for a brain! Richard
revealed as zombie . . .

Macbeth moans, “Is this
a brain I see before me?
Come, let me eat thee!”

“What’s in a brain?” Come 
hither, sweetest Romeo,
and let me find out.

“Alas, poor Yorick!
I ate him, a fellow of
infinite brain mass.”

Come not between King
Lear and a brain, while so young 
and yet so tender. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I am always on the lookout for games that I can add to my classroom. My criteria is that they have to involve writing and interaction, support 20 to 30 students playing at once, and take about 20 minutes - the amount of time we usually have when we have an occasional party day (Halloween, the half day before Christmas and the last day of school). It's very hard to find a game that a whole classroom can participate in and have fun with.

We had recently played Scribblish with our married kids, and I thought that it might be a fun game to try in the classroom. Working in groups of 6-8 students, students each write a phrase, then the next person draws the phrase, then the next person describes the drawing, etc., until you have 4 phrases and 3 drawings. Like any telephone game (each person only sees what the person before them drew/wrote) the end result is miles away from the beginning and very entertaining to boot. There is a timer element involved, so the action is fast and furious. I obviously didn't have enough purple rollers to go around, so we used long strips of paper (11x14 cut into 4 strips) that we folded over.

We tried this game at the end of class yesterday (the first 1/2 hour was spent sharing Zombie Haiku and 55 Fiction). It went over great. Add in a little homemade root beer to the mix, and all my students were saying it was the best party ever!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

There is a very interesting article in today's NY Times about a huge school with a large number of free and reduced lunch students that has dramatically improved it's test scores by focusing on teaching reading and writing (Their terminology is "reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning.") in every class -- including PE and math.

It's interesting that instead of teaching to the test, they got the best results by doing what they call "getting back to basics."
"The committee put together a rubric to help teachers understand what good writing looks like, and began devoting faculty meetings to teaching department heads how to use it. The school’s 300 teachers were then trained in small groups.

Writing exercises took many forms, but encouraged students to think methodically. A science teacher, for example, had her students write out, step by step, how to make a sandwich, starting with opening the cupboard to fetch the peanut butter, through washing the knife once the sandwich was made. Other writing exercises, of course, were much more sophisticated."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Animoto - Civil Disobedience

Okay, this is my second try at Animoto. I am going to use this as part of my unit on American Transcendentalism - Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. This is obviously what I'm going to use to introduce Thoreau.

In the past I've just had the kids listen to the song while I showed the lyrics. I'm hoping that the combination of selected lyrics, pictures, and quotes in the movie with the music will make it a more meaningful experience.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Creating my own Mentor Text

Drawing on the superb example of Penny Kittle, here is an alternate point of view piece. (This is the story of my son's piñata breaking injury episode from the point of view of the piñata.)

The Short, Brief Life of a Cub Scout Piñata
(alternate point of view)

by Denée Tyler

My life began simply enough as a pile of paper pulp in a factory somewhere in Mexico. One day the craftsman took the pulp, wet it down, formed it around a mold, covered it with crepe paper, and voila, I came into being, a small blue boy with a strange-looking blue cap and a garish smile. I hung with several hundred of my brothers as I dried and contemplated my purpose in life.

Before I was able to complete my meditations, I was abruptly packed into a close, dark box with others of my kind. There wasn’t enough room to speak and scarcely air to breathe, and we really thought that this was the end.

Just when I had given up all hope, the box was opened, and several pimply young men wearing shirts that said “Macey’s Groceries” pulled all of us out and hung us crookedly from a flimsy string. I had to endure the staring, pointing, and jeering of many until a large, jovial man abruptly pulled me down from my precarious perch and said, “This would be perfect for our Blue and Gold Banquet.” Then, to complete the insult, he summarily stuffed me with tootsie rolls. Of all the candy in the world . . .

The man took me to a place called a “cultural hall.” This was obviously a cruel misuse of the name, as there was no culture in sight. Instead, a rope was tied around my neck, the rope was thrown over a basketball standard, and I was raised and lowered over a group of rather unscrupulous looking eight-, nine-, ten-, and eleven-year-olds in blindfolds. I could only continue to smile my vapid, painted-on smile as these same children proceeded to hit me all about the head and body with a four-foot length of PVC pipe. Oh, the cruelty of man to man!

I endured their blows for at least a half an hour while the parents and leaders of these little heathen stood around the circle and cheered them on. Despite the fact that I was only made of paper, I held firm and determined not to let them break me. Even as a piece of my foot and a part of my sweet, sugary innards fell, I remained strong.

Unfortunately, once the small torturers lost interest, the adults around the circle took over. A brawny man, who professed to be the parent of one of the yapping children, declared that he would finish me off. He took hold of the PVC pipe and gave a mighty swing.

I could feel the force of the blow coming, and although I tried to brace myself, my strength was spent at last. I could only stare and smile in amazement as my neck separated from my head, and my blue-clad body dropped on the savage crowd below. They fell on my sad remains like a flock of ravening vultures, snarling and grabbing with abandon and extreme bad manners.

But what was this? Could it be? As I gasped out my last, I felt the glory of sweet revenge. As the deathblow was struck, the PVC object of my pain broke in two, and the severed end flew forth like the arrow of justice and took out two of my tormentors. One was merely grazed, but the other, one Caleb Tyler, received the force of the pipe full on in the middle of his forehead, causing a huge ruckus, raising an enormous goose egg, and resulting in a trip to the emergency room. And thus, my glorious end is a lesson to all who would meddle with . . . Cub Scout piñatas!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Secondary Language Arts Textbook Evaluation

I've been asked to serve on the Secondary Language Arts Textbook Evaluation board for the next session. I will be up in Salt Lake on October 19th and possibly 20th doing this. I'm hoping it will be a good networking opportunity for me, and since it's something that I've never done before--I'm also hoping that it will be fun and educational at the same time. Has anyone ever done this before? What can I expect from the experience?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Theme of the Day . . .

Well, I haven't even thought of English for the past few days as I've been serving on a jury. It was NOT fun, and there's no way to spin that. It was, however, a great chance to see logos, ethos, and pathos in action in the real world.

In other news, I ran across a fantastic Prezi by Nicole Kronzer over at the EC Ning. This one is on teaching students to create themes:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

At Last!!!

So, I mentioned in a previous post that I had submitted an article for publication. At the time, the editors indicated that they would be getting back in touch with me mid-August. Not so. I finally got an email back today saying that they were recommending my article for inclusion in the Utah English Journal, but they would like me to make a few changes to it. I am pretty excited about it, but it's going to be a bit of work to do the editing, as I only have five days to do it. (I get the feeling that somebody somewhere procrastinated a bit.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Animoto-My First Try

The EC Ning has been buzzing about Animoto in the last few weeks. Many teachers used the free online video creator to make "trailers" about their class for the first day of school. I didn't get my Animoto teacher membership in time to create one for the first day of school, but I did make one for Back to School Night. Here is the sneak peek the parents got of our upcoming semester:

A word of warning: Animoto is addicting.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Film Literacy

Frank Baker, the Film Literacy Guru over at ECNing, recently posted this great list of ideas for teaching film terms using the bonus materials on DVDs. Unfortunately, many of them are R-rated, so I wouldn't be able to use them, but it is still a great resource.

He also brought my attention to another great new site with screen education resources. Generator is a Web 2.0 enabled site that provides students and teachers with a wealth of resources to support the teaching of screen based content. Featured are: Video Gallery; Educational Themes; Learn From the Makers; Free Media Library; Explore Production Resources. In addition, there is a Storyboard Generator. and a Teachers Lounge. Other features are on Approaches to Alice in Wonderland and other works of director Tim Burton: The Fantastical Imaginings of Tim Burton

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Writing Circles

So, this is my latest read. I actually picked this book up at NCTE, but I never read it until just barely. I am actually pretty excited about trying this in my class this year. This is what fellow ECNinger Glenda Funk had to say about it:

Hi, Denee~

Mardie alerted me to your discussion since I've been AWOL from the Ning lately. I have read Jim Vopat's book and love it. I used a combination of Writing Circles, quick writes (thanks, Penny Kittle), and formal essay assignments last year. My students really like the writing circle approach since it allows them so much choice. Our circles met once a week, and I assigned quick writes twice a week. I like Vopat's ideas for responding to one another's writing but need more, which I'll be working on next year. I think students aren't as familiar w/ the various genres as we might think they are. Many students default to what they think the teacher wants. I'll be working on that, especially since I assign a multigenre research paper. I also think it's really important to continue introducing students to good mentor texts, which I'm planning to connect more to writing circles. I also think I need to do more to help my students find topics. Some groups had trouble thinking about topics, which is really my fault for not reminding them to come to class w/ a topic.

I collected the writing notebooks (w/ writing circle responses and quick writes) at the end of the trimester. Next year I'm collecting them twice each tri. Those students who come unprepared need an immediate consequence; they can really bog things down. One of the fantastic benefits of the circles for me was joining into the student conversation and relinquishing control of their circles to them, which they found more difficult than I.

I'm also toying w/ the idea of extending the WC's to blogging. I think this would offer an excellent platform for revision.

Last year was one of the best of my long career. It was so good, in fact, that I'm worried that next year will be a big let down. Giving students choice via writing circles and Gallagher's 50/50 approach to reading increased student writing and reading in my classroom significantly. It's a win-win for students and for myself. And did I mention how easy the grading is?

Basic WC format:
1. Students meet to choose a topic, choose a first reader, and choose a timekeeper.
2. On day WCs meet, students share their writing by reading aloud to the group. Afterward, group members respond according to a predetermined response starter. For example, "I'd like to hear more about..." or "Choose a 'Golden Sentence' from each members' response." Vopat offers suggestions.
3. Choose a new topic for the next WC. Each member writes on the same topic but may choose any genre.
4. Members complete a "Writing Circle Think-Back," which Vopat provides. This is a self-reflection as well as a group reflection form. These go into the WC notebooks.


I can't wait to try this in my own classroom!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mrs. Tyler Takes a Plunge

I did something completely out of character for me this week. I've been getting emails from the leaders of CUWP urging us to submit to the Utah English Journal for publication. Normally I would be too shy, but I decided to give it a try. I've submitted a paper detailing how I combine Sherman Alexie and memoir to start off my American Literature class. I won't find out for about a week or so if they have accepted my paper or not. Whew. I am actually nervous about it. It's like sending a baby out into the cold cruel world.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

This book by Anne Lamott is the next CUWP Reading Group Choice. We will be meeting October 7th at 5:30 at the Provo Brick Oven. I am really looking forward to reading and discussing it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Structures for Conversation

A fellow EC NINGer posted this great link to a demonstration of many different classroom conversation styles. I think this will be a great resource.

Monday, July 12, 2010

EC Ning Websitute

An idea for project based learning.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Camp Yearbook Wrapup

I just spent three days at Josten's Camp Yearbook at the Cliff Resort at Snowbird. Wow - I learned so much my brain fills like it is going to explode. I had two students with me, and we were all energized and excited about our next year's theme: Shift_.

I am most excited about the switch (shift) we plan to do in making our book more of a story telling experience. I am still processing everything I learned, but I will probably do a brain dump here in the near future.

So why did I choose a picture of a zip line to post here? Because I freaking did this!!! Actually, the tram ride to the zip line tower was WAY scarier than the zip line itself. Long, slow, high rides are my worst nightmare - think Ferris wheels - yuck. The zip line itself was pretty exhilarating and fast. WOOT!!!!!

New York Times Lessons

I frequently use articles and lessons from this source. Now they have made it even easier to use with this link: Teaching Topics from The Times.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We'd Like Them to Be

This is the latest book club from the EC Ning. I am really enjoying both the book and the conversation on the Ning. Lots of good ideas floating around there. More to come...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thank You Donors Choose, Wells Fargo, Eccles Foundation, and Bing

So, I have been extremely blessed in the last few months to have three! projects funded through Donors Choose. I've received (or will receive next year): two classroom sets of books and a flip video camera. I am so excited. This is how it all happened:

On the first project, the Eccles Foundation matched my donors, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation covered the rest. The project was funded in one day, and I got a set of The Poisonwood Bible and some classroom library texts.

The next project was languishing for a while until I got an email from Donors Choose about a promotion that the site called Bing was doing. All you had to do was go to their site, fill out a quick form, and they would send you a $5 gift card for a Donors Choose Donation. Well, I filled out the forms for every person in my family, and Mike and Alison did their part, too, and I quickly had the 2nd project (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and more class library novels) funded, thanks to another match from the Eccles Foundation.

I was on a roll, so I submitted a third project, a flip camcorder, and with the help of more Bing donations and others, and the Eccles match, that was funded.

I just submitted a fourth project today for a class set of 1984. That match money is too good to pass up.

I've learned some things while doing this.
  1. Proposals with matching funds are more likely to get funded.
  2. Once you get within 50 dollars of your goal, people are more likely to donate to your proposal
  3. I love Bing, the Eccles Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Zombie Haiku

We had so much fun doing Zombie Haiku at CUWP that I had my students do some in October. They loved it! (Maybe a little too much)
Here is the PowerPoint I used to introduce it. I actually embedded the things I link to into the presentation.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Not "Were" Wolves

So, I guess I'll be reading this for a while. From the blurbs on the cover, it sounds good. This is the next book that the Literary Ladies will be reading for our book group.

This book was written by my neighbor, Kristen Chandler! I just picked up three signed copies.

Here is Kris, posing with her book at her house (photo credit).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Little Chinglish, Anyone?

The New York Times ran an article on Chinglish, and then they invited their readers to submit examples. I laughed so hard I started crying. Enjoy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sensory Writing

I've been trying to do a little more with sensory writing this semester. In addition to writing about art, I've had the kids eat a Rice Krispy treat while writing about how they would describe it to someone from another planet, and I've had them compare a character from The Importance of Being Earnest to a tootsie roll pop. The kids seem to like it (and the treats don't hurt their engagement, either).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Digital Memoir

So, this week I am having  my students use Windows Movie Maker (or I-movie if they have a Mac) to create a PSA. Next year I may want to use something like this in my memoir/tell my own story unit, just to shake things up. It won't be the only thing I do, but I think it would create interest in what they are doing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

For My Next NCTE Trip!

This flight attendant packs all of this into one carry-on bag. And, she doesn't even have to sit on the suitcase to close it!!

Now if they can figure out how to roll up ARCs and other books, I won't have to pay the $25 dollars and up I had to fork over in Philadelphia.

I'll have to practice this technique when we head up to Camp Yearbook this summer. I wonder if I can get all that and a laptop and printer in one bag? Hmmm. . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ideas for Poetry Portfolio

I used these ideas with my students to get their minds wrapped around poetry, but also to get their minds thinking that words are everywhere. These exercises helped them get ready for our Poetry Out Loud competition.

1. Ekphrastic Poetry:

2. Cento: From the Latin word for "patchwork," the cento is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets.

3. Road Sign Poetry

4. Word Ticket/Paint Chip Poem

Monday, April 26, 2010

First-Time Yearbook Teacher Has Success!

As some of you may know, I took on my school's yearbook class this year in addition to teaching my other classes. It has been both a fun and frustrating experience. I know I've learned a lot--probably more than my students, actually!

Anyway, our yearbook is almost finished (we just have one more file that a senior editor needs to upload on Monday), and I am experiencing a great feeling of accomplishment and pride for my little staff. Our theme was Technically Speaking, and we really took that theme and ran with it. Here's our cover--it looks like a computer hybrid between a Mac and a PC:

The actual cover looks way cooler than this--this is just a small file drawing of it.

Our pages themselves look like internet sites, except for our first and last pages, which look like a computer desktop and the infamous "blue screen of death."  Here are some examples (if you click on them you can see a larger version, I think):

It's been a ton of fun making UCAS themed near copies of various websites. (I hope you recognize Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Youtube.)