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Don’t be afraid.

“Lead by example of hope, and never fear.”

Fear: fear, an anthropomorphic, personified monster, has been the tool of many politicians for decades since we were told “The only thing to fear is fear itself” by Roosevelt. We were brave. We were strong. We may not have agreed, but we began the hard work on building again. But now that’s all torn and shredded apart. We have a president-elect whose social media use is as immature and disgusting as any #gamergate troll. And now, once again, it’s up to teachers to support parents whose job it is to raise moral, know-right-from-wrong humans. Just like we can’t assign credit, we can’t assign blame, either. Something, however, is going on and has been for some time. Students have been taking videos of fights and uploading them to Youtube, and other social media outlets, for years.

These aren’t ordinary schoolyard turf wars. These are marked by an exploitive purpose and showmanship.

Recently I’ve been posting how-to videos on a Youtube channel, and my students gently tease me about how many subscribers I have, and are very interested in making me ‘famous.’ (I’ve gone from 4 to 23 in a week—woot!) It’s all about the points, the numbers, the amount, the likes–that’s all that seems to matter to them. And why wouldn’t it? That’s what they’ve been raised on; video games and school for points points points points. More points = Success.

The beating was captured on cellphone video by one of the assailants and has since been viewed millions of times on social media. The footage shows the suspects taunting the victim with profanities against white people and President-elect Donald Trump.

Prosecutors offered new details of the assault, explaining that one of the suspects demanded $300 from the mother of the victim, who is schizophrenic and has attention-deficit disorder. They also said the beating started in a van when the same attacker became angry that the mother had contacted him asking that her son be allowed to come home.

So when a terrible story comes to light, and everyone is blamed, everything is blamed, I’m asking for one light to shine — please — please stop making everything about points.


If we need to help our students find their voices on social media, can we please show them a hundred positive examples, and show them that when they film fights they are exploiting themselves? Teach them about how they can control their reputation, their narrative, and their emotions. No one at the top of our government is going to do it for them, in fact, they will be working hard to do the opposite. They will promote and normalize racism, sexism, and hate.  It’s not amorphous or abstract. The men in charge have clearly stated their positions on their white privilege. We need to put a name on fear– when Michelle Obama asks us not to be afraid — we need to help our students name their fears, identify the monsters, and make a plan. And this plan never includes beating each other up.

More of this, please:

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Locus of control…

In my never-ending quest for better questioning techniques, I’ve been packing up some new resources. My VideoScribe video is based on the Harvard Educational Publication guide for QFT.

  1. Teaching As Dynamic “4 Strategies to Ask Better Questions”
  2. Harvard Education Publications on the Questioning Formulation Technique

Encouraging students to talk more, question more, take chances more has proved to be a big challenge this year. I’m not sure why. I think some of our instruction was turned upside-down, so the foundation of being comfortable with one another, questioning, taking risks, etc. wasn’t laid down at the beginning of the year, but it’s never too late to correct course. I’m writing this to remind myself that next year the flow should be Who we are as readers/writers >Asking and generating questions >claim, evidence, reasoning. If students know how to ask solid, open-ended questions that engage them, they’ll have ownership as to the “why” and the “reasons,” therefore will be more engaged. That’s the idea, anyway. 

Here are some slide links I created to help you get started with your own QFT:

QFT ideas

Here are possible Learning Targets and Success Criteria you may want to use or modify for a QFT lesson:

  • In order to think critically about any subject, we must first learn how to question and challenge that subject or topic. This way, we can think about a topic from multiple ideas more deeply.
  • Success: By the end of _______, I will be able to generate up to _____ (number) of questions, and prioritize into the 3 most important open-ended questions about a topic. This task will enable me to demonstrate higher level thinking about this topic. (Refer to DOK chart)


Here are the CCSS and the TPEP rubrics that mandate student questioning:

Common Core addresses questioning:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
Follow rules for collegial discussions and decision-making, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.
Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.
Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

TPEP (many Washington State schools use this teacher evaluation system).

One of the most subjective and potentially damning of the criterion is the ‘student engagement’ piece.

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Series: Elements of Structure Part 10: Top Ten (But it will go to 11…)

Not in any particular order, this is my own curated list of what I perceive as the hugely influential, double-edged swords of structure from 2016. Warning: I will not apologize for analyzing politics in this post (see #4). If you’re fed to the teeth and just want some ideas, skip over words. We’re all feeling like children whose parents are in the beginning stages of a dysfunctional divorce: still a lot of yelling, we don’t know if we want to live with mom or dad, lawyers have been contacted, and broken glass to clean up. And no one’s seen the family pet for days.

Ah, well.

  1. Twitter
  2. Fake News
  3. Click Bait
  4. Comments in Political Posts and the Great Unfriending
  5. Relabeling
  6. Repeated Article Loop
  7. Children’s/YA Literature
  8. Book Lists and Reading Challenges
  9. On-line Shared Annotations
  10. TedTalks


Perhaps one of the most telling of all is the P-E’s use or misuse of Twitter.

Though he’s tweeted hundreds of misspelled, egregious, taunting and terrible tweets, for some reason this one sent me over the edge, well the original version, not the sarcastic People for Bernie Sanders version:

Perhaps what did it (sent me over the edge and all) was someone’s comment about how we all just need to suck it up, he’s our president now, too damn bad, stop crying, stop whining, etc.

And I need to point out — what he said, what he tweeted, clearly says he is NOT my president by HIS WORDS. He called me his enemy, someone who fought him, “lost so badly” that now I’m in a fog, whimpering and wandering around like a lost child at a county fair.

What exactly does he “Love!”?

Twitter is as high or low as humanity brings to its 140 characters. It’s been a good source for me to add to my PLN, tweet out random #haikuoftheday for fun, and things of that nature. Now I don’t know if I can look away, or look more closely. I don’t have an idea.

Fake News

At this point, there are probably fake news stories on how to combat fake news. Teach media literacy, make it relevant, make it matter. Liken fake news to a fake rumor, and how devastating that can be personally, and imagine a whole nation being harmed, literally and figuratively, by fake news on a grand scale.

The Smell Test

Click Bait

We’re all guilty of it, clicking on what we know is click-bait. That easy lure of outrageous headlines promising some juicy reward while our cheeks are pierced by sharp objects. It would be a great mini-lesson or mini-unit to have student analyze the structure of click bait and how it changes their psychological views.

You’ll Be Outraged at How Easy It Was to Get You to Click on This Headline

Comments in Political Posts and The Great Unfriending

I went to tag someone on a teacher post the other day and noticed I lost another Facebook acquaintance, and have no hard feelings. How could I? I use social media for a variety of purposes, but mostly, and unfortunately for some, it’s my ‘thinking out loud place’ and sometimes my inner voice is pretty damn loud.

We’re all going to have to set our own journalistic best practices as we move forward and be clear that our posts are ours, and if you comment, do so at your own risk. If you decided my (over)posting and sharing of information is not for you, then I completely respect that. If nothing else it is my contention that we are in control of our own narratives, and if we don’t want to blend our colors into one another’s then we should never feel obligated to do so.

But you might miss out on that great cocktail recipe. Just sayin.’ Passing up the details of my recent gall bladder surgery, well, don’t blame you.

Relabeling and Code Switching

This is one structural/literary choice/device that needs to be examined much more thoroughly. This is Orwellian doublethink at a mastery level.

  • Alt-Right means NazSupremacistsemicists/Domestic Terrorists.
  • “CITE EVIDENCE” means “I’m firing my misdirection shotgun to make you try to spend the time to prove something I’m not going to believe anyway.”
  • Mansplaining: A misandric term meaning when someone patronizingly “helps” to fill in the background knowledge for someone else. It is observed by a man or woman who explains to another woman what is happening.

Repeated Article Loop

The repeated or republished article is an interesting device– I included it in this structure series because while reading any narrative, flashbacks and foreshadowing are regular solid tools to move a reader through a narrative–and the repeated article, and I’ll include Facebook’s “Shared Memory” device, does the same purpose. This can be good and not so good, especially not so good when it plays house with Fake News. Some stories are repeated so often, and intentionally they use an old photograph from another incident.

Note to social media and big mega software folks: Please bring back i-Google. Okay. That’s never going to happen. But invent an organized way people can read an article, and then share it to an album and organize it, and it won’t go back in their feed. Yes, something like bookmarks, and folders, but in that media source.

Children’s/YA Literature

Lest you think I’m all doom-gloom (hey, I didn’t make this mess!) I have some heartening news, too. Turns out my master’s thesis of using children’s literature to engage students wasn’t too far off the mark. (Insert a mini-eye roll emoji here.)

Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy

How Reading Literature Cultivates Empathy

Book Lists and Reading Challenges

I have fallen in love with BookRiot and Nerdy Book Club. The format and structure of these sites are simple: curate lists of books that a reader might love. This type of literary world-wide book club is dangerous for my budget, though, because I want all the books!

The word choice of “challenge” is interesting to me, as well as the choice of ‘lists.’ Challenge and lists implies plowing through, and not necessarily joyfully. I use these words, too, but wonder if there will be another approach that is less perfectionistic, completism, or competitive.

My students’ Reading Road Trip got a flat tire this year, punctured by too many tests, agendas, and chaos. But I have Mrs. Darcy’s list again, so we’ll see!

See above link.

On-line Shared Annotations

As we move toward bigger and grander conversations, it’s my hope we use our technology for idea and question sharing — stil think Genius and other on-line share annotation tools and sites are pretty cool.

And annotations on real books — too.

Annotated Bible


TedTalks, Crash Course, VSauce, etc, are specific structures that have become my second life in terms of the lecture hall with great professors.

Yes, please. And thank you.

These ten formats are all worthy of some analysis and thought: we’re speaking in shorthand more than ever, and being adept at all forms of communication are going to be critical.

And getting good recipes for cocktails. Want to see my surgery scars?