Thinking about presenting at NJEA? Chat with us on Twitter @ 7pm Monday 1/28

NJCTE regularly offers sessions at the New Jersey Education Association Convention in Atlantic City.

Have you thought about presenting?

The call for presentations for the 2019 Convention is now open, and we want to help support NJCTE members who might be considering submitting a proposal. Join us for a Twitter chat on Monday, January 28, at 7 p.m.

Join in a conversation with experienced presenters about how to craft your proposal. And share with us what sorts of presentations you would like to see NJCTE offer at the convention. You may even find like-minded folks on the chat who want to join forces and propose a panel together.

Here are the questions we’ll be discussing:

  1. Think about the most beneficial PD session you’ve ever attended, what made it so helpful?
  2. What types of PD do you think are most beneficial for teachers?
  3. What educational topics do you think are important and more PD sessions need to address?
  4. What are some strategies for developing a successful proposal?
  5. What are some ways to increase engagement during PD sessions?
  6. How well should proposals align to the professional standards or teaching standards?
  7. What are some ways to make sure that PD lessons stick after the session has ended?
  8. Any further questions?

Please note: We’ll be following the Q1/A1 protocol during the chat. The moderator will post a question starting with Q#. Please indicate which question you are responding to by starting your response with A#, with # indicating the number of the question.

Join us on Twitter at 7 p.m. on the 28th. We’ll be tweeting using #NJCTE19 as our hashtag for the chat. We’ll also post notes from the chat on our blog, so check there if you miss us on Twitter.

Thinking about presenting at NJEA? Chat with us on Twitter @ 7pm Monday 1/28

Let’s Recognize Teachers’ Accomplishments

by Patricia L. Schall

Do you know teachers whose work calls for recognition? These teachers could be colleagues, friends, student teachers, or you! We invite you to nominate teachers whose work you respect or consider recognizing yourself for all the good work you do every day.

NJCTE honors teachers with the following awards:

The NJCTE Outstanding Educator of the Year Award is presented annually to an exceptional English/language arts educator — a dedicated, innovative, dynamic Pre-K-12 teacher, university teacher, supervisor, or administrator — whose activities have significantly and widely impacted New Jersey English language arts education. The selected educator becomes eligible as well for a coveted New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education. The individual can be at any point in his or her career. Due date for application: March 1, 2019.

The M. Jerry Weiss Early Career Teacher Award is named in honor of Dr. M. Jerry Weiss, Distinguished Service Professor of Communications Emeritus at New Jersey City University. Jerry has had an important influence on literacy in New Jersey, as well as the greater nation. A nationally recognized expert in the field of children’s and adolescent literature and a pioneer in the area of Whole Language, Dr. Weiss taught at New Jersey City University for 33 years before retiring in 1994. This recognition is given to teachers at any grade level, P-12. Applicants must be currently teaching from one to five years. Due date for application: March 1, 2019.

The Marcia Holtzman Preservice Teacher Award is named in honor of Marcia Holtzman, an instrumental contributor to NJCTE, whose service to the organization was long and extensive. Holtzman retired as an assistant superintendent of the Metuchen Public School system and remains active as a volunteer writing teacher in Metuchen. Preservice undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled in teacher education programs are encouraged to apply. Due date for application: March 1, 2019.

Check the NJCTE website for criteria governing each award, application requirements, expectations for awardees, and benefits. Note due dates. We encourage you to honor others or yourself. Many teachers earn recognition but don’t always receive it. Here’s your chance to reward good teaching. The awards will be presented at the NJCTE Annual Spring Conference.

Let’s Recognize Teachers’ Accomplishments

Why Voting Matters: Connecting Democracy with Literacy

By Lisa K. Winkler

Looking to bring democracy into the classroom? As a member of the League of Women Voters, I created an interactive, 40-minute lesson that engages students in the voting process. Adaptable for all ages, “Why Voting Matters” includes a script and power point.

Joined by the League’s president, also a NJ certified teacher, we introduce the League’s history—nearly 100 years old, and founded by a teacher, Carrie Chapman Catt shortly after women received the right to vote in 1920. Catt wanted to educate newly enfranchised women about the issues and candidates so they could make decisions independent of their husbands or fathers.

Our lesson includes vocabulary: What does it mean to be informed? What is non-partisan? What is apathy? What is enfranchisement?

We use hypothetical issues and two candidates, Apollo and Zeus, who have opposing views, to involve students in discussion and voting.

For elementary students, Apollo wants to create a skate park for the town’s children, who need more recreational space. However, a rare species of ducks inhabit the site proposed for the park, and Zeus opposes the park’s creation.

For middle and high school classes, small groups discuss issues affecting the town, the state, the nation, and the world. We point out that many issues are not merely local or global, such as the environment.   The students then discuss the positions of Apollo and Zeus on two issues. The first involves a pharmaceutical factory that is polluting a local river. Apollo wants to close the factory; Zeus wants to protect the many jobs of local residents. The second issue addresses traffic at the schools. Apollo wants to ban all student cars and require walking or biking; Zeus proposes more carpooling and improving walking and biking lanes.

After a show-of –hands vote, we discuss why people don’t always vote, noting reasons like laziness, apathy, and lack of transportation.

We share the voting participation statistics for the state from the 2016 and 2017 elections. (68% of NJ’s registered 5.7 million voters voted in 2016; 35% in 2017). We discuss why the participation dropped—the turnout in presidential elections tends to be higher—then count off a percentage of the class, telling them they won’t be voting. We call for another vote on the same issues. Often the results are different than when everyone exercised their right to vote.

We end each presentation asking students to brainstorm ways they can get involved in democracy. Ideas include writing emails, volunteering on campaigns, reminding their family to vote, and protesting.

We’re happy to share our presentation or adapt it to meet your needs.

Why Voting Matters: Connecting Democracy with Literacy

Tech Tuesdays: Two Fun Narrative Tools for the Classroom

Narrative writing has always been one of my favorite units to teach. It’s usually the unit where my students feel the most comfortable, and they are usually very invested in the process. Something about the idea of crafting a full story with a plot, characters, dialogue, and description always appeals to them in a way that no other unit does. This week, to kick off 2019, I have two fun, engaging technology tools to bring into your narrative writing unit.

Prompts by Story Wars

Prompts by Story Wars is a Google Chrome extension that allows students to continue pre-existing stories. While there is a premium option, the rest of the extension is free. Once the extension is downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, students can open the extension from their Chrome task bar and select the genre of their choice. The extension will open in a new window and bring them up to a random story that another student began in that genre.


The student can choose to read and analyze the previous writer’s work and then add to it if they wish. Students can submit their work for feedback. The story continuations all are eligible for voting, which means other users from around the world read the sample continuations and vote on their favorite. The version with the most votes gets added to the story and the process starts over again. These sections are called chapters and most stories have multiple chapters written by different people in many different places.

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It’s an interesting way to consider narrative writing. Students get to write for an authentic audience, collaborate with others around the globe, and analyze the tone and other story elements of someone’s writing simultaneously. The only downside is that some of the stories have mature content, so students need to be aware of those situations. This extension would make a great extra activity to continue to practice narrative writing for students.

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Story Speaker

If you’re a fan of using voice assistants in the classroom, Story Speaker is the perfect add-on. Without coding, students can create their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. By following the add-on’s easy-to-use template in Google Docs, students can write their own narrative. It allows them to pause to add the listener to choose directions, the way a CYOA novel normally world. It’s fully customizable and students can make the story as in-depth as they would like.

The fun part about this tool is that it is interactive with the rest of the class. By building in those “choice” moments into the narrative, it is able to be completed by a student’s peers. Story Speaker connects with Google Home to allow for voice interaction. The Google Home reads the story and then pauses when it is time for the reader to make a decision. The writer has already programmed the question that needs to be asked, such as “Do you go right or left?” or “Do you say yes or no?” The class gets to speak their answer aloud and the voice assistant automatically knows what direction the story goes.

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Story Speaker offers a unique way for students to share their work, aside from traditional publishing. It’s an engaging way to bring the whole class into the celebration process for a student’s work, while simultaneously embedding educational technology into the process.  

Tech Tuesdays: Two Fun Narrative Tools for the Classroom