NJCTE High School Writing Contest Winners

Congratulations to all the winning writers and fantastic teachers and mentors who participated in our annual high school writing contest. We are so proud of the good writing and good teaching of writing in New Jersey. As you can imagine, these winners represent the tip of an iceberg of quality writing happening in schools throughout New Jersey. NJCTE is so proud to be able to recognize these winners and their teachers.

Fiction:

1st Place: Calamity of Freedom:
Student: Caitlin Brannigan
Teacher: Nancy Schneberger
School: Academy of the Holy Angels, Demarest, NJ

2nd Place: A Bucket of Youth and Boat Full of Dreams
Student: Rikki Zagelbaum
Teacher: Rachel Zylberman
School: Bruriah, Elizabeth, NJ

3rd Place: Heart to Hart 
Student: Grace McGory
Teacher: Virena Rossi
School: Pascack Valley Regional H.S.

Poetry:

1st Place: Today
Student: Catherine Park
Teacher: Richard Weems
School: Bergen County Academies

2nd PlaceNinety one           
Student: Katherine Vandermel
Teacher: Richard Weems
School: Bergen County Academies

3rd Place: Golden Boy
Student: Eden Quan
Teacher: Jennifer Torres
School:     Livingston High School

Essay:

1st Place: The Glory of Gym Class
Student: Joyce He
Teacher: Michael Sunga
School: Livingston High School

2nd Place: Saying a Prayer That’s Not Ours
Student: Alyssa Laze
Teacher: Danielle Walsh
School: Northern Highlands Regional High School

3rd Place: The Value of Impermanence
Student: John Jabbour
Teacher: Allison Janosy
School:  Morristown High School

Thanks also to our Writing Contest Co-Directors, Lynn Love-Kelly and Beth-Ann Bates, and to Katie Nieves for providing some critical technical with our new contest format this year.

NJCTE High School Writing Contest Winners

Register Now for Technology Webinar with Katie Nieves — Dec. 3

Join us on December 3rd at 7:00 PM for our third NJCTE technology webinar. You get to decide which technology tool(s) you want to discover. Based on feedback and suggestions from our previous webinars, vote for the topic that excites you the most. The topic will be announced a few days before the webinar.

Free for NJCTE members! $5 for non-NJCTE members.

Register now!


Attention NJ ELA teachers: Would you like to write for the NJCTE blog? We would be happy to publish your ideas and insights about your practice or resources you’ve had success with, etc. We welcome original pieces or those that have been posted elsewhere. Please send queries and contributions to njcteblog@gmail.com.

Register Now for Technology Webinar with Katie Nieves — Dec. 3

Register Now for Technology Webinar with Katie Nieves — Dec. 3

Join us on December 3rd at 7:00 PM for our third NJCTE technology webinar. You get to decide which technology tool(s) you want to discover. Based on feedback and suggestions from our previous webinars, vote for the topic that excites you the most. The topic will be announced a few days before the webinar.

Free for NJCTE members! $5 for non-NJCTE members.

Register now!


Attention NJ ELA teachers: Would you like to write for the NJCTE blog? We would be happy to publish your ideas and insights about your practice or resources you’ve had success with, etc. We welcome original pieces or those that have been posted elsewhere. Please send queries and contributions to njcteblog@gmail.com.

Register Now for Technology Webinar with Katie Nieves — Dec. 3

Register Now for Back-to-School Tech Webinar with Katie Nieves 8/26

Join us and technology guru and NJCTE board member Katie Nieves on Monday, August 26th, at 6:30 PM for our first professional development webinar! We will focus on technology to use as we head into the new school year.

Come discover some technology tools that you could immediately integrate into your classroom! Register using this Google Form to receive the webinar URL. Following the webinar, all attendees will receive a certificate for 1 hour of PD for their participation.


Also, don’t forget to register for the NJCTE Fall ConferenceEARLY REGISTRATION ENDS SEPTEMBER 4!

Mark your calendar for A Vision for the Future – Practices Designed for Success: September 21, 2019, at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in Tabernacle, NJ. As usual, we will have 3 dynamic sessions with presentations from a wide range of teacher educators sharing best practices. You will also hear from keynote speaker, Dr. Kristen Turner.

And new this year: Join us for an authors’ breakfast (extra fee required). Start the day off right with breakfast with over 20 authors!

Register Now for Back-to-School Tech Webinar with Katie Nieves 8/26

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.

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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

Tech Tuesdays: Pechaflickr — A Twist on Narrative Writing

by Kathryn Nieves

I’m always looking for mini-activities to help engage my students during narrative writing. Narrative is usually the genre they are most excited about completing and they are usually eager to try mini-tasks and activities to extend their story writing practice. Pechaflickr offers a quick and easy activity to help students practice their narrative writing skills and can serve as an engaging “extra-time” challenge for your students.

Pechaflickr is a website that challenges students to make connections between images in order to create their own story. It connects to the photo-sharing website Flickr to choose random images. When you log onto the website, a student or teacher can type in a random keyword. Then, the website generates 20 random images connected with that search and rotates through them every 20 seconds. The concept of 20 slides in 20 seconds comes from the presentation strategy, PechaKucha. Pechaflickr allows students to practice their improvisational skills. As the pictures rotate, they can determine new twists and turns for their narrative, while still maintaining the original plot.

When you log onto the website, you can use the search bar to type in a random keyword or phrase.

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Clicking “play” will open a pop-up window and the 20 by 20 activity will begin. The website goes through all of the tags on Flickr and chooses 20 random images that have that tag. Since this is freely available on the internet, once in awhile something unrelated may appear in the results based on the tag used. However, for the most part, the tags accurately reflect what is displayed in the image. As always, it’s good to be on alert in the rare chance that something inappropriate appears.

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You can also customize the 20 by 20 rules. You can change how many slides appear and the amount of time that each slide is on the screen.

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While a relatively simple tool, Pechaflickr could be a quick activity to get students thinking on their feet. For students learning vocabulary and language, it could also be a good way to determine the connection between images. It could also be a collaborative writing opportunity, where students have to work together to determine the connection between the images and compose a narrative. Even though Pechaflickr is not a new tool, it could be something interesting to bring into creative writing and narrative units.


Attention NJ ELA teachers: Would you like to write for the NJCTE blog? We would be happy to publish your ideas and insights about your practice or resources you’ve had success with, etc. We welcome original pieces or those that have been posted elsewhere. Please send queries and contributions to njcteblog@gmail.com.

Tech Tuesdays: Pechaflickr — A Twist on Narrative Writing

Tech Tuesdays: CopyComments for Google Classroom

by Kathryn Nieves

For Google Classroom users, the Docs and Slides “comment” feature is critical to providing effective feedback for students. Many teachers use this tool as a way to provide personalized comments for their students, helping to highlight areas to revise or point out areas of success. However, if the teacher wants to provide a template for students to complete, the students are unable to see this comments section. There is a new Google Chrome extension that allows for this type of assignment, though: CopyComments for Google Classroom.

CopyComments can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. Once a teacher has marked up a Google Doc or Slide presentation with comments, it is ready for use. It is important to make sure the comments are directly connected to the specific text you want the student to use as a reference. In the example below, I gave guidance and extra support to help my students through a paraphrasing assignment that I wanted them to complete.

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Next, you would have to assign the Doc or Slide presentation to students on Google Classroom. Click “Create” and then “Assignment.” Fill in your title and optional instructions. Then select the Google Drive icon and upload the assignment that you just annotated with comments. Make sure to click “Make a Copy for Each Student.”

The assignment will automatically be viewable in the Classwork tab on Google Classroom. However, if you were to open a student assignment, the comments would not be there. Instead, you have to click on the CopyComments icon on your toolbar. You must sign in and allow the extension to operate on your device. Then, the extension will have you select the class and the specific assignment. The extension will only register assignments that have comments already embedded into them. Select the assignment and then click “Copy Comments.”

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The pop-up window will close down when it has finished copying all the comments into the students’ attachments. You can check to make sure it worked by going into the assignment and opening a random student’s attachment. You should be able to see the comments that you made before you actually created the assignment.

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This extension is useful for providing additional support to students as they complete a task. It could be helpful for using a template to complete a writing assignment or clarify directions or requirements on a project or test. Rather than being used for feedback after an assignment, these comments could be used to help students during the actual completion of an assignment. CopyComments for Google Classroom is a relatively new extension, but can be extremely useful in supporting students in the classroom.

Tech Tuesdays: CopyComments for Google Classroom

Tech Tuesdays: Girls Who Code — Bringing STEM to ELA

by Kathryn Nieves

This week I’m going to take a quick break from the introduction of a new technology tool to cover a technology-based program with an interesting perspective to bring to the teaching of ELA.

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Girls Who Code is an organization with the goal of bringing more female computer programmers into the world. According to the organization’s website, in 1995, 37% of people in computer science were women, whereas today that number is only 24%. Since technology is a continuously growing field, the number of computer science degrees will only continue to increase.

The organization has established free clubs based on teaching computer science to young girls. According to the organization’s website, they have at least one club in every single state in the United States. The organization offers a variety of options for clubs based on different age groups. Educators can get involved by applying to start a club in their area or for their students.

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With the push for STEM education, the question is always where ELA fits into the mix. Girls Who Code is offering the perfect opportunity for students to pair coding with language arts. The organization is offering the chance to participate in a book club. Girls can combine an interest in coding with an interest in reading.

The organization is offering a book club for grades 3-5, where students can read and discuss the nonfiction book Learn to Code and Change the World. Girls Who Code provides five free books for each club to use. The book can help to bring interested young girls into the world of computer science.

unnamed (1)There is also a 6-12 free club, where students receive hands-on experience learning to code. The only requirements are access to computers and the internet, as well as someone over 18 to supervise and a sponsor, such as a school. Clubs receive free access to the computer science curriculum and use these skills to create a project out their community.

Teachers can apply to bring this club to their school for interested girls. An interesting idea would be to pair the concept of coding with different English literature activities, such as connecting their newly learned skills to a project or assignment that related to a book or story they were reading in class. It would be a great way to show how ELA can be integrated into the computer science world.

In order to start one of these clubs in your school, you could visit the Girls Who Code website and complete the online application. Any additional questions or requests of specific information can be sent to the Girls Who Code New Jersey representative, Eve Balick, at eve.balick@girlswhocode.com.

Girls Who Code is the perfect way to bring computer science to a group of students who need these resources the most while also appealing to the current educational focus on STEAM.

 

Tech Tuesdays: Girls Who Code — Bringing STEM to ELA

Tech Tuesdays: Collaborative Annotation with Prism Scholar Lab

by Kathryn Nieves

Annotation tends to be an individual task. Unless students discuss their ideas and notes, students usually reserve this as a solo assignment. In order to pair educational technology with the idea of collaboration, teachers can use Prism Scholars Lab.

Prism Scholars Lab is an older website but still has a lot to offer for teachers and students today. Created as a small project, the website has expanded to include many more users, specifically students, who use it as a way to collaboratively analyze a text with their peers. Since it is a website, all devices with an internet browser, including mobile devices, can utilize the tool.

Both teachers and students need to have an account in order to use the website, though the site does allow for an automated Google sign-in in lieu of creating a username and password. On the website, there are three pages on the top: About, Browse, and MyPrisms. The About section offers information about the development of the website. Browse allows you to view public Prisms to collaborate with others or to get ideas for your own Prism. MyPrisms are the collaborative experiences that you have already built.

Prism Scholars Lab allows you to upload a text and provide opportunities for students to highlight and collaborate to analyze the text. For example, a user might post a poem and have students identify specific types of figurative language. Each Prism is equipped with three different color highlighters, each connected to a specific category of criteria of the user’s choice. The category of analysis depends on the individual class and the lessons being taught. Other examples could include identification of rhetorical devices or different schools of thought.

When you click on “MyPrisms,” you can create a new Prism, view your previously created ones, or view any public ones where you have made highlighted contributions. Selecting “New Prism” will allow you to create a brand new one for students. You will be brought to a new page where you must fill in the necessary information in order to create your collaborative Prism. You must fill in the content, such as the poem, song, article, or short text. Then you must fill in the requirements of each of the highlighter colors. A title must be given to the Prism, which should likely include some variation of the title of the original piece. The original author of the text must be provided, along with the date of publication.

The final requirements are selecting a language for the text, providing an optional description, such as giving directions for the participants in the Prism and indicating the license option for the text. The license relates to whether or not the text chosen is available for reuse. The website fully breaks down the levels of licenses for different types of use for easy identification.

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One important feature of the creation of the Prism is the “Unlisted” button. By checking off that box, it signals that the Prism may only be accessed by people with the link. This indication means that outside members may not find it in the “Browse” section of the website. Choosing Unlisted will allow a teacher to just provide the link to the students so that collaborative annotation is just between peers.

Sharing the URL with your students will allow them access to contribute their highlighted annotations to the Prism. Students should select the highlighter color they want and then click on the words they would like to highlight. The eraser tool allows the student to get rid of any highlights that they want to revise.

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Students should hit “Save Highlights” once they are finished annotating the text.

Once they have highlighted their parts based on the directions provided, everyone will be able to visualize the selections of all of their classmates. Along the sidebar, there is an option that says “Font Size Visualizations.” When that is selected, students can see a change in the font size based on how many students selected the same answer they did. The larger the word, the more times it was selected. Students can choose the different highlighter colors to see each category.

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The final product serves as a great point of discussion among a class. Students can discuss whether or not they agree with the final outcome of the Prism and it can serve as a jumping off point for larger class conversations about a particular text.

Tech Tuesdays: Collaborative Annotation with Prism Scholar Lab

Tech Tuesdays: Technology Options for Reading on the Web

by Kathryn Nieves

With the increased emphasis on incorporating nonfiction texts and articles from real life to help support teaching literature, teachers may face certain obstacles. While assigning texts from news websites or other professional pages allows students to read content relevant to their world, it also can be challenging to make these pages accessible. News sites and other websites are often cluttered with ads, comment sections, streaming videos, or other distractions that detract from the text itself. When a student is accessing these resources from a laptop, as opposed to a smartphone, it can be cumbersome to read.

The following are tools that teachers could use to help make web content less distracting before assigning a text to their students.

Just Read

Just Read is an extension that works on a Chrome Browser. Once downloaded and added, the user can remove the clutter of a webpage with just one click on the extension logo. On the logo itself, a red icon with the word “on” will appear, indicating that Just Read is currently working on the website.

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In addition to removing advertisements and comment sections, it also has the option to adjust other readability elements of the text. Users can change the font size, text color, background color, and link color to meet their preferences. Once the “Just Read” extension has been activated, users will have three icons in the top right corner of the screen. Selecting the first icon, the paintbrush, allows for these options to appear. Once the readability functions have been selected, users must click “Save and Close” for these changes to remain active on the site.

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Firefox Reader View

Unlike Chrome browsers, which require a third-party extension to make texts easier to read and view, the Firefox browser has that function built in. Once an article is opened, users will have the option to convert to a readable format. The article will reappear, looking more like an e-book reader and less like a website.

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On the sidebar of the converted webpage, users have a few options to make the text more accessible. The “Aa” button allows the user to customize the text size and font type of the article and even allows for the opportunity to shrink or extend the length of each line in the article. It also allows for a change in background color and justification of the text.

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The button immediately below the “Aa” font icon is for text-to-speech. Users can control how fast or slow they want the computer to read and has two options of voice. The final icon is “Save to Pocket,” which allows the article to be saved in a database to read at a later date.

Microsoft Edge’s Reading View

For those who use Microsoft Edge as their browser of choice, it is similar to Firefox in its inclusion of a readability function. Users can click on the open book icon on their browser, next to their URL, and immediately be sent to an e-book setup for their article. No advertisements are included or comment sections available. Unlike Firefox and Chrome, there is no option for customization and users can only read the clutter-free article.

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There are always a variety of readability tools popping up online to help to make texts more accessible online. By removing the ads and comment sections, it increases the focus on the text and the text’s features and allows for the elimination of distraction. These tools make it easier for teachers to assign outside texts and resources to their students for review.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Technology Options for Reading on the Web