Register Today for NJCTE Summer Virtual Professional Development Sessions

Beat the heat this summer with lots of learning options to inspire you — our presenters are offering condensed, virtual versions of their spring conference sessions to benefit NJ educators this summer.

Join one, a few or all of the sessions — they are free to NJCTE members and only $5 for non-members! You can register for the sessions at the links below. Note that sessions will only run with five or more participants, so please be purposeful in your responses so that presenters can plan accordingly. We welcome your participation and enthusiasm at some or all of these awesome sessions this summer!

Thursday, July 16, 3pm, Janice Alvarez: This presentation will use various pieces of culturally responsive literature to demonstrate various lesson activities that will increase student motivation and achievement. Cornelius Minor’s book, We Got This, will be referenced and teachers will leave with tangible lesson ideas and a bibliography of culturally responsive and appropriate mentor texts.

Monday, July 20, 10am, Kristie-Anne Opaleski: There are a myriad of effective SEL programs available for the elementary and the middle school classrooms. However, options are limited for high school teachers though teens need this instruction equally, if not more. As the District SEL coordinator and instructional coach, I created SEL in the Secondary English Classroom for my high school colleagues encouraging them to try feasible and simple ways to integrate social-emotional learning in their English classes. Our district had a felt need at both high schools that all students, regardless of their academic level, needed coping skills; consequently, I created this Google Slide presentation as a springboard to start teaching SEL skills, specifically self-awareness and self-management to teens. The focus is on what teachers are already doing and capitalizing on ways to do it better. Most teachers care about their students, therefore some of these techniques are more of reminders than methods. I presented this to 40 high school English teachers and 95% of those surveyed felt like they could employ at least one of the strategies presented the next day.

Wednesday, July 22, 10:30am, Kate Overgaard: During this session, I will discuss the outline for implementing First Chapter Friday in classes, from elementary through college. The idea is to provide students with exposure to various texts and potentially open them up to different types of readings. I will share the list of readings used thus far and, provide sample lists for each grade level (elementary, middle, high school, college), etc.

Tuesday, July 28, 10am, Joe Pizzo: ELA Meets SEL 2.0 inspires ELA teachers to combine various strategies that infuse the fundamentals with fun wrapped in an envelope of SEL principles encouraging voice and choice. Participants will learn ways to connect with their students right from the first day of classes. The featured project is Character Comfort, an activity being featured in Shelby Witte’s new book for NCTE. The chance to create a Professional Learning Network (PLN) designed to continue the workshop experience will be offered. Bring your device, your energy, and your creativity!

Wednesday, July 29, 4pm, Mr. & Mrs. Krapels: As teachers, we all can probably recognize that student stress and anxiety levels seem to be increasing every year—especially when it comes to their grades. While this stress may be related and exacerbated by a number of factors, it’s evident that more and more, some students see their identities and their grade point averages as one and the same. Often, learning and reflection can take a backseat to the letters on their report card. This session aims to help teachers in the ELA classroom combat the obsession over grades by providing three replicable methods for teachers’ own classrooms. Because many of us teach in traditional schools that still rely on traditional grading methods and reporting, this session does not aim to help teachers “throw out grades.” Instead, its aims are to provide teachers with ideas that can help them challenge the traditional grading system while still providing the traditional letter-grade reporting that is required of so many of us. More importantly, this session will introduce participants to practices that if employed in their own classes, may help positively change students’ mindsets around grading and assessment.

Monday, August 3, 10am, Emily Meixner: In this session, the presenters will introduce the idea of reading “frames” and provide examples of how these frames can guide teachers’ use of whole class texts. Despite changing school demographics as well as an intensified awareness of the increasing social emotional needs of secondary students, the way in which English teachers “teach books” looks very much like it has for decades. The goal in this session is to model for teachers how they might identify and teach reading “frames” to provide students with not only greater purpose, but also with increased autonomy over how they read. Come prepared to reconsider texts you currently teach and/or imagine how you might approach new texts you’d like to explore with your students.

Thursday, August 6, 4pm, Bryan Weber: This presentation will introduce teachers to creative ways to build empathy in their students. Bryan will demonstrate how the use of critical lenses and creative assessments can foster greater understanding of diverse perspectives and experiences. Bryan will provide examples of actual activities he has used in his high school ELA classroom that assist students to feel and show empathy for others, especially with regards to women, individuals on the autism spectrum, and refugees.

Friday, August, 21, 10am, Colleen Potter: In our new hybrid world, digital portfolios are becoming an increasingly relevant tool for educators looking for ways to empower their students to communicate evidence of learning anywhere, anytime. Student-driven digital portfolios serve to document student learning and are a valuable space for prompting student reflection to integrate more thoughtful SEL education into the classroom. By capturing learning as it happens with audio, video, files from the cloud, readings, and artifacts from the ELA classroom, teachers can challenge students to reflect on their learning, feelings, and areas of improvement. This session will give a technology-agnostic overview of how digital portfolios can be used to capture learning and demonstrate social and emotional learning.

Wednesday, August 19, 10am, Berit Gordon: How do we get to more joy and less struggle in a profession where people put in such tremendous effort and do such essential work? No matter what supports you might have in your school or district, you can take charge of your teacher growth and craft your own learning journey. This workshop will show that the expert is already in you, and will offer you some hands-on strategies/guidance you need and crave in order to become the high-impact teacher every student deserves. This workshop will provide a structure to help K–12 teachers reflect on your own professional development needs, set goals that work for you and your students, and access a host of practical strategies that will help you meet that goal. We will look at self-assessment checklists to help you find your own entry point. Once you have determined which goal you want to start with, you will look at the list of strategies and choose one to try.

Register Today for NJCTE Summer Virtual Professional Development Sessions

Tech Tuesdays: Owl Eyes — Read, Annotate, and Collaborate

Making literature accessible to all students can be a difficult task. It’s hard to have enough time in class to fully read texts and dive into analysis, which results in a lot of the material being read at home. Owl Eyes can assist with that process for teachers by saving them time while still supporting students while they read outside of the classroom. Owl Eyes offers different annotated e-books that can be shared with students while still allowing teachers to track their progress.

Once you create an account, you will be brought to the main homepage, which allows you to select between browsing books or creating a class. You’re also able to see what books you are currently reading and a list of suggested books is offered. If you click “Browse Library” a drop-down menu appears with different options to choose based on your classroom needs.

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If you select “Annotated Books,” you are brought to a list of all of Owl Eye’s already annotated novels and texts.

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When you have found the text you want to view, you will select it and the main access page will appear. Initially, you will be met with a synopsis of the text. In a blue sidebar, the literary period, publication date, Flesch-Kincaid level, and average reading time will be provided. You will have several red button options, including the opportunity to begin reading, adding the text to “My Books” for later reading, or the chance to download the text as a PDF. A drop-down menu under “Table of Contents” will allow you to jump to a specific point in the text. Analysis resources are provided in that drop-down menu and there are even teaching resources, although some of them require a paid membership.

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If you select “Start Reading” you will be met with the first page of the text. The text appears like an e-reader with the different icons for navigation at the top of the screen.

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Some of the text will be highlighted in yellow as you read, which is an indication of where Owl Eyes has made annotations to enhance comprehension and understanding. If you select the funnel on the navigation menu, you can filter through different types of annotations based on your interest while reading. The types of annotations vary based on the resource, ranging from persuasion devices, historical context, literary analysis, symbolism, and characterization, among others.

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Returning to your homepage, you can create a class for your student and assign them texts. Click on the “My Classes” tab on the homepage and then select the red “Add a Class” button. You will be prompted to name your class and provide information about it. To have students join, you can either send them an invitation through their email or use a class code provided by Owl Eyes to have them join themselves. There is even the option to send the invitation to students through Google Classroom.

When you assign a text to students, you can add your own annotations to help them. Go to the text you want and highlight the necessary words or phrases. Three icons will appear that allow you to highlight and write your own annotation for students to view. Highlight the text you want to stand out and then select the comment icon to add your own annotation. You can give it a tag so students can filter through your annotations easily. Then save your annotation. Students will be able to view the annotation when they are reading the text now.

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Students can reply with questions or comments to your annotations as they read, which can lead to in-class discussions and opportunities for teachers to help students at home or promote peer assistance.  

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When students are enrolled in your class, you can also monitor their progress through the text and see which page they are currently reading. You can also view any annotations the students are making on the text themselves. This view is through the “My Classes” tab from the homepage. You can see the progress and annotations by selecting the student’s name. You can even reply to their annotations without leaving that page.

Owl Eyes is a collaborative tool that allows for student support as they read outside of class. Teachers can provide resources to help students as they read and can track the progress of their students, determining who may need extra assistance in class. This resource would allow teachers to also determine points of review for the class period based on the progress of the class in the reading assignment. Owl Eyes covers a wide range of literature used in English courses at both the middle and high school level. While some of the tools require a premium membership, the majority of tools are accessible through the free account.

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

Tech Tuesdays: Owl Eyes — Read, Annotate, and Collaborate

Book Review: Personalized Reading by Michele Haiken

Personalized Reading coverby Audrey Fisch

As we enter into the final days of summer, I know I’m full of the usual feelings of aspiration and trepidation for the new school year. Weeks of course revision and planning are under my belt. Still, in these last few weeks, I’m still open to more inspiration and new ideas/tools to make my new school year more successful.

It was in this frame of mind that I turned to Personalized Reading: Digital Strategies and Tools to Support All Learners by Michele Haiken (with L. Robert Furman). I know Haiken and her excellent work on gamification (Gamify Literacy: Boost Comprehension, Collaboration, and Learning), so my expectations for Personalized Reading were high. Her newest work did not disappoint me.

Indeed, I must admit that I consumed (inhaled) her latest work nearly in one sitting. And indeed, I find the brevity, simplicity, and practicality of the volume to be its greatest achievement. Haiken has written a slim and eminently readable book on digital strategies and tools that combines references to a research base, a focus on different kinds of learners, and practical and easy-to-follow examples and suggestions. All of this is combined in Haiken’s refreshing, practical, authentic teacher voice. She is using these tools to help the young people in her world succeed and sometimes reflecting on her own journey as a reluctant reader whose own love of books and readings was not ignited until college. This book invites us to look over her shoulder, into her classroom, and learn from her. Who would turn down such an invitation?

The volume is usefully divided into chapters based on types of learners: struggling readers, reluctant readers, English language learners, and advanced readers. The final chapter, “Teaching All Our Readers at the Same Time,” reflects Haiken’s practicality and wisdom. As she notes, the “cacophony of students in our diverse classrooms benefits all student learners, because we learn from each other” (90). Classrooms are not made up of one narrowly defined group of readers, and the labels are useful only up to a point. As Haiken notes, “Bored students are at risk to become reluctant readers” (5). ELL readers can also be reluctant readers. You might select a particular idea in an attempt to support struggling readers in your classroom, for example, but Haiken reminds us that the other students may be just as intrigued and supported.

In each chapter, Haiken cites scholars in the field, but she doesn’t get bogged down in the research. She uses a choice quote or two from some of the major researchers to serve as a scholarly context for the strategies she discusses. For example, in her chapter on reluctant readers, Haiken focuses on the importance of visuals that can “serve as a bridge to print texts” (26). Here she discusses tips (from Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey) for close reading and their application with visual texts, visual literacy resources like The Jacob Burns Film Center, practical tools for uploading videos and embedding questions and interactive activities, and more.

Among many ideas in this chapter, Haiken highlights her own use of Tara M. Martin’s #BookSnaps. #BookSnaps are created on Snapchat, with photos combined with annotations, reactions, decorations, which can then be shared on social media with classmates. Included is an example from a student, so we can see exactly what Haiken (following Martin) means.

And at the end of the chapter (and for every chapter), Haiken includes a simple, useful table, pairing the teaching strategy (here, using visual texts to teach reading strategies) with suggested technology tools (like #BookSnaps) and relevant links.

There’s so much information, but again, Haiken is both wonderfully inspiring and practical. Her discussion of her Twitter book clubs for her middle schoolers includes specific directions (designate a specific hashtag for students to follow) and critical templates (like a Twitter Permission Letter and Code of Conduct for parents and guardians). And again, there is a sample of the teaching tool in practice – here, a piece of a chat about Leland Melvin’s Chasing Space among Haiken’s students, herself, and her school’s Earth science teacher.

If I were a teacher educator hoping to get my pre-service teaches to think creatively about using technology to reach the widest range of readers, if I were a novice teacher looking for a few new tools to help me reach a few more students in my classes, or if I were a veteran teacher (I am!) looking for a new innovation to introduce in the new school year, I would find Personalized Reading everything I wanted and more. If you are enjoying a few more days of personal development, check out this wonderful text.


Don’t forget to register for the NJCTE 2018 Fall Conference: Approaches to Writing, K-12! Featuring keynote speaker NCTE President Jocelyn Chadwick, the conference will take place September 29 at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in Tabernacle, NJ. Register today!

Book Review: Personalized Reading by Michele Haiken