Infographics in the Classroom

     Today was my 4th snow day this month, and I was getting a little itchy.  So I started reading an educational magazine and spotted a cool article about creating infographics to help demonstrate curriculum to our students.  This is certainly common-core appropriate, since we are supposed to give our students access to multiple mediums of content.

     But then I thought, actually, it should be the kids creating the infographics.  This would be a worthwhile formative assessment where they have to synthesize information and figure how best to show it to their peers. They might enjoy a little variety from the usual posters and PowerPoints.  Certainly History, Sociology, and Science classrooms would benefit from this.  And I would think clever ELA teachers, like myself, could think of a use as well.  So I made one about my snow days.

How I Spent 4 Snow Days (1)

As you can see, I used  There are many other infographic generators out there, but this is the one I selected at random.

In order to give you an idea of time required for classroom activities: it took me 45 minutes to create this.  That includes registering and skimming the options. I chose the blank template because it would take more time starting from scratch.  Also, I had no idea what information I would put on the graphic until I started playing around. Then I actually chose images and backgrounds and created the charts.  All that was 45 minutes.

Therefore, I would assume a small group who has already gathered their information could easily create one of these within one class period.  Research and presentations would take additional time.

For more quick formative assessment ideas, you can check out No Time Like Real Time.




The Big Break…and Bigfoot…and unicorns…Chupacabra…

2013 is the year when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Not the year that I decided that I wanted to write books—that was many years ago.  But the year that I decided I wanted to write.

My usual pattern has been to write a book, revise it, and sell it.  Then begin next book.  That pattern is, at best, one-third writing and two-thirds waiting.  And the goal isn’t to be a waiter.

So, to change things up, 2013 was the year I said “Yes” to all writing opportunities that came my way. 

“Do you want to write an article for my magazine?”


Followed by: “Would you like to write some short stories?”


Followed by: “Would you like to write an educational e-book?”


Followed by speaking gigs, Skype visits, and Twitter Chat.  And because why not, I put my name in to instruct at a week-long writer’s conference.

2013 is the year I learned that writer’s write.  Each opportunity led to another opportunity, which will hopefully lead to more in 2014.

For most of us, the Big Break is a myth.  Waiting to be noticed, waiting for that one chance, waiting for Powerball–waiting is not going to make things happen. I think, instead, it’s all about accepting the little breaks which will build up to help us become that thing we’ve dreamed of becoming.

Have a happy New Year.  Make 2014 everything you want it to be.

Technology Error. Old School Mode Activated.

That’s it.

I wrote before how my smart phone is out to ruin me by randomly deleting some notes and choosing to back up others.

So today, I implemented my new crash-proof device: the waterproof notepad.  My spiral Batman notepad did the basic job.  But spirals bend and the pages get wet and/or rip out.


So I got this in the mail yesterday and started scribbling in it today.  So far, I’m feeling pretty Steinbeck.

My son’s critique:  “What if you lose it?”

My answer: “Then I’m just as bad off as I am now.”

Today’s Lesson: Back It UP

I learned the hard way over 20 years ago on a computer with no hard drive.

10:00 at night, finalizing an exam, I nearly cried when the power went off. Now I save and re-save and USB and email myself to back up all my projects. I lecture my students about backing up everything because weird things happen. I lectured one kid who stayed after school until 6:00 to finish his ginormous multi-class essay. He dismissed my advice with a wave of his hand. The power went out at 5:55. I think he knocked a couple chairs over. So I back up all projects. Always. OCD style. Every time.

But before they are projects, they are just little embryonic idealets punched into Notes on my phone. When I get an idea while at the deli counter…. Thumb, thumb, thumb, thumb, thumb, thumb. And I’ve got it to fit into something that I haven’t even thought of yet.

And during my daughter’s swim or ballet lesson, I might piece a couple of the ideas together or maybe outline a progression of these ideas.

And life is good.

Until I open Notes this morning and watch the screen blink once. Then my 12 pages of notes became 5 pages of notes. Minutes later, I scrape my jaw off the floor. This never happened when I used a spiral notebook.

I head for my nearest tech expert, my 15-year-old son.

“Yeah, that happens to me sometimes. You should back it up to your Cloud.”

File under: “Things I Needed to Know before I Lost 7 Potential Novels.” But OK. I’m wiser, right? Grumble grumble. **kicks desk.**

So, gentle readers, back it up. All of it. Often.

Or get a spiral notebook.

Awwww HECK No!

Awwww HECK No!

This is August, and we will NOT tolerate any of this fall nonsense!

Library of Congress Contest Event

Hey, Delaware area 5th and 6th Graders!

On Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 1 p.m., I’ll be speaking at the Dover Public Library to hype the Library of Congress’ “A Book That Shaped Me” contest. 

Contest details here.

Library of Contest Event info here.



Not Finding a Ghost



            11:45pm.  I’m sitting next to my son and brother-in-law in the basement movie theater of The Inn at Pocono Manor watching the credits roll on I Am Legend.

            “You know this place is haunted,” my offspring utters.

            “I have heard rumors,” I say.  “What do you know?”

            “A three-year-old fell down the stairs to the basement and died.”

            “When was this?”

            “About 1902.”

            “Well,” I say, “Let’s go find the stairs.”

            With my usual tact, I walk up to the night clerk.  “Excuse me.  Could you point me to the haunted stairs?”

            “This hotel isn’t haunted,” she says.

            “But if it were haunted,” I say, using the subjunctive tense because it’s never too late at night for proper grammar, “what staircase would the ghost haunt.”

            “The one behind you,” she says.

            And so we go down the stairs and look around the basement hallways.  No ghost.


            “Can I help you?” a man in a gray/brown uniform says.  He is standing in a doorway I didn’t notice before.

            I jump a little.

            “Oh, hey,” I explain.  “We’re just looking around for a ghost.”

            “You set off my security cameras.”

            “Sorry about that,” I say.  “The clerk said this place isn’t haunted.  We just wanted to have a look.”

            “Not haunted?” he says.  “Of course it’s haunted.  I play with that little girl all the time.  I even changed offices once—all the way to the other end of the hotel–and she found me.  We’re filming a paranormal activity show here next month.  It’s haunted.”

            He stops talking.  He stares at us. He holds the door open.

            “You want us to leave now, don’t you?” I say.

            “Yes, if you would.”

            So we do.


Summer Reading

Summer Reading

I was going for some diversity this summer.
2 Months…I can do this.

New Teaching Article Is Live

My new teaching column was posted this morning on Reading Today Online, the International Reading Association’s online magazine.
“Sorting out the Details” can be found here.

101 Books to Read

I found this on Obviously it’s from last summer, but it’s cool enough to check out even several months late.

Read with the flow!

Read with the flow!