Involving Parents in the Classroom #1

Shakes Up Close

One of my goals as a teacher this year is to improve my communication with parents and involve them more in the classroom.  Yes, I’ve been sending class newsletters, calling, emailing and meeting with parents more . . . but somehow there still seems to be a disconnect between a child’s day in high school and life at home.  Here’s an idea I came up with for my honors freshmen who are in the midst of studying Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.”  As I think of more parent involvement ideas, I’ll share them.  Please share your ideas as well!

Instructions on our class blog:

Some teenagers don’t have any qualms over their parents approving dates, believing it is simply one more way parents show their care and concern.  Other teens feel that this is not necessary and, furthermore, shows parents don’t trust a teen’s judgment.    What do you feel?  Should your parents approve of the people you choose to date?

Write a blog in which you respond to this persuasive prompt in the same format that you’ve been responding to with the practice prompts in class.

In your response, take a position on this question.  You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question.  Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

Once your response is complete, I will be inviting your parents to comment on your blogs.  Regardless of their points of view, this will be a chance for your parents to share in your writing and, indirectly, share in our study of “Romeo and Juliet.”  My hope is that this spurs some interesting comment feeds!

"Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon . . ."


Parent Letter:

Dear E108 Parents,

With the celebrated observance of Shakespeare’s birthday this past weekend, it’s fitting that I’m inviting you to share in our study of “Romeo and Juliet” this week.

As you can check out on our class site, __________________ , the students are responding to the following prompt: Some teenagers don’t have any qualms over their parents approving dates, believing it is simply one more way parents show their care and concern. Other teens feel that this is not necessary and, furthermore, shows parents don’t trust a teen’s judgment. What do you feel? Should your parents approve of the people you choose to date? They are to have this complete by this Friday, April 29th.

Here’s where the fun begins! Once they complete their responses, I’m inviting you to respond to their answers. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Does your child’s response surprise you? Feel free to comment in any way you wish; for instance, comments on your child’s writing are very welcome as well. My hope is that this spurs some interesting dialogue and motivates your child’s writing even further. Please respond by Friday, May 6th. I really look forward to your involvement. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me.

By the way, your child may come home and tell you that I brought mini-cupcakes in to celebrate the Bard’s special day. We each had a small treat today not only to celebrate our author’s day but to revel for a moment in our hard work over the past couple of weeks with practice ACT essay writing. As you know, the students have been writing numerous in-class essays addressing issues within “Romeo and Juliet” as well as persuasive prompts addressing issues pertaining to high school life. Concentrating on focus, elaboration and support is crucial to effective writing, and I’m proud that each and every student is displaying improvement. If you don’t hear from me personally via email or phone over the next week, and would like to speak about your child’s writing, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

In the meantime, as Shakespeare once wrote, “It is not in the stars to hold our destinies but in ourselves.” Have a beautiful, safe, and healthful week!

**Next newsletters – Expectations for Great Expectations, Final Exam Tips, Summer Reading and Summer Blogging suggestions


The verdict – Out of 30 students , three sets of parents did not particpate.  (I  had these 3 students anticipate how they believed their parents would respond and proceed from there).  Some parents emailed me back stating they couldn’t wait to begin; others called eagerly with questions on specific how-tos for logging on and commenting. I may even have hooked a few on blogging themselves!  Here is a sampling of student-parent interactions:

Cassidy’s Blog – Cassidy’s father took advantage of the opportunity and posted a set of suggestions to improve parent/child communication

Marley’s Blog – Both Marley’s mother and father took turns to comment.

Austin’s Blog – Austin and his father continued an engaging feed of comments.

The follow-up:  Students read excerpts from The Office of Christian Parents: Shewing How Children Are To Be Gouerned throughout All Ages and Times of Their Life, all articles written in the 1600s dealing with parenting.  After analyzing main parental principles, the class compared parenting today to parenting during the Elizabethan era.

What I will do differently next year:  Next year I will have two sections of accelerated freshmen.  I plan on getting their blogs up and running right away within the first week of school; furthermore, I plan on involving parents within the first month of class.  My goal is to complete at least one parent virtual involvement per quarter.  I will keep GG readers posted!

Move with a Movie Review . . . GG Style

With all the spirit of the Academy Awards upon us, this week’s blog assignment will be for the students to write a movie review. 

Move Us With a Movie Review


Here is what you need to include in your blog post:

Paragraph 1
Include the following: name of the film, stars of the film, basic setting ( time and place), and type of film ( comedy, adventure, drama, etc.)

Paragraph 2
Write a plot summary for the movie. Do not reveal the ending! Discuss at least 5 events and be sure to cover the entire scope of the movie except the very end.

Paragraph 3
Discuss one aspect of filmmaking. You may choose from acting, directing, editing, costume design, set design, photography, background music, or anything else you may think of. Be sure that you are specific and cite examples from the movie.

Paragraph 4
Discuss another aspect of filmmaking. You may choose from acting, direction, editing, costume design, set design, photography, background music, or anything else you may think of.  Cite examples from the movie but obviously choose something different from what you discussed in the previous paragraph.

Paragraph 5
Give your overall reaction to the film as well as your opinion on the quality of the film. Last but certainly not least, include the grade you give this film based on your previous description.

Steps to Prepare for Writing This Post:

  1. Think about what you like and don’t like about a particular movie you have recently seen. Jot down your likes & dislikes in a free-write list.
  2. Next, write down as much information as you can about the movie (plot, aspect of filmmaking, etc.) 
  3. Begin to articulate the information into your blog.  Aim for about 600-700 words for the entire review.
  4. Save your draft and proof your work.

 ***Hint:  Attempt to match the tone of your review with the style of the movie. For example, a humorous writing style would work well for a comedy, whereas a more serious tone would be good for writing a drama review.

Bringing Blogging to the Classroom #3

February 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogging in the Classroom, Mini-Lessons

Today, students are typing their first posts!  All is quiet as they anxiously type, edit, and insert away!!! Here is the initial worksheet I used to aid in their set-up. 


Getting Started with Your Blog! ☺

Go to .  Click the box labeled “Sign up here”

Create a Blog Domain – this will be the url address that everyone will visit. This should be short and memorable. It should also be something that you won’t mind using for the rest of your years in high school.


Create a Blog Title. This is the title that appears at the top of the home page each time someone logs on. This title should be a reflection of your personality or interests.

Privacy – You must click on NO, so that your blog cannot be searched within search engines.

You must click on NOT INTERESTED for additional information.

 Your username should be something that is short and memorable for you.  Additionally, your password should be something you will always remember.  Do not use a password that you use for other applications!!!
Posts are the individual writings you add to your blog.

To add a new post:
 On your page, click on “Site Admin.”  It is on the bottom right column of your page.
 Now you will be in your “Dashboard.”  This is the back of your blog, where you can change the look of your blog, add new items and delete old items.  

Click “Posts.”
Click “Add New.”

You can now start typing or cutting/pasting a document into the post.

You will be able to upload photos, but I will need to approve them first.

Don’t worry!!! Blogging is easy and enjoyable!  As long as you take your time, you will learn more and more about blogging as you go along.    Happy Blogging!!!


Bringing Blogging to the Classrooms

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogging in the Classroom, Mini-Lessons

11/1/2013 Note:  Below describes the first year I brought blogging to the classroom.  Some activities remain; some have since changed:

Last week, my students signed up for their blogs!  They are excited to write their first post later this week. Here is the deets on this new blogging project we’ve embarked upon ~

WHO:        3 classes of sophomore Reading Strategies (students reading scores below grade level)

a.  Two introductory activities (click here for GG’s activities)
b.  Blogging etiquette discussion (see below)
c.   Initial sign up & theme choice
d.  This week = first post!!!!

WHEREEdublogs by WordPress

WHEN: ongoing throughout this semester

WHY:       to facilitate motivation and fluidity with students’ reading and writing skills.

HOW:      Students will be blogging once a week.


When you write anything in the blog, please use the following guidelines. There are some questions so you may want to reflect on your posts.

1. Only post things that you would want everyone (in school, at home, in other countries) to know.
Ask yourself: Is this something I want everyone to see?

2. Do not share personal information.
Ask yourself: Could someone find me (in real life) based on this information?

3. Think before you post.
Ask yourself: What could be the consequences of this post?

4. Know who you’re communicating with.
Ask yourself: Who is going to look at this, and how are they going to interpret my words?

5. Consider your audience and that you’re representing Palatine High School.
Ask yourself: Do I have a good reason/purpose to do this?

6. Know how to give constructive feedback.
Ask yourself: What will I cause by writing this post?

7. Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
Ask yourself: Would I want someone to say this to me?

8. Use appropriate language and proper grammar and spelling.
Ask yourself: Would I want this post to be graded for proper grammar and spelling?

9. Only post information that you can verify is true (no gossiping).
Ask yourself: Is this inappropriate, immature or bullying?

10. Anytime you use media from another source, be sure to properly cite the creator of the original work. Otherwise, this is considered plagiarism and is reason to fail the class.
Ask yourself: Who is the original creator of this work?

Commenting Guidelines

As a blogger, you will be commenting on other people’s work regularly. Good comments:

  • are constructive, but not hurtful;
  • consider the author and the purpose of the post;
  • are always related to the content of the post;
  • include personal connections to what the author wrote;
  • answer a question, or add meaningful information to the content topic;
  • follow the writing process. Comments are a published piece of writing.

Blogging Terms and Conditions

  1. Students using blogs are expected to act safely by keeping personal information out of their posts. You agree to not post or give out your family name, password, user name, email address, home address, school name, city, country or other information that could help someone locate or contact you in person. You may share your interests, ideas and preferences.
  2. Students using blogs agree not to share their user name or password with anyone besides their teachers and parents. You agree to never log in as another student.
  3. Students using blogs are expected to treat blogspaces as classroom spaces. Speech that is inappropriate for class is not appropriate for your blog. While we encourage you to engage in debate and conversation with other bloggers, we also expect that you will conduct yourself in a manner reflective of a representative of this school.
  4. Student blogs are to be a forum for student expression. However, they are first and foremost a tool for learning, and as such will sometimes be constrained by the various requirements and rules of classroom teachers. Students are welcome to post on any school-appropriate subject.
  5. Students blogs are to be a vehicle for sharing student writing with real audiences. Most visitors to your blog who leave comments will leave respectful, helpful messages. If you receive a comment that makes you feel uncomfortable or is not respectful, tell your teacher right away. Do not respond to the comment.
  6. Students using blogs take good care of the computers by not downloading or installing any software without permission, and not clicking on ads or competitions.
  7. Students who do not abide by these terms and conditions may lose their opportunity to take part in this project.

Bringing Blogging to The Classroom #1

As I embark on a new semester, I’m planning a unit in which my reading students create and utilize their own blogs.  I’m hoping this facilitates motivation and fluidity with students’ reading and writing skills.  The blogs will provide a place for students to publish their work and feel a sense of an audience other than me.  I’m piloting this with and will incorporate this into other class curriculums if it proves somewhat successful with this group.

**I will update with more activities as I administer them along with the successes and tribulations as they come!***

Activity #1:  This will spark the initial discussion on blogging.  →  →  →


Directions: Next to each statement, please put an A if you agree with the statement or a D if you disagree with the statement.  We will discuss these issues together!

_____1. Computers are necessary.

_____2. Email is better than the telephone.

_____3. Text is better than email.

_____4. IM is better than text.

_____5. We would be nowhere without advancements in science and technology.

______6. We need weapons of mass destruction.

______7. The only people who are responsible for weapons of mass destruction are the people who use them.

_____8. I would like to have a clone.

_____9. To cook = to microwave.

____10. When I was little, playing with my friends meant playing outside.

____11.. When I was little, playing with my friends meant playing video games together.

____12. Friends and family are more important than anything money can buy.

____13. Man has power over technology.

____14. Technology is more powerful than man.

____15. My social life would not be as fulfilling if it wasn’t for social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace.

____16. Blogging is a productive way to read and/or share information.

Activity #2:  To provide a baseline for writing skills at the opening of the semester, the course requires students write a five-paragraph opinion paper.  I’ve slanted the requirement to the blogging project.  →  →  →

Technology = Friend or Enemy?

Believe it or not, when your incredibly young, hip, stylish teacher was your age, the Internet or World Wide Web was just getting off the ground; we certainly did not have it available in school.  There were no cell phones.  Oh, there were those lovely, large car phones that could not be removed from the car and that only worked when the car was on.  So, at least, if one had an emergency while the car running, it was all good.  One of my favorite video games was Kaboom, which was an Atari game – I’ll be shocked if any of you remember that awesomely addicting game!  You know, I thought that in the year 2010 we’d be living like the Jetsons by now. (wait . . . that cartoon is way before your time too!)

Aside from the few prehistoric items I mentioned above, think about the many technological innovations we have today:  the vast array of communication tools, medical advances, entertainment breakthroughs, space exploration and other transportation, weapons technology, and more.  We have come a long way in the short time since I was in your position — sitting in my freshman English class wondering, “What are we doing today, and why do I even care?”  Well, today you should care.  This assignment is a chance for you to finally voice your views.  All I want you to do is think about one question:  Is technology our friend or our enemy?

I’m not talking about just you or just the people in this class.  I am talking about the entire human race.  Based on what you do or don’t know about the colossal world in which you play a significant role, write a five-paragraph essay on why you think technology is or is not the enemy.  In this age of IPod and IPhone and portable DVD and Flip movie camera, etc. . . this question is more important than ever!


Yes, this is an opinion paper, but you must use support.  Your support can be from your own life experiences, experiences of others, what you have seen on the news, what you read about in the papers, etc.  The point is that you must make your reader understand why you feel the way you do, and you must try to make the reader agree with you based on your support.

Paragraph 1—Introduction, which contains a thesis statement.  This statement is your main opinion statement; it is the basis for the whole paper.  It is your statement about whether technology is our friend or our enemy.

Paragraph 2—First body paragraph, first reason why technology is friend or foe and why (support).

Paragraph 3-Second body paragraph, second reason why technology is friend or foe and why (support).

Paragraph 4-Third body paragraph, third reason why technology is friend or foe and why.

Paragraph 5—Conclusion, which restates the thesis in different words, and summarizes the whole paper.

This paper is worth 45 Points.  Due end of hour!!!  Cannot be completed for homework!




Focus and Organization (15 Points)              Content/Support (15 Points)

*Thesis is clearly stated.                                *Concrete Details

*Thesis is maintained throughout.              *Specific Examples for Support/Persuasion

*No tangential issues.                                    *Each paragraph supports thesis

*Style requirements are met.

*Appropriate Paragraphing                       Grammar/Usage (15 Points) *spelling, punctuation, diction,