Welcome to 101 English Blogs project!

The aim of this project is to encourage 101 English teachers from around the world to start blogging (or share existing blogs) about their English classrooms. This blog will list each of the 101 blogs and will be a place for sharing and highlighting what is going on in over 100 English classrooms.

Keen to join? Email me at am@eggs.school.nz

101 English Blogs - Latest posts!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Using TED in the English classroom - two of my recent favourites!

Just wanted to share this! I think Sarah Kay's talk is a fabulous resource for students and teachers alike! A mixture of poetry performance and poetry writing seminar - it makes me want to run out and form a Spoken Word poetry club at my school. The second clip is Suheir Hammad's TED talk. I think the ways you could use these clips with students is pretty limitless. What are your TED talk favs??

Info from the TED website:

About this talk

"If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she's gonna call me Point B ... " began spoken word poet Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011. She tells the story of her metamorphosis -- from a wide-eyed teenager soaking in verse at New York's Bowery Poetry Club to a teacher connecting kids with the power of self-expression through Project V.O.I.C.E. -- and gives two breathtaking performances of "B" and "Hiroshima."

About Sarah Kay

A performing poet since she was 14 years old, Sarah Kay is the founder of Project V.O.I.C.E, teaching poetry and self-expression at schools across the United States. Full bio and more links

Info from the TED website:

About this talk

Poet Suheir Hammad performs two spine-tingling spoken-word pieces: "What I Will" and "break (clustered)" -- meditations on war and peace, on women and power. Wait for the astonishing line: "Do not fear what has blown up. If you must, fear the unexploded."

About Suheir Hammad

In her poems and plays, Suheir Hammad blends the stories and sounds of her Palestinian-American heritage with the vibrant language of Brooklyn to create a passionately modern voice. Full bio and more links

Friday, March 11, 2011

Keeping the focus on learning, not the technology

The title of today's post come's from the blog Adventures in online teaching and the post It's about the learning, not the technology. I couldn't agree more. The post raises many questions about how we navigate our way through a veritable sea of technology, how we choose the right tools and how we keep the focus on the learning. Check out the excerpt below, and ensure you look at the full post.

With each potential tool, I have to ask myself, “what are the logistics?” How much time do I have to set aside for this new whiz-bang tool? Because I don’t have 25 students. I’m a secondary teacher, and we often have 150 or even 200 students. And each new tool has a learning curve – whoever thinks all kids know how to use technology without assistance has never spent time in a school computer lab. It’s not obvious to all of them.

When I first really got into using online discussion, I tried out a blog, where I posted a question, and students discussed it via comments. We all enjoyed it and the benefits of the discussion were immediately clear. But the logistics just about killed me. That’s why I decided to use Moodle, because it reduces the logistics – never eliminates them, but makes them manageable.

Last week I had an EDtalk published that in a sense dealt with the same issue, in this talk I (attempt) to explain how I am leading our school through a Teaching as Inquiry project to create an eLearning action plan - the aim being that teachers keep their focus on the student and their learning needs and outcomes and not just focusing on the ICT tools! It can be a tricky process, because sometimes you do need to play and experiement with the tools to discover their value. What comes first - the chicken or the egg? The tool or the learning?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blogging, writing portfolios and sharing our knowledge with the students

Two blogs are have caught my eye this morning:

At A Thicket and Bramble Wilderness there is a great post about Some Thoughts on Student Blogs:

I have had my students working in various forms of digital media for a few years now and one activity I have found really valuable is student blogging. This year’s group is blogging in a collaborative format. Students are on teams and manage a team blog (You can see a sample here). Each student is required to post twice each semester. In addition, students need to read and comment upon two other blog posts each week. They may respond to other class blogs or to one from a list I have compiled for them.

I particularly like the notion of a 'team blog'! Something else I would love to trial.

Click here to read the full post.

At Walk the Walk, there is an interesting post looking at writing portfolios and issues around grades and feedback. This is particularly interesting for the kiwi teachers, as this is something we are shifting towards on a national scale, as our internal assessment standards (NCEA) now come with Conditions of Assessment that encourage, both this sort of feedback and the shift from individual essays to a development of portfolios.

So, I've been reading and asking. The feedback and research I've been handed back has truly been informative and from a wide variety of sources across the country: middle school and high school teachers, college professors, retired teachers, and everything in between. I've read the thoughts of these colleagues as well as those from the writers and scholars they turned me on to: Pat Schneider, Peter Elbow, Linda Christensen (Director of the Oregon Writing Project), to articles from the National Writing Project, and the Pennsylvania Writing Project.

Maybe more importantly I pulled my chair to the front of the class and shared the research I had been reading. I shared the feedback I have received from colleagues across the country, and then I asked my students for their written feedback--what would be the (most challenging, interesting, helpful, positive, worrisome,______) aspect of our moving to an assessed a portfolio of your work (the positive and negative) as opposed to continuing with single grades on individual essays? How are you handling all of this?

Click here to read the full post.

Another thing I like here, is the dialogue between teacher and student about the research. I have always been an advocate for sharing "the knowledge" we are discovering with our students. Here in NZ we have annually published National Moderator's Reports (for internal assessments) and Assessment Reports (for external assessments) that can be accessed (here) which can be incredibly empowering for students. I often get students to unpack research and reports intended for the educators and get them to "translate" them in to "student speak".

I mean, why would we not share this knowledge with them??

Friday, February 25, 2011

101 Highlights - co-construction, learning to say NO and dealing with Natural Disaster

An interesting post at oncemoreuntotheblog about handing over the course planning reigns to the students and genuinely co-constructing a programme of learning. It sounds like an exciting project:

Today, we discussed aspects of the theme that interested students and I intend to get them to create their own reading list and they have already created a class glossary and study guide for the first whole class text, The Scarlett Ibis. (Thanks to the wonderful Kailee Debirred for this text suggestion).

So, next is the leap to free choice and flexibility, where students self direct their text choice and learning focus and I facilitate and model the steps for them.

Over at teachernextdoor there is a great post advising/reminding us all of the dangers of being way to eager to 'sign up' and help out (with anything!). I don't know about you, but I have suffered throughout my career as a result of being pretty much unable to "say NO!":

A Difficult Truth: As teachers, sometimes, we just have to learn to say no. I still am not good at saying … that word, what is it again? Contrary to popular belief, the school will not collapse if I do not add Saturday yearbook meetings and the students will not retrograde into illiteracy if I do not host weekly girl scout meetings. It’s a humbling thought, but true.

As many of you will have heard, Chrsitchurch, here in New Zealand, was devastated by an earthquake on Tuesday. The death toll now stands at over 100 will many more still missing. Our thoughts go out to all of those affected and particularly to our fellow teachers from Christchurch who will, once again, play an incredibly important role as young people and their families try to achieve a sense of normality in the coming months - Kia Kaha! Make sure you check out the Motivating Ms M. post on Natural Disasters, inspired by this momentous event, the post looks at ways we can encourage empathy in our students through writing activities. Make sure you check out the post and share your thoughts and ideas!

Thanks again to all of you for being involved in this great project! I look forward to dipping and diving into all of the blogs over the coming days.

If you or anyone you know might be keen to join the 101 English Blog project, email me (Claire Amos) at am@eggs.school.nz

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Keeping yourself (and your students) safe in the blogosphere

Many of you will have seen the recent media coverage about Natalie Munroe, the high school English teacher who was suspended as a result of her "profanity laced" blog about her "disengaged, lazy whiners". If you haven't seen the story, you can check out an article here.

It certainly seems to have provided a timely reminder for all teachers about the potential dangers of the public nature of the Internet, and raises many issues about what is and is not appropriate fodder for the very public domain of blogging. In the interest of protecting the future of what I see as a very important, rare and precious beast (the reflective teacher blog), here are some tips and advice for how to keep ourselves (and our students) safe in the blogosphere.

Please note - this is a work in progress and any suggestions, additions and/or feedback is welcome!

10 Tips for Teacher Blogs
  1. Make the content about your teaching, not your students.
  2. Actually, avoid discussing the students directly at all...if possible.
  3. If you do make a reference to a student (even in a positive light), do not name or identify them.
  4. Same goes for your colleagues and bosses - again this should be a forum for sharing and reflecting on your teaching strategies, resources and outcomes.
  5. Humour is good, mocking others is not.
  6. Keep language professional and appropriate ("profanity-laced" probably best avoided).
  7. Don't reveal (literally or figuratively) too much about yourself - we are getting dangerously comfortable in a very public, easily copied and shared environment.
  8. Don't make your home address or phone number available
  9. Think before you blog.
  10. Don't drink before you blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New starts and new ideas

Before I get into this: I am Mark Kilmer, and I teach IB English at The International School of Helsinki, and I blog at What circumspection! What delicacy of conscience! (Extra credit for anyone who knows where I got the name). Clair asked if I would like to contribute to 101 English Blogs, and I thought I would. So I am.

My idea is to look at the feed and just see what catches my eye for whatever reason. So here we go for the last few days:
  • There are several new blogs just starting up or transitioning into something else. (Mine was a recent transition as well.) I'm excited to see what they turn out in the next few weeks.
  • Also intriguing are the posts from folks in the southern hemisphere about the beginning of the school year (like Tam's Changes). For me, in the frozen wastelands of the second trimester, the sense of a fresh start makes me want to have that same energy I had in my second or third week. So thanks for that.
  • I liked KDixon's post on an education webinar. The link was well worth watching, and I like the idea of developing my own essential questions as a learner/teacher.
  • A post I'll use and apply: the SCC English post looking at political manifestos via Wordle. It's a great application of the program and allows focus on diction in a way that's accessible and authentic.

Monday, February 14, 2011

You can do it! Giving teachers the encouragement to blog!

One of the most heartening things about this project so far has been the number of English teachers who have said the project has given them the encouragement they need to either start a blog, continue a blog or even fire up a blog again!

So far we have 35 teachers on board. Make sure you check out the entire blog list here. The list is made up of teachers from around the world, ranging from student teachers through to the very experienced.

If you are keen to check out recent updates from our dedicated bloggers, you can check out the links to the right of the main blog (the blog at the top is the one that has been most recently updated).

We are still looking for English teachers to get involved, if you (or anyone you know) is keen, please don't hesitate to make contact. Simply email me at am@eggs.school.nz