March 18

Where can I get books to read while we are closed?

This question has been a popular one for the past few days. Please post these sites to your blogs.

Student can check out books from Dearborn’s Public Library system: They must have a library card. The library is working on a plan so that students may obtain a library card virtually. Stay tuned to the FHS blog for more infomation:

For free Kindle Books visit:

Both Overdrive and Hoopla can be downloaded to your phone or tablet: https://www.overdrivecom/ or

Open Book is another resource – sing in with your Google or Clever account:

February 7

Complex text for all everyday

9 Complex Text Resources I’m Pretty Pumped About Right Now

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Recently, there’s been a trend in the messages I’ve received from the stellar stock of humanity known as you, the Teaching the Core readership (btw, if you ever need to contact me, just use this link — it goes straight to my inbox).

Here’s what I’ve been receiving: life-improving, useful resources for 1) finding complex texts for our students to read, and 2) teaching them how to read, write, and talk about them . . . more.

December 17

Rethinking how we teach writing

10 Teacher-Tested Strategies to Engage Reluctant Writers

By John Spencer

A few years ago, my son opened a Google Document and started typing. I asked him about it and his eyes lit up as he described the shared story he was writing with classmates. This was the first day of summer break but he was choosing to write for fun. It might not sound like much but it’s an example of the tiny miracles that happen in classrooms all the time. My son fell in love with writing in Ms. Reddiger’s class. He spent a whole year getting up early and finishing his chores fast so that he could write a blog post or do a story on Storybird. He viewed himself as an author because of his teacher. more

John Spencer

October 17

Common Lit Delivers

Common Lit is a resource of which some may not be aware. However, they offer a plethora of resources many with SAT-like questions aligned to the standards. Today, I received an email reminding me of this powerful resource so I wanted to pass it along to all of you. Resources are free! It evens tracks student data! Teachers can choose standards to assess and even level text.

The link below will take you to examples of texts that feature people who have changed the world; there’s much power in that!

May 9

Read Works Text Sets Don’t Disappoint

It’s often difficult to find text that pairs well with what we are teaching. Read Works comes through again with some excellent resources. It appears that the reading levels only go through 8th grade, but don’t be fooled. Many of the texts within the set go far beyond that, so be aware of the Lexile levels. There’s a great text set called “Profiles of People with Different Careers!”!q:/g:/t:0/f:0/pt:AAD/features:/



January 24

Teaching outside the box

Here is an idea that brings the real world into the classroom to engage and excite students. Needless to say . . . I love it!


Teaching Lord of the Flies in a Completely Different Way

In this Education Week article, brothers Chip Heath (Stanford Graduate School of Business) and Dan Heath (Duke University CASE Center) say that “peak moments” in life that we remember forever – a wedding day, a successful public presentation, an award for exceptional accomplishment – share certain characteristics with peak moments in school – a swim meet, prom, senior musical performance, science fair, football game, debate tournament, choir concert. What are the common factors? “They’re all social,” say the Heaths, “often performed in front of an audience, and involve an element of competition or pressure. There’s a sense of pomp and circumstance about them – notice how often we actually wear distinctive clothes to them.” And with the school moments, almost none of them take place in classrooms, even though that’s where students spend virtually all of their time in school.

How can schools create more peak moments in classrooms? Here’s an example. In 1989, social studies teacher Greg Jouriles and English teacher Susan Bedford decided to teach Lord of the Flies a little differently at their California high school. One day during a routine discussion of the novel, a visitor strode into the classroom and distributed an official-looking document announcing that the book’s author, William Golding, had been charged with “libeling human nature.” Students were told that they would put Golding on the stand in a “Trial of Human Nature,” taking on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, and the judge. The trial would address fundamental questions of literature and history, including: Are people good or evil? Is civilization just a thin veneer over violent instincts?

For several months, students prepared for the trial, and when the day came, they dressed up in suits and costumes (Stalin, Gandhi, Atticus Finch, Harry Potter) and took a bus to an actual courtroom where a jury of administrators and alumni sat to render a verdict. The trial idea was so successful that it’s still being implemented in this high school every year, three decades later (in some years Golding is found guilty, in other years not guilty). “The day of the trial is a powerful peak moment,” say the Heaths: “a culmination of preparation and practice, delivered in front of an audience, with real stakes and immediate feedback. Every year, the student speaker at graduation mentions the trial. The prom? It’s mentioned sometimes.”

Could this kind of exhibition or performance task replace traditional final exams? That sounds crazy, but consider, say the Heaths, which “more closely resembles work in the real world: the intense collaboration of an exhibition requiring students to frame and deliver a project under deadline pressure so that an audience can view and critique it? Or an exam with 10 multiple-choice and three short-answer questions?” Worse still, consider the finding of a study at an elite private school showing that when students were asked to retake their June final exams three months later, their average grades fell from B+ to F. All the exam preparation these students had done simply evaporated over the summer. And consider an American Institutes of Research study showing that students who engaged in deeper learning reaped a number of benefits, including better collaboration skills, motivation, self-efficacy, and on-time graduation rates. This was true of all student subgroups.

“So how can we feel satisfied,” conclude the Heaths, “delivering the usual academic experience – one that students, on the whole, can barely remember?”

“Student Motivation” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath in Education Week 10 Big Ideas, January 10, 2018 (Vol. 37, #16, p. 4-5),


November 20

Khan Academy . . . could it help our students?

The benefits of Khan are tremendous. Besides just an increase in scores, it helps to boost confidence!

Free Khan Academy SAT tutorials boost scores, study finds

“College Board President David Coleman told reporters in an online conference Monday that he was particularly pleased that the gains seemed not to vary much by students’ gender, race, income level or high school GPA. “It is good news that practice is an equal opportunity employer,” he said. “And the great news is that it is free.”

November 8

Tell the story with fewer words . . .

Infographics convey information in fewer words, pictures and other visual representations. For some students these are more easily accessible than an article. Think about using these for your next AOW or adding them to your next text set or better yet, have students design their own. Here are a few websites to get you started.

September 21

Are they really reading?

It’s time for SSR+ in your classroom. Are your students really reading or are they really faking it? Here are some tips to help make this very necessary time authentic.

September 9

Make logging reading more engaging!!

What would it be like to get rid of the reading logs and make the accountability piece of SSR+ more fun? Follow the link below for some amazing ideas to “ditch” the reading logs. If we make if more fun, they are going to be more willing to engage!

From the author, “. . . the key in all of this is to make reading public celebration, and to vary the ways in which you think, talk about, share and respond to text. When the method that you use to keep students accountable for their reading is fun and engaging they are less likely to view reading as a chore and more likely to enjoy it. Is the goal to collect a stack of papers in which students log their minutes of reading or is it to inspire a love of reading that leads students to inspire others to pick up a book?”


May 25

Creating Strong Writers

Creating strong writers doesn’t just happen, it takes practice . . . lot’s of it!! To create strong writers, we need to be sure to embed writing into our daily instruction. As Smekens indicates, there are different types of writing for different purposes. However, after asking students to write, we usually hear “Miss, how long does it have to be? How many sentences?” We must move students away from this. One way is by providing mentor texts that serve as models of good writing. Another way . . . create the model yourself by writing in front of your students! This is quite possibly the most powerful model because students get to actually see and hear the process as you think aloud; apprenticeship at its finest! Not comfortable with this practice? Reach out to your literacy coordinator who loves doing this with kids!

Check out Smeken’s ideas about writing for different purposes –

April 25

Revision vs. Editing

Writer’s Workshop is incredibly important because it helps students learn to process their thinking as they put their ideas into writing. I’ve decided to blog about this because I frequently find myself having discussions with teachers about the difference between revision and editing. They are NOT the same. Revision is the process of making the writing itself better! Editing is a completely separate process that looks at the writing conventions: spelling, capitalization and punctuation – some include grammar here. I personally have students look for grammar mistakes during revision.

Please reach out if you want to workshop writing and I can support.I have resources that I am happy to share. I’ve been pushing into classrooms frequently and working through revision with students. I love being able to dig in with students!

Want more about the difference between revision and editing?

March 24

Great resources!

So many great resources today!

From honeybees to reparations, there’s something to fit every need.

The honeybee has taken flight from the Cheerios box to sound a bee alert
Boxes of Cheerios pictured in a grocery store. Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr