National Blogging Collaborative

My writing coach through the National Blogging Collaborative is a wonderful woman named Lisa Hollenbach, and I think her getting-to-know-you questionaire is a good tool for thinking about personal and professional goals, so I’m posting my responses here.

What is your story? Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m an elementary school teacher who needs to transition out of the classroom for the time being because of chronic medical issues (recent Bipolar I diagnosis). I’m interested in the big, giant pictures related to education, but I’m also interested in and passionate about day-to-day life in the classroom. Outside of teaching, I’m interested in yoga, math, equity, feminism, video games, space, music, dinosaurs, and both history and futurist thinking.
My current plan for next year (fingers crossed; it changes every day) is to earn what I can from freelance writing unless I’m able to score a fellowship (I’ve been in touch with TNTP and the Bucky Fuller Institute, and I’m contacting my college physics professor because he’d asked me to review a book he’s writing).
I’m also folding Look Great Teach Great into a wider effort for the stuff I’ve been working on for #AnAmericanLessonPlan and #TeachersWhoGame, which would be both CCSS compliant, but also relevant, rigorous, social justice-focused, and FUN. I want to model teaching myself to code through being transparent about how I’m creating my own website because #codeispoetry and I view it as a bit of a think-aloud. I’m also casting weekly on Twitch to show how #TeachersWhoGame relates to video games and virtual reality.
Have you listened to Hamilton the Musical? If you haven’t yet, it might be helpful in understanding me and my brain. I’d also say I relate strongly to characters in Parks and Rec and The West Wing.
Do you have a place where you currently blog / write? If so, paste in the link. I would love to see an example of your writing.
@MsHoughton on The Twitters
Why do you want to blog?
I need to get this ish outta my brain. I want my brain-droppings to maybe be interesting to or helpful to my readers. I want people to read something that makes them feel better by the time they’ve read it, even if it’s a piece on a serious or contentious subject.
Are there particular topics about which you are passionate? Tell me a bit more about Look Great Teach Great.
Social justice and equity, particularly as it relates to math instruction and larger systemic educational issues. I love folk songs and singing, and I’m looking to design lesson plans around songs and other elements of pop culture. I’m looking for a way to tap into the hype around midcentury vintage stuff by designing lessons based on the old crazy books I’ve been showing snippets of on Twitter and Instagram. I like fashion and art and eating good food. Also, just as an FYI, I’ve been in recovery for alcoholism for the past 6 years or so, so I’m also interested in addiction, homelessness, and the schools-to-prison pipeline.
Who do you imagine as the audience for you blog?
I hope it’s a combination of teachers, families, students, and other stakeholders in education, as well as my friends and family who’ve followed my online essays since 1997.
Do you have any questions about blogging or the NBC process in general?
I’m most interested in establishing writing routines that help me keep my brain from revving too hard while still being a productive writer. I also want to help hype the work you folks are doing for other teacher-writers!
That’s about it for now; can’t wait to hear back from you!
In service,

Book of the Week: Bats — A Nature-Fact Book

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

BONUS! This week also features all sorts of Common Core activity goodies! Wowie!

Bats: A Nature-Fact Book, by D.J. Arneson

At first glance, what a totally inaccessible book. The text is small and dense, there’s no organization, and the book itself is small and not ideal for a mentor text.

BUT! Each page is a different topic, so it’d be really easy to photocopy and enlarge a page, then have students break it apart. You could even do a class jigsaw, with different groups picking different sections. Look! Now you have a complex non-fiction text for students to read deeply, just like Common Core suggests!

Speaking of Common Core, why not extend this lesson and make it 23894678 times more interesting by including this story about a boy who used echolocation because he was blind. AMAZING! There’s a bunch of additional information and resources here. A gent named Dan Kish uses echolocation too:

Congratulations! Now you’ve provided your students with the multimedia resources CCSS encourages.

This book features an !!!OFFICIAL!!! FWPS lesson plan focusing on text features. The book actually doesn’t HAVE nonfiction text features, but the lesson explains that it can then be contrasted with Vampire Bats & Other Creatures of the Night published by Kingfisher. The lesson also encourages students to create their own table of contents for the book.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Use dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries as tools. Because there is no glossary included in the text, this might be a good time for a dictionary lesson. Alternatively, you could take the lesson in another direction if your dictionaries aren’t complex enough to include bat-specific terms. In which case you could talk about when it’s faster to look something up online and when it’s faster to use a hard copy dictionary.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!


Pathways to the Common Core: Writing PD Documents

Tonight is the second book study Twitter meeting for Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement.

As a member of the FWPS CC Transition Team, I have a few documents that I think might be useful to districts trying to disseminate information about the standards.

For the three types of writing (K-5), here’s a concept sort I made using definitions, book covers, and writing exemplars from CCSS Appendix C.

Download it as a Word document here: ConceptSort Modes of Writing.

Additionally, we’re going to give teachers time to explore writing resources by doing a jigsaw WebQuest.

Download it as a Word document here: WebQuest Modes of Writing.

I’m posting these because I assume some of my book study peepz might want to see them. If you use them, please acknowledge somewhere that they were designed by MOI!!! Shannon Houghton!!! for Federal Way Public Schools.

Another cool thing our district did was put together an “Intro to CCSS” video. Check it out here:

Send a note my way in the comments if you found any of this useful! Godspeed!