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Poetry, Performance & Taylor Mali and Beyond…

Graded, the American School of São Paulo, was fortunate to have Taylor Mali, a performance poet and teacher, come all the way to Brazil to engage and get our students and teachers excited about poetry and performing the spoken word.

Below is a Storify of his visit via Twitter. 

I am wondering how our school can not let the enthusiasm and engagement of Mali’s visit die down, but use it as a springboard to add another layer of writing and presentation skills for an audience.  Along came a tweet linking to poetry examples created by Haiku Deck.
I have always been a fan of Haiku Deck as a tool to embed more visual teaching and learning into the classroom. Haiku Deck has added in recent months the ability to use their presentation/slides/ design tool on a web based platform in addition to the iPad app. The easy step by step flow of creating visually appealing and text-light slides that  search Creative Commons images on Flickr (what an amazing concept :) to then AUTOMATICALLY cite  the images appropriately and include the citation on the created slides make the tool my number one choice.
During Taylor Mali’s workshop with students, I jotted down bits of writing, according to the exercise he was working through with us. Although I am a writer who enjoys the written word (I can get goosebumps when I read or write a good sentence :), adding visuals added another layer of intensity to my writing process. The writing “felt deeper” and more thoughts and connections went into my writing after using visuals as part of my process.

Together with our Library Coordinator, Meryl Zeidenberg, we kept brainstorming how to amplify the Taylor Mali experience even further.

  • What if we were to contact other school’s and classes who participated in workshops facilitated by Taylor Mali?
  • What if we collaborated  with them in creating a poetry book, visually enriched with photographs or students’ own illustrations?
  • What if we tweaked Taylor’s exercise adding a component to include the geographic location, cultural characteristics or traditions?

Flipped Writing Videos- Production Techniques

Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Shannon Doyne define the flipped classroom in a post titled 5 Ways to Flip Your Classroom  :

It’s an “inverted” teaching structure in which instructional content is delivered outside class, and engagement with the content – skill development and practice, projects and the like – is done in class, under teacher guidance and in collaboration with peers.

The flipped classroom has become quite a buzz word in the last few years.

  • There are many teachers who swear by it, there are just as many teachers who don’t see the value in the classroom.
  • There are many teachers who believe the flipped classroom has transformed their teaching and their students’ learning, while other teachers believe the flipped classroom is a waste of time
  • There are many teachers who believe the flipped classroom is nothing more than creating a bunch of videos (or tapping into already created videos by others) and assigning to watch them to their students at home. No additional value to learning for their students.

Needless to point out, many educators are torn when it comes to the flipped classroom trend. One survey results reveals though that flipped learning is on the rise.

Emily Vallillo, sixth grade Humanities teacher at Graded, The American School of São Paulo is exploring what a flipped classroom might mean for her and her ten/eleven year old writing students.

Leaving the debate of “best thing ever” ored “it just gives students more work to do at home” aside, I want to look at the production technique of her videos as well as the advantages of using these videos as one more teaching structure or strategy to support student learning.

I was impressed with Emily’s creative approach of creating the video (reminded me of the “In plain English” series by Common Craft). She used for the first time the Explain Everything app on the iPad and was able to use quite a few techniques to make the video appealing for sixth graders (and others)  to watch.

  • She wrapped the mini lessons in a little story of “Carol” who received a writing assignment and was having trouble knowing where to go from there.
  • The story structure (or sequence) is represented visually by image objects that are zoomed in and placed at the center or minimized and placed on a timeline at the top of the screen. When reviewing or repeating an element, it is visually pulled up again.
  • These image objects were created with paper strips, sticky notes, pens and markers, digitized by taking an image on the iPad and then imported into the app (or directly taken from within the app)
  • The clever use of additional videos clips within the main video. These video clips are modeling explanations, orally annotating, making them visible for viewers.  Again, the app allows to record the videos within the app or import them from the photo gallery.

What are some other production techniques that you have seen and/or used that have been successful in the flipped writing class? Please share a link, so we can all be inspired and learn from each other to improve production techniques.


Production table for the video lesson

Emily also used EdPuzzle , a platform that allows teachers to create a class,  invite their students, add chosen videos to an assignment, embed additional audio comments as well as quizzes to check for comprehension.




Students are able to work at their own pace. They are able to “rewind” and review . They can start writing their paper and go back to explanations and modeling whenever needed (It is not that easy to “rewind”your teacher, especially when 20+ students are all are trying). 


Watch more videos from Emily’s Writer’s Corner


Visible Thinking Routines for Blogging

Our school‘s fabulous PE teacher, Claire Arcenas, is bringing blogging to her PE classes. She is incorporating Visual Thinking Routines to help her students become reflective commenters.
In a recent planning session, she reminded me of the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchard, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison, that I had download but not read yet. We then started diving into the core routines outlined on Visible Thinking from Harvard University.

The core routines are a set of seven or so routines that target different types of thinking from across the modules. These routines are easy to get started with and are commonly found in Visible Thinking teachers’ toolkits. Try getting started with with one of these routines.

What Makes You Say That? Interpretation with justification routine
Think Puzzle Explore A routine that sets the stage for deeper inquiry
Think Pair Share  A routine for active reasoning and explanation
Circle of Viewpoints A routine for exploring diverse perspectives
I used to Think… Now I think… A routine for reflecting on how and why our thinking has changed
See Think Wonder A routine for exploring works of art and other interesting things
Compass Points A routine for examining propositions
3-2-1-Bridge A routine for activating prior knowledge and making connections

Each one of these routines seemed well suited to help guide students in quality blog post writing as well as  commenting. We couldn’t help but expand the notion of the above by developing specific ROUTINES, to define thinking moves, support and make thinking visible as students were blogging.

Here is our first attempt:

Blogging as Information/Research

  1. Research- What have you read that has informed your position?
  2. Remix- What are you modeling after and how can you re-purpose it?
  3. Add- What new perspectives, value and resources have been added to original research?

Purpose- What kind of thinking is involved-
To make sense of a concept that I am trying to understand or wrapping my mind around. Drive for further inquiry.
Application- When and where can it be used?
To help learner document and carefully think about, analyze and amplify information that has influenced their thinking.
Launch- Learner looks at topic, concept, image, video, art work, etc.Follow thinking thinking routine, in order to represent train of thought.

Blogging as Reflection

  1. artifact
    choose a variety of media platforms beyond text to display many different forms of creativity and communication.
  2. reflection
    (you can use any of the Visible Thinking Routines above)

Blogging as Documentation

  1. summarize
    Review, recap, give the main points or the run down of what occurred.
  2. add
    Add images, videos or other media, that enhance, support and bring perspective to documented content.
  3. label
    Make your documentation searchable. Label, categorize and/or tag your blog post, to strategically link to other written posts with the same thoughts, ideas or topics.

Blog Commenting- Feedback- through strategic and thoughtful commenting routine.

  1. read
    Read the blog post, read other blog posts, articles and books on the topic.
  2. connect
    Make connections to your own experience, knowledge and related information. Link these connections to original source.
  3. add
    Don’t just agree or disagree or compliment the author of the post. Add value to their writing.








Click on infographic below to enlarge

Visible Thinking Routines for Blogging

What are some thinking routines you use with your students to support them in making their THINKING visible as they are blogging or commenting? Please add your thoughts and ideas as a comment (maybe even be inspired to use one of the above routine ex. commenting : read-connect-add

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