NF UNIT P2 Day 11

Day 11

Poem A Day:


I chose this song because it inspires the Ted Talk I am working on for this project.

Lyrics are here. 


Today’s objective is: Students will share their projects with peers in small groups so they can develop, clarify and strengthen their ideas.


I asked students to have their rough drafts ready today to share in small groups. So, I had to have my Ted talk rough draft ready.

One of the lessons I learned in this unit, and I hope my students will learn, is if you want to do something well, you have to put a lot of time, thought, energy, and effort into that something. And then, you still may not be able to meet your own expectations. But- you may exceed someone else’s.

Anyway, I read my rough draft to the students and showed them my work-in-progress-slideshow. I gathered their suggestions, and ideas, and told them my game plan for finishing this bad boy by Monday.

 Active Engagement:

Students shared their rough drafts in groups of three. They all worked to strengthen their ideas and make sure they were being clear. Final drafts and presentations are due Monday. I secured the school’s theater for presentations, so that is pretty epic and exciting! I will have to take pictures and post them 🙂


Students share out improvements they will make as a result of today’s work.

NF UNIT P2 Day 6

Day 6

Poem A Day:

Today is all about sussing out what you think is right in the face of competing information. This is such a key skill in research and any type of learning, so I like to spend a lot of time on it. I think the more critical thought I encourage and support and facilitate, the better off these kids are going to be in their futures. There is a lot they will encounter and learn and see and experience out in their lives- and I cannot do anything about that. But, I can try to help them think critically- and hope for the best.

This song is a great way to get kids excited about taking a critical stance toward texts. Lyrics are here


(students will need access to google drive- I am using Chromebooks, a computer lab would work).

Today’s objective is: Students will collaborate with peers to define “nonfiction”

After discussing the poem a day, students will log into their “shared with me” folder on Google Drive.

I created this document  and made several copies of it. I created groups of 5-6 students and then shared one copy with each member of each group. I name the documents for myself (like “Block 2 Group 1” or “Block 3 Group 2”). This way, when students access the document, they will be able to collaborate on the document only with the students I have selected for their group.

At the top of the document, I have listed 5-6 colors. I ask each student to pick a color on their document. This is the color they will type in.



These are the directions in the document:

We have had several thorough discussions about the nature of nonfiction writing and the tools writers use to convey meaning in nonfiction texts. Today, we will recap by defining nonfiction in small groups. You will engage in an online discussion with your peers. Be prepared to respond to each other, and to discuss your conclusions with the class.

First: Read this article from the New York Times. “How do you know if what you read online is true?” by Katherine Schulten.

Next: Answer each of the questions below in your chosen color. Then, respond to at least two of your peers using the comments feature. Ask them questions for clarification. Challenge their opinions. Be respectful in  your discourse: all keystrokes on this doc are recorded 😉

Finally, students will work together to craft a definition of “nonfiction”

Active Engagement

Students work on the “online discussion” while I circulate, and it is also fun to contribute to the discussions on their Google docs. Once the groups have finished, I collect their definitions of “nonfiction” on one google doc and post it on the smartboard. This can lead to a great discussion if you have time.


Recap/answer any questions. Once students finish the activity, they continue searching for credible information from sources outside of their nonfiction books in an attempt to answer a self-generated research question (or a few) for their project.

Here are a few examples of the work students did today: (very colorful, fun stuff).


NF UNIT P2 Day 2

Day 2

Poem A Day:


Throughout this part of the unit, I am using the first half of class to teach or review elements of nonfiction and model my approach to the project I gave them. The second half of class I am giving to students to work on their projects.

Today’s objective was: Students will understand how confirmation bias and values-based information limit critical thinking. (this tied into the song)

I defined the terms “confirmation bias” and “values-based information” and students took notes in their notebooks.

Then we watched this amazing Ted Talk about how websites like Google and Facebook filter information you receive online (the talk is from 2011 so we thought about how much that has changed in either direction since then) Great conversation.

Next, I discussed my own biases and my tendency to find information that confirms them. I just read and am currently teaching Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun in my American Lit class.  It is a nonfiction book about one man’s experience in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It is a great read and lends itself well to the project students are working on.

I told students that I am doing the project, just like they are, and that this is the book I chose. Every class, I show them where I am in the project and what my research and thinking looks like, before I dismiss them to do their own projects.

I started out by talking about the protagonist of my book: Abdulrahman  Zeitoun. In the book he is portrayed as a successful business owner, hard-worker, loving husband and father and heroic neighbor. I told them, I may want to do more research about the man. So I googled his name (with my smartboard on, while students watched and participated).

The first results to pop up were these:

About 21,000 results (0.56 seconds)
Clearly, there is more to this guy. The students were rapt. We spent a good 20 minutes falling down the rabbit hole, reading source after source, watching videos and learning more about this guy.
I told students, they just did research. They couldn’t believe they enjoyed it. lol.
I also told students about a few other things I was thinking about researching from my book to show them that they have some options and range when deciding how to approach their projects.
Those include: Camp Greyhound and Black Water.

Active Engagement:

Students delved into their books, and took notes searching for things to research for their projects. I conferred one-on-one with them to see what books they chose and what ideas they were thinking about learning more about. They ALL had books and ALL had an idea of where they were going with the project.


I reminded students to read their novels and keep on thinking!

NF UNIT P1 Day 1

Image result for What is true?

Day 1

Poem A Day:

“Eclipse” Pink Floyd. After reading the lyrics, I told students we were starting a new unit today about nonfiction. Then as a class we mocked up a definition of non-fiction. They called out several examples and I wrote them on the board.


Once students understood that we were going to be learning about a new genre, nonfiction, I asked students to define the following two terms in their notebooks:



This obviously opened up a lot of great conversation. Kids love prompts like these that open their minds and challenge them.

Active Engagement:

I pulled a news report from that morning’s NPR Morning Edition. We listened to the podcast and read the transcript. You can really use any story here that appeals to you or your students.

Then, students worked in pairs to answer these questions. 

We came together as a class to discuss our thoughts.


Students were asked to find a nonfiction news article that is no longer than three months old. They were to fill out the same worksheet with their new article. I also warned them that they would do A LOT OF WORK with that one article for the next week, so I told them to choose something interesting and substantial.