English Curriculum In Service Day

English Curriculum In Service Day

Location:  Churchill Secondary School

March 4, 2016


Hi colleagues, here are some of the resources I discussed during my workshops today.  

Here’s my Keynote:  21stC CURRICUM ENGLISH INSERVICE (THAT I NEVER REALLY GOT THROUGH! If only I had more time!)

Here is the PDF file that I airdropped or emailed to some teachers.  If you didn’t get a copy, just download it here:  TKAM INQUIRY PROJECTS

Take it and adapt as you please.  It works particularly well at the end of a unit (while you’re busily marking their exams) and I gave them 6 classes total (which includes the 2 classes for actual Pecha Kucha presentations. Remember: 20 slides x 20 seconds equals 6 min 40 seconds for each presentation.)  Please see my wikispace for resources on the Pecha Kucha Format for presentations.  

Some general advice:

1st class:

  • You can show them exemplars of pecha kuchas.  Give them the worksheet. Talk about Inquiry and what it looks like.
  • Get them going in groups or independently or in pairs (their choice). Group creation. Draw lots for presentation dates​
  • Have them brainstorm themes in the novel that relate to real life.

2nd class:

  • Have them submit the completed worksheet to you.  You read it and advise and circulate, trying to troubleshoot and steer them the right way.
  • Talk about possible pitfalls and what NOT to do; discuss safety, appropriate behaviour in public, politeness, privacy concerns etc.  (i.e. the students have to imagine putting themselves in someone else’s shoes for this inquiry project…a theme from TKAM btw)
  • Provide some resources of where to go
  • Allow them to call different associations (during class) if need be, find hours of operation etc and create an action plan

3rd class:

  • You’re the guide on the side
  • Make sure each group has a plan of action and they are working on documenting their learning with concrete evidence
  • Research online and making slides with proper citations on each slide to document proof of the problem in the community
  • Provide adaptations to learners who may have written output issues or LDs
  • reminder of assessment rubric: citations on each slide, oral presentation skills and what you’ll be looking for (essentially the documented evidence, researched evidence and story-telling)
  • remind them to spiral their inquiry: was that good enough? did we do enough?  what could we have done better? they will have to discuss the problems they encountered as well as the successes.  What did they learn?

4th class:

  • You’re guide on the side
  • Talk with each group about what they’re doing; making sure they’re actually going to be somewhat successful
  • Help troubleshoot problems: ask lots of questions and ask how they’ll handle problems. Present possible problems they may encounter

5th class:

  • presentations round 1
  • each group will take exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds
  • allow for 5 minutes of setup time between groups
  • the students should have their projects on usb keys in order to show them during class or they will have to bring in their own device to show their presentation
  • they should email themselves their slide presentation as backup
  • talk about a backup plan

6th class:

  • presentations round 2
  • as above


  • You assess the pecha kuchas during the presentations. No marking to take home.
  • Use OneNote on your district laptop.  Take pictures, type notes, record audio if you want (but you don’t need to) if you have a tablet/phone/SurfacePro3.  Have your rubric made ahead of time and ready on Onenote for each group and annotate it while you’re watching them.  You can do this in a Word doc as well.  The notes can be used for feedback via email or printed out for each group.
  • If they brought USB keys with projects on them…and ideally dragged a copy of the project on your desktop, make sure they name the projects with their name.  Drag their presentations to H drive from your desktop while you’re at school and before you leave school so that you can access the presentations at home.  The files on H drive can be synchronized only if you are on the school network.  If you don’t put the presentations in H drive you won’t be able to store them easily and they’ll waste space on your desktop. You can delete projects at the end of the year from H drive.

Posted in Inquiry in the classroom, Uncategorized | Leave a comment



NB: update! I can no longer recommend Kidblog as it is no longer free


SAMR MODEL of tech integration

SAMR MODEL of tech integration




  • Inquiry-focussed: What is your Passion?
  • Relevance to the learner: Connecting to the Community
  • Self-publishing: Finding an Audience
bullets and dividers for visual notetaking

Paper53 Sketchnote of Visual Notetaking symbols


Lord of the Flies: Symbolism [sketchnote]

Symbolism in Lord of the Flies (sketchnote using Paper53)


sketchnote: critters

Sketching Critters in Paper53

Posted in BYOD, byod tips and techniques, Formative Assessment, How To, Professional Learning Networks, student exemplars, Teaching Resources, Tech in English class, Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Rarely do I get a chance to see and hear about how my learners’ work has been shared beyond my desk.  I think it would be pretty accurate to say that most students’ assignments and projects, despite the many hours that may have gone into the product, end up in the recycle bin.

I’ve often thought about how wasteful this is.  Sure, the student receives a mark and the process of learning to get to the end product is valuable.  But what are we thinking when we accept the fact that it’s okay to throw away the very evidence of the learning almost immediately after it’s returned with a summative grade?  In the end, we’re valuing the grade.  Aren’t we?

I believe there is great merit in doing things by hand.  I love doing things by hand:  baking, pastry work, jewelry making, scrapbooking and card making and all crafts.  However, let’s face it:  in a child’s 13 years in the school system, a lot of junk is created and a lot of paper is wasted.  I save the special pieces.  Or I take pictures of them for posterity…and then I recycle them.  In Kindergarten a student’s first fantastic scribbles are proudly posted on the refrigerator.  Eventually, after mounds of class work and projects have passed through the kitchen and as the student makes it to high school, parents aren’t so interested in the product as much as the grade that was assigned to it.  So children everywhere learn quickly enough that the carrot is the grade assigned to it.

How do we get learners to appreciate the process of learning, to de-emphasize the summative mark that is inevitable (and still important) and instead value the sharing of the work?

I want to share with you a rewarding and INSPIRING project I just completed with my English 11 students recently.  We were doing a Poetry Unit and most of the in-class activities revolved around tons of poetry analysis.  I think what educators would call my style of teaching would be “flipped”.  However, I just think I’m doing what I need to do to engage my learners and make good use of my classroom time.   I demo-ed how to write an analysis with them on the LCD projector.  I would assign them the Poetry section from a past government exam and then assign them the written component.  Inevitably I’d hear “is it for marks?”  I said, “yes, we’re going to mark it in class”.   After the usual groans, I replied, “well, you know…you guys have conditioned me to make everything worth a mark because when I say we’re just going to practice it and it’s not worth marks; but feedback only, you don’t try very hard and no one completes the activity well”.  After just a couple times of this, my learners eventually came around to accept the fact that practice is a good thing and that they should try harder.   I’ll dare say they learned to appreciate the tons of practice we did in class.  I swear I heard them mutter to one another that they thought they learned a lot from the modelling and in-class practice (sans marks).  Really. Honestly they did!

The only homework my learners had during the poetry unit was to write a series of poems and post these to their blogs.  Many were in the style of the poets we were reading in class.  My final assignment to them was that they had to Self Publish an original poem and present their documented creation process and evidence of sharing at the end of the unit.  I did not give them a handout or a rubric.  I did not tell them how many marks it would be worth.  I intentionally did not tell them much to guide them.  I told them they would be evaluated on their creativity and their presentation.  I also told them that the more far-reaching and public their audience, the higher their mark would be.  Then I inspired them by showing them a couple examples of cool presentations from the previous year.

What I found to be so great about this project was that it forced my learners to use the phantom skills they have been learning all year long with me in English class.  They learned how to use twitter, to blog and use social media to promote ideas.  They learned how to create videos and upload them to youtube and use their creativity and passions to demonstrate their learning.  This was the culminating activity that would show me and their peers that they know how to choose the appropriate type of technology to illustrate and best showcase their ideas.

What I saw was amazing, funny and impressive.  I also saw learners engaged in thoughtfulness and collaboration with peers to make their presentations more effective and I think there was meaningful learning.  What I saw was my learners going out into the big scary world and taking risks.  Their work was no longer for one pair of eyes (mine!) but they had to see what complete strangers thought of their poem! now that is kind of scary.  Mind you, no one did anything physically risky other than the girl that climbed up to the ceiling of her condo’s elevator and taped her poster/poem on the elevator ceiling.  She said it wasn’t that high up anyway and brushed off our concern that she could have fallen as demonstrated by her Spiderwoman-like scaling of the walls of the elevator.  None of the poems that my students displayed in public places had their names on them.  But the most daring students were the ones that went face-to-face with the frozen-yogurt-eating Menchies customers enjoying their desserts in the Village.  Other daring learners approached students studying for final exams on the UBC campus and asked if they could listen to their poems.  My kids were amazed that complete strangers would actually take the time out of their busy lives to listen to their whole poems!  One student said he even felt really bad that the guy he was reading his poem to missed his bus (the 99!) and had to catch the next one because he was patiently waiting for the poem to be read.  What I didn’t expect was the community interaction that would result.  It was fantastic.  My students were very polite and thankful to the listening public and acknowledged that they didn’t realize that there were so many nice, decent people in the community and in turn they relayed that the people in the community that listened to their poems appreciated that my learners were getting out there and sharing their poems.  And yes, the cold hard truth is that they encountered many people who simply didn’t acknowledge them or care to give them a second of their time.  But not too much weirdness was encountered.  My kids travelled in little groups for their ninja-poet-escapades and that was a pretty smart thing to do.

I could not have asked for better feedback from one little project.

A student during his presentation said “I went into the UBC Village and started reading my poem to strangers. I told them first that it was for an English project.  I soon learned that there are a lot of nice, patient people around.  I also learned that lots of people don’t care.  But lots of people willing to listen to me read my poem to them said they thought it was a good poem and project and they liked how we English students have to get out in the community and interact with people”.

I think that one statement made my year.  Rarely do I ever hear about stuff like that.  The students as a whole seemed to think the whole exercise was kind of wacky weird yet fun.  Many of my kids became stealthy ninja poets depositing their poem flyers in public places like community centre bulletin boards, lamp posts, mailboxes and recycling bins.  I saw slideshows of poems purposefully propped up on the top of recycling bins (a poem about the degradation of our world by pollution).

Several students gifted their poems to the public with value-added items. One girl tied her poems to balloons and gave them away to children and the public for free.  She even got free helium from Save On Foods by bringing her own balloons!  What a fantastic idea! She said everyone accepted her balloon poems.

Another student made beautiful cards with a poem he wrote about nature and flowers.  He went to the local florist and asked if he could leave his cards there for the customers to take.  The florist agreed and even allowed him to leave cards near the cash register and had them propped up throughout the store to be given out with each purchase.  The student was savvy enough to leave his email and phone number for the florist and asked for feedback.  Several days later, he received an email from the florist requesting more card poems!  The card poems were so popular that customers requested more and the florist told him that he’d be happy if my student wanted to do this again.
Another student posted his unrequited love video poem on poetry forums and sites like poetry.com, wattpad and several more poetry sites; twitter, Facebook, 9GAG, reddit… and his poem I believe was the most internationally far-reaching. He received plenty of positive feedback!

What was cool: these students were clearly glowing with pride because they actually found an audience that valued their work and provided real feedback.  The feedback a teacher gives is usually all that a student ever receives.  When the real world walks all over the poem you painstakingly wrote on the sidewalk with chalk and doesn’t even look down at it; or posts a comment on your poetic post on the League of Legends forum– “good job man” and several other gamers post poem replies in the thread…that is meaningful and relevant.  When you get 465 page views of your Youtube video and you finally reveal to the world, your class and your teacher that you actually sing and that your music video was kind of dark yet powerful and beautiful…well that’s pretty relevant.

Posted in BYOD, How To, Reflections, student exemplars, Teaching Resources, Tech in English class, Technology, Videos | Leave a comment


Learning doesn’t stop in the summer! It’s when you finally get to read the novels you want!

Here are some recommended apps for high school ELL and English students that will support Literacy and Language development.




Short Stories eReader


Student Blogs/ePortfolios: Kidblog.org









Word to Word

Posted in Tech in English class | Tagged , ,

FOUND POETRY…an exercise in creating original content with technology

So we’re studying William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and I wanted to celebrate Poetry Appreciation month.  In order to practise the techniques and refine students’ work, I had them practice by first working in groups.  Then we would all provide feedback on their group Found poems so they could improve for their own poems later.

For the final Found Poem done individually, I always provide a choice: they could complete their project using technology OR they could do it by hand (artwork…think acrylics on canvas, sculpture, creative dance, original composition etc.)  I’ll post some of the original Artwork later in another post for you to look at…we have some very talented learners at UHS!  When a student chooses Artwork for an English project, I always request a written component to explain what they did, how they made it and what they learned.

For this post though, I’ll just be showing you how you can have students create original work with technology in an English classroom.  No one likes a “cut and paste” project.  So I thought, well, let ’em copy and paste the poetry part (I had a handout with guidelines on how to write their Found Poem) but interpreting it for presentation was to be creative or innovative. So I’ll be showing you just the videos for this post.

This group’s poem was posted on a student’s blog (one student was required to “host” the group poem) and here is the link to the written poem.

This group made a video and embedded it on a post in the host student’s creative writing blog.  I love how this group each contributed with their specific talents.  It was an excellent dramatic reading accompanied by artwork done digitally with drawing apps on their iPads and other personal devices.

What’s great is that students were able to incorporate whatever programs, apps or techniques they wanted.  Some made their art by hand and then snapped pictures of the art with their smartphones.  Then they made movies out of them and added their narration using whatever applications they had on their devices.

Students could also present live.  So, unfortunately, you can’t see those but they were awesome too.  They had to present their poem visually and aurally and this sure beats reading a bunch of typed up poems where the learners all centre-justified all their lines and used the same title:  Found Poem…

here me you guys?

This enterprising group employed Flash.  The host blog’s student had taken a course last summer in Flash and wanted to use it.  So he did.  It was neat and we all enjoyed watching the animation.  If you have an iPad, you won’t be able to see it because of the Flash, but maybe if you get the Photon Browser, you could 🙂

This group’s host blogger is a photographer and she makes it a point in her comments section that all the images are hers! fantastic.  In my guidelines, I had specifically requested that all content including music, images or art were to be generated by the members of the group.  No snagging pics from googling.  No snagging music from their iPod.  Music had to be generated by a member and had to be original.  One of the groups who performed live, held one of my district iPad Minis and strummed the “guitar” in Garage Band while another group member narrated the poem.  Very cool.  It suited the mood too.

Listen to this poem’s background music as you read the lines in the Youtube video.  I enjoyed how they played with the Fonts and colours making it a sort of Concrete Poem too.

All-in-all I am very happy with the amazing Found Poems that the groups created.  Sure, I was a stickler for making them follow certain guidelines, but I think creativity and originality blooms when one is restricted!

Posted in student exemplars, Tech in English class, Technology, Uncategorized, Videos | Leave a comment


apple tvHere are some Learning Technologies resources for you that I have compiled.  I will continually update this list.  Please let me know if any links become broken.



1. iPad Apps Separated by Subject Area
2. 103 Interesting Ways to Use iPads in the Classroom
3. iPad/iPod Resources
4. Mobile Learning Integration
5. Middle School iPad Apps
6. iPad in Education Resources Worth Exploring
7. Apps for Special Needs
8. 50 Resources for iPad Use in the Classroom
9. 39 Sites for Using iPads in the Classroom
10. 32 iPad Tips and Tricks
11. Creation Apps

SMART PHONES (Mobile Learning Devices):
1. Cell Phones in the Classroom
2. St. Marys City Schools Mobile Learning Technology
3. Mobile Learning Portal
4. Learning in Hand
5. 100 Mobile Tools for Teachers

1. WiFi:  Here it Comes!
2. Katy ISD: A New Vision for Mobile Learning
3. BYOD in the 21st Century

This is the best thing I’ve gotten through the app store for researching apps. Sometimes you just want to try an app (but don’t want to pay). These paid apps are free for a limited time. Every day there’s something new.
Apps Gone Free (Best Daily Top App Deals) by AppAdvice.com


Eg lesson plans/units; videos/podcasts and posts of student examples:


There is no need to use student emails (it’s optional); you can annotate homework submitted from iPads with text or voice or annotate in another app.  I was able to add text notes and audio notes in the students’ folders.  You can sign up for free accounts. Those wishing to upload iMovies longer than the max 60 seconds in the free accounts might want to embed iMovies into Keynote presentations (using the lowest resolution possible).


1.  Getting started with Showbie Video
2. Showbie for Teachers
3.  How to create student accounts video  (As for younger kids, we find that the teacher or IT person sets up the accounts.)
4.  Apps that work with Showbie
5.  How to embed iMovies in Keynote in Showbie video (Showbie allows 60 sec video so if you want longer videos, you have to embed iMovie into Keynote)
6.  How to provide Feedback in Showbie
7.  Marking up assignments in Showbie (I use the Notability app; not Remark to mark up PDF’s)
8.  All the Showbie support Videos are HERE.

Technology for Literacy
iPads in the Classroom: useful apps
iPads for Newbies

a) iPad to Smartboard hookup video how-to
b) iPad2, iPad3 to LCD Projector with VGA cable and 30 pin dongle video
c) iPad in BYOD environment (you don’t have adapters, dongles, Apple TV etc): Use a document camera
d) iPad with Apple TV hookup with an LCD projector video
e) Mirroring with your computer using Reflector app on computer video



Sketchy WiFi? No WiFi? Some possible solutions for your classroom WiFi Woes:


Follow me on Twitter for ongoing tips for tech integration, inquiry, brain research, literacy and deeper learning  (warning: occasional foodie tweets esp. on the weekends)

Linda Kwan
Learning Technologies Mentor [Day 2’s]
Vancouver Board of Education

English Teacher [Day 1’s]
English Department, University Hill Secondary School
3228 Ross Drive
Vancouver, B.C. V6S 0C6

Twitter: @Cakebrain

Posted in BYOD, byod tips and techniques, How To, Teaching Resources, Tech in English class, Technology, Videos | Leave a comment

Desperation breeds innovation: Show Content from iPads


Something funny happened to me and my student teacher today.

All the iPad minis had iMovies on them. We had planned on having some students perform live today. Some students had long iMovies on them to show on the district iPad minis I had in my charge. I thought that I could connect to the LCD projector with a dongle and the adapter I purchased for the lightning connector to the 30 pin with a VGA cable.

As class started and students filtered in, I helped my student teacher set up the projector. I soon realized that things would not work. When I selected “source”, nothing was picking up. I was thinking hard. Thinking quick. What could I do to show these iMovies from these tiny iPad minis? I fiddled with cords, cables, dongles and adapters fruitlessly; tapping, sweating, worrying.

NO WAY! nothing worked. No configuration worked with cables, dongles, whatever. Teacher’s worst nightmare. Learning Technologies Mentor’s typical scenario of looking like a fool; not knowing what you’re doing in front of a whole bunch of people who think you should know what you’re doing.

The presentations were to start in minutes and I was trying to figure out how to project the presentations from the iPads. We started with live performances. Many students brought their own devices: Macs, iPads, PC’s. Many of the movies were too long to upload to Youtube or Showbie and we just wanted to show them quickly. Like right now. It was the last day for the Student teacher and the last day for the presentations.

I have No Apple TV, No HDMI cable, no other cables other than a VGA cable…I said bye-bye to the lovely District iPad cart a while ago..but I DO have a document camera and 15 district iPad Minis.


When I looked around and spotted my new document camera, I had an epiphany of sorts. A couple minutes later: look at the setup in the pic on my tweet. I used my document camera to show the iPad like a document. Hook up speakers directly to the iPad. Unorthodox…but Desperation breeds Innovation.

This actually went very well. Now the surprising thing. It felt low-tech. It was easy to set up.

As I was patting myself on my back at this awesome innovative idea THAT I CAME UP WITH ALL BY MYSELF!(yes, I’m taking all the credit…and I haven’t read it somewhere else prior to this! lol!) for mirroring an iPad, a group set up their Macbook to my projector to show their skit. They had issues with their movie’s smoothness…it was jerky, the sound was all mangled and now it was doing all sorts of weird stuff once it was connected to my projector. They said they had just watched it on their laptop and it was smooth and worked okay before the connection. Solution? We used the document camera to project the image coming straight off the student’s laptop too!

YES! a solution to BYOD; agnostic mirroring across devices. Now I can show projects from all my students’ devices straight from my document camera. It works. It’s economical. It’s the way I’m going to go until someone taps me on the shoulder and gives me something better. And cheaper.



Posted in BYOD, byod tips and techniques, How To, Reflections | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment