“Choose Your Own Adventure” Standards Review

Adapted from Pernille Ripp‘s brilliant idea (you can find the original here), here’s my version of a “choose your own adventure” standards review. I pared it down for my fifth graders and didn’t include all our reading standards*, but (I hope) the spirit is still there: Providing lots of ways for students to show what they have learned in reading this year.

Students will circle two choices on each sheet and turn them in ahead of time so I can plan my small group work.


5th Grade Reading Literature Standards Review

5th Grade Reading Informational Text** Standards Review

*Other standards are embedded in the projects, but I chose to simplify things by leaving that information off the sheet.

**It says “nonfiction” on the sheet, but I expect some of my students will use texts such as Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. Is fantasy informational text a thing? Aaaaaaabsolutely, at least in my world.


Dear Common Core English Standards: Can we talk?

Yes! My job is to educate all the children in my classroom, with their diverse interests and future plans. I know they won’t all pursue careers in science, yet I try to get them to like and appreciate science, hoping that at the very least they’ll keep this in mind when they become adult citizens and voters. Reading and writing are meaningful creative outlets as well as ways to connect to the world and to other people — especially in our increasingly digital world. While close reading and literary analysis can help a reader make those connections, they don’t have to be the end goal.

Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

Back in 1993, when I had barely been teaching in my own high school English classroom for a month, I had an epiphany.  I looked around my classroom of ninth graders and realized, consciously, that they were not all going to become high school English teachers.  As epiphanies go, I admit that does not sound exceptional, but it was actually foundational for the rest of my career in education.  The reason for this was that I simultaneously realized that I was teaching English because of the lifelong qualitative relationship that I had with reading and writing in English.  My father probably read “Oscar the Otter” to me every night for a month when I was four.  As a young reader, I often wondered if I would ever have a friend as cool as Encyclopedia Brown’s sidekick, Sally Kimball.  Later, I was positive that I found a lifelong friend in Charles…

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Can Harry Potter Change the World?

Of course! It already has, according to this wonderful opinion piece in The New York Times. It shows respect for millennials as readers and as thinking citizens of the world. It shows respect for Harry Potter as literature and as a social movement.

So I have one question:

Why, when considering whether Harry Potter should “be introduced to official school curriculum,” would the professor quoted in the article say “I will leave that to political philosophers,” when we really should leave it to professional educators, i.e. to teachers?

Why leave educational decisions to the Cornelius Fudges and Dolores Umbridges of the world? Remus Lupin wasn’t a policymaker or a Ministry puppet. Remus Lupin was a TEACHER. He knew what he was doing and provided a quality education for all his students, setting up not only Harry but also Neville for success. Does a political philosopher know how to do that?

I didn’t think so.

Work-Life Balance for Teachers (File Under: Fantasy)

Teaching is among the professions that consume one’s mind and soul. Even when we’re up-to-date on grading (hey, it could happen!), we spend personal time and energy researching, planning, and finding new ways to reach students. Random lightning strikes of inspiration hit us when we least expect them. (Great ideas in the shower, anyone? Yeah, I thought so.) There is always more to do, and with 30 students who will never have another chance to be in fifth grade, it’s hard to know when to say “I’ve done enough for today.”

While I love my job, like, jump-up-and-down-can’t-control-myself love it, sometimes I need to pull myself away. I need to remember that my life outside school is important too. I have a wonderful family who deserve my attention and my cooking skills*. I am helping develop two amazing organizations: Omar’s Dream Foundation and Nerdscouting. Those things matter.

I also need to block out time in my calendar for my own pursuits. This may sound selfish. It feels selfish. But I think it will help me take better control of my time and (I hope) not feel so overwhelmed by everything I have to do. Continue reading