Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Modern Day Odyssey from Beth Pandolpho

This post is from Beth Pandolpho, Language Arts teacher at High School South


A Modern Day Odyssey

The Project
Students choose the setting
for their chapters by
spinning a globe!
LA I Honors students worked on a collaborative writing project as a culminating assignment after reading Homer’s The Odyssey

Each student wrote a chapter for our class book that included elements related to The Odyssey as well as modern day contemporary details. Students attempted to remain true to the character of Odysseus as he struggled through 21st century conflicts. 

Students worked independently to write their chapter, and then collaborated with peers to align and edit our narrative. We created a shared folder in Google Docs to organize our chapters, and students had viewing and commenting privileges on other students’ chapters.  

Students collaborate online
using Google apps.
We used Google Forms to vote on our chapter title, and other overall stylistic and formatting issues.  Our books were then hand sewn by Gabe Randazzo’s art students to create our final books.  


One of the goals that fueled this endeavor was to enable students to feel more connected to The Odyssey, and to make it more relatable.  Recreating Odysseus in a modern day setting gave students a deeper understanding of his character, his journey, as well the text itself. Students were also able to work on their narrative writing skills, and edit multiple drafts in preparation for publication.  

Another important piece was that students had to work with many different classmates as they crafted their chapters to ensure continuity and cohesiveness.


The Final Product
Check out our process and our final books.  I’m looking forward to next year to enrich this assignment and streamline this process to make it even more effective!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Edcamp Experience from Matthew Warren

Edcamp Garden State is this Saturday, April 30th!

It will be a full-day, unconference where educators choose the topics, choose the format, and spend the day learning with and from other educators. You can click this link for more information about the event and this link to register.

Never been to an Edcamp before? Take a look at the post below to learn a little bit more about what you can expect at an Edcamp.

The post below is from Matthew Warren, social studies teacher at High School South. 
The post first appeared on Matt's blog, WWP Historians

My Experience @EdCampNJ 2015

On Saturday, November 21, I spent the day at an EdCampNJ "un-conference." It was awesome!

What's an un-conference? Let me explain.
  • The first thing that makes and un-conference an un-conference is that almost nothing is planned. Sounds strange for a conference, I know, even disorienting. But my experience was organic and dynamic, fluid and free (even the conference price was free!). During the first hour (or so), participants who wanted to share something with their peers added their names, topics, and twitter handles to a shared Google Sheet. Before I knew it, there were dozens of sessions that I could choose to attend. (This sheet was blank at the start of the conference; within the first hour, it was full.) Subjects ranged from incorporating technology in the classroom to formative assessment strategies, from new PD opportunities to helping students cope with stress. Conference attendees viewed this sheet and selected the session(s) that they want to attend, and then headed to their first session.
  • The second thing that makes an un-conference an un-conference is a rule that governs the entire event: "the rule of two feet." At any moment, if you want to head to another session, you are free to leave your current session and enter one of your choosing. Attendees freely moved in and out of sessions, and because everyone was on the same page, including presenters, somehow, the process worked. Through this emergent process, a combination of small, individual, and freely made choices developed into an amazing conference that meet my needs and did not bore (cf. your usual conference experience).
Sessions I Attended
  • Session I - Student Stress: My first session addressed the topic of student stress at the district level. My district superintendent, Dr. David Aderhold, led this session. This topic has been an important one in my district recently, but I was interested by the fact that so many teachers and administrators from other districts echoed similar concerns. It made me think about my own classroom (AP US History) and how to balance academic rigor and student stress. I do not have the answer, but this session confirmed for me the necessity and seriousness of this conversation.
  • Session II - Standards-Based/Referenced Assessment & Grading: It appears that my district may be moving in the direction of Standards-Based/Referenced Grading. Tovi Spero, one of my co-workers led this session. He has been using this system for the past couple years, so shoot him a line (or tweet) if you are interested; the talk was really helpful.
  • Lunch - Free pizza & I won a raffle - 1st time ever! I won access to a great strength assessment resource from Thrively.
  • Session III - Digital Portfolio: This was My Biggest Takeaway; the conference was worth this one session. Sean Hackbarth of Westwood Regional Middle School led a session on the creation and uses of digital portfolios (see his website here). I learned that with Google tools, I can help my students to create portfolios of their best work. I hope to incorporate such portfolios into my courses next year, and will begin experimenting with them this year. If experimenting with portfolio creation in my own classes is successful, I can imagine moving toward the development of digital portfolios that travel with students across grade-levels. Not only would this help students and teachers to track progress across grades, but students could present such portfolios as part of their college applications, showcasing their best work across their academic careers.
  • I highly recommend this un-conference. I left it feeling empowered, equipped, and eager to engage my students with the resources and techniques that I learned. I especially enjoyed the emergent structure, the freedom of choice, and the collaboration I experienced with my peers. The price tag was nice too ($0.00). I hope to see you at the next one!
~Matthew Warren

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kids Safe Online Poster Contest

This post is shared with you by Nicole Haynes, Computer Science teacher at Grover Middle School

Thomas Grover Middle School has some great news to share!  During 6th grade computer cycle, students completed an online module The Viral World using  This interactive module covers the consequences of computer viruses & how to protect against them, how to recognize, protect and resolve identity theft, how to set up secure online profiles, digital addiction & technology overuse.  Students also watched videos and discussed situations presented on in covering the 6th Grade Cyber Safety curriculum.  We were informed of the 2015-2016 NJ K-12 Kids Safe Online Poster Contest during cycle 3.  Our 6th and 7th grade students created original posters illustrating safe use of the Internet and /or mobile devices.  Students had the option to submit a hand drawn or electronically created poster. 

Our very own 6th grade TGMS student, Faith F. has WON! 

Faith’s poster made the cut here thanks to our judges, Ms. Alley, Mrs. Kessler, Ms. Lowden, Ms. Radwanski and Mr. Coppola et al.  We were only allowed to submit 3 per grade level to the state.  The competition included 314 amazing posters from 69 New Jersey K-12 schools.  In recognition of her efforts, she will be presented with a certificate of achievement from the State of New Jersey.  Way to go, Faith! This is a very proud moment for Faith and all of those around her!

~ Ms. Haynes,
6th Grade Computer Cycle Teacher @TGMS

In addition to Faith’s winning poster above, follow this link to view all of New Jersey’s winning posters from each grade level, K-12. Each winning poster will now be submitted to the national Multi-State Cyber Security Awareness poster contest.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Students create "memes" for the French Revolution from Betsy Gray

This post is from Betsy Gray, Language Arts teacher at High School South

Ninth graders at High School South, who are reading Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities spent time in the computer lab designing buttons, bumper stickers, posters, and billboards, which would be popular items in the shops during the French Revolution.  

Students had their choice of creation tools. Popular choices were Google Drawings, Paint, and Pixlr. 

Each of their designs represents a viewpoint in A Tale of Two Cities.

Here are some examples from students who volunteered to share their work online:





~Betsy Gray