Meme Monday: Grammar RULES!

This Monday, we have more comma memes for grammar instruction, review, and practice.  In case you missed it, check out last week’s comma meme post.

The first meme hints at this rule:

In sentences where two independent clauses are joined by connectors such as and, or, but, etc., put a comma at the end of the first clause.

Incorrect:He walked all the way home and he shut the door.

Correct:He walked all the way home, and he shut the door.

Some writers omit the comma if the clauses are both quite short:

Example:I paint and he writes.

The second meme makes this mistake:

Many inexperienced writers run two independent clauses together by using a comma instead of a period. This results in the dreaded run-on sentence or, more technically, a comma splice.

Incorrect:He walked all the way home, he shut the door.

There are several simple remedies:

Correct:He walked all the way home. He shut the door.

Correct:After he walked all the way home, he shut the door.

Correct:He walked all the way home, and he shut the door.

The Oxford-comma support comes from meme 3:

Use commas to separate words and word groups in a simple series of three or more items.

Example: My estate goes to my husband, son, daughter-in-law, and nephew.

Note: When the last comma in a series comes before and or or (after daughter-in-law in the above example), it is known as the Oxford comma. Most newspapers and magazines drop the Oxford comma in a simple series, apparently feeling it’s unnecessary. However, omission of the Oxford comma can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.

Example: We had coffee, cheese and crackers and grapes.

Adding a comma after crackers makes it clear that cheese and crackers represents one dish. In cases like this, clarity demands the Oxford comma.

We had coffee, cheese and crackers, and grapes.

These rules/examples are from  

commas 3 commas 4 commas oxford

#TBT Flashback to Iconic Photographs of the 21st Century

This throw-back-Thursday post is bringing back a resource that Karyn found, “These 75 Iconic Photos Will Define The 21st Century So Far. Everyone Needs To See This.”

A year later, I might ask students to evaluate the impact of these images and choose one event from the last year & a corresponding photo to add to the gallery – explaining why they added it (aka why the event/image is significant).  You’d hit some research standards here, including writing standard 7 (short as well as sustained research projects) as well as reading standard 1 (textual evidence).  This could be good practice for skills they’ll need for the fast-approaching research paper (more slowly approaching for 10th & 12th grade), such as:

  • using advanced searches
  • determining the reliability of sources
  • citing textual evidence
  • creating a works cited & parenthetical citations
  • differentiating between essential and non-essential (in selecting the image they want to add to the list)

Here’s the link to the previous post with the original ideas for how to use these photos in the classroom.

tbt photos

Infographics for the Week of October 26th: Halloween Around the World, Costumes by State, and Top Costumes for 2015

These infographics about Halloween are great for analysis of visual text (RI.9-12.7) and especially author’s choice in regard to structure.  Since it’s visual, it’s easier to talk about structure.  So if your students are struggling with CCSS Reading standard 5, infographics may be a great way to enter the conversation.

These can also be a great opportunity to get students prepared to develop and answer inquiry questions for research papers and/or performance assessments.  Since this is the compiled research, they can work backwards to determine the possible research question and then assess how well the creator/author of the infographic answered that question.  This kind of analysis could then be turned into a checklist-of-sorts of how you sufficiently respond to a research question.

These infographics could also be great for practice with inference, with formulating questions, etc.

So, some specific ways for students to interact (individually, in pairs, small groups, etc.) with these infographics might include:

  • What accounts for the differences and similarities among countries in “Halloween around the world”? (inference practice)
  • What do the traditions in different countries reveal about them? (inference practice)
  • What conclusions might we draw based on the top costumes by state in “America’s Favorite Halloween Costumes by State”? What research or inquiry questions could we develop about these states based on the costume? (great opportunity to practice writing these types of questions and perhaps engage students in researching to find the answers) (inference practice, W.9-12.7 if they conduct the research; developing the question is good practice for getting them to meet this standard on their own as well.)
  • How does pop culture help determine what people wear on Halloween? What other factors may influence this? (“Top Costumes”)
  • What research or inquiry question is each infographic seeking to answer? (RI.9-12.2, RI.9-12.7, W.9-12.7)
  • How does the author organize/structure his/her information? Is it effective – why or why not? (RI.9-12.2, RI.9-12.5, RI.9-12-.1)
  • What is the connection/relationship to the information provided ____________ and that provided __________? (RI.9-12.3)
  • Analyze and evaluate: Which of these infographics is the most useful? the most effective? the most dynamic?  (Support with specific textual evidence – RI.9-12.1)

And of course, if these are discussions with specific expectations/roles/teacher modeling – students would likely be hitting speaking & listening standards as well, particularly SL.9-12.1a-d.

halloween around the world

halloween costumes by state



It’s #WriterCrushWednesday featuring Edgar Allan Poe

We all know the master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, but it seems only apropos to highlight him and two of his lesser-known (and not-so-often-taught) “haunted’ poems the week before Halloween.

So for today’s #wcw, I thought we’d feature “Spirits of the Dead” and “The Haunted Palace.” These poems can be practice for annotation, finding literary devices, studying how writers create mood, rhyme scheme . . . or as mentor texts for a spooky poem of the students’ own.


Spirits of the Dead




Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone—
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.




Be silent in that solitude,
   Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
   In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.




The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.




Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more—like dew-drop from the grass.




The breeze—the breath of God—is still—
And the mist upon the hill,
Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token—
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!



Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)


The Haunted Palace


In the greenest of our valleys
   By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
   Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion,
   It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
   Over fabric half so fair!


Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
   On its roof did float and flow
(This—all this—was in the olden
   Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
   In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
   A wingèd odor went away.


Wanderers in that happy valley,
   Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically
   To a lute’s well-tunèd law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
In state his glory well befitting,
   The ruler of the realm was seen.


And all with pearl and ruby glowing
   Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing
   And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
   Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
   The wit and wisdom of their king.


But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
   Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
   Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
   That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
   Of the old time entombed.


And travellers, now, within that valley,
   Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
   To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
   Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
   And laugh—but smile no more.


Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)


Since many of us already know Poe’s basic biography, I thought I’d highlight the Edgar Allan Poe House that it just over the bridge in Philadelphia.  The Edgar Allan Poe House is a National Historic Site located at 532 North 7th Street, just off of Spring Garden. This is just one of the homes in which Poe lived during his time in Philadelphia, which were some of his most prolific years. He wrote many of his well-known works in Philadelphia, including “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Murders of Rue Morgue.”  It is free to visit and is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 5 pm.

Here are a few pictures from the website:

poe hosue poe house 2 poe house

#TechTuesdays; Ted-Ed & Three Interpretations of Walt Whitman

Ted-Ed is an off-shoot of, which gathers (from its own conventions-of-sorts) talks from experts in their field that are often ground-breaking, inspiring, terrifying, eye-opening, etc.

Basically, Ted-Ed is a resource where teachers or students (or anyone) could check out short videos that are paired with multiple choice and open-ended questions, “dig deeper” resources to extend the discussion, and guided/open discussion forums about the lesson.  They can be lessons students navigate on their own (flipped-classroom-style), in computer labs with teacher facilitation or in pairs/small groups, or as a whole class in the classroom.  They could also inspire performance assessment ideas and options moving forward.

Some of these lessons are organized in series.  The one I’m sharing today are from the “Reading Between the Lines” series.

noiseless spider

  • “A Poetic Experiment: Walt Whitman, Interpreted by Three Animators” by Justin Moore
    • Analysis & Evaluation: This Ted-Ed lesson presents three different readings of “The Noiseless Patient Spider” paired with three different animations.   I like this Ted-Ed lesson for so many reasons.  It begs for a comparison/contrast and a discussion about perspective and impact of author’s choices. For discussions and/or assignments of this sort, students could hit RL.9-10.5 & RL.11-12.5 (analyze author’s choices and how they create effects) and/or RL.9-10.7 & RL.11-12.7 (analyze the representation of a subject or key scene in two different artistic mediums or multiple interpretations).  If you simply want to use these three interpretations and the repetition of it to help students understand the poem (the open-ended questions work to this end), then students could hit RL.9-10.2 (determine a theme/central idea and analyze its development). If you want them analyzing the spoken versions separately (or in addition to an animation-interpretation analysis), you could hit the beginning of SL.9-10.3 (evaluate a speaker’s point of view).
    • Performance Assessment Idea: I love (LOVE!) the potential this type of video has for our performance assessments that we can assign in class (so this one could become a model and practice).  Maybe students, in small groups, create a complete interpretation that represent both in voice (how will they read/perform the poem) and in original drawing/art (I would select how many drawings you would want for the assignment).  You could assign perspectives or just allow students to approach it from their own angle (this, I would think, would depend on the level of your students and how much practice/confidence they have in developing their own interpretations.).  While turning it into a video might be hard for some groups (MovieMaker or iMovie would work), completing a Prezi or Powerpoint with voice-over or with the reading/performance of the poem in class would also work.  If students have been analyzing and interpreting poetry and/or text all marking period long, this would make a nice cumulative assignment to assess their interpretation skills (RL.9-12.1 – textual evidence & RL.9-12.2 central ideas) and possibly even their presentation skills (SL.9-12.4-6).
      • What the audience/listeners do during the presentations could also be part of the overall assessment grade.  If we have them complete an analysis of author’s choices (structure) and evaluate those choices’ impacts, students would hit RL.9-12.5 (the “authors” they are evaluating and analyzing would be their other classmates’ projects).
      • To hit the writing requirement (W.9-12.4produce clear and coherent writing appropriate to task/purpose/audience) of the performance assessment rubric, groups could turn in a one-page explanation of their interpretation and how their animations/reading reveal that interpretation. I think your evaluation of how their interpretation is represented (task & purpose) could also factor into this element of the rubric.
      • W.9-12.8 (gather relevant information from multiple sources . . . ) is also at play in performance assessments since they should be researched-based.  This might be a stretch for an assignment of this sort, but quoting the original poem directly and citing the lines directly in the one-page explanation and specifically referencing /quoting other groups projects might help to meet it.  They could also look for some animation-interpretations of poetry as reference-points and compile these in an annotated bibliography they submit.
  • I’m sure there are many more options for this kind of assignment as a performance assessment as well as more options for using this TedEd lesson – but this is the magic of TedEd!

Please note that I’ve only briefly explained the standards listed.  Before developing an assignment that hits these standards, I would review them in more detail.  And remember that these standards are the end-goals and require some interpretation.  We can hit portions of these standards now in order to prepare them to meet them more fully in future assignments.

9-10 standards mentioned in this post:

Reading Literature

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Speaking & Listening

Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9-10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

11-12 standards mentioned in this post:

Reading Literature

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)


(4 is the same as the 9-10 standard)

Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.


Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.

(4-6 are the same as the 9-10 standards)

Meme Monday: Comma Sense

It’s Meme Monday here at BHP English Headquarters, and today we’re visiting the most used and the most misused punctuation mark, the comma.

Memes can make us laugh, but they can also be valuable teaching tools in the classroom.  They give a quick and often funny saying paired with a visual.  Displaying these in the classroom can help reinforce class rules and expectations or, in the case of today’s post, reinforce or teach grammar rules. (They also make for a more creative/out-of-the-box thinking assignment that could easily be a classwork/homework grade.)

The following memes could be used as warm-up activities where students try to define/identify the comma rule that’s being misused (aka . . . why are these memes funny?), as part of Writing Workshop mini-lessons, or has reminders of and references to comma rules you’ve already taught.

The comma rules our memes are covering today are:

  • Use commas to separate words and word groups in a simple series of three or more items.
  • Use commas to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed.

commas 2 commas 5 commas

Infographics of the Week for October 19-23: The History & Benefits of Social Media

“Infographics of the Week” is back!  The subject for next week’s cluster is all about social media as a way to reach customers and about the evolution and trends in social media.  With the constant barrage of the negative aspects of social media, these infographics could begin a conversation about social media that is broader than usual.

Infographics are fun and valuable ways to work with students in hitting CCSS.  They can easily be used for:

  • analysis practice (how ideas/claims are developed = RI.9-10.5, effectiveness of structure = RI.11-12.5)),
  • in-depth compare/contrast (what information is included in and excluded from each and why?, evaluation of sources, how sources address a question  – RI.9-10.7, RI.11-12.7)
  • evaluation of the credibility/reliability of sources – (W.9-12.8 – “assess the usefulness of each source”)
  • as a way to gather information on a question or topic (W.9-12.9)
  • models for organizing and designing their own research-based infographics (such an assignment would include W.9-12.4 [“development, organization, and style appropriate to task, purpose, and audience”], W.9-12.6 [“Use technology to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.”], W.9-12.7 (“Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question or solve a problem . . . synthesize multiple sources on the subject . . . demonstrate an understanding of the subject.)
  • Socratic Seminar texts and writing prompts
    2015-BusinessWire-MediaLeaders-PR-Social-Media-Infographic-700x700 a8445b4fa7241590c02e76782b31e313 history-social-media-2004-2014 social-media-trends-infographic social-media-users-02-2015-2

The New Fall Line-Up

In order to keep the blog “trending” and keep posts somewhat predictable so you can find what you’re looking for when you need it, I’ll be posting to the blogs each day according to the following hashtags:

Monday: #mememonday – Memes to use in the classroom, how to create memes, and assignments that use memes.

Tuesday: #techtuesdays – Websites, apps, and other tech resources to use in the classroom or to prep for the classroom

Wednesday: #writercrushwednesday – Highlights of writers we “crush” on with tangible uses of the author in the classroom. I would love some guest-bloggers for this!

Thursday: #throwbackthursday (#tbt) – Features a previous blog post that is current or relevant to the goings-on of the time

Friday: #freebiefridays – This is an anything-goes day that could include anything relevant to what we’re teaching.  Maybe I’ll even find a way to get some “freebies” available too!

I’ll also be bring back “Infographics of the Week,” that I’ll post by Thursday for the following week.

The fun begins next week! 🙂

Socratic Seminar & The Big Ideas: On Mars, Wonder, Colonization & Imperialism

Google Mars

Google’s animated Mars drinks water to celebrate NASA’s recent findings.

What are the implications of hunting/searching for life on Mars?

With the discovery of flowing water on Mars, many ethical issues are likely to arise as we consider, “What are the implications of hunting/searching for life on Mars?”  As educators, I think we are responsible for helping students understand, analyze, and evaluate what’s at stake with discoveries like this to ensure they become responsible and curious citizens.

We can do this by bringing the Mars announcement (liquid water!) to the classroom through Socratic Seminar.  Through Seminar, we can connect the news to some of the “big ideas” that run through some of the texts we teach.  This would make students think about the implications of the current event while also helping them understand connections and patterns among various texts, eras, etc. and create a larger context in which they could understand the big ideas in the texts they’re reading.

For resources on Socratic Seminar, check our the Socratic Seminar page

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the issues the news has covered with this finding:

Ian Sample, in his article in The Guardian, “NASA Scientists Find Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars,” quotes John Bridges:

John Bridges, a professor of planetary science at the University of Leicester, said the study was fascinating, but might throw up some fresh concerns for space agencies. The flows could be used to find water sources on Mars, making them prime spots to hunt for life, and to land future human missions. But agencies were required to do their utmost to avoid contaminating other planets with microbes from Earth, making wet areas the most difficult to visit. “This will give them lots to think about,” he said.

And Jonathan Amos’s article on BBC, “Martian salt streaks ‘Painted by Liquid Water‘,” raises a similar issue:

An interesting consequence of the findings is that space agencies will now have some extra thinking to do about where they send future landers and rovers.

Current internationally agreed rules state that missions should be wary of going to places on Mars where there is likely to be liquid water.

A UK space agency expert on Mars landing sites, Dr Peter Grindrod, told BBC News: “Planetary protection states that we can’t go anywhere there is liquid water because we can’t sterilise our spacecraft well enough to guarantee we won’t contaminate these locations. So if an RSL is found within the landing zone of a probe, then you can’t land there.

And here are some issues that we can discuss in conjunction with this current event:

  • 10th & 12th Grades: Colonization: (What happens when we introduce something foreign into a culture/society?  What happens when one culture overruns another? What responsibility to we have to other cultures/lives/places?) – with texts like Things Fall Apart or conflicts with Native Americans
  • 11th & 12th Grades: Language & Bias (AP Language): (Why are each of these news accounts providing different perspectives? What is the impact of their differences in word choice? What can we learn from their differences? Similarities?) – each of the articles below are different.  The CNN article, for example, is hopeful about the “search” for life and includes nothing about the potential sterilization issues that are discussed in both The Guardian & BBC articles.  The Guardian refers to the search for life as a ” hunt.”
  • 10th & 11th Grade: Manifest Destiny & Imperialism (American & Western Studies): (What right does one have to invade or expand its borders? What are the potential benefits and dangers of such an expansion?) – would work nicely after students have some background and in conjunction with political cartoons or other images/texts from the time 
  • 11th Grade: The Unknown: (What is our relationship with the “unknown”? How can not knowing impact how we perceive and react to it?) – pair a discussion of what Beowulf’s Grendel, who represents much of the uncertain and unknown of the times, with “Why are we obsessed with Martians?”
  • 10th Grade: Nature & Wonder: (Why do we go to nature? What happens when we over-turn nature?  What are the implications to interfering with nature? What value is there in “wonder”?) with The Secret Life of Bees & the moon-landing scene (August wants to turn it off . .. some things should be left to wonder – thanks to Sherrie E for this connection) or Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature.” John Muir & excerpts from the National Park documentary might also fit nicely here . . . in terms of the importance of preserving of nature (should we?). 
  • 9th Grade: “The Butterfly Effect” (What happens when we introduce something foreign into nature? What are the possible long-term effects?) – with the short story, “Sound of Thunder.”
  • All Grades: Perspective: Will we become the evil, power-hungry, & destructive aliens of science-fiction fantasies if we seek out life on Mars? (thanks to Sherrie for this one!)

Finally, here are some texts on the Mars findings to pair with the literary:

There are many more possibilities for bringing the issues with Mars to the English classroom. If you develop any of your own, please share them in the comment section below or via email.

Introducing . . . Meme Mondays! This Week: Book Censorship

At last year’s in-service, one of the suggestions for the blog was “Meme Mondays,” and so today we roll out the red-carpet for Memes.

To coincide with Banned Books Week, these memes are all about censorship.

censorship students first amendment self censor thought police

A few ways to use memes in your classroom:

  • As warm-ups to start a discussion or concept you’ll be introducing
  • As classroom rules/expectations
  • As discussion starters, enhancers, or “curve-balls”
  • As prompts for writing
  • In a group or paired with another text, as seminar text (the really good memes)
  • As models for memes students will create (based on grammar, literature, authors, current events, etc.) – Mematic is just one free app available for easy meme-making.

Additional resources: