Try This

3rd April
written by admin

If you’ve been on a great trip recently and have photographs or video of that trip, you could create a short video haiku poem about a part of the trip that says much more than “I went to this awesome place. It was super fun!”  

Using the 5-7-5 syllable haiku format, create a poem that captures something about the trip that the photograph or video CAN’T easily show. Try to avoid summarizing your trip experience. Instead, focus on a particular moment of the trip that stands out to you.






28th January
written by admin

In my last post, I lamented the limited number of quality apps available for middle school students. How many kids are walking around their schools with a MacBook? Several thousand. And that’s just here in Shanghai. Granted, not everyone is carrying around an app-enabled device and not everyone is eager to spend all of their free time developing their wordsmith skills. But, if you are looking to spend a few dollars on an app that has a clear benefit to your middle schooler then the following ten apps get this teacher’s vote (and many of my 8th graders):

Word Development

You’d be surprised how many kids have never played Scrabble or a variation of it. My students have enjoyed playing against me in each of these games. I set a high score and they try to beat it or we square off against one another. I’ve been humbled by a few of my students when we squared off.


Its bean hard to find an reliable app that’s meets the wide range of grammer issues most middle schoolers’ face. These two apps are essentially workbooks adapted for the iDevice, but Pearson has the most comprehensive set of age-appropriate exercises and a decent progress-tracker.


Essay Support

19th February
written by Tom Banaszewski
Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

14th April
written by Tom Banaszewski
The iPad. Will it change the way we read or will it be just another clumsy approach to the “interactive book” idea? Take a look at how Alice in Wonderland will be read on the iPad.

What do you think? Add your thoughts in the comments.

8th February
written by Tom Banaszewski

Download and add these stories to your iTunes Library.

3rd February
written by Tom Banaszewski
Whether it’s a short story or short film you’re creating, you need to know a few things about your main character. Try this:
Download this Pages file and interrogate your main character.

2nd February
written by Tom Banaszewski
Creating a story? Start with a CHARACTER. Give them a GOAL. Create a CONFLICT or a problem that gets in way the of the character reaching this goal. Make sure they STRUGGLE as they take a few different actions to overcome the CONFLICT. If you have all of these parts of a story, you need an ending or RESOLUTION. Does your CHARACTER solve the CONFLICT? Do they change or transform as a result? Do they view themselves or the world differently now?

Picture 1

Try one of these Story Templates to get started. They are Pages files. Download and open in Pages.

1st February
written by Tom Banaszewski

Got a Character? Let’s Hold an Interrogation. With a partner or as a whole class, try this:

Questions to Ask

  1. What does the character want to do or get? Goal?
  2. Why does the character want it?
  3. Why doesn’t the character have it already?
  4. What is the character willing to risk to get it?
  5. What has happened in the past to make the character feel this way?
  6. What is the character’s personality?

Does your story have CHARACTERS, CONFLICT, STRUGGLE and a GOAL? (PDF)