THE LEARNING NETWORK – Common Core Support


Text to Text: A New Feature, and an Invitation to Share Ideas

A June 29, 1971, front-page New York Times article. A June 29, 1971, front-page New York Times article.

Updated Oct. 22, 2013 with a new graphic organizer.

This week we begin a new lesson plan format that we’re calling Text to Text.

Simpler than our usual daily lesson plans, it is just what it sounds like: we’ll be pairing two written texts that we think “speak” to each other in interesting ways, and supplying a few questions and ideas for working with the two together.

One of the excerpts will, of course, always be from The New York Times — sometimes ripped from that week’s headlines, and other times from the archives.

The other excerpt will usually come from an often-taught literary, historical, cultural, scientific or mathematical text. We will also include visuals — photographs, videos, infographics or illustrations — that might be used as additional texts on the topic.

Our main goal, as for most of what we do on this blog, is to show students how relevant what they study in school can be to the “real world.”


A June 10, 2013, front-page New York Times article. A June 10, 2013, front-page New York Times article.

But in the era of Common Core standards, when students are being asked to do “close reading,” and teachers are seeking to add more authentic nonfiction across the curriculum, we hope that this series will also help teachers quickly find pieces they can use easily.

This week we’ll publish three examples to get started, then add new ones at least once a month. You’ll be able to locate them all by clicking on the tag “Text to Text.”

Our first example pairs current news about the N.S.A. leaker Edward J. Snowden with news from 1971 about Daniel Ellsberg. In this case, both pieces come from The Times, but stay tuned: the next two go further afield.

We have also created three graphic organizers your students can use with any post in this series — or any time they’re doing close reading or comparing texts. They are all writable PDFs: Continue reading


9th – 12th grade teachers:
Even at the ninth through twelfth grade levels, teachers will find many ways to incorporate Easel-ly into their classroom instruction. A specific vheme (predesigned theme) may help to clarify the meaning behind a particularly difficult text. Meanwhile, these vhemes can also be used by students to bring dull presentations to life. Let’s briefly look at the standards for grades 9 – 12:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 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.

Reading presidential speeches and other primary sources is a vital part of the high school reading curriculum. Let’s take a look at how teachers can use Easel-ly’s resources to create an extended response question for students that explores Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

Once students have read and discussed the speech with their classmates and teacher, a formative assessment (as shown above) can be completed by students to assess their ability to cite and analyze textual evidence from the speech. In doing so, students can choose two direct quotations to cite and explain in their vheme. This directly correlates with CCSS ELA-RI.11-12.1.

Other extension ideas related to this picture book:

Create a vheme on to compare and contrast Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address to his second. Another possibility is to have students choose another president, research their inaugural address, and then compare and contrast this selection to Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Regardless of the choice, makes displaying the information easy and in creative form!

To conclude:
Now, that we have looked at some activities which incorporate and assess CCSS ELA Reading Information Standard 1, it’s time to get started using to make your own handouts, projects, and resources. There are virtually limitless possibilities at Join us next week for more examples of how is correlating with the CCSS ELA Standards to enrich classroom instruction.


6 Videos to Use in Your Classroom

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Videos are a great way to bring vibrancy into the classroom! For teachers, a video shares content in a powerful and engaging way. For students, a video encourages interaction with academic material by hand-picking images, video, music and text.

Here are 6 videos to you can quickly and easily integrate into your curriculum:

Video Technology for Teachers – SEE THE VIDEOS HERE

  • Introduce yourself — You’ll look more approachable when you use video instead of the standard introduction speech. You can incorporate your credentials, hobbies, and favorite music all in one video.
  • To start or finish a new unit — Use video as a “sneak peek” of all the awesome information to come. On the flip side, videos are great for reviewing what you’ve taught. Wrap up a lesson or unit with a video of key concepts to emphasize their importance.

Video Technology for Students

  • Book trailer — If you’re an English teacher, this is definitely one of the coolest projects out there. Students make a “movie trailer” advertising a book they’ve read by matching a brief plot summary with complementary pictures–but no spoilers! Students will also love choosing a song that perfectly captures the mood of the novel.
  • PSA — When you teach students about recycling or staying healthy, you want those lessons to stick. Make an online video public service announcement to reinforce these ideas.
  • Research report — Let students engage with their research by presenting with video– they’ll find appropriate pictures, video and music to demonstrate their new knowledge on topics like world cultures, historical figures, or scientific phenomena.
  • Scavenger hunt — Want to find out if students really “get” what you’ve taught? Set them loose to find examples! Give them a theme like “acute angles” or “vocabulary word: gregarious” and watch their videos bring the concept to life using examples from their own lives.

Learn more about how to create a fun and engaging education video with just a few photos and a few minutes.


Redirect YouTube URLs to for fun and profit
Toogles ( is a super fast minimal alternative interface for YouTube. It's refreshingly different than the bulk of

This extension just redirects you to the Toogles version of any YouTube video that you open (it ignores all other YouTube pages such as playlists and users). That's it. 
No hidden features or sketchy permissions or anything like that.

If you really want to view a video on YouTube you can click the video's title on Toogles to force it that once 
(or just add &toogles=0 to the end of the YouTube video URL).

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 1.31.37 PM


SocialBook: a beautifully designed annotation tool for text, audio and video

You can:

• Read by yourself or check in with other readers

• Invite friends to read with you; a book club not constrained by time or place

• When students collaborate in the margin they are more engaged with the text and in the classroom

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Read this great analysis of the Youtube video about reading – a liquor commercial about reading (and drinking).
From Joe Bower’s blog:


Free voluntary reading. We learn to read by reading. Self-selected reading for pleasure (0:53) is a major factor in literacy development. No book reports. No chapter quizzes. No vocabulary lists. The best teachers find their students interests and then they help their students find books that match those interests. Did you see the look on that old man’s face (0:18) when he looked up at his son’s poster in the book store’s window? That’s the look teachers look for. Where there is interest, achievement follows. The best teachers look for that look on their students’ faces and then artfully guide them to books that they might never have found on their own.
Continue reading