Engaging with a Broader Community

On Monday night, I participated in #COLchat, a twitter edchat based in Michigan. I heard about it through Kelly, who RT’d their chat reminder.

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 5.02.19 PM

I was initially really nervous because I kept thinking about how it might be too fast-paced for me, but it was all for nothing; the chat was actually monitored by two people instead of one — Frank Bellomo and Walter Kozlowski — which made it easier to follow along. They would alternate between posting questions, and take their time; they also answered each others’ questions which helped all the other participants get to know them better, as well! I made lots of new connections and found new people to follow.

Using Tweetdeck was really advantageous because it made it so easy to keep track of tweets. I created five columns:

This format worked for me because I could keep track of all the tweets in the chat, the tweets that the moderators and I were sending out, and any replies or conversations that I was a part of.

The main theme of the chat was the information we (and our students) input. This lead to some interesting and informative conversations. Screenshotted below are some of the interactions I really enjoyed; some of the answers to Q6 of the chat (including @fbellomoB’s own) and some responses to Q2. It was great to have other members of the #edtc300 community be a part of this chat as well, as we really got to interact with one another.




“The Three P’s” of Hand-Lettering

Caroline Winegeart over at Hand-Lettering for Beginners has proven to be a great source of information on my journey, and she is super organized! I stumbled across her blog and was excited to see that she had a post on getting started where she mentioned “The Three P’s” of hand-lettering. These are:

  1. Pay Attention
  2. Process
  3. Practice

What she means by this is, first of all, you must pay attention to fonts and writing around you. There is no one set font that must be used for hand-lettering; it’s about your own unique style. However, a lot of hand-lettering is inspired by the larger community, and it’s a good idea to become familiar with different styles.

Secondly, take your time. This is not a skill that can be learned overnight. It’s okay to make mistakes, and try things differently!

Lastly, as with most skills, practice makes perfect. It’s a good idea to try out different styles and practice with different tools and methods.

To start off, I am using a few different writing tools. These include Zebra MildlinersPaperMate Flair pens, and double-ended markers from Buffalo. I’m using this Piccadilly sketchbook to practice in; the paper is really good for practicing using different mediums.


One of the tips I’ve learned from Hand-Lettering for Beginners is trying to make the downstrokes thicker, which can be done by either using more pressure, or by thickening the downstrokes after writing out the words. To start this journey, I decided to try my hand at writing out the concept I’m trying to instill in my brain: The Three P’s! I wrote out the title with a black marker, and then thickened the downstrokes using a purple marker for contrast. For the actual points, I tried to use the purple marker only, and I tried putting more pressure on the downstrokes. I don’t really see too much of a difference, but that could be because of the marker I used. I think I much prefer the “thicken-after-drawing” method. Something I would want to focus on for the future is making sure my thickening is even throughout so that the letters look more uniform.


I’d love any comments, feedback, or suggestions! Thanks for reading.

Feedly-ing Me Amazing Content!

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 3.10.55 pm

I honestly cannot believe that I have never used Feedly before. I didn’t even know it existed until last week, but now that I do, there’s no going back! It is such an easy website/app to use, and it seamlessly organizes content to suit my needs. I am just trying out the free version for now but I’m seriously considering upgrading in the future because the searchable hashtags make it so that I can literally sort these websites and articles based on any of my interests, not just career-related ones.

For instance, the three feeds I chose to create are #Education, #EdTech, and #Poetry. The first two are feeds that can help me better my practice as a teacher, and the last is one that can aid my creativity. It actually also allows for access to content that, as an ELA teacher, I can save and use in poetry units in the future; I really want to break out of the cycle of using just the “classics”, as great as some of them are.

When choosing which websites to add to my feeds, I actually utilized my twitter account. I chose a lot of the websites that I follow on twitter already, because I know that I find their content interesting. I also used the “preview” feature to browse through recent articles on those sites, to see if they appealed to me. Also, I realized the importance of keeping an eye on the “articles per week” and “relevance” bars at the bottom of each accounts blurb. For instance, I saw a website that seemed interesting because of its tagline: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”.

I was immediately drawn to this, but upon further investigation, I realized that the last post on this website was 11 months ago! Now, I don’t think it’s ideal to include this website in my Feedly, as I want it to be current. However, I ended up bookmarking this website anyway because some of the articles on there are well-written and I definitely want to read more. That’s another perk of Feedly — the ability to discover new blogs, news sources, and educators that are using technology to share resources and tips with their fellow teachers.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 1.33.05 pm

Learning Project: Hand-Lettering

For my learning project, I’ve decided to try my hand (ha!) at modern calligraphy. This is sometimes called hand-lettering or brush-lettering. I was intrigued by this because I started bullet journaling last year and I want to make mine look a little more fancy.

To do this, I will mostly be using instagram and youtube — the bullet journaling and hand-lettering communities are very active on these platforms, and there are countless videos to choose from.

As well, I discovered a website called Skillshare, which offers free (and paid) only classes and tutorials on just about anything. I found a few different hand-lettering teachers on there that I will look into.

Here are a few of them:

















Hey, EDTC 300 Fam!

I’m Zunaira, and this is the last semester of my degree! That fact is something that still feels so surreal to me; these four years have flown by extremely quickly. I am an English major and an Inclusive Ed minor, and I’m looking forward to passing on my passion for both when I start teaching.

I’m so excited to learn more about technology as an educator. When it comes to technology in general, I’m familiar with sites/apps such as Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Goodreads, and most of the Google workspace apps.

Some of these, such as Twitter and Instagram, I’m more used to as social platforms rather than professional ones, so I’m excited to see how I can implement them in my career. I know there are huge teacher communities on both!

I was able to use Google apps (such as Docs, Slides, Classroom, etc) during my internship and I found that my students and I both loved them. They made handing things in and marking super fast and convenient. Also, the quiz feature was great for formative assessment and exit slips! If anyone has questions about Google apps, feel free to ask me and I’ll help as best as I can.

I also love Goodreads — it’s like a social network for book lovers. I work at Chapters, I’m an English (preservice) teacher, and so, of course, I love books. Goodreads is the best because you can track not only how many books you read throughout the year, but your progress for each book as well. I introduced this app to my students during internship and they ended up using it to track their reading progress for their novel studies. It’s a small little thing but they loved it, and best of all, it made them want to read! I highly recommend looking into it.

When it comes to blogging, I’m looking forward to learning more because I have started a number of times and end up feeling overwhelmed. I run a “bookstagram” where I review and recommend books, and last year I started a blog to go with it. I ended up feeling like a blog was a lot more to keep up with and it didn’t get very far. Hopefully, this class can help me learn how to blog efficiently without feeling stressed about a time commitment or a “quota” to fill, and to instead see it as something to enjoy. I think there is so much potential for blogging to help connect to like-minded people, whether it is related to a passion or to professional development. Also, I’ve learned that the blogging platform is the most important thing and that it’s vital to use one that’s best for you. I personally love WordPress, and some others that I’ve tried and tested include Wix and Weebly. WordPress seems to be the easiest to use, to me anyway.

Some of the things I love include:

  • reading (you can check out my “bookstagram” here)
  • writing poetry
  • coffee
  • listening to (and discovering new) music
  • watching Marvel movies
  • reading Marvel comics
  • buying Marvel merch
  • …okay I just really love Marvel
I love anything Spider-Man related! Fun fact: I designed that Venom shirt myself and got it printed. A fun project that I took on back over the summer.
  • spending time with my family (especially my 5yo brother)
  • finding new cafes to study/read at
  • the great outdoors
  • scented candles
  • my two kitties (they have their own instagram too!)
Lilly and Enzo!

Feel free to connect with me! Follow this blog, and you can find me on twitter here.

Inquiry to Practice: How I Implemented my Findings in the Field

As a refresher, before going into my pre-internship I was looking at ways to get students interested and authentically engage with classroom content. I found out about five kinds of engagement in the classroom:

  • Authentic Engagement—students are immersed in work that has clear meaning and immediate value to them (reading a book on a topic of personal interest)
  • Ritual Compliance—the work has little or no immediate meaning to students, but there are extrinsic outcomes of value that keep them engaged (earning grades necessary for college acceptance)
  • Passive Compliance—students see little or no meaning in the assigned work but expend effort merely to avoid negative consequences (not having to stay in during recess to complete work)
  • Retreatism—students are disengaged from assigned work and make no attempt to comply, but are not disruptive to the learning of others
  • Rebellion—students refuse to do the assigned task, act disruptive, and attempt to substitute alternative activities

(Hurst, Stacy. “Seven Ways to Increase Student Engagement in the Classroom.” Reading Horizons, http://www.readinghorizons.com/blog/seven-ways-to-increase-student-engagement-in-the-classroom.)


I was happy to find that I did not have many students in the “Retreatism” or “Rebellion” levels. There were a few in the top tier, and then a mix of students in the “Passive Compliance” and “Ritual Compliance” levels. Since we were doing a fairytale unit, I was able to bring in content that the students found interesting. The first week, I played some fun activities for 3-5 minutes over a few days to get to know my students. I made keen observations to get to know their personalities and learning styles. This helped me plan my activities and content to suit their needs. I brought in feminist retellings of fairytales, as well as the original versions compared with modern ones, which got the students producing amazing pieces of writing responses. They were able to expand their thinking and look at fairytales critically. It was interesting to see them question their own prior understanding of some of these stories, and to challenge societal constructs. Even students who seemed like they were not engaged — perhaps due to my instructional strategies not suiting them, which is something I need to work on — had great, insightful written responses.


Some of the strategies to increase student engagement that history teacher, David Cutler, had listed were as follows:

  • Connect Content With Meaning
    • I did so by bringing in fairytales to look at from different perspectives and lenses. I allowed choice when it came to the representations students could choose to look for in our movie for a film critique assignment: gender, sexuality, race, violence, family, and appropriateness for children. This produced an array of opinions and personal connections.
  • Give Frequent, Low-Stakes Assessments
    • I allowed for students to do a lot of “quick-writes”, which are exactly as they sound — quick writing assignments that are personal, focus on content rather than style or mechanics, and allow students to practice and build their general writing skills.
  • Don’t Penalize Errors Harshly
    • When submitting their literary critiques, I allowed students to hand in a rough draft beforehand for editing. I offered advice and highlighted areas of improvement to allow them to deliver a better end result.

Overall, I think because of the content of the unit I did, students were quite engaged for the most part. There is always room for improvement, though, and I hope to continue to use these techniques — as well as new ones — to increase student engagement. It’s hard to imagine most students at the “Authentic Engagement” level, but with hard work, using relationships to help plan, and varied content, it is definitely possible.

“Making Learning Meaningful and Lasting”

This article that I found is written by a history teacher who was looking into ways to make his content more meaningful for his students. I thought I could look at his ideas and think about how I might apply them to the ELA classroom.

Connect Content With Meaning

My student found no reason to remember facts which meant little to her personally. Throughout the year, I had failed to encourage her to connect her own experiences and interests to the content. As McDaniel tells me, “Techniques that stimulate the learner to bring in a lot of prior knowledge and personal experience help make the learning more meaningful.” I now champion the art of historical inquiry over breadth of coverage, and I strive to connect what students care about in the news, such as police shootings and protests, to the Civil Rights Movement and the United States Constitution.

This is something that can be done easily in the ELA classroom. Upon figuring out interests of students, I could potentially base readings and assignments around those interests. What students care about in the news is definitely a major source of content inspiration these days. There is plenty to be found in young adult literature that can be brought into the classroom – for instance:

  • Books like Dear Martin by Nic Stone, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas talk about racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement
  • Novels such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie deal with growing up as an Indigenous teenager
  • Books such as Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson deal with being an LGBT+ teenager and coming out
  • Books like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven tackle issues regarding teen mental health
  • And even dystopias and science-fiction such as The Mazer Runner by James Dashner or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins deal with issues such as oppression and classism

Give Frequent, Low-Stakes Assessments

As a rookie teacher, I failed to recognize that assessments should be used to gauge learning progress — not simply to test how much data a student can squeeze into his or her brain. Furthermore, since I formerly gave fewer assessments, each carried significantly more weight. Not surprisingly, my students cared more about seeing the final grade, and not reviewing their mistakes. McDaniel says that frequent low-stakes assessments signal to grade-worried students that, as he puts it, “we’re not testing, we’re helping you learn.” This strategy reinforces the learning and improves long-term memory, no matter how familiar or redundant students may regard certain quiz material.

In one of my ELNG classes, we have talked a lot about the art of “low-stakes writing”, which essentially just means getting students writing without worrying about grades to increase interest and skill. This can be something as simple as establishing journal-writing at the beginning of every class period with fun and engaging prompts. I love this idea and would definitely incorporate it in my future classrooms.

Don’t Penalize Errors Harshly

Along these lines, in most cases I give students opportunities for full or partial retakes, no matter what grade they receive on an assessment. As I often write, I’m not nearly as concerned about when an individual masters a concept — just that it is in fact mastered. McDaniel reinforces my philosophy, saying, “I think the culture of the classroom and teaching has to change so that errors are viewed as an opportunity to improve and correct yourself.” This certainly creates more work for the teacher, but it’s well worth that effort if even one more student feels secure in making mistakes and recovering from failure.

This is another idea that can be applied in the ELA classroom to increase engagement. When it comes to large writing assignments such as essays and research papers, students should be given opportunities to see where they can improve. I might do this by allowing students to submit drafts, that I could then edit and comment on, and then they could use those comments to further their writing. This way, the final product I get in for marking is one that will be revised and polished as best as possible.


(Cutler, David. “Making Learning Meaningful and Lasting.” Edutopia, 14 Sept. 2015, http://www.edutopia.org/blog/making-learning-meaningful-and-lasting-david-cutler.)