Academic Reading Circles

Recently I have been using academic reading circles, a deep reading activity, in the classroom for a few months now. They can be a challenge for students, but they are very engaged and do a great job in the process, and that’s when I know learning is happening!  Below is some text I wrote about ARCs in my open textbook:

Academic reading circles, a reading activity designed by Tyson Seburn, are very similar to jigsaw discussion groups, but instead of breaking up bigger readings into smaller parts, readings are analyzed in different ways and then presented to a group or class. They are often used to help students collaborate while also digging deeper into an article or topic. Students are assigned one of the following roles to analyze the reading:

  • Leader: The leader summarizes the main points of the reading and creates comprehension and critical thinking questions for the group to discuss. Check out this DOK chart for a good way to make discussion questions.
  • Contextualizer: The contextualizer finds and researches at least 2 to 4 contextualized references that are NOT fully explained by the author. What are contextualized references? They are references used in the background information in an article. This could include people, organizations, places, events, movies, books, or other things that the author might assume the reader already knows about and thus doesn’t give the context. It can also include cultural expressions and idioms (e.g., “pulling my leg,” “George Washington is rolling over in his grave”).
  • Visualizer: The visualizer finds images, infographics or charts for at least 2 to 4 facts the author uses and discusses why each image or graphic is relevant to the reading. The images should be related to background information (dates, statistics, contextualized references) and/or key facts (main references in the article; key people, places, events, cultural expressions).
  • Connector: The connector writes complete answers (3-4 sentences) to how the article connects with other articles we have read or videos we have watched, a current or past event that you are familiar with, or an experience you have had.
  • Vocabulary Master: The Vocab master highlights words 10-15 unknown key vocabulary words that repeat or are important for understanding the article, and gives a synonym, short explanation, or maybe an image to help classmates better understand the words.

Here you can download my PPT that helps explain the process to students.

With bigger classes, you will need to have students work in a group. There are 5 roles, so group them into groups of 5 and discuss what they learned in their role in a group presentation. However, you could also have students with the same role team up and do a class presentation.

Some teachers have students make a handout to give out to the rest of the group or class during their role presentation, but I prefer to use digital annotation. I recommend using, a free tool for interactive collaborative annotation, or Actively Learn. One of the great advantages of using digital annotation tools rather than a handout is that they give students the ability to add images and video to their ARC role information.

Example of students annotating text in
Example of students annotating text in ActivelyLearn

Here is a PowerPoint about academic reading circles by Tyson Seburn, who also literally wrote the book about it!

And lastly, by request, here is a general scoring rubric used for assessing student participation during ARCs. Feel free to share and edit to your liking! After ARCs, you might want additional comprehension and critical thinking checks with comprehension quizzes or tests, vocabulary quizzes, or writing topics related to the article chosen for the ARC activity.

New Term, New Tech

The fall term is coming up, and after a thoughtful summer break, there are a few “cool tools” I’d like to play with in class in the fall. Here they are:

Plickers are code cards that teachers can print and give to students. They are answer cards where they can answer multiple choice questions by holding the card up depending on its side: A,B,C, or D. Teachers then scan the classroom with their phone to capture the answers. Teachers can use this for informal assessment or for attendance. I am interested in using this for a more engaging way to not only begin class but take attendance. I’m not sure how I can efficiently use the data for RenWeb or Canvas attendance, but I’d like to give it a try!

Continue reading Timers for Google Form Quizzes

Now that I am working on a new Master’s in Instructional Technology, I am more interested in ways to enhance teaching online. While Google Forms has become better as a tool for giving quizzes, it doesn’t have a lot of ways to prevent cheating.

Although a timer also doesn’t prevent cheating, it can at least give a shorter window of time in which to cheat. I wanted to give my students a simple picture quiz but not give them enough time to search online for the answer. That’s where comes in. It’s not perfect, especially since you can only dole out 10 quizzes a month for free, but it might be a good tool for anyone who wants to send out timed quizzes often.

I will admit, however, after I successfully got the timify quiz results back, I realized that students could just use Google Lens to identify the pictures! Argh!

Here’s the information about

100 Things I learned from TESOL 2019

I just got back from International TESOL in Atlanta, Georgia, held from March 12-15. With over 6,100 attendees and almost 2,000 presenters, there were a lot of sessions to go to and learn from, including the Electronic Village in the expo hall. Below are just snippets of what I remember, in no particular order (except maybe from my memory!) The biggest takeaway that I learned from TESOL sessions is that for the best learning to occur, students need to be engaged (and having fun) with authentic materials and experiences. So throw out your textbooks and find ways to get your students involved in English!

Technology for Education

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Creative Commons and Public Domain Help

Because I am not an expert, and I’m not going to write like I know anything about the subject–here are some links I have found helpful on these subjects.

If you plan on creating your own open textbook (what is that?), ever put images in PowerPoint presentations or on handouts for students, ever photocopied an article printed from the Internet for your class (and then also forgot or were too busy to show where you got the information to students–even though you yell at them for not citing sources), or ever photocopied from an old textbook or workbook, then this is the page for you.  Continue reading

Takeaways from the 2018 6th Annual Atlanta IEP Mini-Conference

Once again, a few colleagues and I traveled to Georgia, this time to Athens, to learn from our neighbors at the 6th Annual Atlanta IEP Mini-Conference. (Don’t get me started as to why I was so excited to go to “Athens”!) This year felt different. Something somber was in the air. It’s been in the air for over a year now, and if you are an ESL teacher, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And it definitely affected the sessions this time.

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Takeaways from the 2017 GATESOL Mini-Conference

This was my second time attending the Atlanta-area IEP mini-conference, and once again it gave me great ideas to use to improve my teaching.

This year’s theme was “The Challenge of Change”, and all of the presentations reflected this theme. Here’s a summary of the sessions I attended and my reflection, as well as my own presentation.

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