Complete Solar Eclipse (8/21) and English Class

On Monday, August 21st, North America will experience a solar eclipse. For the first time since 1918, the eclipse will be visible from the United States. Here in New Jersey, we will only experience a partial eclipse.  We should see 70-75% of the sun covered by the moon beginning around 1pm and peaking a little after 3pm. The path of totality will stretch across 14 states, many of which will be in school on August 21st. You can find out more about the eclipse and your view in this Vox article.

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The NASA-provided map above  shows the zone of totality. The moon’s shadow will enter the United States near Lincoln City, Oregon, around noon EST/9am PDT. Totality will begin in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 10:16 am PDT. The total eclipse will end in Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 pm EDT. Many people are planning to travel to cities in the zone of totality, but even if you can’t bring your students to the total eclipse you can bring the eclipse into your classroom.

I’ve put together an annotated list of books and short stories that can be used by English teachers to include the eclipse as part of the curriculum.  There’s a dearth of accessible books that deal with eclipses, but I’ve found a handful of tales that can be used.  I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!  There will also be many newspaper and magazine articles about the eclipse during the next few weeks; these can be great for article of the week or current events activities.

Regardless of how you plan to celebrate the eclipse, I encourage you to bring the event into your class. Read about the event and, if possible, bring your students outside to experience the event!  This is also the perfect opportunity to collaborate with other content area teachers!


#nErDcampNJ STEManities Panel

Today I was part of a great panel at #nErDcampNJ, a literacy-focused “unconference” for teachers, administrators, and authors.  Together with YA author Eliot Schrefer and nonfiction author Nancy Castaldo, I spoke about bringing science and English together through nature writing and reading, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary projects.

One of the magic aspects of #nErDcampNJ is that all session notes are available online.  You can see the notes for my STEManities session here.  There are lots of great ideas from both authors (for middle grade and high school students) and many ideas contributed by the teachers and administrators in the audience.


Authors Eliot Schrefer and Nancy Castaldo discussing the itnersection of science and English with me at #nerdcampNJ 5/20/17

Voices from the Middle Podcast

I’m very excited to share the latest episode of the Voices from the Middle podcast.  I was lucky enough to be a guest on this episode.


The NCTE Voices from the Middle Podcast is a radio show featuring middle level ELA teachers from across the United States, practitioner-leaders in our field, YA and middle grades authors, and other surprise guests. Some podcasts tie to specific issues of the print publication Voices from the Middle, published by the National Council of Teachers of English. Music by Lee Rosevere.

Access the episode by clicking on the audio player below. You can also subscribe to the free podcast in the iTunes Store.

For more information, follow Voices from the Middle @VoicesNCTE

In this episode,  young adult author Eliot Schrefer shares his experiences with school visits.  I was happy to join Eliot to talk about how my students and I prepared for Eliot’s visits to our school (he’s visited twice) and the impact he has had on my students.  Readers of this blog might remember that I interviewed

Eliot a few months ago about his ape quartet books, which are perfect for interdisciplinary work between science and English class.



Before We Go Extinct by Karen Rivers

51mjny0-mbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_I’m always on the lookout for”science-y YA books” as I call them.  In my experience, there are lots of middle grade realistic fiction books with a science focus or angle but they seem to disappear once kids are out of middle school.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when Kate Messner mentioned Karen Rivers’ Before We Go Extinct on Facebook last week.  I quickly ordered a copy and I read it in one sitting over the holiday weekend.

JC earned his nickname, Sharky, after watching the documentary Sharkwater.  But this isn’t just a story about sharks; this is a grief story with a solid side of science. Sharky recently witnessed the death of his best friend, The King, and is struggling with moving forward.  When the third member of their threesome begins to gain notoriety due to her relationship with The King, Sharky is pushed to the edge.  He shuts down and stops talking.  As a result, his mother decides he needs t get out of the city and away from the tragedy consuming his days.  She sends him to the Pacific Northwest to spend the summer with his absent father who is the caretaker on a small island.  Sharky and his hippie-esque father have always been distant from one another and he doesn’t expect that to change when he arrives on the almost-abandoned island off the coast of Vancouver.  And then he meets some of the other residents of the small island and he explores the island and the surrounding waters.

This is a story packed with ecology and conservation but it’s not preachy.  Rivers’ descriptions of the plant and animal life on the island and in the water are stunning and breathtaking.  I found myself rereading passages because they were so beautiful.  The shark behavior and other animals introduced are realistic and intriguing- I know that I went on to look up the area and the biodiversity located there after I finished the book.  This would be a fantastic book to pair with an environmental science class.  I’m already imagining opportunities to get students outside looking at the plants and animals in their own backyards through Sharky’s eyes.

Highly recommended!