Helping Struggling Students


I find that, when I formally instruct students, most fall into one of four categories.

First, there is Group A:  This is the group of students that TOTALLY get what you are saying and understand how your lesson helps them in their life.  They readily pick up where the resources are housed for their future reference and they are likely to use the resources often.

While the group above might live in every teacher’s dreams, a complete class of them would really be reminiscent of the Stepford movies (and we all know how dangerous that is!)  …Plus, there is benefit in struggle (perseverance, modesty, etc.) and there are lessons in mistakes.  We truly do not want a class complete of Group A.

Next there is Group B:  This is the group which understands the reasons for the lesson and appreciates them; they record where the resources are housed; yet they just needs to get their “sleeves rolled up” and dig into the work.  When the teacher checks in on them, they need very little (if any) assistance.

Group C follows:  These students need the teacher after the formal lesson.  When the teacher swings by, it may be a matter of the teacher modeling how to get started or having the student navigate to the resources which will help the students throughout the project.  After this little bit of work, this group of students can get started.

Finally, we have Group D:  I find myself working with these students regularly and the work is varied to their various needs.  Our school has our teachers record our “intervention” work with these students and I have created a template that aligns with large research projects.  Please feel free to use this template in your own work with your “Group D” students.

Student Name:


Classroom Teacher:  

Special Education co-teacher/Instructional Assistant (if applicable):  

Date of Reference:




Research Topic:

Thesis Statement:


Possible challenges (bold all which apply):

  • nonfiction reading comprehension

  • vocabulary development needed

  • modeling of task completion needed (resource location, notetaking, organization, etc.)

  • QuickStart Guides needed

  • Graphic organizers needed

  • conceptual assistance needed

  • writing skills assistance needed

  • assignment modification needed

  • presentation skills assistance needed

  • “dry run” of presentation needed

  • time management assistance needed

  • lack of motivation

  • easily distracted

  • student becomes frustrated

  • absenteeism

  • resistance to additional support


Actions (record challenge intervened upon, date, and content of each intervention):


Notes on resources student is consulting:

  • books from our print shelves

  • books from other libraries

  • ebooks

  • websites

  • scholarly journals

  • Twitter or Google Alerts

  • quantitative research (statistics)

  • comprehensive and specific research sources to main topic and subtopics within

  • Primary sources consulted

  • highly analytic secondary sources

  • varied viewpoints (cultural, political, religious, personal opinion)

  • copyright pertinence


Notes on student organization methods:

  • Google Site (optional)

  • Diigo (optional)

  • other (specify method)

  • Noodletools (required)


Notes on task/deadline completion:

  • thesis

  • outline

  • notecards

  • annotated bibliography

  • rough draft

  • presentation



  • communication with classroom teacher

  • communication with special education teacher

  • communication with teaching assistant


Results (list goal and data to support achievement of goal):



Student Facilitated Twitter Chats

I have been working on developing an assignment where students facilitate Twitter chats related to what they are reading in English class.  This will allow the students to not only deepen their understanding of the literature unit that they are on, but also to understand the technology and purpose of Twitter discussions.  Below is an overview of the project along with notes on our student’s goals and advice from Jerry Blumengarten!  Planning this event is shockingly easier than some other technology applications have been (which makes it ripe for revisiting during future units versus experiencing the dread of thinking about doing it again!)

Please feel free to join us or to plan similar events (and feel free to use my notes as a guide to get you started!!!)


An English and Technology class at Palisades High School have been collaborating and anticipate that they will be hosting two Twitter Chat events during the week of February 3, 2014 (snow days have changed the dates to Feb 19 and 21).  One chat will be centered around the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and the other chat will focus upon the concept of the American Dream.  Broad questions to begin to generate a conversation in relation to the American Dream will be:

1.  What does the American Dream look like?

2.  What in popular culture exemplifies the American Dream?

3.  Is the American Dream a myth?

Our students will be facilitating the conversations that will begin at 9:45 a.m. on a date to be determined (week of February 3, 2014).  They will be required to refer to and identify a few textual passages from the novel and popular culture during the Of Mice and Men event and from multiple novels and popular culture during the American Dream chat.  The groups have also been charged with developing additional questions to generate discussion.

Please share this with your English teachers and anyone else that would be interested in participating in either event (feel free to share this widely with anyone who may be interested).  Please contact Karen Hornberger at should you want to participate in order be emailed with further detail and to get the assigned hashtag (also to be determined) or watch for advertisements for the events during the week of January 27-31.

Additional Information:

Goals for our Technology class

Pre-assess (and teach):

What is a Twitter hashtag?

What is the purpose of a Twitter hashtag?

What is the benefit of a well known Twitter hashtag?

What is the benefit of a little known Twitter hashtag?

What is the difference between a Twitter hashtag and a Twitter event related to a hashtag?

How do you get people to participate in a Twitter chat event?

How do you access a Twitter chat transcript?

example transcript:


  • educate students as needed based upon the pre-assessment

  • have kids search #AmericanDream on Twitter and #OfMiceandMen to see what Twitter activity exists

  • have them decide whether use a hashtag that is so unique that only participants can find or to use a broad hashtag?

  • Create a class Twitter account (to avoid usage of personal Twitter accounts during a school project)

  • Determine who is going to participate and in which role (need archivist if we will be archiving transcript, need students participating in discussion, need facilitator who is charged with leading discussion and redirecting as needed)

  • Determine what the group who is not presenting/facilitating is going to do (watch, learn, and evaluate or participate)

Advice from Jerry Blumengarten (facilitator of the popular weekly #edchat events:

I would suggest a common unique hashtag for the chat.

It would be wise to come up with about six or seven questions that all the participants would know in advance.

You will need to time the questions and have students tweeting out the questions at the appropriate times.  Have some students repeat the question.

Have you seen the following page?

My How to Moderate a Chat page

On that page I have suggestions and ways to archive the chat.  Most moderators use Storify.

I would suggest doing a sample chat with some of your students and then Storify it to see how it works.

Goals for our English Class:

PHS Library resources (print and eBook) students can consult:

Bloom, Harold, and Blake Hobby. The American Dream. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009.

Burns, Kate. Is the American Dream a Myth? Detroit: Greenhaven, 2006.

Haugen, Hayley Mitchell. The American Dream in John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven, 2010.

Karson, Jill. Readings on of Mice and Men. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998.

King, Martin Luther. I Have a Dream. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2012.

Perez, William. We Are Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream. Sterling: Stylus, 2009.


  • Begin to answer American Dream questions

  • Begin to develop additional American Dream questions that facilitate conversation

  • Begin to develop Of Mice and Men questions that facilitate conversation

  • Consider creation of interactive graphic organizer