Outline Rubric: Post #2 Skill Specific Research Rubrics Series


When students write, they may not realize that there is a correlation between the number of subtopics and the length of the paper that they will produce. A large number of subtopics is likely to yield a larger paper, where a small amount will create a smaller paper. I sometimes see students in panic mode, wondering how they will ever write a longer paper. When I point out that, when they increase subtopics and when multiple sources/experts support each subtopic, the paper will naturally get longer, many students begin to relax.

In addition to that, when I look over outlines, I often see that students will at times have only one subtopic or section (creating an “A” without a “B” or a “1” without a “2”). I need to tell the student that, if there is only one subtopic under the main topic, then that is what comprises the entirety of their main topic and that they can (a) use the keyword(s) from the subtopic and add it to the main topic, making it the overall topic OR (b) add at least one more subtopic.

Overall, a good outline will set the foundation for a good paper. The rubric below is designed to help the students consider outline elements to begin to create a good outline. As mentioned in my thesis statement rubric post (#1 in this series), this skill-specific outline would be introduced to students who are not yet completely literate in this skill. As the students become more literate, you can guide your students to learn more advanced skills (which will appear later within this series). Good luck helping your students develop their research skills!!! 🙂

Outline Rubric

Other Rubrics in the Skill-Specific Research Rubric Series:
Thesis Statement Rubric
Infographic Rubric
Statistics Rubric

image courtesy of:

Glasses on Book. Pixabay. Pixabay, 13 Dec. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.



Thesis Statement Rubric: Post #1 Skill Specific Research Rubrics Series


We have found that when we first introduce a research skill to students that it really helps to attach a skill-specific rubric to the assignment. In doing so, we are delineating the ideal elements into categories within a rubric to help isolate the concepts and desired outcomes for students. We have found that, if the new skill is embedded into the assignment and overall grade, it becomes camouflaged into the assignment. When the students eventually become fluent at the skill, then the rubric may be taken away. For instance, we use this Thesis Statement Rubric and example sheet with 8th, 9th, and possibly 10th grade students. After that time, it is rare that the students will see the rubric since they are likely to have become literate at what constitutes a good thesis statement. For the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students, we begin to incorporate statistics, infographic, annotated bibliography rubrics, etc.

Here is our Thesis Statement Rubric along with a form that students use to grade example Thesis Statements against the rubric to not only see how they “add up” but also how a thesis statement can progress during the drafting stages.

Thesis Statement Rubric

Thesis Statement Examples to Compare Against Rubric

Other Rubrics in the Skill-Specific Research Rubrics Series:
Outline Rubric
Infographic Rubric
Statistics Rubric

Image, courtesy of:

.B, Paul. “1.February.2012.” Flickr. Yahoo, 1 Feb. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.



Social Media Research: Pre-Research Discussions

I recently took a course via New York Center for Teacher Development called Questioning Techniques to Meet Common Core Standards.  The course was really useful in many ways! The following slideshow is the result of one of the assignments that I was given. In it, I discuss prepping students for using Social Media during research. Use whatever is helpful to you!

Citation Generators: A comparison

I regularly like to compare the product our school has chosen with other products out there. I teach our students to use citation generators and feel that using such tools help them focus more of their time upon the research concepts and writing. In this slideshow, I compared the generated citations from EasyBib and NoodleTools with the citations modeled within Purdue OWL. I hope this helps you consider which resource is best for your school or your personal research. You will want to view the slides in full screen view or link out to SlideShare.

Teacher Feature: Ken Ehrmann’s Flipped Classroom

The following interview was conducted with Ken Ehrmann, 5th Grade teacher in Pennridge School District, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Ken is known for his work “flipping the classroom” and hosts a YouTube Channel dedicated to the flipped classroom.  Ken often trains teachers on elements of the flipped classroom, using his expertise to guide them as they embark on their own efforts to change the classroom environment for students.

Ken submitted a quick introduction video to himself and his classroom.

When a person hears the term flipped classroom, what might come to mind is the teacher asking students to watch videos or respond to articles as homework assignments; would you agree with the accuracy of this perception?

Yes, that is a very basic description of a flipped classroom.  However, it is too concise.  If you were to define a direct instruction classroom saying “a teacher that presents to the students and student write notes” would only define one type of classroom.  Direct instruction classrooms can involve students acting, students using manipulatives, kinesthetic instructions, etc.

A flipped classroom can be so much more than just watching videos, reading articles and responding.

How would you describe your flipped classroom?

I would describe my flipped classroom as a room where students feel empowered, engaged, and involved on a daily basis.  My students feel empowered to learn in the comfort of their own pace.  They feel engaged in the lesson more than they ever were during whole class instruction.  They are engaged in more team and independent tasks.  They are involved in hands on learning each day they come to class.

Thinking back to your pre-flipped classroom, what are the major ways that your classroom has evolved?

The biggest way my class has evolved is allowing for more small group instruction, remediation, and enrichment.  The students are “working” 90% of the time they are here, where before it may have ranged from 30% – 60% where instruction took a bulk of class.  They are applying the concepts they learn versus listening to concepts.

Are there milder (less-apparent or less-radical) changes to the classroom that are, ultimately, as important?

One mild change that doesn’t occur often, but is great when we do it, is discovery learning.  There are opportunities where students can figure out new concepts in math.  I have always done this type of instruction.  In the past we had 10 minutes of introduction, 20 minutes of exploring, 20 minutes of reviewing and seeing the new skill.

Now, we have 10 minutes of introduction and 40 minutes of exploring.  When they go home, they see the lesson to confirm what they discovered or see the pieces they were missing.  I had so many more students discover it on their own, and overall everyone more enthusiastic to see the new skill.

What tenets are important for teachers who are learning how to flip to keep in the forefront of their thoughts?

When we teach traditionally we don’t speak with perfect grammar, we can stutter sentences at times, and overall do an imperfect job but still deliver the content successfully.  Flipping is the same.  Your videos are not Oscar winning performances, your screencasts don’t have to flow perfectly.  Know what your goal is and deliver it.  It is hard as a teacher, but DON’T be a perfectionist.

Mistakes are okay, things may go wrong, and it is okay.  I have actually sent home a division lesson for my class, successfully taught the process but got the wrong answer! My students asked about it, they were right, and we started class by figuring out “how do you check division?”

Must someone fully flip?

Absolutely not!  Unless you have a lot of personal time to dedicate to a fully flipped program I would recommend against it.  Start at an appropriate pace for you.  One lesson per month, per unit, per week, whatever works for you.

We live in a busy world.  Students are kept busy at night with goals of physical activity, social growth, jobs or volunteerism, etc.  Does flipping add a time constraint to their already hectic evening schedules?

Flipped classroom homework eases the anxiousness of time for your homework.  When you send home a worksheet students don’t know how long it will take, how well they will do, and if they need parental help.

When you send home a video the students move their mouse to the bottom of the video, see the total time and know they are done then.  They may add more time by rewinding and pausing, but not much.

Additionally, you should try to keep your lessons between 2-8 minutes.  I would highly recommend never going over 10.  If your lessons are consistently long students will stop doing the homework.

What are your favorite aspects of the flipped classroom?

The flexibility and time.  I still come upon a new reason I love it, but it is all based on flexibility and additional time.  Extra time for discovery learning, extra time for small group learning, extra time for projects, extra time for great discussion.

Flipping your classroom literally give you more time.

What are your students’ favorite aspects of the flipped classroom?

I turned to my students for this one.  I asked them, “write a word, phrase, or sentence about being a student in a flipped classroom.”  Here is what I got:

One student: It’s not my way of learning.

A majority of students had responses including: I love it, I think it is awesome!, I love being able to pause, rewind, and rewatch!

One student: “I think it is about responsibility”

Ken will be presenting on Monday 2/22/16 at the Pete&C Conference in Hershey, PA

To contact Ken for any Professional Development needs, follow any of these routes:

email: kennethjehrmann@verizon.net

Phone: 215-499-6934

Twitter: @KenEhrmann




Scholarly Journal Articles in High School


Print journals may be dead, but these articles are not!

Scholarly journal articles are long… Scholarly journal articles are filled with career-specific jargon… Scholarly journal articles are intimidating.


Scholarly journal articles are filled with findings from detail specific research… Scholarly journal articles have information which can support many additional research areas… Scholarly journal articles provide much deeper concepts to consider than popular magazines.

So, as high school teachers, we should:

  • direct students towards finding and using these articles
  • provide guidance to students in using them most effectively
  • reduce the superfluous effort students may put towards reading the article in its entirety
  • essentially, work towards keeping students from running away from these articles and help them begin to use the expert information within to support the inquiry process that they have designed, through their thesis statement and outlines.

Additionally, as high school teachers, we should recognize that certain field-specific scholarly journal articles are formatted in a more narrative way, while others are easier to use and deconstruct for students. At our school, we found this was true while our juniors were doing Truman research. We had chosen, within our research scope and sequence, to introduce students to scholarly journal articles in 11th grade. Where this was mainly happening was in the social studies class. The articles students were using were formatted in narrative designs. As a result, students were not seeing the formats that were easier to use.

So, we began to offer more guidance within junior English classes (where students were likely to receive article results that were written with section headings, etc.).  This graphic organizer was designed to help guide students in using the articles to determine what was and was not useful to them and their research (and not feel as if they have to read the article top to bottom)

Good luck introducing these to your students and helping them to use the articles effectively!

image citation:

Clede, Jonathan. “Scholarly Journal.” Flickr. Yahoo, 8 July 2006. Web. 6 Jan. 2016. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/duststorm/187826783&gt;.


Using Interlibrary Loan Services to Support ELL Populations


A few years ago, I sat in on Dr. Cathi Fuhrman’s session at PSLA on providing ELL students with materials written in their native language.  Here is a link to Dr. Fuhrman’s presentation

The important points that I took away were:

  • reading in a native (primary) language promotes reading achievement in multiple languages.
  • it is vital that libraries are welcoming and proactively support students who have a primary language (which is not English) by purchasing and/or accessing books for the students written in their primary language.
  • ideally the librarian may seek out special funding or grants (or set aside their own budget money) in order to develop a collection that addresses varied interests, genres, and reading levels.
  • This brings about the limitations, specifically budget limitations (especially for a population which may be ever changing and evolving)

I came back and purchased some titles in Spanish and then we had a new student from a non-Spanish and non-English speaking country and suddenly I had nothing…

This leads me to a very special day of training last spring on the new interlibrary loan platform in Pennsylvania. I was tinkering around in the “sandbox” (why do I hate that term?) and I became obsessed with the concept that we could now access books via interlibrary loan to support our native speakers of non-English languages.

So, here is how to do it using Access Pennsylvania’s new platform:

  1. Enter a specific title or a more broad keyword (i.e. fiction) – Your choice!
  2. Hit the enter key
  3. DON’T hit Advanced (unless you desire typing in your keyword, yet again)
  4. Instead, hit Modify Search
  5. Select the Languages tab
  6. Select the dropdown bar for languages
  7. Check the language(s) that you desire to access
  8. Hit Search
  9. Narrow by subject, as needed

Now, you are ready to request books written in multiple languages via Pennsylvania’s interlibrary loan database!  Remember that it is so important that each student or patron feels valued, welcomed, and understood.  You have the keys to help this very pivotal transition in your students’ or patrons’ lives.  Good luck!

image citation:

Brown, Elliot. “Selly Oak Park – sign – Shared paths – Please Slow Down & Keep Left.” Flickr. Yahoo, 13 June 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.