Welcome Back to School!

Welcome back to school!

Martin Luther King Jr. once observed that, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of education.”

As King implies, intelligence without character is limited. However, when the two are combined, students are prepared to make valuable contributions to their school and community. This is why we established a set of expectations that reflect both intelligence and character.  This list gives students a set of traits to which to aspire, which go beyond merely obeying school rules.

In short, they ask students to work hard, set goals, arrive to class prepared and dressed appropriately, and to reach out to others to help build a productive community.  They balance the traits required to be successful in the classroom and to work well with others beyond it.

Beyond these expectations, we have also created a Periodic Table of 24 Character Strengths, and identified students whose intelligence and character embody five of the 24 strengths. These traits are: courage, creativity, curiosity, perseverance and social responsibility. When students return to school this year, they will see the students whose intelligence and character reveal these traits displayed on posters in the hallway.

Like the expectations, the character strengths are meant to be aspirational and set expectations beyond merely following the rules. They are also helpful as a tool to reflect on personal strengths and weaknesses and to identify areas where additional work is needed. More resources are available at: http://www.letitripple.org/character

We believe that setting positive expectations beyond the minimum and striving for them will enable us all to be part of a learning community, which cultivates excellence, and earns the respect of others.

Perhaps Albert Einstein summed up this idea best when he entreated us to “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” The value of which Einstein speaks arises when we help students become individuals whose successes will contribute value to causes beyond themselves.

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Project Based Learning

Below you will find information, links, and other resources to walk you through the process of completing a problem-solution inquiry project.  Throughout the project, you will have an opportunity to choose a topic you are passionate about, identify the challenge, discuss potential solutions, and then offer your own best solution.

Stage 1: Task Identification 

To start, we will use a prompt to structure your problem-solution response. The prompt is pictured below. While you won’t be writing an essay, this prompt contains verbal cues for structuring your response. See if you can identify the key parts of the prompt as they would be reflected in the structure of your answer to it.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 9.06.56 AM

Now, take a moment to watch the following YouTube clip about how thinkers structure information. As you are watching, think about how the parts of the prompt above might be structured to make them memorable and to give your answer clarity:

Consider the question again: How might the prompt pictured above be turned into a structure that would allow you to answer the question.  Visualizing a model for your answer will help in the later stages of this project. For now, let’s look at a one student’s project from a few years ago. As you look at the presentation, consider how her arrangement of content matches the prompt and the information you learned in the video.

You can also watch my own project, which addresses the problem of not having enough time to get everything done during the day, here:

And see a sample script for the screencast HERE. The screencast model above, and the script are meant to be examples of something you might produce when planning your project. However, you should choose methods and technologies, which best fit your topic and information.

Stage 2: Initial Inquiry and Proposal

Now that we identified the structure of the project, and looked at a student model, it is time to choose a topic and propose it to the class. To do so, visit the initial inquiry document, which contains a visual on how to test sources for credibility, and gives you a brief list of links to sites, which contain collections of potential topics.

After you have selected a topic, enter your name, a topic, and a brief overview with a source in the Class Topics and Description document. Once all students have submitted their proposed topic, and the class has reviewed the list, you may choose to form research teams to investigate a problem of similar interest to the group.

Please be prepared to share your topic and description with the class in 2-3 minutes.  This will allow your peers to offer suggestions, to ask questions, and to help you narrow and refine your topic, if needed. This will be the last step before conducting more sustained research on your topic.

Stage 3: Sustained Inquiry and Content Curation 

The next step in the project will be the most time consuming and take the most evaluation and organization. To help you collect information from the web, including text, images, videos, and other media, we are going to use deli.cio.us, a social bookmarking tool, which will allow you to bookmark pages, share with your group members and make notes about how the sources relate.

You will also be able to share your bookmarks with me, which will be part of the final assessment of the project. If you are unfamiliar with deli.ci0.us, here is a quick clip on how to use it. While the video is a few years old, it gives a clear explanation of the key features in “Plain English.”

Stage 4: Planning and Composition

By the time you reach Stage 4, you should have a collection of source material and notes to use in creating your final product, which will share your findings with the rest of the class through a hypermedia composition (more on that below).

Before jumping into the final product, some planning is necessary. To map how you will present your information, you are invited to create a visual map or model of your project, including where key information will be shared, and how it will interrelate.  This is kind of like a graphic organizer–here’s an example of one. You may use this simple version as a foundation on which to base your own visual map of the project, but you are encouraged to use a web-app or Google Tool to create a mental map, which will allow you to link sources and media within the planning space. This can then be incorporated into your final product, if there is a natural place for it.

To get started thinking about how to spatially relate information, it may be helpful to take a brief look at Gerald Graff’s templates for writers, a source, which gives you the connecting langauge to bring sources into conversation with one another and with your own point of view, a key to being successful on this project.

There are several options for creating a visual model of your project, including Google Drawings (accessible through ASD Google Tools), Easel.lyPiktochart, and others, including a storyboard tool. For the online apps outside of Google Drawings, there are several excellent video tutorials on YouTube. Many of you have used Easel.ly already, which is a good choice, but not mandatory.

Stage 5: Synthesis and Presentation

It is now time to use your plan to create a hypermedia product, which will present your problem and solution to the class. You may choose to create a presentation, podcast, infographic/multimedia poster, digital timeline, short film, a website, or some other product that allows you to align different forms of media in a structured way to inform your peer audience and teacher.

Above all, think about which kind of product will best represent your ideas. The technology should enhance the work you have already completed.

When you have completed your hypermedia product you will present it to the class. This can be done by talking us through an infographic, poster, or presentation, hitting play if you have made a short film, podcast or video log, or navigating through a website to present your information. As you present, your peers will be invited to give you feedback using the following format. This feedback will be given to you when your presentation is over.

We will use the Bless-Address options as a whole class. You may choose to use the two page document linked above as a revision checklist before finalizing your product. This two-part structure will be provided on paper for each project in your class, collected after completion, and given to the presenting group at the end of the class to aid them in their own self-evaluation.

Stage 6: Evaluation and Reflection

After your presentation, you should have received Bless-Address feedback from your classmates. Take a few moments as a group or individual to review peer feedback and to see if you spot any patterns in the feedback. Consider how your own impression of the project is similar or different to your audience’s.

Finally, use the following rubric to rate your product and process. If you completed the project in a group, I will need one product evaluation (page one) and a process evaluation (page two) from each group member.

These evaluations will help me assess your work using the same rubric.  You can expect me to fill out the product side of the rubric and to respond in writing to your process commentary.  Although I will have monitored the process and assigned points along the way, I am interested in your point of view and reflection, and how to imrprove the inquiry project as a whole the next time I go through the process with students.

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Online Learning Tool

Content Area: High School Language Arts (Composition)

Relevant ISTE Standards for Students (2016)

1(b): Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.

1(c): Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

3(a-d): Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

4(a): Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

6(b): Students create original works or responsibly re-purpose or remix digital resources into new creations.


We have been studying how authors use language to affect their audiences throughout the course.  One example of a non-traditional author is a comedian.  We intuitively know that comedians are funny, but when analyzing either written, visual, or spoken comedy, it is oftentimes difficult to explain why something is funny, which is essential to effective written rhetorical analysis.  This lesson’s aim is to familiarize you with humor theories, allow you to apply these principles to a comedy selection of your choice, and to help create group resources, which will eventually culminate in writing your own comedy piece.

Let’s get started

Build Background Knowledge:

  1. Watch Peter McGraw’s TED Talk, What Makes Things Funny? As you watch and listen to McGraw’s theory, make a list of his basic principles for determining if something is funny or not. You will apply these principles to a text later in this lesson, and also use his ideas along with those in #2 below.
  2. To supplement McGraw’s theory and to expand on your analysis tools, visit The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on HUMOR. Here you will find a linked table of contents to a wide array of theories.  Focus particularly on #2: Theories of Humor. While reading the overviews, sketch a visual framework which places these theories in relationship to one another and includes a one-sentence definition of each theory. Again, this is a chance to enhance your ability to analyze humor and eventually create your own humor piece.

Connect Humor Theory to Your Own Background Knowledge

  1. Visit this shared Humor Theory Examples Google Document, which is available to all class sections as an ongoing resource with peer models.  You may return to it as an evolving resource as you practice humor analysis. Next, choose a theory from the resources above or from additional research.  In the left hand column of the shared document, record your theory. In the middle column briefly summarize a humorous experience you have had (2-4 sentences) and in the right hand column explain why it fits the theory you chose (2-4 sentences). This exercise is meant to prepare you for analyzing humor under time pressure by applying the theories in relationship to your own background knowledge.

Application of Humor Theories to a Lengthier Analysis Task

  1. Page 3 of this sample released prompt from The Onion illustrates where humor theory will be helpful for analysis of satire.  We will use this prompt as a group paragraph writing assignment before you move on to write your own independent analysis of humor and then create your own humor piece. For now, record one piece of text evidence from any portion of the prompt and then write a 3-5 sentence analysis of how the humor relates to The Onion’s intended message. This will provide a contribution to the group writing assignment when we begin the formal paragraph.

Create Your Own Humor

  1. The final step in this lesson is to create a humorous product.  As you are aware, social media is permeated by visual humor in the form of memes.  After visiting the links above in order to familiarize yourself with humor theory, visit Meme Generator to create a visual, which uses one of the theories you have explored. When you are done either save your creation or take screenshot to upload to a shared Google Document. We will import all students’ visuals into a shared Slide show in Google Docs to use along with the short humor analysis resource you created above.  Both the short analysis and visual meme resources will be used  as a whole group and small group discussion tool to brainstorm and pre-write for your humorous written composition, which can be an extension of the ideas you developed in these resources throughout this lesson.
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Athletic Interest Survey


Please take a moment to complete this survey in order to inform the Anchorage School District of your degree of interest in various athletic programs. Your responses will be used to sustain or modify activities that are popular among students.


Thank you,

Mr. Almon

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Welcome Back!

It’s a new school year, and another opportunity to get a strong start at ERHS. Out of our common experience the common values of Community, Excellence, Respect are forged.

I welcome all students and teachers to help me identify our common experience, which gives rise to our common values, and allows us to build on our mission by identifying common language to define our highest aspirations and expectations based on what all students and teachers are willing to do achieve and continuously improve.Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.11.34 PM

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Have a Great Summer!

Photo May 31, 12 22 27 PM

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AP Language Final Evaluation 2014-15

My People!

I’ve just finished grading your final projects this morning, and it is readily evident that everyone has made noticeable progress in their reading and writing this year. It has been exciting to push you, and to watch you grow as a result.

Every year I collect feedback from students in order to better adapt the course to students’ needs. This is your chance to make constructive suggestions. And though I won’t be teaching the class next year, I will read your feedback and distill it for my successor.

Thanks in advance. Onward!

Mr. Almon


  • Copy & Paste the  questions below to a Google document.
  • Title the document: “Course Evaluation + your last name”
  • Share the document with me: Almon_Luke@asdk12.net
  • Answer the questions using detail from the class assignments and activities to support your suggestions.

More Directions & The Questions:

Please bold the questions in your Google document; then use regular font to answer so there is a visual difference. Use 1.15 spaced, 12 point Times New Roman, or other font with serifs, to ease reading.

  1. Which aspects of the class do you believe led to the most growth in your own reading and writing ability? What adjustments would you make to make them even stronger?
  2. Which aspects of the class do you think need adjustment or improvement?  Consider units/themes/content that could be adjusted, added, or emphasized more to lead to more growth in your reading and writing ability.
  3. Considering your answers to #’s 1 & 2: Do you believe the course adequately prepared you for the AP Exam, and more importantly, for future English & writing courses? Explain!
  4. Think for a moment about your reading and writing ability when you entered the class in August of 2014, and those same abilities today. Can you tell a noticeable difference in your overall reading & writing ability? How has your approach to these common school related tasks changed as a result? Explain!
  5. Any feedback/comments that did not fit neatly into the categories above can be left here. This might include how the units & content of the course were presented, the final projects, use of blogs, or other overall content/sequence concerns.
  6. Any other thoughts or comments for the good of the cause?
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