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Literary Food Truck Festivals: The Photo Tour


Sometimes it takes a creative twist on analysis to get students excited about diving deep with books. Something unusual, like a literary food truck festival.

I've heard from so many creative teachers about their success with the project since I first wrote the post "How to Host a Literary Food Truck Festival."

Having students create novel-based food trucks following independent reading or literature circles, it seems, is just what I hoped - a fun, creative way to explore the the text, making clear connections between the details of the truck's menu, social media, playlist, and appearance, and the book or character it represents. 

Sometimes, before diving into a project like this, it helps to see some examples. To see how other teachers and students have made it a success. So I asked some of the wonderful teachers who have shared their photos with me if I could share them with you. 

As you browse the photos, you'll get a chance to see how kids set up their projects and their food, what their displays look like, and their festival locations. Hopefully this will give you inspiration as you set up the project with your students, as well as giving you models to share with your students before they begin designing their food trucks. 

By the way,  I'm happy to share the curriculum for this project with you as a gift. Just pop in your name and email below and I'll send it right away. You'll also get emails from me most Fridays with blog posts, podcasts, and resources that might be helpful to you on your creative teaching journey. 


Now let's take a little tour of the beautiful food trucks students have been creating around the country over the last couple of years. 

Food Trucks by the students of Miss Medrano and Miss Vaerla, helped and supported by Librarian Amy Marquez (Collegiate High School)

I love the way these food trucks have been set up in the school library, on round tables covered in solid colored tablecloths. It gives the festival a beautiful, cohesive feel as the community wanders between displays. And I LOVE that it's in a public school space, so more people can be part of the experience. These students and their guides have done an amazingly professional job with every part of this literary food truck festival. 






Food Truck by the students of Traci Manieri (Haynes Academy)

Here's a look at a food truck project that lays flat, and it's still beautiful and full of information. Long rectangular tables are working well at this one, with room for kids to sit and talk to visitors as well as eat the food they've picked up at their festival. 



Food Trucks by the students of Gina Knight Hess

I love the sign on the white board welcoming everyone into this festival. And the full-sized play food truck that kids can actually sit in is incredible. This is a look at a festival hosted with pizzazz in a classroom, with kids on the younger end. 





Food Trucks by the students of Brie Harrison

It's fun to see all these different types of displays for the same book - they showcase student creativity in lots of different ways. If you're in warm weather, these photos suggest that an outdoor festival could be lovely.





Food Trucks by the students of Lisa Buckner

How colorful and fun are these pictures? I love the variety of display, the costume one student chose to wear, and all the homemade food! 




Food Trucks by the students of Bernie Tovar-Valenzuela

There are a lot of great things about this festival, but I especially want to point out the detail of the supporting materials, including an Instagram page, a closeup of the uniform truck servers would wear, a profile page for the staff, a playlist, etc. These little details are where students can be creative in making clear connections to the text. I also like seeing students filling out response cards on each other's work, an important part of keeping everyone on task during the festival.




Ready to go launch a food truck festival of your own? I can't wait to hear it! Please tag me on Instagram @nowsparkcreativity when you post your photos.

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers who shared the pictures in this post!

Too busy to plan your festival right now? Pin this idea for later! 

083: Engage your Snapchatters with Booksnaps, featuring Tara Martin



Are your students as obsessed with Snapchat as the ones at my school? While I know I just seem out-of-touch when I question it's validity to them, I can't help but wonder what good it does for them to take so many thousands of pictures of themselves.

Enter, Tara Martin, education leader and creative Snapchat-spinner. She's taken students' love of the snap and spun it into a worldwide phenomenon that helps students connect to books, creating a new 21st century form of annotation in the process. Today we're talking about how she came up with the concept of booksnaps, how to use them in the classroom, and why they work so well for students today.

You can listen to our conversation on the podcast player below or on Apple PodcastsBlubrry, Spotify, or Stitcher. And/or, you can read on for the highlights.

Simplify your Creative Lesson Planning


Do you find your teaching ideas come from EVERYWHERE? Instagram, blogs, podcasts, radio shows, trips to the grocery store? I hear you.

It can be hard to keep track of all the great ideas. Pretty soon you've got sticky notes everywhere, text messages to yourself, a desktop folder full of Facebook screenshots, saved posts a mile long on social media, and of course, that mental to-do list that fires up at 11 pm on Sunday nights when you're trying to go to sleep!

It was with all this in mind that I created The Ed Deck this year. I wanted to find a way to keep creative ideas for class front and center during lesson planning. Because wouldn't it be nice to have all the wonderful concepts you've discovered in your career right beside you as you plan out a unit or just a single class for the next day? That way you don't end up losing sight of your innovative ideas and falling back on your standard choices.

The Ed Deck makes it easy to keep beautiful ideas beautifully present. It's a set of lesson planning idea cards, made to be enjoyed. They look like this:


I've made you an editable blank set you can use free to create your own deck, and I've made a deck that you can buy over on TPT. I'm pretty excited about both.

Connect to your Students as 2020 Begins


A new decade begins tomorrow. I think I speak for us both when I say "Holey moley!'

Whether you're an all-in New Year's resolutions kind of person and have already filled your fridge with green smoothie ingredients and your new planner with cute color-coded stickers illuminating your goals and dreams for the new year, or you subscribe to the chill, "New Year, Same Me" philosophy, the return from this mid-year break can be a nice time to reconnect with your students and relaunch in your classroom to level up for the rest of the year. 

Because let's face it, January and February aren't necessarily the most naturally fun months of the year (at least in my climate - hello, endless days of grayish sleety sludge and muddy feet). But they can be beautiful days of connection and progress in the cozy creative atmosphere of your classroom. 

Here are some of my favorite ideas for reconnecting with your students and starting 2020 off with a virtual leap. 

5 Innovative ELA Electives



There are so many reasons to love teaching electives. You get to craft an experience that you believe will engage students and make a difference in the direction of their education, their future. You get to share aspects of your field that you care most about. You get to work with students who choose you and your topic, always a plus.

If you get the chance to propose a new elective at your school, the prospect can be both exciting and overwhelming. Out of allllll the possibilities out there, what should you focus on? True crime podcasts? International literature in translation? #Ownvoices YA and why it matters? Puppet theater across the world? Hmmm, these are just supposed to be my opening examples, but I'm starting to want to build syllabi for them. OK, I really must move on to the actual list of five ideas I wanted to share with you today.

081: Empowering Students with Project-Based Learning



Project-based learning is one of the most powerful creative strategies available to teachers. It's the triple chocolate layer cake with strawberry cream of the education bakery.

But there's not an easy and exact road map for putting it into action. Every group of kids is different. Every school structure. Every teacher.

Ideally, a project-based-learning unit will fit the school structure, the teacher, and the kids well. It'll lead to a real-world learning experience that makes a difference in your students' lives. But of course, there will be bumps along the way. You'll have to figure out how to structure your projects, how to tap into your students' gifts and motivation, and how to keep track of it all.

Will it be worth it though? YES.

In this episode of the podcast, we're learning with Marynn Dause and Cathleen Beachboard, English teachers and authors of a new book, 10 Keys to Student Empowerment: Unlocking the Hero in Each Child. 

Celebrating Voices from Indigenous Nations in our ELA Classrooms


Think back to the way indigenous people were represented to you when you were a kid. Maybe you watched Pocahantas and Peter Pan, digesting the Disney version of American Indians without question. Maybe someone you knew loved the Cleveland Indians and cheered for Chief Wahoo, their mascot. Maybe you celebrated Columbus Day without a second thought. Maybe you had a headdress in your costume closet that someone gifted you.

Probably your education didn't teach you to question any of that. You might have learned briefly about the relocation of Native peoples, skimming over the accompanying genocide. Perhaps a teacher or two guided you in creating Pilgrim hats and feathered headbands for a beautiful "reenactment" of a Thanksgiving feast that never really happened.

Today, we can do better. We know more. We are empowered to make a difference in the crisis of how the Indigenous nations of the Americas are viewed and talked about. We can help fight stereotyping and misinformation by including many voices from native Nations in our curriculum.

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