The Lightning Thief EL Unit


This year I’ve been working at a charter school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn as a 6th grade reading teacher. For the most part I find it very challenging, but there are moments where I just sit back and take pride in the work that the students have done (that I helped them facilitate.)

I think it’s important to blog about your curriculum as a teacher. We are expected to do the EL (Expeditionary Learning) ELA 6th grade curriculum. The first unit of the year is Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Below I share how the unit went with my students, and I’m sharing the projects we did.

Image Matching Do Nows

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Here I link to a folder that has chapters of the book and the images that I included in a Do Now. These Do Nows were meant to get the students engaged in the lesson within a few minutes of class starting. Sometimes we would spend half of class going over these. (Not the plan…)

“Myth Project” 

Near the end of the unit EL wants you to read three additional myth stories with the kids. I found the myths were rather difficult, so I modified the texts for the kids. I don’t remember what EL wanted us to do with the texts, but I had kids work in partners to read one of the three myths and then teach the class about their myth. Students had to write the main idea of the myth, define unfamiliar words, and connect their myth to a key element of mythology. This is a good project if you have students with access to Chromebooks. Packet can be found here. 


“Hero Story”

EL has the students write their own hero story as the performance task for the unit. I created a Hero Story Packet and let the students write their story on the Chromebooks. This project gives students the opportunity to learn/practice working with a narrative story arch. When the students were done writing their stories they did a story share and walked around the classroom reading each other’s stories and leaving comments.


Boys leaving comments for each other on their work.

Video of a student sharing their story


Places I like in Jackson Heights

I moved to Jackson Heights in July of 2015 and I lived there for about nine months, until May of this year. It was my first time renting an apartment alone and I chose Jackson Heights because I was able to move into a cute studio apartment that was a decent size and a price I could afford. Jackson Heights has a few perks- the Roosevelt Ave. subway station has access to five different trains, including the express F and E trains. It’s a pretty self sustaining neighborhood- there are grocery stores, restaurants, laundromats, pet stores and even a dog groomer. It’s very diverse. One of the most diverse areas I’ve been to in NYC. Although Roosevelt Ave is rather disgusting and always crazy busy, the neighborhood is safe.

All of that aside, I didn’t particularly enjoy my time in Jackson Heights. But I did want to highlight a few places in the neighborhood that were all very close to my apartment that I really loved. If you are ever in Jackson Heights, you should be sure to stop by one of these places!

  1. Lockwood – 77-13 37th Ave.

    Lockwood is my favorite little gift store. The first one opened in Astoria, but they opened one in Jackson Heights this past fall. Thank goodness. I have bought an unreasonable amount of candles and cards here. They also have a variety of really cute Queens souvenirs. I love this store so much, it is by far my favorite place in Jackson Heights!


  2. Table Wine – 79-14 37th Ave

    An adorable wine store with a friendly staff and nice atmosphere. The wine on the center table is always cheaper than $15.00 per bottle, but delicious just the same.

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  3. Espresso 77 -35-57 77th Street

    This coffee shop recently renovated and now it looks really nice inside. Local artwork is hanging throughout the store. In addition to coffee and tea drinks there is also a selection of beer and wine. If I wanted to grab a drink with a friend in Jackson Heights, this would probably be my go-to location.


  4. Kitchen 79 – 37-70 79th St

    This thai restaurant has good food and a great lunch special. The inside is clean and renovated and the staff is friendly. I lived across the street from this restaurant and it’s the one place in Jackson Heights I would take people to go out to eat.


I didn’t embrace many of the things Jackson Heights is best known for while living there. That includes Columbian food (I admit that I just never tried it), and Indian food, most famously, Jackson Diner (which in my opinion is nothing to write home about.) I was never able to fully embrace Jackson Heights, but I did embrace these few locations listed above. Be sure to check them out if you’re ever in the neighborhood!

“It’s about the work”

If you follow Humans of New York then you’ve probably heard the pretty amazing story of a boy named Vidal, who met the HONY photographer Brandon Stanton on the street one day in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Vidal claimed that the most influential person in his life was his principal, Ms. Lopez. See the original post here. Since this first post was published Vidal’s school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy, has raised over a million dollars in donations from people across the world. Ms. Lopez, Vidal and Brandon have been featured on Good Morning America, Ellen, and they even took a trip to the White House to meet President Obama.

Brandon documented the White House trip on the HONY Facebook page. In this post Obama was asked “When is the time you felt most broken?” I really liked the response…

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.

I really like the last part of that quote. Don’t worry about whether you’re succeeding, just focus on the work. Obviously you should focus a little bit on whether or not you are being appreciated, but often times I get worried about whether or not I’m in the right place or doing the right thing. I can worry about that forever but it would do me no good. Ever since I saw this original post about a month ago Obama’s advice has stuck with me. I’ve been focusing on doing good work, whether that be at my job, in grad school or just in general. It’s helped me feel better about where I am and who I am.

Women’s gymnastics, a history lesson (And being haunted by the story of Elena Mukhina)

Two weekends ago I got sucked into watching women’s gymnastics videos on Youtube. I do this occasionally, but that weekend it was really bad. I spent hours watching videos. I have never taken gymnastics classes or lessons and I have absolutely no expertise in the sport. But I find it utterly fascinating, more than any other sport. I guess it’s the mix of talent, athleticism, but also emotions. 

In the process I learned about Věra Čáslavská the Czech gymnast that dominated in the 1960’s. I really like what her floor exercise looks like. The 1960’s had some really good looking routines. It was before gymnasts starting adding dangerous moves with lots of flips, so the routines just look impressive but not insane. I like this floor routine a lot:

You can watch her other routines as well, they are all good and highly entertaining. She makes the sport look really fun. 

Olga Korbut is a Russian gymnast who won floor and balance beam gold medal in the 1972 Olympics. But I think she was especially amazing on uneven bars. The Korbut flip is her famous move (and now banned on uneven bars.) Check out her Korbut flip at the 1972 Olympics. It happens right after she stands up on the top uneven bar:


I also learned about Elena Mukhina, the world champion in 1978. She was a promising champion Russian gymnast at a time right after Romania’s Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10 at the 1976 Olympics. Russia, typically an women’s gymnastics powerhouse, was determined to have an all-around gymnast victory in the 1980 Olympics. Mukhina was one of their promising stars.

The compilation video of her all-around championship routines from the 1978 Worlds is impressive. You may notice on her uneven bar routine she does the Korbut flip with a twist added to it. 


But her story after this is extremely tragic. She broke her leg in 1979 and was not able to fully recover from the injury before training for the 1980 Olympics. She was also pressured to learn extremely difficult tumbling moves like the Thomas Salto, which typically had only been done by men (who are able to gain more height on their jumps.) During a practice only two weeks before the Olympics, she landed on her chin, broke her neck and was a quadriplegic for the rest of her life until her death in 2006. This story seriously haunted me for a few days after learning about it. She was only 20 years old when this happened to her. She was even born on the exact same day as my Dad. 

I just wanted to share a few of these stories because I found them very interesting. Gymnastics is a beautiful sport. I think the pressure that world gymnasts face is much too intense, but you can’t deny that it is an amazing example of human athleticism. 

Is your life really awesome, or does it just look like that on social media?

There has been some increased attention lately to the fact that everyone tries to make their life seem more awesome on social media. Some of us may be lying outright (like this viral video that came out in June) but I think most of us are consciously choosing to show only the best parts of our life.


I don’t think there is anything wrong with that per-se. What can become a problem is when you start feeling bad about yourself because you believe that everyone else on social media is living a better life than you. Because that’s probably not true. 

That person who just posted photos of their awesome vacation also hates their job and lives in a terrible apartment with 3 terrible roommates. That person who went on a beautiful outdoor hike just spent all of today watching Netflix. Not everyone who’s engaged will be happily married. And so-on.

The second thing to remember is that you can use social media as an excuse to start doing awesome things. One of my Facebook friends kept posting pictures of ceramics they were making and I was super jealous that they were using a potting wheel and making cool stuff. A few months later I was walking to Dunkin’ Donuts (which was not one of the things I chose to share on social media) and it turns out there’s a great pottery studio two blocks from my apartment! I signed up and now I am making my own cool stuff. So you can actually use the experiences of someone else as an excuse to jump start your own. 

And the third thing to remember is even things that looks good on social media may not actually be that good. Back to the ceramics example, I made my first mug in ceramics last week. All-in-all it came out pretty decent considering it’s one of the first things I’ve finished on the wheel and it’s the first time I made a handle. (Handles are actually much easier to make than they might look, but that’s getting off topic.)

When I brought it home yesterday and showed it to my boyfriend he was like “oh, that’s nice” but wasn’t super enthused. Then I took a picture of it with my phone, used some Instagram filter magic to spruce it up, and suddenly I have a slew of compliments on my mug. Way to boost my self-esteem! 

My mug on instagram, looking good!

My mug on instagram, looking good!

That picture I posted on Instagram is a much better looking mug than the real thing. My actual mug has some spots where the glaze is too thin. The mug is a little too short to be practical (my boyfriend said “it could be good for a small bowl of soup”) and it’s also pretty heavy. I won’t be drinking my morning coffee out of this thing any time soon. 

The actual mug, not as great.

The actual mug, not as great.

I’m using my mug (which I’m still proud of, regardless of its faults) as an example of how we can use social media to make our lives look better. And like I said before, I think that is fine to do. In my case, it’s a nice self-esteem boost to share things like this every once in a while. But it’s also important to remember that everyone is filtering their social media feeds, trying to make themselves appear happier and more successful than they actually feel on a day to day basis. 

So next time you peruse your Instagram feed or Facebook wall take time to enjoy reading about everyone else’s awesome life. But remember that social media is a heavily curated list of our life events and your life can be awesome too, regardless of how many likes and retweets you have. 

Adopting a dog in NYC

This year my boyfriend and I decided to move in together after my lease ended in July. We knew that we planned on getting a dog once we found a place, so during the apartment search we had to rule out all apartments that didn’t allow dogs. This ruled out over half the apartments we were looking at, and all of the ones that had dishwashers. sigh.

After we settled into our new place we started seriously looking for a dog in mid-September. We looked for dogs online, visited shelters and talked to local organizations almost daily during that month. After some persistence and patience, we found our dog at Animal Care and Control on October 27, 2013.  I wanted to list all of the resources we used to hunt to help for our dog, in hopes that it may help any other New Yorkers that are interested in adopting a pup soon.

Online Hunting:

Petfinder and Adoptapet are the two main sites online to find rescue dogs. They aggregate information from shelters and rescue organizations across the country. The best feature is that you can filter your search if you are interested in finding dogs of a specific breed, gender, age, shelter location, etc. You can even receive email notifications when a new dog matches a saved search filter you created.

While both sites work well, I applied for five dogs online and I only heard back from two organizations. Both organizations said they were swamped with applications for the dog I applied for. A lot of people use Petfinder and I think searching for dogs online is just too easy, especially in such a populated place like NYC. So if you find a perfect match on one of these websites keep in mind that the dog may be taken by the time your application is viewed.

Local organizations:

Animal Haven is located at 251 Centre St. between Broome and Grant. I know a few people who adopted a dog or cat from Animal Haven and had pleasant experiences. From what I’ve gathered, you find the animal you are interested in on their website and come into their store to meet the animal. Dogs cost $250 and puppies are $350.  Sam and I found a dog we liked on their website one afternoon but the dog had already been adopted by the time we got there that evening. To prevent that I assume you could call them to check to see if an animal is still available before you stop by. Animal Haven also has a cute store area where you can purchase dog and cat supplies and toys.

Foster Dogs NYC shares dogs associated with various rescue groups in NYC who needs foster homes or “forever” homes. While it’s called foster dogs, most of the dogs that are posted are also up for adoption. In October we were interested in one dog posted on the site. Within a few hours I had a response from Sara (the founder of Foster Dogs NYC) AND the rescue representative fostering the dog, letting me know someone else had already expressed interest. While that was a bummer, Sara asked me what dogs I was interested in and even followed up with another dog that became available a few days later. I was really impressed with how thoughtful she was and that she followed up with us.

Social Tees Animal Rescue is one of the organizations that Foster Dogs NYC works with. This fall they had adoption events each weekend at Petco (this may have changed but I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you where you can adopt or meet their dogs.) It appears that their most up to date channel is Facebook, and it’s important to stay up to date because sometimes they bring in bunch of puppies or a dogs that are in desperate need of a foster ASAP.

Badass Brooklyn Foster Dog takes dogs from kill shelters in the South and brings them up to NYC to find homes. They get new dogs all the time and they are really good about taking photos of the dogs and updating their Facebook page. They have a weekly adoption event on Saturday where you can meet all of the available dogs. They put a lot of effort into finding owners that would be good fits for the dogs. To even consider adopting a dog there is a rigorous adoption application process that includes a home visit and reference checks. After about a week and a home visit our application was approved. Once approved you can meet any dogs you’re interested in at their Saturday event in Williamsburg. If no one else has applied you can adopt the dog for $450. By the time we were approved we had already found our dog.


ASPCA We visited the ASPCA on East 92nd St. four times. You fill out a rather simple application on your first visit and they keep it on file for three months. Each time you visit a volunteer takes you on a tour of all available dogs. I liked the ASPCA a lot. The facility was clean and the volunteers were very honest with us. There were typically about 10 small dogs for us to look at so the visit was always worthwhile. The volunteers were also happy to direct us to other shelters in the area when we couldn’t find a good fit with them. Adoption fees from the ASPCA range from $75-200.

Humane Society of NY We visited the Human Society once on a Sunday morning. After waiting a few minutes we were able to speak with an adoption coordinator, however I’ve heard that some people had to wait much longer. We filled out a simple application and had a one-on-one discussion with the adoption coordinator, it felt kind of like an interview. They only had a small selection of dogs on the day we visited, but the adoption coordinator was helpful and honest with us.

Animal Care and Control This is where the majority of the cities stray and rescue dogs end up. As the title acknowledges, this isn’t just a shelter, it’s the place where animals go when they have no other option. We visited the on on 110th st three different times. It smells a bit like pee and is very bare bones, but you can walk right in meet any dog you’re interested in. Keep in mind- these dogs are often strays in a high stress environment, so they may not be looking or acting their best. After a simple application process you can walk out of there with a dog for $75 or less. (puppies are $150) This is a kill shelter, so they are very happy to help you bring an animal home. While it was the least glamorous place we visited, it was the place we eventually adopted our dog, and the process was seamless. On our third visit we walked out of there in less than an hour with a beautiful one year old Shih Tzu we named CC.

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CC and Sam right outside of Animal Care and Control on the day we took her home.

CC today, all cleaned up and happy!

The entire process took us about a month of constant vigilance. We experienced some rejection and disappointment along the way when dogs we loved were adopted, or when we visited three adoption places in one day without finding any dogs we were interested in. I can sympathize with people who consider getting a puppy from a pet store or breeder, especially when they have their heart set on a specific breed.

But I’m really happy we chose to adopt, and I feel confident that most people would feel the same way. It was fun to “wind up” with the perfect dog for us – I never pictured myself owning a small fluffy dog. The fact that we helped save a dogs life is just an added bonus  : )

I will end this post with three tips for finding a dog in NYC.

1. Looking at dogs in person is better than applying online. We were rejected every time we applied for dogs online. When we visited the ASPCA each time they showed us a great dog that “just came in” and was “sure to be adopted within a few hours.” These dogs never even had time to be posted online.

2. Be persistent. Follow these organizations and check daily for new dogs or upcoming adoption events- things change quickly. These organizations remember you if you keep visiting or applying for available dogs. They want to help you and will start to keep you in mind when a dog that’s a good fit comes along.

3. Don’t get discouraged! Every time a dog we were interested in was adopted, and every time we went to a shelter without any luck, Sam and I would be bummed. There are moments when you think you might never find the right dog! But after moments of despair we would think “it wasn’t meant to be. We’ll find our dog eventually and it will be a great fit.” We mostly said that to make ourselves feel better, but it actually turned out to be true.

If anyone has anything to add about adopting dogs in the city please leave a comment below. Every person has a different story and different suggestions. If you are looking to adopt a dog, best of luck! I’m sure you’ll find the perfect dog for you.

My thoughts on Lean In asking for unpaid interns

Yesterday there was an uproar over the fact that Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In editor posted an opening for an unpaid editorial intern.

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I’m not a fan of unpaid interns in general, so sure, I was slightly bothered by this. Just as I am slightly bothered by every single unpaid intern posting. Past that though, I think people overacted. And in cases like this guy “Marcus Gummibear” above, some people were down right abhorrent.

I guess people assume that Sheryl Sandberg should pay her interns, because she just sold 100 million dollars worth of Facebook stock and she is way wealthier than she probably knows what to do with. This completely ignores the issue that many multi-million and even multi-billion dollar companies hire unpaid interns.

I read Lean In this past spring and really enjoyed it. Sheryl Sandberg readily admits that she has had a lot of help during her career, whether that be growing up in a stable, economically sound home, or having connections after attending Harvard and working in high profile jobs. She isn’t trying to pretend that she is like everyone else in that sense. She relates to us because there have been times in her career where she questioned herself, was made to felt unequal by male colleagues, and struggled to understand what the proper ratio of parenting to working should be for her.

Her message is “lean in” because she wants women to feel like they have a right to sit at the same table as men, yet still have the opportunity to be mothers, wives and family members. This is what she wants us to relate to; and we can. She does not ask us to relate to her wealth, her success, or her way of life, because she knows most of us cannot.

People (and mostly women at that) love to hate on Sheryl Sandberg, especially after Lean In came out. This unpaid interns dilemma is just the most recent installment.

Please remember, if you have an issue with Sheryl Sandberg hiring an unpaid intern, than you need to look at the hundreds of multi-million dollar companies that hire unpaid interns and be just as upset.

Collaborative Tools Used at Work

I am currently taking a graduate course online called “Computers, problem solving, and cooperative learning.” We use collaborative tools to work together remotely, since we never have any in class sessions. We use a motley crew of sites to collaborate, including wiki’s and websites like flickr and; and our main tool for communication is the discussion forums on the education management platform, Blackboard. I find that our collaboration is very poor and the tools we use are not ideal for collaboration, which is pretty unfortunate given the title of the class.

It is also slightly frustrating to use these tools because I work at a company that allows employees to work remotely. We need collaborative online tools that allow remote employees to connect with the rest of us. I find the tools we use for work are much more effective than the ones we use in class, and if we started using these tools we might have an easier time communicating with each other.  Here are a few our favorite company-wide tools for collaboration. Most of these tools are free or almost free, and you’ve probably heard of all of them.

1. Gmail and Google Apps: Most collaborative documentation in our organization is shared via Google Docs, Slideshows or Spreadsheets. With Gmail for business you automatically have all of your companies employees as contacts when you first join with company. Google Calendar is also such an important tool for planning and keeping everyone connected.

2. Skype: If someone is working from home or working remotely when we have a scheduled meeting, we always Skype them in to the conversation. We have tried Google Hangouts, but we’ve had better luck with Skype.

3. Trello: To collaborate on a project you need to have some sort of  task manager. bitly is an online tool, so our boards have topics like, “Bugs” for problems with the site,  “Current Development” for things that are being worked on currently. Underneath the title are columns that represent different stages of the process, for example a “Next Up” column for things that are prioritized next in the production pipeline. This allows you to see what your coworkers are doing, and you can share the progress you have made on your projects.


4. HipChat: We use HipChat as our instant messaging service at work. I think having a group instant message service is key to strong communication. You can quickly grab someones attention when you need it, and for people who have desks far apart that may rarely talk to each other, it allows them to connect in an online chat room. HipChat is $2.00 per user per month, and free for teams of up to 5 users. You can also include a variety of emoticons and gifs, but that’s just a perk.

We try to use as few tools as possible to ensure each tool is actually used efficiently. What tools do you find useful for collaboration with others?

Last May

I graduated from college May 2011 and it is now July 2012. This past month has been weird because I’ve been saying “I graduated last May” for over a year… and just recently this became a false statement. I’m still a “recent” graduate, but not as recent as I used to be and it’s getting harder and harder to use that as a security blanket to hide behind when things aren’t going my way.

Friday was my last day at ShowMe, where I’ve worked since March and interned since the winter. I have one week off before I start a new job (I’ll talk more about it later) next Monday.

In the past year I’ve had 4 internships and 3 jobs, two of which were just to make $$. (Lifeguarding, Retail). I applied and was accepted to one Grad school that I’ll start attending part-time in September. I signed one lease for an apartment on the Upper West Side this past Thursday. I’ve met dozens of new people, some important, some not so much. I now actually have a few “connections” I met on my own.

When it comes to my family and friends I feel very comfortable, hardly nothing has changed in that department except I’ve gained a few new friends this year. I’m happy to say I’ve kept in good contact with my college friends and my friends from home too. My family is the same and even after living at home for a year after college they still like me and I still like them, haha.

Sometimes I can get so stressed out about career minded things. Am I working in a place I want to be? What will I do in the future? Am I working efficiently?  Can I please stay in the same place for longer than 4 months?! I’ll compare myself to other people. (you shouldn’t do it- but most people do) Sometimes I just have to take a step back and say- You know what? Things are good. They aren’t perfect but they never will be, and at 22 years old I’d say things are working out OK.


Volunteering for NY Creative Interns

Last month I decided I would start volunteering for NY Creative Interns. I found out about the organization right before I landed two internships this January. I went to one mixer and enjoyed myself. I wanted to keep attending the events, but I thought a volunteer position would actually allow me to grow closer to the community and I could offer my time instead of my money to go to the events. I’ve volunteered to blog (surprise, surprise) recaps of events that I attend. So far I’ve gone to two events and gained some writing publicity in the process!

Here I just wanted to share my two posts:

#RecentGradHustle: The Art of Hustle And Making Your Dreams a Reality!
The June 12th Skillshare class Hustle 101: Networking for Recent College Grads was a fun way to learn how to take advantage of opportunities around us by attending interesting events and connecting with awesome new people after graduation. Here are some key take-aways I had from our class on Tuesday.

Become an “Intrepreneur”: How to Make an Impact in Your Workplace 
On Wednesday June 7th at the NY Creative Interns June Mixer, Blair Cobb, AOL’s Senior Director of Cause Marketing, shared her inspiring story of creating great change in an already existing company when she began the Cause Marketing program at AOL in 2010.