Making Curriculum Pop

Yesterday, I made a post with the Comic "Did You Read? Quiz for folks to use in their 6 through college level classes. This quiz is one of many "higher-level" and fun reading assessments I've developed over time.

In response to that post I received an e-mail asking where I crib the dope fonts for my PDFs. This is a great MC POP resource question.

The first thing people need to know is that I lay out all these PDFs (The Lit Circles, Read with Your Pen, The Differentiation Checklist etc.) in MS Word. Tim Fagan - our old graphic designer turned rhythm guitarist for Colbie Caillat - did all the layout for the professional MB study guides and website using Adobe software. I have a basic understanding of the Adobe suite, but like driving a stick-shift, Adobe remains a bit beyond my ken.

For some of our MB presentations, when we weren't paying to license song lyrics and planning to go to a full layout, Tim taught me how to do solid design on MS Word. He called this kind of layout "cheat design" - I like to call it "design within reach." A couple fancy fonts, a few funky tables and a tweak of the margins goes a long way toward making your curriculum design pop. Since learning a few tips from Tim I've been able to rock cooler design in all my teaching, coaching and consulting work.

My favorite places to go free font hunting are and You can find free fonts there to suit almost every theme you can imagine. In fact, I was recently hunting for some Anglo-Saxon/Celtic fonts for Nicole's Beowulf unit - I checked the theme bank, clicked Celtic and - BOOM - you get a selection like this.

Good design is one simple way to communicate that your curriculum is going to have a bit more groove than the 12pt. Times New Roman assignment sheet.

As you're preparing to communicate with students during the new school year, it would be cool to hear more stories about your first days back. I know the NYC folks don't get the party started until after Labor Day, but I get the sense that a lot of folks have jumped back on the saddle this week.

Lots of people talk about establishing "routines" and "rituals during" the first weeks of school. If you add the word "rigor" to this list you have the three R's that drive me crazy. Why you ask? In short, routine and ritual make me think of factories and those creepy Opus Dei followers in the DaVinci Code who practice self-mutilation. I also think of going to the bathroom as both routine and ritual. Maybe these associations are the effects of going to a Catholic grammar school? I don't know.

I also can't stand "rigor" because people use this to refer to quantity instead of quality. Rigor is the kind of word that drives curricula a mile wide and an inch deep.

Because connotation and semantics matter, I prefer to talk about developing school and classroom cultures. The plural is the essential twist here. "Cultures" allows space for kids to develop multiple classroom cultures and makes the teacher less monolithic; you don't have to be THE purveyor of classroom culture.

Since all teachers seem to be armchair anthropologists and sociologists there are always a lot of interesting cultural events and observations made in the first weeks back to school. A response to yesterday's blog went like this:

I spent the morning at a department meeting where the push was for a book report format that only requires students to fill-in the blanks. I just wish I had gotten this one day sooner to help drive home the point that we don't need multiple pages of forms and the questions asked don't need to be boring and rote. I'm giving this a try the first day of school with my honors kids to check their understanding of the summer reading assignment!

Yes, sometimes in the first weeks of school are filled with culture clashes. In the worst cases we clash with students and adults like Carol Beer from Little Britain USA

While these two stories tend toward the frustrating side there are also lots of sunny, funny things happening during the first days back. It would be great to get some short dispatches from MC Poppers like the one above about the culture of your schools during what I (and mission control) like to call the "re-entry phase."

If you're able, please take a hot minute to share a quote, person, event or idea you found interesting, meaningful, funny or problematic in your first days back at school.

Look forward to hearing some fresh voices!

Good VIbes,


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