About bdonofrio

I taught high school English in Massachusetts for six years before moving to Florida where I taught middle school language arts for seven years. I taught in public schools, in a lock-up facility for juvenile boys, and in a Catholic school. My teaching has been included in the book Teacher to Teacher, Learning from Each Other by Eleanor Duckworth, who was one of my professors at Harvard Graduate School of Education. I write articles for local magazines and newspapers, either about education or parenting, and am slowly working on a couple of books. My husband and I have been married for 22 years, and we have four children.

Happy Birthday, Dearest William…

Hey Kids! (or, My Dearest Students,)

“Tis that time of year again when young students’ fancies lightly turn to thoughts of Shakespeare.  (For all you literary enthusiasts out there, that line is an allusion.  Can you figure out from where it comes?  Here is a clue: the author was also alluded to in The Wednesday Wars.)

For the record, this middle-aged teacher’s fancy also turns to thoughts of Shakespeare at this time of year.

Bard of Avon:  the Story of William Shakespeare Vernon Barford School via Compfight

A few of you may ask, why would our fancies turn to thoughts of Shakespeare at this time of year?  LOTS of you already know…

April is Shakespeare’s Birthday Month!  The 23rd of April to be somewhat precise (That phrase is an o_ _ _ _ _ _ _.  Do you know what literary device I’m referencing?  Do you know why it is an o_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ?).  And now the obvious question, why is the 23rd of April only somewhat precise?

To refresh our memories, or learn some new information, let’s watch and try the quiz and view this powerpoint about The Bard.

Aside from reading a few plays (abridged) penned by the Bard, we will learn to talk like Shakespeare, play some Shakespearean games, complete some activities and a passport from Shakespeare Week, and of course, celebrate Will’s b-day as they do in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shall we first visit the Birthplace and family homes of the Bard?  Of course, we shall!

Other great places to visit include the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and the The Globe Theater in London.


Shakespeare's Globe Trey Ratcliff via Compfight

In what way wouldst thou like to celebrate the birthday of the Bard?



NCEA, Here We Come!

Hey Kids!

On April 8th I have the opportunity to share two of my favorite joys: teaching and blogging!  As a presenter at the NCEA (National Catholic Educational Association) Convention, I will help other teachers learn how to blog.

I Helped Out! Enokson via Compfight

  Will you help me teach the teachers?


I need your input to show everyone how great blogging is.  As you read this post, think about your own experiences with blogging.  While you are reading and thinking, I’ll be sharing our class experiences.    I’ll start with a little powerpoint that explains why I began blogging in the first place.

Next up, I’m going to show this video which explains what blogging is.  Do you remember the first day you went into the computer lab and got your own blog?   How cool was that, right?

I’ll need to mention, of course, the importance of digital safety and the responsible use of technology.  Have you ever had a problem with inappropriate material on your blog?  Think about copyright use, too.

We are going to learn all the important blogging terminology so that the teachers can write fantastic posts.  We’ll be learning about embedding videos, adding widgets, creating avatars, and giving attribution, in addition to lots of other blogging skills.   All the best blogs use these concepts.  What are some of your favorite blogs out there?  As my kids know, we are great buddies with the kids and teacher (Ms. Smith) at Huzzah!, and I am sure we will take a trip to British Columbia, Canada, to visit them.  I would not be here at the NCEA Convention in Orlando, presenting to other teachers, without my BBB (Best Blogging Buddy) Ms. Smith.  Also, I would never even have begun my blogging journey had I not been inspired by third grade teacher Mrs. Yollis in California  and her blogging buddy Mrs. Kathleen Morris in Australia.

We love exploring blogs, reading about all the great learning that is going on in the world, writing quality comments, and connecting with other kids and teachers.   Reading posts from other classes really makes me feel as though I have discovered a “captain’s log” from a ship sailing in a distant land.  Or even perhaps from a  ship sailing in space; I often hear the voice of James T. Kirk in my head as I begin to read a new blog, “This is the captain’s log…”  Do you have a favorite entry/post that you would like us to visit? 

Some of my favorite posts involve special blogging activities we have done, like our blogging parties for reaching a goal.   I also love the Skype visits we have had with author Graham Salisbury; movie producer Dana Hankins; Shakespeare birthplace curators Lisa Peters and Anjna Chouhan; and Mrs. Emerick’s 6th grade class, Making Waves.  Another great experience for me was our guest lecturer, Mrs. Joanne Chonody, who connected with a friend she hadn’t spoken to in over twenty years thanks to Family Blogging Month and our quest to collect visitors from all 50 states.  All of these events were possible because we blog.  Have any of your special memories from school been the result of blogging? 

Under The Blood Red Sun March 26 at 3:14pm · Edited · Here’s our favorite Florida classroom wearing Under the Blood-Red Sun beanies and baseball caps that they earned by partnering up with us. Our website EDUCATION page includes curriculum and a list of schools that have received bookmarks & posters & pin buttons – http://underthebloodredsun.com/education.html Please share to help us reach more schools/classrooms teaching the book and/or movie this year!


Of course, I love blogging mainly because it gives us an authentic audience for our writing.  As soon as we write our first post, we have become internationally published authors.  Do you remember Malala?  She started a blog in order to bring attention to the plight of girls’ education in Pakistan, and she was certainly successful!  In 2014, at the age of 17, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  While most bloggers don’t achieve global celebrity, blogging has become a bona fide career for some and an enjoyable hobby for many others.  As of 2011, there were 181 million blogs all vying for a piece of your screen time.  In order to become a successful blogger, you have to be a proficient writer.  We use blogging to sharpen our writing skills; that’s an important job in a language arts class.  Do you enjoy writing and blogging enough to make it your living?

Okay, now here’s the part where I could use your help.  Would you take a few minutes to think about a specific experience you’ve had with blogging and then share that story in the comment section?  I know the teachers at the convention will want to know about blogging from the students’ points-of-view.  This is how you can help me teach the teachers. 

As my new blogging friends from Hawaii (Graham Salisbury and Dana Hankins) say,

Mahalo and much aloha!

Facts in Five

Have you ever played the game Facts in Five?

facts in five

photo credit 2015 University Games Corporation


Facts in Five is a GREAT game for those who like to challenge their minds, compete with their friends, and have fun.  That’s pretty much everyone, right?  

This past month, we have learned some great facts from five different sources.  Special guests visited our class this month, both in person and via Skype, to share scientific, historical, and cinematic information with us that added to our understanding and enjoyment of novels we have read.  In addition, we began writing our own informational texts, again inspired by our novels, to broaden our knowledge base in scientific areas.

Here are five categories each with some information that helps us learn more about books that we read.



What type of rock decays underground to form a sinkhole? (Click on the photo below to find out!)

Geologist David Brown explains sinkholes to us after we read about them in the novel Tangerine.


In what state does the story Under the Blood Red Sun take place? (Click on the photo below to find out!)

Movie producer Dana Hankins and author Graham Salisbury visit via Skype to share information about creating a film from the novel Under the Blood Red Sun.

Movie producer Dana Hankins and author Graham Salisbury visit via Skype to share information about creating a film from the novel Under the Blood Red Sun.


What sport has the highest concussion rate for its participants?


Who wrote Up From Slavery?


What  type of plagiarism is common and most severe in intent?


Did you get all five facts?

See if you can stump us!  Leave a question in our comment box and check the box that indicates you would like to receive follow up comments.  Let the games begin!

Student Blogging Challenge 2015

Hey Kids!

It’s that time of year for The Student Blogging Challenge!

This is our opportunity to meet kids from all over the world!  Already there are tons of kids registered and waiting to meet other kids, like us, through their blogs.

Making friends around the world

Making friends around the world

Check out this list of students who have registered so far.

  • Who is 13-years-old, is from the Philippines, and likes Taekwondo?
  • Who is 12-years-old, is from Australia and likes netball and cricket?
  • Who is 13-years-old, is from the USA and likes pinning?
  • Who is 13-years-old, is from the USA and likes bodyboarding?
  • Who is 11-years-old, is from Taipei and likes listening to music?
  • Who is 13-years-old, is from New Zealand, and likes rugby?


How many kids are middle school aged (11-14)?

Who likes things that you like?

Where is Taipei?

What is netball?  pinning?  bodyboarding?

Jornada de entrenamiento bodyboard con los deportistas de la Academia Surf&Rock Miguel Navaza via Compfight

How will you find out these answers?  Visit these students!  It’s super easy; just click on the link to their blogs.   Start a conversation; ask them about their hobbies and tell them about yours.  Ask them about their corner of the world and tell them about yours.  Ask them about their school and tell them about yours.  Make a high-tech pen pal!

In order to start connecting, we’ll join this year’s Student Blogging Challenge.  We’ll meet new kids and improve our blogging skills simultaneously.  Cool, right?  Register for the challenge here.

With whom on the list would you like to connect?  Why?  

The game is afoot!  (Does anyone know what that is an allusion to?)

A Tangerine Webquest

Tangerine combines science and language arts as it teaches lots of science lessons while it intrigues us with its literary finesse: spellbinding writing, mysterious plot, complex characters, and important theme.   Groups of students at Tangerine Middle School worked on cross-curricular science/language arts projects about Florida agriculture.  

Gregg Maxcy, Inc's Red-Glo brand citrus label

Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/17333
Gregg Maxcy, Inc., Image number PR75937

Paul’s group researches the Golden Dawn tangerine.  In addition to researching the citrus industry online via his computer, Paul and his group visit the Cruz family orange grove.     Conduct research as Paul and his friends did.

  • Luis explains “grafting” to Paul and his friends.  What is another word for “grafting”?   Read “The Rise and Fall of the Citrus Industry” to find out.
  • Paul and his friends fight a citrus frost in the novel.  Using the tabs in the article, read about the devastating frosts that hit Florida groves causing severe damage to citrus crops.  What were the years of “The Great Frost”?
  • The Cruz Grove used smudge pots and ice to save the trees.  Looking through the old photographs, what are some other methods citrus farmers employed to combat the frost?
  • On various occasions, Paul laments the way things used to be in Tangerine County.  The old packing houses are empty; the groves have been demolished and left to rot underground in order to make way for housing developments.  What county produced 95% less citrus in 1990 than in 1970?  Read about the decline of the citrus industry to find out.
  • Luis plans to revive his family’s grove with the introduction of a new tangerine, The Golden Dawn.  Take a look a the folk art of citrus groves.  Which marketing labels are your favorite?    On a separate sheet of paper, design a label for the Golden Dawn tangerine.  Write a bit about why you chose this design.

In addition to the citrus industry, we learn about lignite and muck fires, solar eclipses, sink holes, lightning, termites and mosquitoes.  Tomorrow, Mr. David Brown, a native Floridian and geologist, will visit our class to share some information about our unique Florida environment.  In class, we have already watched a few videos and looked up some websites on these topics.  Think about what you have already learned.

What are some questions you might have for Mr. Brown that will expand your knowledge?



Red Carpet for Red Sun

Anyone who stepped into my shoes today would want to be a teacher.  After reading the book Under the Blood Red Sun two years ago with my middle schoolers, grades 6-8, we were treated to the recently released movie adaptation today.  Little did I know then that the book we had started to read in class would culminate in a transcontinental educational connection with an award winning author and a movie producer and countless more opportunities for learning to read, to write, and to become better people.

In March of 2013, we were reading the novel when- lo and behold!- a comment appeared from Dana Hankins, producer of the movie, on our blog.  I had no idea a movie was being made.  Somehow DanaHankins found our class blog, wrote us a comment, and then sent bookmarks from the upcoming movie to all the students.  She also got author Graham Salisbury to write us a comment, too.  By just reading and writing, we made a real-life connection with the author and producer, 4,600 miles away.  We had a literary tea party at the end of the school year, and quite a few kids dressed as characters from Under the Blood Red Sun.

During the next school year we watched the movie in progress via its web and Facebook pages.   I loved seeing the photos of Tomi’s house and the screenplay as compared to the novel.

At the end of 2014, we learned we had been nominated by our friends at Huzzah! in British Columbia, Canada, 3,000 miles away, for Best Class Blog.  Honored and humbled, we asked everyone on our email list to please vote for us, confonnit!  Again- lo and behold- Dana Hankins reached out to us and all her Facebook followers, asking them to vote for the classroom that had students dressing as Red Sun characters.  We re-established a connection, which grew to include a Skype visit next week.  We also received copies of the movie and a few more bookmarks.

Today, to celebrate all we have accomplished with our blog (connecting with Dana Hankins and Graham “Sandy” Salisbury at the top of the list), we held a Blogging Party, “Red Carpet for Red Sun”.  Celebrate for a few minutes with us!

What book would you like to see come to life on screen?  


My Top Ten Inspiring People


Most of us have pretty routine days, which is great because they allow the special days to really be special!  Most of my day today was pretty ordinary.  Around 4:30 this afternoon, I sat down at the computer to do some very typical schoolwork.  That’s when my relatively ordinary day turned into something special.  When I checked my email, I found a note from Dana Hankins, the movie producer of Under the Blood Red Sun.  Suddenly, my run-of-the-mill day was not so run-of-the-mill.  Through our blog, we have made a connection with a movie producer, actors, and the author and screenplay writer, Graham Salisbury.  These people are taking the time to email, Tweet, blog, and now Skype with us as we share our experiences learning, reading and writing.

How many kids do you think have the opportunity to talk with authors and movie producers about books?  Are we not fantastically lucky that people in Hawaii are interested in what we are learning here in Florida?  Not only are they interested, but they want to HELP us LEARN MORE!  How great is that?

Dana Hankins inspires me!  Thank you, Dana!  Thank you for turning what could have been an ordinary classroom experience of reading and discussing a novel into a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my kids.


And with that, I have to now list nine more people who inspire me in my work.  They make the ordinary extraordinary.

9. Graham Salisbury, author of Under the Blood Red Sun and commenter on our blog!

8. Priscilla Cummings, author of Red Kayakthe first author who visited our classroom, and with whom I got to eat dinner

7. Joan Hiatt Harlowe, author of Thunder from the Sea and a resident of our hometown, Venice

6. Liz Lantigua, author of Mission Libertad who visited our school and related the work involved in publishing her first novel for young people

5. Fern Schumer Chapman who wrote Is it Night or Day? about her mother’s escape to America during the Holocaust and who Skyped with us

4. . Anjna Chouhan and Lisa Peter, the curators of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust who Skyped with us during our celebration of the Bard’s 450th birthday

3. Jan Smith, teacher extraordinaire and Huzzah! blogger

2. Sue Waters and Ronnie Burt, the Edublogs Support Team.  Without Sue and Ronnie, my kids and I would not be blogging because I would be lost in the technology.  Nobody does customer service like Edublogs.  Nobody.  Nowhere.

1. My KIDS!  Think of all the special times we share during our routine schooldays.  Last night I saw one of my former students at a New Year’s Eve party.  He said, “When I heard you were here, I had to come right over to see you.”  Now those were special words for a regular old language arts teacher to hear.   My kids inspire me every day.

Who or what inspires you?

And the winner is…..Hey, Kids!


Here is the list of winners for Best Class Blog for 2014!  We are in the first place spot!  We won Best Class Blog *Student Challenge Winner* and we are so EXCITED!

Thank you to everyone who voted for us!  Thank you to Ms. Smith at Huzzah!  Thank you to the awesome Kids who work on this blog all year long!  Thank you to Edublogs for all the support you give us all year long.
Merry Christmas!  


Please vote for us, Confonnit!

Hey Kids!

Do you remember reading Under the Blood Red Sun last year?  Do you remember the bookmarks we got from the movie producer, Dana Hankins?  Do you remember our Literary Tea Party and dressing up as characters from the novel?  Do you remember the author, Graham Salisbury, and the producer, Dana Hankins, commenting on our blog?  All very exciting moments for us!  Fortunately, the folks who made this movie remember how much we enjoyed the novel, and they have not only voted for our blog, but they have invited all their Facebook friends to vote for us as well!  Super cool, right?!


The movie is recently released on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital Downloads. We plan to watch the movie as part of our blogging party celebrating our 20,000th visitor! Time to roll out the red carpet for Under the Blood Red Sun!  Check out the trailer, too.

What do you think is the best part, and the hardest part, about making a movie?