Education Technology: It's time to update your apps!

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Did you know that Shurley English has a team of technology experts that work 24/7 to deliver our digital curriculum?  It’s their job to develop, monitor, and maintain the SIM technology systems and services, but there’s one thing they can’t do for you:  They cannot update your Shurley English app!  That’s something you have to do, and if you haven’t updated lately, you might not be seeing everything we have to offer!

That’s right!  An update will help your digital materials perform more smoothly and ensure that you are seeing the latest version of our books.  It can also prevent possible technical issues that might occur when an app is outdated.  If you’ve experienced compatibility problems or your app has crashed, an update should correct these problems for you. 

It doesn’t take much effort to perform an update.  All you have to do is visit the app store on your device and hit the update button. Go ahead and do it right now!  You’ll be glad you did.


Technology Announcement: Did you know that we have a Shurley English app for Chromebooks? It’s true! If your Chromebook can access the Google Play Store, you can download the Shurley Portal app. We invite you to visit the Google Play Store today!

In an effort to make your language arts time the best that it can be, we continue to add to our list of supported hardware. For a complete list of supported technology, visit

Word Choice: Simple is Sophisticated

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Writing is a tool for communication, and language is the system of words and the methods of combining them that we use to express our thoughts and feelings to each other.  As teachers, we want our students to think carefully as they select the words they use to covey meaning, but Word Choice can be a tricky discussion. (Don’t worry! I’m here to help.)

Take a look at the following pairs of sentences. What do you notice?

  1. The boys cheered loudly for their team.

  2. The boys clapped, yelled, and stomped for their team.

  3. An unhappy baby cried very loudly tonight.

  4. An unhappy baby wailed tonight.

  5. The tiny green hummingbirds darted quickly around.

  6. The tiny green hummingbirds darted around.

In each of these pairs, could you tell how changing the words a bit affected the clarity of the sentences? Do the words we choose to convey meaning really matter that much? You be the judge.

Throughout my career, I have worked diligently to hone my writing skills. I have come to a conclusion: word choice makes or breaks meaning—every time! Much of my writing from long ago can only be regarded as redundant. I thought that the bigger my words, the longer my sentences, the more clarity I was achieving. Most of the time that was not true. 

Redundancy in writing does not need to happen…nor should we promote it. In the examples above, the second sentence in each pair is not necessarily better. But notice how a change in the word choices makes a huge impact on the sentence clarity—how clear the meaning is.

Can you spot the redundancies in the first set? The culprit here is the use of a weak verb and an adverb that is too predictable. By simply replacing the general verb cheered with three specific, active verbs (clapped, yelled, and stomped), the reader gets a better mental model of what the author is saying. These specific verbs convey what most of us think of as cheering.

How about the second set of sentences? Can you see how the verb wailed in Sentence 4 says exactly the same thing as in Sentence 3, but it does more clearly? This is an example of reducing the number of words but improving the meaning.

Finally, observe how I omitted the adverb quickly in Sentence 5. I ousted the adverb because we don’t need it. If a hummingbird darted, we already understand that the bird moved fast; consequently, there is no need to use the adverb quickly.

When you work with young writers, you will be doing them a big favor if you help them learn how to spot the sentences with too many words, with redundant words or modifiers, and with non-specific verbs. When you equip students with these skills, you will teach them not only the value of making better word and phrase choices, but also the elevated sophistication of writing simply and clearly.

 Note: For an in-depth discussion on Word Choice, I invite you to visit this previous post.

End-of-School-Year Activity: Creating a Summer Bucket List

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As eager as your students are for the school year to end, it won’t be long until they are actually bored during their summer break.  Yes, I said “bored.”  Help your students stay focused and creative while they gear-up for that day with this fun and creative classroom activity.

In this blog, I will share an activity that will teach students a valuable lesson as they create their own Summer Bucket List.  The catch is that they will create it while working in small groups.  As always, you can do as much or as little as you like with this idea.  Here’s how to get started.


Lesson and Class Discussion:

First, start the lesson with the whole class by following these steps:

  1. Read aloud and discuss this story, Seven Captive Princesses

  2. Review the definition of the word boredom.  Merriam-Webster defines it as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.

  3. Discuss how boredom doesn’t have to be a negative or bad thing in their life.  The state of boredom can be an opportunity to tap into their creativity.  Allow students to share their personal experiences with boredom and their solution for it with the class.

  4.  Ask students if they’ve ever been bored during a vacation.  Ask them to describe what they will do when they get bored over their summer break.  Allow a few students to share their ideas. (Make popsicles, make a DIY costume, plant something, make a movie, etc.)


Group Work: Brainstorming

Next, divide your students into small groups (3-4 students per group).

  1. Allow 10-15 minutes for each group to brainstorm a list of activities they could do when they get bored during the upcoming summer vacation.                  

  2. Instruct them to write their list on a numbered sheet of paper. 

  3. When complete, have each group place their list in the middle of the table where they worked. 

  4. Give groups time to rotate around to each groups’ table. (3-5 minutes per table)

  5. Each group will review and discuss the other group’s ideas amongst themselves.


Then, when the rotations are complete, have students go back to their individual desks.  Explain the meaning of a “Summer Bucket List.”  In this case, you can describe it as a list of things or activities that someone has never done before but would like to do before the summer ends. 


Individual Work: Create a Summer Bucket List

  1. Pass out the “Summer Bucket List” worksheet.  (See Example.)

  2. Ask students to complete their list individually. Add some fun beach music in the background, or enjoy a popsicle treat if you’d like.

  3.  Have students staple their lists on a pre-made and ready to decorate bulletin board. (Be sure students take home their lists on the last day of school.) 


Again, go as big or small as you’d like to create the bulletin board.  It’s up to you! With their Summer Bucket List ready to go, your students will hopefully have a creative summer break!

Oh, and don’t forget about YOU!…what’s on your Summer Bucket List?