10 Compelling Issues to Catapult Student Writers

compelling Issues forStudent Inquiry (3)Writing, like any activity, takes practice to get better. But writing, unlike reading or math, is often neglected in schools for various reasons. Educators find the teaching of writing difficult and many times don’t know where to start. This unfortunate occurrence places students at a disadvantage. In fact, three of the 10 Common Core Reading Standards requires reading as writers, the Common Core is also the first time in history that equal representation and importance (10 Standards each) is placed on both reading and writing. Moving beyond the What is the Why. Writing helps students develop an understanding of content, develop empathy, demonstrate mastery, not to mention writing plays a key role in participating in a global community and expressing one’s view thoughtfully.

Students should write every day! When students write every day they develop their voice and see value in written expression. But what should kids be writing is a question often posed to me.

The best writing is REAL – Relevant, Engaging, Authentic, and Lifelong. Laua Robb offers 10 compelling issues in her book Teaching Middle School Writers that I feel align to meaningful or REAL writing for all kids. These issues were often favorite ones to explore and write about in my own classroom with high school students. Plus, these compelling issues are great for not only conceptual thinking but could be used for Book Discussions and to launch Inquiry Units.

10 Compelling Issues that Catapult Kids to Write:

  1. Change & Loss
    • Death
    • Moving
    • Illness
    • Job Loss
    • Physical Change
  2. Challenges, Choices, & Decisions
    • Goals
    • Obstacles
    • Negative challenges that become positive
    • Life Choices
  3. Relationships: Insight to Self
    • Freinds
    • Fitting In
    • Parents, Siblings, Teachers
    • Relationship with self
    • Pets
    • Trust
  4. Coping with Fears
    • What
    • Why
    • Actions
    • Future
    • Fear affecting Thoughts, Decisions, & Actions
  5. Pressures: Inner & Outside Influences
    • Why
    • Peers
    • Gossip
    • Moving
    • Motives
    • Self
    • Athletics
    • Competition
    • Pop Culture
  6. Identity Shaping: Hopes & Dreams
    • Privacy
    • What do I want to be?
    • Future self
    • Daydreaming
    • Fitting In
    • Who am I?
  7. Obstacles
    • Language
    • Weather
    • Location
    • Religion
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Divorce
    • Expectations
  8. War & Conflict
    • War
    • Conflict Good or Bad?
    • Without Conflict
    • Peace
    • Power & Control
  9. Restrictions, Rules, & Rebellion
    • Rules
    • Rulebreaking
    • Rebellions
    • Protesting
    • Family, School, Friends
    • Activism
    • Emotions
    • Actions
  10. Conformity & Nonconformity
    • Fitting In
    • Feelings
    • Conforming
    • Not Conforming
    • Exclusions
    • Easier to conform or be different

Under each issue, I have offered general categories in which ideas may be sparked and questions created that can catapult our writers into personal narratives. Through personal narratives, students are able to anchor their thinking and blend genres as they notice these compelling issues arise in what they read, view, and listen to. Connecting their lives to outside texts (whatever mode that may be in) helps students understand the importance of writing and how their lives and experiences are related. It makes the writing REAL!

 

 

3 Alternatives for Generating Citations

adobe-spark-7

Just as one should always backup their pictures, documents, and videos in multiple places; so should educators always have a backup for their favorite digital resources, tools, and apps. In the blink of an eye, something that was accessible yesterday could vanish into the digital abyss just as the recent deletion of the Research Tool in Google Docs. Educators and students had grown accustomed to the search and citation options available with the “Research Tool” and many are now scrambling for alternatives…

Here are 3 Citation Generating Alternatives to Consider:

 

  1. logo-easybib-cheggEasyBib – A free citation generator that is available online, as an app, extension, and as a Google Doc Add-On. EasyBib is also offering a free EasyBibEdu account for all educators for the 2016-17 school year. Not only can you generate citations using MLA, APA, and Chicago styles, with EasyBib, you can also create notecards, outlines, and avoid plagiarism and check the reliability of websites.

 

  1.  citation-machine-logoCitation MachineA free tool that helps “students and research professionals properly credit the information that they use. Its primary goal is to make it so easy for student researchers to cite their information sources, that there is virtually no reason not to.” It allows users to choose from 4 styles – MLA, APA, Chicago, and Tribune. It is a web resource that is simple to use.

 

  1.  refme-logoRefMe – Also a free web tool that allows users to create citations and manage them by scanning the barcode. Choose from over 7,000 styles to fit requirements. RefMe also allows you to share your list of citations with others making it perfect for collaboration and group work. RefMe is a web resource and also an app. Cut and paste citations into documents or download the entire bibliography.

 

No one is happy when a widely used digital tool suddenly disappears.

As educators, we need to model to our students how to readjust and seek alternatives. And remember, most digital tools have feedback options so users can share their likes or needs with the creators. You can find Google’s feedback form here. Help to improve Google’s products for all user, let them know your thoughts.  

5 Google Resources You Never Knew Existed

Google Resources You Never Knew Existed

With new Edtech resources popping up daily, it seems that many educators can miss some of the good ones that would be most useful in the classroom. While preparing for a conference and updating my slides, I thought I would share 5 Google Resources you may have missed.

SmartyPinsSmarty Pins – Is a Google Maps game incorporating both geography and trivia. Players can choose a category and are given clues in which to guess the location before their miles or time runs out. A guess is made by dropping the pin on a location on the map. THis resource is great for Geography, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Play on your own or challenge a friend.

Google Arts and CUlture 1Google Cultural Institute – Now known as Google Arts and Culture, allows users to explore collections from around the world. It brings together  brings millions of artifacts from multiple partners, with the stories that bring them to life, in a virtual museum. This digital platform provides access to artifacts for a worldwide audience. Take a virtual tour or explore an artifact; a great place to spark student inquiry or access to primary sources!

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.34.08 AMGoogle Night Walk – Google Night Walk is an immersive experience taking the viewer takes a journey through the vibrant streets of Marseille. During the walk, viewers are provided a 360 view of the streets and are beckoned into the culture and street art through narration and storytelling of the guides you meet along the way. This was built upon the use of multiple Google Products and is a great launch into creativity in the classroom begging students to consider creating their own “Night Walk” to demonstrate their understanding!

 

constituteConstitute Project – The Constitute Project is one part of Jigsaw (Formerly Google Ideas) and is a collection of the World’s Constitutions. Students can read, search, and compare constitutions from around the globe. Focusing in on specific categories, anything from race and religion to Head of State and the military, students can build a global perspective through a comparison to their own.

 

Google Experiments music Chrome Experiments – Get ready to get lost for hours, this extensive resource created by the Creative Coding Community showcases innovative and new ideas. Chrome experiments are interactive and range from themes such as 3D, Interactive Coding, to Games. Chrome Experiments also allows users to submit their own ideas to be featured. Check out the Sound and Music Category to play and record your own music!

Often times I find the most interesting, classroom supports from the non-education resources. Don’t be afraid to search out and dive into the resources that, at first glance, seem unrelated to the field. Many times these types of resources speak to students in an untraditional way and demonstrate real-work that is being down around the world! Enjoy!

Recap App: 3 Back-to-School Ideas for Student Videos

File_000 (2).jpeg

Last time we co-authored a blog post, Steven Anderson and I shared Blab. It was so much fun and such an easy app to integrate into the classroom we wanted to share another favorite of ours!

Recap is a free video response app created by Swivl which allows students to reflect, respond, and demonstrate through video. Recap is easy to use as both an educator and as a student. It is also an excellent way to model and use digital literacy modes in the classroom! Simply create a class and assign a Recap to students. Questions or prompts can be teacher-created in the forms of text or video, and can be assigned to individual students, small groups, or to the whole-class. When completed, teachers can share the whole “Review Reel”, or each individual child’s video. Share options include email or weblink!

Here are 3 Back-to-School Ideas that will have your students (and parents) Recapping through video response:

  1. Reading Interest Inventory – At the beginning of the year, giving students a “Reading Interest Inventory” provides valuable information about each students’ reading preferences and how they view themselves as readers. It also provides a launchpad to place the “right book” into their hands that may hook a reader for a lifetime. Using Recap, students could record themselves on their computer or ipad. These video responses would provide valuable insight to climate and culture of literacy in the classroom. Here are a few of unique questions to include on a Reading Interest Inventory: What is your earliest memory of reading or books? How do you choose a book? What do you notice adults reading? When should a person leave a book? What two books or magazines do you wish we had in our classroom library?
  2.  Student Goals and Reflection – Another way Recap could be used at the beginning of the school year is to capture a student’s goals for the year. Part of educating the Whole Child is helping the student see where they are with their learning and where ultimately they want to end up. We know that learning is a continuum. So using Recap students can record where they’d like to see their learning be at the end of the school year. Maybe they want to be a better math student. Or perhaps they want to be able to read more proficiently. What ever their goal they can capture it. Then throughout the school year they can refer back to it. Use it as part of their own personal reflective practice. How are they progressing? What do they still want to do. Have they met their goal and maybe it’s time for another. These videos can become a part of a larger learning portfolio where students examine their learning throughout the year.
  3. Parent Involvement – At the beginning of each school year, many of our youngest learners attend a back-to-school night or an open-house in which they meet their teacher, unpack their school supplies, and explore their new surroundings in the safety of their parents. It is also a time that many parents and family members come to the realization that their child is growing up and “leaving the nest”. What a perfect time to have a “message station” set up for parents or family members to leave a Recap for their student. Imagine the joy in a child’s eye after receiving a message from their parent or family member on their first day of school. Recap classes can be accessed through a pin number assigned to the class, so those parents or family members unable to attend can record their message from anywhere. It is also a great way to demonstrate to parents how you will meet the digital literacy demands in the Common Core State Standards, as well as how technology can be used in a meaningful way even with our youngest learners!

Recap is an engaging and creative way for students to share their understanding through video response! Recap is a free app and is available via the web (so perfect for chromebooks), as well as an iPad app. Coming soon – a  phone app, Recap from anywhere at anytime!

Developing “Healthy Skeptics” in the Age of New Literacies

DevelopingHealthy Skeptics in the Digital Age.One of my most poignant “slaps on the face” in the classroom came while conferring with a student over their research paper. During our conversation, confusion arose from the conflicting information that he had found on the web. Upon further dialogue, I learned he relied heavily upon the source, Martin Luther King.org , which was supported by StormFront, a white supremacy group. The information that he found here was in stark contrast to many of the other sources he was citing. This insight hit my like a ton of bricks. I had done very little in terms of supporting students in the areas of discerning information, locating reliable and relevant sources, from learning abilities to the care of their body, with the help of supplements from sites as Reportshealthcare.com.

Technology has launched education into an exciting time in terms of literacy and instruction. These opportunities not only provide rich content, connections to a global learning lab, and creation modes unimagined; but also the exciting challenges to equip our young people with the skills and strategies to not only be creators to the sea of information but also “healthy skeptics” during consumption. This new era of information can bring a lot of benefits into young people, they are able to go online to find many useful things as information for their studies or supplements as this heart attack defender to keep good health.

Proficiency in these constantly evolving literacies will help to “define student success” in both their personal and public lives. Read, writing, communicating and learning in this digital arena is now commonplace instead of a rarity and we must, as educators, lead the charge in educating our youth instead of running away from the lion!

A foundation in multimodality in online media should be included across disciplines and grades. In fact, the Common Core mentions the introduction to digital text as early as Kindergarten. By the upper grades, students in a CCSS aligned district will analyze, synthesize and evaluate digital information, as well as using digital means in their own projects, writings, and multimodal communication.

Support on where to begin and how to build their own knowledge in New Literacies baffles educators. Here is a collection of my favorite resources to support educators and students!

Google Inside Search  – Understand how Google Search works, explore the interactive timeline highlighting the advancement of Google Search throughout the years, and view lesson plans for educators.

BrainPop – A video introduces students to search engines and how to use keywords and phrases to locate the information they want. This site also includes lesson plans which include multi-media ideas and also skills to promote with students for online research!

ReadWriteThink – A great lesson plan to help students focus their internet searching. This lesson not only supports skills need in the initial search, but also reading strategies to locate and evaluate information once it is found!