A Writing Activity: New Year, Dream Big!

New Year, Dream Big ...Very soon, many of us will return back to school and greet the smiling faces of our students whom we have not seen since 2017. Granted, the time spent apart is much shorter than a summer break, but brings with it an important sign of starting fresh.

It’s the beginning of a new year; 365 opportunities to dream big and accomplish something new (or something that has been an unreachable goal until this year). For many students, it will be a time to reconnect with friends and teachers that they haven’t seen for a couple weeks. Some students are beginning new coursework, attending a new school, or even planning for graduation in a few months.

As a teacher, it was always my favorite time to have students write. Write about their dreams, goals, and ambitions, plus, it went perfectly with the start of a new year. Creative titles have always alluded me, so I simply called this New Year, Dream Big.

Students (and me, I always modeled and shared my writing with students) used the following questions to help spur their writing:

New Year, Dream Big…

  1. What are my dreams? In school? Life? Friendship? Activities? Etc. (Identify one to write about)
  2. Why is this dream important to me? Why did I choose this one?
  3. Is this a new dream? Old dream? Habitual dream?
  4. What do I already know or understand about this dream?
  5. What steps do I need to take to make this happen? Have I already completed or started any of these steps?
  6. What help do I need to achieve this dream? Who or what can help me?
  7. What is my timeframe for accomplishing this dream? How will I know I succeeded? When will it be time to give up?
  8. Closing thoughts and reflections?

 

At times, these pieces appeared on student blogs or influenced other writing done throughout the semester. Students were proud of their Dreams and shared them with everyone who would listen. And I was proud of them.

So consider having your students write to start off the New Year. Help them vocalize their dreams and make them a reality!

 

Hat-Tip to Regie Routman and Kelly Gallagher for providing inspiration for this work.

Urban Legends, Headline Hooks, and Ideation: 3 Edtech Writing Activities for Inquiry

Adobe Spark (9)Writing is often short-changed in most classrooms but it is through writing that students demonstrate their understanding of texts, concepts, and topics. Writing about their learning provides insight into what a student understands and where the gaps occurred. For example, I assign a chapter in The Giver for my students to read and the next day in class I kick off the discussion by having students take five minutes to write down everything they know about a Utopian Society, how it has impacted the characters and the setting of the novel. This 5 minute activity provides me with data to inform my instruction. It provides a small glimpse into my students’ understanding of the novel and theme.

Writing as a type of assessment is typically what most teachers think of and utilize in their classrooms but there is a second reason to have students write (and write, and write, and write a lot more). Writing allows us to wrestle with ideas, make a mess with our thinking, and sift the top ideas and thoughts we may have not known were in our heads. It is through writing that exploration and inquiry can be launched in the classroom.

3 Edtech Writing Strategies for Inquiry:

Urban LegendsWomen wearing leggings are denied boarding for their flights, the current slime craze has serious health implications for youth, Disney VHS movies with the Black Diamond cases are worth thousands of dollars. Using myths, Urban Legends, and other misinformation is an engaging way to launch kids into exploration. Not only does this type of activity lead to more reading, writing, and investigation; but it also promotes healthy skepticism in the information age.  During this exploration, students work to uncover the truth and also ask themselves how this phenomenon takes place and what catapults these Urban Legends into popularity. Great places to start:

 

 

Why Might This Be? – This strategy is great for brainstorming and ideation. Collect provocative statements from newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. Share each line one at a time while students list possible reasons for each (one minute per headline works well). Students are answering the question “Why Might This Be?” as the list as many possibilities. These lists serve as instigators to launch students into an inquiry or exploration unit where student choice is provided.

 

“Denmark Just Drove Uber Out of The Country”  – Why Might This Be?

 

  • New laws were passed.
  • Accidents caused while using Uber.
  • No money being made by government.
  • Hard to police and hold drivers accountable.
  • Acts of violence caused by riders – or drivers.

 

Headline Hooks – This activity has students reading and writing their way through current NF sources. To start with, students spend 20 mins. or more reading articles that spark their interest. Here is a collection of digital sources to have kids explore! During their reading, students take note of what they want to explore more. This list becomes a plethora of ideas to support inquiry throughout the year. Use a graphic organizer once the student has chosen a Headline that Hooked them listing the topic on the top, what they know about it, what they think they will find out, and then what they did find out.

Resources – Kelly Gallagher, Write Like This

Blogging in the Classroom: Teacher Roles

blogging-in-the-classroomBlogging is a powerful way for students to share their voice on a public platform. Depending on the purpose, blog posts demonstrate student understanding, allow for a virtual space to share ideas or thinking, and acts as an interactive mode to question, create and share. While I believe blogging is useful across the curriculum and applicable to multiple grade levels, I do believe that there are teacher and student roles or responsibilities that are essential to establish when embarking on blogging in the classroom.

In February I wrote a post on Blogging in the Classroom: Student Roles which shared my own personal experience of having my students blog, as well as the student roles to consider when adding blogging to your classroom. This post will highlight the Teacher Roles that are important to consider when having students blog.

Teacher Roles

  1. Model, Be a Writer! – You are the best writer in the room. To have students be successful at blogging the teacher must see themselves as a blogger too. Modeling writing skills by sharing your own work takes the mystery out of the process. Post regularly, fine-tune your own craft and share. Providing students with “mentor examples” of digital writing and bloggers provides students with people’s work to emulate. Modeling also provides an opportunity to create a positive, online presence; as well as address digital citizenship areas that frequently surface when writing for a public audience.
  2. Explicit & Scaffolded Instruction – Like traditional unimodal writing, blogging requires a mastery of skills and strategies that students do not naturally have in their toolbox. Direct instruction through mini-lessons and then application in their own writing helps set students up for success. Not only should content be a focus of learning, but the structure, format, and design elements need to be explicitly taught to our young bloggers. Start with length, visuals, and typography as a way to communicate their message effectively.
  3. Read & Respond – As the teacher, it is important to read and respond to student blog posts. To alleviate the volume of posts I would have to read in my own classroom I would divide the class in half and read and respond to half of the students each week. Students were to read and respond to peers in our blogging community (made up of 4 classrooms around the country) twice a week. Teaching students how to respond on a digital platform was another area that demanded explicit teaching. The driver in their response was to connect personally to at least one thing in a post and to comment in a way that moved the writer forward.
  4. Assess – Finally, assessment of blog posts. While you can use some or all of the posts as a type of summative assessment I would frequently use the students’ posts as formative assessment. This type of formative assessment would help drive my instruction. It was clear what the students grasped as well as what needed further reteaching. When assessing blog posts, it is important to consider both content and product. Aesthetics, voice, design elements are important to bloggers and were all part of the feedback I would provide to students.

A classroom full of bloggers is a daunting and exciting symphony to orchestrate. Depending on the purpose for blogging, teachers can view their roles and responsibilities as ones that are helping develop digital writers now and whenever they write in the future. Interaction with a public audience helps to make writing engaging and relevance and it is through the intentional instruction by the teacher that our youngest bloggers can find success!

Educators Sharing #WhyIWrite to Celebrate The National Day on Writing

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In 2009, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing October 20 as the National Day on Writing.

Every year, thousands of educators, students, and writers celebrate by tweeting reasons why they write using the hashtag #WhyIWrite. Celebrations and activities are planned in classrooms across the nation uniting writers, recognizing the benefits of writing, and voicing the importance of writing!

Getting Students Involved

In the classroom, my former students shared their voices on Twitter. Beautiful and profound statements were succinctly tweeted followed by a curation of their favorite tweets throughout the day. As a class, my students gathered their favorite tweets from the #WhyIWrite feed and created multimodal projects sharing the many voices. For example, some  used Storify to collect and share their favorite tweets. Other tools my students used to collect, create and share were:  iMovie, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, and Word Cloud generators.

This year I challenged educators to share #WhyIWrite.

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whyiwrite-1  tony

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More Information

Thank You and Be Sure to Follow

If you have a #WhyIWrite message to share, please send it to me and I will add it!