Amplifying the Writing Process with Technology

 

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Yesterday marked the 8th year of the Iowa 1 to 1 Institute. A conference that is close to my heart, and has provided support, inspiration, and opportunities to me throughout the years. It is also one that I help to organize and run with an amazing team led by Nick Sauers.

This year, over 1000 educators gathered in Des Moines for the 2 day conference.  Dr. Robert Dillon kicked off the first day leading the learning on Leadership Day. The second day provided attendees with over 100 sessions to attend. My session focused on the influence of technology on the writing process and the changes that have occurred because of this influx. These changes have helped to amplify student writing in multiple ways. I have included my slides which highlights these changes, provides brief theory, as well as technology resources and tools to amplify the writing process.

Amplifying the Writing Process

Link to Slides found Here! 

Blogging in the Classroom: Student Roles

blogging in the classroomIn 2009, I began my personal journey in blogging, as well as implementing blogging into my classroom. Josh, a senior that year, walked into my classroom and told me and his peers that he hated writing and was going to hate this class. Instead of questioning him, I simply stated that this year we were going to try something new with in our writing class and I hoped that it would change his mind – Blogging.

Fast forward 2 months, and Josh had a personal blog, a classroom blog, a large following of readers, and had changed his views on writing overall. In fact, I often brought him with me to speak with other educators and students on the power of blogging, student choice, and a public audience. Not only did he revel in this new found role in speaking, but he became a writer, and actually enjoyed it.

Blogging is the one strategy, that I share with other educators, as the most powerful shift in my teaching with the integration of technology into the traditional ELA classroom. My students were empowered to share their voice, honed multimodal communication skills, and wrote real pieces for a different audience than the traditional, lone teacher.

I am often asked for blogging advice to support educators new to blogging in the classroom, so, this will be the first post in a series I will write. You can find my “Classroom Blogging Expectations” HERE. Feel free to use these as a starting place for your own classroom.

When considering the roles of student bloggers I offer the 5 following considerations for you and to be shared with the students:

Student Roles

  1. Write, Write, Write – Blogging requires students to write, and write often. To maintain an engaged audience, students must write and publish frequently. On average, my students publish two posts a week. Not only did this require them to be constantly writing, but to have multiple pieces started and in different places in the writing process. The amount of student writing inside the classroom doubled, but the most interesting surprise was the amount they wrote outside of the classroom, to keep their readers satisfied and wanting more!
  2. Purpose and Voice – While this did not happen overnight, students soon realized their writing required purpose to appeal to their readers. Through blogging, students discovered their own, unique voice and their purpose for writing was uncovered. Starting off with a general blog was how many students began their journey, but the more they practiced and published, and the more they read posts from other peers and writers, they realized that most blogs had a niche; and they needed one as well. From original music, xbox tips and videos, to a co-authored blog publicly debating controversial issues; my students refined writing skills, uncovered and developed their own niche, and unearthed their voice as a writer.
  3. Publishing – Another student role in a blogging classroom is the responsibility of publishing regularly on a public platform. Publishing their work to someone different than the traditional, lone teacher increased engagement and developed explanatory and argumentative writing skills. It also provided students an opportunity to shift from digital consumers to digital creators. Having spent most of their lives reading online, students now created the same types of texts they read daily. This exposure to practice writing multimodal texts demanded knowledge and demonstration in structure, format, design, audio, visual, etc. (some posts were in the form of images or vlogs – video blog posts) .
  4. Community – Starting off, I knew the pitfalls of having students blog; one being who would read their posts. Before I introduced blogging to the students, I connected with other educators across the country to develop a blogging community for the students. This way, not only would they have their peers reading their thoughts, but also peers from around the country would be reading their work on a regular basis. This element is essential. Plan carefully to ensure someone reads what your kids post, or else it will loose purpose and engagement will dwindle. This community of writers was created to share ideas and encourage growth in all kids. Students commented on and followed each others blogs. Their charge was not one to edit or evaluate each other, instead, to be an active participant in this learning community and respond in a way that moved all writers forward. (How I taught my students to respond is found in the blogging expectations linked above). This collaboration and connection provided powerful reinforcement for writing!
  5. Finally, it is a student’s responsibility in a blogging community to not only reflect and respond on the other writers in the group, but also a personal reflection of growth as a writer. This was done throughout the year and ended in a reflection sheet containing links to posts in which they felt demonstrating their strongest displays of writing or which met standards. They reflected on their growth as a writer and their contribution to the community as a whole. They reflected and shared stories of their own writing, but also included stories how they helped other writers move forward!

There are many roles and responsibilities of student bloggers that could have been included on this list, but in retrospect, this list encompasses the top 5 roles my students found themselves in most frequently.

Next time, I will share the roles and responsibilities of the teacher in a classroom that blogs!

5 Google Resources to Support Student Writing

Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (2)Supporting students in the writing process involves explicit instruction, modeling and utilizing resources to support their development. Sharing high-quality, digital resources with students will increase accessibility and independence in all student writers. Writers, professionals, and adults use digital and non-digital resources to improve their writing, so why wouldn’t we provide the same experience and guidance to our own students?

This list of 5 Google resources are practical and easy to use with all writers! They support a wide-range of ability, mimicking what is commonplace in the classroom. From the struggling writer, English Language Learner writer, and the gifted writer; Google resources can support all kids!

  1. Google Doc Research Tool – Search on Google, Scholar, Images, Tables, and Dictionary to access the information you need without leaving Google Docs. The Research tool allows users to cite information using multiple formats.Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement
  2. Google Keep – Google Keep captures your thoughts via text or voice. Create lists, add images and access across multiple devices. Notes are shareable to friends and teachers making brainstorming, tasks, and source collection easy with this resource. Students can set reminder notifications as well! Google Keep
  3. Grammarly – Grammarly is an App that can be added to your Chrome browser. This app detects plagiarism, and helps to improve your writing. It recognizes spelling mistakes, as well as errors in Grammar Usage and Mechanics. It offers suggestions to users. A great app for students to utilize as their first support in editing. Grammarly
  4. Read and Write for Google – Read and Write for Google provides accessibility for docs., the web, pdfs., and epubs. Options provide support to all students! Struggling readers and writers can use the Google Docs tool bar to read aloud and highlight text. Use the picture dictionary to support emerging readers and writers. The translator option supports ESL students as they write and struggle translating ideas in another language. Free for teachers and can be pushed out to your entire domain! Read and Write Google
  5. Voice Typing Tool – Google voice typing allows writer to easily put their words on a page by speaking them instead of manually typing. Voice Typing is located under the “Tools” tab in Google Docs and appears as a microphone symbol, on the side, once selected. When trying out for my own use, I was surprised on the accuracy and would recommend this to teachers and students without hesitation. Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (1)

Uncovering the Why: the Importance of Beliefs

BeliefsFor many years, my professional learning consisted on the “what” and “how” in the classroom. What were your kids reading? writing? discussing? What tech were you using? How are you using portfolios? How do you grade? How do you differentiate? 

While all of these questions are important to answer, it wasn’t until I drilled down the Why, that I truly appreciated learning. Understanding the why, helps provide a framework in which all other decisions can be based upon. Why do I teach Shakespeare? Why do I have students blog? Why does it matter that students publish to  public audience? Why do I prefer the workshop framework over traditional instruction?

Currently, I am reading Read, Write, Teach by Linda Rief. The introduction provides insight into the purpose, design, and the Why for writing this book. She starts with the Why because it “grounds her choices of the what and how.”

The following are images of my own Whys on Literacy, inspired by the work of Linda Rief. I encourage you to not only explore your own beliefs on teaching and learning, but also to bring the conversation back to your departments, buildings, or even districts. Do we have similar beliefs? What is gained and what is lost when staff members have the same beliefs? Is a common set of shared beliefs necessary for our students?

Read, Write, Teach- Rief (1).jpg

Read, Write, Teach- Rief (2).jpg

 

 

 

 

Instructional Coach: Co-Teaching

In 2013, Iowa introduced the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System as a way to “empower our best teachers to lead the efforts in improving instruction to improve student achievement.” Many models created and adopted by Iowa Schools employ the use of instructional coaches. With a need for support in their new roles, I, along with many other Iowa educators, have had the pleasure to learn from Diane Sweeney and Leanna Harris, leading experts in Student-Centered Coaching and Jim Knight.

This past Monday, we gathered to hone coaching skills with Diane and Leanna. One activity Leanna had us collaboratively complete is a venn diagram comparing PLCs and Student-Centered Coaching. Fittingly, I was situated with Dave Versteeg, from Montezuma Schools; and two of his teacher leaders. Montezuma is a model PLC school, and their expertise offered great insight in this activity. Comparison of PLCs and Coaching Cycles (1)

Upon completing the exercise, Leanna stressed a point that resonated with the group. In summary, Leanna pointed out that one important way student-centered coaching differs from PLCs is the use of co-teaching. In fact, PLCs, with the absence of co-teaching, could be viewed as in a constant state of planning.

As a literacy coach, supporting reading and writing workshop teachers; this is an area I plan to focus on. And through a collaborative conversation with both Leanna and Diane, there are many variation to co-teaching. Three main ones I share include:

Modeling – A traditional type of co-teaching is modeling. An expert teacher models, demonstrates, or shows the partnering teacher how to instruct. Modeling is designed to span the whole class period where the partnering teacher is observing and noting instructional moves displayed by the expert teacher or instructional coach.

Micro-Modeling – Micro-modeling is a partnership in planning and delivery between the instructional coach and partnering teacher. During the planning session, each educator designates specific parts of the lesson they will deliver. For example, the instructional coach may deliver the minilesson during the writing workshop, demonstrating sound pedagogy in the specific area the partnering teacher designated. The partnering teacher may then agree to deliver the instruction for the small groups.

Tandem Teaching – Tandem teaching is a partnership where the coach and teacher work together in the classroom, almost “feeding” off of each other. This requires a trusting relationship, a true partnership in learning, and adept understanding of strengths and areas of focus each has in the classroom.

 

Frequently, I admit, I get stuck in the observation mode, while the learning and implementation comes from a true partnership. Co-teaching is an excellent example of an effective, student-centered coaching technique, resulting in classroom transfer. While tandem teaching is the ideal state of the coaching relationship; there are times and content areas that impede this endeavor. Instead, focusing on micro-modeling allows a coach to focus on instruction rather than content, supporting educators pedagogical growth.