Category Archives: Writing

Chronicles of COVID-19, Part 5

Here is one of the latest entries from Our COVID-19 Diary by Kids Around the World.

ECE LFH 2020 Diary (1)

I’ve seen a large contingent from New Jersey, which is actually where I was born and lived until I was 10 years old.  Some other trends I’ve seen – almost everyone has a pet, most students seem to miss going to school (although there are a few who are loving this educational model!), and many students are enjoying the extra family time.

I hope that we will get more entries this week!  See the above link for how to access the diary and troubleshooting tips.

Slow Reveal Graphs

If you are a fan of helping students learn how to be critical thinkers, then you will appreciate the Slow Reveal Graphs site.   Rather than presenting a full graph to students and asking them to interpret it, teachers use Slow Reveal Graphs to allow the students to discuss, think, wonder, and predict as each stage of the graph is shown – hopefully resulting in deeper learning.  (This technique is similar to the one used in the New York Times’ “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature.) Courtesy of Jenna Laib (@jennalaib) and other contributors, The Slow Reveal Graphs website has examples of different types of graphs (Circle, Bar,  Line, etc…), many of which have links to slide decks that have already been created for the slow reveal.  “How Long Can Animals Hold Their Breath Underwater?“, for example, begins with a bar graph that has no title or labels and incrementally adds them as you advance each slide.  The slides also have suggested discussion questions in the notes.

In case you are thinking this site will only appeal to math teachers, I should note that there are three special categories of Slow Reveal Graphs: Social Justice, Save the Planet, and Incarceration in the U.S.  Of course, any of the graphs on the site can be used in multiple subjects, including ELA.

To read more about how Slow Reveal Graphs are used in classrooms, from primary to high school, visit this list of bloggers who have written about SRG’s in the past.

If you like SRG’s, consider trying Clothesline Math and Would You Rather? Math.  One of my most popular posts, 15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep, has examples of these and more. Also, follow the #mtbos hashtag on Twitter for more great math teaching strategies!

refugees-1015309_1920
Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

 

New York Times STEM Writing Contest

I have posted before about The New York Times Learning Network, which offers wonderful free educational materials for students over the age of 13.  For the first time this year, the NYT is sponsoring a STEM Writing Contest for this age group.  Students are asked to submit a 500 word piece of informational writing about a STEM topic which interests them. Submissions are due on March 3, 2020 with the prize of contest winners being published in the New York Times.  To access the supporting materials, learn more about the contest, and get a link to their year-long writing curriculum, click here.

absorbed-2409314_1280
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Support for Diverse Readers and Speakers

There are many tools out there for students who struggle with reading.  There were several I gathered at TCEA 2019 this year, and I have been meaning to share a curated list.  Here is a quick rundown (a big thanks to Leslie Fisher, who demonstrated these in her multiple sessions):

  • Immersive Reader – Microsoft offers this free suite of reading aids through OneNote or directly through it’s Microsoft Edge browser.  If you install the extension on your browser, you can change the background, break words into syllables, search for certain parts of speech, focus on a line, access a picture dictionary, translate, and read text out loud.  Thanks to Leslie Fisher for demonstrating all of these features!
  • Rewordify – You can change complex text to simpler language by pasting it into the box on this page.  Even better, there are several free learning activities that you can customize and print that offer matching, quizzes, etc…
  • SMMRY – Get a summary of the text you paste into the box.
  • Google Docs Voice Typing – Just go to the Tools in Google Docs to access this feature and make sure you give access to the microphone.
  • Closed Captioning in Google Slides – Did you know that you can offer closed captioning as you present a Slides presentation?  Click here to get the instructions.
  • Microsoft Translator – Download this app to your phone or just use it in your browser to start a conversation with anyone anywhere.  Among its other features, you can use multiple microphones for a conversation, which can be translated into multiple languages at the same time!  You can also use the app to take pictures of text (typed, not handwritten) and translate it.

I hope at least one or two of these tools is new and helpful to you!

globe-110775_1920.jpg

 

 

Exact Instructions Challenge PB&J

One of the funniest writing professional developments I ever attended included a live demonstration of the teacher following written instructions for making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.  By following only the instructions on the paper, the teacher ended up making a huge mess.  The point was to show that we often forget some important specifics when writing a “How To” paper.   YouTube’s Josh Darnit has a video you can show your students to get the point across without having to stick your own hand in a jar of Jiffy.  He assigns his children the task of creating “exact instructions” for making a PB&J sandwich, and chaos ensues.

I showed the video to my students in Robot Camp, and they immediately understood the connection – that programmers can’t assume the robot or computer knows what they are thinking, and if something goes wrong you need to go back and fix your mistake instead of blaming it on the device.

You should note that this particular video is labeled, “Classroom Friendly,” and I can attest that it is appropriate.  I can’t vouch for any other Josh Darnit videos or “Exact Instructions” on YouTube.

food-2202381_1920.jpg

826 Digital

Dave Eggers, award-winning author of books such as A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, explains in his 2008 TED Talk, “Once Upon a School,” how he conceived the idea of a tutoring and creative writing center that would be part of the community, a place that would offer one-on-one help to the students in the area with writers who would volunteer their time.

 The center, with its pirate storefront and ever-increasing list of dedicated tutors, was a success.  It grew into more centers around the United States, providing “under-resourced communities access to high-quality, engaging, and free writing, tutoring, and publishing programs.”  As quickly as it has grown, however, 826 National has an even more ambitious goal – to provide its inspirational creative-writing resources to teachers everywhere.  To that end, the company launched “826 Digital” in November of 2017, a website that offers innovative “sparks” and lessons ready to be used in classrooms to galvanize generations of writers of all ages.  Aligned with the Common Core, the unique activities include field-tested resources from Dave Eggers, educators, and volunteers at 826 National sites.

826 Digital is a “pay-as-you-wish” site, which means that teachers can become members for free or whatever they choose to donate.  With lesson titles like, “MIRACLE ELIXIR: INVENTING POTIONS TO CURE BALDNESS AND OTHER THINGS THE WORLD NEEDS RIGHT NOW,” students cannot help but be intrigued and motivated to write.  Sparks like, “CHEESY POP SONG POETRY,” and “MONSTER SCATTERGORIES” will contribute to a classroom environment of humor and creativity.

Your students may not be able to go to the original 826 Valencia pirate store, or the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, but you can make your own classroom into a writer’s room that encourages imagination by accessing the great resources available at 826 Digital.826digital

 

National Poetry Month Ideas

April is National Poetry Month.  Here are a few poetry activities I’ve done in the past that I felt were really worthwhile:

Also, if you are looking for an awesome new-ish poetry book for kids, here is my review of I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris.

ReadWriteThink offers two tools for writing Haikus (an interactive site and an app).

I’m not especially fond of Acrostic Poetry (it usually turns into a list, rather than a poem), but here are some ideas to make Acrostics a bit more rigorous, especially for gifted students:

Or, how about acrostic poems where both the initial and the final letters of each line spell a word?

Here are 30 other ways to celebrate National Poetry Month from Poets.org.

For your own amusement, if you have a Twitter account, check out Poetweet.

book-2752587_1920.jpg