Saturday, February 27, 2010

What we can learn about writing from Shaun White

The Olympics are winding down and no matter where they are hosted or who actually wins, there are always incredible global stories while watching.  In honor of these past two weeks, I am adapting this from a post over on The Talent Code blog.

First - head over there to watch the video and read the original post.  Go ahead - I'll wait.

Fun right? So here is my take as it relates to writing:

Lesson One: Start out with the big picture first.  Who is your audience? What do you want to communicate? What is the best voice for you to use?  Brainstorm - sketch - get out the big picture first.

Lesson Two: Isolate and compress the key elements.  Draft writing is critical here - revision is key.  Play with the words, switch your intro and your conclusion, cross out entire paragraphs, start in the middle. Play in the "foam pit" (or what I call the sandbox) and don't be afraid to perfect just one element a day.

Lesson Three: Work in a stepwise manner. Read your writing aloud, share it with someone else. Does it flow? Is it logical? Are there more revisions that you could do?

Lesson Four: Put a year's worth of writing into one day. Well - not literally, but write every day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Shakespeare Comes to Facebook

I post often here on authentic writing.  I don't think in this day and age it gets too much more authentic than this.

Bill Shakespeare Comes to Facebook (via The Clever Sheep)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reading and Writing Online

Teacher Tech does a great job here reflecting on an article about how hypertext influences learning.

According to the article, research shows that the navigational structure of a site matters when it comes to best understanding content. Sites generally follow one of two basic patterns. They offer information in a linear fashion, requiring students to read through the information in a predetermined order. This is similar to how they would read printed text. These sites offer links that go directly from one page to the next with no other options.

Other sites are more informal and allow the reader to move freely through the text by determining their own path. These are sites that may also have links within the text that the reader can use to get more information as needed.
There is no doubt that information literacy has become something that we absolutely must teach our students.  In addition to determining whether the information our students are reading online is reliable, we must teach them how to read online.

Similarly, as we ask our students to do more work online, we need to think about teaching them to write online.  Are our students using blogs? Wikis? Nings? Are they publishing articles online?  Then we need to teach them how to write connectively - meaning, when do they add hyperlinks? Where do they add them? What are they linking to?

I know that since I began blogging years ago, my writing has changed.  It is difficult for me to write most anything without linking somewhere.  When I recently submitted an article for publication to an educational journal, it was difficult to NOT link (since it would be published in print form if accepted.)  But I have never really stopped to think about the process of when and why I insert a link - something that I will have to do in order to help teachers and students with this type of writing.

If you are reading and writing online - what do you notice about hyperlinks? How are you teaching students about them?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tag This! Awesome Highlighter

I have tried to move most of my Internet functions over to Firefox from Internet Explorer - but for various reasons have not been totally successful.  It's a little like metric to me - I know it is the right thing to do, but so much easier to use IE!

One of the reasons I really like Firefox are all the add-ons that are available - especially those that make reading online that much easier for students.

In case you are like me in my relationship with Firefox - try this site for a simple way to highlight online text.  When you try it - you get a cute little highlighter and can highlight away.  Click "done" at the top of the page and you get a link that takes others to the page you highlighted or you can email or copy to a clipboard.

Great way to have students use the Internet for research without printing every single page!

Tag it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Digital Storytelling

I am constantly amazed at the tools that are available to help students with story-telling! While many teachers argue that they leave narrative writing out of the picture in favor of "test prep" with expository writing - I constantly push back about the importance of understanding story structure and elements in comprehension.  And what better way to understand them than to write?

Some recent resources I have found via my learning network on digital storytelling:
  • Digital Storytelling Teacher Guide from Microsoft: An e-book that teachers can download and reference for using Windows MovieMaker or Photo Story.  Even better are the templates from teachers which also includes a sample rubric.
  • Zimmer Twins: Drag and drop elements to create a story or to finish a "cliff hanger" - great for elementary students.
  • VoiceThread wiki: I've blogged before about VoiceThread but this wiki is full of examples, best practices and tutorials.  It even includes a link to form a classroom partnership.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing is Power

Writing. Reflection. Self-Esteem.

Larry Ferlazzo helps explain "Why Write?"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poetry Friday: Gooney Bird is So Absurd

Via A Year of Reading:  A new book about Gooney Bird!!!

"Gooney Bird and her classmates are learning to write poetry. They write very short three or four-word poems, haikus, couplets, limericks, and list poems. We get to watch Gooney Bird help Barry revise his list poem. At the end of the book, the class is just about to start writing poems for two voices when their teacher's mother dies. Together they write a poem for MANY voices for their teacher."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why Write?

I use that question as the tag line to this blog.  It is a question that I often ask teachers when working with them.  While I love writing and know that there is incredible power in a series of well-written words, so often in school we ask students to write without any purpose.  And then we wonder why they don't love to write.

One of my biggest pet peeves is writing for punishment.  You know - writing that "I will not (insert transgression here)" 100 times.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, will kill the desire to write more than this.

On the opposite end - one of my favorite things to do with students (other than keeping writer's notebooks) is to develop RAFTS, particularly for writing in the content areas.  For those unfamiliar with the format, students are given a particular role, are asked to write for a specific audience using a certain format for writing on a given topic.  In my social studies class, it allowed students to explore various perspectives and showcase their understanding of the content.

So - I was intrigued by this recent post from Educational Origami which merges Bloom's Revised Taxonomy with an adaptation of Daggett's Application Model.  And I started to think about writing assignments that we give our students.  And ones that are used in reading series and on state assessments.  And I started to think about how writing instruction might be different and more relevant if we used this activity map to plan out and scaffold our instruction to lead students towards truly authentic writing.

Would this help answer the question?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tag This: WordSift

Last week I stumbled upon WordItOut.  This week - it is WordSift.

It is another great text visualization tool - but as Cliotech shares, it has many more applications than either WordItOut or Wordle.

Don't you love how tech tools keep evolving?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tag This: Proofreading!

I know, I know - for many teachers and students it is February break.  And in NYS, at this time last year the ELA assessments were far behind us.

But this year - they are right in front of us and I know, no matter how hard you try, there is a little piece of you that wants to do some "test prep."  Just a little, teeny, tiny bit.

Found this site via Langwitches to help with the editing passage: 

Interactive and fun! Tag it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Challenge for Change

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."  Barack Obama

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  John Quincy Adams
"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” FDR
Happy President's Day.
I know it is a bit unusual to post about President's Day on a writing blog but I have been thinking a great deal about leadership lately and what it takes to be a good leader.  I am sure that many will debate that many of our Presidents were/are not good leaders - others will argue that merely by virute of their position, they were/are.  I am not here to lead that debate - I am just here to have us think about our leadership in education.  Specifically - our leadership when it comes to technology
I don't think that technology is the silver bullet to change our educational system. Sure - it might lead to increased engagement of our students.  It might.  But if we still don't have concrete and rigor expectations of the content and skills our students need to know - whether they are engaged or not is not going to make one bit of difference.
But one power of technology that I have found is the power to push our thinking and therefore, push our learning.  I love to write.  I love to teach writing.  But I got to do so in a very small corner of the world.  With my participation in Twitter chats, through blogging and networking using a variety of other technology resources - I can share that passion with others, learn from them and make the work that I do in my small corner of the world that much better.
So on this President's Day - I am going to challenge you, dear readers, to push yourselves with the technology just a bit.  Reach outside your comfort zone to try something new - to learn something new - to connect with someone new.  Not sure how? Here are some suggestions:
1. Over on Two Writing Teachers, they will be beginning their Slice of Life Challenge soon.  Participate - expand your own writing in a public place.
2. Join Twitter, follow some educators and start a conversation.  Better yet - jump into a conversation via #edchat (Tuesdays at noon and 7pm EST) or #ecosys.
3. Check out some of the challenges over at Challenged Based Learning and use that model to determine how we can have students write using technology (or not!) in ways to increase collaboration and solve "real world" problems.

4. Start your own blog - on writing or on any other topic.  Start a classroom blog.  Either way - write, publish, ask for feedback.  If you create one - post the link in the comment section and I will follow you.

5. Read a book online! Whatever Happened to Language Arts? is available online from Stenhouse. "Noted educator and speaker David Booth draws on his 50 years in education to explore how literacy instruction has evolved and how innovative teachers are successfully integrating old and new in their classrooms. With contributions from a dozen classroom teachers, readers will find many new ideas to try, incorporating digital learning, graphic novels, literature circles, talking about writing, reader's theater, assessment, and more."
These are small suggestions - but for some they might be very big steps.  The focus is to push yourself, be a leader and learn from others.  Leadership is not just for Presidents or CEOs - it is for educators as well.
"Sometimes when I sleep at night I think of (Dr. Seuss's) 'Hop on Pop.'" -George W. Bush, in a speech about childhood education, Washington, D.C., April 2, 2002  (Sorry - couldn't resist!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

X-Ray Reading

Last week, I posted about "x-ray" reading and challenged readers to post on this blog about why the passage was so powerful.

This week, comments on the passage are posted and give great insight as to what readers see when an author writes. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Inspiration

Imagine wanting to read all the Newberry Award Winners.

Now imagine that it is a goal set by a second grader. 

Now imagine that is in fourth grade and has almost accomplished that goal.

Don't imagine - meet Laura.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Add On: After the Deadline

I like to use Firefox for my online work as it offers all kinds of extensions to make work more efficient.  If you have students blogging, this add-on will be helpful for catching those pesky spelling/grammar errors and eliminate the need to create posts in a Word document first.

Via Lifehacker.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tell Me What to Do

Seth Godin always makes me think.  And this time - he has me thinking about the feedback we give students on writing.  First - his words:

If you've ever hired or managed or taught, you know the feeling.

People are just begging to be told what to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is: "If you tell me what to do, the responsibility for the outcome is yours, not mine. I'm safe."

When asked, resist.

Now - to my thinking.  How often have we taken a piece of student writing and circled misspelled words or incorrect punctuation? How many times have we commented to add more details or "tell me more?"

I know that we balance positive feedback with the "cool" but aren't we still telling the student what to do with their writing?  How do we teach them to more critically evaluate their writing - to find the places where consultation with a dictionary or the addition of details are needed?

The next time you want to add these kinds of comments to a paper - resist.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tag This: WordItOut

Many teachers have already discovered Wordle, which allows you to convert text into a word cloud to focus on the most often used words.  It has proven to be a great revision tool for students when copying their own text - to see which words are used most often, what the general theme of a piece and many other applications.  You can find other uses for wordle on this post.

A new word cloud generator has arrived: WordItOut.  The word cloud I created of this blog address can be found here.

What's nice about WordItOut is that it allows you to customize the words that are not read in creating the word cloud, as well as customizing the font and the size.  I may start using this site more often as I explore the use of visualizing text to enhance writing.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Tag This! Kate DiCamillo

Via squeetus, I found Kate DiCamillo's blog.

A fantastic, once a month published journal piece. 

I got chills reading it and the possibilities for using this blog are endless.

Go on - I betcha can't read just one entry.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Reading as a Writer

Like many writing teachers, I use mentor texts in my work as "models" of writing.  So often, we remember a great book or a great beginning or a great ending.  And we encourage writer's to emulate that in their own writing.

But emulate what? Sometimes I don't think we spend enough time dissecting why something worked (or why it didn't!)

I like the notion in this blog post of developing "x-ray reading skills" to improve writing:

"I've come to believe that writers see things in texts that are invisible to others. Moreover, I have a theory that the best writers are the best readers, possessed with a kind of X-ray vision that allows them to peer through the surface of a text, to see the machinery whirring underneath."

He goes on to share the opening two paragraphs from a novel and prompt us to answer the questions: "Why and how does this passage work?"

A great model for working with  mentor texts.  A great model for using blogging with our students.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tag This: Kerpoof!

Always looking for ways to integrate visualization and publishing into the classroom.  KerPoof allows students to draw and create card, movies and books.  New to the site is that creations can be saved locally (on your own computer) and there are education accounts available.


Via iLearn Technology - some tips on use and integration into the classroom.
Scholastic also has some lesson ideas - including a great social studies one!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Funny Friday Poetry Challenge

For Poetry Friday, I thought I would share this blog post and the tricky poem it writes about to challenge your ability to speak (and understand) the English language!!


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Get to Know Your Semi-Colon

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know my abuse of commas and utter fascination with them at the same time.  It has, over time, expanded into the appropriate use of other punctuation marks.

So - with great humor, I give you the links to better know your semi-colon!

And in case that wasn't enough - would you believe that France has tried in the past to ban the semicolon??

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Writer's Notebook Idea: Ogori

Via Seth Godin's blog, the idea of Ogori or generousity.

A cafe in Japan has some interesting rules:

In a nutshell, you get what the person before you ordered, and the next person gets what you ordered. Thus, if you’re in on the game, you can choose to be either a generous benefactor, and treat those that come after you – or try your luck at being cheap. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment that explores surprise, kindness and encourages interactions.

Read about the experience here.  Then ask your students what they would order or to try their hand at writing the story from the perspective of one of the other cafe customers mentioned in the blog post.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Writing Process: Phyllis Root

One aspect of writing that I think is important to share with students and developing writers is the importance of process.  It often works best when you can connect the stories to published authors, particularly those that they read in the classroom, as inspiration.

Via Wordswimmer, an interview with Phyllis Root, author of one of my favorite children's books "The Name Quilt" shares here process and thoughts on writing.

Some highlights:
  • Root isn’t shy about admitting that her writing process is very messy. She’ll write pages and pages of the worst writing, she explains, because “all writing is practice,” and practice makes her a better writer ... and a better person. “I’m much nicer when I’ve been writing,” she says, “than when I’ve been avoiding it.”

  •  On the best part of writing: "The excitement of a new idea, of trying to make it take shape on the page, of trying this and that to see what happens, to see what the idea might become, how it will change as I work on it, how the writing might change me (a sea change) as well."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ideas and Writing

I found this via the Digital Media and Education blog and immediately my mind went to writing (although the topic is scholarship).