Category Archives: Language Arts

Two Great Ways To Improve Blogging In The Elementary Classroom

1. Edublog’s Student Blogging Challenge

http://studentchallenge.edublogs.org/

This is a 10 week challenge facilitated by Edublogs and is designed to improve the quality of your student’s blog postings, give a framework for leaving quality comments and offer an opportunity for students to connect with other students from around the world.

The challenge occurs twice a year in September and March.

Steps to participate:

  • Register your intent to participate.
    • Classes register here
    • Students register here
  • Register your email address with Edublogs here so you can receive weekly blogging challenges directly to your (or your students) inbox.
    • You can do this by entering your email address in the top right hand corner of the Student Blogging Challenge website under the heading, ‘Subscribe For Free.’

Students who use class blogs (teachers blog) are just as welcome as well as those who have individual blogs.

2. Quadblogging

http://quadblogging.net/

Quadblogging is designed to increase the amount of traffic to your student’s blogs, enabling them to write for a wider audience.  It also enables students to connect with teachers and students from around the world.  Opportunities like these really open up your classroom to global perspectives.

Steps to participate:

  • Sign up here.
  • Keep up with tweets @Quadblogging.
  • If you choose to lead a quad, then once you have been assigned your group, you will need to contact the other three schools and arrange a start date.
  • If you choose not to lead a group, once you been assigned a blog, wait for the quad leader to contact you.
I share the following two documents with my students which are designed to improve their blogging and commenting skills.  You may find them helpful with your students:
I Can Statements: Blogging
I Can Statements: Commenting

 

If you chose to take part, then please feel free to let me know how the project(s) went for you.  Also, if you are aware of any similar projects please leave a message in the comments section.

Two Ways To Engage In Creative Writing

 

1. The Progressive Story Project:  My teaching partner, @missbartel, stumbled upon this project last year.  Both our grade 5/6 classes participated with enthusiasm in the spring, and engagement levels were high throughout.  The Progressive Story Project was developed by Karen Ditzler, an instructional technology specialist, from Pennsylvania USA.  Groups of 5 classes, in schools around the world, work together to write a complete story.  Here’s how the project works:

  • The first class brainstorms and writes the intro paragraph(s).
  • Then the next class reads the paragraph(s), brainstorms and decides how they want to continue the story.
  • This will continue until the last class on the list writes the ending and gives the story a title.
  • Classes can edit their section of the story on the Wiki.
  • Once your class has finished the writing part, students can choose scenes to illustrate from their writing.
  • Once all illustrations have been submitted, a VoiceThread is created of the entire story.
This is a link to the story my grade 5/6 class created last spring.

 

2. QuadBlogging:  The primary goal of QuadBlogging is to increase the flow of traffic to a class blog or a number of student blogs in a particular class.  The project creates opportunities for classes, in different school across the globe, to develop their blogging and commenting skills.  If you are familiar with the Twitter hashtag #comment4kids, then QuadBlogging achieves a similar outcome but in a more formal way.  Here’s how the project works:

  • School A becomes the focus school for an entire school week
  • Schools B, C, D spend the week visiting school A’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
  • In the second week of the project, school B becomes the focus school
  • Schools A, C, D spend the week visiting school B’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
  • During the third week of the project, school C becomes the focus school for the week
  • Schools A, B, D spend the week visiting school C’s blog(s), leaving comments and interacting with the content of the blog(s)
  • The cycle continues until all schools have had the opportunity to be the focus school.
If you are aware of other ongoing projects, which attempt to connect teachers and students across the globe please feel free to add a link and the title of the project in the comment section below.

Four-Square Writing Process

With so many reluctant writers in my class I needed to start the year with an alternate writing tool.  Last year, while I was working as a collaboration-relief teacher I came across a writing framework that was both logic and simple to use.  The Four-Square writing framework is essentially a graphic organizer which allows students to organize their thoughts in a logical ways and present them in paragraph form.

So far this year my students have been practicing writing a five sentence paragraph.  Once they master this process I will move to an 8-sentence paragraph, and finish with combining several paragraphs together.

Here is a link to a useful Powerpoint presentation using the four-square framework.

Tech Integration Post # 6 of 10: Skype an Author On The, Before-During-After, Writing Process.

Skype is a service which allows the registered user to make free phone calls and video calls over the Internet.  This is a free service but both users need to have Skype software downloaded on their computers before the technology will work.  In order to make a phone call you’ll need a microphone to speak into and a pair of speakers to listen to the responses of the person you’re talking to.  If you would like to engaging in video calls both parties will needed a webcam in order to be able to see each other.

Using Skype in the classroom is not limited to author workshops, when using Skype you can bring a variety of professionals/experts into your classroom at their convenience.  The following link takes you to a list of professionals/experts from around the world willing to Skype in your classroom.

Also, please take the time to check out this excellent video resource from Silvia Tolisano

Example: Use an author to help teach your learner’s about the before, during, and after writing process.  I’ve found that whenever you connect your learner’s to experts outside the classroom it enhances the validity of the task/assignment ten fold, and you’re students become more engaged.

Learning Outcomes: B.C. Grade 6 Language Arts
A3 – listen purposefully to understand and analyse ideas and information
A5 – select and use strategies when expressing and presenting ideas, information, and feelings
B5 – select and use strategies before reading and viewing to develop understanding of text
C5 – select and use strategies before writing and representing
C6 – select and use strategies during writing and representing to express and refine thoughts
C7 – select and use strategies after writing and representing to improve their work

Here’s a link to all my Skype related bookmarks on Diigo

Let me know what you think.  If you’re reading this and have used these techniques please feel free to comment or question.

Tech Integration Post # 5 of 10: Health and Career Education 2.0

Grade 5 Health and Career Education Learning Outcome: Safety and Injury Prevention

C7 – describe safety guidelines to protect themselves and others from abuse and exploitation (e.g., knowing their right not to be abused, being assertive, avoiding potentially unsafe situations, practicing safe Internet use, recognizing tricks and lures used by predators)

Use a Flip camera, a video camera, a digital camera, or a mobile phone to video small groups of students acting out how to be safe online.  Try these topics or generate your own:

  1. Never hide Internet usage from your parents.  Always let them know when your online
  2. Never reveal personal information such as telephone number, address, last name etc…
  3. Never arrange to meet someone you’ve met online and don’t know, without your parents permission
  4. Cyberbullying
  5. Digital citizenship
  6. Protecting reputations online
  7. Digital privacy
  8. Safe talking in Cyberspace
  9. Handling E-mail and IM
  10. Safe Social Networking

Your learners may choose a topic and research, in depth, based on the information you’ve share with them or from information they have found independently.  They form a small group of three or four and complete the following tasks:

  • Sketch out a storyboard of the Internet/Online safety skit
  • Create a script of dialogue for the skit
  • Collect any props needed for the skit and practice until comfortable
  • Record the skit and edit using JayCut

Note: This is a cross-curricular activity and can be used for oral language practice as well as a writing exercise.
My Diigo links on Internet/Online Safety

Once your videos are complete your learners can use JayCut to upload and edit them.  JayCut is a free online video editing tool.  There is no longer a need to download expensive video editing software.  You can use JayCut from any computer with an Internet connection and the basic package is free.

When the videos have been edited by your learners they may be showcased at assemblies or shown to learners in younger grades and used as a teaching tool.  Older grades tend to put more effort into their work when the audience is larger and they know it’s being used for a higher purpose.

Feel free to let me know how it goes…

Tech Integration Post # 4 of 10: Teaching with TED

TED is a small non-profit devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’  It began in 1984 as a conference, bringing together leaders in the fields of Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  The TED website makes a selection of the best talks and performances available to view and download for free.  All of the talks feature closed captions in English, and many feature subtitles in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.  If you subscribe to a news reader such as Google Reader you can also subscribe to new talks here.

I’ve used TED in the classroom to inspire my learners, to bring attention to important world events, to listen to debates and form opinions, to create and stimulate inquiry, to activate prior knowledge, to offer career and life-skills knowledge, and as a writing prompt.

The following TED talk is a debate and asks the question, “Does the world need nuclear energy?” It compares the future of burning fossil fuels energy against the possibility of increasing nuclear power production.  Obviously, the vocabulary used in these talks are not necessarily intermediate grade friendly but I feel it serves as a great introduction to a debate writing unit for grade 6, or an introduction to non-renewable resources in covered in B.C. science 6.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UK8ccWSZkic]

It’s simple to use TED as an engaging way to meet many learning outcomes in British Columbia and beyond.  Here are a few examples which link specific TED talks directly to B.C. learning outcomes:

B.C. PLO Science grade 5: Earth and Space Science: Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources

  • analyze how BC’s living and non-living resources are used
  • identify methods of extracting or harvesting and processing BC’s resources
  • describe potential environmental impacts of using BC’s living and non-living resources

B.C. PLO English Language Arts grade 6:

  • Oral Language: A1 use speaking and listening to interact with others
  • Reading and viewing: B9 read and view to improve and extend thinking
  • Writing and representing: C2 write a variety of effective informational writing for a range of purposes and audiences that communicates ideas to inform or persuade


Why use TED?

  1. It’s real
  2. It’s relevant
  3. It’s current
  4. It connects classroom’s with people making positive change in the world.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

10 Benefits Of Online Writing:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvPZtTej0jQ]

1. Learners are now writing for an audience rather than their teacher

2. Writing is easier to edit online which reduces some frustrations in the writing process

3. Work is located in one place and can be accessed to mark and assess from anywhere with an Internet connection

4. You’ll be preparing your learners for life in a digital world

5. It fosters a collaborative environment

6. Double whammy: Your learners will be reading and writing simultaneously

7. Opens the opportunity for learners to discuss topics outside of the classroom

8. Every person has an equal opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions

9. Learners have space to reflect and be reflective with one another

10. Provides opportunities for learners to interact, network, and conference with knowledgeable individuals or specialists from around the world

Blogging and Online Writing Meets Many LA PLO’s

How Does Blogging and Writing Online Meet British Columbia’s -Prescribed Learning Outcomes?

Grade 2:

  • B4 – view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., signs, illustrations, diagrams)
  • B7 – use strategies after reading and viewing to confirm and extend meaning
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • C2 – create informational writing and representations about non-complex topics and procedures
  • C7 – use writing and representing to express personal responses and opinions about experiences or texts

Grade 3:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts
  • B4 – view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., cartoons, illustrations, diagrams, posters)
  • B7 – use a variety of strategies after reading and viewing to confirm and extend meaning
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • B9 – read and view to extend thinking
  • C2 – create a variety of clear, easy-to-follow informational writing and representations
  • C7 – use writing and representing to express personal responses and opinions about experiences and texts

Grade 4:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • C1 – write clear, focused personal writing for a range of purposes and audiences that demonstrates connections to personal experiences, ideas, and opinions

Grade 5:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts
  • B4 – view and demonstrate comprehension of visual texts (e.g., signs, cartoons, illustrations, newspapers, diagrams, posters, videos, advertising)
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • B9 – read and view to improve and extend thinking
  • C1 – write a variety of clear, focused personal writing for a range of purposes and audiences that demonstrates connections to personal experiences, ideas, and opinions
  • C9 – use writing and representing to extend thinking

Grade 6:

  • B2 – read fluently and demonstrate comprehension of grade-appropriate information texts with some specialized language
  • B4 – demonstrate comprehension of visual texts with specialized features
  • B8 – respond to selections they read or view
  • B9 – read and view to improve and extend thinking
  • C1 – write a variety of clear, focused personal writing for a range of purposes and audiences that demonstrates connections to personal experiences, ideas, and opinions
  • C8 – use writing and representing to express personal responses and relevant opinions about experiences and texts