Saturday, February 28, 2009

Words Matter

For a powerful lesson on word choice and sentence syntax, watch this 1 min 44 second video with your students. It's a visual and auditory lesson on the impact which words can have. The Lost Generation was written by a twenty-year-old as part of a contest which AARP sponsored entitled, "U @ 50." Well written and well executed.
Technorati Tags:
, , , , ,

Monday, February 23, 2009

Virginia is for Writers

At the Virginia State Reading Association Conference this past weekend, I gave three presentations for reading specialists and literacy coaches. As many of you know, Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8 has specific mini-lessons to help students develop rich, in-depth characters and settings. One teacher suggested that after students have brainstormed a character and a setting they should swap their character descriptions with a peer and see how their character would react to being placed in a different setting. How would a Mexican immigrant living in New York City view and experience being homeless in Barbados? Beyond being a fun learning activity, this would also help students see their setting from a different point of view. Here are two teachers enjoying the process of collaborating on creating a story.

Evi Hickman, a reading teacher in Fairfax County Virginia, was excited to see a book with a subtitle that included 4th graders with 8th graders. She said, "By doing that you have grouped fourth graders with older readers as opposed to tying them into younger students." She thought that this would communicate greater expectations to these younger writers and spur them on to higher levels of achievement.

When I confided to an ESL teacher that I had dreamt that the title of my book would be "Everyone has a Story," she laughed. She found in her work with both Hispanic and a Russian student that at times it is easier for these students to write their own stories, than it is for them to learn how to read. I was surprised but she reminded me that when writing stories from their own lives they are exercising personal choice, which enhances their learning experiences.

Like the teachers who I taught at NCCAT last fall, these teachers also experienced the challenges involved in on-demand writing. They left with a greater appreciation for the tasks which they require their students to perform. I encouraged teachers to take this a step further and share their own writing experiences (both successes and failures!) with their students. As Peter Johnston says in his book, Choice Words, "Being a knower/learner communicates to the student that we're in this together. We're on the same page." (Stenhouse Publishers, 2004)A community of writers working together is vital for a learning-rich environment.

My sessions were well received and I overheard a teachers say, "I'll use this in my classroom on Monday!" Music to a presenter's ears. I left the conference thinking that everyone knows that Virginia is for lovers. But I found a state that is for writers too.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , ,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lessons from NWRESA

At NWRESA in Wilkesboro, NC this week, I taught a talented group of teachers how to create blogs, wikis, & podcasts to use in their classrooms. Here are some of their lessons which they agreed to share with you as long as you know these are all "works in progress":

April Robinson a fourth grade math teacher at Oak Hill Elementary created this clever math wiki.

Stacy Miller, an academic coach in Alexander County is working on a collaborative book of student stories on their wiki.

Christie Ruff, put Bloom's Taxonomy chart on her class blog.

Tracy Chapman, an instructional technology coach in Alexander county is putting together this wiki for her teachers.

Lauren Dean has already been working hard adding to her language arts blog for South Davie Middle.

The teachers enjoyed working together to learn these new technologies--which mirrors the type of learning that goes on in classroom when wikis and blogs are utilized. As Sarah Hunt-Barron wrote in the Fall 2008 issue of the South Carolina English Teacher in her article, "Teaching for the Future: The Art of Collaboration through Wikis": [Wikis]...made my classroom a more democratic environment, where students contributions were all valued and voices could be heard."
Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Ever press "send" on an e-mail and then think of what else you wanted to say? That happened to me when I read two articles in the October issue of the Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and found more websites to help teachers who are integrating technology into their classroom instruction.

First of all, for safety on the internet go to: Better yet, have your students go there first and ask them to comment on one of the many articles posted there. (Perhaps on your classroom blog or wiki?)

For more information on podcasts, try one of these:

1. a Apple-sponsored website on podcasts.

2. The Education Podcast Network

3. The "How To Podcast" website

4.Create & share podcasts

Imbee: a social networking + educational site for young people.

Finally, if you want to try something that will really knock the socks off your students, Brenda Dyck has a great article in this month's issue of Middle Ground on using Skype in the classroom.
Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

Friday, February 6, 2009

Using Technology for 21st-Century Writing

In conjunction with my workshop at NWRESA next week on Using Technology for 21st Century Writing, I put together a handout for the teachers listing helpful websites. There is a serious push throughout the country for schools to incorporate technology into classrooms. As Karl Fisch commented on his poplar website for teachers, The Fischbowl, "If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write."

To help those of you who daily strive to educate and inspire your students and meet state and national standards, I hope you will find this listing to be helpful.

GENERAL SUPPORT: - Lesson plans, information & great NC resource! Good definition of blogs, wikis, and podcasts.

BLOG HOSTS: for teachers and students. Looks like a wiki. Can insert audio (wav) & video files. DO THE TUTORIALS!!

BLOG EXAMPLES: – Mine. Focus on literacy. - Commentary on tech in education A simple 5th grade blog.

WIKI HOSTS: (check out their support video )

WIKI EXAMPLES: - Mine. Focuses on revision. - Good example of a wiki use among teachers. - 8th graders studying the Holocaust

MOODLE: – like a wiki, but you can post more. Con: Lengthy download to your computer. I didn't find it as user friendly as

NING: – must be over 13. Think: Facebook + wiki - NCTE's ning - Technology in the classroom

PODCASTS: definition of audio files Supports: 3g2, .3gp, .mp3, .m4a, .ogg, .m4v, mp4, .flv, .mov, .avi, .mpg, .pdf, .doc, .ppt, .xls files MY FAVORITE! (Being that it is the simplest). This allows you to edit your podcast. Audacity can also be used for voice recordings at your computer. Same as audacity.

PODCASTS PLUS BLOGS AND WIKIS: - Specific details about adding podcasts to blogs that have used Wordpress.

Important note: Free blogs come with 3000 megabytes (3GB) of space for storing uploaded files and images.

The Space Upgrade gives you an additional 5, 15, or 25 Gigabytes of storage space, and allows you to upload music and video files in addition to images. You cannot upload music and video files without the space upgrade.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , ,


  Although I moved to WordPress for my new website , I'm still having issues with sending out blog notifications. Here's this week&#...