Let’s Take a Walk Down My Writing Lane

During my unit, Power, Leadership and Change, my students write a literary response essay about the novel, Animal Farm. My goals are to improve their thesis and topic sentence development, along with their quote integration. Here are the steps we have taken during the writing process. Now that I am looking at the final products, I realize I still have work to do; therefore, I am adding a new step and continuing the revision process.

1. Thesis Throwdown

I have six prompts to choose from and students work in Lit Circles to develop thesis statements for each prompt. See my post about this step here. The idea was inspired by Catlin Tucker’s blog post. Check it out!

2. Rough Draft Document w/ Model Essay

I use Doctopus to share a document that breaks down each step of the essay (this can be done w/ Google Classroom). On the document, I have a model RTL essay about another piece of literature written by a previous anonymous student. After Thesis Throwdown, students work on their RTL introductions on this document.

Sample RTL Intro

3. Introduction Gallery Walk

The next morning, I get to school early and print six anonymous introductions written the night before by the students (I have access because I sent out the Docs via Doctopus; you can do this w/ Google Classroom). I attach these to what I call my “parking lots” and Lit Circles walk around critiquing the introductions. I then randomly ask one to two students per Lit circle to share our “areas of growth” as  introduction writers. I then require students to open up their Google Documents and revise, paying attention to  these “areas of growth.”

4. Topic Sentence Class Give and Get

Once students have revised introductions, they write their body paragraphs one at a time. After writing their first body paragraph, I print out anonymous topic sentences written by my students the night before (a class set- 35 different topic sentences). As a student enters the class, I hand them a topic sentence. During the Give and Get, students try to meet up with as many students as possible to get feedback on how best to revise the topic sentence assigned to them. After about five minutes, students report to their Lit Circle parking lot and decide whose topic sentence has the most room for growth (this may or may not be a topic sentence written by a group member). They then attach it to their parking lot and revise it as a group. Representatives from each Lit Circle then share the original sentence and revised version. After this process, students then sit down, open their Google Documents and revise their own topic sentences that were written the night before. Finally, I assign the writing of their next body paragraphs with time to write in class.

5. Quote Clash

This activity is much like Thesis Throwdown. The goal is to help students write clear quote sandwiches as evidence to prove their thesis statements. I share a Google Document with the Lit Circles that has room for six quote sandwiches. I then one at a time display a quote on the screen and Lit Circles have six minutes to write a quote sandwich (context, smoothly integrated quote, and analysis). When the timer goes off, a secretary then posts the quote sandwich on the class Padlet wall. Groups then must vote for the quote sandwich that is the strongest. If their vote matches mine, they earn a bonus point. Throughout the process, I stop to discuss strengths and areas of growth of the quote sandwiches posted to the Padlet wall. This activity occurs before a revision day, where students then must review and revise their quote sandwiches, paying close to attention to pointers discussed during Quote Clash.

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6. GoFormative Assessment and Revision

I love using GoFormative to have students score class writing and make revisions. I will add screenshots of student writing and ask students to score with a rubric (4 point scale) to see if  they have the ability to recognize what makes strong writing. I  screenshot samples of low, middle and high writing and ask students to explain their scores and/or revise the sample writing to make it stronger.

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7. Score w/ Student Goobric

On the day the RTL was due, students used the Student Goobric extension to self-assess their writing with our school Literary Response rubric. This was my first time trying it out and we did have some hiccups, but for those students that had no technical issues, it was beneficial to give time for reflection. The students that had technical issues used a printed version of the rubric, which is not as convenient for me, since I have to have these with me while I am grading. With the Student Goobric extension, wherever I am with my technology, I have the ability to see their self-assessment.

On this day, I also had them highlight their thesis statement and topic sentences and leave me a feedback question with a comment explaining which activity helped their writing the most. I will use this feedback to guide my lesson planning during our next writing process.

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8. Offering Feedback with Kaizena

Because my students left me specific questions about their essays, I wanted to be sure I spent time giving adequate feedback. However, I realized as I started the process that this was going to be quite time consuming (130+ students). I tried opening the documents and offering feedback with the Google Voice Typing, but I found that it often misspelled my words, which was even more time consuming to fix. My Digital Learning Coach mentioned Kaizena, so I played with it this weekend. I sent out a Remind 101, offering students a few bonus points if they joined my Kaizena classes. I also added the shortcut addon to my Google Document app (this allows me to add student papers to Kaizena even if a student hasn’t added himself/herself to my class yet). Yesterday, I offered feedback to at least 40 students from home. I LOVED the voice comments capability and the ability to add lessons. There are curated lessons, but you can also add your own. I have links to my favorite videos/pdfs/web resources for skills such as quote integration, analysis, thesis statement writing, etc. With my added lessons, I can highlight the students’ text in their essay and quickly provide them with a link to the resource.

Kaizena

Because what’s most important to me is my students’ writing growth, I am going to extend the due date after I have provided feedback to ALL my students in Kaizena…this is a long Writer’s Lane, but I am sure the walk will be well worth it!

 

 

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Tech Tools I love to Use w/ my English Learners

Before I dive into my list, let me provide some background about my Transitional class. My students have transitioned out of the ELD program, but are not quite ready to handle the rigor of a traditional English CP class due to language deficits. The goal with the Transitional program is to provide language support (oral, writing and reading) to help the students eventually move into an English CP class. I currently have 25 Sophomores enrolled in this class. Along with students new to the country, I also have LTELs (Long Term ELs) who have unique issues that  stem from low reading and writing skills, lack of family support and/or lack of motivation. Using technology with these students can be a challenge due to their lack of self-control. Without my presence in the classroom, circulating the room, these students will somehow begin to browse other sites (YouTube, for example). This makes choosing appropriate learning tasks and technology tools crucial.

1. Verso

One of the texts on our school’s Sophomore reading list is the play, The Glass Menagerie. Teaching drama is sometimes challenging because the playwright intended it to be acted out on stage. Often dramas are read in class and/or sometimes acted out by students. Because my students have language issues, reading in class needs a ton of scaffolding. I wanted my students to experience the play without having to watch the whole movie, while passively taking notes or taking up a 2 hour chunk of time. After a class reading, I would add an activity on Verso that required the students to watch a snippet of a scene and answer an open ended question tied to one of our essential questions. Once students make their initial post, they must reply to two peers’ posts. I love that the posts remain anonymous and students aren’t enticed to comment just on their friend’s post or worry about the class judging their own initial post.

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Verso sample
I provide students with frames for both posting AND responding. When I first started, students would comment, “I agree” or “Good job,” and the frames have helped significantly.
Verso Cheat Sheet
I provide my students a Cheat Sheet to fill out while viewing the video to help them organize their thoughts.

Love that Verso allows you to add instructions (I add sentence frames) and key vocabulary for students to include.

Verso edit

2. Peardeck

At some point, all teachers need to relay information to their students and/or teach new concepts. Before Peardeck, I would use either Google Slides or PowerPoint and deliver notes, while students took Cornell notes on a Google Doc and/or filled in a graphic organizer. While I tried to check for understanding, by occasionally asking questions and/or asking the students to pose their questions developed from their Cornell notes, I never truly knew how well my students understood the concepts. With Peardeck, I import my Google slides or Powerpoints and pose questions intermittently throughout the presentation. These questions may be open ended, multiple choice, or drag a dot/annotate on an image/slide. Because each student is logged in with their unique school email, I can see how they are responding live. I can time their response, lock the question, and even display anonymous answers on the screen for the whole class. There are many times during a lesson when, because I can view their activity, I will say “So-and-so, I am still waiting for your response,” which also holds students accountable. An added bonus, is that after a session, teachers can send out a “Takeway” that produces a copy of each students’ responses and leaves a space for students to take notes later into their Google Drives. Usually, the day after a presentation, I will start by asking them to revisit their notes and write a summary in the box provided.

3. GoFormative

Like Peardeck, Goformative is an awesome tech tool that allows the teacher to see the work being accomplished live. What is an added bonus is the ability to give live feedback, which pops on the students’ screen; this allows the students to make revisions and corrections instantly. This tool is AMAZING! I have had students annotate passages, answer multiple choice questions, write thesis statements, code essays,etc. You name it and it probably can be done with Goformative. One time when I had students annotate a poem, I asked students to upload an image that symbolized what was happening in a given stanza. Just by looking at the images, I could see whether they were getting the gist of the poem. Students were very creative and even uploaded an image, labeled it, and added their own pictures with the freehand draw tool.

Try one of these tools! You will not be sorry.