Tag Archives: Graphic Organizers

Digital Gallery Walk as a Teaching Tool

During a virtual gallery walk, students explore multiple texts or images that are placed in an interactive slideshow, Google Slide, or Padlet. Teachers can use this strategy to offer students a way to share their work with each other and build class community, or use it to introduce students to texts that they can analyze.

The traditional gallery walk allows students to explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room. Teachers use this strategy for students to share their work with peers, examine multiple historical documents, or respond to a collection of quotations. This strategy requires students to physically move around the room and can can be especially engaging to kinesthetic learners.

In a blended learning environment, students can use their own devices to explore multiple texts in one curated space. Teachers share the digital gallery with students during a synchronous session or ask them to look through the gallery asynchronously. Viewing instructions will depend on the goals for the activity. If the purpose of the virtual gallery is to introduce students to new material, taking notes as they view the sources is beneficial. For example, with the Russian Revolution Digital Gallery for George Orwell’s Animal Farm, students took notes on an interactive foldable in their Reader’s Notebook.

Similarly, students can complete a graphic organizer as they view the digital gallery, or compile a list of questions for them to answer based on the texts on display. Sometimes teachers ask students to identify similarities and differences among texts. If using an interactive application, such as Google Jamboard or Padlet, you can also ask students to leave comments on the sources.

Once students have finished viewing the sources, debrief the activity together. You can ask students to share their impressions or what they learned in small group breakout rooms or with the whole class.

How to Create A Digital Gallery

  1. Choose the platform for the digital gallery – Google Slides, Padlet, or Jamboard. I prefer to use Google Slides to create a customized art gallery look for backgrounds, frames, and layout.
  2. Determine the viewing purpose and then select the images, student work, or texts that will be on display on the Digital Gallery. Once you have your ideas go hunting for pictures, political cartoons, short primary source documents for each topic.
  3. Customize the text, layout and display of the images or texts on the document so they are easily visible and accessible for students. SlidesMania has many great interactive templates that can be a starting off point for creating a Digital Gallery.
  4. Hyperlink the images or text on the Digital Gallery. For example, on the Japanese Internment Digital Gallery above each image is hyperlinked to specific web link to provide historical information about Japanese Internment during World War II. The images are placed similar to the experience of visiting a museum or gallery. Each image has a boarder or frame around them and are numbered to correlate with additional information. Include few to no words. This is a gallery walk; students learn through visuals, not blocks of text. You might also include audio segments your virtual gallery walk if you choose. Add an appropriate song, interviews, radio shows, audio speeches, videos. To embed, simply click on insert and choose audio.
  5. Write out and post instructions for students on the digital gallery. 
  6. Create a graphic organizer where students will capture their responses as they circulate (this is optional, but it is an effective way to hold students accountable for their participation and critical thinking). For the Japanese Internment Digital Gallery students completed a “Who, What, Where, When, Why” graphic organizer or students can complete a “See Think Wonder Graphic Organizer.” Another ideas for evaluation is to create a Google Form for students to reflect and synthesize their viewing and understanding.  
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Supporting Writers in Blended Learning Environments

In Chapter Three of my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I spend time addressing teaching essay writing. In the beginning of the chapter I write, “Essay writing is the foundation of secondary school. As much as I desire to focus on creative writing and diverse formats in my classroom, that is not the reality. My students are still working on literary essays throughout their schooling;  learning and writing  in a format that exists across content subjects, standardized tests, and throughout college.  Students learn the five paragraph essay in order to articulate their thinking about their reading and showcase their understanding. How does one help students to do just that, while at the same time show original thinking about their reading, include textual evidence, maintain voice and individuality? Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, models and mentor texts, discussions, and scaffolds.”

State tests might be on hold during the pandemic but helping students with essay writing in a blended learning environment has not wavered. My students continue to write essays as well as creative writing pieces but the essay itself is like climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for many of my 8th graders. Whether it is formulating a thesis or claim or finding the strongest pieces of evidence to support their claims or thesis, writing an essay can be an arduous task. The more my students write and the more opportunities they have to practice collecting evidence and writing, they will grow as writers.

This year I created a guide book on Bookcreator.com for students to access written and video instructions, graphic organizers on how to tackle each part of the essay. Think of it like a collection of Flipped lesson on essay writing. You can view the book HERE.

Graphic organizers are great tools to help support student writing. When I create a graphic organizer I am thinking about where the students are at and what necessary scaffolds are needed to help them accomplish the writing task. In this graphic organizer students organize information about their reading — it helps students articulate their understanding and show the relationships between their thinking about a theme in the text. Some of my students might need a more modified organizer depending on their needs and accommodations. In this modified version of the graphic organizer I provide students with an evidence bank and adjust the essay format to three paragraphs versus a 4-5 paragraph essay. In addition to providing class time for students to write their essays and freeing up lessons on the writing process, I held writing conferences daily during class time, lunch time and after school.

Throughout the week I organized daily writing conferences with students. During the 6 minute conference time I would start by asking students “How’s it Going” — yes, this a line from Carl Anderson — a great lead into the conference. Then, I would ask students how I could help them, where they had questions or concerns. During the conference a student might read aloud their writing to me, ask me to read aloud a paragraph or help them to structure the conclusion without saying the same thing over and over again. This one-on-one time with students was beneficial for me because I was able to collect data on them as a writer and add notes in Powerschool. Writing conferences were beneficial the students because they were getting guidance and recommendations to make their writing stronger. Many students also worked with their peers for editing and feedback.

Writing is a life long skill. The more writing we allow students to do in our classroom, the stronger writers they become. Providing students with models, mentors, graphic organizers, sentence starters, and opportunities for revisions helps them grow and develop not only their writing skills, while at the same time build vocabulary, grammar, and language awareness when writing for academic purposes.

How do you support your students as writing to provide opportunities for growth? What are the writing lessons that you have found ageless in a blended learning environment? Share your ideas in the comments section of this blog.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

How to improve writing fluency for students of all learning abilities?

The following blog post was written for Texthelp. To link to the original post, click here.

In my 8th grade classroom I have all different learners from students with 504s and IEPs, ENL learners, and a handful of high performing learners. This week my 8th grade students are working on writing an argumentative essay after  finishing  the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I often give my students choice on writing assessments but for this all grade read, students must write a five paragraph argumentative essay that answers: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to read today or is it racist and outdated?

A daunting experience

As teachers, our job is to help improve the writing fluency for ALL students. For many of my students, staring at a blank page or screen can be daunting. If we are going to help our students “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” (Next Generation Learning Standards WI),  providing scaffolding in different forms provides support for students to articulate their thinking. When teachers provide scaffolds in the forms of  graphic organizers, models and mentor texts, and sentence frames, essay writing becomes more attainable for the diverse learners in the classroom.

A graphic organizer  breaks down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Completing a graphic organizer helps students write in smaller bursts by following a template. A high performing learner might not need this type of support or guidance but particularly for my ENL and struggling writers who might not have the words or academic language just yet, providing these graphic organizers and sentence stems can help students develop the writing muscles and vocabulary necessary for academic writing.  Each graphic organizer is specific to the writing task. For example, the argumentative essay graphic organizer below helps students map out their thoughts, organize their evidence, and distinguish claims from counterclaims.

An image of an argumentative essay graphic organizer

I am always developing writing activities and support for the diverse students in my classroom, but you may prefer a digital approach. WriQ is Texthelp’s newest digital tool to focus on writing that my students and I are currently using. High performing learners are more independent and are looking for immediate feedback on word choice, accuracy, grammar and writing mechanics; WriQ provides these in its personalized feedback. Similarly, for students who need guided support to increase writing skills, WriQ and graphic organizers work in tandem. Sitting down for writing conferences is now a student driven process due to the feedback that students learn about the writing process and their writing products with WriQ.

A lifelong skill

Writing is a lifelong skill, and the more students write, the better they develop as writers and communicators. This requires that students write daily and have opportunities to revise their writing. With revision opportunities, students are able to reexamine their writing with a critical eye based on the feedback from both the teacher and WriQ and grow as writers. Revision is an important part of the writing process and can be utilized in ways that empower student writers.

The Next Generation Learning Standards identify lifelong practices of writers “strengthen writing by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach” and this is something that we must make time for in our classrooms. The more students have the opportunity to write, revise and craft their words in ways that articulate complex ideas, critical thinking and problem solving, the better they will become at producing clear and coherent writing.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Choosing the Right Scaffolds for Individual Students

As an English teacher, I am always thinking strategically to sequence reading and writing assignments. As I plan these assignments I also must consider what scaffolding I will provide for students to build skills, while at the same time, make writing instruction manageable.

My students are reading books with social justice themes and to show their thinking about their reading, I had students to trace the protagonist’s actions and beliefs throughout the book against Gandhi’s principals.  Additionally, students were to show how these principals contribute to overall theme or central idea of the book. 

The on demand, short response writing assignment was: Choose a quote from Gandhi that you feel best exemplifies the protagonist and their experiences in the book.  Be sure to include two or more textual details to support your claim. Follow the ACE Strategy (Answer – Cite – Elaborate & Explain):

For some of my students, this is a complex task and I provide scaffolding in the form of a graphic organizer to better help them articulate their thinking. Scaffolding is an instructional technique where the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task. Graphic organizers help to break down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Note the graphic organizer created for the Gandhi short response:

Additionally, depending on the needs of your students, revision options or requirements can be a great way to incorporate more writing and support.  The need to implement a scaffold occurs when you realize a student is not progressing or unable to understand a particular concept. Examples are another scaffolding strategy to show models and mentor writing for students struggling to meet the learning targets. I often showcase student models to teach back to the whole class in a mini-lesson and provide an example of writing that meets the learning standard like the student example below. 

Pyramid of Hate

When more scaffolding is necessary, advanced organizers and sentence frames that are partially completed can guide students with the necessary format or academic vocabulary to improve their writing. In the revision document I created below, I provide students sentence stems and specific vocabulary to show the relationship between the protagonist and Gandhi. Hints are also included on the revision document to offer suggested vocabulary and clues to make visible student thinking about the text.

Scaffolding comes in many forms. The idea is to provide the right scaffold at the right time to help students become independent learners. Eventually, students should be able to create their own scaffolding tools to help them meet the learning goals.

Tagged , , , , ,

Breaking Down Assignments into Manageable Tasks

I am known among my students and colleagues for assigning multistep projects and class work.

In my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I describe a multi genre project blending history and creative writing. For the project students find five primary sources about a specific topic related to World War II and then write five creative writing pieces that bring attention to this aspect of the war. For example, Hitler Youth, Victims of the Holocaust, Technology Advancements of WW2. This project has many pieces to complete. For students who have executive functioning challenges this project is complex and can be overwhelming. This multi genre project requires students to:

  1. Select a topic within WWII
  2.  Research their specific topic
  3. Find 5 different primary sources that enhance their understanding of this topic
  4. Articulate in writing how these primary sources help to understand this time period more deeply and uncover the complexity of WWII
  5. Write five creative writing pieces, each a different genre, to showcase their understanding of their topic and give voice to the people involved in this war
  6. Write an author’s note that outlines each of the primary sources and creative writing pieces communicating to readers the important insights gained throughout this process and project

Providing student with small, frequent, attainable goals makes larger tasks look more manageable. In order to prevents students from becoming discouraged by the quantity of work, I created a graphic organizer to help students work through the project in steps. This helps students focus on the parts of the project and increases student willingness and participation. Breaking down multistep projects also increases engagement, effort, and focus.

Multigenre Organizer & Planning Sheet
For a Copy of this Graphic Organizer click here 

Checklists are another tool to help students organize and complete multistep projects. Just like the list above of the components of the multi genre project I included above, providing students with an itemized list of the pieces of the project can be beneficial. This content accommodation provides a visual organization strategy that can be laid out as a YES/NO Checklist or using simple bullets and boxes.

Multigenre Checklist

For ALL our students to be successful we need to provide them with the appropriate scaffolds that include visual aids and are in alignment with the learning targets. Depending on the student, additional accommodations and scaffolds might include reducing the quantity of the project requirements, providing students with the primary sources and providing student models throughout the project.

Think about the students you teach. Which type of scaffolding, front-end or back-end, is preferable in helping these students meet the learning targets?

Tagged , , , , ,

Sentence Frames to Guide Student Writers

Helping students build their writing repertoire and vocabulary acquisition requires teachers to model what good writers do. When my students are working on a short response or extended response, I offer graphic organizers and sentence frames to help my students write and revise their writing to meet learning targets.

Particularly for my ENL students who might not have the words or academic language just yet, providing these scaffolded strategies can help to develop students’ writing muscles and vocabulary necessary for academic writing.

Depending on the writing task, the graphic organizers are adapted to help fit the prompt. For example, wrote a short response to meet CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.9 – 
Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types.

The prompt stated: Choose a quote from Gandhi  that you feel best exemplifies the protagonist and his/her journey midway throughout the text.  Be sure to include two (2) or more textual details (direct quotes) to support your claim.

Students were given a bank with ten Gandhi quotes:

 “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes.”

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

“An ounce of patience is worth more than a ton of preaching.”

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

“Without action, you aren’t going anywhere.”

“Continue to grow and evolve.”

“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”  
Providing students with a graphic organizer can help students tract their thinking, make connections, and outline their understanding. This graphic organizer helps direct students what to write about.

IMG_3207

For my ENL and ELL students who are developing academic language and vocabulary to  articulate their thinking about the text, offering sentence frames provides the necessary format and language needed to meet the learning target.

IMG_3208

What looks like Mad Libs can give students the confidence to show what they know and develop their written communication skills.

For more ideas for sentence frames and scaffolding student writing from other teachers, check out this blog post from Larry Ferlazzo.

Tagged , , ,