Tag Archives: Matt Miller

3 Creative Ways to Ditch that Essay

* The following was written as a guest blog post for Ditch that Textbook published on 9/3/2019. To read the post on the website click here

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Why should essay writing be the majority of student writing in school? There are lots of other options. Here are three good alternatives to consider.

What are your most memorable experiences throughout your middle school and high school career?

I know, you are thinking about all the exciting and engaging essays you wrote. That five-paragraph essay where you explained the theme of a text. Each paragraph was informative and persuasive, providing robust evidence and analysis to support your claim.

Probably not.

And what about in your classroom today, how often are students writing essays similar to your youth?

Words do not exist only on a page in a two-dimensional space any longer. Today, words are multisensory experiences that are seen, heard, and experienced through podcasting, filmmaking, storytelling, gaming, and virtual reality. Writing has evolved in genre, medium, and dimensions.

Teachers have been called upon to empower learners and to bring creativity into educational spaces to promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and design thinking while at the same time bolster communication skills. Writing is a key communication skill necessary in school and out to articulate thinking and clarify ideas. In the classroom, students write to learn and also write to showcase their learning.

Why relegate essay writing as the majority of student writing in school? We can give lots of other options.

Here are three alternatives to traditional essays

Podcasting

Podcasts are an effective medium to share knowledge and experiences, and students can easily create their own. Podcasting with students improves literacy skills and creates an authentic audience for writing. When podcasting, students are not just reading aloud their writing but purposefully and carefully choosing their words, narration, and dialogue to communicate their ideas.img_0819

After listening to Sean Carroll’s podcast “What Would Stephen Hawking Do” on Story Collider, I thought why not switch the theme to “What Would Our Founding Fathers Do?” regarding current political issues of contention. For example, a group of students research, write and podcast what Abraham Lincoln would do about gun laws, while another group addresses how Alexander Hamilton would handle the illegal immigration debate.

There are many different styles of podcasts. How you want students to present their podcasts is a decision that you and your students have to make. By offering students choices there will be a diversity of products, students will have agency, and their voices will be at the forefront of their finished products.

More resources:

Script Writing and Movie Making

img_5525Writing a script for a film has its own specific format and requirements. Like writing any good story, when creating a movie, students need a beginning, middle, and end. Most importantly the story needs conflict to drive it. Students have to create authentic characters that viewers will empathize with.

Have students write their own fictional stories then storyboard their ideas to convey the plot, conflict, and characterization before going into movie-making mode. When students are creating films, writing their own scripts, and making choices about lighting, sound, and editing, they are demonstrating critical analysis, creative collaboration, and multimedia communication skills.

Documentary films are another format. Check out the Op-Docs series on The New York Times. This series highlights short documentary films about aspects of life that are often hidden or unspoken like incarceration, living with a disability, and facing obstacles. These documentaries highlight real people and true events. Creating documentaries allows students to research and investigate topics relevant to their own lives, make insightful arguments, and illuminate different perspectives.

More resources:

Multigenre Writing

Why just box students into writing one genre per unit? If teachers allow students to show their understanding and knowledge of a topic with a variety of types of writing, there is an opportunity for choice and creativity. This goes beyond just allowing students to choose one genre or format. What if students could blend genres across one writing assignment to produce a multigenre piece that includes poetry, narrative, images, and songs to reveal information about their topic? In a multigenre project, each piece might work independently to make a point, but together they create a symphony of perspectives and depth on a subject. Check out this student example!

The writing your students create for their multigenre project can be powerful and inspiring. With the help of digital tools like Adobe Spark or Book Creator students can amplify their projects for digital storytelling.

More resources:

Writing is a vehicle for communication. Today our students are bloggers, filmmakers, gamers, authors, innovators, and influencers. How amazing would it be to sharpen their strengths and abilities in our classrooms to create something that surpasses the traditional school essay?

 

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Teachers are Busy Bees: #HiveSummit

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#HiveSummit is a free, 14 day virtual educational conference that started on August 1st. Organized by author and Gamification guru, Michael Matera @mrmatera,  the Hive Summit brings some of the best and the brightest minds together to do what bees do best… work hard for something sweet! The objective of this virtual conference is to help teachers jumpstart the school year with successful practices and positive energy. All the Presenter Bees” talk about ways to design learning experiences that promote engagement and student learning.

The nine presenters and their key ideas are posted below. If you are reading this before 8/14/18, register for The Hive Summit to view the videos and learn more.

Rabbi Michael Cohen @TheTechRabbi – Designer Educator, Creativity Instigator, and Director of Innovation

Rabbi Michael Cohen, a keynote presenter at #ISTE18, speaks passionately about design thinking and the need for creativity in the classroom. He was keen to say that creativity needs to be cultivated in the classroom; creativity is not something you have or get. In our world today students need to have the time and space to tinker, make, and create in order to figure things out, explore, and experiment. The Tech Rabbi shared one activity to ignite creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom: 30 Circle Challenge. For the 30 Circle Challenge give students 3 minutes to turn as many circles into recognizable objects as you can. This isn’t about: your artistic ability or filling 30 circles. This activity is about fostering meaningful conversation and a discussion about our awareness of creativity. This is a concrete way to model thinking outside the box.

Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome – Doodler, Teacher, YouTuber

Carrie is awesome and I am not only saying that because she was a contributor in in my book Gamify Literacy. Carrie is a special education teacher and sketch note advocate. In her talk she shares the learning experiences that sketch noting promotes for ALL student learners. Below is a video from Carrie’s youtube channel that introduces sketch noting as a learning tool.

 

Rick Wormeli @rickwormeli2 – Teacher, Author, Education Consultant

“A teacher’s job is to ensure students learn,” so begins Rick Wormeli’s presentation. And there is no where in research or life where someone has said that grading motivates learning. Rick talks about standards based grading and having teachers look closely at their own grading practices. We need to teach what we need students to learn and
create tasks that answer the critical question: “Do you have evidence you’ve mastered the stuff?” Standards based grading is more effective than percentages and extra credit. The key questions to ask are: Have students hit the learning targets or not yet? “How do I get students to learn this…” and Does every student need to demonstrate mastery at the same time? 

Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU – Curriculum Coordinator, Lead Instructional Coach, Author

This week I finished reading Tara’s new book Be Real: Teaching From the Heart which was honest and insightful about teaching. The reality is that technology can never truly replace teachers because it is a teacher’s compassion, energy, and passions who make them memorable. Tara believes in being REAL:

 

  • R Be Relatable
  • E Expose Vulnerability
  • A Always be approachable
  • L Constantly Learn through real-life experiences

When you bring your realness to the table (and it’s enough), you make the world a better

 place. Tara is all about becoming the best version of yourself. No one else has exactly your talents and your experiences that you draw from. You’re the only “expert” at being you. Everyone has a purpose.

 

Matt Miller @jmattmiller – Teacher, Author, Speaker

It is important to be a maverick teacher– take risks. If you model taking risks (and potentially failing) for your students, you empower them to have a voice and choice. Don’t focus on technology, rather focus more on how it can be used to effectively reshape instruction. How can we leverage technology to make the most out of every class moment? Assemble a toolbox of a wide variety of tools and ask, “What tools do I need to do…” Technology is an opportunity, not a thousand dollar pencil. Think how you can remix apps and utilize technology in ways that are relevant to your students’ learning from global collaboration to rethinking the way you use Google Slides.

 

 

 

Michael Matera @mrmatera – Teacher, Author, Speaker

Most of what I know about gamification, I learned from Michael Matera. “Gamification entails applying the elements of a game, or mechanics, to non-game situations.” It’s a way teachers can overlay a game on top of already well-developed content and instruction. If you’re willing to give gamification a try, start small: gamify a lesson– then a unit– then a course. Use board games, television game shows and video games as models and mentors for building your own games. Gamification is about building on different game elements – many teachers allow the game to unfold as the school year blossoms. Three key things to think about when implementing gamification: Theme, Teams, and Tasks. As Michael states, “Play isn’t a pedagogy, it’s a way of life.” Bring play into your classroom to boost learning and have fun.

 

Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur – Regional Technology Coordinator

Sarah talked about building a professional learning network. This is key for teachers since teaching can be an isolating job. Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer have allowed teachers to connect with like minded people to share, collaborate, connect, and learn from one another. I know personally how twitter has become a game-changer for my teacher and professional learning. There are endless ways to connect with other professionals globally. Authentic connections can change your life trajectory.

Joe Sanfelippo @Joe_Sanfelippo – Superintendent, Speaker, and Author

Joe has amazing positive energy as an administrator that I wish I was around him more to experience his ideas and passion for his school community. Based on his book, Hacking Leadership, Joe talked about the three main components he practices to cultivate a positive school community:

 

  • Be Intentional About Your WHAT & WHY – Share out about the good things that are happening in your school or classroom– there is power in sharing the good intentionally
  • Open Doors – By “sharing the good,” you have the opportunity to change the school narrative and create a culture of sharing instead of a culture of competition
  • Build Staff – Place value on all parties trying things outside of their comfort zones– value on the journey and the growth will reshape school culture. Joe shared that every day he writes 2 positive notes to share. He said that teaching is a thankless job but when someone stops and says thank you it means so much more. Administrators needs to recognize and thank their teachers more often.

 

Dave Burgess @Burgessdave – Author, Speaker, Game Changer

I have to say that I have been a Dave Burgess fan for many years and use his book Teach Like A Pirate with my graduate students as a required reading for Literacy in the Content Areas. I want my students to remember to infuse passion in all of their lessons. Dave promotes doing awesome stuff in your classroom. Teach like a pirate isn’t about choosing one method– it’s about incorporating others’ great ideas into your method. How will you make a first impression with your students? How are you going to get them excited about your content area and school? Be bold and take the best of everything to create a classroom where students cannot wait to return. “We want to educate makers not memorizers.” 

 

 

 

 

 

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