Tag Archives: Multigenre

Multi Genre Writing To Deepen Student Understanding – #TheEdCollabGathering 2019

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#TheEdCollabGathering is a free virtual conference hosted by the Educator Collaborative on September 28, 2019. Founded by educator and author, Christopher Lehman, The Educator Collaborative provides K-12 literacy professional development to schools across the United States and around the world. For a complete schedule of presentations, click here.

Below is my slide deck presentation on Multi Genre Writing to Deepen Student Understanding.

Multi genre projects are layered with poetry, letters, songs, lyrics, narratives, and news articles created in response to information found through research.  Utilizing higher level thinking skills, students research, summarize, analyze, and synthesize information to create scenes that illustrate a topic or time period. Working across social studies and English, my 8th grade students read and research primary and secondary sources about topics related to World War 2 and then create a multi genre text about a particular aspect of the war.

As Tom Romano writes in Blending Genre, Altering Style (2000), “In multi-genre papers writers can combine fact with imagination to invent scenes that illustrate truth . . . or to render scenes that actually happened but whose details have been lost. Imagination, after all, is a powerful way of knowing” (page 68).

 

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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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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?

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Integral to Instruction: Assessment

“Assessment should always have more to do with helping students grow than with cataloging their mistakes.” — Carol Tomlinson

Assessment in an integral part of instruction determining whether or not the goals of education are being met. It is used to measure the current knowledge that a student has. It meets many needs for many individuals. Through assessments we continually ask the questions,

Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?

Are students learning what they are suppose to be learning?

Is there a way to teach the subject better, therefore promoting better learning?

Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and in some cases, school funding.

Teachers are engaged in assessment every minute they are in the classroom. As teachers, we are always observing, noting, and evaluating. Because assessment in completed integrated into the fabric of curriculum, our evaluations are just as accurate (or not) as the classroom experiences we design for our students. The learning standards and Common Core lead us to give particular kinds of assignments. The key is to offer a variety of assessments, both formative and summative, to help our students show us they are meeting the learning targets.

I am currently in the process of designing a multi genre inquiry unit on WWII and the Holocaust with a social studies teacher and amazing colleague.

The unit brings social studies and English together in order to promote coteaching and collaboration among these two content areas with a focus on building students literacy skills and historical knowledge.  Combining the new C3 social studies standards and the Common Core literacy standards promotes critical thinking, close reading and students creating their own multigenre text on a specific topic and theme about World War II.

For the final project (and summative assessment) students will create a Multi-genre blog that incorporates five different texts (fiction and nonfiction) grounded in specific historical documents to highlight a common theme prevalent in WWII.

Reading closely and writing narrative, argumentative, and informative/explanatory are core learning targets for 8th grade students as described in the CCLS. There are limitations to each of these writing genres when taught in isolation. Allowing students analyze, synthesize, and evaluate historical text (primary and secondary sources) in multigenres allows students to see the depth of history and personal accounts. This in turn builds empathy and understanding that history is living and breathing. Allowing students to be researchers and writers enables students to use higher order thinking and comprehension skills while at the same time tap into 21st Century skills as digital citizens and creators. Students will utilize technology for research and writing to produce a blog that presents their understanding and learning of this inquiry unit on WWII and the Holocaust.

Additionally, throughout this four week unit there will also be formative assessments to help teachers gauge students knowledge and understanding about historical events and the writing process. Formative assessments range in “formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.”

Examples of formative assessments for the unit include:

Teacher observations

Student-teacher reading and writing conferences

Weekly Literature Circles Discussions and Reading Notes Presented on Google Slides

Weekly Articles of the Week with Written Short Response Reflections with Actively Learn

Fishbowls, Socratic Seminars, and Class Discussions

Constructive Quizzes

Graphic Organizers

Google Forms

Summaries

Write Arounds

Sketchnotes

Jigsaws

Self Assessments & Reflections

 

 

 

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Lessons from the Past: Building a Multi-genre Humanities Unit on the Holocaust

I am currently working with two social studies teachers to create a unit of study on the Holocaust. This collaborative unit will tap into the new 3C Framework  for Social Studies Standards and the Common Core Learning Standards for Literacy to promote critical thinking, close reading and students creating their own multigenre text.  

This 6-8 week unit on World War II incorporates multigenre texts (book excerpts, poetry, plays, letters, primary documents, speeches, political cartoons, and additional art work), project based activities, and co-teaching among ELA and Social Studies teachers. Over the course of the unit students will write their own multigenre text as a formative assessment based on some aspect of World War II. This unit of study will be a skills based unit that requires students to look at aspects of humanity within war and conflict.

Below are five learning stations that highlight the voices and testimony of Holocaust survivors and victims.

Station One: Concentration Camp Life

1. Read the story of Holocaust survivor Erma Sonnenberg Menkel (http://www.ou.org/holidays/the-three-weeks/saw-anne-frank-die/)

What did you learn after reading this article?

What happened to Anne Frank after she was taken out of the secret annex?

2. Watch the survivor video testimonies of Norbert Wolheim (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_oi.php?ModuleId=10007143&MediaId=5721) and Alice Lok Cahana (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_oi.php?MediaId=1081)

How were their stories similar or different from Erma’s?

Would you have done the same things they did if you were in their position(s)?

3. Choose to complete 20 Words Activity or Found Poem

Station Two: Reading Diaries of Teenagers Who Lived in the Ghetto

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1. Read excerpts from diaries, written by teenagers, about their life in the ghettos, and their physical and emotional conditions there.

The story of Yitskhok Rudashevski from Vilna Ghetto began writing his diary when he approached his fifteenth birthday. He wrote about his academic pursuits and of how he sees himself contributing to the intellectual and literary life of the Ghetto.

On September 1943, the liquidation of the ghetto began. He and his family went into hiding; later on, the family was found and taken to Ponar, where they were shot to death. His friend, who survived, returned to the hiding place where she discovered the diary.

2. Complete the Think Dots Activity: Each person at your table will take turns rolling the dice and complete the learning task from the corresponding dot.

Station Three: Poetry & The Holocaust

1.Read the poem three times. Then answer the following questions:

What are some words in the poem that brings images to your mind?

What do you think is the theme (message) of the poem? What line or lines from the poem gave you that indication?

What is the poet’s purpose for the reader (How did the poet stir you?)

Emotional- Does the poet wants the reader to become emotional about the message? (angry, sad, happy, peaceful, complacent, courage, fear, etc.) What is your evidence?- Share a line.

Reflective: Think about the message in terms of your own life, be inspired. Share a line and make a connection.

Homesick

(from I never saw another butterfly)

I’ve lived in the ghetto here for more than a year,

In Terezin, in the black town now,

And when I remember my old home so dear, I can love it more than I did, somehow.

Ah, home, home,

Why did they tear me away?

Here the weak die easy as feather And when they die, they die forever.

I’d like to go back home again,

It makes me think of sweet spring flowers. Before, when I used to live at home,

It never seemed so dear and fair.

I remember now those golden days…

But maybe I’ll be going there soon again.

People walk along the street,

You see at once on each you meet That there’s ghetto here,

A place of evil and of fear.

There’s little to eat and much to want, Where bit by bit, it’s horror to live. But no one must give up!

The world turns and times change.

Yet we all hope the time will come When we’ll go home again.

Now I know how dear it is

And often I remember it.

Station Four: Art and the Holocaust
What does the text say?Read the picture carefully. What do you notice? (Literal Understanding)

About the artist: Samual Bak is one of many artists that choose to express in their artwork their feelings and thoughts about the Holocaust. Samuel Bak is a survivor of the Holocaust and for many years he painted subject surrounding the Holocaust. The painting The ghetto, as Samuel Bak explains it is “An inclined surface with no horizon and no possibility of escape. Indeed, when we were thrown into the ghetto like human garbage, it felt like being in a deep hole. This hole is in the shape of the Star of David, the emblem of the ghetto. Near it lies our badge of identification.”
What does the text mean? What is the artist’s purpose in taking this photo? Who did Samual Bak hope would see his artwork? Why?

Station Five: Terrible Things

When a child is born, it has no prejudices.

Bias is learned, and someone

Has to model the behavior.

  1. Read aloud in your group Eve Bunting’s picture book Terrible Things.
  2. Discuss with your small group your thoughts and reactions.
  3. Write a reflective response drawing connections to the picture book and the following passage by Holocaust survivor and author Eli Wiesel:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.  

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never. (Night, 32)

4. The question that is always asked in why do we learn what we do in school, with that question looming in many student’s mind,  Why study the Holocaust, something that happened more than 50 years ago? What are the important lessons that you take away from the testimonies of people who were witnesses, allies, targets, and rebels during this time.  

 

 

 

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