Tag Archives: Teaching Writing

Multigenre Projects

In my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I introduce a multi genre project my students create based on a World War II topic, research, and historical fiction.

As stated in the book, “Why just box students into writing one genre per unit? There are limitations to teaching narrative, informative, argumentative writing in isolation. Each genre has its strengths and drawbacks. In fact, when we read essays and articles these genres are often blended together.  If teachers allow students to show their understanding and knowledge of a topic with a variety of genres there is choice and creativity. This goes beyond just allowing students to choose the genre or format to showcase their understanding, what if students could blend genres in one assignment to produce a multi-genre piece.  In this chapter I introduce  the concept of multi genre writing: the ability to write in more than one genre to present understanding and build new knowledge.”

Multigenre Projects are not new, educator and author, Tom Romano describes in, Blending Genres Blending Styles (2000),  “In short, multigenre projects entail a series of generic documents that are linked by a central premise, theme, or goal. They may forward an argument, trace a history, or offer multiple interpretations of a text or event. They are rigorous forms of writing, involving all of the elements of a traditional research paper: research and citation, coherence and organization, purpose and aim of discourse, audience awareness, and conventional appropriateness.”

As an end of the year project I wanted to create a multi genre project where my students were at the forefront. Since we just finished reading books and discussing themes of identity, I adapted a project I found online that focuses on our stories and identities. Students were to create multigenre project as a means of reflecting upon middle school and how that has shaped us into who we are today.

Here are the specifics: 

  • A title page with a creative title.
  • An introduction serving as a guide to readers.  This will introduce the event you’re reflecting upon and help us understand why this topic is important to you.  Likewise, it gives you an opportunity to explain how we should read your documents.  This should be ½ to 1 page long.
  • Three (3) separate documents from three (3) different genre categories:
    • The  Narrative Writing Category
    • The Persuasive Writing Category
    • The  Informational Writing Category
    • The Poetry Category
    • Visual Artistic Category

*You can add a fourth category and document for extra credit

  • An artist statement paragraph for each document at the end of your project answering the following questions in complete sentences:
    • What is the message of this document? 
    • Why did you pick this genre for this specific part of the story? 
    • How does this document show the larger theme of your story? 

At the end the year it is inspiring to see students write with gusto about topics related to friends, sports, uncertainty, grades, losing a loved one and procrastinating. One student even said to me that this was the best project they have worked on so far — that is something you do not hear often when it comes to a writing assignments.

As for the different writing examples within the genre categories, students had lots of choices.

As these final projects are turned in, I cannot wait to share some of the highlights.

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Where I’m From Book Assessment

I came across the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, an American author from Kentucky, who has published in many genres, including picture books, poetry, juvenile novels, and articles.:

Where I’m From

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

it tasted like beets.)

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,

          from Imogene and Alafair.

I’m from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons,

from Perk up! and Pipe down!

I’m from He restoreth my soul

          with a cotton ball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,

fried corn and strong coffee.

From the finger my grandfather lost

          to the auger,

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

The poem has so much vivid imagery. The moments are also metaphors and requires students to make inferences reading and rereading the poem. The reader gets a clear picture in their mind of the childhood farm George Ella Lyon grew up on in Kentucky. The poem highlights the role of family, culture and childhood help to develop ones sense of identity.

My students read the poem silently first and then I read the poem aloud. After hearing the poem and reading the poem students sketched an image that stood out from their understanding of the poem. Students shared their sketches with their elbow partner.

Students were asked to work in small groups to deconstruct the poem:

  1. Go back into the poem and count how many times the lines begin with “I’m from…”
  2. Find a sensory description with vivid imagery using smell, touch, taste, or sight
  3. Find a metaphor and decipher it’s meaning
  4. Identify the memories vs. present time
  5. What else do you notice?

After ten minutes we returned back to the large class to discuss our findings. We discussed how each of the choices that Lyon made when writing her poem were significant, small items in her life that helped to shape who she was. T.

Now I love the idea of students creating their own “Where I’m From” poems about themselves but since we have been reading choice novels about identity, I had students create an “I Am From” poem based on the protagonist in their reading book. Students were asked to think of significant items in the protagonists life, things that helped shape their identity, family beliefs that molded what they believe, and a description of their place within their family using figurative language. The results were awesome.

The first student example is based on Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad is Untrue:

I am from a land that no longer welcomes me

A country where I cannot return, despite all the people demanding I do

Surviving, not thriving, in a new land that is almost as welcoming

Stuck with a name that isn’t my own

Where it is normal for me to leave school bloody and beaten

Working with classmates who refuse to acknowledge who I am

Who continuously mix up my home country with another, collectively deciding to turn away and disregard the differences

I am from a mom who is stronger than any hero

A sister who’s as smart as a textbook, but as cold as my favorite ice cream

We don’t talk anymore, all that’s left behind are memories

And even those are fading

I am from a step-dad who beats my mom to a pulp, but also keeps us afloat

A biological dad who decided we weren’t worth the trouble

Who moved on without a second glance in our direction

I am from riches and wealth, turned to dirt and no lunch

I am from a wonderful childhood, cut too short

Forced to grow up too soon

Missing my culture that encourages respect 

Unlike my new home, where respect is scarce 

Trying to keep my light alive by cracking jokes, although they are always met with silence

I am from everyone I had to leave behind

Everything I couldn’t save

Everyone I couldn’t protect 

I am one with the stories of the past, only true to me

Built from the everlasting tales, allowing me to live and learn

I am from a jasmine house where the memories are fond and my life began

Reminiscing in the scent of flowers, swans, sapphire blue rivers, and chests full of gold doubloons

I am from everywhere, everyone, and everything

A mosaic 

A reflection

A montage of the past

A collection of moments

Here is another student example based on Elizabeth Acevado’s Poet X:

My family is from the small religious island of the Dominican Republic

Where my Mami fled for America

But I am from the city

Where nobody sleeps

The part of Harlem where creepy men lurk at every corner 

I am from a school just a train ride away

Where most students skip class and fool around 

I am from a town that sees me not as a person but an object to mess around with

My life welded to live invisible, trying to hide from all those demanding to play with me 

I am from a life in which I can trust only me to stick up for myself

I am from a family in which respect is nowhere to be found

From disappointed looks and lecturings parties

From church every Sunday and an Earth rotating around God

I am from a mother who resorts to violence at every given second and a father who seeks no part in my life 

I am from a safety net that is my twin brother by whom I am connected to by twin powers

Yet from a family in which my gay brother is unjustly unaccepted and my freedom seeking self is restrained by thick chains and barbed wire

I am long gone from the days of the ice skating rinks and peaceful church with Father Sean

No longer remembering the love my Mami and I once shared

I am from a suffering family through and through working to mend our knotted, beaten family back together 

I am a little girl inside a big body who seeks safety and acceptance yet gets met by hatred and harassment

I am a girl who wants everything she’s never supposed to have

Someone who wished for a boy but gets meet by misogyny 

I am from hours of being discriminated against and named a ‘cuero’ and days of questioning who I am 

I am from a tight ship revolving around strict rules

From a confusing and curious brain that goes against my family’s teachings 

And a girl who wishes to write poems peacefully 

From a life scarred by the appalling cent of my burning notebook filled with my problems I never solved 

I am from the secret poetry club restricted by my hate filled Mami and knees that burn from the rice buckets 

From the safe warmth of Ms. Galiano the only women who showed kindness and encouragement

I am from a world of great bravery learning how to express my pain and share my joy

A place in which I shall share my poems freely and safely to the world

I am a woman who shall honor and stay true to herself

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Podcasts Are Mentor Texts Too

According to Iowa Reading and Research Center, “Mentor texts are written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the author’s craft, or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece.” Mentor texts are samples of writing for students to model and emulate for their own writing. As a teacher, I am always reading and collecting mentor texts that I can utilize in my classroom for teaching all types of reading moves from sentence structure, vocabulary, voice, and even punctuation. An effective mentor text is one that we can read and reread to unearth the beauty in the writing.

Who is to say that a podcast can’t be a mentor text. My students are currently writing original mystery stories and when I came across Lethal Lit: A Tig Torres Mystery, I was enamored with this engaging mystery that blends Serial Podcast content with Riverdale teen drama. In the podcast series, teen detective Tig Torres returns to her small hometown of Hollow Falls, where her aunt was framed as a serial killer ten years earlier. With help from her new friends, Tig investigates the twisted mystery. But as she gets closer to the truth, the killings, each based on murder scenes from classic literature, begin all over again…with her as the final target. The podcast is six episodes, each episode under 30 minutes.

I introduced the podcast series to my students during a mini-lesson on Mood and Tone when we listened to the first episode together to understand the mood and tone in the show’s exposition. Students constructed interpretations about the setting of Hollow Falls and the people who inhabit it. I provided students with a listening guide to help catalogue the murders, clues, and suspects throughout the entire series.

Listening to the podcast the dialogue is riddled with pop culture allusions that can be another mini-lesson and the voice of the protagonist, Tig Torres is worth re-listening as students create their own characters with distinct and unique voices. In using this podcast as a mentor text, I want to “help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats.” (the National Writing Project).

Students will complete a choice project based on their listening of the entire series too.

A mentor text does not just have to be a piece of writing, it can be a visual text like a movie or image, it might be a song or poem, and even a podcast. Mentor texts can be ones that students can read independently as well as with teacher support. Think about the texts that you use as mentor texts for your students, what are the lessons that can grow out of these texts and how they might inspire our students to be stronger and more effective writers.

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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.

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#WritingMatters

I’m excited to be on this week’s episode of the #WritingMatters podcast with Dr. Troy Hicks @hickstro by @getwritable! We discuss my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE 2019) and ways to support the diverse writers in our classrooms.

Here is where the playlist for all past Season 2 episodes or you can visit the landing page for all the Writing Matters podcasts.

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Mystery Writing, Hyperdocs, & Online Learning

Many schools are looking at distance learning as an option during the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world. In fact, schools and universities in my surrounding area have closed for the upcoming weeks. Some schools have decided to offer online learning for students.

Due to the current climate, I want to share the mystery writing hyperdoc I have revamped for students to learn, explore, and apply elements of a mystery whether in the classroom or remotely. Using digital tools like Flipgrid, Nearpod, Edpuzzle, and Google Classroom, students are able to access and apply learning through digital resources.

Below is the Murder Mystery Hyperdoc that provides links to digital tools, resources, and activities to help my students craft creative mystery stories. I have provided quick writes,  videos, How To sheets, and lessons throughout the documents to help my students analyze mentor texts, learn about the elements of mystery, and apply their learning to the stories, podcasts, and movies they write.

This hyperdoc offers a variety to eLearning tools. Here are a dozen more recommended by Evolving Educators that I also find useful:

1. @Screencastify

2. @AdobeSpark

3. @GoogleForEdu

4. @Seesaw

5.@Activelylearn

6. @PearDeck

7. @padlet

8. @BookCreatorApp

9.  @WeVideo

10. @Wakelet

11. @EdPuzzle

12. @Buncee

 

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Engaging & Empowering Readers with Penny Kittle & Kelly Gallagher

I have been waiting all week to write this post because I wanted to share the insight I gained from a workshop today with Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher sponsored by Heinemann Professional Development.

As literacy teachers, our goal is to make kids better readers and writers. What does that entail? Everyday practices of reading, writing, studying creating, and sharing. 

Kelly Gallagher began by referencing Pedro Noguera, a distinguished professor of education at UCLA  who said we are asking the wriong question. Rather, “We need to ask what can we do to challenge and stimulate our students?”

Both Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle talked about moving towards generative reading and writing vs. task oriented reading and writing. “We want students to generate their own thinking first.” When we ask students to answer specific questions about a text they are answering our questions and focused on the task at hand.  Students are getting too immersed in tasks. Tasks are getting in the way of rigorous thinking and what is the value of this text.  If we are to encourage and engage students in deep thinking about reading and writing students need time to read and talk about reading IN CLASS. 

Richard Allington, “Reading is less about ability and more about opportunity.” The volume of reading is key. How much and how often students read affects their lives in crucial ways. 

As teachers, we need to focus on:

Time — Choice — Access

In Gallagher’s classroom, there are three goals for every reader:

  1. Increase volume of reading
  2. Increase Complexity
  3. Develop an allegiance to authors and genres

When it came to talking about how to motivate readers the following practices are in both Kittle and Gallagher’s classrooms: 

1. Their Own passion

2. Choices

3. Book Talks – Start of every day is a book talk to help students find books they love. Why? It creates a willingness to practice outside of class. Read aloud a piece of the text everyday in a book talk. 

4. Time to read in class –20% of class time devoted to Independent reading and conferences. Gallagher mentioned it takes a couple of weeks for most students to get into 10 minutes of sustained independent reading

5. Holding Reading Conferences – In conferences, students learn how to have meaningful conversations in a safe 1:1 setting with a teacher who can move their thinking.

NCTE's Position Statement on Independent Reading

As NCTE defines “Independent reading is a routine, protected instructional practice that occurs across all grade levels. Effective independent reading practices include time for students to read, access to books that represent a wide range of characters and experiences, and support within a reading community that includes teachers and students. “

 

As for writing, low pressure writing is a daily occurrence in both their classrooms. Students write quick writes daily and after 10 quick writes in their notebooks the students decide which one they give the teacher permission to read. Students are reading and writing everyday in class. 

Students use their writer’s Notebooks based on what Donna Sandman describes as

A workbench – a place to practice 

A place to stumble on ideas – a collection place

A place you go to do work – a playground 

Both Gallagher and Kittle shared their own writer’s notebooks. They spoke about writing alongside students and allow students to see you struggle as a writer.

Additionally, they talked about the importance of daily flash revision. Allowing 90 seconds a day of tinkering and polishing your writing. Rather than peer editing, they have students,  “Tell your writing partner one thing you did to make your writing better.” Revision is kept in a writer’s notebook. Students put a sticky note on one page they want us to look at. Notebooks are meant to support the writer, not evaluate her. Students are given ten minutes to craft one page of writing. Gallagher tells his students, “You have stories to tell, that only you can tell the story.”

Penny Kittle broke down some old way of thinking about teaching writing versus new thinking about writing:

OLD Thinking NEW Thinking
1. Kids should produce one big paper over weeks of work
2. Tell students what to write and how to write it, which makes writers dependent on the teachers (Checklist)
3. Writing process is defined as prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and final drafts graded with a rubric – Students work mostly under teacher direction throughout unit
1. Opportunities to practice the same skills multiple times (Laps around the tracks) in different contexts which makes writers more flexible and skills transferable
2. Students decide on a focus for their writing and how to organize their ideas effectively for an audience which increases confidence in applying what they learn as they struggle with these decisions in other rhetorical situations. 
3. The writing process includes generating ideas through quick writing to poems, infographics, photos, editorials, etc. These quick writers are revised as regular practice. 

Both Kittle and Gallagher shared tons of book titles and poems to use with students for reading and quick writes. These texts provide a seed that will spur thinking. Students are encouraged to grab a word, grab a line, grab a hot spot and then write off it. 

Here are ten poems shared in the workshop and used for quick writes:

“Camaro” by Phil Kaye

“what the dead know by heart” by Dante Collins

“Hair” by Elizabeth Acevedo

“Kitchen Table” by George Ella Lyons

“Deer Hit” by Jon Loomis

“Native Tongue” by Micah Bournes

Kwame Alexander: Take a Knee

Rigged Game by Dylan Garity

“B” by Sarah Kay

Lastly, a piece by Matt La Pena worth checking out.

“Why we shouldn’t shield children from darkness” by Matt La Pena

Here’s a complete list of spoken poetry shared by Kelly Gallagher

 

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March Mystery Madness

Thrillers, suspense, crime novels, detective fiction – whatever you call them, mystery books make for some of the most exciting literature out there. The mystery genre has been around for over two centuries. The Enigma Society has announced a new contest for teen writers to create a short story (or film or podcast) with a dastardly murder … a gathering of suspicious characters. WHO, with WHAT weapon and WHERE? 

That is all up to you. You will have the next three weeks to craft your story, plot the murder, and have your readers ask cunning detective questions. 

I wanted to go beyond a scenario and create an authentic challenge. I contacted my local public library to see if they wanted to get in on the literary action and expand this mystery writing contest beyond the walls of my classroom. Because librarians are the best, they agreed to participate and host this mystery writing contest. And who knows, if it is successful we might turn it into an annual event for all middle school students.  The director of the library and teen librarian have agreed to create an introductory video to launch the contest. In the meanwhile, here is the contest rules and regulations.

Students will have three weeks to write and create an original mystery. I also created a playlist to guide students through the writing process, focusing on the elements of mystery. Click on the image below to access the hyper doc that I modeled from the original Clue game board.

Murder Mystery Gameboad

Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.

– Sherlock Holmes

And with that, my friends, you will have to stay tuned for more.

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Ways to Support Student Writers With & Without Technology

The following blog post is from an interview I had with Monica Burns, author, blogger, and podcaster of Class Tech Tips. To read the full interview, on Monica’s Blog, click here.

Supporting Student Writers

Michele has a brand new book that I can’t wait to share with you. It’s called New Realms for Writing: Inspire Student Expression with Digital Age Formats and discusses strategies you can try out right away with students. Michele is a literacy teacher at Rye Middle School in Rye, New York, and an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College. She was kind enough to take time to answer questions about her work and her new book. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find a few of my favorite activities for student writers, too!

What motivated you to write a book on this topic?

After just finishing Personalized Reading: Digital Strategies and Tools to Support All Learners(ISTE, 2018), I felt the need to address writing since reading and writing go hand in hand. As a middle school English teacher, reading and writing are intertwined. I wanted to share ways that writing could go beyond short responses and essays in the classroom to help meet 21st Century Skills while at the same time, bolster student writing. If we want students to be creative communicators, we need to expand the role, format, and audience for writing across the content areas.

How has technology changed the way students publish their writing?

Technology has altered the landscape of education, let alone the way students publish their writing. It allows teachers and students to broaden the audience and share their writing with a wider audience, not just between student and teacher. Technology also allows for diverse formats. Students can publish blogs, ebooks, and infographics, in addition to traditional formats like essays and research papers. Students have to write essays throughout secondary school and college, but for the most part, outside of school, we curate a variety of technology forms for learning and understanding.

You provide lots of student work examples in your book. Can you tell us a bit about how non-traditional products like infographics and podcasts have a place in the classroom?

Learn how to support student writers this school year using technology and with more traditional methods. Hear from author Michele Haiken and her new book.

Think about the ways you interact with information today. I might turn on the news when I wake up and then listen to a podcast on my way to work. Once I am in school, I am on a computer reading diverse texts and interacting between print, digital, and visual texts throughout the day. These texts include literature, nonfiction articles, visual texts like photographs, and infographics.

Our students are similar, and we should be having them reading and writing all these different texts to construct knowledge as well as become empowered learners. In my classroom, I want students to be critical consumers of information in all these different formats as well as creative thinkers in the way they present their learning and understanding. I am all for choices and giving students the ability to choose the best format that fits their message.

In the second chapter of the book, you discuss “multigenre” writing. Can you explain what this term means and what it looks like to include multigenre writing in a classroom?

In English class, writing is too compartmentalized. Teachers teach a unit in poetry, then narrative writing, and argumentative writing. We do not need to be so compartmentalized. When students write multigenre projects, they are choosing different genres to showcase a topic or idea.

For example, when my students are reading and writing about World War 2, we read memoirs, biographies, historical fiction, primary sources, photographs, artwork, and poetry about this time period. Students choose a topic within WW2 to research and investigate more. Some choose victims of the Holocaust, resistors, Japanese Internment, or soldiers and build a collection of five different writings in response to the primary sources they read to showcase their topic. A student might write a poem about being sent off to war, a letter to his family members about the horrors on the battlefield, and include visual drawings of the aftermath of a battle in Europe.

Rather than report what happened, I am asking students to step in the shoes of real people and build out their story to share the forgotten stories of the past. Multigenre writing breaks out of the confines of one genre or style of writing and utilizes many formats to communicate an idea.

In your book, you discuss analog techniques, not just digital. Why is it essential to find a balance between techy and not-so-techy experiences?

Learn how to support student writers this school year using technology and with more traditional methods. Hear from author Michele Haiken and her new book.

I think you said it best when you say “balance.” We need that balance to make sure our students can be successful in school and out. We do not live in a completely digital world, and it would be impractical to be completely digital. I still have my students keep a print reading journal for all the reading they do throughout the school year. Students can choose to write notes, create sketchnotes, and I have some students that type up their notes and paste them into their reading journal.

I love reading through their journals and seeing their thinking on paper. I am lucky to have Chromebooks in my classroom, but that is not the reality for every teacher, classroom, or student across the nation. Yes, there are benefits to both digital and analog, but this is also an issue of digital equity.

Use this link to grab a copy of Michele’s new book, New Realms for Writing: Inspire Student Expression with Digital Age Formats

I love how you include poetry in New Realms for Writing. Is there a favorite tech-friendly poetry activity you like to use with students?

I love starting with found poems or blackout poems. I ask my students to choose a song that represents them and copy the song lyrics onto a Google Document. After reading through the song one or two times, students then have to pair the words down by blacking out words or phrases. You might even give students a set number of words that have to remain in their poems.

It is amazing because two students might have the same song, but when they read through and pair down the words to create a new blackout poem, the words or meanings are different based on what is emphasized or what was left out. If students struggle to find words, this activity provides them with the words; they just have to select what will be highlighted on the page.

What advice would you give a group of educators who want to hold a book club for your book?

Share your ideas and expertise within the book club. Take the ideas that I have shared and adapt and revise them to fit the best interests of your students. My hope is that the ideas I presented in the book are a catalyst for you to inspire your students to be innovative, creative, and collaborative.

 

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Argumentative Writing with Scaffolds

The Next Generation Learning Standards for Writing in the 8th grade identify five different types and purposes for writing. The first is argumentative writing.

8W1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

8W1a: Introduce a precise claim, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from a counterclaim, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

8W1b: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using credible sources while demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

8W1c:  Use precise language and content-specific vocabulary to argue a claim.

8Wd: Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

8W1e: Provide a concluding statement or section that explains the significance of the argument presented.

8W1f: Maintain a style and tone appropriate to the writing task.

 

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird I wanted to provide my students with an argumentative essay prompt rather than the traditional literary essay. I modeled the essay from the New York State regents.

First students had five minutes to free write about the topic: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to teach in 2020?

Mockingbird Do Nows

Then, working with a partner, students had to brainstorm reasons for supporting the topic and negating the topic. The challenge was to balance both sides of argument with sound reasons.

Mockingbird Do Nows-2

After students shared their reasons with the whole class, students were given an article to read and annotate. Students were provided with an evidence file to catalogue the evidence from the articles provided. The prompt, articles, and scaffolds are provided below:

To help students through the writing process, I wrote alongside of them.

Mockingbird Do Nows-3

When it came to writing the counter claim paragraph, students were given a “How-To” to help them draft their third body paragraph. A “How-To” is a scaffolding strategy that provides students with clear directions and step by step instructions to support learning.

How to Write a Counter Claim

My students have lots of opinions about reading To Kill a Mockingbird. During our classroom discussions during writing conferences, students have raised solid points about the heinous language in the book, the narrator’s perspectives and the stories that were not told (i.e. Tom Robinson and Calpurnia). Every book has its strengths and limitations, the key is for our students to be able to articulate their claims clearly and presenting valid reasoning.

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