Tag Archives: Technology in the Classroom

Purposeful Vocabulary and Grammar Instruction

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Jeremy Hyler and Troy Hicks’ From Texting to Teaching: Grammar Instruction in the Digital Age (2017) is filled with grammar and vocabulary lessons that utilize technology. Their premise is to help teachers and students learn to “code switch” between academic, formal language and cultural text speak. Each chapter illustrates how teachers can weave grammar into authentic classroom experiences, rather than skill and drill.

When speaking of grammar, this includes usage, rules, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Grammar matters because “it offers us options – both as speakers and writers – for creating meaning” (pg. 4) Looking at the Common Core Standards, grammar is now under the Language Standards” and students are expected to gain commands of conventions and show their knowledge of language and conventions when reading, writing, speaking and listening,

Hyler and Hicks’ approach teaching grammar with digital tools, utilized flipped lessons to learn parts of speech, utilize social media, Google Docs, and other digital tools to enliven vocabulary, master mechanics, and learn sentence style with formal and informal writing. Grammar matters because the standards suggest it, digital citizenship has become an essential skill, and revision matters.

“Technology can enhance writing instruction. Smart grammar instruction – coupled with smart uses of technology – will help improve students’ understanding of how to use various sentence patterns, phrases, punctuation, and other stylistic techniques in their own writing” (pg. 24). 

Consider the grammar lessons you teach and how you might enliven them to help students master language conventions to be effective and creative communicators. Here are three ideas from Hyler and Hicks to help you infuse grammar with technology in effective ways.

A teacher made screencast or podcast is a great way for students to demonstrate new knowledge, learn new topics, or listen to a review. Use the tool screencastify or screencastomatic to plan and script an instructional screencast or podcast. The benefit of  a flipped lesson is that these lessons are at students disposal to review when needed. Plus, the best flipped lessons have students do more than a lecture to watch, often teachers provide thoughtful, scaffolded activities associated with the video that students watch. Hyler utilizes a “Watch, Summarize, Question (WSQ)” tool or guide for students as they view the flipped lessons and utilize conventions in their own writing.

To help students learn sentence styles and study great writing, examining sentences in the texts we read help understand the nuances and beauty of writing. Posting a beautifully crafted or complex sentence from a class novel on Padlet is one way to have students analyze sentences and think carefully about writing. Or a sentence that needs revising can be posted on Padlet and students can use revising strategies to help revise the sentence.

For vocabulary building Hyler and Hicks recommend having students “create videos with web tools like WeVideo depicting a real world use of vocabulary words. If real world connections can be made with vocabulary and spelling, students are sure to retain more of the information they have learned and see the relevance” (pg.81). Students storyboard their video draft ideas and are required to draw connections between the vocabulary word and the text students are reading. Lastly, reflection is necessary to gain feedback about the process and new understanding.

Grammar should not taught in isolation. Nor should not be left by the wayside in the English Language Arts classroom. Teachers must constantly reflect on the technology and learning landscape and how we can blend the two to creative relevant and engaging lessons that help our students succeed.

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Twitter as Storytelling, Discussion, & Analysis Tool in the Classroom

It all began when I read a blog post on The Nerdy Book Club blog by young adult author James Preller in November 2013 on the power of story and how “stories are essential to our lives.”  I was so moved by the blog post, I immediately bought his book Bystander, a fictional story about bullying at one middle school in Long Island.  As a middle school teacher, this topic is pertinent to my teaching and my quest to promote empathy within school culture. As I devoured the book, I realized that I  wanted all my students to read Bystander and the power of its story as it relates to our school and culture where bullying is a daily occurrence.  Hence, I assigned Bystander as a required reading for my eighth grade English students for their outside reading requirement.  Along with reading the book, students were required to participate in four Twitter book chats after school hours to address the complex characters and issues raised in the book.

During the Twitter book discussions students shared their own stories, made connections, and critically addressed the issue of bullying in our school and society at large.  I was impressed by their honesty and keen awareness.  Everyone had a voice on Twitter and no one was able to hide during the discussions.  Students weren’t just answering the questions that I posed during the Twitter book chat but were also talking with each other in an online environment, supporting and responding to each other’s ideas. I noticed that students who might not talk to each other in class, face to face, were responding to each other online and offering constructive discussions piggy-backing on each other’s ideas. Positive communication was modeled throughout the Twitter discussions.

Students admitted that bullying is a huge problem in many schools across across the United States, and our own school is not immune. Social media sometimes becomes a means in which bullying takes place, but by facilitating the Twitter chats I wanted to promote Twitter as a social media tool in a responsible and educational manner.  Parents signed consent forms for their children to participate in the book chats.  My students were excited about the Twitter book discussions and have asked for more.

Twitter is one digital media tool that can be used effectively for discussing stories and the powerful impact they have on our lives. Twitter also allows space for students to critically discuss topics that are relevant to their lives and share stories,  images, pictures, and other links to meaningful texts that address the same topics.  Twitter is a tool to dissect stories and respond in a pedagogical setting. Through my experiences using Twitter in the classroom, I have been able to capture the “richness” of conversations and the “complexity of experiences” when sharing stories.

The next #RMSBystander Twitter Book chat will be Monday January 20, 2014 at 8:15 PM EST.  All are welcome to join.

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