Tag Archives: Texthelp

Design and Delivery in a Blended Learning Jungle Texthelp Virtual Conference

This week Texthelp launched a virtual conference “Design and Delivery in a Blended Learning Jungle” to help educators navigate through the current blended learning plans with schools reopening during the pandemic. The three day virtual conference was a huge success with more than 6,000 educators around the world and 28 speakers addressing how to support students and make learning successful despite COVID-19. Don’t worry if you were not able to attend the conference, you can still sign up to watch the awesome presentations which are available until September 20th, 2020.

The theme among the speakers was about making blended learning lessons that are flexible, feasible, family friendly, and fun. These core ideas were the center of Tinashe Blanchet‘s presentation. All of the presenter spoke about think deeply about delivering instruction that is engaging, relevant and most of all, doable to their students during this unprecedented time. Casey Bell and Shaelynn Farnsworth spoke about tech tools and strategies to support all learners from Google Extensions to Assistive Technology.

Shaelynn Farnsworth, Vicki Davis, Diana Petschauer, and I spoke about how help our students learn how to personalize their learning, use multiple modalities and build relationships with their teachers and each other. My own presentations highlighted tools and strategies to support ALL the readers in your classroom. In a blended learning environment we want to empower readers with opportunities to leverage technology so they can be in control of their own learning and achieve their personalized reading goals. Check out my presentation below.

Vicki Davis’ closing keynote mentions many tools to support the readers in our classroom. She says “we teach in a blended way it is a different mode of teaching and we need to redefine learning and engagement.”

This year all teachers are embarking on a new learning and teaching experiences. Our classrooms will not look like what they have in the past. We need to help support students so they can be successful no matter the blended learning environment.

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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.

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Pathways to the Standards #CECACASL18

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On Monday, October 22nd I attended and presented the CECA/CASL 2018 Annual Conference. There were more than 50 presentation from educators, authors, and administrators addressing topics that intersect literacy and technology.

One of the key strands of the conference was differentiation and ways to differentiate in a student centered classroom. By differentiation I mean including EVERY learner in the classroom (not just the ones who are struggling). The key is that there are multiple ways for students to demonstrate understanding and instruction needs to change when evidence of learning has not occurred.

Steven W. Anderson of web20classroom.org shared 10 great tools to help differentiate content, product, process, and assessment.

  1. Poll Everywhere is an online polling platform that does more than just have students respond to a survey or multiple choice question. With Poll Everywhere students can respond to an open ended question and even formative assessments where students can pin a location on a map or diagram.
  2. Padlet – Yes, the online sticky notes where students can respond to a question or post a response. Padlet let’s users respond in text, drawing and images, and even audio. I recently had students share book reviews on Padlet of nonfiction independent reading books.
  3. Quizizz is so much better than Kahoot because it is not a competition but an assessment tool similar to Kahoot that let’s students work at their own pace to show their understanding.
  4. Nearpod is an interactive slideshow creator with a quiz feature. Nearpod does so much more and the paid version even offers AR & VR components.
  5. Edpuzzle is great for sharing videos in class and then students can answer questions before, during, and after viewing of their learning.

Teaching is an art more than a mechanical exercise. Students vary as learners and not everyone’s road map is identical for learning. When we know our students we are able to better create learning opportunities that honor their strengths, abilities, and cultures.

6. When thinking about differentiating the process and student’s understanding Anderson spoke about Gamification (Oh, Yeah!!). He shared Breakoutedu, Classcraft, Class Badge, Mincraftedu, and Duolingo – many gamification tools that I blog about regularly.

7. Flipgrid is now free since Microsoft has acquired it and it can be used in so many ways for the classroom from students reflecting on their own learning and thinking to posting a book review or explaining how they solved a math problem.

8. Book Creator is one that I am going to invest more time and attention to this year. Book Creator allows users to create their own interactive ebooks.

9. Microsoft’s Sway lets you create visually appealing and multitiered presentations. You can record audio on the slides and it will even grab resources for you when creating a presentation about specific topics. This is one to check out if you are looking for more interesting Google Slide Decks or Prezis.

10. TextHelp is the makers of Fluency Tutor and Read Write, these two Chrome extensions offers assistive technology that supports literacy in different ways. Fluency Tutor allows students to record text passages to help build their reading fluency and comprehension whereas Read Write has a dozen different tools on its toolbar to support readers and writers.

The key is choice when thinking about differentiating in your classroom. Choose technology platforms that allow students the opportunity to create new products and new knowledge. Remember, it is not technology for technology’s sake, but about creating a learning environment where there is “equity of access to excellence.”

 

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Effective feedback improves student learning with Google Add-ons

Effective feedback improves student learning. 

In a 2012 article in Educational Leadership,  Grant Wiggins writes, “Helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.” As a middle school English teacher I spend many hours reading and evaluating student writing in order to help them improve as writers and articulate their thinking. I offer A LOT of feedback, both positive and constructive to help, support, guide, and meet learning targets for written communication. Wiggins goes on to say, “Effective feedback is concrete, specific, and useful; it provides actionable information. Thus, “Good job!” and “You did that wrong” and B+ are not feedback at all.”

I have found two Google Add On tools to help provide more specific and effective feedback. As John Hattie states, “To make sure that feedback is effective, teachers must know where their students are going, how they are progressing toward the goal, and where they need to go next. Because all messages are filtered through the students’ perceptions, what works as good feedback for one might not work for another.”  With these thoughts about feedback fresh in my mind, I am using the Google Add On Read & Write for Google Chrome from Texthelp to offer verbal feedback in addition to written comments on student writing. Using the the “Voice Note” feature in Read & Write I am able to record spoken feedback up to a minute in the document up to one minute. And the students do not need the add on to access the voice comments, they are given a link in the comments section to access the feedback. Additionally, the Voice Notes can also be used to 

  • Read the directions aloud for students who may have difficulty reading.
  • Provide additional clarification beyond the written directions.
  • Add a personal touch to the document by adding your own voice.

When reading many class papers in one seating, often times students might be making similar errors and rather than typing the same comments over and over again, Checkmark by EdtechTeam is designed to offer common edit and usage comments for quick commenting. This add-on saves time for teachers by clicking the appropriate comment automatically when highlighting a word or phrase in a Google Doc.

If we want our students to succeed, teachers need to be clear of the learning goals, strategies and moves to help students meet those goals, and articulate in the feedback we offer.

How to get both these Google Add Ons and use them to work smarter when it comes to giving effective feedback to our students is presented in the slide deck below.

 

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