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Archive for March, 2012

Teams, Social Media, & The Common Core Writing Standards

The literacy standards of the Common Core apply across the curriculum. Simply put, students should be reading, writing, speaking and listening, and improving their vocabulary in all subject areas. Teams should collaborate to systematically address the CC literacy standards in ways that build on students’ interests, best learning method, and their current skill levels.  Using the phenomenon of social media is one approach teams might consider.  The following ideas come from a webinar presented by Barbara Greenstone, a Maine statewide technology integrator for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI).  The entire webinar is archived and can be listened to (free) in its entirety at http://maine121.org/webcasts-2/archives/.

Team Collaboration on Writing Standards of the Common Core

1. Become very familiar with the standards as a team

Use the anchor standards to focus your conversations and planning. Below are the anchor writing standards. Notice the words in bold print; there is ample variety of purpose and genre to be adapted to any curriculum area.

Text Types and Purposes

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a

single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

2. Explore Social Media as a way to motivate students to write in a variety of formats!

Students love using social media away from school. Using it in school provides authentic audiences for a variety of writing purposes. Students know that others besides their teacher is going to be reading what they have to say. Suddenly, spelling, syntax, grammar, and organization have real purpose–no one, including young adolescents, wants to appear to be the fool in front of others. Here are a couple of suggestions from Barbara Greenstone’s webinar:

Blogs: Think about the standards that could be addressed through blogging:

  • Write arguments to support claims
  • Write informative/explanatory texts
  • Produce clear and coherent writing
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others
  • Write routinely

Create a common rubric for blogs that are used across the curriculum and send the message that good writing is important in all disciplines. In Language Arts students might choose a favorite interest to blog about while in science they might be blogging on energy use. Barbara suggests giving  these tools a try:

Twitter: 140 characters to deliver a clear, succinct, and cogent message!  Challenge students to use precise vocabulary in well written sentences that exhibit evidence to backup the main idea of the sentence.

  • In Language Arts, they assume the persona of a character in a play or novel. They will have to read closely to capture the essence of the character’s personality, attitudes, and beliefs.
  • In Social Studies, Ben Franklin or Harriet Tubman or Alexander the Great or Liliʻuokalani come alive through Twitter to comment on contemporary events.  The Tweets must be substantive and accurate.
  • In Math, students summarize a math concept or give a real life application.
  • In Science, they assume the role of a white blood cell that has just spied an invading bacterium–what is the plan of action?

Publishing Research Projects online; At any given moment, thousands of middle grades students are involved in a research project somewhere in the country. The Common Core writing standards clearly address this type of endeavor:

  • Write informative/explanatory texts
  • Write arguments to support claims
  • Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

A team that develops a systematic approach to research spanning the year and content areas will be effective in helping their students meet these standards.  There are a lot of research projects online — the good, bad, and the ugly — to have students review as they begin to develop criteria for exemplary work. Publishing them online will once again provide authentic audiences who will give feedback to the students when their information is not accurate or their arguments not soundly developed.  Here are some possibilities for finding models of research writing and places to publish student work:

Analyze, evaluate, support, evidence, reflect, organize, develop, examine are all words that appear multiple times in the Common Core.  Most of these will be found in the upper level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and require abstract thinking.  We all know many of our students are still concrete thinkers and thus will require a lot of scaffolding as they work to meet the standards. Middle grades teams, working together, are in the unique situation to build that scaffolding in a systematic way for each child in multiple contexts across the curriculum.  Writing for social media is one excellent strategy to weave into a team’s unified approach to addressing the Common Core in a sane and an effective manner.

Word Cloud: Anchor Standards for Writing in Common Core

Word Cloud: Anchor Standards for Writing in Common Core

Remember to check out Barbara Greenstone’s Entire Webinar (archived) on Writing and Social Media

(March 15 Archive)

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5 Ways to Use LiveBinders, A Great Online Resource Organizer

LiveBinders–Organization at Your Finger Tips!

LiveBinders allows users to organize online resources in one place. Think — digital 3-ring binder! Watch the video below to get an overview.

The site can remain private or be opened for public viewing. Plus, the originator can invite others to collaborate and add additional resources. LiveBinders is a versatile digital tool! I’m just learning how to create binders and have started one for a presentation on study skills in the digital age.  It’s public so that I will be able to share it with session participants at the annual NELMS conference in April.

5 Possibilities for Teams

LiveBinders is a useful site for teams.  Here are 5 ways to use this site to help students and team members stay  organized, collaborate with other teams in the school, and communicate with parents:
  1. Students can create their Binders to organize their online resources for a research project. Accessible 24/7 from any computer, students can get to it at school and from home.  If students are working in small groups, their information sources are stored in one place so any member can easily locate critical material.  Things don’t disappear into the bottomless pits of lockers and backpacks, and the information needed for citation is only a click away.
  2. Team teachers can create private Binders to keep track of resources for various units or lessons.  Everything is organized by unit in its separate Binder and stored on the teacher’s digital shelf.
  3. Team teachers can create public Binders to share with students and parents.  Recommended or required sites for assignments can be organized at this site.  A team might create a Binder for an interdisciplinary unit with supporting materials or one on homework help for students to access when they get stuck and can’t readily ask a teacher for clarification.
  4. Team teachers can collaborate with colleagues across grade levels or content areas to share resources.  With several people contributing online sites, the Binder will grow more quickly.  It can also be edited and updated every year.
  5. Team teachers can create public Binders especially for parents.  It’s an efficient way to share resources on pertinent topics that interest parents: adolescent development, parenting in the digital age, how people learn, etc.

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