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Team Writing Instruction Tool # 2: Grammarly

Let’s face it—many people are reluctant writers. Memories of school essays all marked up in red still send shudders up and down their spines. And…many non-Language Arts/English teachers resist holding students accountable for proper English usage in their class assignments because they do not feel comfortable correcting grammar. In fact, many do not assign writing tasks at all because they dread reading poorly written pieces. However, literacy standards are now everyone’s responsibility, not just the Language Arts teacher’s.

A middle level team must stand together and insist that students use their best writing skills in all classes and be willing to return work to students to revise and edit when the work is sloppy. My previous post suggests that team teachers identify and address the most egregious grammar mistakes their students are making.

Here is a second strategy teams can use to help your students become better writers.  Another “tool” so to speak. It is Grammarly, a web-based grammar checking site.  Now, for the most part, the whys and hows of proper grammar use are taught in the language arts classroom. However, there needs to be a reinforcement of proper usage across the curriculum.  Grammarly can help in 3 ways:

1. Students can upload their work to the site and have it checked.  Grammarly tends to catch more spelling, usage, and style errors than Word. In addition, it checks for plagiarism. Students can double check their work in science, social studies, math, art, or any other class.  They receive digital feedback on what they need to correct before passing in the assignment. The teachers can then concentrate on reviewing the accuracy of the content rather than being totally distracted by misspellings, double negatives, or incorrect verb forms.

Identifies errors missed in rereading of written text

Identifies errors missed in rereading of written text

2. Using the extension on Google Chrome, students can get immediate feedback when they are working on online writing assignments. Think what a boon this feature would be for your English language learners and students with writing and processing issues!

Misspelling!

Misspelling!

3. The Grammarly Facebook page has an endless supply of clever and funny images related to literacy. Use them in your instruction.  Humor helps us remember!

Not a famous literary cat, but she helps me write my blog posts.

Not a famous literary cat, but she helps me write my blog posts.

4. Here’s a bonus for the teachers on the team who just love to talk grammar.  Grammarly has a great blog where they can read about such topics as animal idioms, words that get confused, email etiquette and cats in literature.

 

As a team research Grammarly and see how this site might be useful to you.  Obviously the students need easy access to digital devices.  Check out these web pages:

1. grammarly.com/grammar-check

2. An article from Forbes Magazine: http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/10/21/i-dont-tolerate-poor-grammar/

3. A quick overview of Grammarly video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=No0IPf98UaQ

Next, you will need to talk to your tech folks and probably your administration.  Grammarly is free, however, students do have to have accounts. Secondly, if you use the Google Chrome extension, it does need to be installed on the school’s computers.  At the very least you can demonstrate how the website works so students can use it at home.

As a team, you need to use Grammarly for a bit to feel comfortable with its functionality. When you are ready to share it with your students, build in time to show them how to use it. Point out that it will explain what the mistake is so that they can learn from their own errors.

Identifying the error

Identifying the error

Showing the solution

Showing the solution

What I like about Grammarly is that it is tool that students can use in many situations—in and out of school. And no, tools like Grammarly do not make us lazy about being aware of usage and spelling.  They help us fine-tune our skills. Probably 95% of  us make grammatical errors in our everyday speaking and writing. I have reliable writing skills, but when I use Grammarly (like right now), it always picks up errors that I miss during my revising and editing process. It’s not perfect, but teaching students to use it effectively will help them become better writers—in all of their classes. Also, it is a great tool for teachers to use to double check communications they send home to parents.  Check it out:  grammarly.com/grammar-check.

 

 

 

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Helping Students Become Better Writers–A Team Priority!

“Why do I have to revise and edit my lab report?  This is science class, not Language Arts!”

“Why do you give essay tests?” This isn’t an English class!”

“Journaling in Math?  We do those in Language Arts; why are we doing them here?”

“You want me to write about an artist’s style? Why can’t I just show you with images?”

Most of us have experienced student complaints when writing-based tasks are assigned.  Students often compartmentalize skills by subject area, and in their minds writing belongs in Language Arts class. However, writing is a skill that crosses all disciplines and is a requirement for most professional jobs.  In fact, salaries often increase in proportion to one’s ability to write well.  Look at the infographic below.  It details the results of a study conducted by the folks at Grammarly.com, a popular web-based grammar checking service.

Grammarly.com Infographic

Grammarly.com Infographic

Over the next couple of blog posts, I will share several ideas for making the teaching of writing a team-based enterprise. Step 1 might be that the language arts teacher shares this infographic with his teammates and begins a conversation during common planning time by asking, “I wonder if it might not be worth our time to review how we reinforce good writing skills across our team classes, and then explore one or two additional ways to support our students as they work on becoming better writers?”

Next time: How Grammarly.com could be useful to students in all classes.

Research Skills Are Part of the Common Core!

Students must become efficient, effective, and ethical researchers

~school, college, career, life~

Common Core Literacy Anchor Standards

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.

Address these standards (informational literacy) systematically–don’t allow your students to leave your team with a hodge-podge of strategies for locating accurate information quickly:

  • Identify the specific skills students need in order to meet standards.
  • Create a team folder on the school server or a team wiki where all of the materials can be located in a central location so everyone has access.
  • Adapt and add to lessons as needed.  The librarian/media specialist should be the team’s number one resource–bring him or her lots of freshly baked cookies and other goodies.
  • Design a team plan of action for teaching and reinforcing information literacy skills across the curriculum. Set up a calendar and hold one another accountable.

teachers working together1. Identify places in the curriculum that are a natural fit for these skills.

2. Divide these skills up and teach them in the context of units across the curriculum.
3. Remember! Every assignment does not have to include the entire research process.  Some assignments may only include locating resources and evaluating them for reliability, and others may focus on taking notes, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
4. Chunk up research assignments into segments with checkpoints in order to monitor student progress.

Check resources on the web for ideas, lessons, and resources:

Big 6The Big 6: Information and Technology Skills for Student Achievement (http://www.big6.com/ and http://www.big6.com/kids/). These sites are multi-faceted and include some free lessons, descriptions of units where teachers have integrated the Big 6 components, and free resources such as graphic organizers and note taking templates.  This is also a commercial site and offers products and staff development.  They take advantage of social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, and also have a RSS feed. This approach has six components in the process:

  • Task Definition
  • Information Seeking Strategies
  • Location and access
  • Use of information
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

Noodle Tools (http://www.noodletools.com/) is a subscription site that also offers free tools that are extremely useful. Their free tools include “Choose the Best Search,” a tool to help identify how to use search engines and their features for efficient searching and several resources for becoming an expert in the tricky world of citations.  There are also some interesting resources for teachers including one very valuable one on being an ethical researcher.

ISTE Standards (http://tiny.cc/ISTE144) are published by the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are related to the entire world of the integration of technology into education and are worth a close look. The third standard relates directly to research and information fluency:

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Students:

  • Plan strategies to guide inquiry.
  • Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
  • Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
  • Process data and report results.

21st Century Information Fluency (http://21cif.com/) This is a commercial site that was originally connected to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. There are free tutorials and wizards that help both the budding and accomplished searcher become even more proficient with information fluency skills.  Many students often feel because they use the internet so much that there is nothing new to learn.  The search challenges on this site will test the skills of each and every student.

University of Maryland University College (http://tiny.cc/Research574) Although this site is designed for older students, it has resources that are useful to teachers.  It is divided into seven modules: Doing Research, Copyright, Using the Library, Call Numbers, Finding Books, Finding Articles, Finding Websites.

One last note…if you really want to your students to internalize the research process so that they can apply it to situations beyond the classroom, allow them to research topics that interest them!

This posting is adapted from Chapter 8 of Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success — available from AMLE (AMLE.org).

teamingrocks

Free- Webinar: You Are What You Post: Create a Positive Web Presence

Free 45-Minute Webinar

Help Students Understand and Manage Their Digital Footprint

You Are What You Post: Create a

Positive Web Presence

May 9, 3 pm EST

May 9, 7:30 pm EST

May 10, 9:30 pm EST

To registerhttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CTMay910

 

Can’t attend one of these three live sessions?

Register instead to provide On-Demand access for your entire student population!

You Are What You Post: Create a Positive Web PresenceOn Demand

Jill Spencer, Chris Toy, and Ed Brazee will offer a free webinar through
JK Thomas & Associates Ltd.

You Are What You Post: Create a Positive Web Presence

It is sometimes difficult for an adolescent to think beyond next week, let alone several years in the future. In addition, they have tendencies to occasionally act first and think later.  In today’s world of instant access to information about everything and everyone, impulsive postings  have long lasting ramifications.  Colleges, businesses, even parents checking out their child’s prom night date use the web to ferret out information about applicants.  Our young people must learn to be proactive in building their online reputations, and it is incumbent on the adults in their lives to help them understand that process. This webinar will be an invaluable resource for understanding the possibilities and challenges inherent in one’s online life.

Intended audience:

  • students
  • parents
  • teachers, administrators, counselors and other school staff members

Ways a team might use this information:

  • In advisory
  1. Share the webinar  with students in 10 minute segments and structure conversations around the salient points of each segment.
  2. Use the information in the webinar to create your own interactive lessons.
  • Digital citizenship lessons
  1. Use quotes, statistics, etc. from the webinar to frame a lesson on cyberbullying or other topics
  2. Explore the topic of social entrepreneurship using examples of adolescents doing good in the world through online social activism; perhaps spur students into starting a service learning project.
  • Parents’ night
  1. Use it as the central focus of the parents’ night program to (1) help them understand the positive aspects of their children’s online participation and (2) give them some tips for guiding their children through the maze of web.
  2. Share the registration information as a good resource for parents to access.
  • Information to put in parent newsletters
  1. Create a section of your newsletter entitled “Tips & Facts” for Digital Parenting” and use information from the webinar to give parents some concrete advice.
  2. Copy links from the webinar for parents to use  (e.g. Common Sense Media).
  • Educate your community
  1. As you advocate for additional technology (hardware, software, & curriculum integration), use information from the webinar to demonstrate the urgency of providing 21st century resources for your students.
  2. Volunteer to go to the Rotary (take students!) and other civic organizations to do a program that emphasizes the world your students will be entering as they graduate. Use webinar information to help make your case.

Format:

  • Free 45 minute webinar

For more information beyond this free webinar

Option to purchase 6 additional + 2 bonus modules that go more in depth on the topic, including

  1. First Impressions Matter: Putting Your Best Foot Forward
  2. Improving Your Digital Footprint
  3. “To Be or Not to Be” Personal Branding
  4. Being Safe Online: Ensuring Online Safety and Privacy
  5. Presenting Yourself Online—Where Will You Be Found? (Hint: More than on Facebook)
  6. Weighing the Options — Making Choices

Bonus module #1: But, What About Young Adolescents (10- to 15-Year-Olds)? A Primer for Parents, Teachers, and 10-15 Year Olds

Bonus Module #2: Raising Children in the Digital Age—Any Century Parenting

Help Students Understand and Manage Their Digital Footprint: Free Webinar!

 Chris Toy and Ed Brazee and I are offering a free webinar through JK Thomas & Associates Ltd. entitled In Your Online World...Perception is Reality! Creating and Controlling Your Online Reputation.

It is sometimes difficult for an adolescent to think beyond next week, let alone several years in the future. In addition, they have tendencies to occasionally act first and think later.  In today’s world of instant access to information about everything and everyone, impulsive postings  have long lasting ramifications.  Colleges, businesses, even parents checking out their child’s prom night date use the web to ferret out information about applicants.  Our young people must learn to be proactive in building their online reputations, and it is incumbent on the adults in their lives to help them understand that process. This webinar will be an invaluable resource for understanding the possibilities and challenges inherent in one’s online life.

Intended audience:

  • students
  • parents
  • teachers, administrators, counselors and other school staff members

Ways a team might use this information:

  • In advisory
  1. Share the webinar  with students in 10 minute segments and structure conversations around the salient points of each segment.
  2. Use the information in the webinar to create your own interactive lessons.
  • Digital citizenship lessons
  1. Use quotes, statistics, etc. from the webinar to frame a lesson on cyberbullying or other topics
  2. Explore the topic of social entrepreneurship using examples of adolescents doing good in the world through online social activism; perhaps spur students into starting a service learning project.
  • Parents’ night
  1. Use it as the central focus of the parents’ night program to (1) help them understand the positive aspects of their children’s online participation and (2) give them some tips for guiding their children through the maze of web.
  2. Share the registration information as a good resource for parents to access.
  • Information to put in parent newsletters
  1. Create a section of your newsletter entitled “Tips & Facts” for Digital Parenting” and use information from the webinar to give parents some concrete advice.
  2. Copy links from the webinar for parents to use  (e.g. Common Sense Media).
  • Educate your community
  1. As you advocate for additional technology (hardware, software, & curriculum integration), use information from the webinar to demonstrate the urgency of providing 21st century resources for your students.
  2. Volunteer to go to the Rotary (take students!) and other civic organizations to do a program that emphasizes the world your students will be entering as they graduate. Use webinar information to help make your case.

Format:

  • Free 45 minute webinar
  • Option to purchase 6 additional + 2 bonus modules that go more in depth on the topic
  1. First Impressions Matter: Putting Your Best Foot Forward
  2. Improving Your Digital Footprint
  3. “To Be or Not to Be” Personal Branding
  4. Being Safe Online: Ensuring Online Safety and Privacy
  5. Presenting Yourself Online—Where Will You Be Found? (Hint: More than on Facebook)
  6. Weighing the Options — Making Choices

Bonus module # 1: But, What About Young Adolescents (10- to 15-Year-Olds)? A Primer for Parents, Teachers, and 10-15 Year Olds

Bonus Module # 2: Raising Children in the Digital Age—Any Century Parenting

I cannot post the direct link to register on WordPress. However if you go to my webpage the live link is there: http://jillspencer.net/

 

Use Common Planning Time to Increase Your Team’s Technology KnowHow

Common Planning Time–Use It Creatively

It’s OK to use Common Planning Time to expand the team’s knowledge base.  Digital devices are multiplying and morphing at an incredible speed.  At a recent NELMS session I did a quick survey on the number of devices participants owned.  Everyone had at least one and most had more than three. The same is true for our students.  Class instruction needs to keep pace, but often teachers do not have time to explore and reflect on available digital tools.  However, middle grades team teachers do have a structure for designing their own professional learning opportunities–common planning time.

Designate one Common Planning Period a month as techno day.  Choose one new app or digital tool to explore together.  Here’s an article that identifies 10 blogs that will feed your need and professional obligation to stay up-to-date in the area of effective technology integration.

Picture of the headline for an eSchool News articlehttp://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/04/06/ten-education-blogs-worth-following/2/?

The blogs mentioned include…

* The Ultimate Guide to Facebook’s New “Groups for Schools”

* COMIC: Will Texting Replace Raising Your Hand in Class?

* Students Making Flipped Videos

* Every Student an Individual

* Alpha Maps

* Qwiki Creator

* Learning, Feedback, Validation

* Jux: Simple Media Literacy  Tool

These are just 4 out of the 10 blogs and a few examples of their postings mentioned in the eSchool News article–Check it out!

Middle Level Education Institute–On the Maine Coast!

Flyer for Middle Level Education Institute

Visit Our Website

http://mleimaine.net

For All of the Details!

 

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