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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.

1:1 Digital Learning Institute

  Briasco-BrinnSchools across the country are adding technology at a fast pace. iPads, laptops, Chrome Books, and tablets are appearing in classrooms, often without a plan of action for successful implementation in place. This June there is a fabulous opportunity for teams to learn from experts on the best way to implement and sustain a widespread technology project.  The “experts” are educators who have a decade of experience in integrating 1:1 digital learning into their instruction. assessment, and curriculum. The place is the gorgeous coast of Maine in late June!  1:1 Digital Learning Institute–June 26-27 in Kennebunk, Maine

Here are all of the details!

1:1 Learning Experts to Share Best Practices and Practical Advice

Digital 1:1 Learning Summit Scheduled for June 26-27 in Kennebunk, ME

KENNEBUNK, MAINE (March 5, 2014)–Digital 1:1 learning has revolutionized the learning experience, empowering teachers to personalize learning and connect students to the world like never before. An effective 1:1 program goes far beyond the purchase of laptops or tablets—yet, many schools don’t know where to begin.

HSblooger5

A team of education experts from the Maine Association of Middle Level Educators (MAMLE) and the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) have organized the first annual Digital 1:1 Learning Institute, which will take place at the Middle School of the Kennebunks in Kennebunk, Maine June 26-27, 2014.

Keynote speakers at the two-day event include Senator Angus S. King, Jr., a visionary leader who, as governor of Maine, launched the world’s first and most comprehensive 1:1 initiative to bring learning technology into all Maine middle level schools; and Dr. Mike Muir, a Maine educator and expert on engaged learning for all students. A member of the original advisory team for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), Dr. Muir helps lead the nation’s first full primary iPad project in Auburn, Maine.

Kids writing

 Organizers say the conference will provide participants the knowledge and confidence to develop a vision and plan for their specific educational setting, as well as practical advice on what to do – and what not to do — from Maine teachers, administrators, and technology education leaders who have been at the forefront of digital learning for over a decade.  A panel of students whose learning was transformed by 1:1 will share their experiences.

MS2

Participants are encouraged to bring a team from their school that includes teachers, administrators and technology professionals. There will be three tracks from which to choose—elementary, middle school and high school—so participants can learn strategies appropriate to the level they teach. ipads - 14-2

The cost of the conference, not including accommodations, is $295 per person if registered before May 15; when a five-member team is registered together, a sixth registration is free. Participants will receive 12 continuing education credits for attending this conference. For more information or to register, visit http://www.nelms.org/pages/conferences/1to1learning.html

Contacts:

Chris Toy
christoy.net@gmail.com
207-653-3163

Jill Spencer

jillspencer51@gmail.com
207-353-2746

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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!

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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