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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in student writing

Posted by on in General

My seventh graders were in the process of researching information about Jackie Robinson in order to create an expository essay.  Together, we were reading the book, 42 is Not Just a Number, by Doreen Rappaport. 

In the first chapter, the author writes of how Robinson's family did not have much money when he was a child. Some nights they had bread soaked in milk or water with sugar. I explained to my class that my family had often eaten some very limited meals as well, but as kids, we didn't know that we lacked money.

I have always believed in the power of storytelling in a classroom.  Equally important to me is sharing about my own life so that my students can see that I am indeed a “real” person and not just a teacher who gives them writing prompts each week. They know that I haven’t always been Mr. Ramsey, that I was once “Little Timmy” who drove his parents crazy on a daily basis.

I don’t believe that teachers need to “bare their souls” and share every detail of their lives.  But I do know that there is great value and relationship building when students can relate to their teacher as another living, feeling human being. My students alternate between narrative essays, expository essays, and persuasive essays roughly every two weeks.  By the end of the year, they have written several of each genre.

During those weeks, we also focus on several mini-lessons revolving around language, vocabulary, and technique.  For this time around, I wanted the kids to start thinking about how to infuse their voice into their work.

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Posted by on in General

Teaching writing to seventh graders is often quite tedious.  Most of the kids really don’t want to write and, if they do, they don’t want to go through the arduous process of revising, editing and re-writing. 

Still I love what I do…most days.  This year, I am really enjoying using our new software that allows me to monitor, from my screen, what every student is doing on his/her screen.  What is really cool, is that I can enter any student’s essay at any time from my desk and offer suggestions to keep the writing going.  It takes a bit of managing as all 35 kids in a class want their work read immediately and all at the same time.  But I am getting there… 

Today, my students began writing their rough drafts of their creative stories inspired by the painting, “The Scream.”  Many started raising their hands only minutes after the assignment was given.

“No,” I announced, “today you are going to work by yourself for the first fifteen minutes without my help.  Have faith in your writing.  When the time is up I will help one person at a time.  Remember that you have your seat partners to read and revise with you.” 

Nick immediately came to my desk.  I looked at this quirky kid and repeated my directions.  “Fifteen minutes, Nick.  It’s only been fifteen seconds.” 

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Posted by on in General

At school, we have a new program that allows teachers to monitor students as they work online.  One cool feature allows us to simply shut down a student if he is not on the assigned site for the day.  It is fun watching their reactions to being instantly blocked.

Another great feature allows me to go directly into the document that a student is creating and to join the student in the writing process.  I can add feedback, and I can also help guide a student’s writing in real time.

“Joaquin” is one of my best writers.  I’ve known that since he was a little kid in my fifth grade class.  One of his stories that year was about having a superpower.  The boy wrote about being able to capture all the terrorists in the world and then making them all work at McDonald’s.  After a few days of working the fryer, they all surrender and promise to go home.  Joaquin, the superhero, is celebrated as his neighbors throw a party with ponies and pinatas

Much to the boy’s dismay, I think I shared that story with every teacher at the school.  At the start of this year, I asked him if I could read his story to the class.

He looked at me in disbelief.  “No!” he squeaked.  “You still have it?”

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Posted by on in General

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Second-Grade-Class-picture.jpg

My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, was a pudgy little lady with hair cropped close to her head. She looks mean in the yellowed class picture near the front of my school days’ scrapbook. But I can’t recall a single angry word ever spoken.

I do remember that Mrs. Thompson was allergic to chalk. And I remember her compensating for this disability with charts. Math charts, writing charts, spelling charts, reading charts...every wall was plastered. We judged the day simply on the number of charts we had to conquer.

Something in my mastery of the charted standards must have caught Mrs. Thompson’s attention. One day during math, as the rest of the class copied and solved the math problems from the latest chart, she came to my desk with a reprieve. She told me that she was impressed with my writing and that I was going to be allowed to write stories instead. She led me down the hall to Miss Manning’s room (where I had lived my first-grade days) and asked if I could borrow the story starter box, a collection of pictures to inspire creative writers.

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Posted by on in Education Resources

Our students don't know the world without the Internet. They spend days and nights on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat but hardly know how to translate all the information into learning. Gen Z doesn't necessarily think critically about what they find online, and we, as educators, should teach the academic side of the Internet to them.

Why is it so important?

  1. Surveys demonstrate that many students don't understand how to use online sources to support their arguments.
  2. Studies show that young people don't focus on the credibility of sources they use: they can't explain why they choose certain websites, authors, and publications.
  3. Online research skills are among must-haves for students' progress through college life and future career.

Educators can help students to evaluate online information efficiently. Its volume keeps growing (500+ new websites appear every minute), and it's significant for young people to know how to separate the gems from the garbage and become critical consumers, not just viewers.

So, how can we help youngsters do efficient online research and navigate information easily?

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