Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April - Non-Fiction Books

     I am really excited about my current unit in writing - Informational Books. Our students had to create a few essays during the essay unit so we wanted to switch gears (for their sanity and ours) to informational writing with a twist. Our new Lucy Caulkins rubrics almost require us to move in this direction as it asks our students to include text features in their written work.
     Part of my excitement comes from the fact that I am able to implement so many amazing materials into this unit. We began yesterday by brainstorming in Padlet and I challenged the students to pick a topic that relates to a culture or a historical event. This decision on my part was two-fold: 1) They would all pick animal topics or Legos if I let them and I want to challenge their thinking and 2) We are reading books during reading that relate to different cultures and historical events so it was an easy way to tie all that work together (yeah Common Core). Today they will be placing their topic and title in a Google Doc so I have a class list of their topics. This will allow me to house them in one place and make sure their topic is appropriate without having to call each one of them up independently.
     I also created some templates in Google Docs that can house the research they find. This will allow them to use the research tool as well and type directly into the document to make their research easier to keep track of. I was able to link these to my website so it is all in one central location. I am able to use technology to support my students while incorporating curriculum like Lucy Caulkins as well - this to me is best practices - and that makes me feel like I am getting more comfortable with all of my teaching tools. I also know I am a better, more effective teacher when I am excited, and I am definitely excited by the possibilities of this unit!
     The one thing I am still pondering is how I want to publish their work. Google Docs is a great tool for so much of it, but I am wondering if there is another publishing device out there that could expose them to something new. Let me know if you have any ideas!


March - Authenticity of Blogger Work

    This month I had my students revisit blogging using our class read aloud and our class blog. I had them answer some questions about our book Hard Gold since we had just finished reading it aloud. The students used their "Blogging Docs" to create their responses and then posted them to the blog when complete. What I realized was what an authentic experience this was for them as writers. We have blogged before, but I don't think I realized how powerful this work really is.
     Before I publish anything on the blog, I call the students up to look through their pending response with me. I am able to give them immediate feedback before I send them back to their seats. If they have made convention errors I point them out, if they haven't used enough detail I point it out, and if they didn't answer all the questions (which was common in this post) I point it out. The best part about this is they go back and edit immediately while the comments are still fresh in their minds. Because they have it typed in their "Blogging Doc" the edits are easy to make as well so no one has to start from scratch. I also make sure my SMART Board screen is on so that other students can glimpse at the responses that are submitted. Many of them gauge their work by what they are seeing on that screen. I have had students add more to a response (more than they would have on their own) because of what they saw on the board. I also watch as many of them listen to my mini-conferences with students. Some of them take the information I give to others and use that advice in their own work before they publish. I am amazed that something so simple can create such wonderful editing experiences. I am also looking forward to April when we will have parents blogging with us as well because this will create a bigger audience and hopefully push them into creating their best work! Thank you Blogger :)