DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, November 16, 2014.
Something exciting is happening to the balance of my classroom. It’s tipped to student control. We’ve been invited to participate in a Minecraft EDU based on the book, The Giver. The project is called Givercraft and was created at the University of Alaska Educational Technology EDET 698: Gamification and the classroom can be found on twitter at #EDGamify.
The purpose is:
“As educators it is our mission to provide high-quality, developmentally appropriate and engaging instruction to students. Through the use of MinecraftEDU students can demonstrate knowledge and understanding through building, collaboration and creativity. We hope to help fellow educators become familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”
I have seen my grandchildren play Minecraft. I have tried it [installed on my iPhone]. All I can do is punch holes. Bam. Not good. So this is my chance to learn what my students want to use to learn with. It’s my chance to see how it works — -to become “familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”
I participated in a practice session and failed. Miserably. Have you ever taken a gaming personality test? I think this is the one I took last year. I’m an Explorer— off the charts. So I get frustrated with all the bangs and zombies and tedious builds. As Wikipedia says, “The Explorer will often enrich themselves in any back story or lore they can find about the people and places in-game” and “They often meet other Explorers and can swap experiences.” That would be me.
So although I fail the MinecraftEDU teacher practice mission, I am thoroughly excited that my students will be able to create a Giver community based on the details of the book, working as a team to create the world of a “Nine.” And my students are thrilled, and that’s just the first task. The creators have developed modules that will require critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving based on evidence from the book to meet Common Core State Standards. Students take screenshots of their work in MineCraftEDU GiverCraft and upload them to a private wiki to explain their evidence. This is awesome.
I succeed at being willing to let go of the control and allow students to take the lead. I’m the guide. I’ve done this with other tech platforms, such as BitStrips for Schools. I create the activities, and students learn the tool that demonstrates their understanding.
What do I mean by tipping the balance to student control? With our invitation, we had only two weeks to read the novel — and even then we had obstacles – my training days, sports, testing. We didn’t think we’d make it, but we will. Tomorrow we finish the book in time to start the game.
The control I tossed to the kids. Instead of worksheets and teacher guides, I handed the kids Post-It Notes. We knew we needed to understand the meaning of the book with evidence to support our ideas. So students listened to the story and added notes to the areas they thought were important. We’d stop and they would share and discuss the story: its characters, its plot, its setting, its community, its rules, its world. Their ideas. Their analysis. Not my preconceived ideas. They took notes — on their own in their journals to remember the details of this “same and mean” world, as they summarized. This they do willingly, thoughtfully, even as usually struggling readers. I’m impressed.
In Givercraft, they will partner up and help each other with book and journal ready; but again, they will be in charge: thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving together with evidence from the text. They’ve signed their agreements of rules of behavior for GiverCraft and understand this will be different than the game they usually play; they understand this focus is on learning from reading by creating and collaboration, and from writing by sharing their creations and explaining their evidence.
We can do this, and I [we] will learn how to build more units that take our required standards to a new level that totally engages students and promotes deeper learning. We will be a community of learners.
I’m so glad I dared to learn, just as I expect my students to do every day. It’s a great feeling to do this together, student and teacher.
DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, November 9, 2014.
Our students in grades seven and eight are participating in #NaNoWriMo again this year. Each students sets their own goals and we continue to follow the Common Core State Standards aligned curriculum by Young Writers NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. I wrote about it last week, and this was our first week.
We actually have only twelve days of classroom time to allot for this due to trainings, conferences, and Thanksgiving. However the students are writing about what they know: their hobbies and interests. They took that lesson to heart: writers write about what they know [or research]. So students are writing about friendships made and lost, sports goals and goofs, and characters new and ancient.
Students draft their writing in Google Docs. Our Teacher Dashboard by Hapara allows me to quickly see new additions, view, and click to add comments to encourage their continued efforts. I point out the positives to encourage their continued use of those strategies such as dialogue and description to help set the mood and tone for their action.
Students share their novels with each other to also add comments and encourage each other. Students or teacher and student can carry on a feedback conversation through the comments and when completed, just click “Resolve.” The collaborative aspect of Google Apps for Education encourages writing by students through this process; it’s personalized learning at its best.
When not writing for NaNoWriMo, the apps allow for students to choose the app that best fits their audience and purpose: a blog? a Google site? a document? a slideshow? a survey [forms]? a spreadsheet with charts for data? a HangOut with experts? To meet the Common Core State Standards, collaboration and multi-media information are key. I’m so thankful our school district adopted this for our students.
DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, November 2, 2014.
In October, we begin our preparation for our novels, following the helpful curriculum by Young Writers NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. Notice: Common Core State Standards focus each lesson. That means, YES, you and your students can write a novel in November.
On Friday, we mapped out the days we can write in school and set our writing goals. Teachers write 30,000 words and students choose their own goals. Students are excited and talking about their novels. Monday, we begin writing. Most will draft in Google Docs, leaving their “inner editor” in a box somewhere on a shelf so that only the flow of their story taps onto the page, one letter, word, sentence, paragraph at time — ideas driven by a character with problem. That’s all you need to start, but if you need more, the Young Writers Program provides help:
Links to Start
I’d like to thank my friends at #clmooc for inspiring me again — their 5 image story task set my imagination in motion for my novel; here’s my start. It helped my students see how to start — with a character, an image in their mind, and a problem.
Are you ready? Are your students writing? Check out our Virtual Classroom and watch our progress.
Connections. Everywhere. A network of sharing and growing.
That’s what being a connected learner is. My connection with #clmooc has expanded my focus from one classroom and one teacher, to a networked community from which I can give just as much as I can learn.
Here’s a network, a small one:
Note: You can enlarge the MindMap and click the related links.
Create your own mind maps at MindMeister
I’ve made several connections by following blogs of people I admire and learn from on Twitter and in other communities. Here you see and can link to the Two Writing Teachers and Grant Wiggins. Their blogs brought me information about projects, workshops, rubrics, and checklists. I had already read about and started using the question strategies noted in the Right Question book, but Grant Wiggins brought it new dimension.
I designed a project based on a focus question:
“Thousands of kids from Central America are entering the United States illegally — and alone.”
Students wrote and considered open and closed questions before reading an article about it. Then they answered their top three questions.
By this time I had read the blogs and Grant’s book, so I designed an authentic task that would include several Common Core State Standards as students collaborated, investigated, discovered relevant content, designed a campaign, and edited each presentation:
“With a team of peers, collaborate to create an informational or persuasive campaign for an audience of your choice to share the information you research about “Thousands of kids from Central America are entering the United States illegally — and alone.” Each team member will create a project for your campaign that meets the expectations of an investigative researcher and project designer. Together, your artifacts will present a thorough, factual, and detailed explanation, and perhaps solution, of the topic. “
Along with the task, considering the Common Core State Standards, I drafted a set of Essential Questions which we will consider all year:
- Investigate: How do researchers investigate successfully?
- Collaborate: What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
- Discover and Develop Content: How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
- Design and Organize Presentation: How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
- Edit Language: Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language?
I had already drafted a rubric, and now revised it to include the Standards and the five topics of the Essential Questions. Finally, I created draft checklists that explain the rubric and allow students and I to connect and confer on the progress and growth of their work. We now have authentic work: Kids Alone.
Student chose their focus, audience, and purpose and began their investigations, collaborating in teams. I confer with each team as we discuss the checklists and transfer our progress to see how we meet the expectations on the rubric.
Here are the project documents:
As we work on our campaigns, students are connecting with each other and with me. I provide feedback towards learning goals and standards, and peers teach peers as well. Here is one example from a team of four students: Debate: Are You For or Against Obama? There audience is bloggers, and their purpose is to consider both sides of an issue.
So, through my connections in blogs, on Twitter, and through blogger’s books, I have developed a learning progression that differentiates student learning, expects high standards of work, and provides a venue for students to connect and collaborate as well. Since many have chosen to publish work online, their connections could grow globally.
We are all connected learners.
Post also part of NSD21 and DigiLit Sunday:
DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, October 19, 2014.
DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, October 12, 2014.
DigiLit Sunday this week is a review of what is essential. That’s been my focus this weekend as I develop tasks for students that are authentic for readers, writers, and researchers. What does that mean?
Fortunately, I read in my Kindle App the book Essential Questions.
It’s great review for those of us who focus on projects because, no matter what, it’s student learning that is important. Grant Wiggins also wrote a great post on inquiry, PBL, and UbD — provides this gem:
“And that gradual release idea is the essence of backward design in UbD – and a great place to reflect this weekend. How am I designing the year to make it most likely that students become increasingly autonomous as questioners and arguers (in the Common Core sense) – while still learning and understanding content of value? Viewed this way, there is no dichotomy at all between UbD and inquiry-based pedagogy.”
“How am I designing the year to make it most likely that students become increasingly autonomous as questioners and arguers (in the Common Core sense) – while still learning and understanding content of value?”
If my students are to become independent, they need to have choice in doing the work of readers, writers, and researchers. They now need to develop from our work in previous years their own projects that present their work. They work to be collaborative and authentic.
Essential Questions as overarching and transferable elements of language arts are key. So I looked at the verbs and nouns in the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and developed a set of questions to start the year — and will add to them as our projects dictate. Because I teach Language Arts, students have some options in content, and so I am releasing some questioning responsibility to students as we follow the Right Question strategy.
I realize that essential questions can be the guiding work of our coarse and also the specific questions of content. So we consider Essential Questions, and a guiding rubric scale that includes more specific questions and criteria for the language arts content. But what does that mean? If I’m teaching and releasing responsibility, I need even more. The Two Writing Teachers reminded me of writing checklists, so with our new standards, we need new checklists, which I created for each of the essential components that guide our work: collaboration, investigation, content, design, and language. These are our beginning.
And how do we bring this all together for students? A ThingLink:
As we change our task — to choice or teacher driven, we have a basic set of essentials to guide our learning. It’s not perfect yet, but we are moving in the right direction, together.
How do you keep your projects open for students, including the essentials of learning?
My favorite presentation tool: Google Slides.
First of all, it has really advanced since the time my students created the project I will share. Take a look at this Parent Night Slideshow. Google Slides has transitions, animations, and themes to really help students learn talking points and design.
That’s part of what two students did in my class a while back. The loved Wordle.net, but wanted to bring it in line with what we were learning about presentation, and to connect it with Veterans Day.
Every year the Nespelem American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a contest for Veterans Day. The theme is usually “Honor All Veterans.” Veterans Day is an important event in our community. In all the towns around, breakfasts, dinners, school assemblies, and Pow Wows honor those who served our country to keep us safe and free. We thank all those who sponsor activities, and especially the Nespelem American Legion Auxiliary.
The seventh and eighth grade students started with a prewriting plan in Google Docs which helped them think of nouns, strong verbs, and actions of those who served in the Armed Forces. Next the students revised and edited their work.
Two students, Tristen and Mysti, asked the students to create word clouds using their essays as the source for the words (Wordle.net ). Each then saved the images, uploaded the wordles, and pasted their essays into a Google presentation. Each student explained why they chose the colors, word arrangements, and layout. This is their gift. Thanks to Tristen and Mysti for asking their peers to join.
We asked other schools in our Quad Blog Team to comment about our project and about Veterans Day. You can read those at our student blog here.
It was an engaging way to learn writing and design while also honoring our veterans. We may just do that again this year. How about you?
Based on this post: Writing Class Veterans Paragraph
DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, October 5, 2014.