Week Two #etmooc Goals

Pretzel Art by Tony Stanczak, former student

Goals for #etmooc, reviewed:

As I embarked on this journey in #etmooc , I asked these questions:

  1. Given the access, technology, resources, and requirements available to me, how can I create a classroom world reflective of what my students need in the future that is theirs?
  2. How do I need to adapt my pedagogy to create that classroom?
  3. How will like-minded teachers connect and collaborate to create connected spaces for themselves and with their students?
  4. How will I, as a middle school teacher of language arts, connect with others to ponder these questions, create a space to act on them, and discover together ways to improve education in our own worlds.

As I review my posts for #etmooc, I discover possibilities:

  • Twitter / Wiki: I now connect to more middle level educators on twitter through the hashtag #midleved  (by Steven Davis) and #midlevt for the Connect in the Middle wiki a group of us have created for such educators (request to join!). We’re busy educators, and we connect as we can, spreading the word as more join our wiki. Many blogged about our initial questions on the wiki, and we also shared tips or lessons to #midlevt.  Currently, we are sharing lesson ideas on the wiki regarding Classroom Discussions and Poetry. We are connecting as middle level educators. (Goals / Questions 3 and 4)
  • Digital StoryTelling: I have created my own and collaborated with others to tell stories. We all have stories– simple and elegant, poignant and sublunary. Our perspectives guide us and frame us; sharing stories reframes our perspectives: we grow. With the digital component available, students can create, share, collaborate on their own or within a context on stories. I see how I storyboard — with observing, connecting ideas, forming poetic and visual responses, and arranging all together, and then I begin the digital version, revising as I work. My students did the same for a project within the context of mentors of cyber-safety. My question, though, is will this digital composition transfer to the paper/pencil composition needed for academic pieces? I ask because the students did draft, revise, practice, organize, assess, reshoot, share — all the components of the learning and writing process. (Goals / Questions 1 and 2)

As I finish the second week, what final possibilities do I consider:

I so enjoyed the recorded session with the participants of Jesse Strommel’s DigiWriting #etmooc, A Flurry of Cursors.

I already do use Google Docs as a backchannel when we watch a presentation together. I ask students to find a spot on the shared document and type their name; that is their space to add ideas. At different points, we stop the presentation/ video/ speech and discuss our comments and notes. At the end, we have a class set of notes to discuss and use for further consideration.

I’ve written about NaNoWriMos experiences on another blog and post “Let Them Write,” and here’s the main points learned:

My experience is this: I’m just writing. There’s a spark of story that ignites every time I start to add to the tale. It unfolds letter by letter word by word, sentence by sentence, dialogue by dialogue, image by image. That spark lights and spawns another spark. There’s been no real plan, only a glimpse that is fleeting to the real world and consciousness, but that explodes when my fingers cover the keys. Characters blossom. Setting stirs. Plot propels. With no plan, only a spark.

This is an experience I’ll remember, and I will pause to see what blossoms when my students want to “just write.” My expectation of prewrite, plan, draft may just extinguish the spark emerging within their imagination, and then what would the world miss? I’ve experienced the feeling of “I am a writer” for the first time, and I want my students to feel it too. Did you see that flash? It’s a spark of an idea from someone — maybe you!

It’s an enlightening experience that helped me see the need for less control and more autonomy in what we write in the classroom.  And that is what I saw within Jesse’s session — those who dared to take the leap allowed their collaborative cursors to dance a dialogue that emerged as a new idea. I recorded their reading of the created poetry, and created a video of the result: Mahemism.

I’ve decided to try this in my classroom as an entry task — a poem to write within in a context of topic, time, and participation. My first one will be given a title “Writing Class” (topic) for which students may add three words (participation) within ten minutes (time).  We’ll decide what to do with the poem together.

 The Topic: Writing Class

The Rules: Reminder — Be patient with each other during this synchronous collaboration in Google Docs; it’s not easy to find a spot together, but it is creative to do so.

1. We must complete this poem in 10 minutes

2. Each contributor must contribute three words — one noun and one other part of speech (verb, adjective…)

3. Each contributor may move one word — no more, no less.

4. Each contributor may contribute or remove one punctuation mark.

5. No word may be deleted, except by its author. If someone deletes your word by mistake, add it back in.

6. Leave these rules at the top of the document.

Once again, I see the rhizomatic learning connection:

  • rhizome: the context is the constraint  — the topic / time / rules
  • rhizome: we can choose the context — I choose to view the session
  • time is a constraint that invites action — I wanted to jump in and be part of the recorded session, so I was inspired to carry it further by taking the time to record their work (Mahemism. )
  • rhizome: the concept is carried into my classroom — entry poem task.

I have enjoyed visiting other “neighborhoods” of ideas, observing and participating, collaborating, and creating as the context fits my world. I thank everyone for allowing me to learn and grow because of this process. I’m thinking how I can create a context into which the Language Arts framework would provide a neighborhood of ideas into which students visit and collaborate, learning what each needs along the way. It would be more open than a PBL unit, and may just inspire some of my more resistant learners.  Would this look like a menu — perhaps a Symbaloo of choices? a blog page of prompts? an Edmodo set of classes?

Any ideas?

Quality Blogging & Commenting Audit Meme

Our students were thrilled this year with an award nomination, and many chose to write thank you comments to our nominator. Most were thoughtful responses that conveyed their appreciation; they wrote from the heart, which gave their writing voice.

Our goal is to write our best, to learn from even our best to improve our writing choices so our ideas are clear and concise.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano at Langwitches  invites us to evaluate our work to improve.

With that in mind, I reread several comments and wrote a sample one, a model to use with students. Using an anchor or model is a teaching strategy recommended to help improve writing.  With a model comment ready, I evaluated it based on a rubric. The rubric helps us to break down our writing so we can see the parts we did well and and the parts where we can improve.

The rubric (from Langwitches)


The model comment:

Dear Mrs. Nominator,

Thank you for nominating our blog. We are very proud and exited to be nominated for an award. Our class enjoys blogging because we can share ideas with other people. For instance, we can read and share with other students in the world. We learned to take notes and stuff and we learned strategies for ideas so we can write our own blog posts.  Finally, thank you again for nominating us!

Parts Done Well

Writing and Voice:

The paragraph was somewhat organized, adding voice by including feelings (very proud and excited [exited]) and details (“share ideas with other people”). The words chosen are an attempt to bring the content to life (“take notes and stuff” “can write our own blog posts”). Sentence fluency is mostly achieved (“For instance” “Finally”).


Connected to the post and added “simple” additions (“share ideas with other people” “we can read and share with other students in the world” “learned strategies for ideas” “own blog posts”), which shows the beginning evidence of knowledge/content.


Only a few spelling, sentence, and grammar errors restrict the flow of reading ( “exited” “take notes and stuff and we learned strategies”).


Therefore this comment flows between a 2 capable and 3 accomplished, which is a thoughtful response.


Parts to Improve:

To move to expert level on the rubric, the writer could:

Writing and Voice:

Write more than one paragraph which is organized into ideas, each followed by details of explanation. To add style, descriptions, imagery, or figurative language would add voice and interest. For instance — how proud were you? When I’m proud I feel light like a butterfly or warm like the sun. That would make the feeling “memorable, and bring the comment to life.”


Details were provided, and needed explanations; “stuff” could be explained with examples or experiences. For example, “take notes and summaries on our research to assist the composing of our posts” and “we learned strategies for ideas, such using our Google Docs organizer so we include details.” A link to those sample organizer, to sample notes/summaries would have added to the content, clarity, and relevant resources for the reader.


As indicated, the rubric helps us to break down our writing into parts, but good writing is not parts; it’s the meaning communicated to an audience for a purpose.

Donald Murray once said, “Writing is hard fun.” It’s hard to develop an idea thoroughly. It’s hard to add original ideas with a personal voice. It’s hard to go back and add details and voice. It’s hard to go back again and edit for spelling, grammar, and clarity. But when our writing is good— when a response is given back, that is fun, a feeling of satisfaction.

Even though students have the lessons and resources: figurative languageelaboration strategies, revision, and practice, writing is hard.

For this model, practicing the parts of writing brought it to capable  and almost through accomplished on the rubric. It was written to the audience for the purpose of expressing thanks. With more practice, this will improve to expert.

To continue this “audit meme,” I tag Denise KrebsAmy Cobb, and Tracy Watanabe to add to Silvia’s meme at Langwitches to help students and teachers improve the online blog and comment discourse.  Please use models (anchors) so we can all learn and practice from them.

For our class, we’re going to set one goal each, based on a self-assessment of our work. What one “part” would you recommend writers start practicing? What part of writing is hard for you, and what strategies do you use to overcome it? How do you know you’ve improved? How would you audit a post or comment?