Engnology

Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Classroom Discussion Strategies

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Classroom Discussions play an important role in student learning. It engages students, allows them to practice important life skills and is also a form of assessment. I rely on these interactions to help me gauge student understanding of topics we are studying. The following are a few of my favorite, and more unique, discussion strategies. Many of these ideas have been borrowed and modified for my own classroom.

First Things First – 

Establish classroom guidelines for discussions. Ask students for input; they always have great ideas. Limit guidelines  to 5 or fewer and use accessible language for all students. Here are my guidelines, along with brief explanations:

1. No Hands – when discussing, students must negotiate their own time and not speak over each other. They are speaking to EVERYONE in the classroom, not just to me.

2. Stay on Topic – although I love when discussions grow organically, if Ophelia’s death quickly turns to school gossip I step in and refocus the group if a student hasn’t already.

3. Disagree with the Comment, DO NOT attack the person – Differing opinions makes life interesting and classroom discussions fruitful.. One of the most difficult things for students to understand is another student’s TRUTH is just as right and as strong as their own TRUTH.

4. No yelling, swearing, throwing chairs, etc. – I teach AP Literature. Our discussions often lead to religion, politics, gender, etc. and can get heated. These rules are necessary for the safety and climate of the classroom.

5. Ends at the Bell – nothing excites me more than when students are still talking about the class as they walk out the door, toppling  into lunchroom conversations or is brought up at home with parents; but, students are not to use anything that was said in the discussion in a negative way, wether in a different class or on the athletic field.  We all agree to disagree.

Strategies 

1. Fishbowl Tap-out   

*4 chairs placed in the middle of the room, while all students form an outside circle around the center group, thus forming a “fishbowl” effect.

*The 4 students sitting in the middle are the only ones allowed to speak. They are having a discussion with each other about topics at hand or what they read.

*If an outside circle student wishes to speak they must “tap-out” (on the shoulder) one of the 4 people. That person must stand and move to the outside circle. There is no refusing to leave once tapped-out.

*Students on the outside can be listening, backchanneling on a TodaysMeet, or taking notes on paper.

TIPS – Students should try to be in the “hot seat” at least once during the discussion, allow students 2 min. minimum before being tapped out, teacher may have to ask a question if discussion is stalling (otherwise they are a silent observer as well)

2. Body Voting   

*Provide students with a list of statements. Have them silently go through each one marking if they “Agree” or “Disagree”.

*Designate opposite areas in the classroom as “Agree” and “Disagree” zones

*Teacher reads the statement and students move to the area that represents their response.

*Discussion can ensue in a team-like fashion.

TIPS – This strategy takes up a lot of time, have students mark on their paper the top 3 or 4 statements they would like to discuss. Give students one minute to organize thoughts and points as a group before starting discussion. Make students choose a side, there is no neutral.

3. SSC (Small Silent Collaboration)

*Divide students into small groups – no more than 4 per group works best.

*Have one student create a gdoc or typewithme and share with the group members AND the teacher.

*Students silently type important topics from their reading, questions they had, surprises from the passage, etc.

*Teacher monitors all group writing noting important discussion topics found in each.

*After a designated time, students discuss as a large group. The teacher has all the student- driven discussion topics in hand.

TIPS – Typewithme allows students to join under any name, be careful in large groups. This strategy allows every student to have a “voice” which is unique for the teacher to see.

These strategies are a few of the more “unique” ones I use in my classroom. They are also the most effective in engaging students and encouraging participation!

Written by sfarnsworth

August 29, 2012 at 8:03 pm

15 Teacher Tips to Help Students Finish the Year Strong

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Last week I was contacted by Laura McMullen, a reporter for the U.S. News and  World Report , who wanted to interview me the following day about tips I had for teachers to finish the year strong. She explained that she had searched for “high school teachers” on Twitter and my account popped up. She checked out my tweets and blog (a teachable moments for my students) and decided I would be perfect for the article she was writing.

On Monday, the article came out – “Three Tips for Teachers to Help Students Finish the Year Strong” – which combines a few of the tips and examples that I gave to her.  During the time I initially received the first email I was collaborating with my friend Tim Hadley, a Social Studies teacher at Pekin High School. He agreed to act as my sounding board as I created a list of tips. Tim also graciously added a few of his own tips to the document. I thought I would share the complete list with all readers…

1.  Make a list of goals/objectives you wish to have students meet before the end of the year, prioritize them, and post in the classroom.
2. Chunk larger assignments into smaller sections; each section having due dates. This helps with procrastination and students waiting until the last minute to finish work.
3. End of the year is a great time to invite in speakers relevant to content studying into your classroom, either physically or virtually.
4. Give students choice. How do they want to demonstrate their learning?
5. Take advantage of the nice weather – reading, writing, geocaching, science experiments. Can your classroom be mobile and outdoors?
6. Provide an audience for your students projects, writing, etc. other than yourself.
7. Remain consistent with the routines and rules established at the beginning of the year.
8. Collaborate – get your class connected with students who are studying the same thing.
9. Reflect on the year and invite students to do the same; collecting responses to what they have learned, skills they have gained, least favorite and most favorite activities.
10.  Spiral review- Connect prior learning from throughout the year with what you are doing currently and have students predict what they will learn about to the end of the year.
11. Don’t fight distractions, feed them. Tie lesson plans into summer plans. Have a student taking a trip? Talk about the places they will go or have them plan the ultimate summer vacation.
12. Get students active. Plan a service project for your community in which students can give back to their community.
13. Talk about the future. Have students give input about the year and the course of study they have been engaged in. Ask them for advice about what and how should be taught to incoming students.
14. Create a classroom survival guide. When students are reflecting on the course, have them create a short survival guide for next year’s students on what they can expect from the course.
15. With the ending of a school year comes new beginnings. Have students create goals and aspirations for what is next in their lives

Please add your list of tips below!

Written by sfarnsworth

April 26, 2012 at 2:17 am

Considerations for Designing an English Curriculum in a 1:1 Setting

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Yesterday I completed (and passed) the oral exam needed to obtain my M.A. in English from UNI (now all I have left is the research paper!). My focus was on the confluence of our school implementing a 1:1 Laptop Program and my studies in graduate school which caused me to redesign current  curriculum.  During the conversation I verbalized important components of an English classroom in a digital age. This list helps to frame my curriculum:

1. Focus on the solid foundations and theory not the tool or application.

2. Students need to be critical thinkers, understanding content/messages in all literacies .

3. Reader is at the center of the text – only when meaning from text can be applied to self does it become important and relevant.

4. Students work within the cannon of the English language not outside of it.

5. Literacy is the heart of education.

6. Reading and writing are dichotic not separate entities.

7. Writing as a form of learning and reflection.

8.  Communicate effectively in written, verbal, or multimedia forms for pleasure, education, and professional reasons.

9. Not all writing is complete or publishable, most is not

10. The art of response, how to respond effectively.

11. Understanding communication in multiple literacies and how to use different mediums to share their voice is essential part of being a productive citizen.

12. How to use technology to access information, connect, collaborate, create, and publish.

When focus is shifted to curriculum design with the aid of technology instead of a focus on tools and applications, student learning is framed within the essential skills of a curricular area not a set of tools that becomes outdated quickly.

References – Rosenblatt, Elbow, Atwell, NWP, Cope and Kalantzis

Written by sfarnsworth

March 26, 2012 at 1:52 am

Buddy Day Spring 2012

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On March 1st, BCLUW High School students hosted a buddy day with their elementary friends focused on Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day. Each high school room chose a different Seuss book to have as the focus for their room. I chose “Oh The Places You’ll Go” – one of my all-time favorites.

While eating our lunch, I shared the book through my Apple tv and ipad app which allowed students to listen and view an animated version of the story. Many of Dr. Seuss’s books are apps! After lunch, each buddy pair chose a section of the text to illustrate. With the help of their high school buddies, the second graders chose parts of the sections to read aloud for the imovie we were going to create. Applying a number of different activities to the piece with a variety of learning styles targeted increased learning, connection, and engagement. Students were listening, reading, drawing, and speaking all in one activity. We worked on fluency and pronunciation of the words to prepare for the taping of their part.

The following imovie was created from the students’ work and voices.

On a side note, and an idea from Mary Ascher, the second grade class is actually that of my son’s, and so I am going to save all of their drawings, writings, and videos and give to them for senior gifts.

Written by sfarnsworth

March 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Teaching Tether Free: ipad and the Apple tv

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Three weeks ago I was given an ipad to aid in my teaching. Having never touched one before, I was excited to explore the possibilities and advantages that teaching with an ipad would offer to the students. I was also at an advantage having both an HDMI projection system and an apple tv to air stream my ipad through. (I would recommend both of these additions to maximize use) I have found 2 main advantages while teaching with an ipad:

1. No anchors, unlike hooking my laptop up to the dongle and then projecting from my station, with my ipad, I am MOBILE. Because of the wifi capabilities within our building, I am able to essentially be anywhere in the school and stream into my classroom. It is hard for me to sit still or stand in one place while teaching. With the ipad, I am able to move about freely. Mobility means closer proximity to students, easier monitoring options, and through the app Splashtop, I am able to control my laptop wirelessly displaying any document, program, etc. I might need from there.

2. Student Examples, I will list a few of my favorite apps later in the post, but one that I use most frequently is Noteshelf. Through Noteshelf I am able to draw, annotate, and explain in real time using student work. Take for example grammar, as I am walking around the classroom I notice a common mistake in students’ writing concerning commas. I can quickly snap a picture of their essay, annotate it, and use their own work as an example. This provides relevance and engagement; the examples are specific to their own writing. In essence, my ipad becomes a mobile document camera, when combined with noteshelf it allows me the capabilities to manipulate the document without being tethered to one place.

Must Have Apps So Far:

Splashtop

Noteshelf 

Zite 

ShowMe

Tweetdeck

Inkling 

Written by sfarnsworth

November 22, 2011 at 1:44 am

Remembering 9/11 – A Lesson in Empathy

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This year marked the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and while I distinctly remember the events that unfolded on that tragic day, my seniors were only in second grade and recall scattered fragments or nothing at all. During a group skype call between the teachers of the blogging community (5 schools where students blog/comment enhancing engagement and widening audience to promote writing) we decided to create a collaborative lesson plan to teach our students empathy, citizenship, and patriotism with the end product in the form of an imovie.

Building a foundation of the tragedy with resources found on the NYTimes Learning Network Blog; teachers @eolsonteacher, @shawnhyervm, @Bev-Berns, @toddvogts, and myself  shared videos, pictures, and reflections with students. We then allowed students to explore the plethora of links found on the blog and report back to the large group their findings. What happened was an emotional connection to the day that most had a disconnect with because of age. Empathetic stories of victims, family members, and heroes were retold through the voice of our students. One student even stated, “I have not thought about or viewed footage from that day for so long, I can finally understand what happened and how horrible it was.” As teachers, this type of response is music to our ears. We want to help mold a future generation of insightful, empathetic citizens who will lead our world in the future.

The next day we used a strategy taught by @KirsteyEwald during an experience while taking the Iowa Writing Project (a division of the National Writing Project). Students wrote answers to prompts on sticky notes which were then complied and edited to form a poem. Each school had different questions ranging from “How do you define America?” to “How can one honor the lives lost during the attacks?” Each student spoke their line and placed an image of their hand into the project. Teachers shared the movies using dropbox culminating in one movie written, spoken, and illustrated by the students!

Students proudly shared their video with family and friends. It floated around facebook and was highlighted in local newspapers and on local news stations making the Anniversary of September 11th more meaningful.

Written by sfarnsworth

October 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm

6 Word Memoir

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Last year creative writing students wrote 6 word memoirs; they enjoyed the exercise but it did not draw the attention that it has this year. With new students, the assignment has taken on a life of its own. I was attending a meeting out of the district  last week when I assigned this writing exercise. Students read excerpts about memoirs, background information about the 6 Word Memoir, as well as examples that have been collected in the past . Finally, students were to write their own memoirs to be shared with their blogging community. Half way through the meeting I started receiving emails from students containing examples of their personal memoirs, as well as added phrases such as “this is fun,” “love this,” and “when do we share.”

Each student will select one memoir to illustrate and submit to be published in a collection. In essence, they are creating the Class of 2012’s 6 Word Memoirs. These memoirs have also been springing up on their blogs, facebook, and twitter; proving that students desire to share writing. Three years ago my students shared their writing within the classroom, now they use social media to share with a world wide audience!

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_9097119″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/ShaelynnFarnsworth/screen-shot-2011-0901-at-92926-am&#8221; title=”Screen shot 2011 09-01 at 9.29.26 am” target=”_blank”>Screen shot 2011 09-01 at 9.29.26 am</a></strong> <div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/&#8221; target=”_blank”>presentations</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/ShaelynnFarnsworth&#8221; target=”_blank”>Shaelynn Farnsworth</a> </div> </div>

Written by sfarnsworth

September 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm

In Response to “Lost Generation” … and Todd

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I was discussing the poem, “Lost Generation”  with my friend Todd Vogts, an educator from Kansas.

I was first introduced to this poem at the Buck Institute that I attended for my work with #IACoPi .

Todd took the discussion we had and blogged about it, so I thought I too would blog about my reflection on the poem:

When I first heard this poem I thought it was just another frightful account of the current generation and all the problems they face in the future. From the overworked, divorced adult they are destined to become, to being labeled as a generation that is “apathetic and lethargic”(line 29), the future is less than bright. The message was clear and straightforward, painting familiar images using familiar words. This all culminated at a logical, if not a bit cliché, last line, “And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it”(line 32). “Hmmm, well this is good,” I thought but nothing extraordinary, until the reading acted upon the command of the bold faced type and started reciting the lines backwards.

When read in reverse, the poem offers a rebuttal to the negative views society places on the current generation. The speaker offers images of hope where there was once despair.  In fact the first line reads, “There is hope.”(line 1). And everything that turned the reader’s stomach into knots the first read through now offers a fist in its place. This generation is one of fighters, out to prove the world wrong. To change the perception of bleakness to light!

But beyond the amazing reversal of the message, the form of the poem was unexpected. The structure of this poem was equally as surprising. I was engaged and inspired. I had never seen something like this and thought of the difficulty it must demand to write this type of poem well. I also like the audio component and would use it after the students read once to themselves, seeing if any picked up on what to do at the poem’s end. This would be a great way to introduce poetry and I am going to use it next year.

Out of curiosity I learned that this poem was originally created for a contest sponsored by the AARP. Young people between the ages of 18-30 had to create a video describing how their lives would be at age 50. Johnathan Reed created this video which placed second in the contest in 2007. According to Wikipedia, this poem was inspired by the political advertisement about Argentina entitled “Truth” http://youtu.be/lFz5jbUfJbk . I think this would be not only a good starting point for a poetry unit, but also a challenging and engaging model for the students to emulate.

Written by sfarnsworth

June 28, 2011 at 2:59 am

#bcluw and #pekinpanthers Collaboration

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I met @MrHadleyHistory at the IACoPi meeting a few weeks ago. He is a passionate, history teacher at Pekin High School, a small school in Iowa. During our conversation he commented on the need to connect with other history teachers in 1:1 schools. I immediately thought of @Mr_Ehn, a innovative social sciences teacher at BCLUW. Since we were at a conference in Des Moines, their introduction happened via twitter.

A week later, we were both back at our own schools, the news of bin Laden’s death broke. I was skyping with my friend @eolsonteacher (my favorite person to gain inspiration and excitement about teaching from) and she shared that she was planning a lesson to co-teach with her social studies teacher the next day based off of the events that transpired. It was one of those teachable moments that is hard to pass up.

Inspired by Erin, I reached out to Mr. Ehn and Mr. Hadley about a project we could do cross-curricular and also involving both schools. Mr. Ehn thought of creating written reflections from interviews the students would conduct. Here is a simple break down of the project and examples of tools we used:

1. Google Docs – we created a list of a slice of the world’s population we wanted the kids to interview. The list contained all genders, races, ages, occupations, etc. Students signed up for a person they would seek out to interview. Students were not allowed to interview someone they spoke to regularly, they had to go out of their comfort zones and use resources to find someone to interview.

2. Google Docs – a document was created listing the requirements of the projects and a list of initial interview questions. We wanted the interview to be organic, inspired by the conversation taking place and so we spent a lot of time discussing this concept. Description   (Google Docs. is an easy way to collaborate between students and schools)

3. Skype – During the introduction of the project to the students we listened in on each other’s classes and added to the discussion taking place in the classroom via skype. It is always inspiring to “watch” a colleague teach, skype allows this to take place easily and also in other classrooms outside of your own building. Skype also helps to provide a co-teaching aspect that we wanted for this project.

4. Fishbowl – Mock interviews were set up to model to students the interview process. Students used TodaysMeet to record important concepts to remember while the mock interview was taking place. This backchannel allowed students to take collective notes containing information they would use when conducting their own interviews. It was projected on screen so that I was able to see the real-time thinking taking place. It also allowed me an opportunity to break character and address, clarify, or add to information the students were recording. The students love this type of collaboration, plus it was an easy way for the two schools to share interview tips.

5. Potential Interview Candidates – Students used all different connections to line-up potential interviews. This was the most challenging aspect of the project for the students. Very rarely do we require students to talk to people they don’t know. Students used family, friends, teachers, twitter, facebook, skype, phonecalls, emails, etc. to connect with people around the world.

6. Reflections – 2 models were written by myself and Mr. Hadley showing the students how to take interview answers and transform them into a reflection, weaving in their own thoughts as well as direct quotes from their notes. Students used phone, skype, email, and face- to- face means to collet their information. One of Mr. Hadley’s students recoreded his interview on his laptop and shared it with the students. Video

7. Linoit – students skyped and used Linoit during the middle of the week to discuss progress, share concerns and contacts, and update each other on their reflections. At the end of the project, students will skype with each other sharing a few of the stories written.

8. Final Product – Students are publishing their work using bookemon. A compilation of their reflections are uploaded to this site creating an on-line book with an option to purchase.

Read our Book Here –  Impressions on US

Written by sfarnsworth

May 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm

#Iowaish – Connecting Iowa and Sweden

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What began as an off -the- cuff request on twitter has snowballed into a collaborative project connecting BCLUW AP Literature students with students from The International School of Helsingborg in Sweden. Each year I teach Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” and struggle through the lecture, questions, and discussions over Existentialism. At the beginning of the school year I met John Noonan a philosophy teacher in Sweden. I approached him for help and a possible guest lecture spot, but after many discussions we decided to connect our students for a collaborative lesson.

Starting in early October, students have connected through twitter(using the hashtag #iowaish), blogs, and Skype.  October 12, will be the first face to face meeting between the two schools. Throughout the next couple of weeks, students will identify characteristics of Existentialism, participate in a Skype video lecture on Existentialism given by Mr. Noonan, and apply their understanding of the philosophy to discussions, readings, and blogs. In November, students will be placed in small groups with members from both the BCLUW AP Literature class and ISH Philosophy class. Collaboratively, they will defend an argument based off of a question posed by myself and Mr. Noonan. A debate will conclude the project.

The 2009 -2010 school year was the first year of the BCLUW 1:1 laptop initiative. The ISH is also a 1:1 laptop school, making the collaboration and connection accessible outside of the walls of the school and hours of the typical school day. Having an opportunity to collaborate with students other than their normal peers, plus with a diverse group such as the one found in Mr. Noonan’s International School, cultivates an understanding of different countries, cultures and opinions. The collaboration increases the writing, speaking and debate skills of the students by constructing an audience other than the typical teacher they interact with daily. The project has already exceeded expectations and the students are looking forward to future connections and the final project.
I will update this blog periodically with our progress!

Written by sfarnsworth

October 12, 2010 at 3:26 am