Teaching the process of writing

If the teacher does not provide students the time required to process a piece of writing, then she will continue red-marking those “final” drafts until the end of time. And the student will keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

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The dilemma  hand-944607_640

One big problem with education is the inconsistencies from teacher to teacher. Teachers follow the “standards,” but there is a gray area between each standard and each year. Also, teachers perceive and teach things in different ways.

Perceiving the writing process

For example, many teachers tell students to follow the writing process, but they do not emphasize that each step in the process has equal value. Too many teachers emphasize the final draft more than any other draft. Nancie Atwell, the author of In the Middle, writes that what you do not include in your final draft is just as important as what you do include.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.

– Anne Lamott

The Final Draft

By the time a writer gets to the final draft, it should be final, or as close as the writer can get to a final. At the end of the process, the student has cut and pasted, conferred with the teacher and fellow students, edited, proofread and run the paper through Grammarly so many times that it should be his or her best work.

Why do teachers get papers that are far from the student’s best work?

Teachers need to carve out the time for their students to think of an idea, write the first draft, the second draft, (however, many it takes) confer, revise, edit, and proofread. If the teacher does not provide students the time required to process a piece of writing, then she will continue red-marking those “final” drafts until the end of time. And the student will keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Cultivate     pen-1570634_640

If teachers develop the skill of using the writing process from the time their students start writing until they graduate, the process will be second nature to students. Every year students need to learn that cultivating writing is a process that takes time.

Erase the inconsistencies

Teachers who teach writing are, or absolutely should be, writers. Any writer knows that writing is a complex and non-linear process. Writers know this because they consistently practice the writing process. This practice eventually leads to something close to perfection.

To emphasize the value of each step of the writing process, teachers must allow students the time to follow it diligently. Only then can we expect them to churn out quality writing.

Explore and evaluate your writing process

Frame and Reflect

The next time you come out of teaching a lesson charged with your philosophy, physics, Homer, or whatever your passion may be, get some feedback from your students about what they learned during your performance of passion in the classroom.

A student’s reality

I had a teacher-friend, who would bound into the teacher’s room after teaching a class and rave about how much he had just taught his students. In reality, he felt as good as he did because he got to eschew the ins and outs of a literary work that was miles above the heads of his disinterested high school students. Too often, we teachers feel good after a lesson because we love to talk about analogies, metaphor, or physics. We become so absorbed in our passion that we forget about our captive audience – an audience well-trained in being compliant and polite.

 “Just because students are complying doesn’t mean they are learning,” Gerstein said. “We teach too much compliance in schools. I think if 10 percent [of your students] like your lesson and 90 percent are sitting there tolerating because they’ve learned to tolerate, that’s a failure in my mind.”

                                                                                                          –Jackie Gerstein

The next time you come out of teaching a lesson charged with your philosophy, physics, Homer, or whatever your passion may be, get some feedback from your students about what they learned during your performance of passion in the classroom.

Framing and reflecting

Now that you have been humbled let’s look at the big picture – framing and reflecting. Gerstein says that “If we don’t create a process of reflecting and framing our lessons, then we are leaving learning up to chance.”

Frontload the lesson

First, you need to frontload the information for the students. Let them explore what the subject of the lesson before you dive into it. This takes time – time that promotes students engagement, so it is well worth it. Frontloading can be in the form of an objective discussion in pairs or groups.

Turn the objective(s) into essential questions or scenarios. For example, let’s say that your focus is on the following standard:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.).

Turn the standard into an objective

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to apply the process of writing to what you write by

  • Brainstorming
  • Conferring
  • Coming up with an idea
  • Sharing your idea to make a commitment to write
  • Writing the first draft
  • Determining your lead in or purpose or hook
  • Sharing and get feedback
Turn your objective into an essential question

. . .or a scenario for your students to explore.

  • What happens when you come into a class, and you are told to sit down and write?
  • What skills do you need to be a good writer?
  • How do students become writers?
  • How can you use a peer to generate an idea for writing?
  • How do writers generate ideas?
  • Or what happens when you come into a class, and you have to write an essay?
  • Or what happens when someone expects you to write something on the spot.

(This infographic will supply you with myriad essential questions and scenarios)

Then teach your engaging lesson.

Finally, close with reflection — debrief the class

This will provide you with the feedback you need about the value of what you just taught. I often fashion this reflection after a military debriefing. Military generals, who very often orchestrate battles above the trenches, need to debrief the troops upon their return from the battlefield. That way they can make sure that they take what they learn from one battle into the next. The first question the general will ask in a debriefing is what happened out there? This is where he gets the rundown of what occurred. Answers are we did this, and we did that. Once the general has a clear idea of what happened, he asks the soldiers what they learned from what happened. Once they establish what they learned, they can apply this information to win the next campaign.

In a writing class, a debriefing might look like this:

What happened today?

  • We wrote.
  • I spent five minutes not writing.
  • I got frustrated.
  • We shared our ideas.
  • We brainstormed.

What did you learn by doing this?

  • I should keep writing and not stop.
  • I can write funny stories about simple things.
  • Sharing work is a good way to generate ideas.
  • The first draft is just a messy beginning.

What will you do the next time differently?

  • I will work with a partner
  • I will refocus if I get frustrated
  • I will start over again if I don’t like an idea
  • I will write as much as I can without overthinking it.
Reflection

We often overlook reflection because the bell rings and you are out of time, but it is essential to the learning process, and it provides feedback to the teacher. Reflection can be verbal or written, private or public. It can be done in pairs, small groups, on a blog, in a podcast or on a sticky note. Whatever form it takes it makes the student think about how and what they learned in your class and what they are going to do with that learning when they come to class tomorrow, go to the next class and take a test, apply for college, go to a job interview. Students need to articulate what they learned and we, in turn, could certainly use their humbling feedback.

 

Will technology replace teachers?

Technology won’t replace your empathy for your students. It won’t have a conversation with a parent about something that their child did that day. It won’t go on field trips or sing a song out of tune. It cannot replace what has kept teachers in the classroom since the beginning of time.

21century_logoby Elizabeth Goodhue

Skepticism

Sometimes, when marketing wants to sell our e-learning package, teachers meet them with skepticism. Is there really a lingering fear out there that they will be replaced? I am a teacher and the only thing on my mind about teaching is how can I make it effective? How can I engage students? How can I be sure that my students can make it in a 21st-century world?

Of course, teachers are skeptical

But they shouldn’t be. According to The Guardian, Classrooms will continue to change shape, but it’s safe to assume that there will be a human teacher at the front of them for a long time yet. Technology is a tool to help teachers do what they do best, not to replace them. Technology can enhance myriad 21st-century skills. Pick anyone of those skills from the graphic above and it can be supported with technology. But not technology alone. Students need mentors, guides, and models to steer them in an ethical direction.

Students need teachers

In a screen-centered world, students, now more than ever, need to learn how to collaborate, adapt and negotiate the world. Business leaders do not want someone who is proficient in responding to one-dimensional routine tasks that a computer generates to sell their product or negotiate business deals.

Schooling that trains students to efficiently conduct routine tasks is training students for jobs that pay minimum wage—or jobs that simply no longer exist. Justin Reich

Never Fear

When an e-learning company knocks on your virtual door, or your principal emails you a link to its product, embrace it, learn it, make it your friend. E-learning is here to stay because it will make your job easier. It will create and grade those standardized tests for you, it will do the research for you, it will engage your students with games and all of the bells and whistles that technology can provide. But it won’t replace your empathy for your students. It won’t have a conversation with a parent about something that their child did that day. It won’t go on field trips or sing a song out of tune. It cannot replace what has kept teachers in the classroom since the beginning of time. We know who we are and we know where we belong, no piece of technology ever thought differently because it can’t.

Use Learning Port to Flip your Classroom

Each lesson in the unit builds upon the next as it does in traditional teaching. The big difference is that the flipped classroom is actively, not passively, understood.

The four pillars of flipped learning

Most teachers know this.

These four pillars are the foundation of the classroom. Two pillars center upon the environment. Without flexibility and an established learning culture, the environment won’t be conducive to learning. The other two pillars, intentional content and the professional educator, are equally foundational.

The professional educator

Professional: characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession. If you are a traditional teacher, it may take some time to conform to the flipped classroom where the focus is student-centred. Students are not empty vessels waiting to be filled by your words of wisdom. They come to the classroom with background knowledge that connects them to new material. The professional educator needs to tap into that knowledge to ignite the student’s curiosity.

Intentional content

The Intentional content is the material that a teacher want students to know before they walk into the classroom. This learning goal steers students toward what they should know and be able to do with the material they will apply to the class. In the flipped classroom, the students’ exposure to the content has to happen before the class meets. This takes the form of a homework assignment such as a video, or a module that has pre-packaged the content for you. The intentional content becomes the knowledge that students bring to the classroom to apply to the learning goal.

An example

breathe

Let’s say that you are starting a unit on the human respiratory system.

When you assign the Instructional Content, show the video clip called “Where are my Lungs,” to hook the students with a preview of the material. Assign the rest of the module for homework, including taking the test at the end of the module.

Tell the students to come into class with three questions about the content of the homework.

You can scaffold the questions or leave them wide open depending on the level of the students in the class.

  • Based on what I know, I think. . .
  • This reminds me of. . .
  • I wonder. . .
Warm-up

Begin the class with a warm-up based on the students’ questions. Have students grapple with the questions in pairs or small groups until all of them feel comfortable with the material.

question

Application

For the rest of the class, students apply the key concepts of the lesson by interacting with peers and instructors during class time. The instructional content gives them the information they need to apply the content in an experiment, lab, writing assignment, or scenario.

Extended learning

Everything after that is extended learning. Extended learning means that the student can apply the newly acquired material to another situation, by solving another problem, writing an essay, taking a test or simply have an educated discussion.

Each lesson in the unit builds upon the next as it does in traditional teaching. The big difference is that the flipped classroom is actively, not passively, understood.

Technology — Friend or Foe

Technology is not the villain when it comes to attention span. If we use technology in our classrooms to teach, we open space for critical thinking and problem solving. Then our students can move outside of the classroom to be interns, volunteer for people in need, perform scientific experiments, create masterpieces, or write symphonies.

When students use Snapchat or Instagram during class, what are they trying to tell us?

In 2015, The Telegraph posted an article suggesting that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones. If this is true, then most of their readers did not read the conclusion: “Just because we may be allocating our attention differently as a function of the technologies we may be using, it doesn’t mean that the way our attention actually can function has changed.”

What is the average attention span?

Some research suggests that using a child’s age plus one year is a starting point for the number of minutes a child can attend to a single assigned task — 5 +1 minutes for a 5-year-old, 8 minutes for a 7-year-old, etc. This means that a teenager may be able to pay attention in class for 14 to 19 minutes. However, activity, interest, motivation, fatigue, among other things, factor into attention span.

What’s the real problem?

Perhaps instead of worrying about how technology distracts students, we should consider the real problem, which is how we teach our children. If a 15-year old’s attention span is 16 minutes, then why are we teaching in blocks of 50 to 90 minutes or more? If our attention spans are as short as the number of years we have lived, why shouldn’t our students use the Internet as a tool to get past the trivial stuff?

Learning efficiently

Using technology to promote learning, teaches self-motivation, pacing, and an efficient way to learn the essentials of math, science, reading and writing. Encouraging and training students to use technology to gain knowledge efficiently provides us with the space to teach them more about the world.

Open up the span of learning

By the time a student reaches university he or she should use calculators, e-learning, and other Internet sources. Then he or she will have more time to address the more important complex issues that no one else can solve, or write articles that no one else has written, or make new scientific discoveries.

Technology is no villain

The extra time students gain by using shortcuts that the Internet provides gives them more time to explore things that it cannot teach us like compassion, empathy, grit, love, pain, dedication, motivation, how to navigate the world, and how to be happy.

Technology is not the villain when it comes to attention span. If we use technology in our classrooms to teach, we open space for critical thinking and problem-solving. Then our students can move outside of the classroom to be interns, volunteer for people in need, perform scientific experiments, create masterpieces, or write symphonies.

What is Gamification?

If you are a parent who is wary of an e-learning platform that promises gamification, never fear! When we learn, we absorb information; we manipulate; we make mistakes; we try again, and continue learning until we can apply what we learn to the real world. Gamification challenges students and parents to take an active part in their learning process by moving at their own pace and reaping the rewards.

by Elizabeth Goodhue

Gamification is not gaming

I don’t want my child to play games all day!

If you are looking for an e-learning platform to support your child’s learning, gamification is going to be a feature. If you interpret this term the wrong way, you might say that the last thing parents want their children to do is to play more games on the computer. But hold that thought for a moment.

Why is a child is willing to spend hours, sometimes entire weekends, in front of a screen playing a game? Your children love games because they get instant feedback and rewards. We, humans, love rewards. We are a competitive lot and when we can advance to the next level of a challenge it motivates us to keep going. It makes us feel better that we have accomplished something, and we have! The same is true when we learn.  Gamification gives students the incentive to succeed. So when you look for a strong e-learning platform for your child, remember that gamification is a good thing.

What is gamification?

Gamification has been around since the late 1800’s.  Originally, companies used reward systems to encourage people to buy from them and to build loyalty.

I am old enough to remember Green Stamps from the early 1960’s. They were all the rage with housewives. Whenever my mother filled the gas tank or went to the grocery store, she only went to places that gave her green stamps. Religiously, she pasted them into her Green Stamps booklet. When the book was full, she could trade it in for a houseware product.  It was hard to tell what was more exciting — filling the book or getting the actual reward. Essentially, every time she bought from the A&P or Esso, she would get a reward. She made a point of shopping there just so that she could get her just reward — a behaviorist approach to establishing loyalty!

Fast forward to the computer age.  Gamers were born! Marketers, educators, policy makers, and businesses followed suit. Why wouldn’t the benefits of the instant feedback and rewards that enticed gamers, entice buyers,  clients, and students as well?

Now gamification has spread to the e-learning field with outstanding results.

Playing games and gamification are not the same things

First of all, playing games and gamification are not the same things. There may be mini-games within the framework, but the gamification is the big picture. When you hear the word gamification in a sales pitch for e-learning, it means that students learn under a framework of gamification. The sole purpose of gamification is motivating and reinforcing student learning with feedback, rewards, and a chance to practice a subject until they master it.

How does gamification lead to mastery?

  • Immediate feedback

  • With gamification, students get immediate feedback confirming their response to the material with an explanation or a hint for the student to try again.  A ribbon displays the student’s progressive score as he or she proceeds through a module. At any point during the module, the student can review the feedback and try to improve his or her results.

  • Hard Evidence

  • Gamification provides hard evidence of student progress by collecting and storing a record of it. The data to measures the student’s success, how many attempts or how long it took to achieve it, and whether or not the student needs more practice to reach mastery. Parents who are curious about their student’s progress can access this data as well.

  • Reward

  • Gamification reinforces a sense of accomplishment for students who reach academic goals by boosting them to the next level of learning. Thus gamification rewards students’ with new challenges and activities while receiving badges and tangible rewards as well.

  • Active, not passive, learning

  • Learners learn by doing. Gamification stimulates learners to engage in what they learn rather than having to wade through volumes of overwhelming text. Gamification scaffolds a subject to make it possible for learners to accomplish simple tasks and build upon them to gain knowledge.

Never fear

pt3-gamificationIf you are a parent who is wary of an e-learning platform that promises gamification, never fear! When we learn, we absorb information; we manipulate; we make mistakes; we try again, and continue learning until we can apply what we learn to the real world. Gamification challenges students and parents to take an active part in their learning process by moving at their own pace and reaping the rewards.

The bottom line

According to Michelle Cody, the bottom line is this: “The students need you, and they need you to refuse to leave, refuse to give up.”

Elizabeth Goodhue

Schools are ecosystems

“’Because schools aren’t broken, and we are not here to fix them, I don’t think we need to break them down and rebuild them,” she said. “Schools and districts are ecosystems, and ecosystems don’t break. But we do need to take care of them.

In the end, all the pieces are in place for education to work well. But these pieces need to be assembled in a different way if we want it to work better.’”

These are the words of Michelle Cody, an inspiring elementary teacher who gave a keynote speech at the 2016 ISTE conference. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE’s mission supports teachers like Michelle to “continually improve learning and teaching around the world.”

Keep our educational ecosystem alive

As a teacher myself, I know how difficult it is to take the time to explore new ideas and venues in education. One of the reasons I left the classroom last year was so that I could gain some perspective on education in a global sense. Michelle Cody’s analogy to schools and ecosystems is a good one. It is easy to inhabit one tiny part of the ecosystem and think that the entire system is crashing down, but it isn’t. There are millions of us out there making sure that it stays alive.

Adapt and thrive

Ecosystems thrive when they adapt to the ever-changing environment. And even though we have accepted technology on a certain level, we need to absorb it completely. We need to embrace it in the classroom, at home, administratively, and as teachers. In order to do that, we need to synchronize. Every school needs to have adequate Internet access to function on a global level.  Once that is ensured, we can access all of the technology our students need to keep up with global education.

Share the wealth

Every system needs to be number one, not just Korea. It is all well and good to be the best, but when we get there, it is our responsibility to share the wealth. Why, as a global community, do we want anyone to be at the bottom of the list when it comes to education? If we want to be a global community, shouldn’t the best be lifting the worst to the top instead of reveling in all their glory?

Enough about idealism.

The reality is that you might be a teacher who works in an environment where students don’t have access to mobile devices, or your school may not have adequate bandwidth to support the kind of Internet that you find in the top ten school systems. So what do you do?

You learn. You take what you have and you work with it. You start to reassemble your ecosystem so that it works better. Eventually, the system will catch up with you if you model what technology does for your students.

Be hearty

We, teachers, are a hearty lot, and often we run out of the stamina to convince people of best teaching practice, but our students deserve to have the best. Once you teach them this, they will teach their parents, who will then push administrators and politicians to support the endeavor to excel in education.

The bottom line

According to Michelle Cody, the bottom line is this: “The students need you, and they need you to refuse to leave, refuse to give up.”