I've taught diverse English classes in grades 6 -12 and English electives including Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, Creative Writing, and Journalism. I want my students to be critical thinkers, readers, and writers so they can confidently face the many challenges in our complex society.
Oh, no! It’s back to school, and time for teachers to greet their new students, create routines, complete team builders, and make their classrooms welcoming. But with the pressure to cover extensive curriculum in a short amount of time, secondary teachers may feel tempted to skip the process of creating a positive classroom culture and delve straight into their content. It’s a mistake, however, to ignore the importance of building safe and inclusive classrooms which encourage students to participate actively in their learning.
That’s why you should show some of the TED Talks noted
below at the beginning of the school year. Even though you may not think you have the time, these TED Talks from diverse speakers are great filler activities for those days when a lesson finishes early or when you need an activity to get all of your classes on the same schedule. Best of all, they’re a meaningful way for students to practice their listening and speaking skills. Furthermore, they develop students multimedia literacy skills and they spark student interest. These talks teach important lessons for the beginning of the school year, communicating life lessons such as overcoming obstacles, having gratitude, and being productive. Megan Washington - Fear of Public Speaking (12:58)
Lots of people, including students in all of our classes, are afraid to speak in public – even if that’s just in the classroom. This talk by Australian singer Megan Washington may inspire more willingness in your students to speak up. In the talk, Washington shows how she converted her speech disability into her passion and success in life. Students will love hearing her sing, also! Olivia Remes - How to Cope With Anxiety (15:15)With student anxiety increasing at alarming rates, this recent TED talk will be helpful for many kids in your classrooms. Olivia Remes, from the University of Cambridge, explains the science behind anxiety and discusses the importance of gaining coping skills. She also describes several ways students can take charge of their anxiety. Mac Burnett - Why a Good Book is a Secret Door (16:59)
Motivate your students to seek out “wonder” in the reading of books with this funny, entertaining talk by children’s author Mac Burnett. He reminds us that reading provides avenues for imagination, art, fiction, and reality. His talk is perfect for motivating students in English class right before they visit the school library for selecting novels during choice reading units.
Julian Treasure - 5 Ways to Listen Better (7:43)How much of what you say do your students remember? In a world that often assaults our senses and distracts our attentions, Julian Treasure argues that we are losing our ability to listen to one another. In this talk, he offers strategies to improve our listening skills, and most importantly, the listening skills of our students. Shonda Rhimes - My Year of Saying Yes to Everything (17:25)Shonda Rhimes, producer of hit television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, calls herself a “titan” and brags about her impressive success in this talk. She also shares how she confronted burn-out and learned a valuable lesson while saying “yes” to everything she was asked. Her daughters unwittingly taught her to seek out joy in life. This talk helps students keep perspective and is especially beneficial for high achievers. Jarrett Krosoczka - Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes (5:14)This children’s author who wrote books about superhero lunch ladies tells his audience about the importance of validating everyone – even those who don’t usually get recognized. It would make an effective video at the beginning of a kindness activity, and students may want to thank a variety of school staff members – custodians, school nurses, library staff, etc. Jia Jang - What I learned from 100 days of rejection (15:31)
Using humor and personal anecdotes, Jang talks about how he remembered experiences from his youth and, thus, decided to take chances that led to 100 days of rejection. He learned to be a stronger, more courageous person in the process, and acquired valuable lessons such as turning a “no” into a “yes.” This talk will teach students the power of perseverance and to embrace rejection.
Of course, it’s important to preview these talks to ensure that they will be appropriate for your students. Most should appeal to secondary students in any content area.
Now that I’ve shared some of my favorites, do you have TED talks or other videos that you recommend for BTS? Please share about them in the comments below.
As the school year comes closer to an end, teachers and students are tired. The end of the year is in sight but there are still things to accomplish- a unit, a test, a graduation ceremony…and on and on. Unfortunately, when people are tired, they may not be on their best behavior. If we acknowledge this fact, it makes getting through the last months and weeks a little easier.
When I was a younger teacher, I wish I had considered this reality more. I was idealistic, enthusiastic, and wanted perfection. Well-meaning family, friends, and colleagues suggested to me that not all battles were worth fighting (or at least, not all battles were worth fighting all of the time). Although they shared their wisdom with me, I didn’t hear it until I became a more experienced teacher. I’m passing this advice along to others in case they can do a better job at listening than me. Don’t argue about a missing pencil or pen.Yes, it’s annoying that one of the only tasks your students may have is to bring their supplies to class. You may think: Why can’t they just do this one little thing? It may make you feel offended, even, that they don’t care enough to come to your class prepared.
But it’s not worth the battle. Too many of the students are going to forget pencils and pens, and most of the time they haven’t done it on purpose. Maybe they left them in their last class, or maybe they couldn’t afford to buy new ones…who knows? Save your energy for more important problems and give them a pencil or pen.
At the end of most classes, I usually have a couple of pens and pencils that have been left behind. Often, I pick them up and put them in a cup, and students can grab one when they need one. Not only does it help students, but it also helps the environment by reusing them.
Sometimes, I ask my stepfather to bring me pencils from the
golf course where he works. It’s funny how students will suddenly remember their pencils when they have to use mini-golf pencils in class. Ultimately, it’s better that they can get their work and learning accomplished (and they’re less of a disruption in my class). Let them make up their missing assignments.If students haven’t completed assignments but demonstrate a willingness to get them completed, I let them do the work and just don’t give them full credit. The point is that they will hopefully learn the concepts and pass my class, moving on to the next grade level.
There may be reasons that I’m unaware of which are impacting the student. I try to find out why they lack motivation.
Is there something going on at home?
Do they need to work at night to help support the family?
Frequently, I seek out the guidance counselor or other staff to provide assistance if a student is overwhelmed.
And if it’s just a matter of laziness, it’s probably better for them to pass my class. Frankly, if a student receives the lowest passing grade, how much better is that than a failing grade? Colleges know the difference between a well-earned “A” or a low “D”. By requiring lethargic students to continually retake classes, they take up the time and resources that I could use to help other students who may need my time more. Don’t punish every tardy.Have you ever been late to a meeting or appointment? Is it always because you’re a rude and selfish person? Most likely not, and that’s the same for many of our students.
Lateness to class is a battle that I fight diligently earlier in the
school year because I don’t want to send the message that it’s okay for them to be tardy to class. If a student has more than two tardies, I expect them to make up the missed time after school with me. That’s a logical consequence, and I can help them with material they missed when they were tardy.
However, by the end of the school year, I often allow a student a couple more tardies before I ask them for detention. Truthfully, I’ve talked with former students and found out that sometimes it’s their parents’ fault for bringing their them late to school anyway. Is that really the student’s fault? Give them a couple of minutes on their cell phones at the end of class.I hate cell phones in class. Now that our students have computers, I don’t see any reason for them to be on cell phones. They’re a major distraction and often lead to cyber bullying. Consequently, I have a hanging shoe organizer in my classroom, and I ask students to put their phones in an assigned pocket at the beginning of every class.
To make my policy less confrontational, I tell them that if they
agree to do this and don’t argue with me about putting their phones away, I’ll give them two – three minutes at the end of class to check their phones.
Do I lose instructional time? Yes, but to me it’s worth minimizing the battles with cell phones, which also end up disrupting instruction. By creating this policy, students are more engaged throughout most of class when they could have been sneaking looks on their phones instead. Let them go to the bathroom.No matter how much time students have in between classes, there are always students who tell me that they can’t get to the bathroom in the minutes between our class bells. Do I believe them? Sometimes, but most often not. They’re likely chatting with friends instead of using that time for the restroom.
But if a student really can’t get to the bathroom, I’d hate to be the one teacher to prevent them from using it. It’s the truth that sometimes there are long lines to the bathroom in between classes. And sometimes students have personal health reasons to use the bathroom frequently.
I know that I would be frustrated if I was told that I couldn’t’ use the restroom during a professional meeting. This being said, I do try to limit students’ use of the bathroom.
First, I ask if it’s it an emergency. Usually they will say “no.” Or, I might ask them to finish part of their classwork before they go to the restroom. I also require a signed pass so that I can keep track of their departures. If it’s continually an issue with a student, it may even be worth talking to a school nurse. It’s not a free-for-all.Of course, choosing your battles doesn’t mean letting your classroom become chaotic and unmanaged. It doesn’t mean lowering expectations. I still expect students to bring their silent sustained reading books every day, and they’re required to make up assignments when they’re absent. They are also expected to be attentive during class. Furthermore, I keep lessons academically focused through the last day of school.
I know some of you won’t agree with my advice. In fact, my younger self may not have agreed with my older self, but now I know better. I hope my wisdom helps you, too!
Of course, I’m always interested in new ideas and strategies. Feel free to add your tips in the comments below to help make the end of the school year go smoothly.
Is your school one of the many that is pushing the use of technology?
Do you know how to use it effectively for student learning?
While the use of technology can be engaging and entertaining, it’s also important for teachers to ensure that it supports student learning and achievement.
One way I’ve recently incorporated digital learning is with Twitter. By using social media productively, I’ve made Twitter an instructional tool and engaged my high school students in Twitter chats about their reading. These chats are modeled on my own participation in #aplitchat and #2ndaryela chats, which I use for professional development.
There are multiple reasons why this benefits my students: Timed WritingOne of the most formidable challenges of standardized assessments such as the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature exam is the need for students to communicate their ideas quickly. On the AP English Literature test, students are required to write three essays in two hours, averaging 40 minutes for each two - three page essay.
At first, two hours may seem like adequate time, but two of the essays require students to read and analyze text before they write their essays which must communicate the complex ideas in the readings. By requiring students to respond to fast-paced reading and questioning during a Twitter chat, they practice reading, thinking, and writing quickly.
Most Twitter chats post questions every five to ten minutes. No doubt, whether it’s an exam for an AP course, the SAT, or other standardized assessment, students will likely face a timed-writing situation and Twitter chats provide helpful practice. Social Learning and Collaboration Learning requires interaction and sharing of ideas with others. I have two sections of AP English Literature and do weekly roundtable discussions of our novels. Students take ownership of their discussion and lead these roundtables. Since I listen to the discussion in both classes, I hear the valuable, yet sometimes differing, ideas that my students express.
By hosting a Twitter chat in the evening, I can get students
from both classes to share their thoughts with each other and add more voices to the discussion. This semester, my students discussed two poems, “We Are Many” by Pablo Neruda and “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur as practice Twitter chats.
Besides hosting chats between classes, I’ve also teamed up with a teacher Shari Marks from World Journalism Preparatory School in New York to host chats between both of our classes. She and I met during teacher Twitter chats and decided to try it with our students. Last year, our classes chatted about their reading of the The Awakening by Kate Chopin. This year, we had students discuss the poem, “Mansplaining.” Although our classes are different – I teach AP English Literature and she teachers AP English Language- our students benefit from the shared conversation and critical thinking that occurs during the chats.
Worldwide AudienceStudents need exposure to different writing purposes and audiences beyond the traditional classroom. Digital communication provides exposure to new audiences and opportunities to build relationships. It also creates a space for the “publication” of student writing, an important step in the writing process that may get neglected in the standard classroom.
During our most recent Twitter chat, the audience included the author of the poem that was being discussed. At the end of our discussion, I tagged author Jennifer Militello and asked her to weigh-in on the contradictory interpretations that students had for the end of her poem. She responded to their discussion (see one of her responses below) and her tweets made a lasting impression on them. By communicating with the author of the poem, student ideas were validated and her response helped build their confidence in themselves. It also made the chat more personal; we likely would not have been able to gain her insights without the benefit of technology and social media.
While the benefits of Twitter chats are clear, it can take practice to figure out the logistics of a chat. I’ve got some steps to help you navigate your own chats.
How to Host a Twitter Chat1. Choose the text that you want your students to discuss. You can decide if you want to let them read it before the chat or just make it available at the beginning of the chat, depending on how much time you want them to have with the text. I try to choose a text that’s available on the internet and always provide a link to the text.
2. Create a unique hashtag for the chat so it will be easy to find and follow the discussion thread. You may want to check if the hashtag has been used in the past before you share it with your students. It’s best to keep the hashtag concise.
3. Write the questions for the chat. (You may want to involve students in creating the questions ahead of time.) Keep the questions open-ended but also short enough to be answered with tweets.
4. Determine the amount of time for your chat. I’ve found that a half-hour goes too quickly, so my chats are scheduled for 45 minutes to an hour. This allows me to post questions every seven - ten minutes (set a consistent time interval). It also gives students time to read and write their Tweets.
5. Provide directions to the students ahead of time. I modeled my directions off of the directions from the teacher chats I’m involved with.
6. Instruct students to use their first name (and last initial) only to protect their privacy. Start with a welcoming tweet and short introduction. Normally, I have students share their grade level and class and something related to school (but not too personal). To make the chat easier for them to follow, I also recommend that they follow my Twitter account @ocbeachteach.
Those are the basic steps but here are more tips to make your chatting go smoothly:
Keep the group to a manageable size.
Consider a “slow” chat that extends over several hours (helpful for students who have evening obligations).
Practice within the context of your class period during the school day.
Offer “enrichment” points for students who choose to participate in the evening.
Encourage students to like one another’s tweets and retweet when responding to each other.
Model responses for students and ask individual students questions to involve them.
Ask students to offer new ideas instead of simply repeating what others have said already.
Of course, it's always a good idea to have a backup plan for when your technology fails or the internet won’t connect. Sometimes I just use these Twitter task cards and activities where students “tweet” with pencil and paper. I’m sure there are other social media platforms or apps that could be used if Twitter isn’t the right tool for you. The point is to get students using technology in a productive manner.
Do you do Twitter chats or similar activities? What tips would you give? Please share in the comments below.
Do your students need help with their grammar skills? Want a way to make grammar review fun? Take advantage of the March Madness basketball buzz to host a "Grammar Review Trashketball Tournament" and turn your students into grammar experts!
Here’s how to do it: 1. Choosing the grammar concepts you want to review. I suggest giving your students a diagnostic grammar test to see which concepts they need the most help with. Of course, consider the appropriate standards for your students but even if the standards are from lower grade levels, remember that older students often need review for concepts they learned in the past. Unfortunately, grammar instruction often gets neglected for various reasons, so your students may have a deficits in their background knowledge.
Once you’ve selected the concepts you want your students to review, scaffold the games and start with easier concepts so that in progressing rounds, the concepts become more rigorous. For instance, I’d start with a review of parts of speech, then move on to games that review sentence parts, phrases, kinds of sentences, and finally, sentence problems. Or, I might choose to do punctuation concepts, including commas, apostrophes, or common usage errors, depending on my student population. 2. Gather supplies and set up the game-playing area.You will want a clean trash can or "hoop" trash can, a soft basketball, space in the classroom (or other designated area) with marks on the floor to indicate where students will stand for each shot. I use painters’ tape because it’s brightly colored and easily removed when you’re finished playing the games.
Normally, I space three lines several feet apart, with the first one located at least five feet from the trash can. Of course, there are plenty of ways to vary this. You could have a close line for students to “dunk” the ball or a twenty-foot line for those who want to show off their basketball skills. Also, I’ve learned to make sure that the trash can is secured with something heavy to weigh it down.
3. Plan your procedures and rules.You can get trashketball games that will guide you and your students through the games and rounds, but you may want to develop your own games or variations. Some questions to consider:
Will you have a backboard?
Will there be a shot clock?
Will students be allowed to dribble?
What will you do if students cheer to loudly?
Will there be a referee to watch if students stand behind the lines?
Will there be violations or fouls for other behaviors?
For each game, distribute answer sheets to every student in the class. Project the game and have students play each round with five exercises. During the rounds, have students bring their answers to you and check their work. (If a student has an incorrect answer, send him/her back to correct their work and try again.)
The first three students to get correct answers will have a chance to shoot “trashkets” at the end of each round. Keep cumulative score, and depending on how many rounds are played for each game, identify your final winners.
Want to involve? Invite your entire English department to play and have classes compete against one another! 5. Distribute your brackets.
You can get a freebie here. Decide whether you will fill them in and copy them ahead of time or you if your students will fill in the blanks. For fun, make a poster of the brackets, laminate, and display in your classroom. Then, as students win rounds, write their names on the poster for everyone to see.
6. Choose when you will hold your tournament.
Numerous options abound: Will you play games throughout the entire March Madness month, or will you capitalize on a specific part of the tournament such as the Sweet 16, Elite 8, or Final 4? Of course, you could simply play one game a day for several weeks, depending on how many concepts you want to review. You can also play multiple games in one class period depending on the length of your class periods. I recommend allotting 30 - 45 minutes per game.
Here’s how I envision an Elite Eight competition:
-Select 15 concepts. (see in the picture below) -Choose the concept order and write a concept in each “team” space on the brackets. Each concept will be its own game. For instance, I might start with parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions). -Everyone in the class would complete (either individually or in teams) so that all students are included in the review. Although everyone plays, only the winners of each game would be the ones who have an opportunity to shoot “trashkets” and win prizes.
Finally, I would keep track of the winners for each game. At the end of all of the rounds, the students who have won the most games would get to compete against one another in a “Championship” game.
If these ideas won’t work for you during March, don’t worry, you can play individual trashketball games any time of the school year!
As many English teachers know, it can be difficult to stop being the leader of classroom discussion. We teachers worry that students will not have meaningful discussion about their reading. But how will they ever get better if we don’t let them try to take ownership for their learning?
Undoubtedly, they don’t have the experience and knowledge that we have, so it’s normal that their discussions may not be as deep as when we lead. A conscientious teacher will want students to read closely, think critically, note author’s craft, and make relevant connections. And because I want my students to do all of the above, I’ve developed a structure called roundtable discussion that provides just enough structure to get my students started with these skills. This discussion strategy (inspired by literature circles and Socratic seminar) incorporates strategies to help students have sophisticated conversations.
However, despite the many activities I’ve included to prepare for these discussions, I occasionally will run into difficulties. After my most recent roundtable unit, I developed solutions to some of the following problems. Individual Student AccountabilityDespite my best efforts, some students don’t do their share of their work in their groups. Unfortunately, that’s often the reality of any group or team activity. To counter this and make the learning more equitable, my students complete both self-evaluations and peer evaluations that I average together (one part of the assessment). Often, I add teacher evaluations, too.
The feedback handouts are simple to complete and each response asks students to circle their agreement for the
· He/she read the assigned pages on time.
· He/she came to discussions prepared.
· He/she listened to others.
· He/she participated in discussion.
· He/she stayed on topic during discussion.
They get to give feedback on their own performance as well as their peers (which can be anonymous). Peers can also add comments and often write praise to the group members who did outstanding work. For instance, they may tell a group member that they helped them understand the book more or kept the group focused or were good leaders. Sometimes they’ll provide constructive criticism, too, like saying a classmate’s absence or lack of preparation made it harder to have useful discussions. Absent StudentsThis is a problem because there are always a few students with chronic attendance issues or even student athletes who miss class regularly. Regrettably, without all members in attendance, the discussions aren’t as engaging and thoughtful.
When I create my groups at the beginning of the unit, I take student attendance into consideration. I separate students who are chronically absent, and I also assign four - six students to a group. If one or two students are absent on a discussion day, this prevents the groups from being too small.
Also, I have “make up” assignments in which students are required to respond to two questions each time they miss a discussion. They submit their written responses in lieu of the response sheet that usually accompanies the discussion. And sometimes, I do have to just let a student work independently. Recently, I had a student miss two and a half weeks because of her theater performances. Poor Questioning SkillsOccasionally, I have a group that has difficulty writing effective questions for discussion. To help prevent this, I model the difference between recall questions and questions that require more thinking; then I require students to ask at least one of each. I give them words for starting these questions: why, how, explain, evaluate, etc.
We also practice writing questions for whole-class reading of stories, poems, and other texts. If they’re still struggling to ask questions that will elicit high-level thinking, I may print questions that I've generated, and then I give them to the group. (This is also a good strategy for groups where some members aren’t reading.)
Sometimes, when they have difficulty writing good questions, conversing spontaneously, or going beyond basic recall, I provide specific activities for them to complete during discussion. I include these tasks on the “Discussion Guideline” that I project from my document camera. These may include some of the following:
- Create a timeline of events (helpful when students are reading a book that has a nonlinear structure). This recently helped my group reading Slaughterhouse Five.
- Draw a map (track the path of a character’s journey in a book). For a group that recently read Into the Wild, this activity was a tremendous help to them.
- Define new vocabulary. I may ask students to find words that they don’t know from the sentences in their books. This is especially helpful for books that incorporate words from an earlier era or another language. When students read A Thousand Splendid Suns, they find it helpful to use the internet to look up the meaning of the words from Farsi.
- Research the author. Students search reliable sources for information about the author. Then they use a biographical lens to make connections to their reading.
- Write a goodbye letter. For a conclusion activity, I ask them to write a “Goodbye Letter” to their books, sharing their thoughts and feelings about the book. These letters can even be displayed in my classroom.
The strategies above have immensely improved our reading discussions. Of course, every time I anticipate a potential difficulty and create a solution, a new issue arises! As all teachers know, we have to constantly be thinking quickly and be prepared to adapt our instruction to meet the needs of the individual learners in our classroom.
What are some problems you have encountered during classroom discussions? Do you have any solutions to share below? I’m always interested in learning from other educators!
No doubt, teaching writing is difficult. Many students don’t like to write, are insecure about their writing abilities, or may not see the purpose for writing, This is especially true in a society that seems to value expediency (such as tweets and posts on social media) over deep, critical thought.
But effective English teachers know that students must learn to write well. Not only does it prepare students for standardized assessments, college courses, and the work world, but it helps to improve their thinking.
In our instruction, it’s important to teach writing as a recursive process. The process involves multiple steps including brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising, redrafting, editing, polishing, and finally, publication. But in our rush to get through mandated curriculum, some don’t feel they have the time to encourage students to use the writing process.
It’s not easy, but I make sure to include time for revision activities with any formal writing. I always tell them that no one writes a perfect first draft- not me, not even the best writers in the world! In fact, here are some quotes from famous writers about revision:
"I probably spend 90% of my time revising what I’ve written." Joyce Carol Oates
"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile." Robert Cormier
Revision is not intuitive for most student writers, however, and needs to be taught. Whether students will revise their own papers, complete peer review, or revise essays in groups, teachers need to give them opportunities to learn how to revise effectively.
So how can teachers help students revise their writing? Here are six strategies that may help you:
Effective FeedbackTeach students how to provide effective feedback when they comment on one another’s papers. I’ve often done this with a short concept attainment lesson. In this activity, students are given sample feedback statements and must put the ones that are “effective” in one column and the comments that are “not helpful” in another column. This leads to a discussion of what makes feedback helpful to writers.
This lesson helps my students understand that providing explanations, using questions, and giving constructive criticism are as important as giving praise. I also tell students that if their peer review partners aren’t able to provide some suggestions or constructive criticism, they should have an additional student (or me) give feedback, too.
Bless/Press/Address Only have limited time for peer review? Then use one of these quick strategies: “Bless/Press/Address” or “Glow/Grow/Question.” I learned about “Bless/Press/Address” from my work with the National Writing Project.
Bless: The writer is seeking positive feedback and increasing your confidence. You want only to hear about what’s working so far. Address: The writer identifies one problem or concern they want the reader address. Be as specific as possible. Press: The writer wants constructive criticism. Of course, the reader can also include “Bless” and “Address” with their suggestions.
The Glow/Grow/Question strategy is from Susan Barber in my Twitter Professional Learning Network on #aplitchat. With this system, Barber gives one comment that tells what the writer did well (Glow), one comment on what the writer could improve (Grow) and responds to one of the writer’s questions. I’ve actually modified this so that I ask one question for the student asking them to reflect on an idea, their word choice, or other writing trait. Besides using this for peer and teacher feedback, I’ve found this system also helps speed up my grading. Model Revision
This can be done with an exemplar essay from a former student (of course you should remove the student’s name) or if you have a co-teacher, you can work with that person to model revision in front of the class. Use a think aloud or project a draft and annotate it for the class.
In fact, I have a memoir lesson in which I give students a copy of a one of my first drafts. This 100-word memoir is modeled after a former Washington Post feature called, “Autobiography as Haiku.”
It teaches students to “show” themselves in vivid details and carefully chosen words. In the lesson, students work with partners to eliminate redundancy in the draft. Then the class reviews the draft together, and I show them the changes that I made for my final draft. Guided Peer Review I do this with handouts that pose questions for students to answer as they read their peers’ papers. For instance, in the memoir lesson, the student giving feedback answers questions such as the following:
· What insight about his or her life is your partner writing about? · What ideas and details to you find interesting or surprising? · How is the memoir organized? Are there any parts that are confusing to you? · Which words are powerful and specific? Which ones are vague (nice, thing, cool, fun, etc.)?
Task Cards for Revision
Recently, I’ve used begun using task cards to make peer review interactive, collaborative, differentiated, and reflective. These task cards ask students to respond to questions and focus on writing traits such as ideas, organization, word choice, voice, fluency, conventions, presentation, and academic integrity. The task cards can be used for modeling with exemplars, working with partners, working in small groups, or rotating through learning stations. Read Aloud Have students read their drafts aloud to themselves or with a partner. Often, when a writer reads his work aloud, he or she realizes there are parts that need to be changed or corrected. They can “hear” what they need to do. Recently, I’ve learned about a web-app called Text to Speech lets someone listen to their own writing so they will be able to catch mistakes.
Furthermore, there is an extension called Google Draftback that let’s someone play back the revision history of any Google Doc. Many teachers use it for grading purposes, but I also see it as a tool for writers who want to review the changes that they make which get “erased” as they revise their writing. I’m looking forward to giving this a try as my school system moves towards digital classrooms.
I hope some of these strategies give you ideas for teaching revision in your classroom. What tips and tricks do you have for teaching students how to revise well?