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Archive for July, 2019

Writing essays is a core skill for secondary school students. By Years 12 and 13 students should ideally be able to express sophisticated ideas coherently and effectively.

But back in Year 9 and 10, basic structure can be an issue before we even get to developing ideas, making self to text connections and all the other good stuff that displays deep level thinking.

My Year 9 class are typically (I hope) diverse. The 27 learners span three curriculum levels. Differentiation is key – how to keep the more able students extended while also supporting less able writers to gain confidence in paragraphing and essay structure. Agh – one of me, many, many of them and many, many needs.

At the end of term I targeted three students with learning challenges that make writing an essay, even one planned together as a class and scaffolded on the whiteboard with starter sentences for each paragraph, an ordeal. So while the rest of the class used the whiteboard prompts and class brainstorm, (uploaded to their notebook using Office Lens) I set them up with a three part lesson on Class Notebook.

In a bid to make it somewhat funky, I used password protect to lock sections in the content library. The first section was pretty much a confidence builder that ended with a code word that would enable them to proceed to the next section.

You can password protect section using OneNote desktop version (not online) by selecting the Review tab in OneNote then clicking the Password button. A Password Protection pane appears at the right side of the window. Select the Set Password button, enter a password in the two fields on the Password Protection window and click OK. If that’s confusing, I recommend this tutorial on the Microsoft Educator’s page.

Remember – this option is only available in the desktop version of Microsoft 2016 or 2010. You can’t password protect sections online and you can’t password protect pages. As I had trouble distributing those sections to student’s individual notebook, I simply got them to copy and paste each section into their own notebooks – after they had cracked the code.

I organised the sections around the essay writing process: planning, drafting, publishing.

The drafting section had coloured headers reminding students what the purpose of each each part of the essay. There were prompts in brackets to get them from sentence to sentence. This was a bit clunky and I had to read it to 2/3 students (although they could have used immersive reader if they had headphones) but we got there after two hours. The third student doesn’t like attention being drawn to the fact they are doing alternative work so they sat with their friends and worked through the sections – no drama.

Once they had written each body paragraph, the students copied that to a third page (publishing) removed the blue headers and bracketed prompts to create a coherent, fluid piece of writing. Time was tight at the end and I wish they’d used immersive reader to help proof and edit as some left the instructions in but that’s par for the course.

I have spent time these holidays giving them individual feedback in the third section. Student X has audio files to listen to – short and to the point, Student Y has stickers and tags indicating parts to review and Student Z has coloured writing and emojis at the end of each paragraph – I went for what I know works best for each of them.

The screen shots will be fuzzy but here’s what it looked like:

 

Part One – plan essay

 

Enter code to proceed

 

Part two – scaffolded draft

 

Part three – remove prompt and publish

 

Student X feedback

Student Y feedback

 

Student Z feedback

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A year ago I posted a unit of work around the memoir I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzi and Patricia McCormick. This was designed for an able class of 15 year olds with a focus on flipped learning to promote deeper thinking of concepts featured in the book.

The unit was designed to end with a collaborative social justice project where students could focus on a social justice crusader of their choice, make a Sway and present it to the class.

But schools being schools, interruptions to the timetable meant we never made it to the self-directed task at the end.

This year, I was determined to squeeze it in and am utterly convinced of the benefits of collaborative learning. The current issue of Teen Breathe Magazine cites collaborative learning as a great self motivator and with lots of sickness last term and general end of term malaise setting in, I found the assignment really worthwhile.

Students encouraged and supported each other, shared ideas and learned from each other.  I took a hands off approach until presentation day simply helping as needed and encouraging students to share trouble shooting successes and design tips which I projected onto the whiteboard. The entire unit plus links to Sway tutorials were accessible via a page in their Class Notebook. Students could work on their Sways concurrently via sharing a link and from home.

While many opted to focus on Malala (totally okay as we all get tired at the end of term!) other individuals also featured. There are three ways they could set up their Sway:

  • Use a template from the Sway homepage
  • Create a word document with sub-headings and upload
  • Start from scratch via storyline function
  • Start from topic – banned this option as the work is done for them!

I was impressed with their ability to quickly work out the creative aspects of Sway such as image stacking and inserting video. As presenting skills is part of the junior English course, there were discussions around suitable colour and font choice so they were tapping into prior knowledge of visual and verbal features from earlier in the year when they made film posters.

Looking ahead to NCEA, there are achievement standards in various subjects that require students to make and submit visual presentations. Many default to PowerPoint but this group will hopefully consider Sway as an option.

As well as encouraging critical thinking, providing opportunities to develop digital literacy and, to collaborate and create, the presentation was attended by their Social Studies teacher allowing for great cross curricular chat too.

Social Justice Assignment

Here’s a selection of 10TA’s Social Justice Sways:

Georgie and Julia – Greta Thunberg

Tane and Logan – Malala Yousafzi

Lily and Shyah – Malala Yousafzi

Billy and Hamish – Martin Luther King (link coming!)

 

 

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