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Archive for the ‘digital learning activities’ Category

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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In New Zealand’s state schools, teachers are increasingly faced with larger class sizes, a diverse range of learning and behavioural needs and the requirement to include special needs learners into the classroom environment.

Although ORS students tend to come with a teacher aide (although not 100% of the time), the expectation remains that we will find ways to include special needs students into mainstream classes. Sometimes this can be to meet social needs, other times academic goals and sometimes a mixture of both – although not generally to levels we would expect of mainstream students.

This year I’ve been trying to find quick and easy ways to provide bespoke tasks so that a teacher aide supporting a Student with autism can do so in a meaningful and age appropriate way.  At 14, Student X is keen to have work that in some way resembles what is peers are working on.

This term that involved a novel study of Fleur Beale’s Slide the Corner.

Based on the novel’s content, I devised a series of lessons using Microsoft’s Learning Tools to provide a series of bite sized lessons for X to work on while we focussed on essay writing.

Using a picture of a Lego car,  the Student began by labelling car parts on a paper handout:

Step d.png

Then, with his aide’s help, he completed a cloze paragraph filling the gaps with words from a word bank to write a paragraph about the main character, Greg

Step e

Finally, using the same syntactical structure, he was then prompted to complete a paragraph supplying similar details details about himself.

Step f

I then copied and paste the word document into a OneNote in X’s Class Notebook.

That’s when the real fun began! Using Immersive Reader, the paragraphs were read back to him.

step b.png

At this point, Student X’s expression was one of sheer incredulity. He was simply delighted to hear “his” work read aloud. I showed him and the teacher aide how to adjust the gender and speed of the speaker (he was similarly enthralled by the tortoise and hare icons).

Finally, I demonstrated to the aide and student how to use the dictate function. This allowed X to tell the computer what to type. X was asked to tell the PC what he thought about the lesson – a very basic reflection as his processing is pretty much surface level so he has a very literal world view. We discussed his response verbally first.

I’m  hopeful that both the student and aide will use these amazing Learning Tools again – at least in English but also other subjects too. (The only issue we had was that some of the school laptops had not been updated to run Windows 10  a- simple fix but it pays to check first to ensure microphones are accessible.)

 

step 3

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I stumbled across this wee gem a few weeks ago courtesy of the New Zealand Book Council.

Each Friday, the council releases a list of six words via twitter and invites followers to write a short poem or witticism then tweet it with the #ramereshorts tag. The words are tweeted at 9am and the “winner” announced by 5pm.

I trialled this with my Year 10 extension class last week and while some found the concept challenging initially, all jotted down an offering by the end of 15 minutes – a great starter for creative writing/poetry units when discussing brevity, connotations and best words in best order.

I published my favourites with their first names only then showed them the likes and retweets on Monday. They were more engaged then! (Ah the gratification).

It was interesting to see the variety of work produced in that short time. I’m not sure if it was the words provided or the proximity in timing to the Christchurch mosque massacre but most of the class produced writing with strong messages of hope and redemption. Lovely to read.

I’d recommend this activity as a start for Years 9-13 – of course you’d need a twitter account and their permission to tweet on their behalf. (Only 1/30 had their own account). Here’s a selection of those tweeted:

 

And the winner:

 

RS winner

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What do to when a student returns from an alternative education programme two weeks before school exams?  And what if the student wasn’t in class for the novel and film study during the year?

OneNote is proving its worth again this week in providing me with platform to create a simple yet hopefully effective pre-exam IEP that is helping to keep my student engaged while also ensuring he is completing work similar to the rest of the class but pitched at his level.

Using Office Lens, I took pics of two contrasting settings in the classic text The Cay by Theodore Taylor.

I sent these from my phone to the novel page in the student’s class notebook and then presented him with the following activities to complete using Immersive Reader. I helped him to do the first activity and then he did the second. At the end, the student was presented with a series of questions about these two contrasting settings in the text. He recorded his answers using dictate in word and shared his answers with me.


Above is the description of Virginia where Phillip Enright and his Mum and Dad  come from.

  1. Listen to the page read using IMMERSIVE READER in VIEW.
  2. Now make a list of all the nouns NAMING words in the space below
  3. Next go back to Immersive reader and click the star (grammar options). Put NOUNS slider on. All the nouns will show up in purple. Did you get them all? If not, add the nouns you missed to your list.
  4. Now name all the adjectives (words that describe nouns) in the pace below:
  5.  Next, go back to immersive reader, click on the star, put adjectives on. They will show up in green. Did you get them all? If not, add more adjectives to your list.
  6. Finally, look at your list of nouns and adjectives. How would you sum up Virgina? Describe it in a two sentences below:

Virginia is ….


Above is the description of Willemstad on the Island of Curacao where the Enright family moved to

  1. Listen to the page read using IMMERSIVE READER in VIEW.
  2. Now make a list of all the nouns NAMING words in the space below
  3. Now go back to Immersive reader and click the star (grammar options). Put NOUNS slider on. All the nouns will show up in purple. Did you get them all? If not, add the nouns you missed to your list.
  4. Now name all the adjectives (words that describe nouns) in the space below.
  5. Go back to immersive reader, click on the star, put adjectives on. They will show up in green. Did you get them all? If not, add more adjectives to your list.
  6. Finally, look at your list of nouns and adjectives. How would you sum up Virginia? Describe it in a two sentences below:

Willemstad is …. 

Reflection – thinking about the setting

  1. Why did the family move to Willemstad?
  2. What is Mr Enright’s job?
  3. Why doesn’t Mrs Enright like Willemstad?
  4. Which place would YOU rather live in? WHY? (2 sentences, use because to explain your choice 

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If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ll be aware that secondary school teachers are seeking an improvement in teaching and learning conditions in New Zealand schools. One crucial thing we are looking for is support for the increasing number of students with behavioral and learning difficulties being placed in our classrooms with no additional resourcing.

I welcomed one such student to my Year 9 English class. He became student 29. The rap sheet was long but equally concerning was the learning levels and associated needs. So what’s a teacher to do?

I can’t ignore him because that could lead to outbursts that will impact everyone’s learning and potentially place us in danger. Philosophically, I believe that despite his negative attitude, student X is a human being who deserves a chance. There are reasons beyond his control leading to some of these challenges.

On the other hand, I simply don’t have time to make an individual learning programme for a student who is probably two or even three levels of the New Zealand Curriculum below where he needs to be.

When he joined us, we had just started a unit of work on formal writing.  I quickly realized I needed to find a way to adapt the tasks or things would go pear shaped very quickly. Of course I realise that’s our job but those outside education must consider the context. Our classes already cater for recent immigrants with no support who can arrive with zero English language skills, international students, children with dyslexia/dyspraxia (both diagnosed and undiagnosed), ORS funded students with intellectual disabilities (who have teacher aides but still take time to socially integrate into class activities) and the list goes on.

Day 1 – I started by setting him up with ClassNotebook and spending 15 minutes showing him how to naviagte the LMS. Because he was prone to losing his password and log in I popped it on a post note on the wall he faced with a laptop so that couldn’t be an issue.

Day 2 – The next day, we watched a documentary on boy racers, brainstormed ideas in support or against them and then students had to write persuasive paragraphs in their journals. I sat down with student X and got him to discuss his ideas, prompting him and encouraging him to use the S.E.X.Y structure of paragraph writing. We then crafted them into paragraph which I typed.

Day 3 -Language features – Student X picked a topic (tazers) and brainstormed three ideas about why Police shouldn’t use them. I typed up a paragraph for him. Then we went back through and I pointed out and colour coded formal writing features.

Day 4 – Picking a topic for our assessment and researching supporting points. Student X picked one and brainstormed ideas. He was then given time to find examples to support his ideas (research)

Day 5 -8 – Drafting an essay. Student X did this on ClassNotebook. I supplied feedback by making audio recordings to suggest ways to make paragraphs better or a smiley sticker if he had done well. He really struggled with editing and crafting – once it was written down, it was done as far as he was concerned. His short attention span meant he found it difficult to go over the same paragraphs more than once.

Overall this approach enabled me to build a more productive realtionship with student X. I set clear expectations that in English, he was expected to do the work like other students BUT I tried to make sure that work was pitched at his level, gave him choices, clear deadlines, heavily scaffolded the assessment task and gave him one on one time.

I’d like to report the story had a happy ending but issues outside the classroom meant he was removed for a spell. Hopefully when he comes back we can pick up where we left off using ClassNotebook to engage student X and progress his learning.

Below are screen shots (click on them for a clearer view) of the scaffolded tasks we worked through for formal writing:

Day 2student dictates a paragraph based on visual text and class brainstorm

Day 3 – language features and paragraph structure

Day 4 – pick topic, form opinion, brainstorm points, research

 

 

Days 5 – 8 Draft, craft and edit essay. Students gets feedback visually and as audio recording

Structure broken down – student chose previous topic rather than one from list

 

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Following from our session on learning tools that encourage differentiation and inclusivity for all learners, our teacher aides have provided me with some feedback which makes for interesting reading. Top of the list of tools/apps the group were showed that they intend to use was Read Aloud. This makes perfect sense as our teacher aides work with students who struggle with literacy and are challenged with a range of learning disabilities.

This was backed up by reasons they supplied for the apps/tools they believed would have the most use for them. (I have deleted some of their comments to protect student privacy):

 

From my own viewpoint, the biggest take home for me was the need to share the basics first. I created a Class Notebook for the workshop participants to access material, share ideas and have a play without thinking that most had not even ventured into a Class Notebook. In a way, I should have started with that before delving into specific apps.

The other takeaway was the needs for consistency across devices in a school. Some of their learners have their own device and others use what is available within the specific department/learning space on a given day. Other things I take for granted such as using Office Mix also piqued their interest. Most know how to set up basic power point but were unaware of the record option. Others were not sure how to add music so a follow up session on Office Mix is top of the list.

Hopefully we’ll get some more time together next term to delve deeper into their first foray into the many ways Microsoft can enhance the teaching and learning experience for these vital support staff.

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