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Posts Tagged ‘#msftedu’

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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From primary school years, children are taught the difference between nouns and verbs, then adjectives and adverbs, possibly prepositions and articles.

Why then at secondary school, do we find many students still confused over identifying parts of speech?

And does it matter?

It matters because as students progress through the NZC, our aim is that they will be able to provide insightful analysis on author’s purpose. This means they can independently analyse entire texts (or extracts) and figure out what they writer is trying to say and why. The how they do this then becomes important. Tone and style (more concepts for senior students) are inextricably linked to diction and language features.

In NCEA examinations one of three externally assessed standards for English is Unfamiliar Text. Many students avoid it due to lack of confidence in the simple act of identifying and then explaining the effect of diction, language features and structural devices.

I suspect that although students are “taught” various writing devices over the years, it is the application of that skill that is the real challenge.

And thinking beyond the lines is certainly challenging if students are not hooked in to reading by this stage.

For revision, I’m going to use a triple app combo (selling it!) to bolster confidence at close reading texts in my Year 9 students. Using Office Lens, OneNote and Flipgrid, I’ve developed a lesson that aims to revise parts of speech identification and then, consider the effect of the writer’s choices working initially collectively and then independently.

  1. Via my phone, use OfficeLens, take a pic of a passage from a novel we studied in class.
  2. Send it to their shared ClassNotebook.
  3. Students log in and silently read the passage
  4. Instruct students to use the highlighter to highlight nouns purple, verbs red, adjectives green and adverbs yellow.
  5. Then instruct students to open the same passage in Immersive Reader (under view in OneNote)
  6. Go to Grammar Options icon top right. Turn the various parts of speech on.
  7. Students can then compare their selections to the correct answer. The colours I selected are the same as those used in Immersive Reader to help visual learners.
  8. On the whiteboard, make a list of all the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the passage.
  9. In pairs, ask students to discuss the connotations of adverbs and adjectives.
  10. As a class discuss the following: How did the character feel at this point? How did you know? What was the effect on you – did you feel sorry for him? Excited? Happy? What words made you feel like that?
  11. Give students a starter sentence and instruct them to write a passage in their writing journals explaining the writer’s purpose.
  12. For homework, share a flipgrid code featuring a topic asking them to give examples of parts of speech that created a sad mood in the same passage.
  13. Discuss in class the following day.

This task could then lead on to revision of the novel itself – in particular we could use it as a springboard to an essay on character. Working smarter is the key at this end of the year, right?

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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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As senior students head off on study leave, it’s time to think about supporting Year 9 and 10 students with their preparation for end of year exams.

I’ve found a new tool that I hope will spark some deeper thinking for junior students when revising novels and films. Flipgrid is a video discussion platform ideal for student engagement and formative assessment  that aims to amplify student voice, encourage self expression and build a sense of community. It is designed to move the learning process from inclusion and integration to transformation and finally empowerment.  Clearly, this has a wide range of applications in our classrooms.

There’s a great tutorial on the Microsoft Educators website here which I highly recommend.

All you need to to do is go to the Flipgrid website and work through the process of setting up various grids (subjects/tasks) and associated topics (questions) which students respond to via short videos. (This is the selfie generation so hopefully they won’t be too bashful – you can always let them respond in pairs to start with if it is an issue). Flipgrid was purchased by Microsoft recently so if you have a Microsoft account, simply sign up using that and, supply your school domain name so students’ email addresses can be verified.

There are a series of prompts to go through which took me no time at all and were easy to navigate – it pays to do the tutorial first to get your head around the difference between grids and topics. There are four basic steps:

  1. Build a grid – you can adjust preferences as you go
  2. Post a topic – pose a question to your students. You can also make a short video and model an answer, add links, attachments etc. Again you can set preferences for how long student replies should be, the time period the topic exists for, whether you want them to be able to comment on each others posts etc
  3. Share a site generated code with students.
  4. Students use the code to post their response.

On Friday of Week 1, I will show my Year 9 English class the site and go over some basic navigation. In the first topic, I have asked them to consider the importance of friendship  which was one of the key themes in a novel we studied. Specifically, I ask them to think about and explain how this message applies to them AND what they learned about friendship from the novel. The following week, I ask them share another book or film that also features this theme and the following week, ask them to imagine they are a reporter interviewing the main character and to share three questions they would ask him then explain why.

Students have detailed character and theme notes, access to whiteboard notes on ClassNotebook and have written a practice essay. At this end of the year, the aim is to encourage them to dig deeper and make connections beyond the events in the story.

I can moderate student responses and the grid is only accessible to us so hopefully, sharing their brief (1min 30) responses will inspire some big picture thinking.

I’m really excited about this tool and can see other ways, aside from revision, that it could be useful:

  1. Student feedback at end of year re text choice – likes, dislikes, suggestions
  2. Practicing oral presentations – students record their introduction/conclusion at home and get feedback off each other/teacher
  3. ESOL students could use it practice pronunciation with each other and their teacher
  4. Beginning of year introductions – invite students to share three facts and then match them to facts in class via teacher prompts or two truths and a lie. Work out the lie.
  5. Setting relief work/homework

 

 

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Like many NZ schools, our seniors recently completed practice exams. These are an important way for learners to gauge areas of weakness they need to focus on before the upcoming NCEA examinations later in the year. As such, we aim to give them as much feedback as possible.

But when faced with large piles of marking across three year levels and a quick turnaround time (these grades also need to be entered into a database and report comments written shortly after), it can become a taxing and rushed job especially if you have a full teaching workload.

This year, I was keen to find a way to give students maximum feedback while avoiding the physical strain of handwriting lots of comments. My senior students all have access to ClassNotebook which features a content library as well as individual student folders. ClassNotebook is an online collaborative LMS offered as part of Microsoft Teams in the Office 365 suite of products.

Once I’d graded and written general comments on their papers, I went into each student’s individual folder and recorded supplementary feedback and feed forward using the insert audio function. So if I wrote on a student’s paper they needed to provide specific examples of how the setting impacted the character’s mood, in the audio recording I would give them suggestions and examples from the text naming locations within the story and explaining how they impacted on character’s state of mind.

Each audio recording is roughly 2-3 minutes long. The students can play them back as part of revision leading up the NCEA exams. They appreciated the more in depth feedback and I felt satisfied they I’d been able to more thoroughly explain myself. I also made a point of starting each recording with a positive statement of what they had done well and then rounded off with a general comment along the lines “if you can do this, this and this, you are on track to a Merit grade” or “if you wish to move to Excellence, you should read back the director’s notes and consider his opinions on rural NZ communities”. etc

A lot of English teacher jargon there but the approach would work for any subject.

Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t take long once you’ve done a couple and enables a teacher to help students focus on exactly what they need to do to improve their final grades.

I also encouraged students to use the Office Lens app to take pictures of their exam papers and save them on the same page for back up in case they misplaced their papers between now and the end of the year.

The ball is now in their court!

 

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Amidst the hurly burly of senior exam week, I shared and reviewed a raft of learning tools available via Microsoft 365 with our school’s teacher aides. They loved the read aloud function and had some good ideas about how they could use Office Lens with their learners too. Using read aloud via the edge browser was also a winner for them

The presentation was structured as a showcase followed by a why we would use it brainstorm and then later on, how would we use it. For some it was their first time sharing ideas via the collaboration space in a Notebook I have set up for them.

The downside was the devices we had in the school library weren’t running exactly the same versions/setting of MS as mine so that was a bit frustrating for them but I will follow up and get that sorted so there are half a dozen there they know have the tools we reviewed together.

And on the up, they’re keen to keep sharing ideas via a follow up workshop next term. Watch this space.

Here’s a link to what we’ve covered so far!

https://sway.office.com/5cXovvK2ivhzhDOb?ref=Link

 

 

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