Archive for the ‘Writing Process’ Category

MLTI Summer Institute Day 1

July 26th, 2011 Comments off


Hannah inspires the audience

Over 150 educators gathered for the MLTI Summer Institute at Bowdoin College. Cohort groups began their three-day intensive workshops, and we finished the day with some fantastic keynote speakers, students Hannah Potter, Yarmouth HS and Chris Jones, Oak Hill HS. In the audience were not only the Institute participants, but senior officials from the Ministries of Education from 12 different Caribbean nations. All were treated to Hannah’s inspiring work connecting Maine teenagers with Iraqi teenagers through her web site, ANewView. Chris Jones followed up with an engaging presentation about how MLTI inspired and provided him the opportunity to become a software developer, and a part of an international software development team. You can learn more about Chris at and

Chris wows the audience

More photos from the day…

Del and John

Del and John discuss the uses of Sketchup Pro

Geogebra helps to stretch your mathematical muscles

Geogebra helps to stretch your mathematical muscles

Susie discusses digital citizenship

Susie discusses digital citizenship

Read more…

2011 MLTI Student Conference

June 6th, 2011 Comments off

The 8th Annual MLTI Conference was a great success! Over 1000 participants converged on the UMaine’s Orono campus for a day devoted to inspiration and information. Highlights of the day included four powerful student voices in Block 1 – Joe Lien of Poland High School, Hannah Potter of Yarmouth High School, Chris Jones of Oak Hill High School, and Mike Rodway of Telstar Middle School. These student presenters held the attention of Commissioner of Education Steven Bowen and the 1000+ conference attendees as they made clear what can be done when the potential of the MLTI is fully leveraged. Don’t be surprised if you hear from these four – they have compelling stories to tell, and know how to get a message across. Visit the Student Conference Webpage and click into Block 1 and follow links for each to learn more about these amazing young Mainers, and visit other parts of the conference web site to learn more about this incredible event.

Maine DOE Newsroom

Mark your calendars! The date has been set for next year, the 9th Annual MLTI Student Conference Thursday May 24, 2012


March 31 Webinar Notes: Vocabulary

April 2nd, 2011 1 comment
Scrabble game

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by dangerismycat

I hope everyone who attended Thursday’s webinars learned one or two new things about vocabulary instruction and can try out some of those ideas with students. Special thanks to Jill Spencer for adding her expertise to the sessions. Don’t forget to check out Jill’s two books, Everyone’s Invited and Teaming Rocks! Both books are published by the National Middle School Association and each has a chapter about vocabulary.

In the first part of the webinar, we talked about books, articles, and research Jill and I have read on the subject of vocabulary instruction and shared some of the practices we gleaned from that reading. Perhaps the most important idea is that the way we traditionally have taught vocabulary just doesn’t work. Students need more than dictionary definitions and memorization to learn new words. We also learned that wide and varied reading helps students expand their vocabularies but it’s not enough. Explicit instruction is necessary including these elements:

  • Making connections
  • Constructed definitions
  • Word Analysis
  • Repeated exposure and use
  • Discussions
  • Nonlinguistic representations
  • Word play

We looked at ways the applications on the MLTI MacBook as well as some online resources and tools can support vocabulary instruction. Please visit the recorded archives (mouse over the Webcasts tab above and click on Archives) to view these demonstrations and to download a copy of the slides with all the linked resources and the Bento template for creating a database for word study. If you use that template with your students, let us know how it goes and share any ideas you have for revising and improving it.

The chat pod was very busy, especially in the evening session, and participants shared a lot of great ideas for vocabulary study. I’ll list some of them here, but be sure to check out the recordings for more details:

  • will send the word of the day to your email.
  • Use wikis to collect words and images related to a unit.
  • Have students use text-to-speech when they come upon an unfamiliar word, combined with control-command-D for the pop up dictionary.
  • Becca’s “War of the Words” game where students compete to “own” the most words.
  • Word Ladder Wednesday with Tim Rasinski’s books
  • Have students create symbols, graphics, or pictures for new words.
  • Ask questions in book conferences that incorporate new words
  • Have students keep a running list of words they encounter that have the root or affix that is being studied.
  • Team members support each other and agree on root words to teach in all content areas.
  • Math word of the week and “Big Dog Word of the Day”
  • Use Frayer model for big concept words (sometimes with interactive white board)
  • Vocab words on exit slips
  • Two online tools for stickies: and
  • The “I have… Who has…” activity based on this math activity
  • Vocaroo for voice recordings

Some books that Jill and I have read and referred to in this session include:

  • Allen, J. (2007). Inside words: Tools for teaching academic vocabulary, grades 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Allen, J. (1999). Words, words, words: Teaching vocabulary in grades 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Beck, I., McKeown, M., & Kucan, L. (2002). Robust vocabulary instruction: Bringing words to life. NY: Guilford Press.
  • Benjamin, A., & Crow, J. T. (2009). Vocabulary at the Center. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
  • Graves, M. (Ed.) (2009). Essential readings on vocabulary instruction. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Marzano, R. J. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement: Research on what works in schools. Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

And finally, Tim Hart sent me some additional sites for word play and word games that your students will enjoy. Thanks, Tim!

March 31 Webinar – Vocabulary: There’s a Word for That!

March 29th, 2011 4 comments
dictionary page with magnifying glass

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by chrisjohnbeckett

Every teacher, at any grade level or in any content area, faces the challenge of teaching vocabulary. The traditional practice of having students look up the word, copy the dictionary definition, use the word in a sentence, and then memorize it for a test has been proven ineffective. How can we help our students truly expand both their receptive and productive vocabularies?

In this webinar we will examine some of the research on best practices for vocabulary instruction as we explore how we can use some applications on the MLTI MacBook as well as some online resources to help our students learn new words, make strong connections, and retain the vocabulary they need for academic success.

My special guest for this webinar is Jill Spencer, author of Everyone’s Invited and Teaming Rocks! Jill is a veteran middle level educator, consultant, and presenter with extensive knowledge of literacy instruction and issues. We’ll be discussing some of her experiences and creative ideas for teaching vocabulary.

Please join us Thursday at 3:15 PM or 7:15 PM. To register, click on the Webcasts tab at the top of this page.

Feb. 10 Webinar Notes – Technical Writing

February 11th, 2011 Comments off
Old computer manual

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Michael Fawcett

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday’s webinars. It was great to have some science and math teachers with us and I hope they use some of the ideas we discussed to give students opportunities to do some technical writing.

We began by talking about what technical writing is and what it is not and mentioned some examples. Some good resources for learning more about technical writing and for finding ideas for teaching it are:

We discussed how technical writing is addressed in the Common Core State Standards for writing and how technical writing relates to the 6+1 Traits. We then talked about the usefulness of templates for helping students use a consistent style and organization in their technical writing. I shared a Pages template students can use to write directions for performing tasks on their MacBooks. That template is available for download in the archived recordings of both sessions. The Pages User Guide is not only a good resource for learning how to make templates, but it’s also an excellent example of effective technical writing.

Including diagrams, illustrations, tables, and charts in technical writing pieces makes the text more usable for the reader. I mentioned the many applications on the MLTI MacBook that can be used to create illustrations, including Acorn, OmniGraffle, the SketchPad in NoteShare, and Numbers. Digital cameras are easy to use and readily available in most classrooms, whether it’s a camera you or your school owns, a camera on a cell phone, or the built-in iSight camera in your MacBook. A couple participants mentioned using cameras to take pictures of a science lab in progress and giving those pictures to the students to aid them in their writing as well as to be used as illustrations. Screen shots are also valuable as illustrations when writing about computers and software.

We took some time to talk about scaffolds and support for struggling writers, including word banks for vocabulary and using screen captures to get students started as they write directions for using their MacBooks. We also talked about giving students examples of professional and student technical writing so they can look at it critically and develop criteria for determining the effectiveness of their own writing.

Many of the tips we mentioned for using MacBooks for technical writing are demonstrated in our MLTI Minutes series. We hope you’ll check out all the episodes, but here a few that were mentioned in this webinar:

  • Episode 14 An Introduction to Painting with Acorn
  • Episode 21 Screen Recording with QuickTime Player
  • Episode 24 Making Floating Stickies

Finally, we took a look at some examples of technical writing that were done as comics:

Don’t forget that you can access the recordings of both webinars by mousing over the Webcasts tab about and clicking on Archives.

February 10 Webinar: Technical Writing

February 8th, 2011 2 comments
Read the Manual Sticker

Based on an image by Wrote, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license.

When you buy a new appliance or gadget, do you read the manual? When you are learning how to use new software, do you use the Help menu? If so, you have encountered technical writing, a genre that requires high levels of clarity and consistency as well as brevity. Good technical writing takes advantage of text features, diagrams, illustrations, photos, and color to describe a product or a process in a straightforward manner that the reader can quickly and easily understand.

Typically we teach students narrative writing, persuasive writing and writing in response to literature, but we often neglect to teach them technical writing, the kind of writing they need for math and science classes where they must write precise instructions, descriptions, and explanations. Giving students opportunities to engage in technical writing can help them gain skills and confidence that will carry over to all the other types of writing they must do.

In Thursday’s webinar, we will discuss how technical writing differs from other types of writing and how we can engage even our most reluctant writers in this kind of activity. We’ll share strategies and scaffolds for helping students write clear, concise directions, descriptions, and explanations using Pages and other applications on the MLTI MacBooks. We’ll also demonstrate how students can use applications like OmniGraffle and Comic Life to make diagrams and illustrations for their technical writing pieces.

Please join us on Thursday, February 10 at 3:15 or 7:15 PM to learn how you can help your students gain writing skills that will serve them well in higher education and in the workplace. To view our calendar and register for one of these sessions, click on the Webcasts tab at the top of this page.

WatchMECreate Challenge #2 – WatchMERead

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

Several years ago I did some tutoring for Literacy Volunteers of Maine. The student assigned to me was a man in his 30s who had dropped out of school in 9th grade and had limited reading and writing skills. He asked for a tutor because he was involved in litigation and could not read the legal papers his attorney was sending him. As I worked with him for the next few years, I was struck by how intelligent he was but how his low literacy level limited his choices in life. He had never had a checking account because he did not know how to read or write number words. He was trying to start an auto repair business but he had difficulty reading the repair manuals and writing invoices. He could not get a job working for someone else because he could not fill out an application or write a resume. One of his goals was to get his motorcycle license, but he was afraid of the written test and did not want to request a reader as he had done to get his driver’s license. Over the course of our time together he gained some basic skills and he did open a checking account, create a resume, and get a job in a garage, but I couldn’t help wondering how his life would have been different if he had learned to read earlier.

NASA Technicians Reading

NASA photo: Technicians read a manual on the Payload Ground-Handling Mechanism hook instrumentation unit.

As educators we are well aware of the importance of reading in all aspects of our lives, but how aware are our students? The current challenge at WatchMeCreate is designed to inspire students to investigate the importance of reading in our society and answer this question: “What would it take so that everyone, when asked, ‘Are you a reader?’ would say, ‘Of course I am…’?”  Student teams will, as with the earlier challenge, produce a short video (no longer than two minutes) that presents their response to this question. The deadline for submission to the WatchMERead challenge is February 18.

Almost every school in Maine has some kind of literacy initiative in place where teachers ask themselves this same question – “What will it take?” Maybe now it’s time to ask the students.

Here are some resources that you can share with your students to get them started.

MLTI Minute

January 10th, 2011 2 comments

The MLTI team announces the creation of MLTI Minute (MM). The MM is bite size PD for all MLTI users. We realize everyone has busy schedules and although we all would like to know more about our MLTI computers we often struggle to find the time. Most MM episodes only take a minute or two to watch, with some taking a few minutes longer.

MLTI Minute Logo

The short Screen Recordings cover a variety of topics related to MLTI. The clips show, as well as talk through demonstrations of the various features and applications of your MLTI MacBook. Each episode will focus on a tip or topic to help you make the most of MLTI. These bite size chunks of PD should help save time in your classroom or with your homework as they demonstrate some of the wonderful features of your MLTI laptop.

Perhaps there is something on your MLTI MacBook you would like to know more about? There is a section on the MM site for you to request a MM. If you request it, we will create it.

These short professional development clips are suitable for teachers, administrators students and parents. They work for anyone involved with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. All MLTI Minutes are tagged. Use the search feature to find an episode.

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Do you have a minute? Visit MLTI Minute today

December 16 Webinar Notes – Journaling Across the Curriculum

December 20th, 2010 Comments off
light bulb image

*Who Else Has a Bright Idea?

I hope everyone who attended Thursday’s webinar came away with a few ideas for students’ journals. We began with a discussion of what journals are and some of the advantages that digital journals have over the traditional paper notebook journals students have kept in the past. We looked at some reasons for including journaling in any content area including how journal writing encourages reasoning, problem solving, and metacognition.

I demonstrated some of the features of NoteShare that make it such an effective journaling tool and shared a template for creating a math journal in Pages. You can download that file from the archived recording of either the afternoon or evening session. Blogging can also be a way for students to keep journals if each student is given a personal blog, and I shared three blogging resources that allow teachers to create individual blogs for students. The discussion then turned to ideas for journal entries and prompts and some suggestions for ways students can create entries that include audio and visual media as well as text. We ended with some suggestions for giving students feedback and assessing their journals.

Resources I shared:

As usual, participants in both webinar sessions offered their ideas and resources for student journaling:

  • Teaching teams can choose to do journaling as a joint process so journaling time and monitoring can be a shared responsibility.
  • Question: Are there issues with students sharing too much personal information in their journals?
  • Students can easily save a copy and paste a journal entry or save it as a PDF to include in a portfolio.
  • Students can use iWeb for journaling or blogging and even add a NoteShare notebook to an existed iWeb page.
  • Rick Wormeli’s Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching any Subject is a great resource for journaling.
  • A good resource for metacognition –  How People Learn (Chapters 2 and 3)
  • Video Journal Prompts from Ted Talks and Pop!Tech
  • Having students just write reflections makes them complacent about the process, so mixing them with other prompts can help keep them engaged.

Thanks to everyone who attended these webinars. Don’t forget that you can review the recordings of the online sessions by following the links in the Archives section of this blog.

*Image: Some Rights Reserved by nhuisman

December 16 Webinar: Journaling Across the Curriculum

December 14th, 2010 Comments off
Girl typing and thinking cogito ergo sum

Illustration by Andrew Greenstone

Journal writing has proven to be a powerful and flexible activity that works well for any content area. Whether students are responding to literature, explaining their reasoning, or reflecting on their work, capturing their thinking in written language not only improves their writing and thinking skills but also gives teachers another opportunity to assess students’ progress.

In this week’s webinar, Journaling Across the Curriculum, we will take a close look at how journal writing can become a regular part of classroom work in any content area and at any grade level. We will discuss metacognition which is defined by most as “thinking about thinking” or “knowing about knowing.” The term refers to the ways we reflect on how we know what we know, how we learned it, and how we can apply it to learning new things. Metacognition is essential to becoming an effective, independent learner, and writing about our learning is a powerful metacognitive strategy.

We’ll also look at the advantages of digital journals, in particular how digital journals allow the use of other media as well as text. We will explore some tools for digital journal writing including NoteShare and Pages and discuss the use of  blogs for online journaling. As always, we will invite participants to share their experiences, resources, and ideas.

Please join us this Thursday, December 16 at 3:15 or 7:15 pm. Click on the Webcasts tab above to view our webinar calendar and register for one of Thursday’s sessions.