Posts Tagged ‘writing’

April 5 Webinar: Hot Points – Current Events and Digital Tools

April 1st, 2012 Comments off

Current events teaching has never been juicier. Up to the second information on events from all points of the four winds can be easily gathered, disseminated and pored over using digital tools. Videos from within the Occupy Wall Street camp, tweets from observers and players in the Arab Spring uprising and the ability to communicate with anyone at the center of a news story via iChat means that students now have a more immediate connection to events than most journalists had fifteen years ago. And with traditional news sources sometimes struggling to compete with the constant flow of information, our students have never been in a better position to show their flair as budding journalists.

This webinar demonstrated how students can access information and turn it into a news story – making sense of multiple sources, applying a clear vision and creating news stories of their own. We discussed some of the drawbacks to the mass of unfiltered information, and how we can help our students become objective reporters and informed opinion makers.

Here are the links I shared in the webinar:

Newsmap: a visual representation of the Google News aggregator

Google News: Try customising the page using the Preference sliders

Newsvine: user voted news stories – a good place to take the temperature of the news

Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages: over 900 front pages from the world’s newspapers, update daily.

MARVEL: ProQuest News
database is a fantastic resource for searching through 1400+ publications from around the world, with many publication’s articles going back at least a decade.

In addition, we looked at YouTube’s capabilities for up to the minute footage of events, and iTunes Store’s News and Politics Podcasts. Google Earth can provide background on the areas where events are taking place, and the World Data Analyst on MARVEL can help with statistics on each country.

Image by Giladlotan on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons License CC BY-NC 2.0

March 15 Webinar – Using Social Media to Enhance Writing Skills

March 13th, 2012 3 comments
A collection of buttons with various social media icons

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Kexino

“Beware the Ides of March,” said the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, but in today’s world he would likely have tweeted that warning or written it on Caesar’s FaceBook wall. There’s no need for you to be wary of the Ides of March this year because that’s when we will present a webinar about how students can use social media to improve their writing.

In past webinars we have taken a close look at the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, focusing on the standards for reading literary and informational text. This week we will explore the writing standards paying particular attention to digital writing. Many of you have participated in past webinars on the writing process from the 2009 – 2010 school year and have a good overview of how our MLTI devices support all stages of the writing process. If you need a refresher, you can find links to all those webinar recordings on our archives page.

In this session we will look specifically at social media and how educators can help students become better writers and meet the writing standards through the participatory web. We’ll look at the opportunities social media provide for writing different types of texts for different purposes, for publishing to various audiences, and for conducting research.

Please join us Thursday, March 15 at 3:15 or 7:15. Please click on the Webcasts tab to register. We have upgraded to a new registration system, allowing you to register directly in Adobe Connect, making the whole webinar process smoother and easier! If you have any questions, please contact Juanita Dickson. Click on the time you wish to participate in and you will be directed to an online registration form. Please type your email address carefully as all information will be sent to that address. After registering you will receive a confirmation email with a log in link – please use that link to log into the webinar prior to the start time.

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.

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.

November 18 Webinar: Using Technology to Enhance Literacy (TPCK/SAMR In Action)

November 16th, 2010 2 comments

Achieving high levels of student literacy stands out as a top concern for schools throughout the state of Maine. We will see how coupling 21st-Century approaches to literacy to the TPCK/SAMR models used by the MLTI, and to the tools on the laptops, provides us with a uniquely powerful recipe for success. As part of this webinar, we will look at concrete examples that teachers can use in their classrooms right away.

This webinar will be of special relevance to Language Arts teachers; however, since literacy is a concern that transcends disciplinary boundaries, we also recommend it for all other subject areas.

WatchMECreate Engages Maine Students in Serious Creativity

September 30th, 2010 Comments off

Regular readers of this blog and participants in our webinars understand the importance of giving students opportunities to solve real problems and to create and publish their work for real audiences. MLTI in collaboration with ACTEM is providing such an opportunity with their new project, WatchMECreate. The first challenge, WatchMEGraduate, has already begun but it’s not too late for students teams to get involved. In case you missed it, I’m posting the original announcement here.

Student Conference

Do you believe that students do their best work when they take on challenges that truly matter in the real world? Have you ever looked for Maine-based projects you could point middle and high school students towards that would make a real difference?  Projects where they could use their technical and communication skills in support of something that really matters? Projects where they could work independently, in teams with their friends and have the chance to be rewarded for the quality of their work with something more than good grades?

WatchMECreate ( is a collaborative effort between ACTEM & the MLTI. It will consist of a series of serious challenges put out to Maine’s grade 7-12 schools, asking students (and perhaps teachers) to collaboratively develop and submit video responses.  While posed as a “student challenge,” it is assumed that some students may come to it independently while others will be directed towards it by their teacher.

The first challenge is called WatchMEGraduate and asks students to create a 2-minute video response to, “What one thing should be done in your school community to increase the number of kids who make it to graduation?” This challenge is made real by the following documents:

Gov. Baldacci’s Economic Strategy ( “The most important measure of economic development in Maine is the educational attainment of its people and the opportunities that arise from our people’s participation in the economy of tomorrow.”

From Maine Dept. of Education Website ( “An Act To Increase Maine’s High School Graduation Rates (Sec. 1. 20-A MRSA c. 211, sub-c. 1-B) …The bill also requires the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education to establish a stakeholder group to develop recommendations relating to increasing secondary school graduation rates in the State and to report its findings to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over education matters by January 10, 2011.”

Dates: went live on 9/1/10; First challenge, WatchMEGraduate, went live on 9/7/10; Uploads will begin to be accepted on September 14, 2010 through November 10, 2010.
Here’s the process:

  1. A team of up to four student members (grades 7-12) will produce a video response to the current challenge
  2. Videos must put forward positive solutions that are process-focused
  3. The video will be no longer than 2 minutes
  4. Teams are responsible for obtaining appropriate permissions for any materials used
  5. All videos must carry, in the credits, a Creative Commons license
  6. The video will be uploaded (see web site for details), along with contact information, but will not be publicly displayed until all appropriate releases have been received by ACTEM & MLTI
  7. That’s it. Now get to work. Oh, and because this is professional grade work, please do be sure to cite your sources…

Judging process: Pains are being taken to make this not “feel like school.” A rubric has been created and posted on the web site.  Judges will be drawn from ACTEM & MLTI as well as other community sources.

Rewards: All teams whose entry is accepted as complete and placed on the WatchMECreate site will be entered into a drawing for team sets of four high quality, limited edition ACTEM / MLTI WatchMECreate T-shirts. Five middle school teams and five high school teams will be chosen at random. The top Middle School and High School teams will each be awarded $500 to be used by the team to help move their solution forward, as well as an iPod nano for each student team member.

Questions or comments: Please send e-mail to