Friday, 28 March 2014

Assessing Our Writing Part 2

Students have finally finished recording their slides in the Explain Everything App. I've shared the overall lesson here. I am very impressed with their ability to pick out favourite lines and explain their significance. They are truly thinking of their reader and they are thinking critically about their own writing.

Here is a sample of one group's script (see below). The script was just to help them with transitions and give them a structure before recording their voices.


Below are two examples of our Explain Everything projects:





To view more of these projects click here.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Assessing Our Writing Part 1

Explain Everything is the perfect tool to capture students' thinking. I wanted students to assess their dream writing by taking photographs of their work, pointing to specific areas of craft and explaining their importance. However, I needed to make sure students were prepared before using this app. The main priority was for  students to organize their thinking.
Students worked in small groups sharing their writing with one another. They created notes about specific craft techniques they noticed. I was really pushing them to move beyond the typical comment, "I like this line because it is descriptive". I told them to dig deep and think about what made a particular line in their story special for the reader. Of course, I want them to name the craft they see in writing. More importantly, I want them to be able to explain its significance for the reader. 

Here is a line selected by a student from their writing: "When dreams get caught in your hair you have to brush them out." This line shows that there's always little bumps and that's normal. Just brush off the dust and keep on going.

I like the line - "When you skate down the ice you feel like a bird drifting through the sky". It is a simile. It lets the reader know that you have to skate hard in hockey.

The next step was for students to use the iPads. They took pictures of their writing and created slides. They had to decide if they were going to take one or two photographs of their work. They learned how to crop, resize and lock an image. They added arrows pointing to specific features and are currently working on adding text boxes. This is where their notes will come in handy. 


The final step will be for students to work on a script for their voice recording. I want them to be clear and organized. You can grab a copy of the script here.

I hope to post some examples soon! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ready to Write

We have read several books and articles about success and achievement. We have watched, shared and discussed many stories of people who have overcome obstacles to achieve success in their lives. These experiences have given students the language and insight to begin writing about their own dreams. 

We set criteria together as a class (see below). Organization, craft and voice were featured in our guidelines. You will also notice that I am using language that students understand ("stretching toffee"). Students visualize a piece of toffee getting stretched or pulled. This helps them understand the idea of elaboration or providing detailed examples to make their writing interesting for the reader.
Students are also aware of what they can already do in their writing. A bulletin board of "I Can Statements" reminds students of what good writers do. These statements grow over the course of the year as students acquire new skills. It's a great assessment tool or reference for students to use when they are drafting a piece of writing. These statements helped us create the criteria mentioned above.




I am so thrilled with the quality of my students' writing! It is very sophisticated because of the front-loading and because of all of the hard work we've been doing with leads, voice, vivid words, using one's senses, etc. 

In the end, we will be compiling all of our writing into a picture book, which students have planned to give to the Children's Hospital. They want their writing to inspire others and make them feel hopeful. 

I feel this writing project has been so successful! Students were invested in their work right from the start because they knew their thinking would be shared with a larger audience - beyond our school walls. Also, the topic is so very important to them - everyone has dreams! Just look at the sincerity in the examples featured below.

Sample One (Gr. 4):

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Sample 2 (Gr. 4):

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Sample 3 (Gr. 5):

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