Posts Tagged 'writing'

Empowering Students with a “Can do!” Learning Attitude!

Recently while reading a back issue of the New Yorker, I came across a piece titled, “FOOD FIGHTER: Does Whole Foods’ C.E.O. know what is best for you?” While learning about the eccentric and seemingly contradictory nature and political views of the CEO of my favorite grocery chain, one paragraph forced me to pause and fold down the corner of page 40:

In high school, Mackey was an indifferent student, a late bloomer, puberty-wise, and a fanatic about basketball, science fiction, and girls. Before his senior year, he was cut from the varsity basketball team, and he persuaded his parents to move so that he could switch schools and play. “That changed my life, because for the first time I realized that if you didn’t like the hand you were dealt you didn’t just have to feel sorry for yourself. You could do something about it.

You could do something about it! You could do something about it!! YOU COULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!  Or, as my father used to tell me in college, “Anna—think multiple paths. If you can’t achieve your goal one way, be prepared to try a dozen others”.

Beyond teaching skills and content, perhaps the best gifts we can give students (both children and adults) are hope, faith in their own abilities and a “can do” attitude.

Digital technologies offer so much promise when it comes to helping students pursue their passions and the multiple paths to their goals… Aspiring writers no longer have to “wait” for an agent to get noticed, but can use sites like Storybird, Scribd and LuLu to spread their words. Future diplomats can connect with children around the world using sites like Panwapa and ePals. Language lovers can learn second and third languages with LiveMocha and italki. So many apps and endless learning possibilities!

How are you using digital technologies to empower your students to pursue their learning passions?

To doing!

Anna

@bon_education

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Free Literacy Resources Online

Thanks to Tech & Learning for giving Literacy is Priceless a shout out over the holidays! LIP has received a significant traffic as a result!

If you are short on time (who isn’t?!) and into reading edtech research summaries, take a look at Tech & Learning’s Best Practices for the Classroom page where you will find short summaries such as:

To technology, literacy and learning!

Anna

@bon_education

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2010: The Year of the Cell Phone Novel

“Keara, Ethan, wake up! Quick!” the urgent sound of their grandfather’s voice cause both Keara and Ethan to sit bolt upright.

“Why Grandpa Jim? Why did you wake us up? Is it morning?” Keara always full of questions peppered her grandfather with this series of questions.

Grandpa Jim was moving quickly around the room gathering clothes and shoes for each of them so they could dress quickly. Since Grandpa Jim usually moved at a slower pace, both children knew something important was happening.

“A fisherman from the village was just here, he found a whale tangled in a fishing net. If we cannot help the whale, it could die.” (Excerpt from “Set Me Free,” Said the Whale, a cell phone novel by: KJL)

If the Classics don’t seem to get your students excited about reading and writing, why not try a cell phone novel?

Recently while reading, “I ♥ Novels:Young women develop a genre for the cellular age”—a New Yorker article that discusses the rising popularity of the cell phone novel genre throughout Japan—I thought it would be fun to look for kid/teen-friendly English language cell phone novels…

My search quickly brought me to the kids section of the website textnovel—“a social network for authors and readers of serial fiction and the first English language cell phone novel website, allowing members to write and read fiction with their cell phones or computers, using text messaging, email and online tools”. What I like about the site is that it not only welcomes users to contribute stories, but that it encourages them to rate stories, become fans and leave comments—digital literacy skills that are increasingly important for students (and teachers) to cultivate in a hypermedia and social media age.

With a new year (and new decade) around the corner, how about teaching a cell phone novel in January?

If you’re looking for ideas on how to incorporate this new genre into your unit of studies, take a look at the m4Lit Project—a cell phone novel project and research study based out of South Africa that aims to support student leisure reading and writing in both English and isiXhosa and to understand whether cell phones can be used as effective tools for developing literacy and a love of reading amongst teens. While browsing through the project site, make sure to visit the cell phone story Kontax—“about the adventures of 4 cool teenagers”.

Happy texting!

Anna (@bon_education)

P.S. For more ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into your classroom, take a look at the post Using cell phones as teaching and learning tools.

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Childhood Dreams

I just finished listening to “the Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. After seeing the book in airports and bookstores across the Middle East, Europe and the States, I figured that I might as well see what all the press was about, not to mention all of the hype on You Tube.

So, prior to my journey last week to give technology trainings to teachers in a small village in the mountains of the UAE, I downloaded the audio book to pass the car ride along—desert, followed by rocks, followed by jagged mountains amidst 120 degree heat and haze.

In a nutshell, the book left me thinking for hours, reminding myself of life’s pleasures and priorities and the gift and responsibility teachers have of inspiring, challenging and enabling young (and old) minds to achieve their dreams, imagine, think big and do.

For those of you that need a bit of background information, The Last Lecture website summarizes:

On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” With slides of his CT scans beaming out to the audience, Randy told his audience about the cancer that is devouring his pancreas and that will claim his life in a matter of months. On the stage that day, Randy was youthful, energetic, handsome, often cheerfully, darkly funny. He seemed invincible. But this was a brief moment, as he himself acknowledged.

Randy’s lecture has become a phenomenon, as has the book he wrote based on the same principles, celebrating the dreams we all strive to make realities. Sadly, Randy lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 25th, 2008, but his legacy will continue to inspire us all, for generations to come.

Pausch for the most part tells us the lessons he wished he could teach his kids if he were around to watch them grow into adults. His messages are simple, easy to relate to and grounded in a ton of Disney World metaphors and examples (one of Pausch’s dreams was to become an imagineer—a dream he accomplished), making the book very digestible across a wide variety of audiences. Perhaps it is his simple lessons and prose that make the messages so sticky (see Will your lessons stand the test of time?).

In the addendum of the audio book, there is a live interview with the real Randy Pausch (the audio book of course was read by someone else) in which Pausch is asked, “What inspired the topic of your lecture?” Pausch responds, “A list that I made at the age of eight, ‘My Lifelong Dreams'”.

As you think about topics to teach this summer or next fall, consider having your students write or create a multimedia response to the theme, “My Dreams”. While you’re at it, take a moment to recollect yours.

Happy Dreamin’!

From Dubai,
Anna

P.S. My favorite quote from the book, “Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them – even if someone practically had to throw you over – it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it”.

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How to make a Classroom Blog on WordPress

Tomorrow I will deliver a professional development session on technology tools for the classroom to Fujairah teachers. One of the topics we will cover is classroom blogging.

Classroom blogs are an excellent tool for motivating students to read, write and share their ideas. To learn more about classroom blogging and to view sample classroom blogs, make sure to review my previous post, “Helpful Resources for Finding and Creating Classroom Blogs“.

To learn how to set up your own classroom blog on WordPress, watch this slideshow:

Happy Classroom Blogging!

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Once upon a school, one-on-one attention, and 100% inspiration

We can all make our community schools and children within them healthier and happier “one human interaction at a time.” Watch this video and be inspired as you learn what Dave Eggers and thousands of other adults have done across the world to help children in their local neighborhoods learn to love writing (and homework too)!

I found this talk on the website Once Upon a School–a site where you can:

  1. Find an idea to work with a local school
  2. Be inspired by projects happening now
  3. Tell a story about your own projects (that have helped children in your local schools)

Here are some projects ideas for your school and classroom! Take a look, implement an idea and tell the world about it!

Anna

PS For more inspiring talks, check out TED:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

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Wouldn’t it be fun to make a classroom book?!

Last weekend I attended my sister’s college graduation at Virginia Tech. Since the drive to Tech is a bit long, my family had lots of time to catch up. While talking about FreeReading with my father, he mentioned that I should spend time on the website blurb.

Blurb is a website and service that allows you to turn your photos, text and artwork into beautiful and professionally bound books. For examples of the types of books you can make using this site, click here. My father’s good friend Andy Ilachinski uses blurb to create books of his photographs. Andy highly recommends the site, which in my mind is the equivalent of giving blurb a Michelin star!

Just imagine how much fun it would be for your students to create a professionally bound class book filled with student poetry, illustrations and more!

Have fun!

Anna

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Free ELL Literacy Resources on the Web

While reading the latest issue of T.H.E. journal, I came across a very useful article about online resources for ELL teachers and students. In the article, ELL Spoken Here, I learned about the following resources:

  1. Childtopia-This site has a ton of educational games in multiple languages to help children develop literacy and writing skills. I like the Learn to Draw the Letters Game.
  2. ESL Flashcards-In need of flashcards, but don’t have time to make them or care to buy them? This is a great site to bookmark!
  3. Kindersay-My favorite resource mentioned in the article! This site has a ton of free videos to help develop vocabulary in young children and ELL students! Try it here.

Thanks Neal Starkman for writing ELL Spoken Here!

Anna

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Happy National Poetry Month!

It’s National Poetry Month, so why not celebrate with these classics:

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Don’t Bump the Glump, The Giving Tree … Ring a bell?! Who doesn’t have fond memories of curling up with these Shel Silverstein hits! Check out Silverstein’s website! You won’t be disappointed. This site is SO much fun for both children and adults. You can watch animations for each of Silverstein’s books, you can find printables and activities about poetry, and you can try your hand at writing some poetry as well! Click here to start! -Anna

Free Curricula from England

My friend Li just sent me the link to Curriculum Online. This site is sponsored by the British government. Feel free to search for English and reading lessons and resources here. Make sure that you target your search to free resources ;-).

Here is a sample lesson I found that uses patterned story and picture books as models to help children learn how to write.

Anna

Teaching comprehension and writing…

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has a great website for early literacy educators and parents filled with teaching strategies, suggested professional reading and lessons.

Check out this comprehension lesson that uses animal stories/nonfiction pieces as mediums through which children can learn to distinguish fact from fiction. Embedded in the lesson plan are links to numerous child-friendly web pages filled with information on ants, penguins, polar bears and more!

I also find the NCTE web page on Writing in the Early Grades a very useful resource for learning both the research behind writing development, as well as lesson plan ideas for helping children learn to write.

This is definitely a site I am going to return to!

Anna


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