Thursday, June 3, 2010

Twitter in the Classroom: Writing in 140 Characters

The following resources are for my Longleaf Writing Project workshop on using Twitter in the classroom.

“…we are experiencing a vast transformation of the way we ‘read’ and ‘write’ and a broadening of the way we conceptualize ‘literacy.” (Kist, 2009)

“We tend to imagine a lonely writer holed up in an artist’s garret, lost in reverie…but increasingly writers are collaborating with other writers on texts – writers who may live thousands of miles away.” (Kist, 2009)

“We need to give students practice in working collaboratively to produce these kinds of texts.” (Kist, 2009)

“Helping writers develop fluency and competence in a variety of technologies is a key part of teaching writing in this century.” (Yancey, 2005)

Twitter Sign-Up Instructions, How to Shorten a URL, and Workshop Plan

Resources for Getting Started as a Twitter Teacher
Twitter in Plain English
Twitter in the Classroom
Twitter 4 teachers Wiki
"The 7 Step Quick-Start Guide for New Tweeters"
"Twitter 101 for Educators"
"Nine Great Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Twitter"
Edchat Wiki

Terms to Know
Tweet – A public message Twitter users send. Messages must be 140 characters or less.

@ - Use @ before a tweeter’s username when referring to them in a tweet. This makes their username clickable, and your tweet referencing them will show up in their Twitter stream:
@BryantHistoryT Come by my room to check out my new history resources!

Retweet – Forwarding another user’s message on to your followers. A retweet might look like this:
RT @theprofspage Just learned about a new French resource from @_clayr_!

Hashtag – A way that Twitter users indicate that their message relates to a specific topic. People can then search the hashtag to find all related tweets on that topic.
#lwp links our Longleaf Writing Project discussions.

Direct Message (DM) – You can send a direct message to anyone who follows you on Twitter. This message is private and will only be visible to you and the recipient.

URL Shorteners – Since Twitter only allows for 140 characters, you may want to shorten long URLs when posting links in your tweets. Tiny URL and work great for this, and there are a number of others.

Great Tweeters for Starting Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Twitter Uses in the Classroom
Post homework updates and reminders
Notify parents of upcoming class activities
Crowdsource questions connected to class content
Collaborate on stories
Use classmates as lifelines on writing assignments
Build resource lists for research
Summarize chunks of text or the day’s learning
Tweet as exit slip
Define vocabulary
Tweet as character/historical figure
Develop timelines

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Learn Tons from These Language Blogs!

Voting for the top language blogs is currently under way at Lexiophiles, and I was tickled to learn that Paperless English got a nomination in the Language Teaching category :)

There are many awesome blogs nominated, some I've been learning from for a while and some new ones I discovered from the list of nominees. Below you'll find some of my favorites from each category. Check them out, and be sure to vote for your favorites by May 24.

Language Technology
Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom

Language Professionals
The Grammarphobia Blog
Ken Wilson's Blog

Language Teaching
Teacher Boot Camp
Grammar Girl

Language Learning
English Raven
Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Uses for Word Clouds

I love word clouds. This one, made at Wordle by simply pasting in a URL, collects words used in this blog and reflects the frequency of their use.

My purpose in creating this one was twofold:

1. To reflect a little on some of the things I've learned now that this school year is drawing to a close.

2. To check my word choice. I tend to overuse certain words and phrases and should keep tabs on them more closely.

Both of these could be great uses of word clouds for students. I've also used one for a pre-reading activity by pasting in a chunk of text and asking students to make predictions. For a post-reading activity, students could use a word cloud as a jumping-off point for a summary of text they've read.

Additional word cloud options include WordItOut, Tagul, and Tagxedo (which can be used to create awesome shapes). What are some other ways to use word clouds in the classroom?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Harry Noden's Image Grammar Gone Paperless

This summer I'll be participating in the Longleaf Writing Project, our local site for the National Writing Project. Orientation for the summer program was last weekend, and one of the teacher leaders modeled a workshop on improving sentence structure using the five brushstrokes discussed in Harry Noden's Image Grammar. The five brushstrokes are as follows:

Painting with participles
Painting with absolutes
Painting with appositives
Painting with adjectives shifted out of order
Painting with action verbs

My students, like many others, are highly visual learners, and a number of them are pretty talented artists, so I thought I'd try out a paperless version of this activity. Here's the plan (pdf) for the two-day lesson.

I did this with post-exam AP Language students, and the "all brushstrokes at once" strategy worked nicely as a review of many things they've discussed before. When I plan lessons to attack the same skills with my ninth or tenth grade English students in the fall, however, I'll break it down into much smaller chunks, focusing on one brushstroke at a time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Animoto for Education - Bringing your classroom to live

Animoto has been one of my favorite new tools to use this school year. It allows students to use photos, text, and music to make polished video presentations, and my kids have found it incredibly easy to use.

From a language teacher's point-of-view, the text students insert into presentations can be one of the most useful sources for a lesson. The main text boxes allow for only twenty-two characters, and the sub text boxes allow for thirty.

So when, for example, my students create videos depicting excerpts from 1984 or use Animoto to reflect on their oral history projects, they must choose their words very carefully. This lends itself nicely to discussions of strong verbs and economy of language, as well as other aspects of diction and syntax.

It's also an opportunity for vocabulary building:

Student 1: " I need to say Julia was 'a rebel from the waist down,' but I have only twelve characters left!"

Student 2: "Promiscuous!"

I'd love to hear other ideas for using Animoto in the classroom. Please post if you've got any suggestions. If Animoto is new to you, here's a bit more info from Free Technology for Teachers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Do We Work at the Same Place?"

Bad PD = redundant
Good PD = oxymoron

While doing my spring classroom cleaning, I found these words scribbled in the margins of an info packet I received at a workshop during the spring semester of my first year as a teacher. Less than a year into my teaching career, I'd already experienced numerous sessions that prompted me to write off most professional development as a waste of time and money.

Five years later, I know that what I experienced in that first year was not professional development at all. Instead, a district employee acknowledged a general need, got a brochure from an outside consultant or company, and sent us off to two days of...not much. Someone was paid thousands of dollars to read us a PowerPoint. While I appreciate any system's desire to provide support for teachers, it's pretty clear that it's often a big thing done badly.

This week, teachers at my school were asked to complete a climate survey. I think that my choices reflect a pretty positive outlook regarding many things going on where I work. I love my school. It's far from perfect, but there are a number of positives and many moves in the right direction. In a discussion about the survey, however, I heard, "Do we work at the same place?"

It then occurred to me that, because of my participation on a variety of committees and in real professional development, I get to discuss with my school's leaders the big problems and how to solve them. I get to see classroom teachers take on leadership roles that demonstrate their commitment to our school's improvement and our kids' success. And this makes me hopeful, boosts my morale, and increases my own commitment to do my job the best I can.

I can only imagine, however, that faculty members who aren't privy to those conversations and only receive "PD" like I got as a first-year could very easily feel like they work in a completely different place - one in which they have little to no voice and one in which lifelong learning sounds like a nice idea but an impossible reality.

This week's early #edchat (archive here) addressed the effect that professional development can have on education reform. My experience has taught me that true professional development - on-going, teacher-led, and specifically geared to personal interests and needs - empowers teachers and increases their job satisfaction. It's the way to get teacher buy-in for trying new things, and the more committed teachers we have who show up to play, the greater our chances for real change.

I'm left with questions, though. How much responsibility should be placed on teachers to seek out meaningful PD on their own? What can a school's professional development committee, department chairs, and other leaders do to change the perceptions regarding PD and to transform frustrated, burnt-out teachers into lifelong learners?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oral History Project Resources

A couple of folks have pointed me in the direction of some awesome oral history resources since my Oral History Project post, so here they are front and center for anyone who might like to try something like it with their students:

Theatre Archive Project - Teaching the Talk: Many thanks to Dr. Alec Patton for the heads-up on this resource. Interview and transcription guidelines are available for download here. He created these materials while working with students on a project on postwar British theatre, but the guidelines could be adapted for a variety of assignments.

Story Corps: During the project, we did listen to a few selections from Story Corps to give the students a bit of background regarding oral histories. What I just learned about, thanks to my husband, is the Story Corps app for the iPhone. The app allows you to listen to other people's stories and read tips for developing questions and recording your own. You can even use the app to create a list of interview questions, record the interview, and share the story using a variety of social media. Anyone interested in violating policy on cell phone use? If my kids learn something from it, I know I am ;)