Helpful Teaching Websites & Apps

helpful-websites

Over the years I have had so many resources and websites shared with me…but I can never seem to remember them all or I forget to bookmark them on different computers. This post is more about consolidating all the great sites that I have seen over the years. please comment below if you have other sites that you love or if you are wondering about a resource.  What are your favourite sites?

General Teacher Websites:  

Idello : Resources for Canadian teachers

Ontario Ministry of Education –I know, this is a little obvious, but, hey, it might as well be there.

National Archives of Canada

BBC

Fun Brain : Various activities & games for students

Mr. Nussbaum Various activities & games for students

Math Websites:

These websites are great for number talks or setting up 3 part lesson plans.

http://www.estimation180.com/

http://www.nelson.com/eyesonmath/download.html

http://www.nelson.com/eyesonmath/documents/Eyes%20on%20Math%20-%206-8%20Sample.pdf

http://www.fractiontalks.com/

http://www.graphingstories.com/

http://www.openmiddle.com/

http://www.tvdsb.ca/programs.cfm?subpage=284813

https://solveme.edc.org/Mobiles.html

http://www.visualpatterns.org/

http://www.wodb.ca/

https://www.youcubed.org/

Mathies: online math tools to show how to use various math manipulatives

http://elemath.hallco.org/web/number-talks/

http://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/resources/potw-f.php

http://www.aplusclick.com/grade8.htm

https://www.assistancescolaire.com

http://www.tvdsb.ca/webpages/silcoxc/

http://www.mathtalks.net/teachers.html

National Library of Visual Manipulatives

Tap Into Teen Minds  : How to teach intermediate math concepts

These websites are for reading about the “why” we do student centered math.

edugains.ca

CODE-Ontario Directors

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

These are website that students could go to play math games:

Math Frog

Count On

Puzzle Playgrounds

A+ Math

Math Prodigy (see below in Applications)

 

FSL:

Assistance Scholaire

https://sites.google.com/a/ocdsb.ca/mme-bourdages/home

Allo Prof -Great resource from Quebec

Carrefour Education -A resource sharing site from Quebec

http://www.1jour1actu.com/

(daily articles in kid friendly French & videos for listening)

Mr. Renaud -this website is full of elementary FSL activities

Pour Mieux Enseigner –TPT for French teachers

(Teachers Pay Teacher but with French resources)

École Branchee

(this site is all about the digital world and using it for education)

Accents : This gives you all the key commands for adding accents into Microsoft

Quia–FSL Games This sites allows you to access games made by other FSL teachers. You can make your own too.

TV5 Monde

FSL Activities/Resources for students: 

Listening:

TFO (Television Franco-Ontarien)  -students can watch shows & play games in French

Ici Radio Canada–jeuness -French games & shows

Writing:

Bon Patron -this site checks texts for all sorts of grammatical errors. It’s great to help students correct their work.

Le Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique – Online dictionary by the Quebec government

Beschrelle– Verb conjugation, Dictees & Games

 

English:

Read Write Think

Media:

Media Smarts  -French and English resources

The Oatmeal – Funniest English Grammar Explanations & Posters

Social Studies/ History Geographie: 

Ontario Social Studies Teachers Association

Historica Canada

Culture Grams

Our Roots

The Canadian Parliament

Health*

*many of these links are for teaching Intermediate Health and specifically Sex Ed.  Please do not open these in front of your class the first time you check them out.

OPHEA

Teen Health

Always–Info for Teen Girls : Information  on periods &  teen pregnancy

An article about the effects of drugs

Middlesex Health Unit

Sex Etc.

Science

Science Teachers of Ontario

Science World

The Science CentreScientists in the School

Government of Canada

Science Teachers of Ontario–Resources page

Applications:

Class Dojo –Communicate with your students’ parents and post pictures & announcements in a Facebook style forum—that can only be seen by the people you invite. (so no one except the parents & you)

Plickers -Love this app. It allows you to quiz students with multiple choice or True or False question and gives you instant results. I find it useful as an “exit card”

https://padlet.com/ – This website allows various people to brainstorm or answer questions simultaneously. It’s fun but you might have to be careful as it doesn’t show who is writing what.

Math Prodigy – This website allows teachers to track their students math skills through an online game. Many of my students love this. I use it as something they can do when they are done, but you can also set up tests. through it.

Emaze – This website allows you to make interactive presentation online.

 

 

 

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The Day I Terrified my Students with Exclamation Marks

Do you ever get off topic? I do constantly.

Somedays, are better than others, of course. But today, today was just silly. I was trying to do a Number Talk with my students but I had picked a question that was too difficult. Trying to tease out answers from my students was like playing tug of war with a bulldog. So when I finally got a pretty good answer from one student I proceeded to follow the answer with two exclamation points and then, because I thought it would be funny, I added a half circle underneath to make a smiley face.

I know, I know, we are supposed to value all answers and do so in a professional way…to be fair, I had valued other answers I was just misguidedly trying to wake up my tired class. It seemed we all had a case of the Mondays…or well, Tuesday after Family day.

Instead of getting a mild chuckle, one of my students looked at me in alarm. Her eyes opened to a comic degree and she announced, “I am so terrified of those happy faces. Eyebrows should NOT be vertical lines.” Suddenly, the class erupted in chatter about the terrifying smiley faces. (Yes, I can be about as mature as a 4 year old and often put these smiley faces on student work.) I had no idea I was causing such trauma. My poor Grades 7 and 8s were feeling fear where I had been trying to bring joy. Vertical eyebrows. Who knew?

And that was it. I had lost them for the day.  Done. Over. Luckily, there was only about 15 minutes left to the day so I simply laughed and decided to try again tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll be more on task. Tomorrow my math lesson will dazzle them and they will all come away loving  numbers. (Or maybe not hating them?)

But today, today I scared them with exclamation marks.

Heavy Hearted but Inspired

inspiration-landing

It was another mind-blowing, head-spinning, awe-inspiring session from Annette Gilbert.  So many ideas, questions and reflections are swirling around in my head right now I’m having trouble concentrating…(or maybe that’s all the coffee and sugar I ingested…nah, it’s the workshop…ANYWAYS)

This PD has been over four days. That’s right. Four. Full. Days. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it and I know I’m not the only one. I’m sure many of us are a little heavy hearted as this ends.  Heavy hearted but inspired.

Our first day was all about Names. The story of our name, name stories in different texts, how to tease out a name story from the students. The next session was identity. Where we come from where we get our sense of self. Our third session was about getting a sense of our feelings and how to zoom in on them. Our final session has been all about having a sense of place.

Personification

personification

As usual this wasn’t just a simple, “remember to discuss setting in student writing” kind of session..no, this was so much more. We started by looking at texts which contained some excellent examples of settings that become characters themselves in the novels. Then we reflected.

Why is setting important?

What does it tell us about the characters?

What does it do for the reader?

How can we help students enliven their writing by beefing up the descriptions of the places in their stories?

To tie into that we looked at personification. What better way to bring alive a setting than to personify it?  Again we looked at a couple of examples and then did a quick activity where we matched verbs and places and wrote a sentence in which those two words were used and the place was personified. It made for electrifying pieces of writing from the pairs of teachers, “Cookies mocked and arenas laughed.”

PWIM

Once we had shared a few personifications we moved on to pwimming (yes, I just made that up. It’s not a real verb, yet) PWIM stands for Picture Word Induction Model. I was thrilled to find out that it was something I already did.  (Yay! Sometimes I do have good ideas all on my own!) The basic idea with PWIM is to use pictures to inspire writers or give them a focus.

What we did was fisrt look as a group at one picture (placed in the middle of chart paper) and add all the nouns, adjectives and then verbs that came to mind. Annette dutifully recorded the ideas on the chart paper. Normally, if you were doing this with a class you would then write a couple sentences describing the scene using the words given. You could then also encourage the students to create personification in the description. Since we were short on time Annette showed us what a previous class of hers had come up with. It was gratifying to see some of the words we had used come up in their description.

Next it was our turn. In pairs we chose a picture and followed the same steps. A gallery walk followed allowing us to look at each other’s creations. It was very cool.  (Well, you know, in a geeky teacher kinda way) 


Now, in a class you might want to slow the process down over a few classes. Have them brainstorm just nouns, then gallery walk. Just adjectives then gallery walk. Just verbs, then gallery walk. The idea being that students could gain inspiration and vocabulary from each other. I’m so excited to try this in my French Immersion class. Imagine all the vocabulary they could tease out?! Fantastique. 

Sketchy

We moved on to looking at how sketching can inspire reluctant writers. I think it was the quietest moment in all the four days. Everyone just sat sketching a special place. Everyone was very focussed. It was a great break and it helped many of us quiet our minds and relax. Some other reasons for getting students to sketch before (or during) writing are:

  • sketches can inform writing or enhance it
  • it helps focus one’s thoughts
  • It allows the students to better visualize the place which could then make it easier to describe
  • It can bring out the emotions associated with that event/time/place (as I sketched one of my favourite places I realized I wasn’t being accurate but that my drawing did, actually, mirror my feelings towards that place)
  • It’s great for visual learners
  • The sketch could spark more memories than words might

Reflect & Celebrate

We ended the session by reflecting on all that we had learned and hoped to still do and celebrated each other and our writing so far. We did a cool activity where we were given two sided papers with the writing prompts: I used to…   But now…  


It was insightful and inspiring to hear what my fellow teachers were taking away from the  sessions. There was a lot of learning happening.

I reflected that I was starting to use this blog to consolidate all my learning from the MANY PD sessions I have been going to this year. I’m going to try to keep doing that. I will also try to blog about my different lessons when I try new ideas (whether they work or fail brilliantly) I think I have been bitten by the writing bug and I hope to share some of my enthusiasm with my students. Please let it catch.

Fingers crossed for now.

 

 

Where I’m From

img_0490

A month or two ago I went to a workshop on reluctant writers and was challenged to write a poem about where I’m from based on this poem. If you like the idea of doing this poem as an exercise with your class here is a template there are many to choose from.

It took me a long while to write it but here is it…be gentle!

Where I’m From

I’m from dragonflies and cattails,
From milkweed and stinging nettles
I’m from tall pines and ancient oaks
(bare branches scraggly,
Reaching and gnarly)
I am from the clear waters and strong currents of the Coulonge
From mud pies and raspberry bush scratches

I am from garden tomatoes and tractors
From Sharon and Richard
I’m from eeny-meeny and Stella-ella-hola
J’ai un beau château and “Francais, s’il-vous-plait”  

I’m from chlorine, cheerios and canal skates
From squeeky skis on snow

I’m from Fuocos and Raths,
From tourtière, spaghetti & strawberry rhubarb
From “G’day!”  and  “Ben, voyons!”
I’m from cherubic choir voices and camp fire sing-a-longs
From Charlie’s one room school house
and Andre’s deafening printing press
From union presidents and hippies
Teachers and nurses                                                                                                                         

Lawyers and cabinet makers,                                                                                                                   I’m from drafters and drifters 

I’m from songs sprung from words,
Stories told and retold                                                                                                          

Rowdy late nights and sun kissed early mornings
From card games and giggle fits
Memories foggy and sharp
Ever present and slipping through my fingers…

Consolidate This

scientist-math-psychics-magnet-science-hd-wallpaper-background

Consolidation is by far my biggest struggle when it comes to teaching math.  So when I was offered the chance to take PD on it, I jumped. The session was called: “Landing the Plane: Consolidating Learning in the 4-8 Math Class”.

I think my favourite quote from the session was this one:

 “Teacher practices that promote inquiry can be challenging to implement…” Suurtam, C. Quigley, B. & Lazarus, J. (2015) 

Ya think? It certainly wasn’t the way I was taught and I continually have to reassess how I’m teaching to make sure I’m pushing inquiry…but this session really helped.

We looked at the book The 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. It’s a practical guide to planning out a 3 part Lesson that guides you towards better consolidation. “But, what ARE the 5 Practices?” you ask. Well, since you are bursting with excitement, let me tell you. They are…drum roll…

Anticipating

When you have chosen your open ended questions (yes, this is based on a 3 Part Lesson) you need to anticipate how you think students will solve the problems. Write down all the strategies you think they will use and also try to anticipate what problems may arise. What misconceptions or gaps in knowledge may come up. Then you consider how you might guide students with misconceptions or get them to solve the problem in another way. You should also anticipate what to say/do to extend the questions for the students that might solve it very quickly.

Monitoring

Monitoring happens during the lesson. Once you have anticipated what the students might do; you circulate in the class and take notes of which strategies they use and which misconceptions they have. We were given this handout : lesson-planner-5-practices to help prep the lesson. I then made this handout for monitoring the students while they worked: Strategies Observation Sheet . What’s great about this approach is all the rich data you can collect, quickly about the students. It would definitely be good for next steps come report card writing time.

Selecting

Once you have monitored all the students’ work you will want to select the answers that highlight certain strategies and math thinking. The selection of the students’ strategies is done based on the lesson’s goal for that day. The reason you select is to allow you to show one example and then you can always mentions others who used the same strategy without going through every answer.

Sequencing

Before you present the various student strategies decide on an order. This is where the consolidation piece really starts to come together. You’ll want to introduce the different strategies and thinking in an order that will guide the students to more effective strategies and to the lesson’s goal.

Connecting

Finally you want to connect all the strategies to each other and to the lesson’s goal. This is where you weave together the students’ strategies showing the connections to each other and the final goal of the lesson. This is also the time to challenge students to expand their repertoire of strategies and mathematical thinking.

Practic 0?

But wait…is something bugging you about the strategies? Like maybe…,”How do we pick the Lesson Goal?” Yeah that was bugging me during the start of the PD too. I kept wondering, “How do we know what the goal is?” Luckily the authors and session trainers had asked that question too. Turns out there’s a “Practice 0”. Yep. Chapter 2 of the book is all about setting goals and picking rich questions. Unfortunately the book doesn’t provide the actually questions save for a few sample lessons that they analyze through the book. This is where Marian Small saved the day.

I’m very fortunate to have an amazing admin who are always ready to share resources. So, when I felt I was ready to try this type of lesson out I went to see them about some resources that had been suggested at the PD session. You see, there are some amazing people who LOVE, I mean, really ADORE math and they have written tons of books on how to do make it more engaging. Marian Small is one of those amazing people and her books are full of low floor high-ceiling questions. Her books can be expensive…but, like I said, I have an awesome admin who happily shared.

Here are some of the books that helped me: (The links do bring you to pages where you could buys them but I’m not getting any money for that…I just like the books)

Great Ways to Differenciate Mathematics Instruction  This book  is a JEM. Not only does it have a bunch of questions sorted by strand and grades but it also has parallel tasks. Parallel tasks are similar questions that allow you to differentiate for your students.

Making Math Meaningful  This mammoth book is packed with excellent examples of open questions and how to teach them. The first few chapters explain why to teach with open questions and also explains Big Ideas and how to find them and guide your lesson with them. Then the book gets broken into the different mathematical concepts with many examples of questions to go with.

Les Questions Ouvertes  This is another by Marian Small book which is chock full of question IN FRENCH! Immersion teachers rejoice!! I was sooo excited when my VP held this one up. I might have drooled. Maybe, just a little. So far, though my school only has the Number Sense and Numeration book…I’m not sure if that is because that is all that is published or simply because my school hasn’t bought the others yet. Still, drool.

Phew! That was a lot to throw at you and my head was certainly spinning with ideas and questions after this session. I’ll post soon with how the lessons are going.

 

 

BOOM! Exploding a Moment

powder-explosion

Pivotal moments make great fodder for writing. But what is a pivotal moment? How can we tell? How can we get our students to realize it’s pivotal? And what about little moments…can they be good fodder?

It was day 3 of my Reluctant Writers PD (for intermediate) and we explored the concept of exploding a moment and how to get students to re-write & revise. (I’ll get to that in a sec)

But what’s exploding a moment? My Grade 7/8s will be sad to hear it doesn’t actually involve dynamite. (Sorry, guys) It’s more about taking an important moment and stretching out those minutes & seconds that lead up to it. What were you (or the subject) thinking, feeling, tasting, hearing, smelling, seeing? It’s about exploring every little detail to build anticipation. Relishing and stretching it. Exploding a moment means to slow it down. It emphasizes, it crystallizes.

Life Graphs

To get our students to start thinking of which moments they might explode we were given a handout about making life graphs. The concept (and handout) comes from the book Read Write Teach by Linda Rief.  The idea behind the life graph is to have the students list about 10 of their best moments and then about 7 of their worst. They then chart out the moments. The y axis would show the scale of the moments: 10 being the absolute best, -10 being the absolute worst. The x axis would show the student’s life in years. (YES, there are MATH links in this too!! Woohoo! Cross-curricular activity!!) This exercise not only gets students talking, sharing and then writing about their lives but it also makes a great stepping stone for realizing which moments they could “explode”. Here is a pic from Read Write Teach with examples of Life Graphs. If you would like a PDF of the hand out click here: readwriteteachlife-graph.

life-graph

I decided to google Exploding a moment and also found this link about Exploding a Moment by ReadWriteThink . It’s another take.

Giving Good Feedback

Next we discussed giving rich feedback and, more importantly, how to teach students how to give good feedback. As you all know, students and people in general have a hard time giving feedback to their peers. None of us want to offend our fellow students or colleagues. But what if students DID give good feedback. Wouldn’t that be an incredible opportunity for growth? It could also teach students to better analyse their own writing. Here is a breakdown of how to give feedback in a ladder analogy. Again, if you would like a PDF, click here: feedbackladder


In order to know what it feels like to give good feedback and to receive it we practiced on each other and on each others’ student work. It was great to hear what other teachers might suggest for feedback to my own students and it was fascinating to try to give feedback to my colleagues.  We used this template to give feedback: feedback-protocal .

What I really loved about this template is that it made me focus my feedback not only on what was missing but also what I liked. Annette also encouraged us to quote our students when giving feedback, “I loved when you said…” or “when you said this I wondered…”. After we had given the specific positive feedback then we were encouraged to highlight one line to improve. Coming from an Immersion background I found this hard because there is often SO MUCH for the students to correct but I think my feedback will be more powerful and less overwhelming if I follow this approach. Fingers crossed.

Less is More

Finally we looked at slowing down the production of writing. Is it really necessary to make our students produce as much as we are? What if we focused on quality instead of quantity?  I am a big offender in giving out WAY too many writing prompts and not enough time to look over the writing. This was a good reminder. Here are two handouts we were given that helped show how to break up the writing and stretch out the writing experience. This is one page: writing-cyle This one is more of a break down of a balanced literacy block. gradual-release-read-write

 

Instead of asking them to spend so much time writing different pieces we explored what it would look like if  we had students re-work the same piece many times over. Would that work? Would they mutiny and burn their notebooks? I’m terrified of door B but I’ll never know until I try. At least I feel like I have a few tricks up my sleeve now.

So much to think about …and write about.

 

 

Where Are We From?

maple-mosaic

Identity.

What a loaded word. There is so much attached to it: race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, heritage, the era you grew up in, pop culture, the music you listen to, language and more. Which is exactly why it was the perfect topic for our second reluctant writers PD.

Our Fearless Leader, Anette Gilbert, continues to amaze.  Every session is jammed pack with amazing ideas. Last session we started with the story of our name. We delved into a rich variety of authors texts that had examples of name stories. We discussed the power of names and the significance a name can have depending of the culture.

This session we expanded into Identity. We dug into what makes up our identities. We brainstormed, we watched videos, we looked at yet more amazing books (Chapters is going to LOVE me) and we looked at a poem that can be used as a jumping off point to inspiring students (and teachers) to tell the story of where they are from.

I was stunned at the incredible poems that some of my fellow teacher produced in the span of 10 minutes. They were clearly inspired..and very talented. In the same time I had scribbled down a jumble of mixed up thoughts they had written full rhyming poems about their childhood and heritage. It was so inspiring!

As I struggled with my “Where I’m From” poem I reflected on my not so typical childhood. My parents were “back-to-the-landers” well educated city kids that had decided to move to the country for its beauty and simplicity. But out in the country we were oddballs, hippies amongst country folk. We shared the space but not life philosophies.

To further add to my feeling of “outsider” my mother was an anglophone and my father a francophone. No biggie of course but it did mean that I was “l’Anglaise” cousin to my dad’s family and the slightly strange French Frog cousin to my mom’s family.  Oh, and for fun, we spent a year on a Cree Reservation near James Bay where I was the only white kid in the village. Other. Outsider.

Please don’t get me wrong,  I LOVED my childhood. I loved playing in the woods with my friend and our dogs. I loved both my families and the rich cultures they shared with me. I love that I was able to experience the rich Cree Culture for a year. I loved the French schools I attended. I’ve had a beautiful and diverse upbringing. But as my amazing classmates shared their beautiful and very relatable poems I wondered…”Will anyone understand mine?” But you know what? It doesn’t matter.

This class was about sharing our experiences and learning from each other. Not being the same. Anette had populated the class with immigrant stories, native stories. The room was filled with people whose identities were tied to “other”.

This is Canada, after all. Most of us have been stitched together from so many different cultures, experiences, places, foods, sights and sounds that none of us can completely relate and yet all of us can. We are diverse. We are other. And we are unified by our patchwork history. That’s the beauty of this place, isn’t it?

So I still haven’t finished my “Where I’m From” poem but I’m less worried about being relatable and more excited to share my diversity. What’s your patchwork?

The “New” Math

math-reversed

Everybody is talking about Math.

At least, that’s how it seems. Teaching through Inquiry, the 3-Part-Lesson, Number Talks, High-Ceiling/Low Floor Questions. Less questions with deeper understanding….but how? How do I put it all together. I, brilliantly, decided to sign up for a Math-Lead position at my school.  It’s exciting and terrifying all at once. I really want to get all this and do better by my students but I’m also worried I’ll fail publicly and fantastically at it.  But let’s see if I can try to deconstruct what some of these ideas are and where the resources are too.

After a quick Google search (yes, that’s where I started…why not?) I found quite a few really interesting websites. So, to quell my fears and help me try to start to make sense of it all I’ve compiled them here. Once I start going to more PD I’ll share what I learn. Hopefully it will be a bit more focused.

The 3 Part Lesson Plan:

Inquiry/ Open Ended Questions

French Resources for Math:

This is just a start. There were so MANY websites (heck, there’s at least one whole school based on Inquiry that popped in the first search page) But to not completely overwhelm myself or any other reader (Is anyone actually reading this?) I will stop here, for now. Here’s hoping that my future PD will selp me synthesize some of this into a more helpful and palpable post.  In the meantime I at least have gathered all these sites in place that I can reference in the future.

 

 

Loud and Proud (My Name Story)

Stephanie. What a BORING name. Snooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre. It was such a common name in the 80s. Right up there with Jennifer and Jessica. (no offense, ladies) How many of us do YOU know? Too many, I bet. There were (are) too many of us. When my generation becomes grandparents the “Grandma Names” will be Stephanie, Jessica and Jennifer…oh and Ashleigh. No more Margarets, Pearls and Marys. It’ll be my name. It’s that common.

In my Grade 7 class alone there were 3 Stephanies. Stephanie Brown, Stephanie McMullen and me, Stephanie-Lynn Fuoco. So in the school yard we were: Steph Brown, Steph McMullen and Steph-Lynn. “Yep, I thought,  “The kids at my elementary school are creative geniuses.” But I at least had my middle name to be different.  

The funniest part about my name? I wasn’t even supposed to be called Stephanie. Nope. My parents had discussed, and agreed, on Anne-Marie. It was a good name. One that works in our family languages: French and English. It even worked in Italian which the Fuocos don’t speak anymore but still love. A nice name: traditional, easily pronounced and cosmopolitan.

Ironically, Anne-Marie was the French Canadian equivalent of Jessica back then, but no matter, that name didn’t pan out. You see, when I popped out, my mom took one look at me and said, “Stephanie”. My dad, who had just watched my mother give birth chose, very wisely, not to argue. Later on, he added the Lynn. (Merci, Pa!)

The Lynn part of my name actually helped me feel a bit unique in the sea of Stephanies… and Steph-Lynn? That followed me to High School and then into University. When I finally got out into the working world I dropped the Lynn only to realize that, I kinda missed it.

HA!

So now when someone calls me Steph-Lynn I get that warm glow that comes from childhood memories. The same golden feeling that you get when you reconnect with someone who was a child with you. You know you don’t have to pretend to be a serious, career-oriented adult, you can just relax with that person and be your true, silly self. That glow.

I don’t even mind Stephanie anymore. I wear my name like a badge of honour. “That’s right, I’m a child of the 80s. I liked Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony & Transformers, the first time. I watched the Smurfs and had a Skippit and a Pogo Ball

That’s right, Steph-Lynn. Loud and proud.

Top 7 Things I Learned at Reluctant Writers Workshop

I just had my first full day PD for teachers of Reluctant Writers in grade 6-7-8. It was a great workshop, but wait…that was the most boring start to a blog post, ever! Especially a blog about Reluctant Writers. SNORE!!! Are you still even reading? Good for you if you are….I’ll try to make this more interesting now, Drum Roll please……..

The Top 7 Things I Learned About Teaching Reluctant Writers are:

  1.  Pre-Talk : Reluctant writers, and all writers, really, do better if you allow them to talk ideas out first before starting to write. (So you mean those writing prompts first thing in the morning aren’t always the best idea, huh. oops) Allowing students to talk out ideas will give them more to work with when they do start writing. Two funny looking nerds talking.
  2. Teacher Think Alouds/Modeled Writing: Maybe this was an obvious one to other teachers but it had not occurred to me to actually model my writing process in front of the class LIVE. Yes, LIVE. If you want them to brainstorm: Brainstorm in front of them, live, first. I had always given examples of good writing but I hadn’t actually written in front of them.
  3. Use Visuals, Music and Other’s Vocabulary: Build-up what the students write by getting them interested with a video/picture on a subject. Music also helps bring out emotions and that can get ideas flowing. Also, allowing students to share their vocabulary  (watch this video and write one word on a post-it note to describe it, then put the post-its up for all to see) will allow reluctant writers and other students to see different perspectives on the same topic and give them an instant word wall to work with.
  4. Allow Team Writing. So often I assign individual writing but the truth is a lot of work (you know, in the real world) is collaborative. Allowing students to write in teams gets them bouncing ideas off each other and takes some of the pressure off.imgres
  5. Writing Territories: Writing Territories are what we know best. We all have our loves, our passions, things we could talk about for hours. Have students make a list of all those things. Then get them to make more specific topics that are more narrow. For example, going from “I like Hockey” to “I love how I feel when I score a goal” so that they can pull from that when they need inspiration.
  6. Integrate Technology: Students love using teach and if they use something like padlet or a shared google doc they can see their ideas going up right away. They can share without worrying about everyone looking at them and it doesn’t require a lot of writing. Which brings me to my next point…
  7. Keep Writing Short & Simple ( at least at first) Start with something easy like a Top 5 List (Ahem) or a Did You Know? So many blogs, magazines and websites already use this format that it will be familiar to them and the students won’t feel overwhelmed. It also allows the flexibility needed to accommodate all levels of writers. From, “Oh Phew! Only 5 sentences!!” to, “Can I write more than a Top 5, Madame, can I make a Top 10 with a paragraph for each point?”                                  imgres-1