Saturday, February 28, 2009

Teaching Transfer in the English Classroom

I have discovered the importance of using strategies for helping the students think through each word of a sentence, how each word functions, and how applying what has already been learned can lead to new discoveries. Creating new habits of the mind can help in developing a greater understanding of the English language.

It is so important to encourage students to think strategically and demonstrate their understanding of the steps to take when analyzing a sentence for parts of speech, phrases, and clauses. This way of thinking can be applied to solving any real world problems or problem solving in the classroom as cross curricular connections are made.

Traditional teaching of grammar often involves textbooks or worksheets where basic identification of parts of speech is applied. This doesn't allow the authentic learning where the students create sentences as they apply grammar skills in the context of writing. This style of teaching doesn't promote strategic thinking where the students have to build sentences, placing words in order for correct sentence structure.

We have been discussing English tricks in the classroom as the students would discuss tricks to solve problems in math. Thinking is a process, and when approaching a sentence, the students have learned ways to find nouns that they usually overlook, distinguishing between action and linking verbs that has always been a challenge, and knowing what questions to ask when they want to find direct objects or objects of prepositions. This creates a better understanding of how to discover patterns within the sentences of our language that is known for being so complex.

With grammar in mind, here are some questions to ask that would reinforce or develop mathematical thinking:

* How many ways can you find ...?

* What happens when we ...?

* What kind of sentence can be made from ...?

* How many different ... can be found?

* What does this remind you of...?

* What are some examples of ...?

* What kind of pattern do you see ...?

* How can this pattern help you find....?

* What are the steps for distinguishing between......?

* How many different ways can you write this sentence?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Making Connections with MapSkip

Our latest writing assignment was to write a five paragraph essay about helping our friends from Nespelem School learn a little bit about our life in Memphis, TN. We wanted to show them around town by identifying and writing about the city's hot spots.

The writing process was used to help turn a few ideas into a well developed ESSAY. Some of the great attention getters that were used to hook the reader are as follows:
  • What city has the best barbecue, is home to the king of rock-and-roll, and is always hopping?
  • The sweet sound of Memphis blues fills the streets of Memphis.
  • "Yes!" I exclaim, with a rib in my hand, while the Memphis Tigers' point guard, Tyreke Evans, makes a three pointer against Tennessee. Oh, how I adore the Memphis Tigers and ribs.
  • This city is like a playground for hyper children, but even more entergetic. This awing urban area is known as the soul of the Mid-south.
  • Exhilarated, enthusiastic, and fully prepared, the sightseers are eager to arrive.
  • "Walkin' in Memphis" is a song of the great City of Blues.
  • Get ready to “put on your blue suede shoes” and head to the “land of the Delta Blues!"
  • Dismissing the powder-like snow from my mind I thought about Bar-B-Q, basketball, and blues. As I took off on a plane from Denver I wondered what it would be like to show an out of town person the sights of my hometown, Memphis.
  • The birth place of the blues, the new city sensation, and the loving generations make up the great city of Memphis!
  • Sights, sounds, and great food are all a part of one of the greatest cities in the United States.
  • Rendezvous, Graceland, and Beale Street are Memphis at its finest, but the Tigers, Grizzlies, and all the Rock n' Roll are, too.
  • Flashy lights and beautiful music bring the town of Memphis to life everyday. When Memphis comes to life you have no chance of stopping it.
  • The sky revealed its blanket of blue over Memphis, the city of history. Over time, many things have changed in our aged city, but some have not moved on.
After putting the finishing touches to the essays, it was time to take our visitors to these locations on the map. Each student located a favorite Memphis site and added a descriptive paragraph of support from the essay. Before long, stories were present all over the city and pictures were uploaded to provide a great visual.

To complete our unfinished project, we will be adding our voices which is another great feature of MapSkip. We hope our friends from Nespelem School will enjoy learning about Memphis history and its many wonderful sites. Before long, they will have the option of listening to them as well. Click on the picture for a short cut to MapSkip.

Click here to listen to the voice recordings of the students' paragraphs.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Using Prezi in the Classroom is a nonlinear presentation that allows so many options that a PowerPoint can't. It is a great way to display information, and at the same time, provide visual representations by uploading pictures or videos, drawing arrows or lines, highlighting, etc. It is a great way for a visual learner to analyze a sentence for parts of speech. The frames on Prezi can help to organize and keep ideas separate, and a path can be created for the order in which the information can be presented.

I have created a Prezi presentation for teaching the function of linking verbs, a skill that 5th grade students have trouble grasping. Check out my first attempt here.

Other examples of great Prezi presentations that I found:
*Myst Writing
*Learn Prezi

I am excited about how it can be used for so many purposes!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Classroom Wiki

A wiki is a website that can be created for posting or uploading content which can be added to, edited, or removed by anyone who is given permission to access it. Here is a link to a great breakdown of the many ways it can function: What is a wiki?

I have chosen to use for classroom use.
After researching, I have discovered so many fascinating purposes that it can serve in the English classroom.
  • creating individual student pages to simulate an actual blog
  • uploading relevant pictures to support writing
  • peer editing on any type of writing
  • making global connections with other students around the world
  • collaborating on a group project
  • posting reflections to various writing assignments
  • embedding technology tools that support learning about current skills
  • posting assignment descriptions
  • commenting on published work by posting thoughtful feedback
  • creating folders to store rubrics, best practices, resources
  • creating links to relevant curriculum sites
I have begun implementing ideas that can be viewed at

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Technology Tools for Classroom Use

I will list the technology tools that I have used and provide a brief description of how they have been applied so far.
This is a great site where pictures can be uploaded and a song can be selected for a 30 second video. All you have to do is click "submit" for a video to be created for showcasing events, projects, etc. It will leave you with a code to embed where you can copy and paste it to your blog. I have used Animoto to display pictures from our class party as well as a newsletter project that my students published.
I love this site because it involves mind mapping. My students are studying linking verbs and I thought that a visual representation of how verbs link adjectives or nouns back to the subject would benefit those visual and tactile learners. You can zoom in and out to determine the size of the map, and you can also collapse or expand the nodes that show the parts of speech of the words that are being linked. I am still learning how to use it, but pictures can be added to represent words and there are so many other possibilities for its use. You can even store your maps and search for public maps that have already been created and available for others to use. Here's my mindmap to show how it can be used in the English classroom: Mindmap
This a great way to use words creatively. I have used them to display a list of vivid verbs that could be used in a paragraph or essay. The vivid verbs I used in my wordle all related to the to the action that would take place during a New Year's Eve celebration. The more a word is entered, the larger it appears on the wordle, and in order to connect compound words, a tilde (~) can be typed between them. You can then play around the font style and color as well as choose a horizontal and/or vertical view. I have also used Wordle to display the 6 levels of Blooms Taxonomy to get the students familiar with the level of thinking they are using when completing various activities. You can check this out on my class blog and wiki site.
Verb Wordle & Blooms Taxonomy Wordle

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tweeting on Twitter It is great to feel connected to the rest of the world! I feel excited to know that I am a part of a network where the latest technology is being shared and a wealth of educational information is posted, and it all happens in a 140 character tweet!

I began taking time to read Twitter bio's in order to find other educators who I could learn from, but I soon realized that there are people who are educators who don't have teaching degrees. I follow people who travel the world and tweet about their experiences, as links to authentic photos are shared. From a writing teachers perspective, writing prompts are born and pictures can tell a story all on their own. What a great idea to use as a critical and creative thinking/writing activity. The students could analyze the image captured and headlines or captions could support their interpretations.

I also follow someone who posts daily quotes. These quotes could be used as a reference when needing to grab a reader's attention in an essay! Better yet, they can be analyzed for meaning and students can determine how it applies to their own life.

Not only do I get writing ideas, but I also learn about the latest news. Someone sent out a tweet that was about the HMS Victory wreck being found and with it came a direct link to the site. The Los Angeles Times quoted, "American salvagers say they have discovered the long-sought wreck of HMS Victory, the mightiest and most technologically advanced warship of its time, which sank during a violent storm in the English Channel in 1744." This is historical news at our fingertips and a great way to bring current events into the classroom for discussion about what was happening during the time of the Colonial Wars.

Through Twitter, I have learned about the latest technology tools that I can take and creatively gear toward an English or writing skill. The tech tools can serve so many purposes and can be applied to almost any skill that is being taught. It can be a bit overwhelming because of all that is available, so I need to remind myself that I should really learn the use of one tool before moving on to another.

One thing that I don't want to forget to mention is the importance of giving back. I always make sure that I am doing my share of research outside of twitter and contributing just as much, if not more, than what I am taking.

Hello World!

A little push from my tech coach and seeing an awesome blog that a colleague created and I am totally transforming the way that I teach. I have always wanted to start a blog, but I never thought that I would have the "know how" to do it, so I started small. Six weeks later, I am a self-taught blogger and wiki user. If I can do it, anyone can. It really only takes time. Time to research and time to apply what is discovered. And now it is time to take on a new approach and leave the old traditional style of teaching behind.

That is the first step. I then began joining social networks and looking at other blogs to see how they were being used. I knew that I wanted to start an interactive blog that I could use as a learning tool in the classroom and have the boys apply what they learned along the way. In my research, I discovered a whole new world that I didn't realize existed. I found myself not being able to get enough of it all! Blogging became an electronic classroom where everything could be found in one central location.

Gadgets are awesome! On the layout of a blog, you have the option to add gadgets to your side bar. When choosing this option, it will take you to a list of choices from news, tools, communication, fun & games, technology, etc. Since I began an English blog, I went for all of the gadgets that could be used for the English classroom: Daily Spelling Tips, On-line English Grammar Links, Puzzles and Riddles, & You Tube. I also added educational links that would provide extra practice or reinforcement. Of course I have my blog roll, another great gadget that gives direct links to some blogs that I follow. The most exciting gadget is ClustrMap and Feedjit which the boys are always checking out. They learn so much about world geography as they see where our blog visitors from other countries are located on the map. Through my research, I found a gadget called Site Meter that can be hidden within a blog. It is a visitor tracker that gives all kinds of information about who is visiting your site, how they found you, where they came from, what interests them and all of the demographics on their country.

It is so exciting to see that within a month's time, our blog has had over 5,600 page reviews! Twenty-two different countries and 554 cities within the U.S have stopped by. It is a great to feel connected to the world!

Our class blog will serve many purposes and will be used (but not limited to) in the following ways:

*Using the latest technology tools for applying grammar and writing skills
*responding critically and creatively to specific on-line activities
*posting links to sites for reinforcement or practice of grammar/writing skills
*making global connections
*showcasing the great work of the students
*writing with a real purpose as the world is our audience

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Beginning of a New Journey

I was speaking to my technology support who happens to be a good friend of mine and she suggested that I begin reflecting on what I have learned through my research for implementing technology in the classroom. It has been such an awesome adventure to collaborate with educators from all over the world, to discover the latest technology tools that are being used in the classroom, and to be innovative in applying it toward teaching grammar through writing. I have been going at this for about six weeks now and it has really transformed the way that I approach teaching boys.

I have begun my own interactive classroom blog where I have the students to respond to a blog post that involves applying a specific grammar or writing skill. I have made sure that critical and creative thinking skills are part of the learning and I will address these as I post more information about all that has been applied so far.

In addition to the blog, I have also started our own class wiki. The boys have their own blog within the wiki where they have been given freedom to be creative as long as it remains educational. I will later discuss how the wiki has been used as a way to collaborate with one another on their writing.

I must say that I have seen a huge difference in the way the boys respond to learning, and the blog and wiki have given writing a real purpose. The boys know that the world is watching and they want to impress those who might be stopping by to read what they are doing, how they are thinking, and what they have to say.