Thursday, February 27, 2014

Essay Strategy


They are something we learn to write.

We hope to learn to write essays with pizazz and power, but for write now, we're learning to write essays for a test. It's one of the standards -- to write for this purpose.

How do we write for a test? A test to write an essay in a day?

We learn a strategy for prewriting. This is a middle school strategy; essays we write for more than a test are more nuanced and personalized. For now, we learn to write for a test. We create the graphic organizer in the image at left.


We start by thinking of an answer to the prompt. One prompt might be: What class from K-7th grade did you find most enjoyable? An answer one student considered is: My favorite class was fourth grade.

Just Three Ideas

With that answer, we consider three topic sentence ideas (TS) and write them on our own created organizer (see image). We then elaborate on each idea (six sentences) and write concluding sentences (CS) for each. Think about this: an essay is easy -- just a topic/thesis and three ideas on which to elaborate! We can do this!

Thesis Statement

With our paragraphs outlined, we now write our thesis statement, which is the "topic sentence" for the essay. It starts with our answer to our prompt and includes the three ideas we wrote about in our paragraphs prewrites. For the previous example, the student wrote: My favorite class is fourth grade because we camped at lost lake, sold tickets for the spaghetti feed, and had a tea party. The thesis statement is the last sentence for our introduction.


What introduction? An introduction grabs your readers' attention, provides background information, and states your topics in the thesis statement, which also lays out the organization of your essay. We just wrote the thesis statement, now we grab our reader with a hook. An anecdote or a question provide two excellent beginnings. Our organizer starts with the grabber beginning and the background information -- something to explain the topic that the reader needs to know.


Splash! We dove off the dock and into the icy May water of Lost Lake. May? Swimming? Yes, at our school our fourth grade camps at Lost Lake for a week! My favorite class is fourth grade because we camped at lost lake, sold tickets for the spaghetti feed, and had a tea party.

So our organizer now has allowed us to write our introduction and the outline for our three body paragraphs. Finally, we add the conclusion.


Conclusion? Yes, an essay needs an end that provides the reader with a summary tied back to the introduction and with a question or call to action (for persuasion) that leaves the reader thinking.
At the bottom of the organizer, we prewrite our conclusion with a transition word, a reference to the introduction, a restatement of the thesis statement, and the question.


Therefore, fourth grade was an awesome year. Imagine that cold water surrounding you, or sipping that warm tea for United Nations Day. Fourth grade was the best year because of lost lake, the spaghetti feed, and the tea party. Which would you like?


The process is: answer the prompt, write the three ideas to explain the answer as topic sentences, elaborate those as paragraphs, write the thesis statement. Finally, write the introduction and conclusion last -- when you have your ideas outlined so you can really grab the reader with a relevant hook and summarize in the conclusion.


With our prewriting done, the hard work is also done -- thinking of the ideas!  Now we are ready to write the draft from our prewriting.

Next Steps

After writing the draft, we apply our revision strategies. As we practice and practice, we learn to prewrite, draft, and revise in a continuous, yet recursive cycle. For now, we're beginners learning the strategies.


Paragraph Structure Review
Elaboration Strategies
Thesis Statements
Introductions/ Conclusions
Revision Strategies:  Randy Koch Strategy  Revision Wiki

We are writers; we are authors. We are learning both test writing and real writing.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  1. Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what
    is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/ e
    ffect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  2. Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  3. Use appropriate transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
  4. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  5. Establish and maintain a formal style.
  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Text Structure

What is text structure?

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Here is one explanation by Sinda.
This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Snowy Genius Day

A snowy day

A genius day

Seventh grade students follow their own interests:

  • What is the sun?
  • What is my history?
  • What is the history of the reservation?
  • How do I make a music video?
  • What is new about Mexico and its future?
  • What is the Gettysburg Address?
  • What is alcohol poisoning and how do you prevent it?
  • What happened in Syria in September?
We have ideas. We'll set the world afire with them!

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Oh! Excited for Students

Did you see our 12:12 Loudness Tweet?

Governor Jay Inslee favorited it!

Eagle Students and Seahawks rock!

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#make4DLDay Nonfiction Characters

What is Digital Learning Day?

Wednesday, February 5th, is Digital Learning Day. As of 3:00 PM, Nespelem School was one of nine schools who have added an event for Washington State. Starting at 8:00 AM, we watched in Grade 8 the live webinar and presentations from Washington, DC. We were able to listen to high school students debate, see schools bring personalized learning and projects to engage students, and listened to the goals of the Department of Education for improving access for 99% of the nation's schools. Be sure to check out the tweets for #dlday and #make4dlday because Nespelem School tweeted their progress as well through NSDEdwards and NSDEagles.

Our project evolved from Karen Fasimpaur's #clmooc  / Educator Innovator "make" idea for paper cut-outs. We adapted it to our nonfiction reading, and we're excited about our work. Thanks, Karen.

The National Writing Project even tweeted our work and asked us to write about it in Digital Is !

And Paul Oh of Oakland Schools and The National Writing project said:

What's all the excitement about?  

In Ms Edwards's class we have taken the pledge to Support Digital Learning. Digital Learning is more than just using technology -- it's about learning to "navigate the shift to more robust digital learning environments to achieve higher standards for students." The presentations today suggested a shift to personalized learning and inquiry through authentic learning (thanks Kathy Schrock) such as project- and problem-based learning.

So what did we do? 

We dug deeper into our nonfiction reading, asking an important question: What are the main messages of the whole article I chose to read? It's easy to pick out one main idea, but to pull the ideas together into a summarizing statement, title, and image takes the learning to another level. Students worked together and with independent components in a collaborative effort to help each other understand.

What's personalized about it? 

The students chose teams and chose the articles of interest to them. Then, while they are learning and doing, the teacher listens to their successes and struggles and guides them to learn what each needs -- is it how to break an article apart to understand each piece? is it how to pull out the main ideas of each section? is it to put all those main ideas together into one gist statement? is it to figure out the vocabulary? is it to apply the topic to an image, a prop, to help explain the issues?

As you can see-- it depends on the student and their teams. Each person in a class is at a different place, and working on projects help teachers to encourage and support each student with immediate feedback to help them keep moving forward.

What was the project?

Our Cut-Out Character Summaries Project allowed us to carry our messages from our readings to a broader audience. After reading with our own chosen questions, vocabulary selections, and gist statements, students decided on a character from the story to draw and cut-out. Then each student placed the cut-out on a relevant prop from the classroom to add to the student's connections and explanation. Students then create a slide in Keynote with the image, gist statement, and a catchy title. That then became the image for a blog post with the summary statement and conclusion to share with others. The student directions guide them step by step as we learn digital presentation along with our inquiry and summarizing skills.

We will continue adding to our project -- because each team is at a different stage, depending on the amount of learning support or extension.

I love the title on this one: "The Day the President and America Were Shot." Kyle was sad and focused on the assassination, but thought deeper and realized the article was about the loss in America. It's this type of thinking that is missed when we don't take the time to USE the information we are learning, to transform the information to make it ours. That's what projects do, and that's what Kyle did. He then explained his idea to his team, who accepted the idea and incorporated it into their own slides--one student tutoring others. What you also don't know is how he played around with the formatting to get his image to show what was important. He started out with white slides, but then changed the font of the summary to red to carry over the picture colors. He then changed the background to black to draw out the red. Red blood on a black day. Very powerful. Very 21st Century Skills: Summary Presentation through careful thought and design based on facts and analysis.

We hope you continue to check back to our Eagles Write blog, and please comment on our students' work.  Remember that they are learning, so everything is not perfect -- but it does represent lots of learning and thinking as we continue our pledge to be thoughtful, engaged, digital learners. Knowing we have a tweet-able and national audience makes learning fun and important! Students, you are awesome thinkers!

See more about Connected Learning

CCSS Goals

___  RI Cite Evidence
___  RI 2 Determine main idea/supporting details; Write objective summary
___  W8 Quote or paraphrase the data and/or conclusions
___  W9b Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. Apply reading standards to nonfiction.
___  W5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. (Editing for conventions)
___  W6 Produce and Publish writing; cite sources

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

GAFE: Google Apps make #makeDLDay Every day!

One of the Web 2.0 Tools we use at school is Google Apps for Education [GAFE].

Although teachers and staff access separate domains, they are connected for teachers and staff to collaborate.

What are the benefits of GAFE? It is free for schools, is a powerful set of collaborative applications, and is so easy to use. GAFE is so much more than email.

The first thing we did was create a school website with Google Sites. We are a small school district, so saving costs of even small things like a school website is important. You will see at that site everything we need to present for different entities as well as for the community. We use public and team calendars, plan with collaborative documents, and share data in spreadsheets. Notice some links are private and some are public. That is the beauty of GAFE: it's secure with options for sharing and collaborating. For more information from Google, read here. I blogged about the website development process here.

For the classroom teacher and students, GAFE is so powerful for its collaborative features. This blog is part of GAFE. It's a newsletter for our families to keep up with our work. For students, Google Sites provide the start page on their computers with our Language Arts WebSite. I can place all assignments, links to resources, tips, etc. all in that site, which is essentially a wiki and very easy to use, share, and maintain.

How do we use Google Apps in the classroom?  I can maintain a transition to the kind of learner this world needs-- a learner who can consider, critique, communicate, collaborate, and create, and a learner who can combine the digital, artistic, oral and written components of literacy.

Thinking as writing teacher, I know students need to learn traits and styles of quality writing from ideas and word choice, to introductions and conclusions. I know to guide them in these. In teaching traits, styles, organization, etc., I include the social and thinking traits of learning: consider, critique, communicate, collaborate, and create. For example, after analyzing and practicing group models of introductions and conclusions to establish the criteria for excellence, we apply our learning as a collaborative experience.

Here's an example: The Cove Assignment

I created these directions in Google Docs, making digital copies of the document and sharing with students teams online -- no print out necessary. They just go to File--> Make a copy and start working from the template. Students work in pairs on one of the documents. First, the pairs read the body of an essay. They consider the main ideas of the essay and brainstorm ideas and examples that would best introduce and conclude the essay. They critique their own ideas and collaborate on writing the introductions and conclusions. They self-evaluate their work. As a class, we critique each piece, considering the pros and cons of good introductions and conclusions, offering compliments to the traits and styles of writing shared by the pairs of students in their documents. The conversations  — the listening, considering, and critiquing — enhance the learning while the tool — Google Docs — allow the conversations and composition to occur seamlessly: no difficulty reading handwriting, no one waiting while another wrote by hand; everything is accessible and visible for analysis and input on the ideas in the Google Document at their computer and later projected on-screen in whole class discussions (no need to transfer files). When students now create their own essays or photo essays, the art part will also be included. However, the conversation and composition will be paramount.

We've created many collaborative projects, our favorite including: Digital Citizenship, Veterans Day, and a Thank You for our Outdoor Day, Owhi Lake Day.  Remember: students created these online, at the same time, commenting, and discussing through the application. Very powerful.

Feedback is so essential to learning -- it's what drives us to get better. A coach watches their players and provides tips and practice for each kids need to help the team get better. GAFE allows the same. We can carry on a coaching conversation, guiding each student to success through tips, links, review, etc.

Google Forms allows for quick prompts, quizzes, and daily starter activities [works with Scholastic's Daily Starter].

When discussing a video or speech, we use Google Docs as a backchannel so every one can participate. One document: each students chooses a space to claim and adds their notes. Great for class notes, discovering questions, clearing up misconceptions.

Finally, GAFE plays well with others. We can share our Google Documents in Edmodo and Kidblogs!

Google Apps For Education continues to be our foundation for gathering information in spreadsheets and forms, and for drafting our writing. Whether we write independently or collaborate with each other, the process of writing and thinking is enhanced and improved through our work in GAFE. Hapara's Teacher Dashboard provides the management system to monitor and offer immediate feedback with a quick click to add comments to each student’s work. It’s a lifesaver for busy teachers. We have even collaborated with two classes in Iowa to create lessons for other students in the Parts of Speech. Some students created skits and movies and some created Google Presentations. Last year the two schools worked on persuasive ads, deciding who would do what and uploading to share to put the ideas/videos/presentations together. [Here's one video part]. All that collaboration was completed through team Google documents using an ongoing dialogue within the document and within the chat/comments. These were amazing experiences we need to recreate for other collaborative projects this year.

Want more information about GAFE, and why we love it:

ABC: Apps Based Classroom

As a classroom teacher, I am moving with my students from a traditional style teacher into a transitional teacher. And new traditions are forming… How could Google Apps transition you and your students?

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...