I’ve written a lot about my ongoing search for a helpful an online site that would help all students, and particularly English Language Learners, develop their writing – one that would have model essays, graphic organizers, accessible explanations of errors, etc. Though none have met my hopes, I have collected some that try at The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay.
In my ideal site, teachers would also have access to student first drafts. If we don’t, then we likely wouldn’t see many common errors in our students writing – it might be possible that students correct errors pointed out by the program without any real understanding of why the error was made and the rule behind its correction. That’s just one of many issues I have with computer grading of essays (see The Best Posts On Computer-Graded Essays).
It’s very easy to use – student just copy and paste what they’ve written and, within seconds, the site will give you feedback on writing mechanics. I was very impressed with the quality of the feedback – it caught many essays and, even more surprisingly, offered accurate alternatives. The quality of the feedback the site gives is tons better than the feedback a writer would get from, let’s say, Microsoft Word.
A big problem, however, is that, though the feedback appears to very accurate, it give no explanation of why the word choice might be incorrect. So a student would write an essay with many errors corrected, but I wouldn’t know what those errors were and wouldn’t know if the student understood the reasons why they were errors.
Of course, one huge advantage to students using this tool would be that teachers could concentrate on the “big picture” of student writing and not have to pay as much attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation basics. That might make it more suitable to higher-intermediate, advanced and English-proficient students who, with luck, will have made it past many of those kinds of mistakes.
Some of my concerns would be alleviated if the error explanations were more clear or, at the very least, included a link where a student could learn more about the concepts.
I’m also confused by the “notebook” set-up of the site. You can create “notebooks” with assignments for others in a closed group, but it’s unclear to me how the “owner” of the notebook can access members’ writing, or if that’s even possible. If it is doable, that would make it more attractive to teachers.
What do you think? Do you have suggestions for ways to deal with my concerns?
Recently, they began a joint project with Upworthy to create a series of animated videos called #WhoWeAre, “a campaign to share the stories of every Americans, build compassion, and offer hope to a divided nation.:
He talks a lot at the beginning about the importance of story-telling and what he says meshes very well with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s popular TED Talk, “The Danger Of A Single Story.” Many teachers use it in the classroom now, and I think portions of the President’s speech would be an excellent addition to those lessons.
You can find more info on that idea in two previous posts:
The real surprise to me was the section beginning from twenty-two minutes in and ending at about the thirty-second minute. Victor Rios, who I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of prior to the show (you can learn more about him at this PBS News Hour segment from a few years ago, One Man’s Journey From Gang Member to Academia), gave a must-watch talk on grit and resilience – with a very different perspective than those who say “Let them eat character” (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning). His talk was followed by an excellent short film on undocumented students in Georgia who want to attend college.
Here are a couple of excerpts from his talk:
Here is the entire video (which may, or may, show up in an RSS Readers0:
I gave a presentation to the California Teachers Summit at California State University in Sacramento. Here, I’ve added audio to my PowerPoint presentation.
My talk will eventually be posted at the California Teachers Summit YouTube Channel but I don’t know when that’s going to happen, and I’m also not sure if the video will just be me talking or if it will including the slides, too.
So, I figured getting it out this way would be most useful to teachers, particularly as we all are planning for the upcoming school year.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my English Language Learner classes were going fine, but students in my Theory of Knowledge classes were restless and not very focused.
I initially attributed it to a combination of nervousness over the implications of the Presidential election and eagerness for our week-long Thanksgiving break to begin on Friday. Then, this morning on the way to work, I realized, as I said in the last paragraph, that there didn’t appear to be any issues in my ELL classes and that the problems were taking place in my afternoon TOK classes. I then began reviewing in my mind if I was doing anything differently in the classes since, really, my instructional moves are generally similar — lots of small group work, movement, fast-pace.
I’ve been feeling tired this week (I guess I’m ready for the break, too!) and realized I had been lazy in my afternoon TOK classes and not been “breaking the plane” – I’d been hanging out on my stool in the front.
This afternoon, I shook-off my tiredness in the afternoon and went back to “breaking the plane.”
Everything went back to normal.
Even though moving around the room is a common classroom management strategy (and one constantly encouraged Jim Peterson, our principal), I’m not sure if I would have identified the problem and the “fix” so quickly if it wasn’t for Doug’s easily remembered catchy phrase.
In addition to teaching full-time in high school during the day, I’m on the adjunct faculty in the teacher education programs at California State University, Sacramento and the University of California, Davis. I’m finding an important question keeps on cropping up in:
How do I teach a newcomer, with next-to-zero English proficiency, who is placed in my mainstream classroom without any additional outside support being provided?
Unfortunately, I suspect that this is a very common issue for teachers across the United States – a newcomer is “parachuted” into their classes and they’re told to “integrate” the student into their instruction.
I have a number of ideas, but I also wanted to invite readers to contribute their own suggestions – it’s one thing to provide instructional strategies to help intermediate and advanced English Language Learners in a content class. However, it’s an entirely different issue when you have thirty relatively English-proficient students in a class and you’re then given a newcomer to teach, too.
I’ll be publishing a post with my ideas, along with recommendations shared in the comments by readers….
Over fifteen thousand people subscribe to this blog for free so they can read its posts without ever having to directly visit this site. They use the RSS Reader, Flipboard or email options. Thousands of others get notified of posts’ headlines and then decide if they want to visit and read it – they use the Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ alternatives. Nearly six-thousand readers visit this blog daily.
Here are all the different ways your can subscribe – with links to them:
I recently created a Flipboard Magazine for this blog, so that’s a newer way way to read my posts. The posts seem to sometimes be delayed by a few hours but, other than that, it seems to work fine. You can read Sue Waters post to learn about other ways Flipboard can be used.