The Learning Hub

Developing Language and Inspiring ELL Students to Write

BY: Daria Hendrickson

My students are very energetic and curious learners who come from diverse backgrounds and who want to be challenged on a daily basis. In our ESL/Social Studies/Science class, we do a lot of writing, and this year my students’ writing has been enhanced by an amazing iPad app that I learned about on Twitter – the Write About This app.

Writing is More Fun

As an ESL teacher, my goal is to increase my ELLs’ productive language skills: writing and speaking. However, it is also important that my students work on listening and reading skills every day. What’s great about the Write About This app is that it allows me to incorporate all four language modalities: students write, read their writing, practice speaking by recording their voice, and listen to their recording to self-assess their speaking skills and to re-record if necessary! Moreover, because students can save all the writing that they produced using this iPad app, I can track my ELLs’ English language development and determine what language forms and features we need to focus on.

In addition to supporting my ELLs’ language skills, this app motivates my students to write. There are so many different writing prompts with great pictures that my students easily get inspired to write. Even my newcomer English language learners have found images that they wanted to write about!  I have also been amazed that when my students don’t have time to finish their writing, they come to my room during lunch and work on it! Isn’t it the dream of any teacher to have self-motivated students?

Last week, we used the Write About This app to create custom prompts about our school values. At our school, we focus on developing our students into motivated learners that reach their highest potential through practicing Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Excellence. These values were new to our students this year, and it was a little hard to explain the meaning of the values to my English Learners and to point out examples in the classroom. The idea to create something on iPads to demonstrate these values came from my awesome mainstream co-teacher. She wanted to have examples so she could show them to her students next year. This is when I thought that Write About This would be perfect for this project. I assigned students one value to write about. Students were asked to find or create an image from our class and make a custom prompt using the Write About This app. My students really enjoy writing on the iPad, but this time it was writing something that we would display in the hallway for the whole school to see and read, so they worked really hard to do their best work.

Here are some examples of student writing from this year:

Click to view gallery!

Using iPads doesn’t always allow for sharing your work. Unfortunately, at our school Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are blocked. One excellent feature of this app is that you can save the work to iPad camera roll. My students then post both the writing and the recording on our class blog where they can read each other’s writing, learn from each other, and leave comments. Moreover, because the recording can be saved as a movie file, we have used augmented reality to add the recording as an overlay to students’ Write About This printouts! I print the finished work and then students use the Aurasma app to link the image to the recording. Now all students, parents, and teachers can see student work, as well as listen to the students reading it any time!

There are lots of ideas on how you could use this app with students already posted on the Write About This blog page. I know that my students will definitely be using it to write scientific conclusions during our upcoming science unit on simple machines! I know that it will help my English learners develop language, and it will be a great way for them to demonstrate their learning in the content class.

Daria Hendrickson is an ESL teacher in Minnesota who loves collaboration, tech integration and travel! She tweets @dashendric 

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What Are They Saying? Teaching Dialogue with Photos

Students are usually acquainted with dialogue in narrative writing from the first story they are read as a toddler. However, writing dialogue effectively to enhance a story can be a complicated skill to master. In this activity, students will practice developing and writing dialogue to convey a story.

write-about-this-categoriesThe Activity

Have students find a picture in the Write About This app that shows two-three people (or even animals!) in a potential conversation situation. If they can’t find a picture they like, students can pose for a photo in a Custom Prompt to be the basis for their writing. In this case, emphasize that they can show different facial expressions and use body language to help convey a potential story for the characters.

Once a picture is selected, instruct students to write a dialogue between the individuals in the picture that tells an interesting story.
Key Questions for the Writing Response

  1. What are the personalities of the characters in your picture? How can you convey these personality traits through dialogue?
  2. Is there a conflict or dilemma for the characters? What can make your dialogue dynamic?
  3. Is your punctuation for the dialogue correct? Does the dialogue sound natural and authentic to the characters?

The Product

Students will use the audio recording feature of the Write About This app and “act” out their written dialogue in audio format with the help of their classmates. These can be shared with the class in conjunction with showing the image. Fellow students will see the creativity of their peers in how they developed a story from the image.

What’s Next?
Supplementary extension activities can include:

  • Have students use the dialogue they wrote as inspiration for a fully written story.
  • Have students act out their written dialogue in front of the class.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3b Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.

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Wonder Wednesday: Why Is Mardi Gras So Colorful?

March 4th marks the beginning of Mardi Gras, a feasting celebration of In New Orleans, LA.  Thousands travel from all over to celebrate through parties, parades, eating, dancing, music, and more.  Students will use this Write About This visual prompt as an anticipatory set in discussing Mardi Gras traditions and how color is used for celebrations. 91 Students can find the above visual prompt in the Write About This gallery by searching for “feet”.  Have students select the picture and choose from the following prompts to respond:

1-What colors do you see?

2-How do the colors make you feel?

3-How would you describe someone who would choose to wear these shoes?

Have students share their responses and discuss any similarities they hear from each other’s responses.  Many of the responses may include conclusions that color makes things appear cheerful and many colors show festivity.  Point out to students that colors can invoke emotion and feelings.  They are often used for parties and traditional celebrations such as Mardi Gras. Students can now work to generate their own investigative question for further research. This can include investigating how color triggers emotion and how colors are used in Mardi Gras (this can include the traditional purple, green, and gold!).

Once students have decided on their investigative question, have them complete a KWL chart.  They can then generate their research questions/topics from the “What I Want To Know” column in an I-Chart.  This is a great way for students to organize the evidence they gather during their research!  They can take notes in the Write About This app and add their own audio interpretations to their notes as well. Have students review their original writing response from the Write About This prompt and write a report on their chosen investigative question in the Write About This app. Finally, you can have students apply what they learned about the importance of color in Mardi Gras by making some fun Mardi Gras crafts!  They can present their report and finished craft to the class!

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Lani deGuia is a teacher, instructional technologist, and social media manager.  She has over 13 years of educational experience in traditional and online classroom settings for both K-12 and adult learners. She currently works in digital content and strategy for businesses and personally blogs at Rose Tinted Traveler.

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Custom Writing Prompts Across the Curriculum

BY: Jennifer Bond

Write About This is one of my favorite apps to use with my third graders.  When I first got the app, I only had it on my personal iPad.  I would allow partners to write on my iPad during writing time, hoping to give all students exposure to the app.  When our PTA purchased an iPad cart, Write About This was one of the first apps we added.

Having access to Write About This to use with the whole class at one time has been great. It has allowed me to integrate it into several areas of my curriculum.  We do love the high quality prompts and utilize the multiple levels of prompts, but we also really enjoy creating our own prompts.  By creating our own prompts, we have been able to use Write About this in many ways.

Custom Prompt

Custom Write About created with 2 students while at the State Board of Education meeting

One way we have utilized it is writing reflections of our Time for Kids.  After reading the cover story, we created our own prompt by taking a photo of the cover and writing down the important facts and information.  This fall we used it to summarize our read aloud, The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick.  In addition, we have used it to reflect on our learning.  We were able to take photos from around the room to highlight things that we have learned in third grade.  Finally, we used the Write About This app to list the things we were thankful for to celebrate Thanksgiving.

student write about

Here are some things Team Bond 3rd graders would like to share about what they like about Write About This:

·       I like the photos that they have.

·       I like it is like a notepaper.

·       I like when the prompts that go along with the photos.

·       I like that you can take a photo and make your own prompt.

·       I like that it is very easy to use.

·       It is nice that you can save it.

·       It prints out nicely.

Integrating writing throughout the curriculum is important, and Write About This is a great tool.  It is easy to create writing samples, share them through email, and print in a quality way.  If you have not tried Write About This yet, I highly encourage you to do so!

Jennifer Bond

 

Jennifer Bond is a 3rd grade teacher, loving wife and mom of 2. She is a cheerleader for innovative learning and advocate for teaching to and from the heart. Check out her blog at edtechcheerleader.com

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Wonder Wednesday: Why Is Winning Important To Us?

Even though the Winter Olympics have ended, students may still have sports and competition on their mind. We’ve spent the last few weeks cheering for our favorite athletes, countries, and sports. Yet, why is winning so important? Why does losing feel so terrible? Students can use the Write About This app and inquiry-based learning to investigate competition and its’ consequences.

WriteAboutThis-Baseketball

Students can find the above visual prompt in the Write About This gallery by searching the term “basketball”. Have students select the picture and choose an appropriate prompt to start their planning.

  1. What sports do you have the most fun with? What are your least favorite?
  2. What’s harder: practicing alone or practicing in groups?
  3. Tell a story about when you made the game-winning shot.

Have students share their responses and discuss any similarities they hear from each other’s responses. Students can now work to generate their own investigative question for further research. Older students may feel comfortable generating questions such as what were the first sports competitions, how does the body react to winning, what are significant wins in the history of ___, and so forth. Younger students can choose one of the prompts for further research or can be guided with a class question and view Is Winning Everything? From Wonderopolis as part or all of their research (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/is-winning-everything/). Once students have decided on their investigative question, have them complete a KWL chart. They can then generate their research questions/topics from the “What I Want To Know” column in an I-Chart (http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/printouts/Inquiry%20Chart.pdf). This is a great way for students to organize the evidence they gather during their research! They can take notes in the Write About This app and add their own audio interpretations to their notes as well.

Finally, have students review their original writing response from the Write About This prompt and write a report on their chosen investigative question in the Write About This app. They may want to build upon what they originally wrote and/or tie it in to the investigate response.

So what do you think? Should winning be that important? Let your students investigate it!

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

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