Graphic organizers aren’t new. I’m pretty sure that Ptolemy was using some sort of Venn diagram to explain longitude and latitude. And I’ve seen photos of cave drawings that looked a lot like cause and effect timelines.
They’ve been around a while.
But . . . I still think that we don’t use them enough. The visual and textual combination of a great graphic organizer is the perfect tool for connecting people, places, ideas, and events. We use them to make sense of new information, to show dynamic relationships, and to make connections to prior knowledge. All in a visual format that makes sense to our brains.
And as handy as they are for your mainstream students, think video game power-ups when you use graphic organizers with English Learners (EL) and multilingual students. A power-up gives a gamer extra strength, or a new weapon, more speed, and sometimes just the opposite – the game slows down while your character retains the same speed.
For your kids who are learning English or who might be reading / writing below grade level?
Graphic organizers = video game power-ups
When we integrate graphic organizers into our instructional designs, EL kids get extra power that can help them understand and grasp new ideas . Last week, I got the chance to learn with and from seven other teachers as we shared successful EL teaching strategies. And trust me, the information flow was pretty much one way – from the smart people in the room straight to me. But from that conversation, a few things became clear: Read more
Just finished a great two days with Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services. Together with a small group of middle and high school teachers, we spent the time working to figure out effective ways to engage English Language Learners with social studies inquiry methods. Rich is in charge of Emerging America, a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project.
Part of what he does is to help teachers across Massachusetts – and now Kansas – use Library of Congress resources to make inquiry learning accessible to all learners. During our time together, we addressed a wide variety of topics – challenges faced by English Language Learners, challenges faced by teachers of EL students, ways to use graphic organizers to support language acquisition, using the LOC website, researching the history of immigration policies and court cases, and generally have an awesome time.
A small part of our conversation focused on the use of essential and compelling questions. Here in Kansas, we’ve been pushing compelling questions for a while. They play an important part in our current standards and are the key to a great inquiry-based lesson.
Question. Evidence. Solution. Communicate the solution. It all starts with a great problem to solve.
And during our conversation Rich shared a sweet definition of what a great historical inquiry-based question should look like in that process. He was happy to share it.
So . . . if you’re looking for a list of characteristics of what a compelling / essential / overarching / inquiry-based question should look like, here ya go: Read more
My kids love it whenever they get the chance to use technology as part of the writing process. My job is to make sure that the tech use is meaningful and purposeful – when used correctly technology can help enhance and transform my lessons, provide real-world activities, and increase student engagement.
Jill Weber, Cheney Middle School
We all strive to develop students with the skills necessary to be successful after high school graduation. And national and local standards provide us with documents packed full of suggested benchmarks and commendable expectations.
The Common Core ELA writing standards encourage students to “use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.” The National Council for the Social Studies urges us to find ways for our kids to “take informed action” based on what they have learned.
What teacher doesn’t want that for their students?
We all want our students to write more. To develop solutions to authentic problems. To spread their voices beyond the classroom. But it can be difficult for classroom teachers to have a clear vision of what that might look like in actual practice.
The good news is that there is an abundance of multimedia resources available that support the creation and sharing of student storytelling products.
I grew up out in Western Kansas. As in, west of Dodge City. West of Jetmore. West of Kalvesta. As in, far enough west to get incredible views and horizons that are miles away. Old barns and windmills. So it was a great day yesterday when I got the chance to drive out that direction to work with middle and high school teachers at @NessCityEagles.
The goal was to share ideas and work with technology integration tools that can be used on their student Chromebooks. Much of our conversation and work time centered around a few of my favorite story telling push / pull digital storytelling tools and what they can look like in the classroom.
What’s a push / pull tool? These are tools that you as the teacher can use to push your instructional content out to kids. But kids can use the same tool to create their own content which you pull back from them. One teacher yesterday used the phrase:
“kids can use this to both consume and create content.”
And the cool thing is that because these tools are designed to work on the Chromebook’s Chrome browser, they work just as well on your Mac or PC Chrome browser. So in no particular order, five awesome digital storytelling tools: Read more
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of yelling going on. Social media. Cable news. Local coffee shops. People disagreeing, not getting along, refusing to compromise their “values.”
And school classrooms can seem like a safe space where we can protect our students from all of that ugliness. Education Week survey data gathered back in February suggested that many teachers find it difficult to talk about race, politics, and other controversial topics. Almost 30 percent expressly avoid it completely. Part of the problem is that many of us – 44 percent – don’t feel prepared to lead conversations that might get emotional.
So . . . two questions here. Read more