Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dene Poth @rdene915 #FUTURE4EDU #QUOTES4EDU #THRIVEinEDU

language skills

This post is sponsored by Listenwise, all opinions are my own.

Back to School with Listenwise

The start of the new school year brings excitement for new opportunities and is often a time when educators are looking for new ideas and digital tools for enhancing student learning. For many educators, having extra time in the summer is great for reflecting on the prior school year and exploring digital tools and their benefits for students. Simply using technology because it is available without a true purpose will not benefit student learning much at all. However, when we implement versatile digital tools that provide students with innovative, more personalized and real-world learning experiences, we empower our students with amazing opportunities. Listenwise is a listening skills program that offers more than 1800 podcasts for students in grades 5 through 12 (with plans to expand further into Elementary content in 2020). The content is updated every day with new stories including daily current events from NPR.

Improve Listening Comprehension Skills With Listenwise

Listenwise is a multi-purpose platform with capabilities to foster improved listening skills, reading comprehension, and create a more personalized learning experience for students. Listenwise is beneficial for increasing participation in discussions and promoting student engagement. It creates a virtual space where students can build listening and reading comprehension skills, confidence, as well as develop their own creativity and storytelling skills. Using Listenwise, teachers can better differentiate learning for students and promote more cultural and global awareness through access to more meaningful, real-world stories.

What makes Listenwise stand out?

The first thing that I noticed about Listenwise is how easy it is to navigate in the platform. There is also a robust teacher support center which offers the basics for getting started, teaching resources, hot topics, and more support to get started with Listenwise.

When making decisions about which digital tools to use, especially those that offer as many features as Listenwise, there may be a concern about the learning curve. However, a key feature of Listenwise is in its simplicity and visual design.

It is easy to locate Lessons, whether by selecting a content area, exploring all of the lessons available, or searching based on a specific word or current event. A great feature of Listenwise is that teachers can also search for lessons based on grade level, the level of language challenge, and even the type of resources (lesson plan or current event). Being able to locate resources quickly enables teachers to find something more personalized for students and their specific interests and needs.

Enhance Collaboration Through Digital Learning Spaces

Teachers can provide students with access to current and relevant resources and news, create more authentic assignments, and promote student agency through the Listenwise platform. There are a variety of teacher materials available to enhance each lesson including comprehension questions, prompts, lesson plans, graphic organizers, tiered vocabulary and more. Finding time to create class activities and provide enrichment can be a challenge, however, Listenwise helps teachers to reduce planning time and instead have extra time for interacting with students. It is a platform that can be used in multiple ways for different forms of instruction. It is a great option for using a blended learning model with station rotations in class. Whether used for individual students or an entire class, or at home as a way to promote more family engagement, Listenwise offers many options for amplifying student learning potential.

Using the different lessons and current events available, we can extend learning, reinforce the content that we are teaching and in the process spark new discussions. We will then build upon student skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and promote creativity.

It is easy to navigate the site and set students and create classes. Listenwise provides an excellent way to help students stay informed of what is happening in the world around them and to connect with content that they are interested in and to take more control in their learning.

Foster Better Class Discussions

Listenwise provides a way for students to build skills and become more confident as they explore real-world topics and interact more with the content. Students also build digital citizenship skills as they navigate in the digital world, exploring global issues and making connections with their own community.

Key Features of Listenwise

  1. Content: Listenwise offers more than 1800 podcasts from NPR and other podcast providers. Students have access to the audio as well as an interactive transcript, vocabulary resources and an opportunity to work at their own pace.
  2. Teacher resources: There are many resources available through the Teacher’s Guide. Within each lesson, there are listening comprehension questions, discussion themes, vocabulary words, Socrative integration, additional related lessons, and multiple graphic organizers. There are also external materials provided which may include resources such as interviews, drawings, maps.
  3. Interactive transcript: A great feature where students can listen to the audio while reading along with it, and if needed, pause to take notes or to process the information. While the audio plays, the text changes color and moves at the pace of the audio. Students can replay sections by clicking a word in the story, and the audio will re-start on the word they select. This is a great way to have students focus on listening more closely and also being able to make a visual connection with the text and build their reading skills.
  4. Auto-scored quizzes: Each lesson offers listening comprehension quizzes which are embedded in the lesson. Students have the option to replay the audio and listen more closely, helping them to continue to build their skills at their own pace. Students receive their results and if needed, can retake a quiz once the teacher clicks “reset” on the report.
  5. Progress monitoring: There are eight types of listening comprehension skills that are assessed such as main idea, inference, and vocabulary. Teachers have a detailed view of student results, can download the class report and see schoolwide data. Having access to this data
  6. ELL and Scaffolding: Through tiered vocabulary and the option to play audio at a slower speed, students can work at their own pace through the lesson. Students also have the texthelp toolbar which offers options such as Spanish translation, word definition through text or picture, and the ability to read aloud any text from the page.
  7. Standards-aligned: Lessons are aligned to state standards for ELA, science, and social studies. Through the Teacher’s Guide, each grade level band contains the related standards and explanations, making it easy to refer to the standards.
  8. Custom assignments: Teachers can create custom assignments for students, which works very well for a blended learning environment or for schools which are 1:1. Assignments can be customized to include listening comprehension questions, interactive transcripts, short responses, graphic organizers and more depending on the needs of each student.

Listenwise helps to promote better communication, student success, and family engagement. Implementing digital tools like Listenwise promotes learning that can take place regardless of the time and place, also helping to globally connect students with authentic, real-world resources. Providing these learning tools for students makes a big difference in student growth and engagement.

Ready to get started?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Choose one of the lessons for a new way to introduce a unit.
  • Select a theme for Project-based learning (PBL) based on one of the lessons.
  • Teach students about global issues by informing them about the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and task them with finding events related to these goals. Opportunities like this promote student inquiry and lead students to more meaningful, personalized learning journeys.
  • Search for a recent current event and use it as a conversation starter!

​​Storybird in the Foreign Language Classroom

 


I found Storybird a few years ago while completing graduate coursework, and was searching for a different way to present the information, that would be informative, engaging and memorable. I found Storybird and after creating my own book, have relied on it as a top choice for student projects in my classroom.

As a foreign language teacher, I have my students engage in diverse activities to help them learn the material and want the experiences to be meaningful, personal and fun. Because of technology today, I now have the opportunity to offer my students a variety of choices for completing projects and other assessments for class. With the increase in digital tools for classroom integration, there are options available to meet diverse student interests and needs. I want to know what they have learned and can do with the material and being able to provide choices for them, which enhance their ability to be creative, to enjoy the work and watch the learning that occurs because it is more meaningful. Giving students a choice in how to show what they have learned offers a lot of options today.

Storybird is very helpful in my Spanish class. It makes it easy to create colorful and informative projects. I like using Storybird because it is easy and straight-forward to use. It was also great to see my story come to life, and to have a book with my name on it. — Ricky, high school student

One of the favorites for my students is to create an illustrated book using Storybird. It really does not matter what the topic of our unit is, there are so many options available for students to find something that fits right in with the theme of what we are studying. For this reason, I love offering it as one of their choices because they can find something fun to work with while building their language skills. They can choose from so many templates to create an engaging, vibrant book, write their story in Spanish and see it come to life with the variety of images available to them. Storybird helps the students to build their skills and to create something that they can share with others and have made into a beautiful book as evidence of their learning.

Storybird is one of my go to tools when creating a project. It is fun and easy to use, with beautiful artwork that aids in the story writing process. I have used Storybird for several school projects and for fun. It is a well designed application that allows the author to choose exactly what they want.
— Dana, high school student

An added benefit is that in addition to displaying these on the Smartboard in the classroom for all students to see and learn from, we can have their books printed and displayed in the classroom. What could be better than seeing the books written by your students in Spanish on display in your classroom? The books can be used as learning materials for future classes and exemplify what personalized learning and having a choice can do to engage students and increase their learning potential. The students can be creative and have fun learning in the process.

Storybird is really fun. I love the groups of pictures you can choose from for creating your book. The website is really easy to use, and different from other programs I’ve used in the past. Being able to purchase a paper copy of your book is a really great feature. — Maddi, high school student

Some fun examples we have used in Spanish are projects to describe one’s family and create a family album and also to describe preparing for a special event and one’s daily routine. Students have fun selecting their pictures to represent the members of the family or activities in their daily routine, and as the teacher, I enjoy seeing their finished work and knowing that not only did they build their language skills, they had fun in the process and created something that they can share with others and author their own book.

There are a lot of ways that teachers can involve students in conversations both in and outside of class.  Students sometimes have fear of responding in class.  Sometimes it is the fear of being wrong, there is that fear of speaking in public, and it can also be simply that some students prefer not to speak in class.  But as teachers, we have to make sure that we provide diverse ways for all students to contribute and to do so in a way which is comfortable and can help to build student confidence.  Finding one’s voice and being comfortable in using it, are important in today’s classrooms.

The helpful aspect of technology in this scenario, is that communication, conversations and collaboration can happen and take various formats, because of technology. In my classroom, I can tell when I ask a question, whether it be the lack of students eager to respond, or just by observing the physical reactions to the question being posed, that many students have some aversion to responding in class.  Whether this happens as a result of the hesitancy of speaking out in front of others or the fear of not knowing the right answer or perhaps something else entirely, it’s sometimes difficult to encourage the students to speak and share what they are thinking, feeling and express true opinions. Even as a teacher, at times, answering in front of others, sharing my thoughts or perspective can feel uncomfortable and has made me nervous as well.  Even as a teacher, I sometimes become nervous when I am in a similar situation. There’s that fear having the wrong answer or of saying something that might not be well received, cause a bigger discussion or even create an argument.

But regardless, we need to involve students in class discussions and ask questions, and there are many ways that this can be done.  Using some of the tools out there can help to share ideas, expand learning, and maybe even more importantly, enable the students to feel more comfortable in the classroom.

How can technology help in this area?  Is there a purpose?

Teachers want to know what students are thinking, to understand their learning and needs, we have to ask questions, and it is critical to help them feel more secure in responding both in and outside of class.  One way to do this is by using a digital tool that can offer these securities and provide opportunities for students to really express their thoughts and feelings. In this regard, I believe the technology does truly have a purpose because it can serve to give students a voice and in a comfortable way, where otherwise students may be apprehensive about expressing themselves.

I am not saying that technology should be used as a substitute for having students speak in class or for courses in which public speaking is part of the requirement.  Developing the ability and confidence to stand up and speak out in front of others and to voice one’s opinion are important skills and characteristics that students need to develop in classrooms today, to be prepared for their future. And if use technology to replace this, then we also take away a part of the learning process and the risk taking that is involved in developing these public speaking and independent skills, which leads to us doing a disservice to our students and to ourselves.So maybe offering some alternatives for how students can express themselves would be a good way to start.

Some options

Depending on the type of question or the feedback we want from the students, there are many tools such as SurveyMonkey, Responster, TodaysMeet, Socrative or Riddle. A tool like GoSoapBox can be used for a variety of question.  Even using some game based tools like Quizizz or Kahoot! also provide options for having students respond to questions and reflections.

Teachers can review the answers and then use it as a way to start a new discussion in class. Answers can be shared anonymously, and of course some students will acknowledge that you are reading their answer, but this can also help to boost confidence and create more comfort in the classroom for all students.

Some other options are for using things like Wikis or blogs, or another tool for backchannel discussions, to have students respond and collaborate on different topics.

If students create their own blog, their responses can be kept private and this has been a very beneficial tool in my classroom which helped students to practice their content area skills, in a way that is more comfortable, through which I can give them personalized feedback and also learn more about them in the process. A Wiki can also be a good way to have students collaborate if they are working in small groups.

It all comes down to what type of conversation, the questions or discussion we are hoping to involve the students in. Do we want something that is more open-ended? Do we want students to think about something and then respond later, once class is over? These are some of the reasons why technology can help, and also can enable teachers to offer a more blended or flipped learning experience in the classroom. Just because the bell rings and class is over for the day, our conversations don’t have to end.  We can discuss, ask questions, provide feedback after the class is over. We need student feedback we want learning to be meaningful and students to feel comfortable.  The use of these tools are helpful for students to express their ideas, we can learn more about what they want to do, what they can do and what they need help with.

These are some of the reasons why I think technology has a real purpose. It helps to expedite the process by delivering real live results so that we can give feedback to the students when they need it. We can use these tools to encourage students to share thoughts and answer questions, and to feel more comfortable in doing so.

Thank you Visme for the opportunity to share this and involve my students in this blog post.

How to Use Narrated Presentations With Voice Overs in the Classroom

image: http://blog.visme.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/AudioHeader.png

Projects are one way that teachers can assess students throughout the year. Regardless of the theme, students have a lot of opportunities today to complete their projects using a variety of presentation formats. They have more options for showing what they have learned and how they can apply the material covered in class.

With each passing school year, the options available to students increases, enabling each student to find and work with a digital tool that is personalized to them because it meets their interests and needs, and also their comfort level with technology.

While using tools such as Microsoft Word or a standard PowerPoint to create reports and presentations provides students with a foundation for learning technology skills, taking their knowledge of these formats and applying them to new technology tools can maximize their learning in many critical areas.

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Depending on the type of project or assignment that a student must complete, tools such as Visme offer many options to users who want to create any type of project or presentation with a single multi-tool that integrates multimedia and many other visual elements. As a foreign language teacher, for example, I often want students to include an audio component to their project so that I can assess their speaking skills.

A recent example of this is a project I assigned to Spanish III students which entailed describing the life and work of an artist. The project required a certain amount of vocabulary to assess their Spanish language skills, but it also had to include images or video and an audio narration with their comments on the project.

Whereas in the past, they may have needed to use two separate digital tools to do this, depending on their choice, they can now rely on Visme to create their projects with all of these elements in one presentation.

There are many choices as to the type of format, whether it be an infographic, flyer or a presentation. Each of these have options to include multimedia and many other choices for audio, video, and other visual representations. With the new updates, these choices are even greater than they were for our prior student projects.

There are a lot of tools available which integrate various components, enabling students to record audio or upload audio files into their presentation, but these often require multiple steps, or specific formats, and in some cases may require advanced knowledge of technology.

However, with the recent addition of Visme’s new audio feature, students only need to look to this one tool to create their presentations. They can add their voice-over directly into their project with just a few clicks.

RELATED: How to Create a Narrated Presentation With Voice Over Using Visme

 

Ideas for Using Narrated Presentations

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There are tons of possibilities for using audio in presentations. As a teacher, I can create lessons for my students, with instructions on each slide, to guide them through the presentation. This is a great option for students who are absent from class or who would like to revisit a specific lesson.

I can also teach a lesson and explain grammar, vocabulary, culture, or any topic we are covering in class, and easily add the recording to the slide, making it easier for the students to follow along. The potential for this is huge, especially in flipped classrooms, or blended learning environments.

Anyone who creates a presentation, regardless of whether it is for use in an educational setting, can take advantage of the audio component of Visme, to really add that something extra to the presentation.

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It can be a recording of one’s own voice, or it can be other audio that has been added in from the library or uploaded from another source. There really are a lot of possibilities for enhancing anyone’s presentation.

 

What Can Students Do With This?

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Students were excited to use Visme’s audio feature for recording voice overs and creating narrated infographics and presentations for our class. Some of the students shared their opinions of Visme’s audio feature.

Ellie: “The audio feature makes it easier to explain your work more in depth when you don’t want to have too many words on the screen, or simply want to describe an image.”

Alexa: “With voice overs, it’s easier to include all of your information and faster than reading slides word for word. It would be a lot easier to present it to people because I could take my time and make sure that my pronunciations were right rather than having to speak in front of people from memory. It’s really easy to use, and it made my presentation more interesting.”

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From a student’s point of view, presenting information to classmates can be a bit scary, and rather than speaking while displaying the presentation, the students can pre-record their information, and let the presentation run on its own.

This is a great way to help students gain confidence in the classroom and keep comfort levels in check. It is also a great way to have presentations available for sharing with peers and for use as a resource for future classes. Teachers can benefit by being able to record their own lessons, but students benefit by having everything they need to create highly visual and engaging multimedia presentations.

image: http://blog.visme.co/wp-content/themes/blog/img/pei1.png

image: http://blog.visme.co/wp-content/themes/blog/img/pei4.png

Visme simplifies presenting and storytelling for you and your team.

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About the Author

 

Thank you @Kidblog for publishing my recent post on how to start blogging with your students.  Great way to start off the new school year.

Getting Started: Tips for launching a successful class blog

Enthusiastic Students Showcase Kidblog

Summer is full of opportunities for reflecting, learning, and planning. Teachers and students have the ability to review the past year and develop goals for both the summer and the upcoming school year.  While summer gives teachers a chance to unwind and relax, it is often used as a time for exploration and preparation for the new year.

During their time off, many teachers participate in professional development events, become involved in learning communities, and look for new ways to engage their students in the classroom.  I am no different. This summer I had many opportunities to connect with other educators and discuss ideas for increasing engagement in students’ learning and blogging became a common topic. I welcomed these conversations as I have seen first hand the positive results blogging has had on my students.  These discussions revolved around questions about getting students started, privacy, the best use of blogs in the classroom, and how to create new ideas and keep students motivated to blog in and out of the classroom. I was always happy to offer my advice. I created this post in hopes of sharing what I learned from these discussions with a wider audience.

The benefits to student blogging are endless. If you are looking for something new to try with your students, to get them talking, and to learn about your students, I highly recommend blogging as a way to start this new school year.

If you are not familiar with classroom blogging, I suggest setting up your “class URL” first – select a theme, familiarize yourself with the settings, features and how students will create their accounts and log-in.  Additionally, by setting up an account as a student in your class you can better understand the student experience and be prepared to answer any questions. Once everything is ready for real students, creating a handout to explain the use of blogging for your class, listing your expectations and some guidelines, and encouraging creativity in the process, is a great way to start the blogging conversation.

I have tried various methods to getting students started in our class blog. Regardless of the method you choose, it is always worth while to start with a conversation regarding your class blog. Talk about what students will write, when they will use the blog, who will be reading their posts, etc. Getting students excited about the options for post styles, fonts, and the wide audience they can reach in the process is helpful in driving motivation to write.

One option to get students started writing in class is through the use of prompt responses. I started small by instructing students how to join the class and having them begin responding to my posts with meaningful discussion points. If you have time in class to do this, facilitate as the students create their account, personalize their page and begin writing. Eventually students will feel comfortable and excited about creating their own ideas for writing.

Another successful way to get students blogging is to start with what they know – pen and paper. Try providing a prompt and having students write a response on paper, as they had done in the past. This is a great way to ensure students learn to evaluate their work and self-correct. It also reinforces that the true value in blogging is to feel comfortable and confident in expressing one’s ideas and using it as a means for personal growth. Once the students have written their responses, you can ask them create their Kidblog student account and use their writing as the first entry.  By having the first draft, and then entering it as a blog post, students have the opportunity to think, reflect and work on their skills.

Either option provides a great starting point. I recommend that you base your decisions for your class blogging on your students and what will be the most beneficial to your classroom.

Getting students excited about blogging only takes that first step. It is a continuous work in progress.  We are all involved in ongoing learning, and by being learners ourselves, we can help our students to take risks, accept challenges, reflect, and grow. And, through the process, we learn about each other, reinforcing the value of relationship building and support in the classroom.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I am a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. I am also an attorney and earned my Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and recently received the Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne. I enjoy presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to benefit student learning. I am the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, a Member at Large for Games & Sims, the Innovation Resources Co-Chair for the Teacher Education Network and the PAECT Historian. Additionally, I am proud to be involved in several communities including being a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Inspire Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod Certified Educator and also participate in several other networks. I enjoy blogging and writing for Kidblog and I am always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. You can connect with me on Twitter @rdene915.

Posted in the Edutopia Community Discussion

If you are looking for new ways to share information, or create a new sign for your classroom, or have students work on a project, then perhaps infographics is what you need.

Infographics are one of many options for presenting information in a vibrant, engaging way. There are many digital tools out there that can be used to create an infographic, and you may know of a few of these tools. If you have not heard of an infographic or you have not yet created one, then I hope I can provide some new information or ideas. And if you have been looking for a way to integrate technology into your classroom, or a quick and easy way to make a slight change in your classroom, then perhaps using one of the great web tools for creating an infographic is just what you need.

An infographic is something that I learned about two summers ago while participating in a weeklong technology conference. I had seen infographics before, but did not know the term and had no knowledge of any of the tools available for creating one. I was anxious to create my own and decided to start the new school year, by creating infographics for each class in place of printing a course syllabus. I used three different tools to create an infographic for each course and then posted them on our class website.

Creating an infographic is quite easy and there are so many templates and options available to include in your work. Making the change from a paper syllabus to an infographic is easy. Simply take the file that you already have and copy and paste your content into one of the many templates that are available, and then have some fun with it. Depending on which web tool you use,  I have used Piktochart, Canva and Smore, you have a variety of choices for the additional icons, images, and more that you can add into your infographic. The possibilities are endless for creating a diverse, vibrant, multi-media, engaging presentation for any kind of use.

So changing from my paper formatted syllabus over into an infographic was the first step that I took. I then decided to take it a few steps further and have my Spanish I students create an infographic to describe themselves. This was something I had them do each year, to practice the beginning vocabulary and to learn about them,  but it was a project usually done on paper. I gave them the choice of a few different tools, and provided my infographics as a model. But I left it up to the students to decide and to explore the options within each of these choices. There were no limits on what they could add into the presentation, nor requirements about which tool they should use. Some students even added some audio and video into their projects, something that cannot be done using the traditional paper format. The best part was how their individuality, interests, and creativity were expressed using infographics.

On a personal level, I enjoy using infographics for creating presentations for graduate course work, book studies, moderating Twitter chats, and even birthday cards and more. It’s a lot of fun to work with these tools and to see what you can create, and even better, what the students create.

** I always give my students choices as to which tool to use, they all have benefits and unique features.  It depends on what works best for our needs.

Suggestions: Piktochart, Visme, Canva, Smore    @piktochart @canva @smorepages

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Thanks to Edutopia for this recent post on June 20, 2016

Blogging

As a foreign language teacher, I constantly look for new, engaging ways for students to work on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in and outside of the classroom.  It is also very important to me that they develop confidence in expressing themselves with the language.  Confidence is sometimes an issue because of the fear students have of making a mistake, either writing something incorrectly, or pronouncing a word wrong. The fear exists and often it causes students to be more hesitant before responding and not participate as much.   The fear of mistakes is not something that is specific to students.  Teachers have this same fear, as do all people.  I have noticed more this year, than in prior years, that students struggle with this and as a result, it limits their learning potential.  So I have worked on finding ways to encourage them to use the language and be creative, and to leave that fear behind.

I took some opportunities to ask students why they did not answer a question on an assignment or a test, or respond in class, and before hearing their response, I already knew what they would say.   They “figured it would be wrong” or they “didn’t know the whole answer” so they left it blank or did not complete the assignment.  Sometimes the students would even write on their papers that they were wrong, or would draw a big X or a frown next to a response.

Seeing these responses, or hearing their reactions, made me want to find ways to help build their confidence levels and to keep them learning.   I tried encouraging them to speak more in class, emphasized that it was more important to try and express themselves and create with the language, rather than worry about being wrong.  I thought that by providing opportunities for them to choose a topic, to know that they were not being graded based on perfect grammar, but rather receiving points for having made the effort and created with the language.  The way to do this was through blogging.

Blogging helps students develop content area skills and confidence

I thought that blogging would be a good way for the students to have a more meaningful and personalized learning experience because they could choose a topic and write about something that they wanted to.  While I emphasized the importance of using the related vocabulary and verbs, I also made it clear that I was more concerned with them using the language, expressing their ideas, and then taking time to look at mistakes and learn from them. Reading their blogs was a great way for me to focus on their individual needs but also to learn more about each student.  It is helpful as a teacher to understand where the students are coming from, what their interests are, and their learning styles, and blogging is a very beneficial method to accomplish these tasks.

Some students initially were not in favor of blogging and at times, seemed almost pained at the idea of having to “blog”, however it is really not any different than filling in a worksheet or making up sentences for class.  It took a little time, but in the end, many students enjoyed blogging and made their blog posts a very creative and personal space, but also were able to look at their growth over the course of the year, and see the progress that they had made.   Blogging is a great tool  for practicing language skills and many others, but also a way to look back and see how you have improved.   The ease of sharing ideas and creating with the language, plus the increase in confidence, are some of the reasons why I think blogging is beneficial for any student or teacher, but also why it will be a practice which continues in my classroom next school year.

Assessing Student Growth Over Time

@CESMediaCenter Ana works on KB post about buddy bench

Blogging is an effective classroom tool used to exceed learning objectives beyond traditional methods. It offers more than just a platform for writing and sharing ideas. It is a means for teachers to assess, connect, empower, and understand their students. For students, it is a way to to find their voice, while continuously learning more about their interests, strengths, and areas of growth.

There are many innovative ways to use blogging in the classroom to meet these goals. As a teacher, you simply need to be open to new ideas, implement creative lesson plans, and relinquish some control by offering the students a chance to choose their own inspiration for writing.  These choices, this freedom in writing, lead to higher student engagement, more meaningful learning, and an enhanced classroom experience for both teachers and students.

Within my classroom, blogging has become one of the best tools to promote literacy skills, while building students’ confidence to express ideas without the fear of making mistakes. Additionally, it has become a way to learn about my students and create a deeper teacher-student relationship. Blogs offer teachers the ability to learn about students and for students to learn about themselves. Yet, what I have found most valuable is blogging’s ability to foster an engaging learning environment, personal to each student, while providing a means for student growth to be tracked and to promote student reflection in the process.

With Kidblog, we have an opportunity for assessing students in multiple areas of communication. It provides a unique, personalized environment for encouraging students to convey their thoughts, demonstrate understanding and make meaning out of content material. Because of Kidblog’s ability to be used class-over-class, year-over-year, students can begin blogging at a young age and continue into higher grade levels. At each phase, they further develop their skills, find comfort sharing knowledge and ideas freely, and continuously develop their content-rich digital portfolio. This ever-growing content can later be used as a focal point to help students see their progress and reflect on their work. They are able to review their first blog posts, compared to their current blog posts, and acknowledge their progress as writers throughout the year.

This progress is built upon the ability to engage students in the writing process through student collaboration and the opportunity to reach an authentic audience. In my class, students are asked to review the comments, to re-read their work, and to consider how they have developed over the year.  It has proven to be an effective way to provide feedback to students, to teach them to reflect and work on goal setting, but in a way that puts the control in their hands.

Students often surprise themselves. They develop skills in ways that are personal to them, and they can use this to track their own growth throughout the year. Even those students who initially were not the biggest fan of writing have been motivated after realizing their progress throughout the year.  Additionally, by taking a look back at where they started and where they are now, students will be inspired to take the next steps to keep moving forward.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I am a Foreign Language Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. I am also an attorney and received my Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law, and I will receive my Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne University in May 2016. I have presented at several conferences on technology, including PETE&C in Pennsylvania and four sessions at ISTE in Philadelphia in 2015. I look forward to presenting at these and other conferences again this year and enjoy sharing ideas and collaborating with others. I am an officer for ISTE Mobile Learning Network and Games & Sims Network, the PAECT Historian, and fortunate to represent several communities working with educational technology. 

Thank you Kidblog, my recent post published April 14, 2016

Retelling the Story: What Comes Next?

@mrsgrun4th reading and blogging at recess 3

My prior blog posts have focused on the benefits of blogging for students and teachers in the classroom. Some of these posts included using blogs as a way to encourage students to write freely without fear of mistakes, as a way to build relationships with classmates and the teacher, and as a way to create with a new language and build their vital language skills.  In addition to these, there are many ways to use blogs in place of a traditionally used assignment or assessment. It is simple to set up a loose prompt for students and use their blog as a way to assess their learning in relation to topics covered in class, while welcoming creativity.

Retelling the story:

Recently, I have used blogging as a means for students to retell portions of a story that we have been reading in class in a way that helps them better understand the meaning of the book. In my Spanish class, we use leveled readers throughout the year to build our language skills. Sometimes we will discuss the readers in class and other times students may complete a worksheet with comprehension questions. While, these are both great methods to determine what students have learned, they do not allow for student creativity or differentiation.  To assure all students have the opportunity to be involved in the discussion, expressing their creative views and offering insights, I have the students blog.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.10.09 PM

What happens next?

Recently, I assigned the students the task of reading a chapter in the Spanish reader “Amigos Detectives” and asked them to write about what they read. I gave some guiding questions to provide ideas and spark their creativity. In addition to answering some of my questions, I asked the students to either predict what may come next in the story or to create a new title for the current or next chapter. Later, I asked them to create their own chapter and give some of the highlights of what might happen to the main characters. This encourages deeper thinking and creativity, while the blogging medium gives the students an opportunity to share their ideas and opinions on a higher level.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.10.23 PM

 

Student example

 

The benefit:

Giving blog assignments related to a reading has increased the levels of comprehensive reading being done by my students.  The requirements given, a summarization, retelling the story, or creating a next chapter, lead to more student involvement in the reading process and makes it more interesting and personal process. Students are able to choose how they demonstrate comprehension of the language, which increases student motivation. Additionally, it  provides a great prompt for classroom discussion. Using blogs as the medium enables students to narrate in their own personal way and hopefully have fun in the process.

Blogging provides a more engaging way to have students show what they have learned, to express what interested them, and to create with the language.  Students truly enjoy sharing story predictions and choosing our favorites from the newly created titles.

Build Confidence Through Blogging

Regardless of the course one teaches, or the content being covered, it is important to provide opportunities for students to practice their literacy skills. As a foreign language teacher, I continually seek new, creative ways for my students to practice their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills and in the process, to become more confident in their language usage. Students today often struggle with a fear of speaking in class and of making mistakes. As a teacher, I try to support the students as best as I can by reinforcing that it is natural to make mistakes and it is part of the learning process. I share my own experiences to help build a connection with my students.

But even with these supports, the fear of mistakes continues to limit the willingness of students to participate in class activities. They are afraid to be wrong. I have noticed this is very common among students today and even in my own experience, as a teacher and even now as a graduate student, I experience this fear as well. As a teacher, it is important to provide support and model risk-taking for our students. We must work to find different ways to encourage them to use the language and express themselves, without worrying about mistakes.

So how do we do this?

A great way to involve students in expressing themselves and also to provide valuable feedback to them and to help boost confidence in the process, is through blogging. I decided to try this with my students as an alternate homework assignment, to provide some differentiation and to learn more about the specific needs of my students in the process. Blogging was something that I had recently started and so I thought I would give it a try with my students, as a way to help them be more comfortable in expressing themselves.

Because it is critical for students to practice their language skills, I focused on providing some unique and creative writing prompts that would be a comfortable way for them to start writing and blogging. I set some requirements, such as that they do not use translators, that they simply write their response, cast aside any worries about making mistakes, to just write in Spanish and do their best. I continued to emphasize that making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process and how we improve as a result of having made mistakes. It is important to also share stories of our successes and failures with our students, so they can relate and have the support that they need. So when I started assigning the blogs to my students for homework assignments, I encouraged them to focus on expressing their ideas, to write freely without worrying about the grammar and language accuracy, but rather to focus on using and creating with the language.

The first assignment KIDBLOG

The decision to integrate Kidblog as my blogging platform, and to use blogging as a way to encourage my students to write, and create with the language, has had great benefits on their language skills. The tools available for blogging today are similar to what I had done many years ago, with students in my Spanish IV course, who had paper journals. At that time, I set aside ten minutes in class, a few days each week for the students to write a response to a prompt I had written on the board. I tried to come up with a variety of interesting, fun, content related prompts, to help with comfort level but also to have them practice the related vocabulary and verbs we had been studying. While they wrote, I also took the time to write because I wanted to be involved in the process, and it is beneficial for me to work on continued writing as well. Most of the prompts were created by me, but there were days that I left it up to the students, and their fun, creative ideas, led to even better prompts than those which I had created.

I would collect each of their notebooks on Friday, read their responses over the weekend, provide feedback and comments, but they were not graded based on grammatical correctness. I wanted to assess their skills, use the information to guide my instruction, and also quite importantly, use it as a way to understand the students and their interests. As teachers, it is critical to work on building relationships with our students, to better understand their needs and interests, and the journal writing was a great way to accomplishment each of these goals.

On Monday, I would return the journals, and the students would read my comments and try to implement some of the corrections or feedback that I provided into their work for the new week, and build their language skills.

Blogging: What are some of the benefits?

Blogging is a means for teachers to encourage students to express themselves, to be creative, to build literacy skills, to become more confident in their writing, and focus more on sharing their ideas without fear of errors. Blogging helps students to develop their creative side, to have a choice in what they are writing, to become more expressive and to have some individualized instruction. Paper is fine for students to being blogging and the most important thing is that students have the opportunity to blog and use the experience to build their skills in the language or in any area.

But rather than using paper, students and teachers can benefit by using a tool such as Kidblog. The blog can be written using any device for access. Students can personalize their blog by choosing from different templates, fonts, and more. The use of digital tools for blogging is great for tracking student growth and having the writing available, longer than a piece of paper would last. As teachers, and with our students, we can watch the student’s growth and track their progress in writing skills and more, over a period of time, and provides opportunities for self-reflection.

I enjoy creating new prompts for the students to blog about and I encourage them to find blogs of interest to read as well. Reading their entries provides me with valuable information to help guide my instruction, to give them feedback, but more importantly, I can learn more about the interests and needs of each of my students.

If this sounds like an area that might be of benefit to your classroom and your students, then I recommend trying it out. It is a risk, but it is worth it. Blogging might just be the way to open up communication, collaboration and enhance creativity in your classroom. Find your blogging tool and get started. Good luck!

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