Monday, 24 February 2014

Tellagami as a writing prompt and motivation for old school writing

  • Become familiar with a powerful app that is easily shared with learners back in their classrooms
  • Publish first autobiographical piece of writing, crafted for an audience and published on an iPad.
  • Grow capability of the learners to create and share what they have done.

The first tool we are going to explore is Tellagami. Here is the lesson sequence.

The Tellagami app (free)

What it does: Create a talking avatar by selecting various features. When done craft a piece of writing that takes no longer than 30 seconds to read aloud, record as a movie. Also have it read aloud for you in a variety of voices. Exports to the Camera Roll or via email. The app also works on your iPhone or iPad Touch.

It is also available for Android devices via Google Play

Lesson One:

Show the app- how it looks when it’s done. Share an example already published as an exemplar. Sharing a little more about the teacher at the same time.

  • Then share how to construct the character, take a photo and add the background.
  • Learners craft their 30 second name challenge
  • Practice recording it.
  • A couple are published to the class blog

To get the videos or photos to me for uploading to Vimeo or YouTube use Drop It To Me

Need to have blog icon set up on the home screen of each of the iPads as an app like icon ready for children to access. The idea of Drop It To Me is that it links to your DropBox Folder for easy upload of photos and video.

Workflow- Tellagami- Camera Roll- Blog Link- upload to teacher Dropbox- upload to Vimeo- embed in blog for sharing- share blog with whānau.


  • All of the boys were very motivated to get their writing done and could see the point of practising reading aloud to fluency if their creation was going to be shared.
  • Some of the boys could speak knowledgeably about how they got their name but some had no idea.
  • Pairing the boys up teina/tuakana was good so the older ones taught the younger ones- need some discussion around assisting the younger ones rather than doing it for them.
  • I need to have a basic Spell-Write list of the most common words available to each child so they can be more independent in accessing basic words.
  • I need to make my instructions more visible/spoken so the boys can hear my thinking as well as see it as we are working.
  • Dropittome worked a treat. Next time I will have the boys do the uploads themselves.
  • I need to construct a note to whanau sharing the blog URL with them so they can see and share their boys creations.
  • Some boys needed another ten minutes to get finished- time was tight. I think next time it will be easier as we covered a lot in the first activity.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tips for Young Writers

I found this from Ralph Fletcher...

I’m not a big believer in “story starters”. I believe that the best ideas are living inside you. Your challenge is to dig them out. Do the writing only you can do. But every writer gets stuck from time to time so I’ve included a few ideas to jump-start your imagination. You might try to write about:
  • Family story
  • A particular tradition in your family.
  • An artifact (arrowhead, ring, antique, etc.). Important objects in our lives often provide excellent material to write about.
  • Special place: special room, attic nook, inside of a tree, scary closet. You might start by quickly sketching a map of a house full of memories. Mark those rooms where something important  happened to you.
  • Brother, sister, or special relative. Remember: think small. Focus on one aspect of that person, or one experience you had with him or her.
  • Your place in the family. Are the oldest kid in your family? The youngest? Are you a middle child? An only child? Were you adopted?
  • Best friend. (Did you ever get in trouble?)
  • Moving. Did you leave behind a best friend when you moved from your old house?
  • A disastrous time you had at camp or on a family vacation.
  • Horrible haircut (or other mortifying experience)
  • An injury. Did you ever have to go to the hospital
  • Important first: your first day in school, the first time you rode a two-wheeler, etc.
  • Favorite pet, or a pet you once had.
  • When your family changed: your brother went off to college, grandma came to live with you, etc.
  • What you are (or used to be) afraid of.
  • One thing you never want to do again!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Deliberate Acts of Teaching

I wonder how the focus might be around how e-learning can enable and amplify the deliberate acts of literacy teaching that have been shown to be effective? 

Years 1–4

Modelling how good readers and writers work (and are also using strategies such as questioning, prompting, and giving feedback).
Prompting means encouraging the learner to use what they already know and can do. A prompt often takes the form of a question and involves allowing “wait time” to give students the opportunity to develop and express their own ideas.
Questioning is perhaps the instructional tool used most commonly by teachers. Strategic and purposeful questioning is crucial to students’ literacy learning. Questioning may unlock the understanding of a student who is struggling with an aspect of their reading or writing by giving them clear guidance towards what they need to do.
Giving feedback
Feedback is most effective when it relates to specific learning goals and to the ultimate goal of enabling students to monitor and regulate their own learning.
Feedback may be verbal or non-verbal, spoken or written. The quality of the teacher’s written feedback on a student’s writing is especially important, both for providing further guidance and for the student’s confidence.
An important message for teachers to convey to students is that using effective strategies in their reading and writing is what caused their success; this is crucial to building students’ metacognition. It’s especially useful to encourage students themselves to suggest what they could do. This is a great way to build their awareness of how they can take control of their learning.
Telling can mean providing information about when to use a particular literacy strategy in a given task – making explicit the fact that the students can apply their existing knowledge at this point and so building their awareness of when to apply that knowledge in future situations. Telling students when to apply their expertise is particularly useful for students who are experiencing difficulties in reading or writing.
Explaining can be thought of as an extension of telling. Teachers may explain the task itself, or they may explain the content of a text or learning activity. 
Directing is simply giving a specific instruction. Like all these instructional strategies, it is used deliberately, for a purpose.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Day Two- We Meet

Today I got my first introduction to the boys- in small bunches I am happy to say.

I quickly introduced myself, when and where we would be meeting, sold the idea of why we were meeting and did the survey.

For the younger ones the survey was a bit of a mission but we got there.

As the survey was in Google Forms it was so easy to get a summary of responses all neatly represented with little pie graphs and percentages!

Most of the boys were quite positive about school generally but those that didn't like writing deeply disliked it.

We then did a short piece of writing for seven minutes- what could the boys come up with? I suggested they choose the writing implement and paper they could write on. They chose where to go and do their hand written writing sample- a couple sat at tables, one stood up the whole time, some sat on the floor at low tables and some organised themselves some cushions.

One lad was only capable of writing three words in that time. Most were are able to string sentences together but without proofreading most didn't have sentences and I had to write notes at the bottom to make sure that I would be able to re-read them later.

After all the boys had left we put them in four groups of 6 or 7 across the year levels. So each group will have a Yr 3, a Year 4, a year 5 and a year 6.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Day One

Today I waded through the children's portfolios trying to come to grips with the capabilities of the learners that I will be working with.

There are about thirty children that I will be learning with so we divided them up into four smaller groups as we find out more about their strengths and needs.

When we know more more about their capabilitites will shuffle them around - no batch teaching here!!

On Monday I want to give them a survey to find out what they think about school, writing and their strengths. I thought I would find out what the library computers were capable of doing that I was going to get to work with.

There were six eMacs, two Indigo Macs and an iMac.

Hurdle One- four of them didn't have mice! Teachers evidently cannibalise these computers while no one is watching. Look out! Now I'm watching!

Hurdle Two: three of them have lost their date so think it's way back in 2001 so give security warnings all over the place. By the time I realised everyone else had gone home. A job for early Monday morning.

Hurdle Three: The bookmarks were all over the place so I tidied them all up, shortening long ones, making myself a folder so 'my kids' can find things I want to access on line.

Hurdle Four: Someone off site makes Google identities so I have to use my ordinary gmail. I used Google URL shortener to make a URL I could manually add to each eMac and bookmark it so kids could easily access it next week.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Tomorrow I start

Although I want to engage my learners with technology there are a few things I need to know first. I have been out of teaching for a bit and am feeling probably more nervous about the task ahead than the kids are

  • I need to know my learners- who are they, what they like, don't like, a bit more of who they are.
  • I need to know what they can do- where are they starting with their writing, how they feel about it, how others around them feel about it.
  • I would like to have some samples of the writing that they can do so I have an idea of their capabilities.
  • I need for the learners to know more about me- how I feel about writing.
  • I need like to know what gear I will have at my disposal to use with the kids!
  • I need some engaging first activities that will give the kids some success first off.
  • I need to know what they want to write about......

Exciting times ahead for us all.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Strategies for Engaging Boy Writers

This was a useful list of things to think about with boys writing

 Boys who were allowed to choose writing topics showed increased motivation and engagement. 

2. Boys are helped by experiencing examples of different text forms. This helped boys in non-fiction writing.

3. A "guys-only" writing workshop was initiated for a small number of boys. They came away very motivated to write as a result.

4. Boys planned their writing using graphic organizers both individually and in pairs. 

5. When boys were given assignments with step-by-step instructions, clear expectations and a formula to follow, assignments were completed. 

6. Boys were introduced to the "APE" (answer, prove, extend) strategy to help them to write at a higher level.

7. Boys saw the importance of an authentic audience and a real purpose when they produced a "Boys Writing for Boys!" newsletter. 

8. Talk is an important scaffold for boys writing activities. Talk builds social interaction, and deepens understanding and is a precursor to writing. 

9. Allow boys to share their thinking through talk prior to a written assignment. It will improve their ability to communicate. 

10. Boys use of the debate to discuss authentic and relevant issues transferred into their non-fiction persuasive writing. 

11. Boys welcome having male role models as writers.

12. Boys choice of topics for writing allows for ownership. 

13. Schools can tap into the real-life connection by creating blogs for the students to use for class writing.

14. Boys prefer to write about real-life and hands-on experiences.

15. Boys' writing improved during activities that were highly motivating and grounded in the real world, coupled with direct instruction about the writing form and supported with the use of visuals such as anchor charts, word walls, and graphic organisers. 

16. Boys like to write about exaggerations, humour, silly writing, rap songs, procedural writing, short scenes.

17. ICT in the form of computers, blogs, wikis and digital voice recorders have been used with boys to reinforce writing skills. 

18. Boys with special needs thrive when given the opportunity to work with assistive technologies: graphic organisers, dictation software. Write and edit in-class compositions electronically allowed them to receive immediate feedback.

19. Teachers observed that when the number of paper and pencil tasks was decreased, students were more engaged during the writing activities.

20. Boys who design and play video games develop sophisticated operational, cultural and critical literacy skills. 

21. Boys requested boy friendly topics, a clear outline of what is expected, a shorter writing process and fewer things to fix when they are finished. 

22. An emphasis on non-fiction writing 

23. Boys' teachers placed a heavier emphasis on oral assessment and performance-based assessment, such as drama activities rather than traditional assessments based on writing. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

First Thoughts

This article by Margaret Wente suggests what she thinks that boys want.....

  1.  Boys need to have a good relationship with the teacher.
  2.  Boys will only stay engaged as long as the work interests them.
  3.  Boys need purpose, to make a difference, to know they measure up.
  4.  Boys need challenge, above all, a need for a meaningful vocation.
  5.  Boys need purposeful work.
  6.  Boys want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  7.  Boys love rituals, trophies and tradition.
  1. I will spend the first sessions trying to get to know the boys and for them to know me. Sharing the things that I am interested in, particularly around writing- books I have written- the journey to creation, the feeling about that work being done. Finding out the sorts of things the boys want to talk about, to write about? 
  2. Leading from #1 finding out what the boys are interested in as a starter for writing. Things like.... sports, cars, farting, being grubby, family....
  3. Needing a purpose- share what we are being out together to achieve, how we are learning together with eLearning tools. Finding out about them, base line data.
  4. Challenge- find the goals that are achievable, not aspirational.
  5. Purposeful, authentic work- the commitment to publish and get feedback through blogging/ quadblogging
  6. I'd love to see a collaborative book published in iTunes written by the boys- updated each term- with photos.
  7. Structure each of the writing sessions, the golden pen award for the best sentence/ piece of writing of the day.