Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Tag: writing

Putting on the Gloves

It’s Debate Week!  The week we’ve been researching and writing for in Expository Writing class.  And in every debate this week, my students have impressed me in the way they’ve stood up, made a stand, used solid statistics and direct quotes to support their arguments, and most of all, awed me with their critical thinking skills.

It all started last fall when I attended a debate workshop at our state’s speech conference.  Persuasive writing is a huge focus in Nebraska high schools, since it’s the genre used to evaluate our eleventh graders.  And rather than just teaching students to write persuasively, the debate workshop made me realize how powerful that performance activity could be.

It’s Debate Week!  The week we’ve been researching and writing for in Expository Writing class.  And in every debate this week, my students have impressed me in the way they’ve stood up, made a stand, used solid statistics and direct quotes to support their arguments, and most of all, awed me with their critical thinking skills.

It all started last fall when I attended a debate workshop at our state’s speech conference.  Persuasive writing is a huge focus in Nebraska high schools, since it’s the genre used to evaluate our eleventh graders.  And rather than just teaching students to write persuasively, the debate workshop made me realize how powerful that performance activity could be.

Before I go any further, let me say in full disclosure that I took a semester of debate class in college.  I hated it.  The stress, the conflict–I dreaded each and every debate.

So I don’t expect every student to love it or even enjoy it.  However, I recognize that many of my students thrive off it, and those who don’t enjoy it have gained argumentation and presentation skills.

The class started with narrowing topics using Google Moderator, until they finally chose the death penalty, vaccines, and ipads.  Then they researched.  We used Google Scholar and studied academic articles.

Then they wrote two papers.  The first was an informative, objective piece covering both sides of their issue–a genre they found extremely challenging.  Then they focused on their debate arguments.  We analyzed a sample position paper, highlighting the organization (specifically the heavy use of direct quotations) and then they took off on their own arguments, producing the best writing I’ve seen from most of them.

If you haven’t caught on, I’m so proud of these young people.  They’re graduating in mere weeks–days, really–and yet they’re still pushing themselves.  In fact, one group that finished debates a day early elected to have one more impromptu debate.  The topic:  ham vs. turkey.

And let me tell you, this was the most creative yet critical thinking I’ve ever heard.  It was silly and fun, yet they used statistics and research straight off the internet as they debated.  They thought on their feet, collaborated with their team, and gave me a day I won’t soon forget.

Writing a Choose Your Own Adventure Story!

2515910647_d1bd443b67

 

You remember these.

The Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you’re chased by a tiger.  You can escape it by leaping into the ocean 50 feet below (go to page 48) or face the tiger with your homemade slingshot (go to page 128).

Tomorrow, after weeks of research writing, my expository writing students are going to take a break and write their own Choose Your Own Adventure story.

I swiped the idea from Sean O’Neil’s webinar from last year’s QuestBoise Unconference (can’t wait to “attend” this year’s!)  Sean demonstrated how students could write their own choose your own adventure stories using links in word documents or slideshows.

Then I thought, couldn’t this easily be done in Google forms as well?  And that’s just what I did today.  To provide a sample product for my students, I created a Choose Your Own Adventure story based on Hamlet.

Since I love the play and am very familiar with it, I jumped right in and started writing.  However, I think I’ll encourage students to start with a storyboard/flowchart tomorrow, especially if they are writing a story from scratch.  I’ll also give them the option for using a story they already know (as I did with Hamlet).  Providing the “alternate routes” that don’t happen in Hamlet challenged my creativity similar to if I had written a story from scratch.

Normally I focus on essay writing in class, but there are benefits to this activity.  One, when students do write narratives, I often find that they get lost in describing the mundane and don’t confront their characters with conflicts.  An activity such as this prompts students to throw conflicts and decisions in front of their characters.  I’m also considering using this activity next year as a possible quest when I teach Beowulf and The Hero’s Journey.

Other standards can also be addressed in this activity.  Storyboarding/flow-charting can be taught as a method of pre-writing, and students can peer review each other’s stories.  Students can also be required to include specific literary elements, such as allusions, metaphors, and alliteration.

And knowing that students will be writing these stories for other students to read?  The stakes just went up about a million percent.  (Yep, just showing off my awesome hyperbole skills).

Can’t wait to get started tomorrow!

Publishing Books with Blurb

An area that my teaching in expository writing needs improved is publishing and audience.  My students need more of an audience to write to–more than just writing essays to me.  I’ve got some plans in mind.  Next year may finally be the year that I implement blogs (I’ve wanted to for a while, but I want to make sure I have a set plan in mind for them).  Another is that I need to set up a list of publications for them to submit to…and encourage them to do this.

What I’ve done this week is a third part of my plan, and it involves the Blurb website.  Blurb allows you to publish ebooks or hard copy books, magazines, or portfolios at a very reasonable price.

Bookwright copy

First, I downloaded the free BookWright program from Blurb.  For those who aren’t familiar with publishing programs, Blurb also provides tutorials.  However, if you’ve used publishing programs before, BookWright is intuitive and easy to figure out.

Note:  If you’re used to using Adobe InDesign and you want to publish more advanced, high-graphic pages, I would suggest sticking with that.  It will give you more control over your pages, and Blurb will upload InDesign files for publication, too.

Then, click the upload button when you’re finished, and the program will automatically upload all your BookWright files to its website.  There, you can order hard copies, PDF files, and ebook versions.  You also have options of how you want to promote your book–whether you want to keep it semi-private to those to  whom you provide a url, or if you want it available to the public.  Blurb also provides embed codes for Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, or any website, so you can promote your book there.

Blurb sets the base price for each book based on their costs, but you can then add your own profit margin.  This is a great way for others to purchase your book without you risking money.

Blurb provides many other options, too, for selling your book.  Definitely go check it out!

Oh, and if you want to check out the book I made of my last year’s class’s writing, you can see it here:

 

© 2021 Technology Pursuit

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Skip to toolbar