SFIS WAC Resources and Detailed Session Descriptions

Dec 10th, 2014 | By | Category: Uncategorized

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Selected Resources from Writing Across the Curriculum Workshop

Santa Fe Indian School, October 8-9, 2014

The following sites are exemplary ideas about how to incorporate writing across the curriculum. Each will enhance content and will address Common Core State Standards.




Explain Everything


Common Core and Writing

Johns, Ann. “Understanding the Common Core.” Common Core Standards. LiteracyTA, 2014. Web. 05 Oct. 2014. < http://www.literacyta.com/common-core-standards/writing >.

Detailed Session Descriptions

Writing Across the Curriculum Overview and Discussion 

Alicia gave an overview of Writing Across the Curriculum and revisited the concepts associated with writing to learn and writing to communicate. She pointed to handbooks created by Steve Peha and the Michigan Department of Education Guides to Writing Across the Curriculum, emphasizing that these resources are not set in stone, but rather are examples of what educators use across the country in an effort to address writing across the curriculum and its ties to the Common Core. If students are prepared and expected to write in every element of their lives, then they will be more prepared to succeed in college and careers.

Overview of Common Core Literacy Standards and the SFIS Ideal Graduate Rubric 

Susan reviewed a handout that correlates the writing standards or the Common Core with those of math literacy, 21st century skills, and the SFIS Ideal Graduate Rubric. Discussion centered on how writing across the curriculum can enhance instruction in all areas and how writing in all disciplines can help students meet the Common Core standards in both language arts and math and address the skills needed in the 21st century. Learning these skills in high school prepares students to be successful in college and career. The SFIS Ideal Graduate Rubric is taken from the Common Core literacy standards and contains the skills every graduate from SFIS is expected to have.

Writing Across the Curriculum All Disciplines—Examples of Technology Based Activities that Utilize Writing in the Classroom

Science/Math(Demo of Educreations with Math and Science Emphasis)- Susan/Alicia; Humanities & FPA (Demo of Edsitement and ITunes University) Alicia/Susan

Alicia and Susan presented a cursory overview of Edsitement and iTunes University. They demonstrated using the sites and reviewed some of the possibilities for writing across the curriculum. They next focused on using Educreations (a virtual iPad whiteboard that can be used by teachers and students in all disciplines). Participants were divided into groups comprised of both teachers and students and asked to design and present a lesson for a secondary classroom. Some groups focused on solving a problem in a math class. Others looked at teaching vocabulary in a content area or on the fears of Ebola. The beauty of Educreations is that lessons can be recorded while in progress and then saved and played back in film format as many times as necessary. Text can be imported, but writing with an index finger or stylus on a touch screen is just as easy. Internet pictures or pictures from a camera roll can also be imported and saved with the added feature of being able to write directly on the picture as the teacher or student incorporates it into the lesson. Once the small group lessons were completed, students presented their lessons to the larger group. Downsides to the program are that Educreations is iPad-specific, and to virtually save material, teachers must create an account and have students save the work to that account. Yet, participants saw validity in using the app as a one-time demonstration of knowledge (writing to communicate) and then deleting the contents when finished.

Exploration Time

Participants explored on their own a number of apps and sites that had earlier only briefly been mentioned or explained. Some participants ventured into iTunes University, LiteracyTA, and Edsitement, while others further explored Educreations and other apps, such as Google Classroom, Socrative, Nearpod, Schoology, Common Core, and Explain Everything. Evident during this time period was the interaction between students and teachers and the discussions of accessibility and application to individual situations. Some sites and applications were readily discounted by one group or individual while enthusiastically embraced by others. Evident, too, was the wealth of knowledge easily available to everyone through the available technological help and information. Time remains the number one constraint that hinders exploration, which prompted Susan and Alicia to compile a list of possibilities. The list is only the tip of the iceberg, but participants can add resources, and both Alicia and Susan will continue to add others.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off/Outside the Four Walls: Writing across the Curriculum—Alfredo Lujan

Teacher from Monte del Sol and longtime Bread Loafer, Alfredo Luján adeptly combined adaptations honed over his 42 years of teaching and free writing strategies learned from Bread Loaf professor Ken Macrorie. Alfredo incorporated film and music into a journey to understanding of surrounding and self by having participants free write along the way. Modeling Ferris Bueller’s day off and his learning outside the four walls of a classroom, Alfredo led participants to an understanding of writing as a form of exploration and understanding. The free writes were initially seen as “writing to learn” exercises, but participants soon realized the strength of each guided free write as a larger piece of “writing to communicate.” The exercises gave participants the opportunity to explore their own definitions of education and provided the opportunity to write about education in very meaningful and personal ways.

Day Two:

Skype Session: Using Technology to Inform Literacy—Paul Barnwell and Students Louisville, KY 

In preparation for the Skype phone call with fellow BLTN member Paul Barnwell, English III and Digital Media teacher, Fern Creek High School, Louisville, Kentucky, participants read a blog post the night before to be able to come to the session with pertinent questions. (The title of the post is “Five Reasons Why You Should Be Teaching Digital Citizenship” and can be found at http://www.teachthought.com/technology/5-reasons-you-should-be-teaching-digital-citizenship/).

In conversations before the Skype phone call, the three presenters—Alicia, Susan, and Paul—explored the issues of digital literacy and digital citizenship as 21st century skills today’s students need. In his blog, Paul writes, “With many schools now shifting to allow BYOD (bring your own device) at school, combined with a general push for integrating more technology in the classroom, it’s obvious that students need to examine the consequences of their online activity–both good and bad.” Paul gives “five reasons why schools should take a lead by promoting digital and social media literacies curriculum, and promoting digital citizenship inside and outside of the classroom.” He first argues that “the gap between what students do with their phones and what they could do is striking in schools, and the gap will only grow unless we fully embrace the ubiquity of digital connectivity in all of our lives.” He goes on to explain that “Given that many colleges and employers judge prospective students and employees based on their social media profiles, we need to teach students to create online personas that project more positive constructions of self. Many students are shockingly unaware that adults are able to access their profiles.”

Using these ideas as the basis of our live Skype conversation, Paul first created two scenarios of fictional SFIS students who were applying to colleges and universities. On paper, one candidate seemed the better candidate, but she lacked a digital footprint, either positive or negative. The second candidate had a somewhat negative footprint and lacked the grades of the first candidate. The discussion among participants became a lively one about which candidate was better. Teachers and students originally agreed that the first candidate was the best, but then began to question her lack of a digital footprint. They then looked at audience and questioned the validity of their first decision in various situations. What if’s began to surface, and although participants were never in total agreement about which candidate was best, they did begin to realize that what they say and post online does have an influence on future outcomes. Paul had participants Google themselves, and they found that not all of what they post is as positive as they would like.

This led to a conversation between participants at SFIS and two of Paul’s former students (both sophomores). An interesting part of the conversation was the peer interaction and the “real life” models of students who had taken Paul’s digital literacy class and changed their actions online to portray a more positive image of themselves. Paul’s students reiterated the idea that what people say and post online never goes away. The students told SFIS participants not to post anything they wouldn’t want their grandmothers to see. Participants at SFIS nodded in agreement even if they didn’t actually vocalize that agreement.

Paul’s two students also touched on the perception that people can effectively multi-task. (This is actually Paul’s third reason to teach digital citizenship in schools.) His students outlined an experiment Paul implemented in class. Students were asked to put their phones on their desks and instructed not to answer or use them for the duration of the class. If they followed the instructions, Paul would give them a reward at the end of the period. During the duration of the class, Paul began to text and/or call the students’ cell phones. Most students succumbed to the temptation of the ringing/vibrating phones and got less done than those who did not answer their phones. They also did not receive the rewards. Participants also watched a YouTube video about the marshmallow challenge in which young children are presented with a similar challenge: Don’t eat the marshmallow and get more as a reward for not doing so. The results were similar. Few if any of them could resist the marshmallow long enough to reap the rewards of more marshmallows.

By watching the video and listening to their peers, student participants (and teachers) realized that focusing on a task while multitasking is far from productive.

Debrief Skype Session—How is this information relevant to our classrooms? Small groups report out—relevancy discussion—using board paper for notes for each group

Participants began to debrief in the computer lab. Walking back to the library for the formal debriefing, participants were saying things like, “I’ve got to clean up my Facebook page. How do you do that?” “Maybe I should put my phone away when I’m doing homework.” “I didn’t realize others could find out so much about me.”

In the library, participants broke into groups comprised of both teachers and students. They were asked to reflect on the relevancy of technology and its place in writing across the curriculum, to list concerns, and to offer guidelines for using technology in the classroom. They were instructed not to limit their discussion to the use of Skype or social media as forms of discourse, but to look at the big picture and discuss how, elements of technology can or do help in an effort to implement writing across the curriculum. They then reported their findings to the larger group.

One group concluded, “All classes evolve with technology.” Another said that technology gives participants the “ability to connect with other students with different perspectives,” and added that technology allows people to “talk to experts and gather information that’s not in books.” Another group stated that the “impact of our online profile has the ability to impact our future.” This group “learned how technology is incorporated in(to) the classroom by replacing handwritten notes with pictures.” A fourth group said that technology like Skype is relevant “because it is a new way to write across the curriculum.” All groups in one way or another stated that writing across the curriculum is far different in the 21st century than it was in the past, that writing is found in all forms from text to visuals to mathematical equations, and that technology makes things faster but not necessarily easier.

Participants voiced concerns about cyberbullying, about the lack of technological resources in schools or at home, about the lack of interpersonal connections that technology sometimes presents, about privacy issues and how to project one’s digital persona in positive ways, and about the lack of digital citizenship and digital literacy in the classroom.

Participants overwhelmingly suggested that both digital citizenship and digital literacy become required classes in schools and that teachers receive further training. Participants recognized the gap between what our technology supports and how much people know about the technology they use every day. Some participants recognized the dichotomy between wanting the newest and best piece of technology and knowing how to harness its power once it is obtained. In particular, students said that wanting the newest iPhone, for example, was just being a teenager. They do not necessarily see the ramifications of what they post or say on social media and its long-term effects. Everyone agreed that topics such as these need to be discussed in classrooms, and that teachers need to be trained to have those discussions with students in a safe and nonthreatening environment.

Curriculum Development: How Can Content Area Teachers Utilize Technology and Writing Techniques in their own Classrooms?

Staff members and students worked in groups to create their own lessons and samples inspired by the information shared during the workshop. After lunch on the second day, students joined with teachers

to produce real-life, usable lessons for their classrooms, using any of the resources discussed during the course of the two days. Each group then reported to the entire group.

The majority of groups used Educreations to create their lessons, which was the one app with which participants actually practiced. Lessons varied from solving math problems by using word problems to explain a formula to creating a Google Classroom and posting a writing prompt online for students to respond to in a blog. Monte del Sol participants strategized how to take information about writing across the curriculum back to their staff and administration. They wrote dialogue, created talking points, assigned roles, and by the end of the day, had a definitive answer from their principal about presenting at a faculty meeting in the near future.

As Alicia and Susan circulated through the groups, what became apparent was the genuine collaboration between teachers and students. They were at the table in like roles, where they experienced a feeling of sincere equity with idea exchanging. Students became teachers, and teachers became students in an arena of congeniality. Two hours flew by, and the combined efforts of both teachers and students surfaced in some very innovative and engaging lessons.










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