Friday, June 15, 2012

Cultivating Superb Writers

I am sharing my love of the written word as a part of the Superb Writers’ Blogathon. In partnership with Grammarly grammar checker, this series is bringing valuable hints to aspiring superb writers all across the world wide web. These are my top tips for helping your students to become successful writers.

Brainstorm & Plan

I find many of my students want to skip this step in the writing process.  It's so crucial though to think about what you want to write and to capture your ideas in the simplest terms possible.

I believe that different methods may work better for different writers, but students need to be willing to try each method a few times to give it a fair shot.  For me, messy scribbles all over a page, preferably with a little colour-coding work best. I recently heard that some teachers of tweens and teens are encouraging Twitter as a tool for drafting written work, as it keeps the messages short and simple.  As long as the student understands what he or she meant when the points were written, then anything goes when it comes to capturing ideas quickly!

Leave Time to Edit/Proofread

Writing is a process.  It does take time.  Teachers usually keep this in mind and will often try to help students to understand by breaking a writing task into smaller steps or subtasks. My students sometimes only pay attention to the final date that something is due, and feel it's okay to work at a snail's pace since I've given them so much time.  Leaving enough time to make any revisions and improvements needed, as well as to take a little break from the piece of writing to be able to proofread it more effectively is super improtant important.
(See what I mean?)

Perfection Not Required

Don't let mistakes keep you from writing! Or even worse - don't let a fear of making mistakes keep you from writing. Again, writing is a process, and there is time to change things, reorganize things, or even to scratch some things out and start over. 

Students shouldn't have to worry about total precision in their written expression. That means we can't suggest that they make so many corrections at once that they will feel like their work has to be perfect.  Accuracy in their expression and word choice will come with time. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Personally, I've been hearing more and more often at educational workshops the term "fluency follows fluidity." This usually refers to oral communication, but it is clearly true for written communication as well.  Get the students to write. Get them to write a lot, in sustained chunks, and competency will follow.

Read, read, and read 

Students who read often, and are engaged when they do, will develop better vocabularies and be more likely to be comfortable writing in different forms for different purposes. They will be more confident experimenting with varying their sentences and trying to achieve different effects that they learn.  Remember that reading does not have to just be of the silent variety with a novel. Variety is key!  Don't be afraid to encourage the use of technology in reading, as well as in writing.  One of the reasons I love my Sony eReader (which apparently is no longer available to buy) is that it has a built in dictionary and thesaurus. When I'm reading, if I find a word with which I'm unfamiliar, then I just double tap the word and can instantly better understand what I am reading.

What are your favourite tips to help your students grow into better writers?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Twitter for French Teachers

A few weeks ago, I attended a Twitter workshop for teachers offered by my board.  I'd been meaning to check Twitter out for a while, but was a little worried about the time-suck it might create for me, given the amount of time I already spend on facebook and teacher-blog-surfing.  But I figured this would be a good, pointed way to expose myself to the PLN aspect of Twitter.  A week or two later, I was very surprised to be attending a family of schools PD event, being addressed by our Director of Education, with a large screen next to him showing the twitter feed for the day!

So, I've jumped on the Twitter bandwagon... but have limited the people I follow to people of professional interest to me!  (I admit, I was following Oprah for a tiny bit, until I realized there was NO WAY these tweets were actually being written by her, so why bother?!)

In case you're toying with the idea yourself, here's a little bit of information to help you make the transition.

Twitter Symbols

The first thing that you need to know is that the @ (at symbol) before someone's name shows their "Twitter handle"... think of it kind of like addressing people by their email address, although it would be the part of their email address that comes before the at symbol, rather than after it.

And the number sign, followed by a series of letters that may or may not look like a word is called a hashtag.   That acts like a keyword to help people to find topics of interest to them amongst the vast number of "conversations" taking place on Twitter at any time.

List of Important Hashtags for Teachers 

#frimm (french immersion)
#langchat (language chat)
#fle (francais langue etrangere)
#flteach (foreign language teaching)
#french (also get lots on non-teaching tweets though)
#aimlang (AIM - Accelerated Integrated Methodology approach to language teaching)
#ClavEd  (French Speakers – Wednesdays at 12h(EST) 13h(ATL) 18h(Paris))
#actfl21c (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 21st century)
#actfl ((American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)
#biliteracy (bilingual literacy)
#mfl (modern foreign languages)
#CanEd (Canadian education) ** Use this one with some caution... I found it also brings up some topics unrelated to education and not for the faint of heart! ** Maybe try CdnEd instead...?
#mfltwitterati (UK modern foreign language twitter chat)

Here is a general education hashtag list on Edudemic as well, although some specialty topics are not included there. I also found this list of Canada's top edu-tweeters which might interest you.

Are there others I'm missing?  Please use the Contact page to let me know and I'll gladly update this list as it pertains to those of us teaching French in Ontario/Canada.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Summer Vacation Looming

While there are still four weeks of school left, the warm weather that seems to have started months ago already is constantly reminding use - kids and teachers alike - that summer is right around the corner.  So while I toy with the idea of starting my report cards this weekend, I thought I'd join in on a little summer fun.  Many teachers in the U.S. have already started their seasonal break, and Jeannie at Kindergarten Lifestyle is holding a link-up with a summer theme.

I couldn't stop at just one, especially since I knew there will definitely be a million variations out there on my first one regarding the date.

Alright now, back to getting something done around here!  Have a great weekend, and thanks for stopping by!

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