February 2010


Graham Foster worked with the Calgary Catholic School Division as a Language Arts supervisor and now works as a writing consultant.  I was privileged to work with him no a project developing student exemplars for writing.  His book  Exemplars: Your Best Resource for Student Writing has several works in it written by my students or myself.  Every time I see his name as a presenter I make sure I attend.  I always learn something new.

His presentation today was all about using Writing in Social Studies.  His went through an interesting progression to develop a higher level of thought and writing in social studies.

  • Create deliberate inquiry assignments – get to higher level thinking – force students to take a position (personal judgment) and support it with reasons and facts
  • Guide use of pre-writing that works for deliberative inquiry (persuasive writing) assignments – RAFTS (ROLE, AUDIENCE, FORMAT, TOPIC, STRONG VERB), T charts, webs
  • Guide students with drafting, introductions, and conclusions – have students deconstruct an essay to show how to build one – use an exemplar!  Tear apart the exemplar and build it back up using the planning structure.

Drafting Advice:

  1. If you have nothing to write on the draft and the page is blank, the prewriting has failed you.
  2. Often it is better to writing the opening paragraph last
  3. Talk is a powerful strategy for writer’s block
  4. Maintain your flow – make any problems, but keep going
  5. Write on every second line to leave room to cross out
  6. Have a very strong interesting introduction(ask a question, state a startling fact, state a foolish or incorrect view, use an effective quotation)
  7. Bring writing together in the closing (answer questions posed in your intro, emphasize a point of view, warn or give a statement, offer an alternative viewpoint)
  • Guide students in revision with specific criteria related to deliberative inquiry writing – Pick out the really important things that must be included in the writing. WISPS – Words, Information, Support, Position, Spelling

Examples of revision criteria:

  1. I included important information related to the assignment
  2. I clearly state my position in response to the question
  3. I give reasons to support my position
  4. I use words that clear and accurate
  5. I have made corrections for punctuation and usage
  6. My paragraph begins with a topic sentence
  7. Every sentence in my paragraph clearly relates to my topic sentence
  8. My concluding sentences emphasizes the action I am recommending
  • Create exemplar lessons focused on elements of deliberative inquiry writing – collect student writing to use with students.  The power in providing examples of positive and negative is immense.  Students rise to high expectations and have a direction.  Think about lessons on introductions, conclusions, and adding showing not telling details to writing.

Be clear in your own position, but be respectful and acknowledge the perspective of others.    Make your personal decision clear, and support it!

I was fortunate to attend the Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum in Salvador Brazil last November.    It was a fantastic, life changing experience.  I shared my thoughts on the process here.   A few changes are already evident with the process starting much earlier than last year.

The 2010 Canadian process is starting, with the application due February 28.  If you are a Canadian teacher looking to connect and share ideas, this is a fantastic opportunity!

English 2010 Innovative Canadian Teacher Application

French 2010 Innovative Canadian Teacher Application

Thanks to Nathan Toft for being more on the ball than I am and posting the links!

Microsoft Partners in Learning Network

Every few months we take part of an afternoon in my classroom and work on a creative thinking project. It is an “outside of the box” create something kind of project. It is not necessarily tied to curriculum, but the ideas of problems solving, working in a group, and critical thinking are weaved throughout curriculum.

I get my ideas from the Kids Who Think Blog – a fantastic resource for creative projects!

We also look forward to sharing our ideas with Mr. Poluck’s Class (@mikepoluk)  in Sault St. Marie.  They often do the same projects as we do!  Collaboration makes the project even better!

Think Project 1 – Build something long and strong with paperclips and spaghetti
Think Project 2 – Build the highest possible tower with straws and tape.
Think Project 3 – Support the egg off the surface of the desk using straws and tape!

Using Embedded Cloze Quiz Questions to make an Image Matching Activity in Moodle

This is the first activity I ever made in moodle.  I wanted a way for students to identify weather terminology using images.  I wanted an interactive way for them to be able to select the correct term, see a list of options, and have it self checking.  Moodle to the rescue.  Often I see Moodle used as a list of links, or just purely as a discussion forum, but it can be so much more with a little bit of creativity and manipulation.

I took an embedded cloze quiz question and expanded it to make a matching activity.
To do this I had to first understand the structure behind the embedded cloze question. It does NOT have a WYSIWYG editor, so you have to use some basic code to create questions. Because you have to use the code, you can really change, expand, and manipulate the questions!
The basic structure is:

1. Curly bracket: {
2. What the question is out of as a numerical value: 1
3. Colon
4. Question type:
SHORTANSWER (short answer case doesn’t matter)
SHORTANSWER (short answer case matters)
NUMERICAL (Numerical)
MULTICHOICE_V (radio buttons – circles to select in a vertical column)
MULTICHOICE_H (radio buttons – circles to select in a horizontal column)
MULTICHOICE (a drop down menu) **This is what I used
5. Colon
6. Answers
The general format is: answer#feedback for the response~answer#feedback~answer#you don’t have to include feedback and can then leave out the pound symbol~=correct answer#you can have as many choices as you want you just put an equals sign in front of the correct answer

If you want more than one correct answer instead of an equal sign put the percentage of marks you wish to award for example:
wrong answer~wrong answer~%50%give half the marks to this answer~%50%give half the marks to this answer

7. End curly bracket: }

In the end it looks something like this:
The capital city of Canada is {1:MULTICHOICE:Toronto~Calgary~=Ottawa~Vancouver~Montreal}
That will create:
What I did was create 20 separate drop down menus using the same concept. Each menu went into a table cell, with an image. It was just a lot of copying and pasting.
I first created one question:
Then I copied and pasted it 20 times, into 20 different cells in a table. I had to copy the HTML code, just use the <> triangle brackets in the edit window to toggle to the code.
<td width=”25%” valign=”center” style=”text-align: center;”> <img style=”width: 147px; height: 164px;” src=”http://apps2.pallisersd.ab.ca/moodle/file.php/214/Challenge/2.JPG&#8221; /><br />2. {1:MULTICHOICE:Cirrus#~Wind Chill#~Trade Winds#~Virga#~Barometer#~Eye#~Aurora Borealis#~Cold Front#~Blizzard#~Hail#~Sleet#~=Water Spout#~Cumulonimbus#~Warm Front#~Fog#~Dew#~Cumulus#~Jet Stream#~Anemometer#~Frost#}
</td>

I didn’t actually need the pound symbols because I choose to not leave any automatic feedback for the students in this quiz.

After I copied the code into each cell, I just change the img file name, which I had just saved as the numbers 1 through 20 ahead of time to keep myself organized.  I just changed the number in front of the .JPG file extension – easy if you have the files all named carefully and uploaded!
To change the correct answers, I just moved the equals sign to the matching term for the photo in each table cell.
In the end I had a 4 by 5 table, with a separate cloze question, each with its own photo in each cell. It created a quiz, out of 20 marks that gave the students instant, self checking feedback to match weather terminology and images.