Teacher's Guide. Writing Process Guide and Writing Activities by Stephen Marcus, Ph.D. Tips and Tricks Curriculum Integration Ideas

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1 Teacher's Guide Writing Process Guide and Writing Activities by Stephen Marcus, Ph.D. Tips and Tricks Curriculum Integration Ideas

2 Contents Page 2 Introduction 3 Writing and the AlphaSmart 3 More Than You Bargained For 3 Anything Worth Writing... 4 Habits of Mind 4 The Composing Product 6 Writing Activities 6 Sequential Writing 6 Sequential Responding 7 Looping 8 Group Looping 9 Invisible Writing 10 Class Act 11 Tips and Tricks 13 Classroom Integration Ideas 13 Creating New Word Lists 14 Sentences from Spelling Words 14 Activity Journal 15 Names, Nouns and Verbs 15 Questions to Guide the Field Trip 16 Sentence Completion for Understanding 16 Procedural Writing 17 Guided Science Observation 17 Interviewing and Writing a Biography 19Sharing Your Ideas AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 1

3 Introduction About Dr. Stephen Marcus... The original Teacher s Guide for the AlphaSmart was written by Stephen Marcus, Ph.D.. Dr. Marcus coordinated the National Writing Project Technology Network as well as the California Writing Project/California Technology Project Alliance. He was Chair of the Committee on Future Technology for the International Society for Technology in Education and was a member of the Committee on Information Literacy and the Assembly on Computers and English for the National Council of Teachers of English. He was on the faculty of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was co-director of SCWriP, an affiliate of the National Writing Project. The writing and ideas shared by Dr. Marcus in the original AlphaSmart Teacher s Guide are included in this guide as well. The writing activities are designed to improve the quality and quantity of your students writing. Following the writing activities, you will find classroom integration ideas to help you get started using the AlphaSmart with your students at any grade level and in any content area. 2 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

4 Writing and the AlphaSmart By Dr. Stephen Marcus More Than You Bargained For The AlphaSmart is exceptionally well suited for helping students improve the quantity and quality of their prewriting - the raw material that will be refined at later stages in the composing process (more about this, below). Making notes, false starts, and early drafts (all part of prewriting) doesn t apply just to assignments done for English classes. They are the starting points for thinking, problem-solving, and writing across the curriculum. One of the major goals of prewriting activities is to build fluency. Attention to format and correctness are appropriate to later stages in the composing process. With this in mind, the activities, tips, and tricks provided in this Teacher s Guide are meant to accomplish two related goals. First, they provide activities that students might use for different kinds of assignments in a variety of classes or subject matter areas - any setting in which the AlphaSmart can support teaching and learning. Second, many of the suggestions are designed to help you and your students break the "Technology 80/20 Rule": eighty percent of the people who use a given piece of hardware or software make use of only twenty percent of its power. As simple as it is to use, the AlphaSmart keyboard has features that are just waiting to be exploited in creative ways, to add even more value to its use. You don t have to use it for long before you begin to see how you ve gotten even more than you bargained for. Anything Worth Writing......is worth writing poorly. At first. That s what pre-writing is all about. Prewriting is a way for students to begin to give shape and AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 3

5 order to their thoughts. The AlphaSmart is great for helping them mine diamonds in the rough. The polishing and setting come later. Often, students spend too much time in early stages of the composing process tinkering with their text, when the working rule should be Don t get it right - get it down. (This is advice once given to writers for The New Yorker.) The necessary revising and editing can come later, when the students are sure they re working on material that deserves and demands their attention. After all, prewriting is just a stage in a process that also includes preparing more complete drafts and letting others comment on the writing for re-thinking and revising. These stages are followed by additional editing and proofreading as progress is made toward the final stage of publishing". Publishing the writing involves making it public in some formal way perhaps in a class anthology or even just by handing it in. The strategies that follow are particularly good for generating copious notes as well as useful and substantive mental doodles. The activities also help dissolve writing blocks, which often result from students trying to do their rewriting before they ve done their prewriting, from struggling to say exactly what they mean before they re even sure what s on their minds. Habits of Mind Students may need to practice the habits of mind inherent in many of these activities as well as the specific methods. Encourage the class to talk over what worked, what didn t and why. Encourage students to try a technique again after getting advice from you and from their classmates about how to do a given activity a little better the next time. Not everything will work perfectly for every student every time it s tried; students will find that practice is as important here as anywhere else. The Composing Product We want students to produce clear and effective writing that demonstrates a command of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. We want them to be fluent and to be able to write in a variety of voices 4 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

6 and styles to suit the occasion. We also want them to value writing as a means for giving structure and order to what they know and want to say. The AlphaSmart keyboard can be an invaluable aid for reaching all of these goals. It can be particularly helpful as your students engage in the early stages of the composing process, as they prepare to produce a product of which you can all be proud. Notes: AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 5

7 Writing Activities Sequential Writing This activity promotes attention to coherence and creativity. Working in small groups, students start their own essays, poems, descriptions, explanations, or stories, either with their own ideas or with a common prompt (e.g., Alone, the last person alive on earth, he was startled to ear a knock on the door ). Students type 1-4 lines, then pass their AlphaSmart to a neighbor, who add 1-4 lines. Students keep passing the AlphaSmart from person to person around the group until their own is returned to them. The pieces get read aloud, discussed, edited, printed, and published in a collection. Sequential Responding This activity develops students skills as analytical readers and responders. It also teaches them ways to help build and develop other peoples work instead of just tearing it apart. Students bring to class a printout of a piece of work-inprogress. The student s name should be included at the top of the pages. Display on the board (or in a handout) a set of response categories like the following with modifications for the grade level and targeted learning. (F1 is kept available for the author s comments about the other students responses): - F2: What you wrote... - F3: The way you approached the assignment... - F4: Something you might have mentioned is... - F5: One thing that I hadn t considered was... - F6: I was surprised... - F7: You re good at... 6 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

8 Each student s work-in-progress printout travels with the student s AlphaSmart. The students read the work-in-progress and select one response category and write a response in the designated file. The first student to work in a particular file should type the words as shown above and add his or her personal comment and name. Students trade keyboards after contributing to an assigned number of files. All comments should include the name of the person making the comment. The author eventually gets his or her work-in-progress and AlphaSmart back to review the comments and use them to shape future versions of the writing. The author can use F1 to write his or her own responses to questions like these: - What kinds of comments were most helpful? - What kinds of comments were least helpful? - If you only had time to take three bits of advice to improve your writing, what advice would you use? Looping This activity develops fluency and the ability to focus on a topic. For 3-5 minutes students do a quantity of freewriting in file F1 on a topic appropriate to the class. In freewriting, they try to get down a lot of thoughts without worrying about typing mistakes, spelling, complete sentences, changes of topic, etc. They then review their work, deciding on one particular idea, sentence, phrase, or word that captures some interesting point. They use this text to begin another short freewriting period in file F2. They then review F2 and use the text there as the basis AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 7

9 for repeating the procedure in F3, F4, F5, etc. Each new file begins with a short piece of text from the previous file. All the files eventually get printed and reviewed as raw material for further writing. This procedure could also be adapted to the Sequential Writing activity described above. The difference between sequence writing and looping is that in the former, the new file picks up where the previous file left off and continues in the general direction of the previous file. In looping, the new file takes as a starting point any portion of the previous file that catches the writer s interest. Group Looping This activity builds fluency, the ability to focus, and the kind of creativity and collaborative involvement typical of writing in the real world. Students work in small groups, with one AlphaSmart per student. They each start a file in F1 as described above in the Looping activity. After 3-5 minutes, students pass their keyboards to a neighbor, who reviews the F1 file, deciding on one particular idea, sentence, phrase, or word that captures some interesting point. Students use this text to do another short period of freewriting in file F2 including his or her name at the end of their writing. When finished, they hand the AlphaSmart to a third group member, who reviews F2 and repeats the procedure, doing a short freewriting period in F3. This same process is repeated with each student starting a new file beginning with a short piece of text from the previous file. Eventually (depending on the size of the groups or how much time you can devote to this procedure), the AlphaSmart is returned to the original author, who can review the files to get perspectives, ideas, and quotes for future use in preparing a piece of writing. 8 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

10 Invisible Writing Students report that this approach develops fluency and helps them overcome the tendency to do inappropriate rewriting before appropriate time is spent prewriting. They also report that they re more interested in seeing what they have to say. The procedure described below is one way to practice the technique before it s applied to actual writing assignments. Students have a large Post-It sticker available to cover up the text window. They spend 1-3 minutes freewriting on the given topic with the text window covered (see explanation of freewriting in the looping section). They then remove the sticker, review the text, and spend 1-3 minutes freewriting visibly (they can see the text), continuing to respond to the assignment. They repeat this two-part procedure with the partnered question for the assignment. Finally, students spend 2-4 minutes freewriting on how the two different conditions affected their thinking and writing. They discuss this in class and print the material for later use. Here are some sample topics to help students practice this technique. They re designed to provide tasks of equal cognitive load. Similar prompts can be generated for a variety of topics and curriculum areas. - I m typing on this keyboard, and... - I can t see what I m typing and... - Why do people read poetry? - Why do people write poetry? - Why do people read history books? - Why do people write history books? - What s hard about learning chemistry? - What s easy about learning chemistry? - What was hard about being in school last year? - What was easy about being in school last year? AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 9

11 Class Act To help students prepare for class discussions, have them use the questions below to begin thinking about a reading assignment you've given. They can keep the list of questions in one of the available files and use another file to jot down reponses. Type a title to identify the assigned reading. What, if anything, does the author seem to know about writing that you don't already know yourself? (Not about the subject matter, but about writing.) What's something you know that could have been included in the piece but wasn't? What's something that was included in the piece that you already knew? What's a word, phrase, or sentence that surprised, bothered, amused, or confused you? Explain why it affected you that way. Without using any part of the title, what are five key words that would tell someone what this piece of writing was about? After you've listed the words, explain why you picked each one. Notes: 10 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

12 Tips and Tricks Here are a few ways to help make your use of the AlphaSmart keyboard more organized, efficient, productive, and enjoyable. All in a Name At the start of a file, use the CAPS LOCK key to type a name or topic for the file. This will help you quickly identify its contents as you later move from file to file. Tale of the Tape When doing interviews, taking field notes, or keeping a learning-log, put a strip of lift-off white tape or some stickers above the file keys (F1, F2, etc.). Label the keys with a set of thinking categories to help keep track of things, for example: Who? What? When? Where? Why? What? So What? Now What? + s (positives) - s (negatives)! s (interesting factors, neither positive nor negative). Colored stickers or small pictures may be helpful if you prefer to use nonverbal means to jog your memory. Leave the Blanks Blank (For Now) When jotting down notes and first impressions, if you can t think of a word, just type in a dotted line. Trust yourself. You ll think of it later. Expert Opinion One good source of expertise is, of course, the students in your class. Have them keep a running account in one of their files of the tricks they develop to help their work with the AlphaSmart go faster and better. Have them share these ideas in class, collect them, and publish them in a student anthology for use in later classes. AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 11

13 Check the AlphaSmart Web site Visit the AlphaSmart Web site at and find additional information. From the home page, select "Classroom Solutions". From this page you can find more information on additional tips and tricks, as well as lesson plans, keyboarding ideas and strategies for students with special needs. When you are at the "Tips & Ticks" section, be sure to visit Hot Tips from Cool Teachers". Notes: 12 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

14 Classroom Integration Ideas These curriculum integration ideas can be used with many different grade levels and in many content areas. As you read through the activities, your successful experiences will help you adapt and connect the ideas to strategies and processes you already use that help students learn. Creating New Word Lists Students will create lists of new words for one week to add to their printed word list. Check out an AlphaSmart to each student or have several students share with designated assigned files. Have students enter their new words in the AlphaSmart. Have the students check them out and take them home to continue adding to their new word lists. If students are sharing, try to have students check them out at least one night per week. If a student has access to more than one file on the AlphaSmart at a time, the word lists can be developed in two or more files to reflect the new words from home and school or other locations. Later, the word lists can include definitions or be used to create sentences. The word lists can be printed directly from the AlphaSmart to encourage the students to take immediate ownership of the words they are learning. Students can illustrate these word lists as they are printed. The word lists can be transferred to a computer and formatted for printing and illustrating as well. AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 13

15 Sentences from Spelling Words Students will write sentences using their weekly spelling words. Transfer the spelling words for the week into each file using the Get Utility. You can transfer to one file and then copy and paste it into each of the other files on the AlphaSmart. Each AlphaSmart can be used by up to eight students with one file assigned to each student. Students will write a sentence using each spelling word. Encourage students to write sentences that include more than one word from the spelling list in a sentence. Ask the students to place the spelling word or words on the line above the sentence before using it in the sentence. Students can move the order of the spelling words around from the original list using the cut and paste feature. You can direct that the sentences written connect to specific topics in social studies, science or to a story from reading. Have each sentence list printed directly from the AlphaSmart or transfer to a computer for formatting before printing. Activity Journal Check out an AlphaSmart to each student to keep track of all their activities for each day for one week. Lead a class discussion to identify different categories such as school, eating, sleeping, and soccer. Each category title can be placed on a sticker above one of the AlphaSmart files. If two students share one AlphaSmart, each student can use four files labeled by day or activity. Students will enter a list of their various activities hourly for one week. At the end of the week, students will print their files directly from the AlphaSmart and organize the data they have collected into charts and graphs. 14 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

16 Names, Nouns and Verbs Students will use the beginning letter of names to match with a noun and a verb to create simple sentences. Enter a list of the first names of the students in the class into the F1 file of the AlphaSmart. Use the cut and paste feature to move the names easily into other files. Have students enter a verb and a noun that begins with the same later as the name to create a simple sentence. Examples: - John jiggles jello. - Michelle mashes marshmallows.. Students can use their family members names or the names of characters from a current story or book rather than student names. The number of names can be limited to a number appropriate for the student level. The sentences can be printed directly from the AlphaSmart and illustrated. You can add an adjective and an adverb using the same beginning letter as the students skill levels progress. Questions to Guide the Field Trip Before taking a field trip, brainstorm with the students and create a list of questions that will be answered or items to look for during the class outing. Provide an AlphaSmart to each student and list one identified question in each file. The questions can be transferred from a computer using the Get Utility. The questions can be moved from one file to other files using the cut and paste capability of the AlphaSmart. Provide time periodically during the actual field trip for students to enter their thinking and findings in response to the guided questions. Remind students to spell check each file periodically. AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 15

17 After returning to the classroom, have each student print from the AlphaSmart, edit from the writing-in-progress and return to the AlphaSmart to make adjustments and additions to the writing. Transfer the final written material to the computer for formatting and printing by each student. This final report can be bound together for a class summary or made into a multimedia report including illustrations and photographs from the field trip. Sentence Completion for Understanding Following the reading and preliminary discussion of a novel, students develop new insights by completing related statements. Determine a set of incomplete sentences to lead the students to deeper understanding of the story. Enter the statements into the AlphaSmart. You can have students work in one file and share AlphaSmarts or you can assign different statements to various files if your students each have their own. Some examples of the kinds of unfinished statements are: - I was surprised at I began to wonder... Remind the students to use the spell checking feature of the AlphaSmart to correct the spelling as they work. After each student completes the writing and editing have the text transferred to a computer for formatting. Procedural Writing This writing process encourages procedural and technical writing with student partners and an AlphaSmart. Partner students together and provide an AlphaSmart for each pair. 16 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

18 One student performs the process or procedure. This could be a difficult math problem, a step-by-step research process, or the steps to create a watercolor. The students talk about each necessary step taken together. The sequential steps are entered on the AlphaSmart. Students can easily change the order of the steps using the copy and paste feature of the AlphaSmart. Students should test the steps of the written procedure by having another pair of students try to replicate the process using the written directions. Changes are made to the directions following the test. The final text is transferred to a computer for formatting and printing. Guided Science Observation Students will partner with another student for a science experiment, lab or outdoor observation and use the AlphaSmart to guide the work and record the data collected. Before students start a lab where observation of data is required, provide an AlphaSmart for each student or pair of students. Load a set of guiding questions into one of the files to assist the students. You can copy and paste the same set of questions to several files if you have different classes doing the same project. The AlphaSmart will be ready for each class. Have the students enter their findings into the AlphaSmart while they are working inside and/or outside. The students will then edit the work and transfer the text to a computer for formatting. Interviewing and Writing a Biography Students write biographies after interviewing fellow classmates, family members, community members or by simulating interviews of historical characters. AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 17

19 Pair students and provide an AlphaSmart for each student or each pair. Review the criteria for a good biography to include how the subject overcame difficult odds, lead others to success, helped others overcome difficult times, and identified new solutions to problems. Have students conduct the interview and take notes on the AlphaSmart. With the notes from the interview, have each student write a biography about the person interviewed. Use the spell check feature and print directly from the AlphaSmart for preliminary editing. The text can be transferred directly to multimedia programs for presentation or printed for publishing. These biographies are also great additions to a classroom Web site. Notes: 18 AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide

20 Sharing Your Ideas Once you have created your own successful lesson plan from these ideas, go the AlphaSmart Web site at You will see an opportunity to have your ideas and lesson plans published to be shared with others. Notes: AlphaSmart Teacher's Guide 19

21 AlphaSmart, Inc. 973 University Ave. Los Gatos, CA Phone: (408) Fax: (408) Sales: (888) Tech Support: (888)

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