Find out how to incorporate digital tools into your English language arts class to improve students’ reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Authors Jeremy Hyler and Troy Hicks show you that technology is not just about making a lesson engaging; it’s about helping students become effective creators and consumers of information in today’s fast-paced world. You’ll learn how to use mobile technologies to teach narrative, informational, and argument writing as well as visual literacy and multimodal research. Each chapter is filled with exciting lesson plans and tech tool suggestions that you can take back to your own classroom immediately.
The following letter, written by Ashley (Patton) Smolinski, CRWP 2009, demonstrates the lasting power of participating in an invitational summer institute.
Years after graduating from the first class of the Chippewa River Writing Project, I am still a writer. Those words, ‘I’m a Writer’, came back to me most recently at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Chicago. Brad Martin, a librarian and research specialist for ABC news, upon reading my first article for the conference newsletter, Cognotes, surprised me by saying ‘You’ve done this before!’ Although I responded that no, I hadn’t written like this before, there was more to my story…
The truth was that I hadn’t written for a newspaper, but, in my head and more importantly in my heart, I said, ‘I haven’t written like this before, but I AM a writer.‘ I was selected by my student chapter of the ALA to represent the University at Albany as a member of the Student-to-Staff program and was assigned to work with the unit, Cognotes. My responsibilities were really quite simple and involved attending conference sessions and writing articles for the newspaper.
Throughout the conference, my articles were included in the paper and five were chosen to be included in the highlights section. I was overjoyed. As if things couldn’t get any better, I was invited by the publisher and senior reporter to write for them again in the following mid-year and annual conferences. I took the opportunity to tell Brad Martin that I although I appreciated his compliment very much, I normally wouldn’t have felt confident enough to write for Cognotes, if it wasn’t for Chippewa River Writing Project. In response to describing my experience at CRWP, Brad smiled and said, “They were right.”
The influence and experience that CRWP and the National Writing Project has had in my life was a much stronger impact than than I could have imagined. I have found that my technology skills, pedagogical practices, and my level of comfort and confidence in my own writing abilities has lasted and transferred into other areas of my life. I feel that I am part of a family, in addition to my own family, that embraces and values the path to becoming a better writer and mentoring others within the community along the way.
Thank you, CRWP, for helping me write with wings.
Linked here is the Highlights section of Cognotes, and within it, the articles I was privileged to write.
Ashley (Patton) Smolinski
Most teachers attend a conference for professional development, many choose to go to local events, a few go to national, and even fewer present at a national level… Chippewa River Writing Project is present at all levels.
Since the inception of Chippewa River Writing Project (CRWP) in 2009, we have been involved at a national level, attending the National Writing Project (NWP) Annual Meeting and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention for the past four years. These national conferences attract many participants—nearly 600 attend NWP’s annual meeting, and over ten times that attend the NCTE Annual Convention.
As a new writing project site, CRWP wanted to send teacher consultants to national conferences to gain information about best practice and new trends in the teaching field, not only to help with their own classroom instruction, but also to help foster the growth of CRWP and the Summer Institute. After a few years of attending these conferences, and renewing our excitement for the classroom setting, conversations post-conference eventually led to the submission of proposals. Even as a young site, we knew we had something to offer other colleagues.
CRWP’s national presence began in Orlando in 2010, with an invitation to Site Director Troy Hicks and Co-Director Kathy Kurtze to present at the NWP Annual Meeting as a first-year site. CRWP’s commitment to furthering writing and literacy education continued in Chicago (2011) and in Las Vegas (2012) with presentations by many teacher consultants. Most recently, in Las Vegas, Teacher Consultants Jeremy Hyler, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Elizabeth Nelson, and Co-Director Penny Lew, along with Site Director Troy Hicks, presented “Writing, Technology, and the Common Core.” In this presentation, the genres of narrative, informational, and argumentative writing were discussed, along with ways to incorporate different types of technology, including Glogster, Prezi, and digital stories into writing instruction.
In addition, Teacher Consultants Andy Schoenborn and Amanda Smoker, along with Co-Director Kathy Kurtze, presented “Alternative Approaches to Teaching Argumentative Writing.” Using George Hillocks’ book, Teaching Argument Writing as a framework, these three discussed how argument can be taught in a classroom setting without falling into the 5-paragraph trap, utilizing Prezi, Public Service Announcements (PSA), Glogster, and Voki.
Finally, several teacher consultants have participated in NCTE’s Tech-to-Go, an on-the-fly conversation about digital learning tools. Teacher Consultants – Elizabeth Nelson, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Andy Schoenborn, Amanda Smoker, and Site Director, Troy Hicks – have all offered their knowledge and experiences with various types of technology in the classroom.
In addition to our national presence, several teacher consultants have also presented in local districts and at statewide conferences, including Michigan Reading Association (MRA) and Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE), showing CRWP presence around the state as well.
Admittedly, it is common for all teachers to attend some kind of professional development. As we continue to grow, we fully expect to expand our voice in area schools as well as at the national level at both NWP and NCTE. Whether it is sharing our experiences about technology or guiding teachers in effective content instruction, CRWP is a presence that is here to stay.
Writing with cell phones and computers.
Writing about bodily functions and war.
Writing multigenre digital media projects.
This is how Fulton Middle School language arts teacher Jeremy Hyler gets 7th and 8th grade boys to enjoy reading and writing in his classroom.
According to Hyler, successfully motivating boys to write means giving them plenty of choices.
“Young adolescent boys are not given enough choices when it comes to reading and writing. I allow my boy students to write about murder, burping, farting, war, etc. I also give them different media to express their ideas, too, such as Wikispaces, Google Docs, Edmodo, Cel.ly, Glogster, Animoto, Toondoo and other 21st century tools” explains Hyler.
“If you don’t allow them to use technology, you will lose boys rather quickly. There are few adolescent boys who actually want to put a pencil in their hand and write on a piece of paper.”
Hyler describes reading as an important companion to writing, especially for boys, and allows his students ample opportunities to read and write about activities they are interested in.
To increase motivation, Hyler also focuses on his students’ writing as a whole, rather than just in terms of structure or surface errors. “I really focus on the positives in their writing to make them confident,” he says.
He also gives students plenty of opportunity to write every day using technology as way to further student engagement in more traditional literacy practices. For example, Hyler’s students use Glogster to create multimedia posters based on themes and characters from novels. They log in to Celly and Google Docs to create daily journal entries, store writing portfolios, and draft essays for peer and teacher review. Students complete multigenre research projects on topics of their choice using a wide range of technological tools. This year Hyler is adding two new technology tools to his students’ digital literacy repertoire: Animoto for digital storytelling and Edmodo for discussion posts.
But technology should not be used for its own sake, notes Hyler: “First and foremost, my students write every day in my classroom, and I write with them. I journal with my students and share with them what my mental process is as I write. They need to see how my writing process works as a model.”
For teachers who would like to learn more about using digital technology in their classrooms, Hyler suggests the National Writing Project’s web source Digital Is. The site contains collections of digital resources, created and posted by teachers, which can be adapted for classroom use, including Hyler’s own resource site on using multimedia and multigenre writing.
“As educators, we need to be open to different types of writing and be willing to call text messages, Facebook comments, tweets, blogs and comic strips writing,” says Hyler, who is currently writing his own adolescent fiction novel.
For teachers interested in learning more about how to motivate reluctant writers, Hyler suggests Ralph Fletcher’s book Boy Writer: Reclaiming Their Voices. This year, Hyler is forming a lunchtime writing club for boys, which he hopes will motivate more of his students to enjoy writing.
“Boys, in general, aren’t always comfortable sharing their writing with their classmates,” he explains.
“Bottom line—it is about giving the boys choices, and making them feel comfortable and confident in their writing.”
This article was authored by Karen Horwath.