Monday, August 15, 2011

A Call for Bonus Assignment Ideas

Here's a problem I bet every teacher wishes they had: A friend of mine (a math teacher) is continually getting asked by his students for bonus assignments so they can get extra marks. He recently put out a request on Facebook for help with some ideas about revamping his bonus assignments so that the assignments would contribute to his students becoming well-rounded citizens rather than just high achieving math students (thanks to his brilliant teaching I'm sure ;)).

So in response to his "contest" (who can't resist that?) here are my ideas for his prompts:

1. "Read a thought provoking inspiring book"
The Little Prince, The Alchemist, Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, The Phantom Tollbooth are all "quirky" yet thought provoking reads.  Here's a great list of books I just came across,  many of which I've read and have found inspiring and many I see that I'd like to still read (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for one). 

2. "A movie that illicts thought, reflection or emotion"  The Green Mile, Life is Beautiful, Gran Torino and Amelie are a few that come to mind.

For 3. "Attend a Cultural Event" and 4. "Learn or demonstrate a life lesson"  maybe add "....that is out of your comfort zone".

While these bonus assignments I'm assuming are to give students a chance to bring their mark up as much as possible (most likely to fulfill the expectations of parents and future educational instutitions), I love the idea that along the way they might just stumble upon an experience that is rewarding in itself. Good luck with that Mr. W!

...and if anyone else has some good ideas, let me know and I'll pass them along.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grammar Instruction Within the Writing Process in a Moodle Course

I have been struggling for awhile to work toward implementing grammar instruction that is differentiated for individual students and is incorporated into the writing process. The following is what I plan to implement this year rather than including a comprehensive grammar workbook that is completed without any connection  to the rest of the course. 

Background: It is important to note that this is an online teaching environment and therefore limits and defines certain "best" practices.
The courses I teach include online asynchronous high-school English courses 8-12 using Moodle.  A wide range of students are enrolled in the program for various reasons (eg. At-risk, traditional “homeschoolers”, gifted and students travelling, or in a dedicated sport). Enrollment is small for each class and students are usually at different points in the course so group activities and collaboration is difficult.

Course: My English 8 and 9  courses are contributed to a consortium of districts,where a DL teacher in a small program often has a large number of courses to manage.

Goal: Personalize each student’s writing goals using a system that is realistic for a DL teacher of many students and many courses to manage. 

Create a repository of grammar and mechanics mini-lessons in a moodle book module. Each concept would include a definition and an opportunity to practice the concept (eventually in a choice of modes like printable worksheet, interactive game, audio etc.)

Have students complete a pre-assessment of grammar skills (moodle quiz) and do a writing sample and survey questions (assignment) at the beginning.

Using a Personal Editing and Revision Template (PERT), create individual checklists and revision criteria based on pre-assessments and writing samples.  This would be added to throughout the course. Each student would have roughly the same number of items to focus on, although each student’s list would be personalized for that student.  

Process: (Moodle Instructions in grey)
  1. Student submits draft of a writing assignment after referring to rubric which includes specific grammar and usage outcomes.
(label file to be uploaded as draft+assignment title) 
  1. Teacher gives feedback on assignment and updates and attaches PERT
           (attach to assignment)
  1. Student revises and edits based on checklist.
  2. Resubmits assignment
(label finalcopy+assignmentname)
  1. Final mark assigned based on:
    1. Evidence of revision based on outcome of assignment
    2. Evidence of editing checklist being used.
    3. Summative assessment based on rubric
  (put in mark and attach completed rubric)
As a final writing “exam” in the course the student incorporates all items on checklist.

Although I know grammar instruction can be approached many different ways, I would love some feedback as to how well  my plan outlined above would meet my objective of differentiated instruction within the writing process WITHOUT this being too complicated and onerous for the teacher.