Monday, November 10, 2008

What Did You Do Over the Weekend?

It's another Monday morning and a dreadful beginning for some of the elementary age students who walk into our classrooms.


Because, if it's Monday, it must be "Start the Week with Journal Writing," a ritual where students are asked to write about their weekends. For some students, this is a piece of cake. For others (see previous post), this is like asking them to run a mile to school - they can do it but it is painful and challenging.

So, let's think about some alternatives for those students "who have great ideas up here (pointing to head) but can't get them down here (pointing to paper)." Let's think in innovative ways to offer kids different methods of expression.

1. Use Garage Band (Mac) or Audacity (PC or Mac) to record students voices as they describe their weekend activities. Create a weekly Monday morning podcast for an authentic audience. Use the podcast to teach students about oral presentation and audience. What makes a presentation captivating to the audience? Let them hear their own responses and critique what they said and how they said it. Extend upon this activity by using simple graphic organizers to help them highlight two key activities. This will help them determine saliency - what were the two most important things I did this weekend? You can also build in categorization, similarities and differences and compare and contrast if you capture all the students' responses.

2. Have students use TuxPaint (an open source drawing program download, similar to KidPix) or Kerpoof (two free online drawing/creation resources) and then upload their creations to VoiceThread. Use the recording tool to have students describe their weekend. Encourage them to post a response to each other's pages. Talk with them about appropriate responses that will encourage and support their classmates.

3. Encourage students to use the speech bubbles found on the Drawing Toolbar in Word to create vignettes with dialogue that describes their weekend. This can be especially effective for students with non-verbal learning disabilities or who are on the Autism spectrum as this allows them to understand another person's point of view.

4. Some students may prefer to write a response. Upload their responses to the class VoiceThread if one has been created.

5. Use Dial2Do - a free speech to text tool that will transcribe voice to text via email. Copy and paste it into Word, make any changes or additions and then print it out and add it to the student's Journal folder.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. They extend the activity well beyond a traditional writing task. The point is to offer choices, to offer multiple ways for students to complete an activity as this is an essential component of Universal Design for Learning and promotes students engagement and success.

Do you have any other ideas you'd like to share? Please do!


narrator said...

what great suggestions to get students writing - yes, it is all writing - every week. Thanks!

Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D said...


Great post- what about students using Toondoo ( a comic creation Web 2.0 application. Everyone I show it to loves it. Keep up the great work


Karen Janowski said...

Thanks for your confirmation and for stopping by. I always value your input.


Great suggestion! I knew that there were other ideas that I overlooked and that's part of benefiting from collaboration and collection wisdom.

Lisa Parisi said...

Karen, what fabulous ideas for making writing more manageable for students. But I wonder why they are asked to write each Monday about their weekend. Perhaps a different writing assignment altogether. What about a free write on Monday? How about tying writing into an activity they've been working on so the motivation is built in? Why start a new writing assignment each week anyway? Extend writing pieces to include new skills to learn (i.e. - improve your lead, add new vocabulary). Then the writing isn't so overwhelming to have to be completed in one day.

Just some more ideas - for some children, the physical act of writing is difficult but the ideas are there. Put them in front of a computer and all is well. For others, having an audience makes all the difference so blogging their stories is a great motivator.

LD Techno Kids said...

Hi Karen - how about having them either take a photo, or bring in a photo of themselves and then record their voices explaining the photo. I suggested this tonight to someone whose son has been only learning English for 2 years as a way to get him writing (that his relatives will love to receive) in their country. Doing it with pictures & voice would work wonders too..... I do think second language learners have a lot in common with NVLD people - a photo or image is a nice prompt.


Writing a Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

dissertation writing said...

Wonderful blog, i recently come to your blog through Google excellent knowledge keep on posting you guys.