Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spin-Off of Write Around

Vocabulary development, parts of speech review, creative writing and a few laughs along the way! That's the "write around" strategy. If you've never tried it, read on and see if this perks your interest.

Here's how it goes.  First, divide your class into small groups of 4-6 and give each student a sheet of writing paper - in my small ESL classes, the entire class is a small group of 4-6. Next, give the class a writing prompt, topic or term and ask each student to write a topic sentence only. The students pass their papers to the right. Students read the sentence that is there on the sheet and add just one sentence. They again, pass their papers to the right and repeat the process until each student has had the opportunity to write at least one sentence. Ideally, the original writer - the student who wrote the topic sentence - also writes the conclusion. Once the piece is completed, each group member reads their story aloud and writing pieces are collaboratively edited and revised, which can be done one of two ways. I prefer to subdivide the groups into pairs and they will choose one of their papers to edit and revise.  However, when I first learned of the strategy I was instructed to have the entire group work together on editing and revising. I find the former to be more effective because with a larger group one or two dominant members will take over the task while the others sit back and passively observe.

Although designed to be a writing strategy, it's ideal for vocabulary development. After all, a strong vocabulary is essential in developing writing skills. Moreover, this strategy requires creativity and deep thought, which will prove challenging for many learners, but it's a cognitive workout that will further enhance their writing practice. I used a word wheel (see screenshot below) using the "Random Name Picker" from classtools.net. I spin the wheel as we pass papers to the right and the selected term must be used in the sentence. Because I teach English in context, the words are related to a story or unit of study and therefore, the prompts and vocabulary are connected to what was covered in class. As I call out the words, we also review parts of speech and I check for understanding. This is not a quiz, so if a student is unsure of the definition or context, they can certainly ask a peer or their teacher. And because my classes are small, I join in the fun and participate in the writing activity, giving me the opportunity to model.

I learned of "Write Around" at an Exc-ELL Training with Dr. Margarita Calderon a few years ago. While this activity works very well with English learners, it is by no means an ESL strategy and can be adapted to any student population and used in any content area.

If you decide to implement "Write Around" strategy in any form or have used it in the past, I would love to hear from you. It can certainly be a stretch for students but in today's digital, social-media-driven world, creative writing is an essential skill they must develop.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Import, Export and Personalize Vocabulary

Image Credit: Pixabay.com
Whether you are attempting to personalize instruction or are simply looking for a time-saving shortcut, here's a way to quickly and easily use Google forms, Quizlet and Quizalize to help students review and develop academic vocabulary.

Last December I wrote "Personalizing Vocabulary Development with Quizlet and Quizalize" where I shared how I had been exporting Quizlet study sets and importing them into Quizalize to create personalized formative assessments. Well, I recently learned how to import into Quizlet, quickly and easily creating study sets. So to piggyback on December's post, I'd like to add a few easy steps to what I shared a few months ago.

First, students create a personalized vocabulary list by entering their selected words and other related information into a Google form; the results subsequently stored on a Google sheet. I then copy the words and their definitions from the spreadsheet and import them into Quizlet. Once students have studied the words on Quizlet, I export the study set and develop a quiz on Quizalize. This is personalized learning at it's best - not to mention it's quick, easy and painless for their teacher.

Check out the screencast below where I take you through the entire process.

These activities are certainly supplemental to learning the terms in context, but they provide extra study tools that have proven invaluable to my students' vocabulary acquisition.

If personalizing vocabulary instruction is not on your radar, this combination of tools is still perfect for vocabulary review as users can copy terms and definitions from any document and create the study set and formative assessments. But you can also personalize larger classes by dividing the class into groups and having students collaboratively develop their word lists. Moreover, if you feel personalizing vocabulary isn't necessary or appropriate for the entire class, these tools may provide a way to scaffold instruction for English learners or other special populations.

I hope you will find this helpful and if so, please email me or enter comments below and let me know how you've used it. I would love the feedback, but most importantly, I'm always looking for new ideas.  I look forward to hearing from you!