4 benefits of using Minecraft in the classroom

When I met Grade 5 teacher Mark, he came to me with an exciting idea: He wanted me to work with him to teach creative writing through Minecraft in the classroom. I signed him up as my dissertation student in my Master of Education course, and over the following year we got to work on our project.

Minecraft is a sandbox computer game. It is a game that doesn’t have pre-set linear timelines, missions, or goals for players to follow. I like to think of Minecraft as a digital version of LEGOs. Players use base blocks to build imaginary worlds and characters.

Related content: 7 ways Minecraft can make learning exciting again…Read More

Best practices for developing proficient writers

Too often when teachers say they are teaching writing, they mean that they are assigning writing work to their students, but they aren’t actually helping students master the fundamentals. From grammar and spelling basics to writing thesis statements and revising drafts, every step of the process is essential for developing confident writers who can effectively communicate their ideas. Based on several research reports, Jenny Hamilton, M.Ed., an independent literacy consultant, has identified best practices for writing education, which she shared in the recent edWebinar, “Strategies for Building Proficient K–12 Writers.” Overall, the goal is to break down writing into its essential elements, giving students the opportunity to master them before drafting essays and reports.

First, students should have a strong background in the structures of writing, such as spelling, punctuation, and basic grammar. In addition, teachers should spend time looking at individual sentence and paragraph construction. For example, what makes a good topic sentence? How do you connect the sentences in a paragraph to each other? Which adjectives and adverbs convey which emotions to the reader? Thus, students are able to pay more attention to the content of their writing because they understand the foundations.

Then, students can move on to prewriting. As part of prewriting students need to be able to interpret a writing prompt. They should be able to say in their own words what the teacher is asking them to do. Teachers need to work with their classes to identify the key asks in a prompt and how that narrows the scope of the assignment.…Read More

5 ways to ensure cultural inclusivity

Have you ever wondered what goes into developing a culturally-inclusive curriculum?

The audience that Reading Horizons serves is diverse, and our footprint has grown significantly in the last decade as K–3 teachers and students from all over the country use our product for emerging readers and remediation. Our curriculum has generally met the needs of educators and learners, but a few years ago we learned that we had not spent enough time ensuring that we weren’t unintentionally excluding people or perpetuating stereotypes and biases. If a reader can’t identify with any piece of our material or software, we are doing them a disservice. That’s when we made a company-wide resolution to focus on cultural inclusivity at every step of the writing and publishing process.

Our goal is to make sure that, no matter where a student is from, their age, their ethnicity or religion, they feel like the program was written for them as much as anybody else. Guided by cultural inclusivity, we not only rewrote our existing material, but we set up systems to make us more intentional in how we developed new curriculum. Here are the lessons and steps we took.…Read More

Scholastic News Kid Reporters

The Scholastic News Kids Press Corps is a group of talented young reporters, ages 10–14, from across the country. For more than 17 years, Scholastic News Kid Reporters have covered “news for kids, by kids.” Their stories appear online at the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps website and in select issues of Scholastic classroom magazines, which reach more than 25 million students in classrooms nationwide. The Kid Reporters have made news by interviewing journalists, politicians, entertainers, authors, and sports stars. The annual selection of Kid Reporters is based on writing ability, interviewing skills, and attention to detail.

 

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5 ways to gamify writing in the classroom

Believe it or not, writing is a natural fit for gamification techniques

You’ve surely noticed how your class gets engaged as soon as you introduce a game into the teaching process. The students get competitive, but that’s a healthy competition you want to nurture.

Have you ever thought about teaching writing through games? It’s a great strategy that helps students overcome the lack of motivation they have regarding writing assignments. Robert Monroe, a writer for EduGeeksClub and a father of a 10-year-old, explains how he made writing attractive for his son: “I realized he was bored whenever he had to write something for school. I know how fun writing can be, so I found a way to turn it into a game. I set up a private online diary and gave him brief prompts every day. He received points for each ‘level’ he passed and a prize for every big achievement. I noticed great improvements in his grammar and style in a really short period of time.”

Needless to say, you’ll need an effective strategy that will help you introduce writing games in the classroom. Read on; we have the tips you need.…Read More

6 tips to make the most of student blogging

Blogging with students can lead to some powerful and unexpected outcomes

Student blogging is one of the best ways to implement writing across all areas of curriculum. From reading response to explanation of math lessons, you can have your students blog in virtually any subject area. And guess what? They’ll like it a lot more than answering multiple choice questions on a worksheet, which will lead to deeper thinking and higher quality work.

So if you’re considering using blogging in your classroom, check out these tips to set yourself (and your students) up for success.

Begin by starting your own blog.

I’m a firm believer in not asking students to do anything that I’ve never done before, especially when it comes to technology. So before you ever try to get your students to start their own blog, you need some experience running your own.…Read More

How visual thinking improves writing

Younger kids typically love to draw and aren’t too worried about the outcomes of their artwork — until they get older, Mind/Shift reports. By the time they’ve learned to read and write, art takes a back burner to academics, primarily because of what most schools prioritize. Over time it becomes harder for kids to think in pictures the way they once did. But what if students were encouraged to think in pictures alongside words? “There’s something about writing that is a link to your brain,” said Marissa Moss, author of the popular children’s book series Amelia’s Notebook. In the books, Moss takes on the persona of a little girl expressing her ideas about the world and people around her. The books are a combination of words and drawings and look free form – as though Amelia sketched them herself…

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National writing event trending on Twitter

Educators celebrate National Writing Day online and with social media

writing-twitterToday, students, educators, administrators, and writers will take to Twitter to celebrate the National Day on Writing by sharing ways they use writing to connect with family, within communities, between teachers and students, with colleagues, and across the disciplines.

This marks an important day, as schools increasingly require a focus on writing skills as part of the recently adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Founded by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in 2009, the National Day on Writing “recognizes the importance of writing in our everyday lives, gives us a time and a place to celebrate our skills, highlights the remarkable variety of writing we do, and encourages us to share our work with others,” according to NCTE. “We recognize that people of all ages make lists and write lunchbox notes, send emails and write poems, draw, make videos and take snapshots, draw graphs and write reports; and that this means of communication is how we record our feelings, send messages, help ourselves remember, and how we learn.  …Read More

New Common Core writing resource could save billions

New writing infographic can help save employers billions per year on remediation

writing-common coreIt seems that writing has almost gone the way of mathematics, with many students saying, “When will I need to use this in real life?” But according to research, billions are lost each year teaching employees the basics of good writing. However, thanks to a new Common Core writing resource, schools can now break down the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation into concepts appropriate for different student ages.

The infographic comes from Grammarly, a company that aims to improve communication among the world’s 2+ billion native and non-native English writers. Grammarly’s flagship product, the Grammarly Editor, corrects contextual spelling mistakes, checks for more than 250 common grammar errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and provides citation suggestions.

Grammarly’s aim is that this new resource can help curb the billions lost each year on writing remediation.…Read More

Virtual reality gives these students a boost in real life

A $1.5 million virtual reality project has improved the test scores of deaf and hearing-impaired students by an average of 35 percent overall, according to the leaders of the Virtual Reality Education for Assisted Learning (VREAL) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

When hearing-disabled students start school, they’re already at a disadvantage compared to their hearing peers because they’re usually behind in acquiring language skills.

“They can often be one or two grade levels behind,” said Patti Schofield, a resource teacher at Lake Sybelia Elementary School in Maitland, Fla. “We have to give them a sign vocabulary in addition to writing.” Schofield approached Veridian, a company that does national security work for the U.S. Department of Defense, to see if their virtual reality technology could help hearing disabled students learn.…Read More