Writing is a complex combination of skills which is best taught by breaking down the process. The writing process involves a series of steps to follow in producing a finished piece of writing. Educators have found that by focusing on the process of writing, almost everyone learns to write successfully. By breaking down writing step- by-step, the mystery is removed and writer’s block is reduced. Most importantly, students discover the benefits of constructive feedback on their writing, and they progressively master, and even enjoy, writing.
Although they will often overlap, and sometimes students will move back and forth between them, the writing process can generally be broken down stages. When a student learns to internalize the 5 steps of the writing process, he or she will likely produce a logical and well-written composition.
Time4Writing emphasizes the writing process because it emphasizes the value of dialogue as a teaching technique. Teaching the writing process empowers students by asking them to talk about their writing at every step of the writing process. Students submit work according to a set schedule of lessons and assignments, and instructors provide feedback on the work, mixing encouragement with constructive criticism. Students apply these comments to the next step in that assignment. Both exchange comments about the writing, creating a conversation between instructor and student — both about the content of the writing and about the process of doing the work.
Historically, educators have struggled with the challenge of teaching students how to write well, traditionally focusing on the finished product. Since the 1970s, writing instruction has been changing. Teachers no longer emphasize the finished product; instead, they teach the “writing process.” One of the strengths of the structure of
the writing process is its usefulness for a wide range of diverse learners. Students are taught a variety of styles to structure their thinking, ranging from analytical outlines to highly visual graphic organizers. Students explore ways for organizing and visualizing their ideas that is the most effective for them. For instance, many right- brained visual thinkers find the highly-graphical spatial bubble-diagram organizers most effective in the pre- writing stage. Verbal thinkers may like to use lists, charts and free writing to organize their thoughts.
At Time4Writing, the process begins with this kind of brainstorming. Some advanced writers will try to start with a prewriting outline or collection of ideas that exists only in their head, but they are required to put it in writing, either by way of a graphic organizer or in a more linear format, like listing or free writing. Students also create a topical outline to help organize their ideas, and the advanced students are required to develop a working thesis statement. The goal is for students to become personally invested in their work.
For many students, writing can be intimidating, upsetting and mystifying. Parents who try to teach writing find that their children can be defensive about any criticism on their writing, and without any kind of teacher’s guide, critiquing their children’s writing can be a surprisingly difficult task and even create power struggles. At Time4Writing, because the emphasis is on the process of writing rather than the finished product, much of the sensitivity about receiving constructive criticism is eliminated; in fact, comments from students indicate they love the feedback! By approaching writing as a process, instructors encourage students to postpone closure on a piece of writing until they have explored all of its possibilities. Breaking the act of writing down into distinct steps enables students to maintain perspective on their writing, to understand that the feedback is about a specific aspect of their writing, and to discover they can master – – and yes – – even enjoy writing!
Although the writing process is the approach taught and used in all Time4Writing courses, there are two distinct elementary writing courses that focus on helping students internalize the process so that it becomes their natural way of approaching writing assignments.
Elementary School Narrative Writing – This 8-week course takes advantage of children’s innate curiosity about the animal kingdom to teach prewriting, planning, drafting, revision, and editing through the telling of wild animal tales.
Elementary School Informative Writing – Using multimedia tools, young writers will stretch their writing muscles by researching a wild animal and then creating a multimedia slideshow to showcase their findings. This course, for advanced students with some technical know-how, incorporates the full writing process from beginning to end.
teacher gives students choice and voice, finding ways to provide learning experiences that focus on what students value. In the student-centered classroom, students take a more "active" role in the education experience.
It doesn't matter if you're a kindergarten teacher, high school instructor or college professor, developing a student- centered learning environment will help your students become independent learners who will ultimately take charge of their own education–students who are curious, eager to learn, and willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.
Unfortunately, developing a student-centered learning environment isn't always easy, especially if your experience frames learning in a more traditional way. For many, implementing a student-centered learning environment sounds great in theory, but putting it into practice is a different story. Below we'll explore some strategies, principles and offer some proven tips that can make the student-centered learning environment a reality, and success, in your classroom.
In a traditional classroom, the teacher speaks, the students listen. In a student-centered classroom, the students speak, the teacher listens, interjects and facilitates conversation when needed, and then thanks the students for their participation. By involving students directly in the education process, and by enabling them to interact with one another, students begin to feel a sense of community. More importantly they are shown that what they feel, what they value, and what they think are what matter most. In the student-centered classroom, the teacher acts not only as educator, but as both facilitator and activator.
A student-centered classroom or learning environment can not exist without trust and open communication. Trust and open communication are achieved by always being fair with students, listening to them, and allowing them speak. Seems like a tall order? Well, it is. And it may not happen overnight. However, it's much easier to develop a student-centered classroom if you get started right away at the beginning of the year. Getting started at the beginning of the year sets the tone and lets students know what's expected of them the rest of the year.
At the beginning of each new school year, ask your students to discuss how they'd like their classroom experience to be. How should it sound, feel and function during the year? Are there any rules that should be put in place to ensure the classroom experience meets their expectations? Give the students 15 minutes to discuss among themselves and then write their suggestions on the whiteboard. You'll be surprised how many rules students will come up with. As you fill up your white board with their ideas and suggestions, you'll find some common themes start to appear–your students want to be heard, seen, valued, and respected.
This exercise, and similar exercises that can be performed throughout the year, communicate to students that what they say matters, and that you trust and value their input.
Developing a student-center classroom is all about engagement. The better you're able to engage students in any activity or project the more involved they'll become in the learning process. In today's world, technology is one of the most effective tools for engaging students. Technology is not the future, it's the present. Everything kids do these days revolves around technology–specifically mobile technology. Allow and invite students to use free web tools to present, curate, and share information. When students are given the opportunity to integrate existing
web tools and technology into the learning process, they become eager, anxious participants in just about any learning activity.
A classroom without rules? Seems a little farfetched, doesn't it? Well, it may be if you plan on having a teacher- centered classroom where students spend half their time learning, and the other half trying to keep from being bored out of their skulls. So what's the key to the "no rules" approach? Engagement! If you keep activities engaging, behavior will rarely be an issue. Having an engaging classroom environment, with engaging projects, engaging activities and engaging discussions will foster mutual respect and encourage a pursuit of learning that leaves little time for disruptions.
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of homework as it relates to improved grades and test scores. Some studies indicate there is a positive correlation between homework and improved grades and test scores, while other studies suggest little correlation. However, the entire premise for these studies is based on the assumption that grades and test scores are an accurate barometer for academic achievement and learning. In the teacher-centered classroom, in class learning and student productivity is lower, making homework more necessary and regular testing essential for measuring learning and performance. In the student-centered classroom, where activities and projects are engaging, students become much more eager to learn, and in class productivity is much higher. Where students complete school work outside of the classroom in a student-centered learning environment, it's typically because they want to complete projects they're working on inside the classroom.
Many teachers are now using engaging project-based learning (PBL) to teach math standards, sciences, technology and other core subjects to their students and increase student productivity and effectiveness of learning in the classroom. So what exactly is project-based learning? In short, it's learning through identifying real-world programs and developing real-world solutions. Not only is project-based learning extremely engaging when implemented correctly, but students learn as they journey through the entire project. Project-based learning also relies heavily on technology, where projects are driven by interactive web tools and solutions are presented using a multimedia approach.
When implemented effectively, project-based learning can replace the need for out-of-class homework and in class learning becomes more productive.
One of the keys to developing a student-centered classroom and learning environment is to create ongoing projects for students. Ongoing projects promotes mastery of subject matter being taught and learned. Learning objectives and standards, for just about any subject matter, can be met through well-designed projects and activities. And providing students with various project choices allows them to demonstrate what they're learning.
Creating a student-centered classroom requires collaboration. It requires placing students at the center of their own learning environment by allowing them to be involved in deciding why, what, and how their learning experience will take shape.
Before students will be willing to invest the mental, emotional and physical effort real learning requires, they need to know why what they're learning is relevant to their lives, wants and needs. Explaining to students that
they need to study a subject "because it's required for they're grade level," or "they need to know it to get into college" does not establish why in terms of relevance from students' perspective. Such explanations result in lackluster performance, low motivation and poor learning.
Students should determine, or guide, the selection of content matter used to teach skills and concepts. What is taught and learned in a student-centered classroom becomes a function of students' interests and involves students' input and teacher-student collaboration. For example, when learning about American history, students might decide a class play, where each student acts the role of a key historical figure, would be preferable to writing a traditional report or bibliography. In this example, not only do students take ownership of the learning process, all students benefit from the decisions of other students.
The how in a student-centered learning environment is just as important as the why and the what. Students process information, understand and learn in different ways. Offering students the option of how they'll learn will allow each student to adopt the method of learning that will be most comfortable and effective for them. It also allows students to feel more invested in the learning process. Teachers should consider offering students various performance based learning options that meet academic requirements.
Providing students the opportunity to lead in the classroom is a great way to develop a student-centered learning environment that fosters engagement, growth and empowers students to take ownership of the learning experience. Each day consider allowing a few students to each take charge of an individual activity, even if the activity requires content skills beyond the level of the students. Then rote students between leadership roles so each student gets the opportunity to lead an activity. You may even consider introducing the leadership role, or activity they'll be leading, to each student the day before so they'll have time to prepare and really take ownership of their activity.
In a traditional classroom, performance evaluation and learning assessment are reduced to a series of numbers, percentages, and letter grades presented periodically on report cards, through activities and via standardized testing. These measures say little about what a student is learning and provide little in the way of useful feedback to the student so he or she can improve their performance and achieve mastery. The student-centered learning environment is based on a form of narrative feedback that encourages students to continue learning until they demonstrate they've achieved mastery of a subject. This form of learning, feedback and evaluation encourages students to resubmit assignments and work on projects until mastery is achieved.
Textbook evaluation can be divided into separate phases: pre-use (also known as pre-evaluation), during use (or in-use) and after use (or post-use).
Most textbook evaluation schemes distinguish two essential stages that are necessary at the pre-evaluation phase: a description or analysis phase, and an interpretation or evaluation phase. In the first phase, the contents of the book have to be carefully described in terms of scope and sequence, organization, and the types of texts and exercises contained within. The analysis phase will involve identifying these kinds of information:
This stage of evaluation is more difficult since it involves subjective judgements, and these often differ from one person to another. For this reason, group evaluations are often useful. A number of checklists have been developed to assist at this stage of Pre-evaluation. However, checklists involve somewhat subjective categories and usually need to be adapted to reflect the particular book under consideration. In general, textbook evaluation addresses the following issues:
Goals: What does the book seek to achieve and how clearly are its learning outcomes identified? Syllabus: What syllabus framework is the book based on? Is the syllabus adequate or would it need to be supplemented (e.g. through additional activities for grammar or pronunciation)? Theoretical framework: What language-learning theory is the book based on? Does it present an informed understanding of any underlying theory?
Methodology: What methodology is the book based on? Is it pedagogically sound?
Language content: What kind of language does it contain and how authentic and relevant is the content? Is it an appropriate level of difficulty for the learners?
Other content: What topics and themes are covered and are they appropriate for the target learners? Organization: Is the book well organized into units and lessons, and within lessons are the purposes of activities clearly identified? Do units have a coherent, consistent organization and do they gradually progress in difficulty throughout the book?
Teacher appeal: Does the book look easy to teach and is it self-contained, or would the teacher need to develop supplementary materials to use with it? Would it require special training or could it be used by teachers with limited experience, and by both native-speaker and non-native-speaker teachers? Learner appeal: How engaging would it be for learners? How would they rate the design of the book (including the photos and illustrations), the topics and the kinds of activities included? Is the material clearly relevant to their perceived language-learning needs? Are self-study components included? Ancilliaries: What other components does the book include, such as teacher’s book, workbook, tests, and digital
and web-based support? Are all of these components published and available? Price: Is the book affordable for the intended buyers?
When a group-evaluation process is used, all of the issues above and others specific to the teaching context can be discussed, and if several books are being considered, a consensus reached on the book that most suits teachers’ needs. The decision may not rest entirely on the book’s merits. For example, if students are known to use a certain coursebook in private high schools, the book may be rejected for use in private-language programmes that attract university students.
In-use evaluation focuses partially on the global needs of the institution: if testing is important, the comprehensive nature of the tests may be evaluated closely; if lab work is important, the pedagogical effectiveness and comprehensiveness of the online components may be evaluated in depth; if the school transitions students from a younger-learners programme to an adult programme, the ease of the transition from the coursebook for younger learners may be reviewed.
In terms of the classroom experience, however, and overall learner satisfaction, in-use evaluation focuses on how well the book functions in the classroom, and depends on monitoring the book whilst it is being used by collecting information from both teachers and students. Information collected can serve the following purposes:
This monitoring process may involve ongoing consultation with teachers to address issues that arise as the book is being used and to resolve problems that may occur. For example:
Post-use evaluation serves to provide information that will help decide if the book will continue to be used for future programmes. Detailed information from textbook-evaluation processes, often conducted over a lengthy period, is a primary source of input when publishers decide to develop new editions of textbooks. Therefore, teachers may have a profound effect on the future direction of textbooks they are currently using.
Teaching aids are an integral component in any classroom. The many benefits of teaching aids include helping learners improve reading comprehension skills, illustrating or reinforcing a skill or concept, differentiating instruction and relieving anxiety or boredom by presenting information in a new and exciting way. Teaching aids also engage students’ other senses since there are no limits in what aids can be utilized when supplementing a lesson.
As students are reading less and less on their own, teachers are finding reading comprehension skills very low among today’s students. Teaching aids are helping teachers to close the gap and hone the reading comprehension skills of their students. Using magazine and newspaper articles, prints ads and even comic books are viable teaching aids that assist in helping students comprehend text. Teaching aids prove to be a formidable supplement for teachers when the reinforcement of a skill or concept is necessary. Not only do they allow students more time to practice, but they also present the information in a way which offers students a different way to engage with the material. Of course, this is important in order to reach the various learning types in the class. As previously mentioned, it is important for teachers to reach all learners in a classroom. Therefore, the use of teaching aids facilitates this objective by assisting teachers in differentiating instruction. Using aids such as graphs, charts, flashcards, videos, provides learners with visual stimulation and the opportunity to access the content from a different vantage point. This gives each learner the opportunity to interact with the content in a way which allows them to comprehend more easily. Teaching aids help to make the learning environment interesting and engaging. As we move toward a more digital society, kids are being exposed to technology and digital devices at a younger age. Video games and iPods are now what’s exciting to students, so when they come to school they have little patience for lecture style teaching. Students are seeking constant excitement and simply have no tolerance for boredom. Teaching aids are improving the quality of education in today’s schools while also providing students with the sense of excitement they desire. Teaching aids are becoming the norm in the classroom. As traditional classrooms with blackboard and chalk become a thing of the past, and smart classrooms become the norm, teaching aids are growing in popularity and advancement. Blackboards are being replaced with white and smart boards. TVs are being replaced with LCD
projectors and screens. And educators are becoming more focused on students growing with technology and integrating it into the curriculum. Students are making podcasts, videos and even creating web quests. All of which are sound teaching aids to incorporate into the classroom.
Most teachers understand the power of visual aids in helping students grasp content. Teachers value the support that visuals lend to classroom instruction because they encourage students to make associations between pieces of information, soak up chunks of course content quic kly, and function as a memory aid.
But sometimes we teachers don’t approach the use of visual aids as carefully as we should. We may be too lax in monitoring how students interpret visuals (allowing the oversimplification of content) or how students create visuals (which shows whether they understand what should be included). As a result, students struggle to make the needed connection with course content.
As an educator who relies on graphic organizers and charts in the classroom, I have three strategies for using visual aids without sacrificing course content.
Most teachers encourage some level of class discourse when presenting a visual aid, but we need to go a step further. We can promote a conversation about how the visual helps in processing the course content. For example, ask students to share how the visual reinforces —or challenges—what they previously learned about relevant vocabulary terms. In my College Readiness class, we review a line graph that compares letter grades and attendance, discussing how the upward direction of the lines supports our expectations of a connection between consistent attendance and higher grades. We also question the story presented by the graph: Beyond lower grades, what consequences do absentee students face?
To increase students’ processing opportunities, use a think-aloud to get students talking about what makes a visual useful vs. the qualities that seem less important to understanding the theme or central message of the graphic or its connection to other content.
Push students to think deeper. For instance, in order to promote retrieval practice, put the visual away and ask students to break down the concepts represented in the visual relying solely on their memory. It’s important to discuss any discrepancies between what the students recall and what’s actually present in the image.
This is an excellent opportunity to explore misconceptions about the concept at hand. It’s also an ideal time to highlight any blind spots or typical areas of confusion related to the concept. For example, when sharing a bar graph, caution students that the measurement scale can lead them to misread it, especially if the y-axis starts with a random number instead of zero or if information is measured in the short term instead of the long term.
I believe involving students in the design of visual aids is essential to foster buy-in and learning ownership, but initially, students may hesitate to create their own visuals and take on the designer role.
Establishing design parameters for students should help. For example, limit their format options by specifying the type of graphic organizer or chart they can use, and provide time to discuss what kinds of visuals would potentially work best based on the content at hand. You can also assign a specified number of key concepts—based on the content reviewed—that students are required represented with their visual.
For students who continue to seem uncertain about creating a visual on their own, educator Matt Miller explains the value of maintaining a library of icons (related to the topic, of course). Such a library allows students to focus on making meaning from the course material instead of becoming frustrated with the design work.
In addition to parameters, offer models. Make a point of asking students if it’s OK to share their visual with peers, and let them know why you wish to share their work. And teacher models are priceless. Dr. Deidra Gammill, a high school teacher in Mississippi, makes a habit of including images in her notes in order to provide concrete examples for her students to follow.
It’s not enough for a visual to capture attention—it should help students become more engaged. Over time, I’ve learned that aligning visual aids with course content is a deliberate process, one that is harder than I realized when I was starting out. With appropriate attention, we can ensure that our visual aids are windows to our lessons’ purpose and construction.
GTZ model is:
Phase 1: Introduction
Set a purpose. Describe the overarching reason for this lesson.
Introduce the key concepts, topic, main idea. Get students on the right track. This step may be a note on the board, a diagram, or a probing question of the day's lesson focus.
Pull students into the excitement of learning. Seize students' attention with items like an amazing fact, a funny quirk, a challenge, or other mind tickler.
Make the learning relevant. Explain how this lesson extends past learning and leads to future learning—that is, the significance of the concepts, skills, and focus of the lesson.
Check on previous knowledge. Verify what students already know.
Clarify key points. Double-check on learning from the past.
Focus on specific standards, objectives, goals. Link the lesson to the standards, and let students know exactly what they will know and be able to do as a result of this lesson.
Check for correctness and add to background knowledge. Add extra information for the day's learning and beyond—just enough to launch into the main lesson.
Introduce key vocabulary. See it; say it; read it; write it.
Ask questions to clarify ideas and to add knowledge. Engage students in the learning and build background with probing questions.
Brainstorm main ideas. Fill students' heads with ideas, concepts, possibilities; allow them to expand and clarify their thinking.
Clarify and correct misconceptions. Engage students in activities that will inform you as to whether students are confused or have incorrect ideas so corrections can be made before the misconceptions become worse or detrimental to learning.
Provide teacher input. Lecture, add key points and new information, read the text or articles, and solve problems. Present the body of the lesson. This may be a whole-class lecture, a small-group activity with teacher supervision, or a partner activity with teacher supervision. The learning is active (not silent reading without specific goals or mindless completion of a worksheet).
Check for understanding with sample problems, situations, questions. Have students practice with the information just taught. Guide the learning.
Provide time for practice and review. Allow students time to practice under your supervision. You and the students work together.
Supervise students' independent practice. Select additional strategies for small groups of students who still do not "get it." Other students may begin to work independently, with the final goal being that all students can work on their own. This practice prepares students for successful homework, and it prepares them for future learning. Phase 8: Closure
Bring the lesson to closure. Link the lesson phases and information together. Summarize the learning of the day, and discuss how it fits into the big vision for learning. Have students demonstrate what they know and can do by writing a brief note to hand in as they leave; the note may include questions, problems, or ideas on the learning. Alternatively, they may write in their journals or explain their understanding to a partner.
Most teachers have lessons that contain an introduction and a body or main focus (Phases 1 through 4), but several of the other phases are missing. It is crucial that students receive adequate information and are able to understand and apply it accurately when they are on their own. This is why Phases 5 through 7 are so important.
these phases into lessons, you ensure that students understand the lesson (because they have observed your demonstration or heard your explanation) and that they can continue working outside class (because they have practiced and have models to refer to).
An excellent closure activity is the exit pass (Figure 7.2, p. 113). On a note card or small piece of paper, students respond to a question you have posed orally, summarize what they have learned in class, or ask their own question about the learning or lesson. Student responses in these sorts of closure activities provide you with instant feedback for adjustment of your instruction. If another group of students is coming to class for the same lesson, you can make modifications based on the information just gathered from your students. This feedback is also helpful for determining the effectiveness of instruction.