CRWP Middle School Writing Camp: Day #1

It is without a doubt a whole different world when you are talking to middle schoolers about writing when they actually care and want to be writing.  All in all, the first day of middle school tech writing camp was a success. I now understand what NWP directors go through with logistics on the first day. My co-director and myself spent a good portion of the morning getting a majority of our students signed up for their Google accounts so they can use google docs.  Unfortunately the Ipads were not ready today so the students had to use their composition notebooks, which isn’t a major set back, it was just frustrating when it is a middle school tech camp and they couldn’t use the technology.

After their writing into the day was completed, we focused on argumentative writing with the campers and we used George Hillock’s Teaching Argumentative Writing and Crime and Puzzlement by Lawrence Treat.  The campers looked at two different cartoon murder scenes and wrote down what evidence or facts they saw in the picture.  Then, they used that evidence to form a rule or warrant.  If the evidence did not answer all of the questions the campers had, they wrote down those questions.  The students worked in groups on this and eventually they wrote a police report.  Before the students wrote their reports we had a detective from the CMU police department come in and speak to the campers about his job and what police reports look like and why writing is important in police work.  The students asked great questions about his profession and they asked really smart questions about the reports they were writing.  In addition to the detective, we showed a model of an actual police report that was done on a car theft.  I also showed the campers a short youtube video on writing a quality police report.  The video had to be slowed down because it went to fast, but the students were able to understand what we were asking.  When the students were done with writing their reports, all four groups shared out their report.  Next year, I am hoping they will be put into a google doc and then be shared with the other groups so they can collaborate and get feedback from their peers.

The really fun part came in the afternoon when the students got to use the digital still cameras and the digital video cameras.  The campers were instructed to make their own murder scene and take digital still pictures of the staged murder scene similar to the ones that were given to them earlier.  In addition, the campers were to take the digital video cameras and record a narrative that would explain the scene for others to follow.  Before the students were allowed to wander the building and stage their murder scenes, they needed to develop and write out their plan for what they wanted to do.  Furthermore, they needed to write out a script for their narrative. Once their scripts and plans were approved, they were able to start staging their scene.  What I want to do is load their images and videos into youthvoice.net.  Then, I want the camp participants to go to youth voices and watch other groups videos and look at their pictures.  After viewing other groups work, I want them to comment on their work. I have to upload their work tomorrow morning to the youth voices website.

The last item I had participants complete today was write a short reflection on the days events and discuss what they might have learned about argumentative writing, visual literacies, writing as a whole, etc.  Reflecting on my own work today,  I want students to have more time to play with the digital cameras.  I would also like to bring them in props to use next year (if we go this route).  It would also be beneficial for the participants to have more time to plan for their murder scene and script.

Again, it was a very successful day. I feel that it went well and it extremely fast.  Tomorrow we are exploring poetry and we have a poet lined up to come in and speak to the students.  It should be a blast!

Cheers!


Writing Reflections

On Thursday of this past week I asked my 8th graders to reflect back on their writing they have done this year.   Earlier in the week as I was developing my lesson plans I began to really think about the writing we have done this past year.  As I do every other year, I began to feel guilty because I was thinking I didn’t assign enough writing for them to do throughout the year.  So, when I described the reflection assignment for my students, we composed a list on the board.  If I was thinking about it, I would have taken a picture of the list and just posted the picture, but instead I will have to compose the list again here. Below you will see all of the writing I have done this year with my 8th graders.

1. This I believe Essay – Posted to our classroom wiki.

2. Alternate endings for The Giver by Louis Lowry (Students could do a traditional writing, Glog, or Comic Strip.

3. 25 word story

4. Sentence in a day

5. Compare/Contrast Essay between characters in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

6. Glog or Book Cube for Christmas break book (See previous post I have written).

7.Celly writing – writing journal prompts and collaboration with cell phones

8. Journal Writing on various topics every day

9. Extended journal writings – Students went back through previous journal writings and found ways to make them more detailed and better.

10. 50 word stories

11. Paper Tweets – a two day lesson on Twitter and tweeting.

12. Biographies – Posted to our classroom wiki.

13. 8th Grade Reflection writing

14. Police Reports – Modeled after George Hillocks Argumentative Writing Book

15. Musical Chair Writing – Post a comment or send me an email if you want information about this activity.

16. Article of the Week – (Title does not reflect the fact I didn’t do this every week)

17. Science Fiction Stories

18. Ticket out the door writing responses.

Now for the sake of time and not boring my few readers, I will just say there are a few more writing activities that  I have not posted.  When I reflect back on the amount of writing my students did this year, I have nothing to feel guilty about.  My students definitely did more writing than I did grading.  Kelly Gallagher argues this in his books.  We as teachers do not need to be grading everything our students do.  There were many occasions my students turned in writing and it was graded on a formative scale rather than be a summative grade. What I really noticed is how much digital writing my students have done this year.  My students wrote on Glogster, toondoo, used Celly phones in class, they used Google Docs/Drive and helped create a paperless classroom and used it regularly for collaboration.

The other thought I had was about academic rigor.  The Common Core Standards essentially helps guide teachers to develop more rigor in our classroom.  I still believe my students can do more writing and I will push my students to do more writing next year and the years to come.  If you want any information on any of the listed writing above, feel free to email me or make a comment.

Cheers!