The Relationship of High School Student Motivation and Comments in Online Discussion Forums

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Author: Chris Sloan

Summary: Although online discussions have become more and more ubiquitous, there is a dearth of research that has looked at relationships between students’ commenting and motivation to learn. Course and program designers wishing to better structure discussions in online learning communities to take into account traits of comments students find most valuable may be interested in mining this research study of 12th graders. Discussion posts and comments composed on helped to identify ways to enhance motivation to learn.

How to Build Better Engineers: A Practical Approach to the Mechanics of Text

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Author: Ron E. Smelser

Summary: How do engineers write—in what ways, for what audiences, and for what purposes? How do we as teachers support novices in developing an understanding that learning to write clearly to communicate arguments in proposals and presentations may make all the difference in moving an idea to a product that is economically and practically feasibile? This article presents a structure that emulates what engineers encounter in a peer-review proposal process. Those planning and leading workshops grounded in real-world practices for aspiring engineers or other related professions will find useful ideas here.

The Authenticity Spectrum: The Case of a Science Journalism Writing Project

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Author: Angela Kohnen

Summary: Although learning to write like science reporters was initially designed to help students develop scientific literacy, the SciJourn project became much more — a key to high school students’ engagement as learners, researchers, and writers and their teachers’ opportunity to explore “real world” genre-based writing assignments and assessment. This article provides a rich discussion with specific examples for learning to develop assignments and learning experiences that take into account “functional authenticity.” Those designing professional development, grants, summer institutes, or study groups on topics such as disciplinary literacy, genre, or authentic learning/writing will find ample food for thought!

Portfolios That Make a Difference: A Four-Year Journey

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Author: Judith Ruhana

Summary: In this article, a teacher recaps her journey with portfolio assessment over four years. The writer shows how teachers can and need to adjust their teaching based on their students’ reflections on learning. The article will be of interest to teachers grappling with issues of assessment and grading. It includes rich samples of student writing and useful rubrics.

Interest-based Learning and Passion Projects

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Guests: Laura Bradley, Kim Douillard, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Paul Oh, Jo Parasio

Summary: In celebration of October’s Connected Educator Month, this webinar focuses on creating opportunities, space, and time for all youth to be agents in their own learning. The participating educators draw inspiration from the “Maker Movement” and the Connected Learning principles as they share ideas and strategies related to the notion of youth agency. Links to numerous additional resources are provided.

Reflective Journaling for Deeper Student Learning

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Author: Anna Collins Trest

Summary: Are you struggling to get students to write during journaling time? Are the responses you get cursory or less than you had hoped? If so (and even if not), then read how one elementary classroom transformed the depth of student writing responses by transitioning from “writing prompts” to “reflective writing.” By writing with the students on the prompts they generated, by having extended discussions about the writing, and by tapping into the students’ prior knowledge and interests to ensure relevance, this teacher’s journey to finding paths toward powerful student writing was successful. This resource may be useful in working with novice teachers, or for anyone looking to invite more student input into writing assignments.

A Cure for Writer’s Block: Writing for Real Audiences

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Author: Ann Rodier

Summary: This teacher describes how she connects as a writer to a student whose drafts begin to find a real audience. By guiding student writers toward an authentic purpose for their writing, young authors can see themselves as professional writers. Use this narrative as a hook to bring teachers together to discuss ways authentic audiences can propel students toward meaningful writing.

A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle Schools and High Schools

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Author: Arthur N. Applebee and Judith A. Langer

Summary: This 2011 article describes research which updates earlier work and which addresses the following questions: How much writing do students do? Who reads what students write? What is the effect of high-stakes tests on writing instruction? What kinds of writing instruction do teachers emphasize? How has technology influenced the teaching of writing? From writing tasks and genres to standards-based writing and writing in the disciplines, the authors present readers with reminders that writing can contribute to learning and deepen understanding. Teachers and teacher groups may use this article to spur discussion of ways to go beyond test-focused writing assignments by offering students the chance to develop writings based on their reflections, interests, and contemporary connections to learning.

CRWP: Formative Assessment

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Summary: This resource from NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) features two strategies that teachers can use to assess students’ source-based arguments. The “Using Sources Tool” focuses on the quality of students’ claims and how well they use evidence to support them. The “Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Protocol” can help students and teachers see how well they have developed source-based arguments. This page also includes student writing that has been annotated through the lens of the “Using Sources Tool” to illustrate how teachers can use the tool in their classrooms. These assessment strategies can be useful for teachers in any content area who are looking for effective ways to analyze students’ evidence-based arguments. Teacher study groups can examine and apply these two tools and discuss their impact.

CRWP: Extended Research Arguments

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Summary: This resource from NWP’s College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) includes actual assignments, student work, and interviews with teachers about one student’s process. The “Extended Research Argument” video is a good introduction to the resource, inviting you to explore the ideas behind extended argument and demonstrating how to use the “Inside the Life of Piece of Writing” website in both high school and middle school. For teacher study groups or professional development experiences centered on extended research argument, this resource provides authentic examples of teacher process and student writing.