Sunday, May 10, 2015

TESOL Teaching Reading and Writing Online Course Week 3

Along with three classmates, my group read and discussed the article on new tools for teaching writing.  The following is a synthesis and summary of our discussion, which focused primarily on blogs and wikis, although the article also included information on automated writing evaluation and open source netbooks.

We look forward to any of your responses or input, as time permits – as well as what other tools you use for teaching writing / having students do online writing!

Discussion Question #1:
Have any of you used blogs or wikis with your students for them to post and publish their writing?  Which tools/sites did you use? 

The majority of us have used blogs (Blogger) and wikis (Wikispaces, PB Wiki, Wordpress) and/or online discussion boards.

Discussion Question #2:
What are the pros and cons of blogs and wikis for online writing?

·       Work saved online.
·       Public audience.
·       Learn technical /computer skills.  Integrating technology into the curriculum is a 21st century is must.
·       Instill a sense of pride in their work.
·       Some quiet students come to life online! (It is easy for shy and quiet students to be comfortable and freely express themselves in and online writing environment . They can create a character, like a voki, to hide behind – any ideas of other sites to use that can easily interface with a blog?)

·       Can post a lot more than just text - images, video, links, etc.   (Absolutely, a great environment to use of visuals, such an important teaching tool for us to use with ELLs )

·       Realistic type of writing tasks that we do these days - not just a paragraph or essay in a Word document printed out for an audience of one (the teacher).  The ability to capitalize on choice and interest prove to be a powerful motivator in engaging the students. 

·       Another login. I will add to the need to “register” to access a site.

·       Public audience (can make private and can moderate or disable comments). Always dangers – can’t forget to address netiquette and the need to monitor student work on sites.

·       Another technology tool to learn. It is overwhelming, especially for ELLs – we need to break down and clearly present information step-by-step, with visuals.

·       Some students are hesitant to be as open in expressing themselves knowing that their writing topics will be read by others.

Languages (CATESOL) Spring Workshop.  The speaker was Dr. Dana Ferris of UC Davis, a researcher and author specialized in responding to student writing.  I have heard Dr. Ferris speak before at conventions, and she again had excellent suggestions.  Her presentation focused on 7 points regarding response to ESL students' writing, which are listed below. Overall, her message about students' writing was "It's about progress, not perfection."  Feel free to share your comments or reflections.
1.  Teachers need not (and should not) be the only respondents to students' writing.  The key to success is structure and accountability.  Have specific guidelines for peer review and self-evaluation that students should be held accountable to.
2.  Feedback need not (and should not) address every single issue on every single paper. "Less is more." Meet each student at his/her major point of need; prioritize writing issues to respond to.
3.  Identify 2 - 4 feedback points for each response round/draft of a writing assignment.
4.  Use a rubric as a starting point (see photo).  Give students the agency / responsibility to seek out more opportunities for feedback rather than overwhelm them.  Feedback Points (see photo).
5.  Feedback should be clear and specific.
6.  Students should be held accountable for considering and applying feedback. (see photo).  Include revision effort in the grading scheme (engagement in the writing process, meeting due dates for drafts, participation in peer review).
7.  Teachers should reflect on the effectiveness of their feedback strategies (analytic model in which you categorize your own commentary, student reactions, self-reflection questions, tracing the effects of commentary) - and make changes as needed.
This is the suggested process she provided for teacher commentary on student writing:
Step 1:  Read the entire paper.
Step 2:  Complete the rubric.
Step 3:  Use the reading and the rubric to identify feedback points.
Step 4:  Write a summary note about the strengths of and feedback points for the paper.
Step 5:  Add marginal comments if they will illustrate the feedback points.
Step 6:  Add in-text corrections if the errors/language issues are among the feedback points.
What I thought was interesting is that she uses the rubric for feedback on drafts (as a formative assessment/feedback tool), and in my program, we use the rubric for the final summative assessment (scoring students' writing as pass or no pass for their level).
Dr. Ferris also discussed providing feedback on lower-order concerns (grammar, mechanics, etc.).  Her book Treatment of Error in Second Language Student Writing​ (2nd ed. Michigan Press, 2011) is an excellent resource.  I highly recommend it.  It changed the way I provide feedback to students on their writing (because I love to edit, but all that marking up of students papers is just overwhelming for them, and they don't really learn).  
She is the editor of a brand-new journal, the Journal of Response to Writing online at, if anyone is interested.  She also referred workshop attendees to read the CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Writers, endorsed by TESOL.  See
Finally, Dr. Ferris mentioned that her method for providing feedback on student writing is through MS Word comments, the rubric, and a cover note -- all of which are sent and received via a CMS dropbox. I'd like to try this approach.

Discussion of many aspects of student portfolios: ePortfolios from Educause.

My computer was supposed to be back from being repaired a few days ago, but there is some delay, so I don't have MS Word.  Therefore, I decided to try Smore, which as I understood is for creating inforgraphics, but when I did a search for online newsletters, it came up.
Here is my newletter:
What I like about Smore is that it allows you to put in all types of content very easily - videos, pictures, contact info, etc.  What I don't like is the downward scroll.  I prefer the site that Sandy shared, which flips pages left to right -- more in line with the reading we do on mobile devices.  Anyway, Smore was super-easy to use, so I think students could be assigned to make "About Me" pages very easily.  There is html emedding option, so that's cool, too.
Like Gloria, I use a Word template for the syllabus for one of my classes, and an MS Publisher newsletter template for another class.  Publisher is harder to use, in my opinion.  I really like the sleek styles the Office templates offer; however, I recently learned through an online course I just finished last week on "Creating Accessible Online Courses" that my syllabi would not be accessible.  Basically, Word documents posted online for courses offered in the United States (to be ADA / 508 compliant) are best made accessible by doing the following:
·        not having textboxes
·        using styles / heading structures
·        using a san-serif font, a font size of about 12 point is good (Arial is good)
·        using high contrast colors (black and white is good) but avoiding text with red or green
·        including alt tags for images
All this will help blind students successfully use screen readers to access the files.  Granted, I have not yet had a blind ESL students, but last year we did have a deaf student in our class.  By law, we have to have online materials accessible regardless -- it cannot be a reactive accommodation.
Anyway, the class was an eye-opener for me.  I won't bore you with more details, but basically, the same holds true for PPT (use a template) as for Word; for Web sites, if you can click and select the text, the Web site is probably at least minimally accessible. For audio, provide a transcript; for video, caption.  

My summary (task required as moderator) of the first discussion forum for this week:
Group 1:
Article URL New Tools for Teaching Writing (Language Learning and Technology)
Blogs and wikis are valuable tools for teaching writing.    
Some commonly-used blog and wiki sites are the following (although there are several others):

·       Blogger
·       Wikispaces
·       PB Works (formerly PB Wiki)
·       Wordpress

The main differences between blogs and wikis are the following:
·       Blogs have individual, dated, reverse chronological (most recent post on top) entries, more often for individual writing tasks.
·       Wikis tend to be used more often for collaborative work and have linked pages with no specific dated .
·       With blogs, only the owner(s) can enter/edit posts.
·       With wikis, collaborators can edit each other’s entries.
·       Blog and wikis have settings for privacy and commenting options (at least most but not all wikis, that is, offer visitors the chance to comment).
·       With blogs, previous versions of an edited/revised post are not saved; only most recent revision is saved and posted.  With wikis, there is the possibility of reverting to a previous version of a page.

The table below summarizes the benefits of using blogs and wikis and caveats.

Consider Carefully
Students learn new tech skills
Students may to be taught new tech skills = takes time
Commenting by and sharing with a wide audience possible; writing for a “real” audience
Students need to aware that their posts are online and available to the world; need to be taught netiquette; students may be more reserved unless privacy settings allow viewing and commenting only by invitation
All work saved online; editing / revisions saved in versions; no software needed

Embedding, linking (more than posting text – images, videos, uploaded files, hyperlinks can be added)

Group 2:
Article URL Interactive Writing in the EFL class: A repertoire of tasks.  (The Internet TESL Journal)
Using different types of group/partner work for writing tasks can be an effective strategy for teaching writing online because students can support each other. Even though some students may dislike working in groups, interactive writing tasks can help them spark ideas, develop and expand ideas, and practice listening and speaking.

Some interactive writing activities shared by this group and others who contributed to the discussion, with potential online tools bolded:
·       group assignments for finding sources, writing annotated bibliographies, summarizing, and peer review using a wiki (either a class wiki and separate pages individual pages for students a personal wiki site for each student) with editing and commenting options enabled
·       interactive pre-writing (brainstorming) and peer review on interactive whiteboards, Google doc with a graphic organizer
·       students read each other's work posted on a wiki in various stages of the writing process (outlines, drafts) and ask questions
·       summary writing and trading with a peer on a wiki or discussion board

Group 3:
Article URL Technology and Teaching Writing (Inside Higher Ed)
Adapting technology for essay composition and submission offers many advantages. 

·       Don’t incorporate every Web tool at once.  There are simply too many tools available
·       Select one or two ideas, master them, and then use them with students
·       Experiment with a “the creative classroom” in which where students collaborate and work together on tablets, smart phones, or computers. Practice with different skills such as audio, visual and design aspects can improve students’ writing abilities.
·       Implement the use of e-portfolios, which require students to think critically and analytically to revise and select for inclusion their best work
·       Always have a Plan B when integrating technology.
·       Monitor students

Group 4:
Article URL Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Writing (John Hopkins University)
Here are Group 4’s thoughts on the article, Evidence-based practices for teaching writing.
We think that what is great about this article is that it uses methods that have been examined using a systematic, scientific method. All of these strategies (see the attached picture below) are useful, grounded in solid practice, can be applied to inter net learning, and have shown results that are replicable across studies. We agreed that this research could also apply to teaching adults even though the article describes K -12 research. Adult learners do have their own specific needs; we might have our adult students set their own learning goals for the skill of writing.
We might use graphic organizers more in the planning stage of the writing process to help students organize their ideas. Even though providing good writing models is last on this list, we think it is very important. We were happy to see teaching writing strategies at the top of the list. Justin has done some research into modeling examples during his course work, and those types of strategies have been proven effective across disciplines, not just in writing classes.

Adult students might not be ready to take the risks that are required to write collaboratively. However, moving towards gamification might be one way to encourage collaboration in the writing process. Carla had this suggestion:
One collaborative writing activity that I do with my adults (and I've done with teens, also) is to divide the class into teams of 2-4 students per team. I give them all the same vocabulary word or phrase and they must write one sentence using that word. The focus is on accuracy and if the word is used correctly and the spelling and punctuation are correct, the team gets one point per word in the sentence (you can limit the possible number of words). If there is one mistake, they get no points. Could this be modified for asynchronous classes?

Lisa also thought that before teachers expose students to the actual collaborative writing activity, working on an error recognition activity with 2-4 students per group by using some work sheets with errors (downloadable from together would be another way for students to get used to any kind of writing activity. Through the editing experiences, students not only would get to know the cause of errors and the correct usage of word and phrase, but get to receive models of "bad" writing models.  

My Instructor's comments on my performance this week:

TESOL PP103: Teaching Reading and Writing Online

Week 3 Checklist

Discuss: Strategies for Teaching Writing Online

X Share: Online Tool for Writing



Wiki: Lesson Plan Activity for Writing

Wiki: Online Tools for Writing


Thank you for your contributions in Week 3.  You have completed all Assignments and I thank you, once again, for your extensive comments and input.  I can see from your interactions with others in the group how effective and wonderful you are in your teaching.  Thank you also for co-moderating the Strategies for teaching writing online discussion thread and for your concise summary.  Your leadership provided a very beneficial flow of ideas and knowledge sharing.

Your wiki site has some very worthwhile writing resources, including The Writer’s Diet and Dvolver.  Again, you can keep adding as you find other technology tools for this skill area and do check the links as sites can go down so you will want to update periodically.

The writing component of your lesson plan, a paragraph explaining how the symbols on student’s personal seal represent who they are, provides an excellent flow from the reading task and application of new learning.  I like the Brainstorm chart to help prepare students for the writing process. Task 9 is also very effective for integrating skills and allowing creativity for an oral presentation. I appreciate that you ended the lesson with a final reflection. JJ

I love that your children are also benefitting from the course and enjoying Melissa’s travel pictures.  Thank you, again.


Optional Articles (not required but important topics for reference)

Article URL Blogs and Wikis: Environments for Online Collaboration (Language Learning and Technology)

Article URL, Emerging Technologies: Web-Writing 2.0: Enabling, Documenting, and Assessing Writing Online

Article URL 30 Ideas for Teaching Writing (from the National Writing Project)

 Addtional Articles for reference and further reading 
Article URL,  Using Email in EFL Writing Classes
Article URL, Why Use Computers in ESL Writing Classes
Article URL, Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) Discovery Tool: Guide to Blogging-Pedagogical Considerations and Uses as a Writing Tool
Article URL, Weblogs for use in ESL classes
Article URL, Creating a learning community through electronic journaling
Article URL, E-mail and Word Processing in the ESL Classroom: How the Medium Effects the Message

Article URL, Instructional Blogging: Promoting Interactivity, Student-Centered Learning and Peer Input

Article URL, Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation (this one is a great resource)

Article URL, Ten Top Tips for Teaching with New Media (a lot of resources for writing)

Online Writing Tools:
A. Check out some examples of student writing projects at the followng sites:
B. Check out Virtual Field Trips (these can be teacher or student created but do involve the writing process)
B. Check out Web based discussion groups/discussion boards:
C. Check out ways to share documents
D. Check out Blogs and Wikis
E. Check out tools for writing online and writing guides

 F. Check out the OWL Writing Lab, at Purdue University
  • Click on Internet Resources as a starting place as there are many useful resources to explore
  • Click on Suggested Resources (left side of screen)> English as a Second Language
  • Click on this Link for an article on evaluating Internet sources from OWL
G. Some Web 2.0 Writing Tools (more in Week 4)                                  
H. Check out Interactive Whiteboards
  • access "materials and products" > online > Scroll down to Rich Internet Applications: Revisions
  • register to access the site (another free tool) and watch the videos to learn how to set up a class, create documents and other features
  • check out some of the other CLEAR tools for other language learning skills
J.  Read the article to better inform your decision of an online collaborative writing tool:
  • Comparing weblogs to threaded discussion tools in online educational contexts (Cameron, D. & Anderson, T. (2006). International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, May 2006.)

Writing Activities
A. Discussion Boards
B. Video and text
C. Suggested activities for developing writing skills 

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