Tag Archives: Writing

Youth Voices: An Online Writing Community for Students

Youth Voices is a site for students to engage in authentic conversations about what matters to them.

What could be more exciting and motivating to a student to see his or her opinions posted online where other students can see them and respond?  Youth Voices is a site for conversations that invites “youth of all ages to voice their thoughts about their passions, to explain things they understand well, to wonder about things they have just begun to understand, and to share discussion posts with other young people using as many different genres and media as they can imagine!”

Youth Voices is a school-based social network, started by a group of National Writing Project teachers, who merged several earlier blogging projects. The goal is to connect students around the country through writing about their passions and reading and commenting on the work of others.  This project has provided a vehicle for the marriage of curriculum and digital literacies.

One of the best things about Youth Voices is that membership is free, and the authors invite you to join them. They welcome any teacher interested in having students publish online and participate in the give and take of a safe social network.

Click to Access the NYC Writing Project Home Page

Here is what the authors of this site have to say about Youth Voices:  “We are much more than a website or a social network. We are also a welcoming community of teachers who have been planning curriculum together for years. Many of us are active members in our local National Writing Project sites, and Youth Voices is managed by teachers in the New York City Writing Project. In addition, many of us count ourselves as members of the World Bridges community, and we meet regularly using Google+ Hangouts and Livestream on a weekly webcast/podcast, Teachers Teaching Teachers, which has been broadcast live every Wednesday evening over the EdTechTalk channel of the WorldBridges network since 2006.”

An excerpt from one student's article: My Army Past, Present, and Future

Involving students in “authentic conversations” is one of the passions that sparked the idea behind Youth Voices.  Teachers working with the project have learned that nurturing and guiding students to write and create well-crafted products is important, but it is just important to allow time for students to read other students’ posts and to write comments to them.  Developing global conversations around posts provides students an opportunity to see what is happening around the world and in the homes and lives of others.

The site offers several “channels” where students can post their reflections.  Current topics include:

Students can choose from various channels to post their work:

  • Art, Music, and Photography
  • Gaming and New Media
  • Literature and Inquiry
  • Local Knowledge/ Global Attitude

Click the photo to visit the National Writing Project website.

And…if you are looking for something specific, authors use tags to make their work easily searchable.  Youth Voices is a safe, academic social network for students to share their thoughts with the world.  Maybe it is the right platform for your students…


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Making Sense of Integrating Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

Helping teachers and administrators understand the meaning of "literacy" is an important first step.

I don’t really understand why there has always been this push back from teachers who think that teaching and reinforcing literacy skills are the responsibilities of the English teacher.  I never took at science, social studies, art, or technical course that did not include reading, writing, speaking, listening, presenting, and communicating with others.

Occasionally, teachers in these courses did as well or better at teaching literacy skills than did my English and Language Arts teachers.  I think one of the biggest barriers is that not all teachers have a true understanding by what is meant by “literacy instruction.”

All students deserve quality literacy instruction. Good teachers include literacy instruction instinctively throughout each lesson regardless of their content.

When I worked as a Curriculum Specialist, one of my greatest joys was mentoring young teachers, observing them, and providing clear, specific feedback on their instruction.  I worked with some outstanding teachers who were just starting their careers.  One thing the strongest and most effective teachers had in common, regardless of their content-area or grade level, was that they intuitively and purposefully created learning opportunities for students in which literacy strategies were embedded throughout each class period, each lesson, and each unit.

So, what does this mean to non-ELA teachers?

I challenge you to take a look at the bullets below no matter the subject you teach and decide which bullets are important for students in your class.

The Common Core State Standards define students who are College and Career Ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Language as those who have the following attributes:

1.  They demonstrate independence.

  • Comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines without significant scaffolding
  • Construct effective arguments
  • Convey intricate or multifaceted information
  • Independently discern a speaker’s key points
  • Build on others’ ideas
  • Request clarification, articulate their own ideas, ask relevant questions, and become self-directed learners
  • Seek out and use resources to assist them
  • Demonstrate command of the English language
  • Acquire and use a wide range of vocabulary

Image courtesy of Discoveryschool.com

2.  They build strong content knowledge.

  • Establish a base of knowledge across a wide range of subject matter by engaging with works of quality and substance
  • Become proficient in new areas through research and study
  • Read purposefully and listen attentively to gain general knowledge and discipline-specific expertise
  • Refine and share their knowledge through writing and speaking

3.  They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline. 

  • Adapt their communication in relation to audience, task, purpose, and discipline
  • Set and adjust purpose for reading, writing, speaking, listening and language use as warranted by the task
  • Appreciate nuances – such as how the composition of an audience should affect tone when speaking and how connotations of words affect meaning
  • Understand that different disciplines call for different types of evidence — i.e. documentary evidence in history and experimental evidence in science.

4.  They comprehend as well as critique.

  • Engaged and open-minded
  • Discerning readers and listeners
  • Work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying
  • Question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises
  • Assess the veracity of claims and soundness of reasoning

Valuing evidence as well as using technology and digital media strategically and effectively are skills our 21st century students must master to be prepared for college and the workforce.

5.  They value evidence.

  • Cite evidence when offering an oral or written interpretation
  • Use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking
  • Make their reasoning clear to the reader or listener
  • Evaluate others’ use of evidence constructively

6.  They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.

  • Employ technology thoughtfully to enhance reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use
  • Tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently
  • Integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline
  • Are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communications goals

7.  They come to understand other perspectives and cultures. 

  • Appreciate that the 21st century classroom and workplace are settings in which people from often widely divergent cultures with diverse experiences and perspectives must learn and work together
  • Actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening
  • Able to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds
  • Evaluate other points of view critically and constructively

This resource includes research, recommendations, vignettes, and professional development suggestions.

The Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects were built on the premises that reading in the content area is critical to building knowledge and writing is a key means of asserting and defending claims, showing what students know about a subject, and conveying what they have experienced, thought, imagined, or felt.

When I read through the standards, I found that they provide a great reference to guide the classroom teacher in terms of what students should be doing with the content.  The standards provide an opportunity for the teacher to ensure that students are engaging with the content in meaningful ways that will help ensure that they are indeed college or career ready. We know that most college and workforce training programs require informational readings, and to ensure our students are well-prepared for college and the workforce, we ALL owe it to them to teach and support our students’ literacy development.

If you are looking for support as you begin to think about the role literacy plays in your planning, curriculum design, and daily instruction, check out these great resources.

Bringing Literacy Strategies into Content Instruction:  Developed by the Center on Instruction, “this document provides research-based guidance on academic literacy instruction in the content areas, specifically focusing on the effective use of text in content areas.”

Common Core for Social Studies Teachers!:  (Look for Episode 15)  ASCD’s Michael Fisher interviews  Bruce Leader, a 10th grade Global Studies teacher at Starpoint High School in Lockport, NY.  In this interview Bruce Leader discusses integrating the literacy standards for writing and reading from the Common Core into his professional practice.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Weekly Message Follow Up

This week’s message shows links to the state developed Moodles for professional development regarding the new writing assessment.  


The link below is to a DPI site with examples of writing tasks by content area.  Since the writing tasks have not been content specific in the past, I thought it would be helpful for you to see state provided examples.  




This site could clear up some questions or add to your list of questions.


Let me know how I can help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Oodles of Moodles — Message of the Week: October 21, 2008








The face of instructional delivery models is changing.  There are now many other options to consider in addition to face-to-face delivery.  
Our state is using a Moodle-based software program to deliver the information regarding the changes to the NC Writing Assessment model.  


The beauty of a Moodle is that it can be accessed online and you can complete the activities are your own pace. 

What if you don’t teach Language Arts?

The new model for writing assessment will involve teachers in all curriculum areas.  There are two Moodles from the state to support the shift.  The first Moodle focuses on writing instruction while the second Moodle explains the nuts and bolts of the new process and timeline for writing assessment.


For this year, we will require that all 4th and 7th grade writing teachers complete Moodle II.  In addition, all 7th grade teachers of Social Studies will need to complete Moodle II.


An E-mail was sent to principals with information regarding district-level support for Moodle training.  We will offer sessions for 4th and 7th grade at the HPS Annex to assist in logging on and orienting teachers to the Moodle format.  




4th Grade       October 28th (3:30-5:00) at the Annex


7th Grade       October 29th (3:00-4:00) at the Annex



On December 2nd, we will have additional training for 4th grade (3:30-5:00) on closing out the Moodle and setting up dates for the upcoming formative and summative assessments as well as the scoring sessions.    The training for 7th grade teachers will be December 3rd from 3:00-5:00 at the Annex.  


What about high school and other grade levels?






All teachers are encouraged to access and complete the Moodle. 


In the near future, every pre-K – 12th grade teacher will be responsible for completing the Moodle and for assessing student writing in his/her content area. 


Participation in writing assessment is now the responsibility of every teacher as outlined in the new North Carolina Writing Assessment Proposal.





What is a Moodle?


ü      Moodle is an open source software package for producing Internet-based courses and websites. Click here to see an informational video on Moodle.


How will Moodle be used in the North Carolina Writing Assessment Program?


ü      Moodle will be used to provide professional development for all teachers and for digital upload for the pilot schools.


What professional development is available for teachers?


ü      Instructional Writing Across the Curriculum


How do I access the Writing Across the Curriculum course?


ü      Click here to access the NC Writing Assessment System Moodle.


If I have questions, who do I contact?


ü      For passwords, see your school-level testing coordinator

ü      If the questions are technical, contact the NCSU Help Desk at ncdesk@ncsu.edu or (919) 515-1320.

ü      If the questions are content related contact the Writing Assessment Help Desk at writingassessment@dpi.state.nc.us


See all archived messages under Resources at http://www.hickoryschools.net/C10/Curriculum%20and%20Instruction/default.aspx











Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized