Graphic organizers for the writing process


The weather here in Chicago  is cold with windy sleet and icy roads. All of my students are walking around with loud coughs, sore throats and bleary eyes.

It must be midterm season!

Students are exhausted from writing their papers and taking tests. Instructors are exhausted from grading said papers and tests. Sometimes it is a pleasant time of year when everyone is starting to get spring fever. However, this year, I’d say that it feels like spring is quite far away!

This academic year my department has been focusing on student writing as our departmental assessment activity. It has been a really interesting process and I’ll share more about that in future posts. I just wanted to share an article I found today about graphic organizers for the writing process. I wish I had seen this earlier in the semester, but I think I will use some of these tools to help students plan and work on their final projects.  It’s from a newsletter from Emerging Ed Tech: Engaging Students and Enhancing Learning Outcomes with Internet and Instructional Technologies, and the article is titled,

“Teaching Writing and Learning with Graphic Organizers”

Do you have tools and resources that you regularly use to support student writing? Please leave a comment and share what you use.

Happy grading everyone!


I’m continuing to explore the flipped classroom model in my own teaching and thought I would share this week’s reflections with the ACCESS community. What do you think of the Flip?

Carrie's Blog

With the flipped classroom model, the goal is to free up time during class sessions in order to provide active support to students when they need it. I like the idea of active support because this is how it feels to me during the class sessions.

Before our class, I had already sent out two video clips about the Teacher Research Project (data collection, Teacher Research Showcase) and a Prezi for this week’s lesson. During class time,  students began working on their quizzes, and I spent some of that time typing feedback on their quizzes from last week in Blackboard. As students transitioned from the quiz to their work, I began moving around the room and these are some of the things we worked on:

  • A small group of students were concerned that they were not writing their field notes appropriately. I was able to talk with…

View original post 295 more words

Carrie's Blog

I have been moving in this direction for the past year, but after a discussion with my Saturday students this week, I’ve finally decided to more formally adopt a flipped classroom. For an overview of the flipped model, check out “The Flipped Classroom Infographic”.

The following definition is from Michigan State University’s Office of Faculty and Organizational Development:

In “flipped classes” students use technology at home to watch online video lectures, demonstrations, and explanations of assignments.  Class time is spent doing what is traditionally called “homework.”  The teacher in a flipped classroom is a learning facilitator, able to work one-to-one with students, clarify assignments, and offer help as needed.  Classmates can work together on in-class assignments, engage in discussions, or collaborate on projects.

A major benefit is that teachers spend more time working directly with students instead of lecturing to them.  The downside is the need for access to…

View original post 690 more words

Engaging students in reading the text

A weekly quiz on the reading assignment – what do you think?

For years, I have based many class discussions and activities on the assumption that my students will have read the assigned reading before coming to class. In reality, some students had perhaps started reading, but many of them seemed to be totally unaware of the readings at all. So, I started asking them questions about how they approached the reading assignments. What did they do? How did they spend time that week preparing for class?

Students would often tell me that they tried to read on the train or bus – I teach and live in the heart of Chicago and most of my students take public transportation. They also described reading late at night once their children were in bed, or on breaks at work. It became clear to me that very few students spent more than 15 minutes at a time trying to read the text. That was useful information.

To me, it sounded like they were skimming for main ideas rather than spending time getting immersed in the text. I also got the sense that they did a rather passive job of reading. They were not looking for anything in particular and they seemed to be waiting for the main ideas to pop out at them. I did not get the impression that students were using the text as a tool for learning. Maybe, to them, it just felt like a chore that never got finished each week.

At some point, I just accepted that this is the way it is. Students don’t read assigned readings and there is nothing to be done about it! I have heard many other instructors, across various disciplines, say the same thing. Students don’t read. Students are not prepared for class discussions. We would sigh and shrug our shoulders, and say things like “what can you do?”

About a year ago I tried something I never thought I would do – weekly quizzes. I never liked the idea for a variety of reasons: 1) it would be a lot of grading and I’m already swamped with grading, 2) I’m not an experienced test writer so I’m not sure of the best method for designing such a thing, 3) it seemed like busywork, 4) it seemed punitive. I also thought the students would hate it and that I would lose their trust which is something I work hard to build in the first weeks of the semester.

However, it bothered me that students seemed to feel that doing assigned reading was optional. It’s not.

But, I tried it anyway.

In the next few posts, I will share the process with you. I’m going to try to do some reflecting on the process – something I teach and teach and teach, but do not do enough of myself! I hope you will join me and share your reflections too!

For now, I’ll leave a quote from one of my student’s quizzes about Vivian Paley’s book A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play.

This book made me realize that fantasy play has a big impact on how children grow. It helped me to want to start opening my eyes and see what children are doing while they play and to really listen to them because children do have a lot to say especially while playing and we as teachers can really learn from what they are doing. It taught me that I shouldn’t worry about what messes they are doing but to let them explore because by always being behind them cleaning up I’m limiting their imagination which also means that I’m not really even paying attention to them.

This was my feedback on the quiz:

I used to do this a lot too! I was always worried about mess. If my room was messy, I thought that meant I was not a good teacher! It helped me when my director told me to stop and observe.

The conference begins

The day started off early with an 8am session for which I served as a discussant entitled, “Higher Education for Improving Teaching Practice and Outcomes for Children: Taking Paths Toward Greater Effectiveness”. The presenters were Marilou Hyson, Diane Horm and Pamela Winton and fellow discussant was Terri Swim.

The session began with a description of the settings and contexts for Higher Education today and went on to discuss the following:

  • Program content
  • Standards & Accreditation
  • Delivery systems
  • Faculty in ECE programs
  • Assessing the impact of Higher Education

I enjoyed participating in this session as it was organized in such a way that the presenters, discussants, and audience participants were all actively engaged in the discussion. Some of the topics were depressing to say the least but we were able to share and hear about many innovative pockets in teacher education and that was promising indeed.

In the afternoon, we all gathered together to hear the Plenary speaker. I’d like to save that for another post. I will say that I found it inspiring as well as intriguing. More to come!

ACCESS Board Retreat 2012

What a full day!

The ACCESS Board started out bright and early this morning for our Retreat. We will have an official report from the meeting posted in the ACCESS member section of the website once we all return home, but I thought I’d just share some of the highlights.

We spent some time thinking about our purpose and the mission of the organization and then we spent some time really analyzing our roles on the board, how our responsibilities overlap, and where we need support.

We used large post-its, small post-its, and a variety of shaped sticky notes to help us organize our thinking and to create a visual representation of our work.

Accomplishments since the 2008 Board Retreat

Arranging our roles and responsibilities

There were some short games that got us thinking about how to infuse a playful element to what we do.

I really liked the balloon toss! Nancy played some music and we began to toss one balloon among the group. Each time she stopped the music we had to add one more balloon and continue to keep them all off the ground.

one balloon

Pretty shortly it became a challenge to keep all the balloons in the air and we really had to work together to keep things afloat!

many balloons

I think we did some very good reflecting, thinking, and planning in order to continue to serve the mission of the organization as it moves to the next stage of its development. We worked hard together over a long day and you will hear more about the strategic plan as we move through the summer and prepare for the fall.

Personally, I think the balloon activity will stay in my memory as a visual (and motor!) representation of how the ACCESS Board and, in fact, how the ACCESS organization works:

We wear many hats and play many roles

We always have lots of balls in the air

We tend to have fun together

We work as a team to help each other to keep things afloat

At the end of the day, we shared a meal together and then went our seperate ways. I took a little walk around the downtown area and this is what I saw:

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Retreat today. You all are troopers!

I also want to give a very special thank you to Nancy Beaver, President Elect, for suggesting that we have the Retreat and then for planning and facilitating everything for us. This was a very thoughtful, supportive, and productive day. I also want to thank Judy Sherwood for sending lovely decorations and treats for us even though she could not be there in person.

Stay tuned for more information about the 2012 ACCESS Board Retreat in upcoming communications.

Greetings from Indianapolis!

I had the pleasure of driving from Chicago to Indianapolis today. It was actually a lovely drive. I enjoyed seeing lots of soybean fields and a rather picturesque field of wind turbines.

The ACCESS Board is meeting tomorrow for what we are calling a “mini” retreat. The last time the board had a retreat was in New Orleans in 2008. Many of the current Board members were new Board members back then, some of us have changed roles on the board, and some folks have moved on to do other things as members of the ACCESS community.

Retreats are a good time for reflection. Like the retreat in 2008, we will spend time thinking about the ACCESS history and thinking about our mission and the current direction of the organization. I’m excited to start off the 2012 Professional Development Institute with some concentrated time with the Board to really dive in and do some strategic planning. As I face the last leg of my Presidency it’s so nice to be able to take the time to reflect on where we have come, and to plan the next steps of where we need to go!

If you will be at the conference, I certainly hope you will come to the 2012 ACCESS Day on Monday. I always look forward to seeing folks in person during our twice-per-year face-to-face time!

As always, I will try to blog throughout the week to share what we are working on and continue the discussions online so everyone can join in the conversation. I look forward to talking with you!

Downtown Indianapolis

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