Writing Points presents: new
True blog debuts at you-can-teach-writing
blog that permits reader comments is now up and running on
this site. The blog will focus on timely content
and content with a news peg. The kinds of information
you can expect are represented by this list of posts that have
The blog link is at the top of the left column navigation menu.
You can get the blog content delivered to your email inbox
or to your feed reader. The image at the left shows two ways to
become a subscriber from the blog page.
Writing Points will continue to focus primarily on
content with a long shelf life. Instead of telling you the newest
trick, it will focus on reliable techniques that can be adapted
to current situations.
Writing Points presents: tip
for struggling writers
Reading pairs improve written grammar
Sell goods or services to a niche education market at You
Can Teach Writing in the space of a Tweet.
You can use native English speakers' ability to hear errors
to help them identify potential grammar problem areas in their writing,
such as run-together sentences. Using
students to give each other feedback is a powerful way to develop
their skills while reducing your workload.
Although most strategies at you-can-teach-writing.com are geared
toward teaching teens and adults, this activity can be done
with students as young as fourth or fifth grade.
With students working in pairs, the author reads his/her
work aloud while the other listens. Slowing down to read
aloud may be enough for the author to spot grammatical errors that
the author doesn't see when reading silently.
For a second check, the listener reads the work aloud to
its author. The person who didn't write the paper is far more likely
to read sentences as written instead of the way the author intended.
Hearing the paper read by someone else is more likely to reveal
to the writer problems he/she corrected mentally but still needs
to correct on paper.
During the second reading, students may want to stop
at the end of every paragraph, or more often, to see if either questions
something that they read. A penciled question mark in the margin
(or highlighting on the computer screen) is all that is necessary
to help the author remember to check that sentence later.
Read aloud pairs is not a peer editing activity
per se. The point is to get the author
to focus on the words s/he put on the page.
For the activity to work, students need to be fairly well matched
in respect to their reading and writing skills. Also, the
reading order is important. The author gets the chance to identify
needed changes before the partner can note them. If the listener
has reading difficulties, reading second lets him anticipate words
s/he will see in the reading.
at home a document you need at school, or vice versa, can be frustrating.
If your document is in digital form, you can avoid that frustration
by using online "cloud" storage for your files. This
month, I begin a series about free online storage options teachers
and students can use.
Put your Tweet-length ad here to reach a niche education audience.
By adopting a common term for its product name, Dropbox
has become almost a generic term for online storage. Dropbox offers
2 GB storage free. You can get more by paying or by encouraging
other people to sign up for storage.
You begin by creating an account and downloading software that
puts a Dropbox folder on your computer. Drag any file into Dropbox
to make it accessible. If you have more than one computer, download
to each computer so the program can synchronize the files
automatically whenever the computer is connected to the Internet.
You can retrieve your materials from the Dropbox website with the
account name and password you registered. You don't have to be at
the computer that holds your Dropbox. The Dropbox homepage contains
a short video that explains how the online storage process works.
Warning: Before you confine a must-use-today document to a Dropbox
file, test to be sure your school's security settings let you download.
If you want students to submit
work electronically to your Dropbox, you can do that. (Upload
capability should not be affected by school Internet security measures.)
Next month in Writing Points: eBackpack
online storage especially for education uses.
A decade ago I bought a tool I use every day that makes giving
feedback on writing much easier. The tool is ShortKeys,
published by Insight Software Solutions, Inc.
ShortKeys won't help you unless you require students to
submit their work in digital format. If all that prevents
you from requiring digital submissions is your timidity, you need
to buckle up your courage before the world passes you (and your
ShortKeys is a text replacement program. You create a code to
use for each block of replacement text. Type the code and ShortKeys
replaces the code with the text.
One of the ways I use ShortKeys in grading is to hold my errors
codes. I also have suggestions for improvements entered
into ShortKeys. I have things like, "For your next assignment,
try reading your paper through looking just for sentence fragments
instead of trying to look for all kinds of errors. I think you can
get rid of most of your fragments that way and avoid the grade cap."
ShortKeys is particularly useful for text that has to be
error-free such as names of people and places, book titles,
and URLs. Working from digital text, highlight the correct characters,
then copy and paste them into a ShortKey. Over a year's time, just
having the name of every student in two versions (Last, First
and First, Last) can save hours.
One benefit to using ShortKeys is that I can develop responses
before I am crabby from having written the same answer 17 timesespecially
when the answer is that the answer is in the syllabus.
ShortKeys can accommodate long blocks of text. Because students
progress at such different speeds, Josh may need a particular explanation
in October but Caitlin may not need it until January. ShortKeys
lets you prepare boilerplate responses to the most common
issues and misunderstandings so they are ready when you need them.
ShortKeys works with programs like Microsoft Office and Open Office,
with email programs, on web pages, blogs and cloud-based programs.
ShortKeys is only for Windows users, but I suspect that most writing
teachers use Windows.
version of ShortKeys costs $24.95 for one user. (It's a one
time purchase, not an annual fee.) The company has free
"lite" version, which includes ads for company products,
so you can test-drive before you buy. If you are a department chair
or school administrator, look at site
licenses to put the program on multiple machines.
Disclosure: In preparing this Writing Points article, I
discovered the newest version of ShortKeys has the ability to include
enhanced text such as colored type. I updated my license to replace
the ShortKeys I've been using since 2005 to version 3. I also discovered
the company has an affiliate marketing program, and I signed up.
I'll get a percentage of sales made through clicks to ShortKeys
from this site.
Writing Points presents a
note from Linda
Pink slip blues? Four tips for coping
On my weekday morning news job, I see dozens of stories each week
about what's going on in schools in New York State. The numbers
of teaching job losses has been depressing.
If you were one of the thousands of teachers who lost your teaching
job for 2011-12 school year, I'm sorry. My being sorry doesn't help
much, does it? I can, however, give a tiny bit of help in your job
1. If you get your Writing Points at your school address,
I suggest you use the address change form in your notification
email to move your subscription to your personal email
account. Any resource you can have free is worth a couple of keystrokes,
2. Use the teacher
forums to make a name for yourself. A few
well-thought-out bylined pages about teaching will give you a
publication record (each page with its own URL) that will make
you stand out from other job seekers. You-Can-Teach-Writing.com
has about 1,000 unique visitors a day who potentially can see
your writing. If you started your own blog, you wouldn't get that
kind of traffic any time soon, if ever.
3. Establish a personal learning network of people with
whom you share educational interests. Go beyond colleagues with
whom you've worked. Find out what other educators are doing. Use
resources such as Twitter,
educator's PLN, and Linked
In to connect with people who can add to your skills and knowledge.
To get the full benefit of PLN membership, you have to pay your
dues by participating.
4. Keep alert to free and low-cost ways to improve your
skills and your teaching. The online communities named in the previous
paragraph will often suggest free webinars and other professional
development resources. And don't forget to document your
activity so that if you're asked at a job interview about your
professional development activities, you have an answer ready.
The next issue of Writing Points should
be released June 15, no providence preventing.
Until then, keep your pencil sharp.