Simulate Research-Writing Tasks During E-Learning
QUESTION: How do you maximize an e-learning day?
ANSWER: For school districts building e-learning days into their calendars, one way to design powerful learning is with a simulated research task like those that appear on standardized assessments.
Select short, high-interest texts
Provide 2-3 informational texts for students to read independently first. Select short, high-interest texts related to concepts you’ve been teaching. (One might be a video excerpt, a chart, a graph, a map, or a series of photos.) Use two or three texts that are of various types all on the same topic.
For example, a science teacher who has been presenting information on animal habitats might find two or three texts on sharks. A social studies teacher who has been covering the presidents might find a couple of short, high-interest texts all about one president in particular.
Require an after-reading response
Generate a writing prompt for students to respond to after the reading. Ask them to explain or compare or argue ideas based on the information they learned from all the texts.
Or, students could complete a graphic organizer based on information collected from the texts. That’s what Throop Elementary (Paoli, IN) teacher Katie Cadle did on a recent e-learning day. She provided her second graders with a grade-appropriate book excerpt (i.e., Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost) and a corresponding video clip from the movie version of that book. (Screencastify allows users to download a video to the computer rather than having to play it over the internet. It is free for ten minutes of recording, or purchase a year subscription for $24. Katie pre-recorded a lesson for students to watch from home, saved the video to her Google classroom drive, and had students download it onto their Chrome books for a future e-learning day.)
Their assignment was to compare certain facets of the movie clip to the excerpt from the original text. Using a T-Chart, each student created a list of comparisons.
These kinds of research-writing tasks bring together essential literacy skills, including:
- Juggling multiple texts all in one sitting.
- Synthesizing ideas across multiple sources.
- Citing evidence to support their thinking.
- Composing a first draft on the computer.
The sign of a productive e-learning day is one that marries the use of technology with the literacy skills we’ve been teaching in the classroom.