calm breeze

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tech Savvy: Gaget Rules

As I enter my second week of my first graduate class, I am realizing that I am not as socially aware of using technology as an education professional as I thought I was. 

Here is a link to a blog post about using gadgets and technology 'carefully, with intention, for good.'  Exactly my goal when incorporating such things with my classroom curriculum.

How do you use technology in your classroom?  Are you on Twitter?  Have a wiki?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teaching Spelling and Writing in a Texting World...Good Luck With That

Photo: Teachers With a Sense of Humor Facebook Page
Do you have a cellphone?  Do you text?  Chances are the answers to both questions are 'yes.'  Personally, I've been on the texting bandwagon for about five years...maybe not even that long.  I have always preferred to have a conversation over the phone or email, both of which facilitate deeper communication.   When I do text, I spell out 99.9% of my words.  (This has lead to multiple confrontations with my iPhone's auto-correct feature...) My texts are also longer than just a few words.  Hey, I usually have a lot to communicate with people!  I am a social many of our students who have their cell phones permanently clutched in their palms!

In general, I think texting is a legitimate form of efficient communication.  But I am concerned that the 'lingo' used by many of my students is undermining the spelling and writing conventions/mechanics that I am mandated to teach.  What concerns me the most, is that despite many conversations with my students about audience and voice, they aren't differentiating between texting, journal entries, essays, and letter.  Generally, when someone writes an essay, the language used to express the thesis, evidence, and details is more formal English than what would be used to communicate a thought in a daily journal entry.  The grammar conventions are also more stringent: commas; paragraphing; apostrophes; correct spelling. This can even be witnessed in oral conversations.  For example, when I speak with my grandmother, my language is more formal and less slang, but when I'm having a conversation with a friend, some of those language conventions slide off to the wayside.    BUT...what I have repeatedly seen in my classroom through multiple years of reading and grading papers is that my students are unwittingly incorporating 'texting' into their writing.

I will never forget the first round of 8th grade English papers I ever corrected.  Over two pages, one student repeated wrote 'gr8'...this was 'gr8' because...isn't it 'gr8' that...  My jaw dropped.  When I conferred with that 8th grader, I asked why she chose to use that spelling of the word 'great' instead of the correct version.  She said that that was how 'great' was spelled.  We continued to have a lovely conference that included pulling out a dictionary and a Google search into the word origin of both 'great' and 'gr8.'  I patiently explained that when writing English, the traditional/formal/correct spellings of words such as great was the expectation, unless for the sake of writer's craft, a short hand or phonological spelling was necessary for dialogue, etc.  I thought my teaching point had been made and the error was on its way to being corrected.  WRONG.  That student and several others continued to incorporate text lingo into their writing at an alarming fluency.  It made editing/revising sessions even more tedious than normal.  We went through a lot more red pencils.

Even my current students are demonstrating signs that texting is infiltrating their young lives.  While the average 4th grader may have a cell phone, a vast majority have them for emergencies and limited features set by their parents.  So the likelihood that many of my students are currently texting is fairly low.  But the process is beginning.  Occasionally, I confer with a student about using the correct form of the word or using the right 'voice' in their writing.  We are currently drafting persuasive letters.  I asked my class, "Do you think Mom and Dad are really going to buy you that iPod if you write, 'im a gr8 student so i deserve a xbox 4 my bdroom.' ?"  You can hear the giggles that erupted in our writers' circle, can't you?  While I think they got my point, the issue is still at large.

Students learn by example and through hands-on, 'doing' it only makes sense that once they become fluent texters (and let's face it, that is going to happen...), the spelling and grammar conventions/mechanics they use the most will be what is engrained in them.  Unless they are able to fluently flip back and forth between formal and informal voices.  Spelling and writing are just two of many issues that are arising in elementary schools...keyboarding skills are almost non-existent.  Texting doesn't require knowledge of keyboard, only dexterous thumbs.  Handwriting isn't really even taught anymore except for printing.  Cursive writing is a relic of the 20th century. 

Check out this infographic released by 

The beautiful thing about language is its ability to morph and model to express our thoughts, feelings, needs, desires, concerns, opinions, etc.  My concern is that unless I can effectively support my students and teach them the formal language conventions, including spelling and grammar, they won't be able to successfully communicate through more informal avenues.  My battle plan?  Using media formats such as blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc but using examples and non-examples of these communications and having guided discussions about which is more effective at communicating the author's purpose or main idea.  Stay tuned...