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Figment – An online collaborative writing tool for students

It takes no time to get into the swing of things, huh? I have only had two days with my new grade 7’s (and I’m aware that it’s still the honeymoon period) but they are simply a lovely bunch of kids and I’m really looking forward to my year with them! That being said, I found a cool new writing tool over the summer that I plan to try out with them and so I thought I’d also share it here. So, just to be clear it’s brand new to me and I haven’t used it with a class yet – but it looks REALLY cool!

The site is called “Figment” and it’s  a site where your students can write, collaborate with each other and ultimately publish their finished pieces online for either the whole class or the entire Figment community to comment on and/or review.

 figment pic

Here’s how I plan to use Figment in my room – hopefully in first term!

One of the first major writing assignments that my students will have this year is to write a Memoir. My plan is to have them type these memoirs into the (simple) template on Figment – basically a word processor. Educators also have the option to “create groups” which means I’ll have all of my students in a private group. I hope that some initial sharing, giving of feedback, revisions and edits will occur in this group. When the pieces are ready, I plan for my students to publish to the Figment community! It’s very fulfilling when you become a “published author”. Using this site, all students will be able to label themselves in this way – which I love.

There is a special spot on Figment for educators to create those private groups, so if you’re interested, be sure to check it out. You have to send off an email request to have access to the private groups and so it’s not immediate. You kind of have to plan ahead, if you want to use this as an option. From what I can tell, though, I can start a thread in the group, asking students to work on a really strong lead today. Perhaps next class, I’ll ask students in a new thread to replace three of their verbs with more precise, active verbs. Students can also start threads, asking for advice and feedback. I’m very excited about this site and I think it has amazing potential.

I’ll be sure to post again after we actually get started with it, to let you know how it’s working in “real life” with real kids.

I also have my plan laid out for my students to blog again this year. I’m excited to begin that process with them this month and I already have two teachers (one in Pakistan and one in USA) who my class will be collaborating with – we’re going to be audiences for each other! Lots of plans! Don’t you love September? Everything seems possible and exciting. I have lots of energy and I just can’t wait to get started!

Side note: If you were interested in blogging with your students this year, I started a Google Doc a while back to help us find each other around the globe and to make collaboration a little bit more structured. Feel free to have a look and add your info if you’re interested and be sure to contact any teachers on the list who have a class that matches yours!

Please, share your goals for writing with your students this year! Cool sites, blog plans – I’d love to hear what you’ve got going on!


Organization in Writing – Use Photo Prompts

I don’t know about you, but I find that my students have some really superb ideas when it comes to writing. The place where some of them fall (and fall hard) is taking those fabulous ideas and writing them in a way that I can actually understand! Sometimes they end where they should begin, they don’t group similar ideas together, or they just write as they think and pass in the unrevised version to me. The biggest issue I have found, is that the students just don’t know what organizational strategy would make sense in a particular situation.

Currently, we’re working on recognizing and using 4 strategies:

1) Sequence

2) Cause/Effect

3) Problem/Solution

4) Compare/Contrast

I got to thinking – I love photo prompts. However, I don’t use them enough! So, I created a brief lesson where students choose a photo that has a particular strategy linked to it and create a story for the photo. It’s a really simple idea – you can use whatever photos you think would suit and apply one of the strategies to them. Have a peek at your personal photos or search online. Link an organizational strategy to the photo (or make the student choose) and you’ve got yourself a lesson!

These are a couple of the photos that I used – that’s my Dad just below their house and the swing used to be in their front yard. An ice storm actually destroyed that tree a couple of weeks ago, which is another story for another day.