WOW Wednesday: Mary Schulze, BHS
Unknown 6:00 AM Wow Wednesday
It is astounding that it was 6 months ago that I was sitting in the BHS library learning amazing things for which technology can be used. Now that I am faced with the task of having to sum up the first 4 months of using technology on an almost daily basis, I am not real sure what to to write about or where to start, AND I teach writing!
I will blame it on writer's block! Actually, I have the same problem that my students have when I ask them to write. How do I narrow this down? I have used some pretty amazing tools this semester that I would have never have thought to use in a classroom previously; signupgenius.com, beta.socrative.com, Google groups, and remind101.com are just some of the sites that I have used quite frequently that have been helpful. However, the one website that I have used in a variety of ways that I REALLY like is StudySync.
It is a web-delivered product designed to increase reading, writing, and critical thinking with award-winning lessons aligned to the Common Core Standards for grades 4-12. Personally, I have used StudySync to introduce units, give small assessments, conclude assignments and give stand alone assignments on particular style of writing.
BLASTS are one of my favorite things about StudySync. StudySync creates questions about contemporary issues that a student must write a tweet-length response to and then vote on a poll question.
BLASTS are a great way to tie in what I am doing in the classroom to the world around us. Because the students have to leave a 140 character length response to the question, it challenges them to be precise in their wording and sound intelligent at the same time. The student responses can be viewed by any student in the nation that is on StudySync; consequently, most students strive to get their point across explicitly. I have used BLASTS to both introduce a unit as well as close a unit. They are also very helpful when you find yourself with 5-10 minutes at the end of class or the end of the day.
StudySync was an integral part of the PBL that I have completed this year. The PBL focused on the driving question, “What is justice?” I used a BLAST about the Stand Your Ground laws to introduce the unit. It generated tremendous discussion, which led well into The Scarlet Letter. While the students were reading the novel, they returned to StudySync to select a story that they used to create a mock court case. After reading the selection on StudySync, the students researched background information in order to build a case. Each story had two students assigned to it so that there was a “plaintiff’s attorney” or a “prosecuting attorney” and a “defense attorney.” In the end the students debated (mock court room, BHS library) one another and their classmates had to vote as a juror in each case. To complete this unit, I created my own BLASTS so the students could voice their opinion on the case and vote for whomever they believed had won the case.
StudySync also has an enormous library of literature excerpts and short stories as well as nonfiction selections that cover a variety of topics. When my class had to read a literary nonfiction story, instead of searching in a textbook or having to make copies of a story, I went to StudySnyc and searched, using their search tool, to find a nonfiction piece that was appropriate for high school. The last element that I wanted to make sure that I used to limit my search was making sure the story was a Premium lesson. By using this, my students were able to watch a book trailer, read and listen to the text, watch a SyncTV episode, answer Think questions, and write on a prompt of my choosing. The SyncTV episodes are really helpful if a student is struggling with a selection. These show “students” discussing the text so my students can see what an appropriate discourse about the selection should look like. Since many students do not genuinely discuss school topics, it is advantageous to be able to show them how it should be accomplished. These SyncTV episodes also bring out ideas that most students (and sometimes this teacher) would overlook when reading a selection. Example of SyncTV episode.
By using StudySync in these and other ways, I believe that it has been the one resource that my students have benefitted from the most.