November 28

Lightning Writing

One strategy that has been used to great success in our school is Lightning Writing. This is intended for students to increase writing efficiency, depth and is a really great end to the lesson for students to consolidate their learning, or at the beginning of a topic for a pretest. (with no effort in designing)

Students are given 2 minutes to write as much about a topic as possible. They are to continue to write for the whole two minutes, no matter what they are writing. They aren’t allowed to stop.

Students then count the following:

  • Words: Number of Words
  • Difficult words: Number of words with 3 or more syllables
  • Technical Terms: Number of technical words.

Students are then given a second opportunity in which they are to select a goal to improve the rate of words, difficulty, or technical terms.

Students then get another two minutes to write, count the total, and determine the difference.

This is very good for increasing writing speed, complexity and increase use of terminology, which are essential for HSC success.

Image Attribution

November 25


One strategy that I have used extensively now is the crossword. Students are really highly motivated to complete them, and it’s a great way to get subject terminology across. Particularly because in my subject (industrial technology) key terminology is very important, particularly in exam literacy.

One way to do this and make it more difficult is to do a Reverse crossword. You give students a copy of the crossword, with all the answers filled out, and students need to fill  out the clues. This way, students are generating their own definitions of the terminology. Really, it’s just a tricky way to get students to be excited about doing a glossary.

An option then is to either give students the blank crossword then, swap cluees with a friend and to see if they can complete the crossword. You can also get students to enter their own clues into a program such as Eclipse Crossword, which is a free crossword puzzle program, which then generate a totally different puzzle based on the same clues, which a friend can then do. This then gives students instant feedback on whether their definitions are clear enough for somebody else to do.

Eclipse Crossword can even generate an interactive HTML puzzle for students to complete, if you have access for longer on the computers, or can simply print the puzzle to do.

November 23

links for 2008-11-23

November 22

Affinity Diagramming/Card Sorting

A PEEL Strategy that I learnt to do from the Usability Research branch of the University of Technology, Sydney was Affinity Diagramming. UTS/Usability labs used this to summarise primary research, where important points within the research were placed onto post-it notes, and then sorted and categorised into different sections. I found this really useful, and have since used it for any research or essay I have written.

I recently stumbled across this post (link) in the Content Literacy Ning which inspired me to write about my experiences.

I have also used it quite extensively within the classroom. Students are presented with different information resources on a topic, and a packet of different coloured postit notes. Students are asked to record each of the main concepts that are presented within their resource on a separate note. Students then group their cards into related categories by physically moving them around. They then summarise the information within each category into a paragraph, using the category as their topic sentence and post-it notes as supporting information.

This PEEL strategy is used to teach students how to analyse and synthesise information obtained from multimedia resources. It teaches students essay and extended response writing skills and how to organize information into categories. This strategy aids all ability levels, particularly students who struggle with the organisation of information, Kinesthetic learners benefit from this strategy, as they more effectively learn when given the opportunity to move out of their seat and physically interact with the content. Similarly, this strategy assists visual learners who have the ability to visually conceptualise the information and therelationships between components assisting the retention of content information. By simultaneously catering for various academic abilities and multiple intelligences, this activity identifies itself as a learning strategy that can promote effective learning.

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November 15

Browser compatability

I have been following Steve Dembo’s 30 days to a better blog in order to motivate me to update and improve the blog. I’m about 4 days behind already, but considering that I’ve been HSC Marking, that’s not too bad.

This morning, I’ve added a new RSS feed and  email capabilities.

The next challenge is to test your blog in different browsers. Since I’m extremely lazy at this, about 6 months ago I found this website: which you can select different browsers and operating systems, and after about five minutes or so, the website will send you back screen captures for each browser, in each operating system. This is a fantastic system, that until now, I’d only used to test student websites. Below are my screen captures from this site:

Firefox 3  WindowsMS IE XPChrome WindowsFirefox on Mac