Bibme – Score Your Essay

I love when my students want to improve their work. One way in which they have been doing this is by using Bibme‘s Score your Essay option. In short, you paste in your essay and the program grades it on several points – for FREE! Not only does it score it, but tells you what you can do to make it better. The results appear quickly: And even though my essay scored a 5 of 5 in Organization, it still gave me a suggestion. Love that! And at the end, it gives you a final score. Is it perfect? No, but it is pretty great. And FREE, did I already mention that? Give it a try.

The Literacy Shed, ELD, and ELA

For a few years now I have been using The Literacy Shed, based in the UK, as a jumping off point for ELD lessons. These lessons blend seamlessly into ELA and writing. I was first introduced to the site by ELD specialist, Ana Alvarez. Unlike Ana, I was not consistent with its usage until this year.

The Literacy Shed is an amazing resource full of teaching ideas, videos, and in some cases, examples. What makes it so powerful for the ELL, is the simple fact that the videos are all non-verbal. This allows all students access to the idea, theme, and/or concept. The videos are of a high quality and visually pleasing. The site is broken up into ‘sheds’. The ‘sheds’ are “broadly thematic”. Some ‘sheds’ include: Inventor’s Shed, Thinking Shed, and Inspiration Shed.

As I’ve stated, it wasn’t until this year that I began using this site consistently. My partner teacher and I have been planning weekly lessons around one video or another. This week, we were in the ‘Inspiration Shed‘ and doing a lesson based on ‘The Windmill Farmer’ (second video on the page). We decided to have the students write a first person narrative based on the video. Before we let them loose on the writing, we did a lot of talking first. We viewed the video through once in its entirety, then talked about what we noticed. I was impressed when students noticed the music had changed with the seasons. We viewed it again stopping to talk at key points. We paid attention to the mood – based on music, visuals, and body language of the farmer. After viewing it one more time, without interruption, they split into groups of 2 to 3 students. They were to tell their story. As I circulated around, I was struck by how many had difficulty giving a first person perspective. We had discussed the pronouns to be used: I, me, and myself. While they were using the correct pronouns, they still weren’t putting themselves in the role of the farmer. I heard stories beginning with, “If I were the farmer and my windmills were destroyed…” With these groups I then began modeling what a first person narrative looked, and sounded, like.

When I was satisfied that the majority of the students had an understanding of what was expected, I invited students to share their stories with the class – thus further reinforcing what a first person narrative looks, and sounds, like. Their stories were rich with details. One student noted that the ‘chicken thing’ on top of the house “was going crazy”. At this point I did stop him to give a quick mini-lesson on weathervanes. I had front loaded vocabulary, but as it was a minor detail in the video, I didn’t pay much attention to it and failed to front load ‘weathervane’.

It was only after several periods that I allowed the students to begin their writing. This was such a successful lesson, that I am eager to see the results. They will finish their writings this week. Not only am I inspired to continue using The Literacy Shed, but I know that I WILL consistently use this resource for the rest of the year – and probably the rest of my career.

The lessons are not only inspiring, but align perfectly with the new ELD standards (California) and ELA Standards (CCSS). Even if you don’t teach ELL’s, this is a great resource.