1Teaching Writing Organization Usingthe ReadWriteThink Web SiteBy: Mae Guerra, Stan Sameshima, Ross WhiteMany of our students are failing to meet the requirements of the Colorado Model ContentStandard in writing organization. This standard includes the Colorado Department ofEducation Writing Standard 2:Students write and speak for a variety of purposes and audiences. In order to meetthe standard in writing, students will organize written and oral presentationsusing strategies such as lists, outlining, cause/effect relationships,comparison/contrast, problem/solution, and narration.Students will complete these writing presentations by utilizing the webbing toolcalled ReadWriteThink. The goal of this report is to provide an online tool such as theRead-Write-Think webbing tool to help students improve their writing skills inorganization. If students do not improve their writing skills in the area of organizationstudents will fall deeper behind in the writing process and the learning gap will widenevery year.Learner AnalysisIn today’s world students feel more connected to their computers then everbefore. The type of students that teachers encounter in their classrooms today is referredto as the Net Generation. The Net Generation (N-Gen) is defined as the population ofabout 90 million young people who have grown up or are growing up in constant contactwith digital media (Tapscott, 1998). The Net Generation expects that technology will bean important part of their education. Computers and the attendant technology have to beregarded as essential—as thinking aids (Johnson, 2001) or mind tools (Jonassen 1996).The Net Generation has grown up with information technology. The attitudes,expectations, and learning styles of Net Gen students reflect the environment in whichthey were raised—one that is decidedly different from that which existed when teacherswere growing up.Most Net Gen learners prefer to learn by doing rather by being told what to do.Net Gen students learn well through discovery—by exploring for themselves or with theirpeers. This exploratory style enables them to better retain information and use it increative, meaningful ways. The Net Gen is oriented toward discovery, makingobservations, and figuring out the rules. They thrive in rapid pace environments andchoose to not to pay attention if a class is not interactive, or simply too slow. (Prensky2001) The use of interactive tools such as the Read-Write-Think program then becomesessential to the students in this Net Gen.
2Tool DescriptionOur team has created a Wiki to facilitate the use of ReadWriteThink at the schoollevel. A Wiki is a web page that members are allowed to edit. The intended purpose ofthe Wiki is to provide a place for educators from each school to share lesson plans andideas about how to effectively use the interactive tools of ReadWriteThink. Each schoolwill have identical Wiki to begin with, a page that provides links to, descriptions of, andsample lesson plans for tools from ReadWriteThink. After the introduction of theprogram, teachers from each school will be able to edit their school’s Wiki. In this space,they can add additional links that pertain to teaching organization in writing or providecomments on what was useful and what wasn’t. They can also attach relevant lessonplans as word documents to the page. Since each school has its own curriculum,philosophy, and grade levels, the within school Wiki system will streamline efforts tomeet the specific goals and needs of each school.The Read-Write-Think online tool offers an array of online student materials tosupport reading and writing in the K-12 classroom. These interactive tools can be used toprovide an opportunity for students to use technology while developing their reading andwriting skills. There are many materials on this site that students can use to help themwith their writing skills. The materials chosen to review are tools that are used primarilyfor writing organization in the pre-writing stage. Some examples of these materialsinclude:1. Circle Plot Diagram2. Comic Creator3. Comparison and Contrast4. Essay Map5. Webbing ToolThe Circle Plot Diagram tool is used as a prewriting graphic organizer forstudents writing original stories with a circular plot structure as well as a post readingorganizer used to explore the text structures in a book. When used as a prewritingexercise, the diagram can be printed out and shared with peers and teacher for feedbackand revision in this phase of the writing process.The Comic Creator tool asks students to create their own comic strips for a varietyof purposes such as prewriting, pre- and post reading activities and literature responses.This tool focuses on key elements of comic strips by allowing students to choosebackgrounds, characters, and props. After completing their comic, students have theability to print out and illustrate their final versions for feedback and assessment.The Comparison and Contrast tool outlines the characteristics of the genre andprovides direct instruction on the methods of organizing, gathering ideas, and writingcomparison and contrast essays. The Comparison and Contrast tool includes anorganizing a paper section that explains to students how graphic organizers are used forcomparison and contrast.The Essay Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students toorganize and outline their ideas for an informational, definitional, or descriptive essay.This graphic organizer tool helps students develop an outline for main ideas that they
3want to discuss or describe in their essay. The tool uses many ways to utilize informationin a linear fashion in which students can visualize their thoughts before prewriting.The Webbing Tool provides a quick way for students to trace out options andrearrange connections in prewriting and post-reading activities. Students can use theWebbing Tool to analyze readings as well as a prewriting activity and flowcharting tool.Students can drag the circle or box shapes representing their ideas to arrange any layoutand relationship that they want. Each layer on the chart will have a different color borderfor the shapes that you choose. Customized versions of the tool, which include additionalinstructions and more focused choices, are included with some lessons.Learning ProcessesWriting is best understood as a set of distinctive thinking processes in which thewriter organizes during writing (Hayes & Flowers, 1981). In this perspective, writing isnot viewed as a simple step-by-step process but rather a hierarchal set of cognitiveprocesses. In simple terms, the act of writing involves the continual use and interactionof several mental processes. A writer must plan, organize their thoughts, consider theiraudience, revise and edit, as well as communicate a message clearly and coherently. Forstudents, organizing ideas in writing is often a difficult task.Writing instruction for better organization is often facilitated by making thisprocess visual through the use of graphic organizers. These tools provide students withscaffolding; a concrete format to organize their thoughts. Further scaffolding oforganizing in writing is provided by clear and explicit modeling of this skill from theteacher. Collins (1998) views modeling as a key component of learning and points outthat the teacher must make the target processes highly visible to the student. Someeducators have labeled this modeling technique as “thinking out loud”. Therefore,students might learn best learn how to organize there writing with the instruction thatincludes both graphic organizers and teacher modeling.Interactive graphic organizers are a new and exciting way to make learning visualon the web. Like paper based organizers, these tools further scaffold student learning bywalking students through a step-by-step process to use graphic organizers. They alsoserve to increase student engagement and motivation by allowing them to activelymanipulate information with technology. ReadWriteThink also provides students with arange of interactive graphic organizers that are specific to the writing genre.Ultimately, the intended goal of using an interactive graphic organizer is toimprove organization skills in writing. Teachers should evaluate whether or not the use ofthese organizers are helping students to organize their thoughts. Evidence of this learningshould be evident in the thoughtful segregation of events and ideas by the student in thedrafts of writing they produce from their graphic organizers.Instructional Strategy/Tool UseUsing an online interactive graphic organizer may be a more effective tool thantraditional paper-based organizers. March (2006) suggests that educators must usetechnology to create learning experiences that are real, rich, and relevant. Indeed,students may find an online tool more relevant to their learning simply because it is in aformat that they find familiar and important to their success. For many of them, thisinteractive online organizer is relatively straightforward compared to complex video and
4computer games they frequently play. Furthermore, Prensky (2001) suggests thatcomputer games, like interactive graphic organizers, promote cognitive traits that areconsistent with children raised with technology.Students also learn best when they have high levels of motivation. According toKeller’s Arc Model of Instruction (1983), students will be more motivated when studentssee modeling, have experience, and encounter variability in their learning. In theory,students should be confident in their skills and excited to engage these graphic organizersafter a teacher explicitly models the process. Also, by using an interactive computerformat, students will be able to utilize their own prior experiences using similar programssuch as Kidspiration and Microsoft Word. And while many students are quick todisengage from paper based graphic organizers, student motivation should be enhancedby the variability induced by interactive graphic organizers.For educators to utilize the interactive tools available on ReadWriteThink, theirstudents need access to the internet. Students are not allowed to save their work on thisprogram so teachers should allow enough time for students to complete and print theirgraphic organizers. Given the constraints of time and availability of technology, teachersshould spend ample time preparing students for this activity. Teachers should decide iftheir students need to fill out a blank organizer on paper before completing one in the lab.This is especially true for students that need additional scaffolding. In this case, teachersmust find ways to adapt a paper version prior to the computer, since they cannotmanipulate the digital version on this website.In an effort to assess student performance on these skills, educators should collectthe student print outs of their graphic organizers. Teachers will need to assess whether ornot students are accurately organizing ideas. In general, these graphic organizers are step-by-step in nature, so teachers can assess where students are struggling by workingthrough the tool with the student. Also, teachers need to model and observe how they usethese organizers when writing their drafts.Technology How-ToThe ReadWriteThink webpage is divided into 4 parts. It has a section with about700 lesson plans, a second section listing the IRA/NCTA English Language ArtsStandards, a third section containing a list of web resources, and a fourth section labeledStudent Materials, containing the tools that students may use online.Within the ReadWriteThink website there are lesson plans that can be sorted intoK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grade levels. The lesson plans can by seen by clicking on thecolumn title, which seems more useful than the other available methods of sorting byalphabetical order or date of creation. The lesson plans are very complete and wellwritten and you may be able to find the topic or activity you want for your grade level.They vary from simple and basic printouts to very long and complex plans leading toproducts containing audio and/or video links.The ReadWriteThink web site also has “Web Resources Gallery” which hasnearly 700 links to literature lists, professional development information, copyrightinformation, software tutorials, online encyclopedias, dictionaries and all thingseducational. There are dropdown menus at the top of the list to filter by grade level andby the topics of All Web Resources, Instructional Resources, Professional Development,
5Reference Library, and Student Resources. By filtering for the grade level and categorydesired the list will become a more useful size.The most beneficial aspect of this website is the student materials section.. Thereis a technical support page with downloads for any plug-ins that your browser may needto use the site and there are fifty tools to choose from! Many are specific to organizing atopic or specific literary element or product such as a riddle, poem, postcard, book cover,letter, or fractured fairy tale, but some are tools useful for organizing writing with enoughflexibility to fit a variety of purposes. Among these are the Circle Plot Diagram, ComicCreator, Compare and Contrast Guide, Essay Map, and the Webbing Tool.When using the Circle Plot Diagram, students open the tool and fill in the eventsin their story. The box with the event is then placed onto a diagram with arrows showingthe flow of events. The last event in the plot leads back to the beginning event creating acircular plot. The diagram can be used to diagram events in a circular story, such as IfYou Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. As a writing tool, it organizes yourcircular plot story so you are ready to write!The Comic Creator starts with a student choosing one, two, three or six panels.The panels allow the students to choose a background, add a caption to the bottom, andchoose characters, dialogue balloons and props to add to each panel. To aid in preparingfor this, there is a “Comic Strip Planning Sheet” with blanks for the scene and actions, thecaption, the characters, and the props. After planning the comic strip can be created. Aswith all the interactive pages on the site, students must complete the panels and printbefore they log off of the site.The Comparison and Contrast Guide does not create one specific graphicorganizer, but explains the purpose and organization of a “Comparison and Contrast”paper. It is a tutorial or lesson similar to a PowerPoint that an older student could gothrough one slide at a time or a teacher could go through with a younger student orstudents. It presents and explains three strategies for writing a Comparison and Contrastpaper:Whole-to-Whole or Block Similarities-to-Differences Point-by-Pointtell everything about oneitem and then everythingabout the other itemexplain all the similaritiesand then all the differencestell similarity or differencefor each point or topic, oneat a timeIntroductionItem 1Item 2ConclusionIntroductionSimilaritiesDifferencesConclusionIntroductionPoint #1Point #2ConclusionStudents are instructed to cover all the points and keep things in the same orderwhen moving from one step to the next. After explaining the three ways to structure thewriting, the guide then suggests three different graphic organizers to choose from. Thereis a student resource for a Venn diagram with two circles, a Venn diagram with threecircles and a Compare and Contrast Chart to organize before writing. There are also listsof transition words for comparing and contrasting and a checklist of “things to payattention to.”
6The Essay Map is a graphic organizer with room to actually write a short essayusing the available structure of the organizer. There is room to type an introduction, threemain ideas (the box will hold nine lines of type), each with three supporting details (threelines of type), and all leading to one concluding paragraph. This tool is a limited in itsuse, but could be useful for an intermediate age student who has trouble organizing apaper.The last tool described is the Webbing Tool. This tool is a free form tool to createa graphic organizer. The student chooses between using circles or boxes and may createas many as desired, place them anywhere, and connect them in any pattern. All of thetools, with the exception of the Compare and Contrast tool, are simple to use and easy fora student to begin using without any prior practice or instruction. The difficulty would bein making sure that the student has enough time to finish the task and print the product,since there is no way to save the work for a later time. Most of the tools allow for printingan unfinished product which could be completed with a pencil. Except for this lack ofability to save work for completion at a later time, the tools are extremely useful andshould be interesting for students to work with.The twelve IRA/NCTA English Language Arts Standards are listed on a page andlinks are provided to the International Reading Association and the National Council ofTeachers of English.The Wikispaces.com page we created is visible to anyone searching the Web andanyone may view or download the lesson plans or use the link to the ReadWriteThinkWebsite. It may be edited by anyone added to the membership, which for now are thethree creators. Plans are for the membership to grow as the staffs for various worksitesare added. When permission is granted any member may click on the edit button to addor delete content whenever they want. The administrator or manager of the site may notstop members from editing, but can revoke the editing privilege of a member. A managermay also access a saved history of the site to restore the page’s previous content.Recommendations/Future ActionsThe future action isWe intend to bring back the information learned from theReadWriteThink web site to our individual schools. Staff members at our schools will betrained to use the ReadWriteThink tool effectively through a staff development meeting.In this meeting teachers will learn how to use the ReadWriteThink site through a webpage developed in Wikispaces. Wikispaces is a web site that allows its authors to createsimple web pages that groups, friends, and families can edit together.In our Wikispace site, we have shared information learned from theReadWriteThink web site into an informative web page that explores different strategieson how to help students write with better organization. Once we have shared thisinformation from the Wiki with our staff then the teachers will be able to add or editinformation from the Wiki. In this collaborative manner of adding and editinginformation the Wiki will grow and expand into a bigger web page in which all staffmembers can enter their knowledge about helping students write with better organization.Conclusion/ReflectionOverall, interactive graphic organizers from ReadWriteThink are a compellingtool for writing instruction. These organizers help scaffold student cognitions when
7writing and enable teachers to effectively model their own thinking about writing. Theinteractive and technological components of these organizers suit the interests and priorexperiences of the modern student. They also enhance student motivation andengagement. Ultimately, teachers need to think about how they would effectivelyincorporate these tools into their existing writing curriculum. And regardless of thelesson, teachers need to explicitly model the use of these tools for the organizers to beeffective.On our team’s Wiki, teachers from our own schools will have access to lessonplans that demonstrate the use of these graphic organizers. Teachers will not only haveaccess to this website, but they will be allowed to edit the Wiki within each individualschool. The hope is that teachers will use the graphic organizers from ReadWriteThinkand eventually, contribute their own graphic organizer lesson plans to the Wiki. Thiswithin school sharing system on the Wiki is designed to increase the efficiency andquality of the existing curriculum by providing school and grade specific lesson plansthat demonstrate effective use of interactive graphic organizers.ReferencesColorado Department of Education (1995, July 13). Colorado model content standardsfor reading and writing. Retrieved June 13, 2007, from Colrado Department of EducationWeb site: http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdeassess/documents/standards/reading.pdfCollins, A. (2001) Cognitive Apprenticeship: Making Thinking Visible. AmericanEducator, Winter Edition, pp.1-18.Flower, L & Hayes, J. (1981). A cognitive process theory of writing. CollegeComposition and Communication, Vol. 32, No. 4. pp. 365-387.Johnson, S.(2001) Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software.Toronto: Scribner.Jonassen, D. (1996) Computers in the classroom: Mind tools for critical thinking. NewJersey: Prentice Hall.Keller, J. (1983) Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design.Enschede, The Netherlands: Toegepaste Onderwijskunde, Technische HogeschoolTwent. (24 pages)March, T. (2006) The New WWW: Whatever, Whenever. Whereever. EducationalLeadership, pp.14-19.Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really ThinkDifferently?” On the Horizon, vol. 9, no. 6 (December 2001), pp. 15–24; available from<http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/>.Tapscott, D. 1998. Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation. New York:McGraw-Hill.
8AppendixOur team searched for an interactive tool to address the need for students toimprove the organization of their writing. After searching the Web we could only findone site that with truly interactive tool for students, the ReadWriteThink.org Website.We used the tools provided on the site and began sharing our findings by emailing eachother and attaching any documents that we were working on. We decided to write a fewsimple lesson plans, specific to our intended audience, that incorporated the toolsprovided on the site. We decided to post these to a Wiki where anyone could access themand the three of us would all be able to edit the page. The Wikispaces.com site that weare using will only allow for one “manager” of the page, who has control over who willbe allowed to edit the page. Now we are creating three copies of the page so that we willeach have control over the membership of our separate pages, so that we may add ourbuilding staff or other colleagues to the membership. We would still be able to enlarge orcombine the memberships of our pages by sharing with each other as we feel appropriate.Our report was done as a Word document and the Track Changes tool was used to markthe changes we made to the document.