Google Drawing Graphic Organizers

Whenever I attend a conference or professional development, I search for methods to improve writing instruction. The California GAFE Summit in Palo Alto July 11-12 and this week's district PD were no exceptions. I listened carefully when Javier Vaca at our district PD and Tracy Purdy at GAFE Summit shared their pedagogy and technology ideas.

When I begin the writing process, I just write. I do not use fancy graphic organizers. Sometimes, I don't even write an introduction and instead begin with a body paragraph. This method of writing results in multiple hours of revision to confirm that the ideas flow, but I like this method - at least for my own writing.

But my students are not me. Some of my 8th Grade English students need to start with graphic organizers to prove that they do, in fact, have something brilliant to write. And, sometimes the graphic organizer proves that they should change the topic of their paragraph.

Yesterday at our district PD, Javier had us watch a video of a teacher modeling her thinking process to students as she reviewed the class graphic organizer. The purpose of the video was to highlight and model how to think aloud for our students. Modeling is important because the students need to know that the writing process is not always easy and that it is ok to struggle. In fact, we are expected to struggle as we write.

In the video, the students wrote details about animals on post-it notes and placed them next to the animal's name on the board. (Did you notice that no tech was involved?) The teacher then modeled her thinking process by saying,  "I know that I want to write about cute bunnies, but I don't have that many details. I have more details about sharks, so I should write about sharks."

The teacher in the video was smart to use a physical graphic organizer to teach the pre-writing process. I am a firm believer that students should only be taught either content or tech in a lesson. If the lesson is using a graphic organizer to select an idea, then a physical poster is an excellent choice. For future pre-writes, however, the teacher can add a Google Drawing to a Google Docs and post it on Google Classroom.

At the California GAFE Summit, Tracy Purdy offered many Google Drawing pre-write examples such as the poem What If and the Seasons Pre-writing paragraph organizer. Google Drawing is not a new app for me. Last year I did use Google Drawing for story mapping, but I did not use it for pre-writing on a regular basis. That will change when we start school in August. Viewing Tracy's examples inspired me to create graphic organizers within Google Docs that are assigned via Google Classroom.

This afternoon, I created teacher directions and video on how to Add Graphic Organizers to an MLA Template. Next, my son and I created a student example of how to use that graphic organizer and write a paragraph about sharks. I hope that the directions and videos offer you some clarity in how you can use tech to enhance learning.

After creating a student graphic organizer example with Google Drawing, I am excited to use pre-write graphic organizers with my students. Students can see how much information they know and how much they need to still research to write a full paragraph or essay. Adding images allows the student's imagination and description to come alive. And, of course, I will model my thinking process to my students. After all, writing is not easy, but it is rewarding.

Says the blogger who spent 5+ hours writing this blog and editing videos.

Writing is a struggle, but the final product is worth it.


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