Chapter 7 - Writing & Brainstorming
Computers have the potential to make our students much better writers. For sketching out ideas quickly, the pencil may still have an edge, but for crafting carefully refined prose, computers bring a wide array of advantages. Mind maps, or concept maps, of information can lead to breakthroughs in note-taking, studying, and writing. Inspiration is a great program designed to help students and teachers make concept maps and graphic organizers.
Inspiration and FreeMind are concept-mapping tools that let students express their ideas in a visual, non-linear medium, which is often just what students need to generate ideas for writing assignments.
FreeMind is a free, open-source mind-mapping tool. It's like Inspiration in some ways but simpler, with less functionality, and free. The first link below is for the FreeMind download. The next link offers a simple template for a five-paragraph essay. You could easily create more templates for students to use to help organize their thoughts, or just let them brainstorm without a structure.
Chapter 3 - Note Taking & Organization has more information on both Inspiration and FreeMind.
Microsoft Word has many features, well-know and "hidden," that can give students more control of the editing process and make them better writers. Click here to download a tutorial on maximizing the Spelling & Grammar check.
Rubrics are grading matrices that allow teachers to give students more specific feedback than a simple letter grade without doing much more work than assigning a letter grade. Rubrics typically evaluate student performance on a scale of 1-4 in a series of categories, and the rubrics often spell out performance benchmarks for each rating in each category. If you have 4 benchmarks in each of 5 categories, that’s 20 benchmarks. Creating rubrics can be time-consuming. Fortunately, finding them on the Internet and borrowing or adapting them can be quite easy. There are also some great free pieces of software to help you create rubrics as well. Once you settle on a format you like, adapting and updating your favorite rubrics can also be fairly simple.
Here are a few of our generic rubrics which you can open and adapt:
Rubistar is a program designed by 4teachers.org, which got of the ground with a Department of Education grant. Rubistar lets you find and create rubrics using very clever templates. You can easily create rubrics for grading class debates, oral presentations, persuasive essays, timelines, Web sites, and many more projects.