As a former K-8 and HS level classroom teacher, I was always disappointed to see kids who were being trained that a paragraph should have the following elements: I am going to tell you…and then firstly, secondly, thirdly, and wrap up with “thanks for reading my paragraph”. This isn’t what an authentic paragraph looks or sounds like. It’s a nice brief stage for training, but it seems that all too often that’s where educators stall out in their modeling.
I am quite a fan of Robert Pinckert and his book Pinckert’s Practical Grammar. I very much love his approach to how a paragraph should be formed. Pinckert says that the essence of a paragraph is to pursue an idea. That’s the single focus on how I teach paragraphing.
What if there were a faster, more organic way to teach paragraphs? A method that has scaffolds, but allows a less strict approach and ignites student imaginations?
Enter the Random Emoji Power Paragraph.
I love using edtech and I’m a huge fan of kids doing more of the thinking and not using worksheets in my classroom.
I recently had an epiphany that led to a mashup of pedagogy and edtech that can make this teaching of paragraphs task exponentially more interesting, engaging and much easier for teachers to lead.
By using Ian Byrd’s super fun Random Emoji Generator website and Socrative Short Answer quizzes together, I’ve seen a surge in paragraph writing skills. The combination of five randomly generated emoji and immediate feedback via Socrative is pure magic.
How does the Random Emoji Power Paragraph Eduprotocol go?
Super easy. That’s the best part. Go to the Random Emoji Generator website. The site is made by an educator (thanks Ian Byrd!) and doesn’t have any of the not-ready-for-school emoji. Then start up a Socrative Short Answer quiz. Once the students are logged in, the fun begins. Socrative Short Answer quizzes literally take 5-10 seconds to set up. I do Socrative Short Answer quizzes for all kinds of one sentence, open ended assignments. By doing this 4-5 times a day with immediate feedback until there is over 95%, I have moved this from an assignment to an Eduprotocol. (More free Eduprotocol templates at Eduprotocols.com.)
- Explain the concept of pursuing an idea. Staying on topic is what defines a paragraph. If you pursue a new idea, it’s time for a new paragraph. And for this activity, we are only writing one paragraph.
- I click the Start Over button on the Random Emoji Generator page until the class yells “yes” to pick the first emoji. This begins the game. I give the students about a minute or two to get the first sentence typed out.
- Then I hit the And Then button. Another random emoji appears. We repeat this until each student has five sentences typed. When they have five sentences, they hit submit.
- When everyone is done, I select Start Vote in Socrative, and the students and I can read everyone’s paragraphs.
It’s great for them to immediately admire one another’s work. And I can give pointers immediately, because we will usually do one more paragraph right away. The Start Vote option in Socrative is magical, because all the students see all the work immediately – no “collecting” or handing in.
The Random Emoji Power Paragraph can have endless permutations, making it effective for most any grade level. Once kids can snap off 5-6 sentences on point (should take about 6-8 reps), I will add twists like tense, POV, literary devices, appositives and so on. I can scaffold their writing in a myriad of ways, and the combination of random emoji and fast feedback via Socrative is a total win for kids and teachers.