Adventure ELA English Language Arts Teaching Writing Writing Activities

The Missing Link In Student Writing

If you are like me, you hate missing something important especially when it comes to doing something correctly: like writing. There are TONS of things to consider when we sit down to help our students write, but there’s ONE missing element that I see more than any other when I work with high school writers. ONE missing link. And no I’m not talking about the character in Aliens vs. Monsters, Dewey Robertson the wrestler from the 80s, or the skeletal evidence linking humankind and apes.

Missing LInk 3
The image on the right is used via CC 3.0 taken by Chiswick Chap

No, the link I’m talking about is everywhere online, but way too many of my students have no clue how to use it because it’s “not what you do in college” so we don’t teach students about it because it’s not “college-readiness.” Have you figured it out yet? Here, I’ll show you a picture of what I’m talking about.

The Missing LInk

 

That’s right. It’s a hyperlink.

But David, that’s crazy. The entire internet is built on links, in fact they’re so cool they call them hyperlinks. Yes. You are right, but then why do so many of my students act clueless when I ask them to make links in their writing? I’ll hazard a few guesses.

  • Teachers have students use their computers and Chromebooks like glorified typewriters and scrapbooks. Students use them to type reports, and to create slide presentations. Neither of these require the knowledge of how to use links.
  • Creating a proper hyperlink is a skill not required of students as part of their “native” technology use with each other.
  • Teachers don’t know how to create a hyperlink or they don’t think it’s an important academic skill.
  • Universities are still in love with traditional research papers and ask students to use a works cited or reference page instead of directly linking the text to a source. Perhaps partially because so few academic references are available for free online, so why bother linking to them.

I hope it’s the later and not a reluctance on the part of universities to embrace a modern contextual research tool. Because that’s what a hyperlink does, it allows you to dig deeper, to explore, to discover. So why should you teach your students to create hyperlinks?

  1. Pretty much every piece of writing on the Internet uses hyperlinks. I hope you have faith that one day each of your students will publish something on the Internet. Maybe you can even help make that happen.
  2. Analogies are not only a great way to help people understand something, but they spur innovation. Have your students create a hyperlink to show their learning in another way.
  3. Links can help students take the first step in exploring a topic. Links are the rabbit hole of the internet. Hyperlinks can take us somewhere new.
  4. An unexpected link can provide comic relief. We can all use a little laughter from time to time.
  5. Hyperlinks extend learning. Imagine a hyperlinked outline, a hyperlinked science lab, a hyperlinked lesson for your students.

 

So how do you introduce your students to hyperlinks? Well… here’s something we did in class with poetry, but you could do this with any single or multiple pieces of writing.

 Hyperlinks: Discover And Share Something Interesting

[CSI: Investigation]

Problems: 

  1. Far too many students don’t know how to create links in their online spaces, websites, blog posts, Canvas discussions etc…
  2. Once students do know how to make a link, they often just link words or ideas to dictionary definitions or Wikipedia style resources. The power of the internet is in the links, it’s a web of knowledge, let’s take our reader somewhere interesting.

Solution: 

Before we have students work with their own content and writing, let’s practice on a piece of professional writing, let’s start with a poem.

Step ONE: 

Please go to Poets.org and find a poem that talks about love. It can be romantic love, the love you have for a friend or family member, the love you have for a season, an object, a situation etc…

If you want, you can go to the browse section of poets.org to find your poem.

Then copy and paste the poem into your Google Doc and name the Google Doc. You should also put the link to the poem in your Google document.

Step TWO: 

Form a group. Share your google doc with everyone in your group and have everyone read each other’s poems. Then as a group pick ONE poem from the group that you will work on as a group. Copy that poem and place it ABOVE the poem that you found in your google doc.

Step THREE:

Then you will find and create AT LEAST three hyperlinks in your poem. When you are done it should look something like this. [I made one to see what it would be like for my students.]

When you are creating your links I don’t want you to just look up definitions or Wikipedia entries. It’s not bad to link to a Wikipedia or informational page, especially when the topic might be foreign to your reader, but instead I want you to think of yourself as a young person delivering a newspaper on the doorstep of a neighbor. A young person delivering an unexpected gift to a friend. Or perhaps more precisely your links should be a mix of something you know and something you discovered and want to share. Like how a Crime Scene Investigator [C.S.I.] uncovers something important and gives it to the lead investigator. Like a CSI investigation, your links should honor the mood of the text that you are hyperlinking. Don’t bring in a silly link, if the section is serious and vice versa. There are pieces of writing that are a mix of both serious and silly, so feel free to add a moment of comic relief if needed.

 

Your links should keep C.S.I in mind:

C.S.I. 

  • Cool: fun, whimsical, nostalgic
  • Surprising: metaphorical, or making unusual connections
  • Informative: Interesting or Useful

If you don’t know, or forgot how to make a hyperlink. Just look at this image

When you are done it will be time for step four.

Step FOUR: 

Choose ONE person in your group to make a copy of the top poem and put it at the top of their paper. Now that person should have THREE poems on their Google Doc.

  1. The shared poem
  2. The shared poem that they worked on with the links inserted.
  3. The original poem they found

THEN, share your Google doc with EVERYONE in your group by going to the share settings and allowing them to “edit the document.” Then everyone will choose at LEAST one of their links to put in the shared poem. I want you to change the link color so that each of you has a different color for your links and then put your full name below the poem and change the text of your name to the same color as your link. When your group is finished, copy the completed poem and your names into YOUR OWN Google Doc so that EVERYONE in the group has the linked poem that you worked on together at the top of your Google document. Everyone will have three poems in their final google doc. The three poems will be in this order.

  1. The shared poem with the group links inserted and everyone’s name with a matching color below.
  2. The shared poem that they worked on with the links inserted.
  3. The original poem they found

*note: ONE person in your group will have the same exact poem for all three poems.

Once you are done you will submit the link to your document in Canvas. MAKE SURE that the share settings are set to “anyone with the link can view” because your group will be presenting this poem in class tomorrow. When you present the poem you will need to explain what the poem was about and then share your links with the class.

Good luck and best wishes.

End of lesson plan

 

Did you notice that even though this is a group assignment, every student does their own work before collaborating. This is important to me. I either make group work fun and just grade it for completion OR I make sure that everyone has a specific task to do and that they will only be graded on what THEY do, or don’t do.

So what did the final result look like? We’ll here’s just one example:

We had a blast sharing the links and I look forward to seeing what connections my student create with their links. As you can tell from the feature image in this post. I love surprises. Thanks Emily. I hope your adventure is going well.

4 comments

  1. Good to read this as information. I have my students write in blogs to srengthen the sense of audience and ease sharing amongst them. As well as in hope that they might continue writing – especially the ones who’ll be teaching. They get most of their information from linkable sources, and it’s so much more immediate to share it directly.

    Thanks for writing this.

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