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Implementing Digital Media Writing to Engage Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Implementing Digital Media Writing to Engage Students with E B D -------------\ BeyondBehavior & computer. Then, students might create a story using iMovie (Apple, Cupertino, CA) or another video application that allows them to display images of cafeteria food with a voice-over about why the food should change. A student may also include newspaper clippings or health statistics about the need for more nutritious foods. Incorporating digital media into writing instruction allows teachers to address aspects of good writing recommended for students with disabilities (e.g., explicit instruction in specific skills, providing feedback, setting clear goals; Graham & Harris, 2011). Teachers can directly target digital writing projects toward specific goals and objectives in a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) and build on a student's strengths and interests. What Research-Based Practices are Associated With Writing? Digital media writing provides a framework to incorporate technology into writing instruction, but its purpose is not simply the use of technology. The core components of digital media are embedded in research-based practices for writing instruction. For example, if a teacher is using SRSD as an intervention for students who struggle with writing (Adkins & Gavins, 2012; Mason, Kubina, Valasa, & Cramer, 2010), digital media can be integrated into instruction at the various stages (see Santangelo, Harris, & Graham, 2008). The aspects of digital media writing introduced in the framework below (e.g., foundational story elements, graphic organizers, immersion activities to activate background knowledge) represent strong foundational writing practice. Moreover, the framework provides an important scaffold to foster student independence in writing while at the same time allowing students the chance to engage collaboratively with peers (Graham & Harris, 2011). How Can Digital Media be Incorporated Into Narrative Writing Lessons? While digital media can be used across different genres of writing, incorporating it into narrative writing is a logical starting point. Narrative writing allows even the most reluctant writers to express themselves and even personalize their stories. Additionally, narrative writing follows a structure or framework that guides the writing process and offers natural points for integrating technology. Prior to beginning any digital media project in narrative writing, students should be introduced to eight foundational story elements: (a) telling a story from a particular point of view, (b) emotionally engaging the audience, (c) setting the overall tone of the story (e.g., humorous, sad, mysterious, exciting), (d) using spoken narrative, (e) incorporating soundtrack music to enhance the story, (f) incorporating pictures or video to tell the story, (g) using creativity and originality, and (h) being aware of time and story length (Ohler, 2008). As the digital narrative project is introduced, teachers can explicitly discuss the similarities and differences between digital and written narrative and, in particular, address differences across the elements. For example, in a digital narrative a writer may choose to engage the audience through a wider variety of sights (e.g., colors, pictures, movement) and sounds (e.g., music, sound effects). Digital narratives also tend to be shorter (e.g., about 3-5 minutes) and written in a way that quickly captures and maintains the attention of the audience (Miller, 2010; Ohler, 2008). Teachers can also think through the types of graphic organizers that work well for each student (e.g., adapted to the levels at which students work independently) and the specific technology supports needed. Once the eight foundational story elements are introduced, attention turns to the five steps in creating a digital narrative. When this model is first introduced to students, it is recommended that they be presented in the sequence listed below. As students become more fluent with the model in subsequent projects, teachers can allow for more variation. Consider the following scenario for implementing the project. Ms. Reynolds is getting ready to plan her next writing unit, in which students have the opportunity to share a personal narrative. As she considers the needs of the students in her second-grade classroom, her thoughts immediately go to Jack ivho was recently verified with emotional disturbance. In class, Jack is withdrawn and rarely engages in conversations with peers or his teacher. When he does interact with the other students, the result often ends in conflict. During writing instruction Ms. Reynolds has found that Jack has difficulty generating ideas, is reluctant to share personal information about experiences outside school, and easily becomes frustrated with assignments, even if she provides direct support. More often than not, Jack refuses to put pen to paper and has participated in very few writing activities during the school year. As Ms. Reynolds begins to plan and implement a unit using a digital media writing project she should carefully consider Jack's strengths and needs. Step 1: Engage in Immersion Activities The first step in the process is to engage students in immersion activities that provide concrete models of a digital narrative. The use of multiple models is particularly important for students with disabilities and struggling writers (Baker, Gersten, & Graham, 2003). These models (possibly taken from the online storytelling communities, Storybird or StoryCorps, or from National Public Radio's This I Believe) provide the opportunity for students to understand the end goal and generate ideas about detailed narratives and storytelling (Butler et al., 2013). Models selected for V o l . 2 4, I s s .3,2015 15

Implementing D igital M edia W riting to Engage Students with EBD Table 1 Considerations in Adapting Digital M edia for Students with EBD Getting Started • Teach students how to use the technology. • Provide a list of key words or topics that are of interest to the student to help in generating writing ideas. • Explain the multiple stages in the project with students prior to beginning the project. • Recognize potential triggers for the student (e.g., emotionally charged topics, working with particular peers). Interactions With Peers • Teach students appropriate strategies for giving and receiving feedback. • Coordinate schedules for sharing technology resources, if availability is limited. • Teach students the importance of how to weigh feedback in editing their work with a willingness to make changes (e.g., modeling how feedback can improve the final outcome). • Give students strategies to feel confident in presenting their digital media project to the whole class. Assisting Students in Planning, Editing, and Composing their Work • Incorporate writing practices that are already familiar to the students (e.g., specific graphic organizers, writing schedules, strategies like self-regulated strategy development, Writer's Workshop; Graves, 2003). • Adapt activities based on individual student needs (e.g., allow students to dictate story to teacher or paraprofessional, spend additional time in the planning phase of writing). • Model each step of the writing process in a concrete way. • Provide support to students for managing levels of frustration throughout the process (e.g., provide a 5 min break to a student who is rerecording a page and unhappy with the outcome). immersion activities can be highly engaging and relevant to the range of student interests. Additionally, immersion activities can be used to spark discussions about the power of narrative, the structure of the story, and techniques used by authors to engage listeners. During immersion teachers should: (a) generate discussion about why authors may have selected a particular topic, (b) encourage students to share topics that interest them, and (c) allow students to brainstorm details that support their topics of interest. The difficulty in getting some students to generate topics of interest could be eased by providing prompts (e.g., "Describe a sport, real or fictitious, in which you would like to compete in the next Olympics") or asking them to describe something they love (e.g., food, animals). Some discussion needs to occur around the difficulty people may have in sharing personal feelings. Narratives can be a way to relay personal experiences through the thoughts and actions of characters. Throughout the activity, teachers can introduce skills related to feeling empathy, reacting respectfully to a peer's personal narrative, engaging in positive interactions, and providing constructive feedback. One of the first planning steps Ms. Reynolds takes is determining how the digital media project can be adapted to meet Jack's needs (see Table 1); she keeps these adaptations in mind throughout the process. She begins immersion activities by selecting two stories from StoryCorps to introduce to Jack, one funny story about a man's happiest memories of growing up on a farm and a second story that often yields an emotional reaction of sadness from students. She knows that both of these stories will be particularly engaging for Jack. Next, Ms. Reynolds begins a discussion to generate ideas about the techniques used by the authors to tell their story and emotionally engage listeners. Ms. Reynolds uses this time to discuss the difficulty people sometimes have sharing personal feelings, and how stories can allow students to document experiences or talk about feelings of story characters. Ms. Reynolds also introduces the social skill of responding respectfidly to another’s shared personal narrative. Step 2: Create the Digital Narrative The next step is to design and develop the narrative. Three activities that effectively move this process along involve creating a pitch, story spine, and storyboard. These activities, along with specific graphic organizers for structuring a comprehensive narrative (see also Butler et al., 2013), are described below. The pitch. The pitch or story core (Ohler, 2008) is the idea for the story, designed in such a way that it hooks the audience or sparks interest in the story. A story pitch in narrative writing has three key elements: (a) a character or characters, (b) a problem, and (c) a transformation. As the student considers the characters, attention can be directed to the role (if any) the author may play in the story. The primary purpose in making a pitch is to capture the audience by revealing an interesting problem, dilemma, or issue. Finally, a transformation or turnaround should occur in which the character realizes something new, undergoes a physical or emotional change, or learns a lesson. In some cases a moral may be revealed. Concrete examples of each element of the pitch, along with brainstorming and peer collaboration, help students feel more comfortable selecting the topic for their narrative. 16 Beyond Behavior

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