The Common Core Anchor Standards say that students should be able to...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7: conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ESL-Literacy.CCRA.W.8: gather relevant information from multiple print and digital resources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
Here are three tools to help you:.
1. Blendspace (in simple terms) is a canvas to compile resources.Teachers or students can create a canvas using their simple drag and drop interface to compile resources from a variety of sources. Students and/or teachers can also collaborate on a canvas. Once the resources are assembled, students can make comments on each resource in a discussion format (helpful for evaluating sources).
In the classroom I see the teacher first using the comments feature to teach evaluation of sources on a teacher-created canvas. That could then lead to students collaborating to compile resources on a particular topic or focus question, using the comments to communicate and evaluate again. The simple interface is friendly to younger students, or those with limited computer skills, but grown-up enough for any grade level. The teacher can also include quizzes and formative assessments, making this a more robust tool with more applications than just writing and research skills.
2. Google Advanced Search is an often over-looked tool, but one that I think deserves special merit in the language learner classroom. The The very exciting part about the advanced search menu is under the "Then narrow your results by..." heading. You can filter search results by language, reading level, usage rights, and even region of the world where the page was published. This is very exciting for teachers looking for native language resources, or resources at varied reading levels on a topic. Filtering by usage rights is useful for finding Creative Commons-licensed material.
3. Online citation tools like Bibme or Easybib are popular these days, but I advocate using the citation tools that are built-in to Microsoft Word (for a PC), or Pages (for a Mac), or Google Docs (if your school uses Google Apps for Education). Since I'm a PC user, I'll discuss Microsoft Office's citation toolbar. (I simply don't know enough about the citation tools in Pages to be able to discuss them with any semblance of intelligence.)
In Word, the citation tools are found in the reference toolbar. After you select the type of citation style you want, you can click on the "Insert Citation" button and the program will let you either add a new source or choose from a drop-down list of all the sources you have already used. This helps students understand the need to cite as they go (because it is easier to do that using this tool), and not waiting until the end when they then go back to try to remember exactly what information they got from which source (you've all seen that, right?). The citation tools will also automatically create a bibliography or works cited page at the end from all of the sources you've entered as you wrote your paper.
No matter who I show this to, it always seems to blow them away. Who knew that citing sources was so easy?!
Writing Process Skills
The Common Core Standards have a strong emphasis on teaching the writing process, including the publishing aspect that is sometimes difficult to recreate in the classroom:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6: Use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Through blogging, students can compose, review, edit, and publish their work. Students can collaborate through peer-review, or even by co-authoring a blog. Students can comment on other students' blog posts, increasing the interaction, all through writing. This form of publishing also helps to teach the connection between reading and writing - that we write to communicate our message to other people - because it is so instantly visible in the classroom.
There are several education-friendly blog services which allow a teacher to have full control over student blogs. Edublogs.org and 21classes.com are both paid services for student blogs (although both allow the teacher to have one free blog). Kidblog.org is a fee service, but the childish format only allows me to recommend it to teachers up to 8th grade. I used 21classes with high school students when I was in the classroom, and it worked well for me.
Narrative Writing Skills
The Common Core Standards tell us that students should...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Storybird is a tool that assists in the narrative writing-process by providing quality illustrations done by actual artists. Students can choose artwork to accompany narrative stories, and the stories can be published digitally in a classroom library on the website. Teachers can teach, assign, and assess student work through the site, and students can read and comment on their classmates' stories. I see this tool being particularly useful for struggling writers because the images and visuals are compelling and motivating. Even the most reluctant writer should be able to find something to write about on the site.
The one down side is that there is no way to "publish" a paper copy of a story, unless you purchase it from the site (I guess everyone has to have a way to make money). Stories can always be published and viewed digitally on the site without charge.
Okay, that's what I have for now! I'll share more tools as I come across them.