My daughters introduced me to ChatGPT in December of 2022, shortly after its release. They laughed at my speechlessness watching it write letters from disgruntled employees, stories about losing a tooth for the first time, essays in favor of four-day work weeks, and explanations of Mendel’s bean experiments. Since then, I’ve continued to use ChatGPT for a variety of reasons, and I’ve encouraged other educators to give it a try, as well. Here are some ways my colleagues and I have found open AI to be useful in our teaching.
Exemplar and Demonstration Texts
As a writing teacher for many different grades I often create texts that intentionally show specific standards or strategies. Sometimes I write pieces that intentionally do not have specific craft moves so that I can demonstrate how to add them. For example, I might write a simple story without any dialogue, and then add dialogue during instruction to show the importance of bringing characters to life. I can save myself a lot of time by asking ChatGPT to do this for me.
Example prompt: write a story at a third-grade level about Tony who skins his knee while learning to ride his bike with his older brother, James. Do not include any dialogue.
By adjusting my prompt I can customize the teaching tool I create. I can request additional description or inner thinking. I can ask for the story to be a simpler or more complex text. I can even ask for additional characters to involve.
While I have used a narrative text for demonstration, I can use similar techniques with other genres. An opinion paragraph about why dogs should be allowed in school since they provide emotional comfort for students. Done in a few seconds. The same topic with a catchy lead sentence? Less than a few seconds. Add an anecdote about a girl named Lily? Done.
A Quick Source of Information
Lack of information is a common reason for elementary students to write poorly.
At this stage, students are balancing learning to read with reading to learn. Their curiosity in new topics often exceeds their ability to research and learn. Therefore, if they are going to write with regularity and volume, they need to write about known topics or easy-to-access information. However, ChatGPT can provide students with information.
Sometimes I use it to provide a quick source of information for students. Please know that I do realize I’m not asking students to research or cite sources when I use CGPT in this way; these skills can come later, and we can teach them that sometimes information found using open source AI is not 100% reliable. Elementary students have a lot to learn about researching, source-tracking, note-taking, organizing, and grouping information, but they still need to develop their skills as writers. This tool allows me to give them usable information about topics that are interesting to them in seconds– something I’ve not been able to do before without spending a lot of time! At this point in the process, my focus is on teaching them to draft with new information and I am giving them a leg up on the process.
By specifying grade level, CGPT will tailor the information, although you can ask for more sophisticated information, as well.
As you can see from the information about Kamala Harris’s early life, CGPT typically provides complete sentences:
I often ask CGPT to provide incomplete sentences, as opposed to complete sentences students might be tempted to copy verbatim. That way, in addition to minimizing copying, students also practice the construction of sentences and paragraphs.
Even for older students I’ve used CGPT to build a quick information base.
Inquiry involves asking questions, but asking questions involves knowing enough to wonder.
Just recently, a sixth-grader was interested in the achievements of Asian Americans. By asking CGPT about that, he got some names to research which led him to an architectural tour of I.M. Pei’s work. In this way CGPT served as a way to help him begin to know what he didn’t know, but wanted to. Once he knew what to ask he was all set with researching and keeping track of sources.
My advice is to sign up for an account at https://openai.com/ and start experimenting, thinking about the types of writing you do and tinkering with whether it can help you out. Look into social media groups for additional ideas as to harnessing the CGPT power. It can provide feedback for writers with prompts along the lines of; write three bullets of positive feedback for this writing piece and one idea for improvement or write three ideas for improving the use of vocabulary in this piece. CGPT can also write learning targets, report card comments, or lesson plans. It can even write in various languages, so I’ve used it to provide reading materials for English language learners. Technology has the power and potential to make life easier. CGPT has already done and is continuing to do that for me!