Teaching How to Read, Write, and Participate on the Web

Writing Excuse Generator

Made by Mozilla Learning Networks and the National Writing Project.

Learners will remix JavaScript code to change the words on a webpage, learning about composing for the web, coding JavaScript, and remixing Web content.

45 minutes

  • Preparation

    Do the activity on your own to become familiar with it. Make sure your technology works as expected across a few test machines.

    You may also wish to set up an account on teach.mozilla.org that you can share with your learners. This will save time later when they are ready to publish their remixes.

    Review this definition of the word "Remix", so that you can help your learners (and colleagues!) understand what it means to remix a make.

    Ask learners to distribute themselves evenly around the tables in your space as they arrive.

    Post the URL, or Web address, of today's make somewhere highly visible in your room. You may want to post it as a shortened link using a service like bit.ly.

  • 10


    Welcome your learners and explain that in this activity we're going to explore "remix." Give each learner a notecard and a pen or pencil. Explain that part of remix is finding a creative way to add to, switch around, or replace something that inspires your creativity. To begin, we're going to explore the idea of the 'homework excuse' together.

    • Give each learner a notecard and pen or pencil.

    • Ask learners to take 2-3 minutes to write down the best homework excuse ever. Ask learners to use their best handwriting or to get help writing from a classmate or teacher.

    • Ask a table leader to collect the notecards.

    • Ask that table leader to shuffle the note cards and pass them back out to tablemates in a random order. The table leader should also take a card.

    • Ask learners to rehearse their excuses quietly to themselves and to ask a trusted classmate or teacher for help with any difficult words.

    • Explain that next we'll chain excuses at each table. For example, the table leader will start by asking the learner to her left, 'Where is your writing?' Then, that learner will give you the excuse on her notecard. Encourage dramatic readings! After that, the learner who gave you the first excuse will become the teacher and ask the learner to her left for her excuse until everyone (including you!) has given an excuse.

    • Once everyone has had a chance to give an excuse, ask each table if any excuses stood out as especially effective or funny.

    • Finally, ask learners to open their computers and go to the webpage for today's activity.
  • 25

    Remix the Writing Excuse Generator

    Ask learners to explore the Homework Excuse Generator by clicking on its button several times and sharing the results with a neighbor or the whole table group.

    Explain that this make was originally composed in Mozilla's code editor, called Thimble. This means that learners can hit the green "Remix" button in the upper right hand corner of the screen to change all sorts of things on the page, including its title, text, and images.

    Explain that after learners hit the Remix button, Thimble will show them the code for the wbepage, as well as the JavaScript code that makes the button work with the webpage. Explain also that HTML, the language of the Web, shapes the page while JavaScript, a coding language for webpages, makes its interactive parts work.

    Pause here to answer any questions your learners have.

    Next, guide learners around the Thimble interface using your computer and projector. Point out the sidebard to the left that has the main page called index.html, as well as the other files used in the web page, including the JavaScript file called excuses.js.

    Also show your learners that they can hit the "Tutorial" tab on the right side of the screen to switch their view from the webpage to a self-guided tutorial that takes them through the remix activity.

    Do a brief think-aloud through the tutorial and then support learners as they work to remix and change

    • The title of the page on the index.html page.

    • Several strings (words) in the arrays (sets) of the excuses.js file.

    • The credits at the bottom of the index.html page.

    After about 20 minutes of remix work, invite your learners to hit the 'Publish' button in the upper right-hand corner of their remix when they finish. Thimble will give them a URL, or Web address, to visit and share with table mates, facilitators, and whomever else they want.

  • 10

    Share and Reflect

    Give learners about 5 minutes to pass their machines around the table and play with the group's writing excuse generators.

    For the last 5 minutes of the activity, facilitate a brief, reflective discussion using questions like

    • What seemed easiest or most difficult about remixing the page today?

    • What surprised you about writing this project?

    • How would this project have been different if you had to start from scratch? How did the original project work or fail for you as a mentor text?

    • How would you explain the connection between the HTML - or webpage - in this activity and the JavaScript file?