This video is somewhat delayed. Last summer I participated in a hands on science workshop at Oxford at Emory University in Oxford, GA. It was an amazing two weeks of technology free exploration. We spend some time in a small A-Frame lab-house at the edge of a small lake and collected water specimens, looked under rocks and under leaves on trees to discover the range critters residing in the area and to determine the health of the environment based on the wildlife present. It's the kind of learning I did as a kid in the creeks nearby my home. I recall tricking the newcomers into sniffing freshly picked skunk cabbage and amazing friends with captures of mud puppies and salamanders. We examined our finds under microscopes, made charts and graphs and predicted outcomes. We walked the walk of a child investigator in the hopes of providing such an experience to our our students. OIEE as they are called specialize in backyard investigations. They absolutely insist that student devise their own hypothesis and then develop a method to test them and to collect data. As an aside, Oxford University is a two year college leading to a 3rd and 4th year at the prestigious Emory University in Georgia. Little Oxford exists in a bucolic setting amidst farms and small town neighborhoods. A very infamous event took place the Spring before our summer course. It involved a live zebra. It will forever be remembered as one of the most infamous college pranks in history. Just google it to learn more!
3-third grade boys research and create sports talk show to tell about their favorite players. Students wrote the script individually and collaborated on setting up the show.
Watch how 40 seconds transformed our class pet, Sparkle into a weightless cloud hopper. I wanted to introduce my students to the green screen concept so I decided to demonstrate it as a magic trick using the rabbit as my focal point. Instead of pulling him out of a hat I placed him in the sky. what you are seeing here is the after effects but what your are hearing are the students voices while simply watching Sparkle explore his small student desk top which was covered in green fabric and sitting up against a green backdrop. When the students saw the finished product the next day, their jaws dropped and they started giggling and asking how I did it. I showed them, a couple at a time at my desk and explained that it was a little like making a collage. I just combined two images.
Each year I enjoy giving my students the challenge of turning a story into a play. In 3rd grade this was even more of a challenge for me in a number of ways. To begin with, we have more content to cover and lots of time spent preparing for standardized testing in April which makes it difficult to eek out time to plan and practice let a alone perform. Additionally, the process of choosing parts, developing lines and creating dialog, sequencing and blocking the production must happen over an extended period of time and students get anxious about when it will finally be ready.
I read the story, My Father's Dragon aloud to the class in December and used it to discuss the different fiction genres including folktales, fairy tales and fantasy. This story is fantasy. Next I had the students storyboard their favorite scene in the book using a graphic organizer for comic strips. This helped them identify with the characters. We talked about how character traits are identified in speech. How somebody says something tells a lot about their personality. It is their own particular "voice". Next I made a long list of characters and asked them to give me their top three choices. Except for three parts, everyone got their first choice.
The girls involved in the dispute over parts had a plan, could we modify the story somewhat to make one part stronger and in effect make two leads? We managed to reach consensus and our parts were established. All that happened in January. I wasn't until March that we had an opportunity to continue our work.
In March I asked the students to gather on the carpet and we walked through the parts. We established positions and entrances. I took pictures along the way. Later I printed the images with scene captions and asked the students to write the lines they thought they should say in their various scenes. Some of them knew exactly what to say, others needed help. Some wanted to say very little and that was OK.
They worked in small groups with their scene partners to develop the dialog further. In the end, a student typed up the dialog on each picture slide in a power point and then I printed the copy as handouts. We spend time practicing in a circle the timing of the lines and just talking through the entrances and so on.
The 2nd to last week of school we were running out of time. The students wanted to make their own costumes. I suggested keeping it simple and sticking to a hat-mask so we could see and hear them clearly. We rehearsed on a Wednesday and it was a disaster! I wondered how we could pull it off. 3rd graders like to discuss everything and we had more talk than action.
One wise friend, Paula Boston, who also enjoys doing plays with her class suggested I set a performance date and time. She said when the kids have the goal of performing for peers, they rise to the occasion. She was right! We had two performances on Thursday and it went splendidly. My soon-to-be-college-daughter Madi filmed, as she was out of school already, and Mrs. Boston's 3rd Grade watched. She had her students make comments about things they liked or questions they had. We had one performance on Friday and scheduled the parent performance for Tuesday the last week of school. After each performance we talked about how we could be improve.
It turned out to be a wonderful experience although a lengthy process. The students will forever remember My Father's Dragon and the very special roles they each played in making it happen.
My Father's Dragon, part 1, Students listen, sequence, select, write and act out a chapter book.
Today I noticed that my podomatic ranking went up so naturally I logged in to check the account. I apologize for not having posted anything this year, but I was dangerously close to using up my free space! Isn't that terrible? After all podomatic has done to provide a wonderful free space I know I should have just shelled out the $ to keep things rolling or perhaps I could have requested a PTA mini grant to cover the annual fee. I think I was concerned because they hadn't made any noticeable updates to the site, but now they have! So, my plan is to upgrade and upload the 3-4 new episodes I created this year which are scattered between vimeo and teachertube.
I filmed this episode back in December '08 and I love it! What I love about it is listening to these 3rd grade students thoughtfully explain what they are attempting to accomplish and why. Andrey, the first student had me for kindergarten and since I moved to teach grade 3 this year, he visited often. He was concerned that I didn't have an interactive whiteboard. He wondered how I could manage. I told him, as I explained to my own class that creating an interactive whiteboard on the cheap was entirely possible. I showed them Johnny Lee's, How to - video and posted it on my classroom blog along with a link to the instructions for creating the wiimote pen tool.
Last summer I had attempted this myself but my skills at assembling anything with wires and solder created a second rate sculpture instead of a usable pen! I gave Andrey my wires, highlighters (the suggested housing for the pen) and batteries. He brought the materials home and convinced his father to spend some time helping him assemble this pen tool. He reported to me weekly about his progress. His dad is a pilot and they only had small windows of time to work. Finally in November it was finished. Instead of using the highlighter they chose a narrow metal pipe. It looked a little like a pipe bomb as you will see!
In the meantime a pair of boys in my homeroom became intrigued and wanted to get involved in the process as well. I demonstrated how to search for the wiimote whitboard movie and website and they were confident they could find it once they got home. 2 weeks later they had produced highlighter encased pen tools with the help of their fathers!
The next hurdle was to sync up the bluetooth device. I tried 2 of my own dongles and downloaded the suggested utility which seemed simple enough but just couldn't get it to work. Andrey, Michael and Skyler were dying to see it in action. Skyler's dad, offered to come in and solve the problem. He used a different small utility and got it to work! Everyone was amazed! Unfortunately I don't have footage of this portion of the project. It was a remarkable accomplishment for these three boys and I could tell they felt like Nobel prize winners!
I'll guess that this opportunity to experiment and to make an impact on our classroom was the most significant educational experience they had all year. Why? It taught them valuable hands on skills and showed them that even 8 year-olds can make a difference in the world. I will try to seek out more opportunities like this to capture the intellectual curiosity of my students.
This is the 'boys show' I promised shortly after the girls initiated their own podcast program. The boys had very different goals. They wanted to use or be action figures, super heroes and special effects. The planning portion took about half an hour while the boys collected things from around the room to construct mini sets. They wanted to find a way to use the aluminum plate flying saucer so the show became a wordless story about an alien invasion. I added some music from freeplaymusic to create atmosphere. The kicks and punches look more like dancing to me. In fact I considered downloading and using Kung Fu Fighting as the back track! Running under 2 minutes both the boys and girls get such a thrill from seeing themselves in action. As a result I have taped each student 'flying' around the globe and will put something together with a focus on Earth Day and the endangered species we studied. I noticed lots of engagement and collaboration between the boys. Some of them had a real sense of how it would look when finished, others just participated for the fun of it and enjoyed the surprising end product. I hope this teaches them that the sky's the limit when it comes to creative use of technology and teamwork.
Just before Spring break we finished the annual drama project. This year I introduced a book , The Little Old Ladies Who Liked Cats by Carol Greene. Our Media Specialist ordered me a used copy from Amazon. I read the book whole group. The response was encouraging. Right away they started to identify the sequence, plot and the wide range of characters. For the next two weeks I used the book as a basis for exploring story elements including: setting, main idea, characters and sequence. After the first week I suggested they each consider what part they would like to play if we turned the book into a play. The biggest surprise came when two of the girls wanted to be dolphins. I was confused until they pointed out the dolphins in the illustration. We worked them into the play. A boy volunteered to be the cow and then realized cows were girls so we made him a bull who talks about cows! Next was the mouse character who decided he really would prefer being a bear. Luckily bears also like honey so we worked him in. Finally we had no volunteers for mayor until one of the girls suggested we use a princess instead. Good idea I assured her and we worked he into the play.
We walked through the parts and then work on individual lines in small group. I like them to decide what to say. The pirates came up with some funny lines as did the sailors. Our little lady knew just what to say and the cats got into character! Our last modification came when we tried to resolve the conflict. It was decided that the pirates be allowed to return if they followed the rules. In the end they get to join the navy. I used free play music to find snippets of tunes to underscore the dialog but the last number was a special request.
They all wanted to dance to High School Musical 2 so I threw in 10 seconds to make it happen. For me technology plays an important role because it motivates me to think in broader terms. The students know they are working on a movie they will be able to keep and share with family. I have explained the editing process to them and they gave me suggestions about the order and the sound. I showed them how the storyboard panel is just like the exercise they do when they arrange pictures in the order of a story.
Parents helped with costume assembly, getting the students dressed, keeping them 'quiet on the set' or occupied in the Media center between takes. Mrs. Foresman my Paraprofessional was invaluable giving direction as I manned the camera. Look for a short follow up to this vodcast where I will explain how to make these simeple paper costumes and the set. If you have any questions or comments look for my small voices post on my blog: http://ripplingpond.wordpress.com
WOW! Show number 3-0. This show erupted spontaneously. It was Friday morning following journal time when we typically work on a whole group project involving creative writing. I was finishing up the Avatar project with the boys. The girls had completed their parts and were reading and enjoying books together. One of the girls approached me and suggested the girls do a play using one of our Language Arts stories as their model. I told them if they could work independently and make sure each one could participate I would record their efforts once they finished. This motivated them to action.
All seven girls discussed their lines and then created some artwork to accompany their lines. They worked very diligently. I just enjoyed seeing their spontaneity, inspiration and creativity at work. It motivates me to perform as their teacher-facilitator. They all took ownership and shared in the project. I am very fortunate to have such self-motivated students. They simply amaze me. As for the boys, they were also working, collaborating and comparing their Avatar dialogs. I promised to do a special 'flying' project with them soon! Shortly before PE I was able to take the girls to our multi media room to record their production. They we very cooperative and poised. They are hoping to perform their lines live on our internal morning news for the whole school. That's Girl Power for you!
Kennesaw State University produces excellent teachers. I was able to witness the process and discovered the rigor of the program first hand. I listened to my student teacher talk about her course work and I watched as she prepared for her observations. Her role was actually a pre-student teaching role. Over a 15 week period she worked in our classroom, gaining knowledge and experimenting with various teaching strategies. As a parting gift I offered to show her how to make a podcast and used footage from one of her lessons previously recorded. I removed the audio and reduced it to under 5 minutes. Next I showed Helen how simple it is to use Pinnacle for studio editing. She caught on quickly and edited her own audio including several student voices as well. If you are a teacher you may get some good ideas for teaching patterns to kindergarteners or you may want to comment and add some great ideas of your own!