Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Project Ideas

I love reading the magazine "Popular Mechanics". They always have great articles on new technology along with easy to read explanations of how things work. After reading one of their issues, I was prompted to write a list of projects that can be done in the classroom as a whole group or individually. If you are looking for a project idea, take a look! Hopefully it will spark an idea.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Third Grade Newscasts

For the past two weeks, one of our third grade teachers and I have been working together to create a class newscast. We set an ambitious goal, and it has been a lot of work, but I just can't wait to see how it turns out! With help from one of the parents who is a television producer, we set up a production outline, and then with the class he brainstormed categories and ideas. After a field trip to our local high school's video production class, we engrossed ourselves in research for our news segments.

Each news category has a researcher, producer, editor, camera person and on air talent, and the roles will be rotated each month. The students are really taking their jobs seriously and are excited to be a part of the process. We were able to travel to the local library for a live interview and have contacted our school board via email to obtain accurate information for another segment. We held a name and logo contest and the winning entry was made into a poster that hangs behind the anchor desk.This week has been full of script writing, practicing and taping. Our producer parent returned to help us set up the taping studio and he offered some great advice, like writing down what each take is about and whether to keep it or delete it (when you have over 20 takes a day, this is essential), using Power Point as a teleprompter (so valuable!) and taping in short clips for ease in editing. We also discussed using Photo Story so the students could add in pictures with voice overs in a format that was easy for the editors to work with.

I have been so amazed at the wonderful suggestions the students come up with to improve the taping process. They are critically thinking about what they are doing and problem solving as we go along. We finish taping tomorrow and then the editing begins. Our final product will be linked to our school website for the entire community to enjoy. A different third grade class will start the process next week, with the hope of having two broadcasts per month until the end of school. What a great project this is!

Back-channeling in the Primary Classroom

A sixth grade teacher in our school, @chris_reuter, has been using back-channeling in his classroom to promote discussion that includes all members of the class. Back-channeling is an activity where the class listens to a speaker or media piece and simultaneously talks about it online. He wrote an excellent blog post about the process and success he has had. Based on his success, I have been working with third grade students to incorporate back-channeling into their curriculum. We have used the website, which can be set up quickly, and is very easy to use. We had a few technical difficulties, but nothing we couldn't work around. (TodaysMeet is now age 13 and older only. Moodle's chat feature is another option to use.)

The objective for our first attempt at back-channeling was to have the students practice using the website and talking online. We discussed appropriate responses and the process: the students should read the driving questions, respond to them, and then respond to their classmates, which all went well. Today, we watched CNN Student News and had an online discussion about what is going on in Japan. The newscast moved rather quickly and I ended up stopping it at points to let the students catch up. Watching, listening and responding simultaneously was a significant skill for the students to learn, but some caught on right away.

Next week, we are going to practice these skills again as we watch and evaluate our own newscast. What I really like about the back-channel process is the ability for all students to respond without having to raise their hand, or fear talking in front of the class. At this age, we will need continued practice, but it is a process that is worthwhile.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beyond Worksheets

I subscribe to an email listserv and am always suprised by the amount of emails that ask if anyone has a worksheet to share. To me, worksheets usually represent lower level thinking which could be replaced by some higher level thinking experience. After having this discussion with my PLN on Twitter, I started a Google Doc and asked for contributions on the topic of what to do besides a worksheet. I invite you to read through these ideas and add your own so that we may move beyond worksheets in education.