I’ve never quite been a big fan of the five paragraph essay, although I am required to teach its beginnings to my sixth graders and I do see the merit of developing an idea over a longer stretch of time. Today, my students will come to class with their essay projects built around a persuasive stance on an environmental topic. They have worked hard on the writing, and the last thing I want to do is be the sole audience for their work.
I keep coming back to a term that a keynote speaker used in a recent conference (it may have been Alan November) about technology giving young people the means to leave behind a “legacy” of ideas for other students following in their footsteps. I really love that concept, and that remark reminded me of one of the things that technology can do: provide an authentic writing space that doesn’t disappear when the school year ends.
So, today, my students will be learning how to use Garageband for podcasting (some, for the first time). They will record their essays with their own voice. Then, we will head back to Voicethread to upload those podcasts on a thread that I built around their environmental topics. And we won’t be done yet. Along with publishing the Voicethread at our classroom blog site, we intend to publish the work at the Voices on the Gulf site (which we have been using sporadically this year as our inquiry focus touched on environmental issues) and possibly, over at the revamped Youth Voices site, which now has a space for elementary students.
We’ll also be finishing up and publishing the various “media” and technology projects that are associated with the essays, giving more depth to the traditional five paragraph essay venture. Students are working on glogs, videos, powerpoints, and more.
These various components around composing — technology, publishing, voice, audience — are really motivating many of my students during a time of the year when their motivation often sags a bit. I’m very proud of their work, and best of all — so are they. And their voice is part of the Legacy they will be leaving behind at the end of the sixth grade.
Peace (in the legacy),