I am continuing to find ways to not only introduce technology and writing to my sixth grade students, but also to engage them in some critical thinking. For example, the other day, I showed them a funny mashed-up photo circulating the ‘net, and then we discussed Photoshop and how nothing is quite what it seems in the wired world.
So I am interested in this project called NetDay, which seeks to gauge student understanding and knowledge of the digital world as a collective research project in the month of November. Here is an overview of guiding questions the group hopes the data can help us answer:
- WHO are today’s students?
- HOW are your schools supporting the teaching and learning of 21st century skills?
- WHERE are students and teachers accessing technology and learning technology skills?
- HOW are teachers using technology for professional activities, both for teaching and for their own learning?
- WHAT are students’ ideas and concerns about technology use for their education?
- WHAT are teacher’s ideas and concerns about technology use and their professional goals?
- WHAT are parent’s ideas and concerns about technology use and their children’s education?
There is also an invite to have parents participante in the surveys. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare data from parents to data from students?
Each year, my homeroom class works in small groups to create a new culture or civilization as a way to learn about teamwork and ways that people can come together.
The students invent a language, some sports or games, and brainstorm ways their culture could be defended. They create posters and PowerPoint slide shows to present their information to the class.
Follow the links below (or click on the posters) to view the slide shows.
Last week, I joined an online conversation with folks through Teachers Teaching Teachers that explores the convergence of technology and teaching in its many varied forms. I have been curious about the concept of Elgg communities and jumped into the conversation with some questions (for my own benefit and for my wife, who is a high school teacher). As far as I can tell, Elgg offers the possibility of a safe online community that links members together through shared interested and through related “tags” that they create in their profile. It mirrors Facebook and MySpace, but without the advertising and mess of those sites. Dave Tosh provides a good overview of Elgg at his site.
You can listen to the podcast of that conference through the Teachers Teaching Teachers site. Or you can find that link here:
Listen to the podcast
Meanwhile, I notice that the authors of one of my favorite blog sites — Bud the Teacher — is posing his own inquiries into Elgg, so I hope to follow along that conversation, too. And I have joined a teacher Elgg, too, just to tour around and get familiar with the tools that are there.
The first writing project for my sixth grade this year is a BioPoem in which our young writers create an 11-line poem about themselves based on a series of prompts that explore emotions, fears and family.
To move beyond the personal and more towards a community of writers, we created Class Audio Biopoems in which each student contributed one line from their poem.
Take a listen:
Some days, you just stumble across a very neat idea and have to share it with other people, you know? Someone fed me this link to the Museum of Museums through a Delicious account and I was hooked.
This Museum of Museums collects links to the sites of any variety of museums from around the world, with the very ambitious idea of linking every single museum together for one mass site of collective knowledge. (It’s nice to have reasonable goals, I suppose). Art galleries, dinosaurs, music and any other topic that you can think of is someone’s museum obsession and can be found within the categories of this site. You can even view the Museum of Bad Art, if that is more to your taste.
And then, there are those virtual museums — the places that don’t exist in the real world and yet, are repositories of information. For example, there is a museum for toaster ovens, if that is your thing. And the Museum of Talking Boards (meaning: Ouiji) that can raise some goosebumps on people.
I can envision some neat virtual field trips from my classroom, with links and reactions and descriptions right from the class Weblog site.
The connections between writing and voice is an interesting one, particularly in this age of podcasts and audiocasts across distance and time, and I know that my NWP colleague Chris S. in Utah has been very much into capturing the voices of his students and researching the ways that voice can influence and enhance writing.
Last year, my students were part of a Cyberpal exchange with some students at Jefferson Junior High School in Washington DC (through another NWP partnership with Maria) and they shared some of their own personal narrative writing via an audiocast.
Students wrote a short personal narrative piece that focused on an object that represented some memories. Take a listen:
Today in my Sixth Grade Writing Workshop, students learned a bit about point of view narrative techniques in writing.
- First Person Narrative: stories told from the view of a character.
- Third Person Narrative: stories told from a perspective outside of a particular character
- Second Person Narrative: stories that insert the reader into the story.
Students then wrote in a First Person Narrative style that captured a leaf falling from a tree in Autumn. Some of those young writers, after sharing their writing with the class, agreed to help create this audiocast.
It was Day One of the school year, and so I demonstrated to my sixth graders all the steps necessary to creating and posting audiocast to our Weblog site by actually doing it together (in 30 minutes!!) and we ended up with this audiocast:
On the first day of school, my homeroom students created a podcast about their expectations for sixth grade and/or their concerns for the year ahead.
Listen to Their Voices
Oh, if you are wondering about what Quidditch is, here is a visual guide:
In the past two years, I have been on the local NPR affiliate (WFCR) two times — first, as a guest commentator speaking of the values of nurturing student leadership and community service at my school (Norris Elementary School), and, second, as a leader of the National Writing Project-funded Making Connections Weblog Project.
As I continue to explore ways to integrate audio into Weblogs, I figured this would be a time to link those two radio files to this site.
I have always shared information with my parents and students right from the first day of school because I believe it is important for everyone to know what is ahead in my sixth grade writing class. It should not be a mystery. This year, I decided to take it a step further and put together an overall curriculum map and distribute via our school website (which is being revamped) and my classroom Weblog site.
It was a valuable experience for me, as a teacher, to realize the scope of work being accomplished by my students over the course of a school year. I also realized that there are endless mini-lessons and activities that fall outside the scope of this generalized curriculum overview. But I guess it is a start.
Here is the curriculum map for parents and students