All four of my classes performed their puppets shows yesterday and they really shined. Even the groups of reluctant writers and reluctant performers were able to rise to the occasion and entertain a room full of young kids (our audience were students from preschool through second grade).
What I find amazing is how charged up my sixth graders get when something they have written strikes a chord with the audience. It really brings to the forefront the concept of an authentic situation — writing for a real purpose and not just for me, the teacher.
Today, they will reflect on the entire puppet experience — from the initial brainstorming, to cooperative writing, to making puppets, to performing. This is how we end our Puppet Unit — with reflective writing. (And then, we are back to the Glogs for our literature project).
But my work goes on, as I am now creating videos of each puppet show, uploading into my Vimeo and then need to revamp our Puppet Play WordPress blog for the new shows. This allows us to share the plays with the world, their families and also, themselves. They will be able to see their own plays in action for the first time.
Last week, I ran into two mentions for the ShoutEm Microblogging platform, which allows you to create a sheltered “Twitter” of sorts in which people in your Shout network can post short 140-character pieces. I suggested one of my friends over in the National Writing Project Network create a network to play with, and she did, and I have been playing around as a member of that site (and trying to get other NWP folks involved). I’m not sure we have enough folks using our experimental site to make complete judgments yet.
Here are some thoughts so far:
ShoutEm is easy to use as it mimics Twitter quite a bit. Just write and post and you are connected.
I love that you can easily share links and that screenshots of most the linked sites are shown automatically. This is a great feature and a nice design.
I don’t see any advertising (yet) but I know from the ShoutEm site that creators of the sites can try to make money that way. That would turn me off.
When you reply to someone’s shout, the replies are threaded, making it easy to track a conversation.
There are ways to “subscribe” to another person, but I have not figured out just what the heck that is all about, since I think I see all posts anyway on the homepage.
I believe the entire stream can be embedded into another site, allowing you to have a backchannel of sorts for folks to use around an idea.
I keep thinking of the comparison to a Ning network, for some reason. Perhaps because both allow you to set up niche communities. And Shoutem can be integrated easily enough (they say) with a Ning site.
Which brings me to the crucial point: Is ShoutEm a possibility for the classroom?
Not for me, likely, because our kids don’t have email accounts but I do see some potential for ShoutEm with students. You could have a site set up for discussions around a reading issue (like a blog but on an easier micro scale) or other topics.
Or, I stumbled across this project called TwitterKids, which connected a group of students from Africa with the world through the use of Twitter. I was fascinated by the possibilities of that kind of global connections and thought: ShoutEm might be the way to go for a similar kind of project. You could set up your own microblogging platform for a project, which would keep it sheltered but viable.
Anyway, here is a video overview of ShoutEm and if you create your own experimental network, let me know. I am always up for posting a few thoughts.
The Read Write Think site by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has been revamped and looks pretty spiffy. There are a whole lot of resources at this site. I’ve used a few — the comic creator, for one, and it is a nice and easy way to get kids creating comics on the computer.
What I like is that all of the activities are sorted in a variety of ways — from grade levels, to types of activities, to learning objectives, and more. Add to that that there are lesson plans and support materials for the various projects, and you have a wonderful place to explore and add new elements to your classroom.
The banner also is inviting to parents, and I like that. I wonder how many parents actually come to the site (who are not teachers) and show it to their own children?
And this flier (pdf) is a nice thing to have on hand to pass out to parents as it extols the virtues of reading and writing beyond the classroom walls, and gives some advice to parents.
How does Jenni Peg know so much about tech? It helps that she lived in Japan, right near the sector of blocks where most of the technology gadgets that the world sees is created and sold. The area is called Akihabara and it is the heart of the gadget world. Plus, who wouldn’t want a mechanical monkey?
Since mid-December, my students have been working on writing play scripts for puppet shows. The holidays and other things (ie, the other parts of my curriculum) transpired to keep pushing the puppet show finales off into the distant future. The future is here … today and tomorrow, we either videotape the plays or perform them for younger grades in our school.
The cooperative writing groups had to write a play with the concept of an imaginary holiday built into the storyline, develop a clear plot, and create protagonists and antagonists to move the story along. It’s not always an easy process for young writers, and the plays are sort of mixed-quality (depending on the make-up of the groups), but it has been a blast again this year.
Now, we are ready (as we ever will be) to perform. Yesterday, we did rehearsals (putting off our Glogster work, which would have been difficult anyway because of shaky Internet access in our school) with me saying over and over my mantra: “You must be louder! You must be louder!”
I also took photos of the puppets on our hand-carved puppet stage and popped them into Animoto. Check it out:
After I videotape the shows (there are 21 puppet shows), I will create videos and create a website to host them. One of the negatives of puppet shows is that the performers don’t get to see their own shows, since they are behind the puppet theater. (You can see last year’s puppet shows here). I might even use my new Mac this year for editing the videos. Yikes.
Here is a cool site that provides video insights into the world of Editorial Cartoonists. The videos are pretty fascinating as cartoonists talk about their work and show their talents. The site is part of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (who knew there was such a thing?). The plight of editorial cartoonists at newspapers is pretty severe, as many are being let go during budget cuts. But I still think that one well-done comic can speak as much as a lengthy written diatribe.
Here is an overview of how a bunch of these folks draw Uncle Sam:
The boys begin to realize the potentially powerful mind of Jenni Peg in Boolean Squared today. Have no fear, though, she will soon become one of the gang as they all play a trick on Mr. Teach (that sequence comes later this week). I wrote Urth today talking about new ideas because I found myself running a bit short. Ack.
The Boston Globe this morning had an interesting piece in the Ideas section about some iPhone Apps for “ideas on the go” that I thought I would share for us literary-minded folks. A few apps I know but most, I don’t.
Instapaper – this app allows you to bookmark articles from various online newspapers for later reading. I have heard about this one (it’s free, so worth a try) but I am not yet on the level of wanting to read my news on my iTouch. Do you?
Newstand – This is an aggregator of RSS feeds for newspapers. The app costs $4.99, so my question is: why buy an app when there are plenty of free RSS collectors out there? I guess the draw is that it focuses in on publications, but free is the way to be (although many are now saying that the wave of free content is exactly what is killing the newspaper industry).
Stanza - This is one I have used. It’s a free ereader and it comes with access to tons of free books. You have to get past the small reading screen but it works fine. And did I mention it is free?
McSweeney’s Small Chair — I do love Dave Egger’s McSweeney’s publishing house and this app pulls from the various publications there. Is it worth a $5.99 investment? Not sure. But this is one I will be checking out and consider the purchase, if only to keep supporting Egger’s publishing efforts.
Electric Literature — It seems like I have read about this one before. The app costs $4.99 but it features anthologies of “named” writers. I would prob avoid it for the cost. Sorry.
IndieBound – This is an app (free!) that uses GPS to find independent book stores. That is something I can support. I do try to mix up my business with books between the small book stores in our area with the Barnes & Nobles. (And Amazon).
There was a mention of something called Scrollmotion’s First Things Last, which is free, and which apparently showcases an interactive serial story. What is that? Now, I need to know.