Observations from the Classroom

My students are hard at work on their digital science picture books (a fictional journey adventure story with the theme of cell mitosis) and here are some observations from yesterday:

  • I’ve been doing minilessons around powerpoint and animation so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by the technology and I am trying to listen to their questions and then create the lessons around those concepts (sort of backwards design lesson planning). One team asked how they could create a television set with moving video, so I showed all the students how to use a Flip video and embed the video, using Paint to create the actual television set.
  • When I realized that one group is really interested in singing songs and basing their story on High School Musical and Grease, I took some time to show everyone how to use Audacity. You can do audio right in powerpoint, but the quality stinks. Audacity for some of the projects where audio is front and center is a much better choice.
  • One facet of the project is to link their book to the web, so we went over how to search for science-related sites and how to link to those sites right in their book. I then explained how you could easily create a Follow the Adventure story, with parallel story lines and paths right in powerpoint. I saw a few light bulbs go off, but I am not sure if anyone will give it a try.
  • I need to remind them not to spend all of their time with the illustrations. Some of the artwork is fantastic, but we don’t have months to work on this project. Some students will get so caught up in the art that they lose track of everything else.
  • Yesterday, my colleague Gail (who teaches kindergarten) brought in an end of the year book project from when my students were in kindergarten, and it was a nice connection to how we use art and stories for literacy. They got a kick out of seeing their old work, particularly in light of what they are doing right now.
  • The storyboards have proven critical to keeping focus on the work. And I am having them write their draft of their stories in Word, so they can easily proofread and edit the story, before copying-pasting the text into powerpoint. A side benefit is that they always have a master file of their story in case something happens to the powerpoint book.
  • I’m watching the students who have teamed up with others on this project. I warned everyone early on that they should not choose a partner who will be a slacker, and they did a good job. Two of my students who have proved themselves to be detrimental to group work this year were rejected (I monitored it closely), went off by themselves, only to be invited into a team by someone else. The surprise is that these two are working harder than I have seen them work all year, perhaps grateful to be asked into a team and realizing that their goofing off and inability to focus on work has a negative impact.
  • I’m already thinking of more extension activities: using Voicethread to create an alternative version of their book (without the animation, so it will require some editing for a new medium); creating a webcomic review of their book; and …. any ideas?

I am going to try to collect some of the digital artwork being done and create an animoto video montage — should be fun.

Peace (in the books),

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