Archive for September 2010
Every year I teach “The Lady or the Tiger” by Stockton. I use this piece as part of my short story unit; the ending leaves the final decision up to the reader. This ambiguity provides the perfect opportunity to teach narrator and voice. I have the students write their own endings blending their imagination with elevated vocabulary and a consistent voice that parallels the piece. Last year I took this lesson a step further with the new laptops our students now used in all classrooms. After the endings were written, they broke into small groups and selected one to create as a silent video. They could only use music, sound effects, and text. Their actions and minimal words had to convey the intent to the audience.
This year we did the same reading and project but with a slight twist. We partnered with a Van Meter freshman class who was also reading the same story. I still had the kids write their endings, form small groups and select one, but instead of creating a video from their own writing they exchanged with their counter group in Van Meter. They students were excited about the collaboration and it showed in their stellar projects. Finally, a Voice Thread was created to share final projects between the two schools. Voice Thread allows the students to leave comments in various forms and it was quite simple to upload multiple videos.
Students this year were more conscious about their writing knowing that it was going to be read by and performed by people outside of their own school. They also enjoyed the ideas that emerged from the other students, had fun collaborating and creating a final projects, and were anxious to see how the other students interpreted their writing.
Although it took a little extra time for Shawn Hyer and I to develop this lesson, the benefits were great, the students were excited and engaged, and this story will forever be something they remember because of the interaction they had with the piece.
This summer I started my own blog with the intent on having my senior Creative Writing class blog throughout the semester on a topic of their choice. What started off as a collaboration with one teacher and school, Shawn Hyer from Van Meter, has grown to include 2 other schools and interest from a couple more. Currently Erin Olson from Sioux Centeral, Mike Richman from MNW, Shawn and I have embarked on connecting our students to create an interest in writing. Providing a real audience containing more members than the teacher and modeling effective response has helped create a community of young writers. Although purpose and grading may differ amongst the 4 teachers, engaging students, inspiring writers, and connecting kids through writing are the emerging benefits witnessed so far.
What we did:
1. Established a purpose and shared vision for a blogging community,
2. Created a Google Doc that was shared with all students. Students linked their blogs, and wrote a phrase describing their focus. This allows all students access to all the blogs 24/7.
3. Set our own individual class blogging requirements.
4. Provided examples of blogs to students, links for consideration, guidance.
5. Explored WordPress and Blogger.
6. Modeled Response.
7. Gave them time to write.
Last week a few students and I google video chatted Mr. Richman’s freshmen class to answer questions and create excitement for the project. As I sat and listened to my students speak I beamed with pride. I had the typical ones who loved to write and have found enjoyment creating their blogs and connecting. The most satisfying comments came from my student Zach. He told me with certainty on the first day of class he hated writing and would hate this class – he is now singing a different tune. He has multiple posts, written more than previous years, and has no problem admitting he was wrong -he enjoys the class. He loves the interaction with others, is constantly posting and responding to blogs and is going to present with me at an upcoming conference. The best part is, he is one of many students that have a similar story.
Blogging alone is a great place for students to write, reflect, and learn; but building a community of student bloggers who interact with each other regularly provides a purpose, audience and a connection that was lacking in my previous years.