What: Burley Global Fiction Reading
When: Thursday, November 21, at the following times (all times Eastern Standard Time):
9:30-10:00 am est
12:15-12:45 pm est
2:15-2:45 pm est
On Thursday, November 21st,, students will read their stories to their classmates. We will also use UStream.tv to stream video of them reading their stories so that other classes, as well as family members, can tune in while our students are reading and be able to hear their stories. The link to our reading will also be shared with other educators in different parts of the United States and internationally. We believe this is a valuable opportunity for our students to share their wonderful stories not just with their classmates but with a global audience. Last year, our students received feedback and praise on their writing from classes and educators in Charlottesville, Michigan, Colorado, England, and Australia.
The link to our UStream will be posted to the Burley’s homepage in the lower lefthand corner in the Announcements section, but the direct link is http://www.ustream.tv/channel/burley-bears.
We would love to have you join us!
Please email Brian Kayser at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
learning with and from each other
increases the quality of student work
opportunities for new ideas and working collaboratively
students receive and give feedback to others
free and (fairly) easy to do digitally
opportunities to learn about new cultures
hands-on digital citizenship learning
walls of the classroom are infinite
“If I had known so many people would have been watching, I would have tried harder.”
- a student quote from our Summer School Expo in 2011
The ccGlobal Holiday Projects
For these projects, classes signed up to participate through a Google Form. Each year there was a common theme. In 2011, the focus was on sending a holiday card with a QR code on it that would lead the recipient to a holiday greeting. Some classes created an Animoto video for this while others made videos. Since this was a multi-age project, there were no hard guidelines to follow other than to send your greeting to the other group members.
In 2012, the theme was “Your Favorite Holiday Memory.” Again, this was a multi-age project and had classes from all over the United States as well as Canada, Ireland, and Australia. One kindergarten class drew pictures and then recorded their voice on SoundCloud to describe their pictures. My students told their stories through a variety of mediums, from an audio file to poetry to pictures to a Wordle. Other classes chose their method to display their stories, but the common thread was that all students were talking about a favorite holiday memory and all classes were looked at by the other participating classes. Each teacher posted their students’ work to our ccGlobal Google Site and then a TodaysMeet link was added for each class, where students could give feedback without needing to sign in or use an email address. Besides the digital citizenship piece, we asked that students not use their last names and identify their school. Unfortunately the links to these comment boxes have expired.
For the 2013 ccGlobal project, we are focusing on a favorite holiday tradition. There is still the openness in terms of how students display their work, but like last year, all work, or links to work, will be housed on one Google Site.
Technology used to help students connect:
Twitter (twitter.com/bkayser11) – to build connections with other teachers, to have students tweet other class Twitter accounts
Ustream – to stream student events
Skype – to share work or to be an audience for other classes
Google + – to collaborate virtually with one or more classes (Dot Day hangout)
Edublogs – to share work and receive feedback
Google Sites – to curate work in one location
Snail mail – to share writing “the old-fashioned way”
TodaysMeet – to comment on each other’s work without needing to sign-in
Tumblr – to have students post their work in a quick, convenient way
Instagram – to showcase student work and for students to showcase each other’s work
(all of these technologies are free)
Walton’s Ustream channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/walton-wildcats
Burley’s Ustream channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/burley-bears
Instagram – @burleywriters
It’s safe to say that Twitter is here to stay. Regardless of whether you Tweet or not, for sure you’ve felt the #impact of Twitter, whether it’s @tv, @home, or @work. While most of my students don’t have Twitter accounts yet, they have used the one set up for the 6th grade, @waltonwriters. Students are also learning how to use FakeTweetBuilder, a free fake Twitter generator.
While the site is not perfect, as it only allows you to have six lines of dialogue in the image before cutting you off, meaning you have to copy and paste a longer “fake” conversation multiple times, it is an awesome site for simulating a Twitter conversation. I’ve used it during novel studies for kids to imagine what characters might have said had they been on Twitter or to replay an important part of the novel in a different way. Here’s what I love about this process:
- easy check for comprehension of text
- engaging for kids
- kids learn the language of Twitter
- allows for creative use of user ID names based on the character’s personality
- allows for customization of avatars and other graphics, but also not required, depending on how much time there is for this activity
- utilizes tech skills, from copy and pasting text to saving images to their computer and uploading to either email or their blog for turn-in
There are also many uses for this. Some of the ways I’m thinking of using FakeTweetBuilder include:
- conversations between characters in the same book
- conversations between characters in different books
- conversations between historical figures
When students finish, their final image can be hung in their classroom, posted to the class website, or posted to their individual blog. And, unlike MyFakeWall (which is up for auction for $84 right now), FakeTweetBuilder doesn’t have the glitches that will frustrate students.
When I became the web page coordinator of my school’s website four years ago, my main job was making sure the teacher web pages were correctly linked and that important announcements were posted to the website about twice a year. Getting the stipend check felt more like a handout than a check that I’d earned, but that would soon change.
With the help of administration, the Walton website quickly turned into a hybrid of a school site with the typical links to teachers’ pages and resources along with news of what was happening. As the updates became more frequent, more teachers began utilizing this outlet as a means for getting their news out there. Throw in some fancy graphics courtesy of one assistant principal, and within two years the web page coordinator was a full-time stipend.
The next year, it grew even more by embedding a Twitter account on the home page. Most people see the Twitter news of our school not through following us on Twitter but through seeing the embedded box on the homepage of the site. This is another place to give updates to what’s going on, and one of the best ways to let other students, parents, and the community know what is happening in our school is by showing them through pictures.
Enter Instagram. The photo-editing app was voted App of the Year in 2011 by Apple. Instagram earned its popularity through the various filters and effects you could add to your photos, taking ordinary photos and giving them an artsy or nostalgic feel. The app also developed an easy sharing method for photos, linking straight to a Twitter account. Thus, every time I publish an Instagram photo, I can link the publication of it to Walton’s Twitter account. If anyone clicks on the link in the school’s Twitter feed, they can instantly see the picture on their computer. The Instagram account can also be followed through Instagram. Simply put, there’s plenty of ways for our community to see what’s going on with our school by publishing a picture once through Instagram.
One of the best parts about using Instagram is being able to share our Instagram page with the students. This allows them to see what’s going on in other parts of the building and gets them excited about contributing to the page. The page is really set up for them, so the shots they can publish are much more meaningful. As more kids talk about the page, it also gets the teachers more excited about sending pictures when I do an email all-call for new pictures.
I hope to expand the Walton Instagram by gaining more student submissions on a regular basis. I’d also like to try out a feature “A Day in the Life” where a student takes pictures throughout the day of what’s really exciting and even the mundane and then have them publish the pictures to the school Instagram. There are many embedded skills students learn in taking and editing pictures for an authentic audience, and building a buzz around this should help students feel more ownership about the place they spend so much time in.
Students are great at showing their voice. Too often, it’s just not how teachers want it. If students can write a coherent rant on Facebook for why they can’t stand school but they “just can’t master the expository format,” then that student is suffering more from an engagement problem than a writing problem. If you ask a language arts teacher why it’s important to teach writing, a common response will probably be, “Because writing is everywhere.” All good writing has voice, and if writing lacks voice and you’re not reading an instruction manual for installing a garbage disposal, then there’s a problem. As teachers of writing, and that should include teachers of any content, we have to help our students find their voice, and the truest way to do this is to give students choice in the writing they engage in and the modes they display their writing, their voice will be heard and appreciated by many.
Last year, I started Global Fiction Readings for my students in language arts. After students edited their writing pieces, they practiced reading it with a partner. After much practice, we went to our school’s library and broadcast students reading their pieces to the world through UStream. At first, other teachers were skeptical that this was more of a distraction than something important. Students were also tentative to share, unsure of what exactly a Global Fiction Reading was. For our first reading, only a few students from my one class participated, and at the time, they did not know exactly who they were reading to, as all they could see was their classmates and an intimidating webcam staring at them. At the end of the reading, I was able to share what people shared about their readings. Students who participated were impressed that college professors in other states, other classes, and teachers on planning tuned in to hear what they had to say. Not only did students receive instant feedback from their peers through laughter and gasps, but they saw that their audience was much more expansive than the walls of their classroom. When I shared with them that their superintendent watched their readings, they nodded. After explaining that a superintendent was our principal’s boss, a collective “ooh” went through the crowd. One student said that he didn’t think his piece was very good, but realized it was funny once his classmates laughed. This was reinforced by a teacher from Australia commenting that she enjoyed the piece by our “little comedian.”
For students’ second creative writing piece, there was a dramatic improvement in effort and care to craft an original, engaging story from students who had participated in the reading. They wanted to be great, and not because they wanted a grade in the grade book, but because they knew they would be sharing their work with the world. More students from our class chose to participate in the second Global Fiction Reading, with other teachers joining in as well.
One student with an intellectual disability found her voice through telling stories about our school. Each day, she would take a picture of something happening in our school (the place or subject of the photo was her choice). She would then edit her photograph, save the edited version with captions, and then upload that picture to a Tumblr site. This site was then shared with others so they could see what she did. It was very motivating for this student to tell people that she had done her photo for the day as well as asking people if they’d seen her latest post. Not only did this student improve her writing skills as she worked on this year-long project, but she was able to practice independence, engage in high level thinking on a consistent basis, and receive authentic feedback from an authentic audience for her work. Because these elements were in place, the project was looked at more as something fun to work on than an assignment that had to be completed.
Students are also able to realize that their voice is more than how loud you speak. It’s what you put out into the world about yourself, and the mode with which you give the world your voice is entirely negotiable. Just as no two students in a class have the same voice, their paths to letting the world hear their voice will probably be very different. As a teacher, it’s important to help students find the mode students can be most engaged in. Some students may be natural comic makers while others are budding film directors. Not every mode will or should be the conventional five paragraph essay (don’t know when the five paragraph essay is a good thing, ever), and that’s okay. Students may choose a mode to bring forth their voice that the teacher is entirely unfamiliar with, and that too is okay. If a teacher is always comfortable in their class, then that’s exactly what it is – “their” class. A truly student-centered class will shift the power of learning and the power of voices to the students, which means the teacher will not always be the holder of all knowledge. If this makes the teacher feel uncomfortable or unprepared, then that teacher has made a great first step towards becoming a learner again. What I’ve learned from experience is that when students are in the driver’s seat, not only are they great at teaching me new things, but that we become a true community of learners that all enjoy class more.
Today my sixth grade students Skype’d with a kindergarten class to teach them about patterns. We started with a focus on ABAB-type patterns and as the students got those right, the sixth graders created patterns of a higher-level difficulty. We ended the Skype with one of my students writing 9, 18, 27 on the board and groaning when one of the kindergartners said, “It goes up by nine.” When asked how he knew, he said he figured it must have because the first number was nine and then he added nine to nine. The reasoning of this five year-old was spot-on and I know the sixth-graders were able to learn something from him, even though they thought they’d be in the driver’s seat the entire time. If they didn’t already realize it, they realized after the Skype that we can all learn something from someone else, regardless of age. It was also fun to watch the excitement as they tried to create new patterns and show them to the kindergartners before realizing that these kids would not be stumped. When the call ended and the kids said their goodbyes, I reflected on what had just happened: a group of 12 year-olds just delivered a lesson to a group of 5 year-olds with two teachers present who only jumped in when necessary.
Another observation I was able to make was that the sixth-graders were thinking about how the kindergartners were learning as they created their patterns. They were able to see that once they understood a certain kind of pattern, they were ready for the next level of difficulty. Once they mastered the ABAB, students threw in ABCABC or AABAAB, intuitively knowing that was the next logical step, as opposed to 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and stumping the kids. Even if students aren’t working on a concept they will be tested on at the end of the year, what teacher can argue that they don’t want their students participating in a lesson that has them engaged in how people learn and how to teach others where they’re at?
This kind of learning needs to take place more. It often doesn’t, because teachers of older kids need to stay on track with the pacing guide, obligatory pre-assessments, and other obstacles that get in the way of real learning. In no way am I arguing that older kids should teach younger kids all day, but what I am arguing for is that all older students need to take time to work with younger students, whether it’s a group of high schoolers delivering a writing lesson to middle schoolers or middle schoolers teaching kindergartners about patterns. That kind of learning and responsibility needs to be embedded in our teaching because students would often rather learn from each other and usually kids can teach a concept in kid-speak, which has to increase retention. Unfortunately, this kind of teaching is more of an exception than an expectation at this point.
I’ve heard a lot about some schools in Ireland who teach multi-age classrooms, which puts older kids in a leadership position on a daily basis and sends the message to younger students that they, too, will be leaders of the class one day. While those types of classes probably won’t be happening in the United States anytime soon, what we can take away is that we need to think about the types of situations our students are in on a daily basis. Are they consumers, sitting in class, digesting information, and spitting it right back, or are they more of a combination, learning, collaborating, and creating at high levels that not only gives them a deeper understanding of the curriculum but also improves their communication, collaborative, and higher-order thinking skills at the same time?
The sixth-graders will definitely be delivering more lessons in the future to younger learners, but I also hope to connect with some older students and have them be able to work with the sixth-graders. It would also be great if some of the younger classes could teach us about what they’re learning. Every kid needs to know they have skills and talents to help others, and if they truly believe that, it makes learning happen for everyone while knocking down the traditional confines of their classroom.