My colleague and I offered fifth grade students this writing prompt as part of our current unit of inquiry - Who We Are. Our central idea is "Conflicts transform communities," and although I have some hesitation defining "who we are" with an emphasis on conflicts, it does make for an interesting lens as we study the Civil War, food webs and interdependence, and persuasive arguments.
I notice many of the students personalized the writing, rather than connecting it explicitly to the curricular standards, but I love seeing the diversity of students' responses, so with their permission, I'm sharing some of them here.
What's worth fighting for?
One of my librarian courses this semester was about instructional technology, and I loved getting to try new apps and tools. I have asked my students to use Book Creator before, but I had never made a complete project myself.
I'm sharing this short book, which can be read aloud to you if you use Chrome. I borrowed some vocal talent from a semi-reluctant teen for the complaining relatives in the story! I'm thinking of giving students the option to choose one of the four design challenges presented in this book for a maker exercise this week . . . and then extend it by having them design their own maker challenges in digital twisted fairy tales that they create. It might be a great exchange idea for our Canadian buddy class, too.
Digital storytelling is incredibly hard for fifth graders to do well, as it involves so many decisions. Topics, research and content, organization, voice, presentation, and editing all involve choices that can quickly become overwhelming. That's why I waited until the end of the school year to ask students to create a TED Talk, applying skills such as research, organization, and the use of digital tools.
Students were invited to choose any topic that was appropriate for school that they cared about. The message needed to have at least one goal: to make others understand, to make others care, or to inspire others to change (take action). Our topics included the appeal of graphic novels, the importance of art in our lives, how people treat each other, and why bees should matter to humans. See some examples below!
We don't have great audio tools to easily record students, so even though we watched some TED talks to get the feel of the experience, we weren't able to stand up and speak and get a good quality recording. Instead, students introduced their short films in class and let those pieces do the speaking, and then we took questions and comments afterward.
Our revision process included "consultation time" with class experts who offered feedback about messaging, presentation (visuals or sound), and editing. Although the final products contain some errors and places that could be refined, student ownership is strong in these works, and each one has improved from its original version. We are still considering how we might be able to present our pieces to a live audience, but for now, we're excited to share ideas online. We hope you enjoy the work!
The Importance of Art
You Should Probably Have a Chicken
Adopt a Dog
Why Bees Matter to Humans
I recently created a movie to explain Exhibition to students, teachers, and parents. This was my first time using WeVideo (you may notice the free version tag gracing the upper right hand corner), and I was glad to explore the tool.
I very much wanted to include student interviews and reflections in this film, but access to good sound equipment is still a struggle: our iPads pick up a lot of background noise and can't record soft-spoken students well, even just a few feet away. Next time, I hope to capture student reflection quotes throughout the process.
Have you ever been on a long car trip with an impatient driver? He's only thinking about the destination, and wants to end the trip as soon as possible. He resents it if people ask to stop, is irritated by excess traffic, and complains about the highway conditions, the cleanliness of the car, and the fact that they should have left two hours earlier, as he suggested.
With a broad set of curricular standards, it's easy for teachers to become like an impatient driver on a long trip. There are billboards (benchmarks) and mile markers (units) along the way, and a lot of traffic (educators) moving in the same direction that can make teachers anxious about arriving at the intended destination on time.
With inquiry, it's inherently inefficient. Students aren't climbing into optimized vehicles with perfect road conditions; they're heading toward a point of interest, and this can involve some wandering, some stumbling, and some backtracking. In our travel analogy, inquiry is like when you see a sign that says "Come See the World's Biggest Doughnut," and the driver says, "That sounds fascinating! Let's go check it out!"
I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of students and families in IA, CT, NC, MO, TX, and Canada.