22 March 2014

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

Year 8 have been working on a unit about customs and traditions around the world.
Final Preparations on the Exhibition
The unit stems from the novel Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka, set in China in 1911, about a young girl who fights the tradition of foot binding.

In addition to reading and talking about the issues raised in the novel, learners have also worked collaboratively to research customs and traditions of a country of their own choosing. In teams, they decided on a country and set off to find out about it in order to produce an exhibition at the end.

The unit has covered essential information literacy skills as learners explored strategies about how to search for information, as well as how to evaluate the information they found. They also explored how they best take notes, and how to use and reference the information they find.

In order to present their information clearly, learners also looked at how to use presentational devices such as headings, sub-headings, labels, diagrams, bold and bullet points to guide their readers to relevant information. They analysed some non-fiction and focused on how the visual layout can help you understand a text and locate specific detail. Using these skills, learners went on to develop a display using their research and non-fiction knowledge.

Each group had to fill one display board and include:

- a title
- a clearly labelled map
- one piece of non-fiction, informative writing per person with references
- at least six images with caption and references
- one relevant physical object

The exhibition has been set up in the reception and will remain for a fews weeks to be shared with the school community.

See the full unit at bit.ly/nisstiesthatbind.

19 March 2014

The Future of Fiction

Creating an interactive book using iBook Author, Makey Makey and Scratch.
In January, I wrote a post about a unit I was planning that would explore the Future of Fiction with my Year 7s.

We have just come to the end of this great unit, and the work they have produced is amazing.

Creating a story to record on iMotion
This post outlines what we did and what the learners achieved. It also links to the learning site that I built to deliver this unit, which was successful in teaching not only story elements, storyboarding, drafting and creating, but also problem solving and critical thinking.

Our aim was to try to re-tell a story using a technological tool, to see if we think technology can help tell a story. Ultimately, we were trying to decide where we think the future of fiction might be going.

We began by learning about the elements of stories and then used the classic book Where the Wild Things Are to learn about the story mountain as well as plot, character, setting and theme.

Learners had to think about how to retell the story using a storyboard with only eight spaces - meaning they had to concentrate on what was important in order to communicate the story's plot and theme. This helped them really think about how to introduce their story and characters, how to build tension, and how to offer a satisfying resolution.

Creating an interactive book using Makey Makey and Scratch
We then moved on to deciding on a story to retell and a tool to use to do it.

Initially, my idea had been to use one story to focus on the technology not the story. However, as my lessons adapt organically according the needs of the learners (see my post The Book Whisperer) this was discussed and changed.

The learners decided to use their own choice of story, as they all had different ideas and could not agree on one.
I did impose a limit of two people per technological tool in order to allow a spread to be explored (there was much fraught signing up to gain that coveted Minecraft spot). Again though, these were changed along the process according the needs and skills of the learners.
Using iMotion to retell The Very Hungry Caterpillar

As per my previous conversations with the Tech Integrators, I and gave them lots of choices about potential tools to explore before deciding on a final choice.

The learners spent the next two weeks storyboarding, drafting, scripting, painting, crafting, coding, drawing, writing, filming, photographing, creating...

Today, we began to showcase their work. They will look at all the final products and then complete an evaluation.

The Three Little Pigs using iMotion
We ended up with stories re-told using:
- iMotion,
- Inklewriter,
- Book Creator for iBooks,
- Powerpoint,
- iBooks Author,
- iMovie, - MinecraftEdu, and
- Makey Makey and Scratch.

Finally, they will reflect on their learning and write about what skills they have developed, what they think they have learned, what they'd like to improve upon, and what they are proud of.
Creating dough characters for The Girl Who Cried Wolf

At the bottom of this post, there is a video of one of the final products.

Watch the Three Little Pigs interactive book in action -  
created using iBooks Author, Makey Makey and Scratch.

Visit the SHOWCASE for more!

We also incorporated Reading Circles into this unit, to encourage more reading. This tied in with the Red Dot Awards Singapore 2014. The whole learning site I built, can be found HERE.

24 February 2014

Wild Self: Descriptive Writing using Avatars

To practise the great work we have done lately on figurative language, I decided to use the website Build Your Wild Self hosted by New York Zoos and Aquariums.

Learners had to create a Wild Self from the myriad possibilities of the selector tool. They then had to write a detailed description that would allow someone else to try to recreate the avatar they had designed. This meant they had to employ their newly polished descriptive writing skills.

Once they had written their descriptions, learners were put into pairs to read out their descriptions. Their partner had to draw what they heard and then compare to the original to see how well the descriptions had been written.

I enjoyed the cries of, "I used a simile Miss!" when they were drafting their descriptions and the results were incredible. The accuracy of the representations is testament to how well my learners are developing as writers from the opportunity Spilling Ink gives them to explore and play with language outside of formal assessment requirements.

A gallery of some of the recreations along with the original creations are below:-

15 February 2014

Teaching Figurative Language

Sometimes, with all the best will in the world, and even with eons of research and hours of planning, the best lessons are the spontaneous ones. The ones that serendipitously arise from teachable moments. I experienced such as occasion over the past week.

Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory
My Year 8s are learning about different cultures and traditions around the world. Underpinning the unit is the novel Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioke, which concerns foot binding in China at the beginning of the twentieth century. From this, I teach note-taking and search strategies, while groups learn to research customs and traditions of a country of their choice. The culmination of the project is an exhibition of their findings.

A new teacher joined our team part way through this unit. She wanted to have a piece of writing to gauge her class's needs. So, as part of the novel study, we built in personal account writing. I developed the task for my class to write a diary entry or blog post in character about an important event. We discussed purpose and audience, and we learned about past tense and first person. As an extension, we asked for similes and metaphors - but this ended up being a major focus for my class.

Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory
I happened to be reading The Impossible Knife of Memory at the same time, and found some excellent passages, which also led to a reading and analysis of Dulce et Decorum est! We covered more than simile and metaphor, and learned about denotation, connotation, personification and anthropormorphism. This developed into a mini unit that explored how we think and talk about a writer’s choice of language and the effect on the reader.

The results were astounding. Every learner wrote a personal account that showed a detailed understanding of the character using past tense and first person. Each learner included some figurative language. Some learners brought tears to my eyes because of the incredible imagery they used. I was blown away by some learners who, even though they are second language learners, have grasped the concept of metaphor and personification, and have crafted language that brings the emotions of Ailin vividly off the page. I am going to ask permission to share some of their work, as it is truly astounding.

And all from reading the right book at the right time.