Learning from Experience

voice-threadToday I introduced my students to VoiceThread. We used it to reflect on their favourite part of our recent school concert extravaganza: You Can’t Stop the Beat.

Teaching such young students, I find that you can explain and explain all you’d like, but it’s only through real life examples and experiences that a lot of my students start to understand what we talk about as a class.

For example, before they recorded their reflections, the listened to my example and we explored how to record a comment. We talked about the need for each student to use a clear voice and to keep a check on their volume. We also talked about the importance of the other students keeping their voices down and not banging pencils and chairs against tables while someone was recording.

One-by-one, students explored the process of planning what they would say and recording their thoughts.

The results? Mixed.

We had quite a bit of background noise, and a lot of my students are very softly spoken, so even with the microphone some were quite difficult to hear.

I don’t see these results as a loss or a waste of time – over my first two years as a teacher (and a prep teacher at that), I’ve learnt the importance of having a go over having a ‘perfect’ final product. What my students produced today was a great example of a first time product that we can improve.

We had a GREAT discussion following our time listening to all the voicethreads. We started with Yellow Hat thinking (good things), Black Hat thinking (things to be improved) and finally Green Hat thinking (improvements, etc). The ‘good things’ were quite generic with students complimenting those students who spoke clearly and loudly. However, it was the Black and Green hat thinking that I loved and am so proud of my students for:

Black Hat:

  • Talk a bit louder.
  • Only talk when it’s your turn.
  • Some people have to speak out louder.
  • You have to be quiet when it’s someone else’s turn.
  • Don’t shout when it’s not your turn.
  • Don’t call out when people are recording.

Green Hat:

  • We can take a laptop into the corridor where it’s quiet.
  • Take it outside.
  • We can use a different classroom.
  • We can take a computer to the hall.
  • We can use Mr Jackson’s (our AP/ICT teacher) room.

Finally, we reflected on alternative ways to record our reflections (technology-based and not). We can:

  • Talk and record our voices.
  • Write them down.
  • Type it up on the computer.
  • Put it on a piece of paper.
  • Use a digital camera.
  • Record on an iPad/type on an iPad.
  • Use a phone.
  • Use an iPod.
  • Use an iPhone.
  • Show on a TV (photos/video, by plugging devices into the TV).
  • Use a video camera.
  • Draw a picture.
  • Make a poster.

I’m quite pleased with the results, because it really highlights how far they’ve come over the last term. Their thinking has expanded and the level of teacher prompting required during this discussion was quite minimal. Part of the Contemporary Literacy project that we’ve undertaken requires the ability of students to critically reflect on the use of technology – and alternatives to using technology and they’re really starting to show that understanding!

How do you use VoiceThread in the classroom?

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Isabella’s Garden

Isabelllas Garden

Last year, my favourite CBCA Shortlisted book was Isabella’s Garden, by the extremely talented Glenda Millard, with gorgeous illustrations by Rebecca Cool.

Earlier this week I was reading the latest blog post from 2KM and 2KJ about their Book Week celebrations. Now, Book Week is probably my favourite calendar event at school – and has been since I was in primary school. I remember many years of trying to decide on which book character I was going to dress up as for the Book Parade and now as a primary school teacher, I get to do it all again!

(This year I dressed up as Sunday Chutney – apparently there’s a photo floating around, so I’ll need to find it and post it!)

But, going back to 2KM and 2KJ’s blog post, I left a comment for them about how my class would be celebrating Book Week – with lots of reading and lots of art activities and lots of celebrating learning. And I was talking about some of the books we’d be reading as well – not just the 2011 shortlisted books, but also some from last year – including the aforementioned Isabella’s Garden.

I received a lovely comment back from Molly, asking who the author for Isabella’s Garden was and I was happy to reply, and with a bit about why I really adore this particular book.

I’ll even go so far as to say that this book is probably up there with some of my all-time favourite picture-books. I just love the language that Glenda Millard uses to conjure up such wonderful mental images – the repetitiveness of  the phrases she uses and how it depicts the change in the seasons and the life cycle of the plants in Isabella’s garden.

Last year, my prep class loved the book, and I was even happier to be sharing it with my class this year, because I know how much pleasure students can get out of hearing the story – and joining in when they realise that they know the words to the story. It’s quite lyrical in that sense.

These are the flowers that waltz with the wind that ruffles the buds, all velvety-skinned that swelled the shoots that sought the sun that kissed the clouds that cried the rain that soaked the seeds that slept in the soil all dark and deep, in Isabella’s garden.

Recreating Isabella’s Garden:

And, to follow up the reading, my students and I talked about the change in the seasons – and what happens to a garden over the course of a year. Then we talked about how each season can be represented by different combinations of colour (which prompted us to go back to the story):

  • Summer: yellow, orange, green, bright blue
  • Autumn: orange, brown
  • Winter: pale blue, white
  • Spring: bight green, pink, orange, red

Following this we made a very simple paper collage – with 2 rules:

  1. No scissors allowed!
  2. No pencils allowed!

Students created a scene from the season of their choice – a landscape –  using paper ripping techniques and their imaginations.

They were quite apprehensive when I told them they weren’t allowed to pre-draw their images – but once they realised that they were capable of tearing the paper and creating a picture using small bits and pieces they spent quite a bit of time putting together the ‘perfect’ scene. Not a single student complained that they couldn’t do it, or that they didn’t know what to do – and that is the mark of a successful lesson, where everyone can achieve their best work.

Isabella's Garden

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Do you have a favourite picturebook that inspires you?

Do you have a favourite book activity that you would like to share? (I’d love to hear it!)