This is Day 18 of 31 of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge from twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Recently, all of the second graders at my school chose a person who was famous to read about through a biography. When they came to the Computer Lab, they used http://www.instaGrok.com and softschools.com/timeline to read more biographical information about their chosen person. As a home project, they created special posters with head cut outs to allow them to stick their faces through. The rest of the poster was decorated with the hair and clothes that would look like the famous person. They shared their famous people in wax museum style by having parents come to school and hear each “wax” figure or second grader holding the poster, speak as if the second grader was the famous person. They also paraded around the bus parking lot holding their posters.
Since I only see them once a week for 45 minutes, I had them take notes using the categories that appear on the “Real Person” template found in the Trading Cards App. I have mentioned this app before back in the fall of 2013 when I had my third graders use it, but decided to use the app with second graders now. I put pictures of a sample digital Trading Card at the top of my post.
I placed each category from the Trading Cards template for “Real Person” on a sheet which each student used to guide them as they researched in the Computer Lab. Even after having read a biography about their person, I was a bit surprised with many of them not understanding what the word “significance” meant. I explained that if something was significant, then it was an important part of the person’s life and probably caused their lives to be memorable. Still, a lot of second graders just needed to hear that significance meant an important fact from the life of the person. They also seemed to struggle with what to write to describe the personality of the person whom they had researched. I discussed character traits such as respectfulness, kindness, determination, perseverance and caring as traits that stood out as notable. Even after seeing me model how to research George Washington’s life while taking note of his personality traits like being determined and driven by goals, they seemed to not be able to easily infer the character traits of their famous people.
I have learned in this process that children need many experiences analyzing real people or book characters and need adults talking through the process of inferring character traits to build their understanding of how to describe a character’s personality and significance. I would say, “So what is he famous for doing” to a child who had studied Neil Armstrong. The child would say, ” He went to the moon.” I would reply with, “What kind of traits would he need to be successful in going to the moon?” The child would tell me that Neil was brave and smart. Personality traits did not instantly come to their minds so my scaffolding was needed to allow students to generate their digital trading card.
I like how the Trading Card app forced students to consider how to describe the personality and determine significance. As students tapped on each box on the iPad, they were prompted with a question so not only did they type what was on their sheet that they had researched, but they also could generate more thoughts by considering the questions for each box. Usually, there is a 120 character limit for each box so they had more than enough room to type in each box. Students imported pictures of themselves holding their biography posters or they imported pics of the famous person from he internet. Overall, the Trading Cards are turning out to be adorable!