Tag Archives: Blogging

Lighting Up Literacy


This is Day 5 of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge that I am participating in which is hosted by twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.
After sharing the book “This is the Rope” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome (whom I met 17 years ago and whose illustrations are rich with detail) with my fourth grade students recently, I asked them to create blog entries about a special object or tradition that has special meaning to them and is one that they could pass down to future generations.  The book shares stories of how the rope was used during the family’s journey from South Carolina to New York City during The Great Migration in the early 1900’s through the 1960’s.  As an historical fiction piece of literature, I found it to be a perfect jumping off place to launch into writing.  Students went to their computers in the Computer Lab where I teach, opened their blogs inside of the Gaggle web platform that my district uses and began writing.  A few of them had some difficulty getting started but for the most part, they ran with the assignment.  Some objects that were written about included a Bible, a father’s shirt with his favorite college on it, a necklace given by a grandmother, an XBox, and many others.  I gave suggestions to students who could not immediately think of a topic and encouraged them to write about an object that they enjoyed using now.
I decided later that it would be a good writing exercise to write about an object that was special to me and one that I would want to pass down to my children.  Although I have objects that will always be associated with fond memories throughout my life, I decided to choose a unique glass lamp that has been in my family already for two generations.  I did not know at first which object to choose so I called my mother who lives in another urban town.  It was nice to be able to talk about the topic of a special object over with her because she suggested the glass lamp.  I realized that talking as a way of rehearsing is powerful and will plan to have my student bloggers rehearse by talking about topics in the future before having them compose after just giving the assignment.
My mother lived in a rural town as a child in the 1940’s.  The houses on her dirt road did not receive electricity until the late 1940’s.  In order to read at night, her family would light their three glass lamps filled with kerosene.  The cloth wick would absorb the kerosene causing it to immediately ignite when a lit match touched the wick.  The flame would rise into the long glass cylinder emitting a warm, glowing light.  By this light, my mother learned to read.  The lamp is special because my grandparents used it to light their house then my mother also used it as she read by its light when she was a child.
One of these lamps now sits in my parent’s house having been passed down to her from her parents.  As a child I remember seeing it sitting on display above a cabinet.  My parents lit it a couple of times when our power went out when I was growing up.  I remember being excited to see the light, but also a bit alarmed if the flame rose too tall in the glass chamber.  My dad would turn down the knob which would cause the tall flame to shorten, but still provide a warm glow to the room.  The inner glass surface seemed a bit charred with a brownish hue from the flame scorching it.  It was always an object that had to be used with great care.  Since we had electricity when I grew up, I didn’t see it used often, but knew that it was always there.
This special lamp was a tool that allowed my mother to become a reader, but interestingly enough, I just realized when I called her to rehearse writing ideas that my mother learned to read by its light.  She told me about her reading by its light when I called her and talked about the object that I would choose to write about.  I have viewed it mainly as a relic of the past and valued it due to it belonging to my grandparents.  The lamp has a greensish color in the glass basin that holds the kerosene and demands attention when you walk into the room where it now sits on a chest of drawers.  It has taken on new meaning as I associate my mother’s literacy development as a child with it.  Because she learned to read and valued books, she and my dad always read aloud to me as a child.  Often, we would be sitting in the same room reading where the lamp was located back then.  So, in essence, this lamp witnessed my literacy development too.
I will one day inherit this lamp and share the stories with my own children of how this lamp illuminated our family’s history.  My mother valued teachers so highly in her small town, one room schoolhouse.  She encouraged me to be a teacher because of the value she saw her community place on the role of the teacher.  Doing her reading homework given by her teachers by the light of the lamp, laid the foundation for not only her life, but also for mine.

As I did a Google Advanced Search for kerosene lamps to find a suitable image that was “free to use, share or modify”, I noticed a Foundation called the “Kerosene Lamp Foundation”.  It turns out that it was started by a former NBA player who studied by the light of a kerosene lamp on the island of St. Vincent when he was a child because at that time, it did not have electricity.  I don’t know much about this foundation, but liked how the “About” page described his vision and the significance of its name.  The kerosene lamp is a symbol to the player, Adonal Foyle, of “his mission to brighten the futures of today’s youth”.  Such a great connection to my special object!  Here is the link the the “About” page of the Kerosene Lamp Foundation:


Reflective iMovies

Last December, I decided to introduce how to create an iMovie to my 4th and 5th graders.  As they came to my Computer Classroom, I showed them the following YouTube video which give a nice explanation of how to create an iMovie:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXrIdMVdVNA  I knew that some students already had some prior knowledge of creating iMovies or iMovie trailers from being in my fourth grade class last year or from having their own device.  One fifth grade class had recently even created an iMovie to show area businesses to convince them to support our school as we raise funds to purchase a new playground.  Students were captivated by the video and seemed excited about the possibility of us creating iMovies in the future.

Last week I had my 4th and 5th grade students reflect on the various digital products and projects that they had created in my Computer Class.  After reflecting on the projects that they had done on iPads and on computers, I told them that I wanted them to showcase what they had done by making a Class iMovie.  I showed them the rules for the first K-12 White House Film Festival at http://www.whitehouse.gov/filmfestival which encourages students to make a movie about how they are using technology in schools.  They decided that they wanted to make the iMovie lasting three minutes maximum then have me upload it to my You Tube channel (Maples Channel) and then send the link to the White House.  I divided students into four or five groups per class and had them decide on which digital project that they’d like to talk about and show for around 30-40 seconds on the class iMovie.  Although I had used iMovie trailer templates with last year’s class as they planned their trailers, I decided to have Monday’s classes create their own format for the iMovie.  I asked them to write down their ideas on who would say what about each digital project, but felt that they needed more structure.  After recently reading a new book called  “And Action!  Directing Documentaries in the Social Studies Classroom” by Kathy Swan and Mark Hofer during Winter Break, I knew the importance of having students have a Storyboard to organize their projects and found one I liked at this website:  http://www.packwoman.com/uploads/8/5/0/5/8505687/revised_imovie_unit_plan_pdf.pdf

I printed one Storyboard for each group in each class to use for the rest of the week.  I was thrilled that they embraced the Storyboard sheets which had six boxes with lines under each one to give students an idea of a scene that they wanted to film.  Next, they would sketch out what they wanted the next speaker to say and show.  I was much more pleased with the structure in place to give my elementary students the proper support to plan their iMovies.  I am very excited about the coming week as we will start to film each class as they explain their digital products and projects using Haiku Deck as a presentation tool, Discovery Education’s Board Builder, Hour of Code, Blogging in Gaggle, and apps that they wanted to showcase such as Santa Engineer, Mathamateer, and Science 360.

The White House Film Festival is seeking examples of how students use technology as a creation tool, how students use technology in new ways, and how they use technology to access high quality online content and resources such as the Dreambox, an online  Math program that my school district has purchased.  Some student groups wanted to share how they are using Dreambox and how it motivates them to play a variety of games that adapt to their level.  Other groups wanted to showcase the excellent web resource www.wonderopolis.org and www.ncwiseowl.com which they had used in their research to create their Discover Education Digital Boards.  At my website, bit.ly/elonpark, I had given the following directions at the fifth grade tab during second quarter:  Visit Class DOGO news site below and write a blog post about it in your Gaggle Blog.  Read other students’ blog from your class and write a TAG Comment (Tell something, Ask a Question, Give a Suggestion).

Students are new to blogging but many of them enjoyed reading the Class DOGO article about Batkid in San Francisco, CA then creating a blog entry to describe their response.  They are becoming online communicators and using acronyms like TAG to help them remember how to conduct themselves as responsible members of the digital community.  It will be interesting for me to see how the Gaggle Bloggers group will discuss blogging not just about themselves but also about articles that they’ve read.

When I read “And Action!…” during the Winter Break, I discovered that it is wise to show students three ways to plan an iMovie:  a character driven film, an event driven film or issue driven film.  I introduced the project to students by telling them that the film will be structured as an event narrative so that the viewers can see the series of events or projects that we have done.

I also provided students with an Essential Question to guide their thinking:  The question we want our viewers to consider and explore is this:
“In what ways has technology helped me learn?”

I told them that they would need to introduce the topic in a way that will draw the viewers in. I posed the question, “What image or quotes would you want to use?”  Some students whose natural passions are toward communicating creatively would give great ideas in each class and would arrange themselves to plan their part of the film on the Storyboard sheet.

The White House Film Festival movies are due by January 29 so time is of the essence.  If I had more time, I would allow students to generate a fuller script for each person to say during the movie.  In the future as they research an Essential Question, I will ask them to locate images that support their findings and to create iMovies about these powerful images with developed scripts of narration to read as the images are shown.  The process that I have had them go through has been setting them up to do small group research online then to create an iMovie after careful thought about their presentation by planning it on a Storyboard.  Students need support as they plan presentations and not just be told, “One of your choices is to make an iMovie.”  I think that students who used the Storyboard sheet felt confident as to how they would present their digital product or project and will be able to use this support structure in future iMovie projects.

Giving students the chance to collaborate in small groups to plan their part of the iMovie was a needed scaffold because they were able to frame their piece of the whole movie, so in essence, I used the Jigsaw technique to arrange the class.  Some classes wanted to even bring their own digital devices to my class to show how they are using BYOT during the school day so their part of the iMovie will also contribute to the overall feel of how we use Technology all day at school, not just in the Computer Lab.   Next week, we will put all of the pieces together and film the iMovies!  I will mirror the iPad that filmed the iMovie on the board using our Apple TV, then have students decide how to best edit the video clips of each group, add any voiceovers, add text to screens, and add music.  I will upload their iMovies to my YouTube channel then enter each 4th and 5th grade class into the White House Film Festival by January 29, 2014.   I know that my students will use the 45 minutes that they have in my class to creatively present their group’s digital product and show that they are using technology to communicate, critically think, collaborate and create as 21st Century Learners.  They will be creating documentary, event driven films for the world to see!