Creating a Community Timeline Write Up

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Creating a Community Timeline Write Up

  1. 1. 1. Instructional Context This entry features twenty-one third graders in a social studies class. There are eight girlsand thirteen boys, all of whom are eight or nine years old. At this age, students are mostmotivated by their families. Many of the students were born outside of our local community andall have relationships with family members abroad. All but one student come from families withat least one college graduate, and all place high values on their children’s education and futurecareers. Students each have a computer with internet access at home, and are technologicallysavvy. This entry occurred over several days in our school computer lab, when it was available.However, because the lab accommodates the entire school, some of the work occurred in ourtrailer/classroom, where the two computers and interactive white board work inconsistently. Students in this self-contained class are in the highly academically gifted (HAG)program, which pools the students with the highest aptitudes in our district. Students receive anaccelerated and enriched curriculum to meet their unique needs. Some students show theirgiftedness through the speed of their thinking, others show it through the depth of their ideas.There is a wide range of academic motivation and achievement in the class. Several studentshave been identified with attention-deficit disorder, but all students are enthusiastic to usetechnology because it quickly responds to them. Students in the class have mixed learning styles– some are auditory and others are visual-spatial. The class is very active and curious, thoughsometimes competitive because this is the students’ first year in the HAG program. Studentsstruggle to emotionally adjust to a more challenging environment in which they are not the topperforming student in all areas, leading to social disruptions such as interruptions and poorlistening skills. Students join us from across the county and are becoming more independent, sothey are increasingly aware of our community. 1
  2. 2. 2. Planning and Instruction In this portfolio, students learned strategies to analyze visual and auditory informationobtained using the internet in order to create a class timeline of our community’s history. Inorder to bond the class community, students contributed to a collaborative product. Having asense of belonging leads to school success, especially for these students who will be in classestogether until they graduate from high school. Working toward a joint goal encourages studentsto have high expectations for themselves and others, as they hold each other accountable and areincreasingly social throughout the third grade. Students need to read auditory and visual texts with fluency and purpose. While schoolshave historically focused on reading, writing, and math, people experience the world throughtheir senses. At ages eight and nine, my students are still growing in their ability to assess printmaterials and express themselves in writing. This project encourages success in students whohave different learning styles and gives all students strategies to explore various media. Students need to skillfully browse and gather information from digital texts such as webpages, Podcasts, television clips, and online collections of art. This enables them to becomereflective consumers of resources in an increasingly digital age. Students’ ability to analyzedigital texts and use this information to create products will help them become successful inschool and the workplace. When students are familiar with credible digital resources andpractice time management, they have unparalleled resources to achieve their goals. Presentation skills are essential for students to clearly articulate their ideas, to beunderstood, and to be appreciated. I am fortunate to work with students who have high academicaptitudes. However, I realize that their brain power is only useful if it is shared with the world. 2
  3. 3. When students share their ideas, they are proud and validated, and they can teach others theirknowledge, experiences, and unique perspective. Students need to notice patterns in order to predict future changes. Because I teach giftedstudents, my class is adept at noticing patterns – not only in math, but trends and themes in thegreater world. The theme of change over time has been examined in a number of casesthroughout the year – watching the moon wax and wane over the period of a month, observingchanges in a tree over the course of a year, and learning how our community has evolved overcenturies. Understanding this big picture concept will serve as a reference point for students tocope cognitively and emotionally with the inevitable transformations they will go through asthey grow up so that they can be resilient. Students need to become aware of their surrounding community. By participating ininteresting and meaningful activities that relate to our school and the surrounding community,students recognize the relevance of our studies in their lives. As they learn about our communityand their power to influence it, students will become more involved citizens. A number of assessments and observations indicated my students’ readiness to achievethe above goals. Students have successfully completed a number of virtual products, and theirenthusiasm is apparent when technology activities are offered. Conversations with familiesduring conferences and engagement during field trips reveal curiosity about activities and sites inour area. Also, when students share current events, they increasingly reference local events.Students report reading challenging visual and auditory texts independently. Students encounterchallenging texts frequently during school – listening to interviews, examining photos anddiagrams in textbooks, etc., and have noticed themes, such as change over time, in a number ofsubjects. For example, when we read historical fiction, students were quick to compare lifestyles 3
  4. 4. of the past and present. As students present their work, they become increasingly aware of andcritical of their performance. They are more motivated when they can share their knowledgewith an audience outside of our classroom. They are most engaged when working onchallenging and long-term projects, but several students are still attaining organizational skills tomanage time and materials. Checklists and frequent conferences help them stay on track. The skills and concepts learned while creating our community timeline areinterdisciplinary and can be applied to a number of areas. The ability to read visual and auditorytexts is a life skill, for images and sounds surround us that communicate meaning. Whether at anart museum, listening to the radio, or following directions to a local restaurant, students mustdetermine significant information and use it. The theme of change over time can be applied toalmost any study or experience, as change is inevitable. Styles of music change, ourunderstanding of physics changes, friendships change… the list is endless. Skills used in thecreation of a timeline, such as sequencing, determining significance, and presentation apply tomany subjects – math and social studies, in particular. This project integrates all of the languagearts (reading, writing, listening, viewing, and speaking) so that students with differing learningstyles learn skills to develop each component of communication. The technology used in thislesson can be used to study and to present information from a number of different subjects.When students recognize the connection between school activities and our community, they willbecome more engaged in other areas of study. The reflective process “Two Stars and a Wish”that students learned can be applied to any endeavor in order to improve performance. Technology is valuable because it absorbs students and encourages all students to beengaged in their work. Students become active, each busily working at his own pace, rather thanpassive, as during traditional lectures. They feel confident because technology responds as 4
  5. 5. quickly as they do – this means that fast students get an immediate response to their questionsand commands and are not frustrated waiting on others. It also means that students, like thosewho are more reflective or have attention deficit disorder, have time to process their thoughtswithout encountering the impatience of others. Technology responds to the various speeds anddepths of responses from students and gives them choices regarding how to obtain and to displayinformation, while also broadening the audience for student work. Since my students are at anage when they are heavily motivated by their families, and all of my students have contact withfamily members abroad, the ability to share student work and get feedback from outside our classhas been tremendous. I used a number of hardware and software products making our time line. Our classroomreceived an ActivBoard interactive white board in the middle of the school year, and studentresponse to lessons using it has been drastic because it engages visual learners, when traditionallectures were biased toward auditory learners. It also allows me to walk students through theprocess and products they will use. xTimeline is the software students utilized to create ourtimeline because it sequences and formats the images and information students submit. It alsoallowed all students to log on to one account at the same time so that we could contribute to thesame product. VoiceThread is an application that utilized a web cam in order to record studentsas they respond to an unloaded image. Students used this program earlier this year andexpressed the desire to use it again because students at this age are more comfortable respondingin speaking than in writing. I used a number of digital data resources making our time line. We watched an archivednews clip from a station in another part of our state and visited our state website to gatherinformation about historical mile markers. We listened to two radio Podcasts about minor league 5
  6. 6. baseball mascots and stadiums, then went to the website of our new minor league team andsubmitted suggested names for our new mascot because we’ll visit the new field this spring. Wewent to two museums’ digital art collections. We also searched in a collection (Digital Forsyth)of local historical photos. Our classroom is becoming more comfortable speaking and respectfully listeningthroughout the year. This unit allowed the school technology coordinator and me to practice andto model collaboration. Time in the computer lab allows my students to see me as a facilitator,rather than as a source of information. I am more able to offer suggestions and support whilemoving among the students to confer about their progress, so they are able to practice speakingand listening with me. Student roles shift when using technology because they become peercoaches and tutors, assisting each other and sharing their discoveries throughout the process.Students are empowered and confident as they use tools that professionals use, because they aretrusted with expensive equipment and complicated software and their work is valued. Theinteraction and attitude of students with less initiative or facility for traditional activities in classimproves with technology use. Students actively apply our school’s motto, The 3 R’s, to theirwork. They are respectful of themselves and others by assisting and encouraging classmates.They are responsible to use their time and do offer their best effort. They are reflective whenthey review their work and behavior and consider how to improve it. These attitudes are keysocial skills that will continue to develop over time, and will be useful throughout school andinto students’ careers. Establishing a learning environment in which students feel comfortablespeaking and are respectful learners is a year-long endeavor. Because this group is prone tointerruptions and teasing, I make a point of planning collaborative activities in which childrenare encouraged to talk. 6
  7. 7. 3. Video Analysis This lesson focuses on analyzing visual art and social studies as we learn about ourcommunity. It was the second of several lessons in which I taught students techniques foranalyzing audio and video texts using the interactive white board. Students had previously beenassigned a piece of art to locate and to analyze during a field trip. Upon returning, students inthis lesson reviewed the process of analyzing images, and selected another piece they had seen atthe museum to analyze because the first analyses were inconsistent in quality. Between thevideo clips, students explored a variety of resources to help them gather information about ourcommunity. Students analyzed a number of images, audio clips, and video clips. Throughoutthe project, I gave students increasing amounts of choice in the images they selected andencouraged personal connections to these selections. The analyses from all sources wereincorporated into a class timeline using xTimeline. During the second clip, students revisitedVoiceThread to create a self-reflection about their contribution to the community timeline. Afterthe video recording, students participated in a “Think Pair Share”, in which students reflected onthe benefits and drawbacks of creating a community timeline using xTimeline, discussed theirfindings with a partner, and shared their thoughts with the group to pass on to future classes. Students clarified their listening skills as I led a discussion reviewing what studentsrecalled when visiting a museum exhibit. This effectively activated prior knowledge, asstudents’ comments reflected increasing depth, from the boy in black’s comment “some places inNew York” to Emily’s (off screen), “We heard about he loved city life and he wanted to makesure other people knew what it was like, so that was why he painted all of those paintings”.Students used visual cues and context while I gave directions to clarify vocabulary terms, such asquadrant, vertical, horizontal, foreground, and background, like when the boy in camouflage 7
  8. 8. pointed out the mountains in the background. While I explained, then modeled the analysis of animage, students went through the quantitative process of labeling key facts in a heading andlisting objects in each quadrant fairly easily. Inferring significance of the objects, connecting thecommunity in the image to our community, listing questions, and considering where to find theanswer to those questions are more challenging qualitative skills for students. This activity issignificant because my students are surrounded by visual texts, yet often disregard them assources of valuable information in textbooks, on field trips, and in class. I utilized “Two Stars and a Wish” as a method for students to react to their completedcommunity timeline. Students were asked to reflect on two things they were proud ofcontributing to the community timeline and one thing they would like to improve. Thisdocumentation will be reviewed when students create individual timelines as part of a laterbiography unit. I gave the instructions using VoiceThread so that students would have asubconscious reminder of how to navigate in the program and to visualize their audience.Following filming, students performed a “Think Pair Share” in which the class discussed benefitsand drawbacks of the tools we used to create our timeline, and shared these results so that futureclasses could work efficiently. By setting the purpose to reflect and to plan for future instruction,discussions were effectively guided. My interactions with students guided, then gradually released student responsibilities. Ifirst explained, then modeled the steps in the analysis of visual products. The process of analysiscan be applied to any visual text in any context. Opening the discussion with a review orprevious experiences at the museum activated prior knowledge. I explained then showedexpectations, and allowed questions so that students would clearly know what to do. I askedleading questions to guide students in the desired direction in the conversation, “I’m not just 8
  9. 9. standing in front of it in any way. Justin, what else do you notice?” This prompts students tolook closer at the image. I connected the photograph I analyzed to our scientific study of plantadaptations so that students would recognize their ability to apply this skill in all content areas. Itaught a similar process for analyzing auditory texts, and students had repeated practiceopportunities using a variety of digital media between the two clips filmed. We had someproblems as students edited others’ work on the timeline, and respect had to be reinforced.Students are encouraged by comments of visitors to our timeline. xTimeline also allows studentsto add events to our timeline, so it will be a work in progress as we learn throughout the year. A variety of accommodations were made to meet the needs of diverse learners whencreating our community timeline. Throughout this lesson, I provided opportunities for responsesin writing and speaking, as when students write analyses of visual texts and speak to the camerato reflect on their work. Using the ActivBoard, students were able to read or to listen to theexample, depending on their preferred learning style. Student choice in selecting a piece of art toanalyze encourages them to pick a piece that reflects their personal background or interests. Inclass conversations, I model wait time, so that students who need more processing time are notdisrupted when they are sharing their ideas, as when Sophie slowly pauses when saying“You’re… obviously… in a place where it’s very hot”. I periodically called on Sam to ensurehe comprehend the conversation, because he is an at-risk learner. I adapted the number ofrequired timeline entries for students who were particularly successful or struggling so that theycould complete their work in the allotted time in the computer lab. The quality of analyses Iexpected varied depending on the students’ needs. For example, I have a student who is learningdisabled in writing, so I was less critical of conventions in his writing. One boy who hasattention deficit disorder worked with a partner to whom he dictated his responses. 9
  10. 10. 4. Reflection Varying levels of progress were made toward achieving the goals of this lesson. Studentsare noticeably more skilled at reading visual texts. When we visited a local museum for a fieldtrip, the docent commented on the students’ thoughtful analysis of paintings. Students are alsomore apt to examine and refer to photographs in textbooks and the newspaper during classactivities. Students are gaining skills as they practice gathering information from digital sources.They are more willing to try several keywords in a search, and our school media coordinator hasdocumented increasing diversity in the use of community and internet sources among students.Students are familiar with a broader variety of digital sources with authority, but unfortunatelystill often rely on more convenient resources, such as Google and Wikipedia, rather thanreviewed resources. Parents have commented on students’ increased awareness of ourcommunity’s geography, as students have pointed out highway markers, the upcoming baseballstadium, and other landmarks during local drives. Qualitatively, students have been more helpfuland attentive to others since this project. Students are confident using new technology and aremore willing to present to their peers because of the positive feedback from family members. Ifeel that I met the needs of visual and auditory learners because I presented information usingboth visual and auditory means, and students were encouraged to express their ideas using bothwriting and speaking. In the future, there are some adaptations I would like to make to this project. Next year, Iwould like to introduce a community timeline at the beginning of the school year so that therespect, responsibility, reflection, and collaboration could be reinforced sooner. I enjoyedcollaborating with our technology facilitator, and would like to plan computer lab time more inadvance so that parents might be able to come in and assist students as they learn new software. 10
  11. 11. I would also like to encourage more parents to comment on digital student work in my weeklynewsletter. I was proud of how students have become more independent problem solvers andhave coped with the inevitable technical difficulties we encountered. I would continue to givestudents as much free choice about the items they want to add to the timeline, as that seemed toengage them. Rather than e-mailing or using my class website to communicate information tofamilies, I would like to establish a class wiki where parents, students, and I could all contribute. I feel that students made the most growth as viewers and reflective speakers. Theirnewfound strategies for analyzing images can be applied across subjects and locations. We livein a society rich with visual texts – billboards, advertisements, photographs in textbooks, internetsites, the list is endless. My students now have strategies to analyze these. In the future, I would like to have more time in the computer lab to allow students toexplore. Students used VoiceThread in a previous unit, and have shown that they are moreindependent with its use, both in terms of being able to maneuver through the software as well asspeaking to an audience and being more comfortable in front of the web camera. Now thatstudents are comfortable with xTimeline software and with collaborating as a group, I would likefor them to use it in future studies individually, such as when we write biographies. I would like for students to contribute to our Community Timeline throughout the year,such as when we go on field trips. I plan on extending this project so that students will each addan organization that contributes to our community and needs support. I think that hosting afundraiser or service project would have a better response and would benefit from ouradvertisement. The activity pertaining to the baseball team is especially significant because wewill be participating in a reading challenge this spring, and will be having a night at the ballgameto celebrate the end of our school year. 11

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