Carolina Gallegos – Drama teacher
Clara González – Year 6 English Language teacher assistant
Karen Roberts – Year 6 English Language teacher
Phase 1: Biographies
As said in our previous post, our main objective was to provide the children with a new environment in which they would be able to read, investigate, interact and discuss on different topics in order to reinforce the English Language curriculum. We wanted to promote and enhance literature appreciation, fluency, creativity, technology skills, digital and global citizenship, collaboration and innovation.
We had a big challenge ahead so we decided to start focusing on digital citizenship for the kids to have a clear idea of what was expected of them regarding ethical and safe use of technology.
Digital citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.
“Students need to be educated on how to be good citizens of their country and what their rights and responsibilities are as members of society. The same issues need to be addressed with regard to the emerging digital society, so that students can learn how to be responsible and productive members of that society.”
Mike Ribble, Digital Citizenship in Schools
Even though our students have access and use technology on a daily basis, we wanted to refresh the idea of responsible use of technology focusing our attention on safe web searching and the responsible use of technology for learning.
The kids had the opportunity to think about, learn, reflect and discuss about safe and responsible web searching. Nancy, one of our IT teachers, guided them through this process while kids evaluated different web sites taking into consideration their authors, publishers, objectivity, topic development and how to verify their contents.
We began our Monday library periods with the sixth graders and decided to share our big idea for this year with them. Our objective was still to provide the children with a space where they could read, investigate and discuss among each other. We wanted the kids to really understand that having the possibility of using technology at the library did not mean that we were going to do away with books, on the contrary we wanted them to understand that the physical books we have in the library are still considered a valuable resource and that we were going to use them.
We told them that throughout the year we were going to cover different topics that were going to reinforce the English Language curriculum and what was going to be expected from them. In addition, we told them that they were going to have the opportunity of working both independently and in a cooperative way. We emphasized on the idea that reading is thinking, and that while we read we are doing so much more than just reading.
We started working on our first topic which was Biographies. We launched the topic with some questions which they worked on in groups, in a cooperatively way. What is a biography? Who is a biography written about? How is a biography organized? and Why do we read biographies? were some of the questions they worked on. While everyone expressed their ideas, they jotted them down and then shared them with the rest of the class.
In our following lesson we invited the kids to choose a person of their interest. We talked about making clever choices and the importance of picking the right person. Someone who has made a difference in this world, someone that has in some way made this world a better place. It was really interesting to see their choices, athletes, artists, world leaders, explorers, inventors, scientists, authors and inspiring people were selected by the children.
Once they had chosen their person of interest, the investigation and research process began. They were given a guideline which would help them while they worked. They had to focus on the person’s early life, career, accomplishments and interesting facts.
Students were allowed to use online resources and books. They watched interviews, read newspaper articles, watched “draw my life” series on You Tube, read information on websites, always taking into consideration what they had worked on previously with Nancy regarding responsible use of technology. They gathered all the information they thought relevant in a graphic organizer.
While this was going on, Nancy helped us once again, and showed us how to create QR codes (quick response codes) using Unitag, an online QR code creator. A QR code is a quick scannable barcode-like image that takes you to a specific digital destination. The code consists of square dots arranged in a specific way that provides information for the user. We thought this would be a great resource to use for the kids to be able to share their research, not only between themselves, but also to the rest of our community.
After several weeks of extensive research, and when they thought it convenient, kids were invited to create a QR code in which they would embed some of the interesting facts of their person of interest and a lesson they learnt from him or her. We told the kids that this was what we really wanted to focus our attention on. The significance of what an individual can teach another through their own life story.
Once the QR codes were ready, the children printed them out and hung them on a freeze where they could be scanned by their classmates during library period. We decided to share their research with the rest of the school, so we placed our freeze at the school entrance hall for everyone to see. This was an interesting way to share information with others providing true interactivity and engagement which meant an effective and efficient way of learning. Working in this autonomous and self motivating way helped our students to take ownership of their research process and literally create “walls that talked”.
We wanted this first phase of our project to stimulate a literate environment, which is fundamental for literacy acquisition and its development. As weeks went by we noticed the kids enthusiasm growing, they worked in an extremely independent way which made us realize that meaningful and relevant learning was in process.