Published in the local paper!

A class project my students did was published in the paper. In order to teach argument structure, students picked a local issue that they cared about. They then figured out who was a possible change-maker for the issue. Then, they wrote a letter and sent it to that particular change-maker.

Many students received letters back, but even if they didn’t, this was the most engaged that they had been so far this year. It just goes to show you that an authentic audience and purpose really does go a long way.

You can read the article here.



Paper airplanes and Podcasts: demonstration writing

Today we had our intro to our demonstration writing unit. In this unit, students will be writing and recording a podcast that will give directions for someone to create something. Students will be creating something from our classroom makerspace, then other students will listen to the podcast and try to follow the directions in order to make the same product.

This should be really fun. Students are getting to use their creativity in the makerspace. They are practicing communication skills by having to write and then record clear directions. They are also learning how to make and share podcasts. We’ll be using for the recording aspect and then just Google Classroom for sharing them.

As our intro for the unit today, students made paper airplanes and tried to write directions for other students to make the same airplane. These were the steps:

  • Students made their own airplane
  • They then wrote out directions for how to make the airplane
  • In pairs, students were only allowed to read the exact directions that they had written while another student tried to follow the directions and make the airplanes
  • Everyone then reflected and fixed their directions

Of course, there were many failures and many iterations of directions. We also ended the class period by having a contest to see whose airplane flew the farthest. It was a very fun day! Students really learned some valuable lessons about specificity, time order, as well as iteration and how failure can be helpful for success.


Update: End of the unit

We’ve had such a great time with this unit. Here were the rest of the steps we went through.

  1. Students made something from the makerspace. They kept notes while they were making the project. We had some awesome things made out of everything.
  2. Students then wrote scripts for their podcasts in a Google Doc. We emphasized that they were making their own show. Kids really brought their personalities into it and had so much fun.
  3. We then had a recording day. Students used two websites, and Audioboom to record the podcasts.
  4. After all the podcasts were recorded, students listened to at least 3 other podcasts and gave feedback to those peers using email. Students really enjoyed sending each other emails and receiving feedback that way.
  5. The next day was students actually creating at least one other project based on the podcasts. Students sent email feedback this time through email as well. They had so much fun and really learned how difficult the process could be.
  6. Lastly, students self-reflected in a rubric on Google Sheets.


Taking over the library: a recipe for authentic learning

Today was our last day of our reader’s workshop unit. As I wrote about previously, I arrived in this unit to create a constant sense of authentic audience. This was mainly done in two ways: makerspace reflection videos were posted for all students to see and students knew that their final products of book reviews would be put in the library and on Amazon.

Today we went and took over the library with our book reviews. First, all students wrote their reviews in a Google doc. They then changed the sharing setting so that anyone with the link could view. They then used to create short links which were then printed out. Next to the links was the message, “Want to know if this book was good? Read this review from another student here at the school!” We then went and taped these reviews in the inside covers of the books.

Mir was such a great feeling to see my students filling the library with their excitement and anticipation of other students reading their work. They were so excited to know that, not only will their writing be read by someone else, their writing might actually help someone make a decision about a book!

I’ll be posting the reviews to Amazon soon under my account. (I have 6th graders so they can’t do this themselves.) it’s been a great ending to a great unit!

Book Reviews: Finding an Authentic Audience for Reader’s Workshop

I am currently finishing up the second time I’ve taught literary terms through the reader’s workshop model. I’ve loved both times. One thing that I reflected on after my first time teaching with this model was that my students needed more of an authentic audience for their final assessments/creations. So, this go-round students are writing book reviews. We are then posting those book reviews in two places:

  • School Media Center:
    • As shortened links and QR codes in our school media center inside the hard copies of the actual book that each student read. This way, all future students who pick up the book will have a guide to answer the question, “Will I like this book?”
  • Amazon Customer Reviews:
    • As reviews on the listing of the book for purchase on Amazon. I am doing this under my account since my students are too young to do this themselves.

My students are very excited for this interaction and the real audiences that they will reach. More importantly than just simply reaching an audience other than their teacher or classmates, my students know that they will actually be helping inform someone’s decision!

I think that having authentic audiences is a powerful way to motivate and engage students. Even more so, knowing that those authentic audiences will use the product is even better!

Overall, writing a book review and publishing to several places beats writing another boring book report that only your teacher will see.

Advertising with a twist of social justice

So I just started a project with my 8th graders this week. It was not my project originally-credit goes to the curriculum already made. However, I changed the project’s focus to be more relevant and actual than anything we had in the curriculum and I’m loving it so far. Today was one of the best days of year so far, hands down.

First, let me explain the project. So originally, the goal was to teach media literacy, persuasion, and design and presentation skills by having them create a marketing campaign selling a product. They would then present their campaigns. I (with some help from colleagues of course because I get some of my best ideas from other teachers), decided to put a spin on this project.

To give the students an authentic audience and real-world purpose and relevance, they are taking a social justice issue and creating a product or service to try and fix one aspect of the issue. They already wrote persuasive essays about social justice issues, so now they are actually trying to solve those issues!

These are the phases of the project:

  • Decide on a social justice issue
  • Come up with a product/service which can solve part of the issue
  • Mock up their product
  • Design a logo along with a company name
  • Analyze their target market with demographics, psychographics, behavioral features, and geographics
  • Write a paper with the above features
  • Create a marketing plan which they must present to me
  • Make rough sketches of their minimum 2 ads (they can choose from print, social media, video commercials, or podcasts)
  • Create their ads using actual graphic design/video apps/sites
  • Present their campaigns to actual community members (Shark Tank style)
  • The best campaign from each class will be published in an article in a national Edtech magazine!

I really wish we could spend a whole semester or year even on this project. I wish that I could partner with other teachers in the school so that we could actually see their products/services come to fruition in real life. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen this year. I hope next year it will.

What’s also been great is that we’ve had several community members come in and talk to us already. We’ve had one entrepreneur, one marketing executive, and one graphic designer. That has been amazing as well. Their pitches will be done in front of local business people as well. So cool!

If this doesn’t hit critical thinking, I really don’t know what does! They are hypothesizing and problem solving and making and so much more!

Here are some things I’m doing as far as the tech involved (no textbook here, baby!)

  • The whole project is outlined in a Google Doc in which I have inserted a table of contents for easy navigation. It’s a big doc, so table of contents is a must.
    • Students are working in groups, so they are working on one doc that is shared and editable between them.
    • I gave the docs to the students through Google Classroom
  • Students are using Google Draw to create mock-ups of their actual products
  • Students are using Canva and Pixlr to create their logos for their companies. Canva is great because it makes the graphic design part so simple. Plus, students can share and work on the same project (just like in Google apps).
  • We have used Google Hangouts to work with community members who wanted to help but couldn’t come to class
  • They’ll be using Canva, Youtube Editor, and Pixlr to create their actual ads.
  • They’ll be choosing an app for their presentations during the Shark Tank pitches. I’ve left it open, but am guessing they’ll be using basic Google presentations or Prezi. Who knows what they’ll use!

Let me know what you think and if you take any of this project and use it yourself!