Reader’s Workshop-Tech Adventure Style!

This last week I started a reader’s workshop unit with my 6th enriched language arts students. Once again, I didn’t quite follow the prescribed curriculum…….

The unit was originally to be a lit circles unit. I didn’t do lit circles for two reasons:

  1. There aren’t enough copies of books to do lit circles
  2. I don’t think lit circles give enough freedom of choice
    1. I have students in this class reading at grade level to 12th grade–how can I expect them to read the same book?

So, I decided to do a reader’s workshop model. I’ve taught reader’s workshop one time before, and it was focused around graphic novels. (That is another blog post–Ss read graphic novels and then drew their own! It was pretty amazing.) The objectives to be taught during the unit were focused around literary terms, so I set up my workshop around stations focused around literary terms. Students will go to two stations every class period, spending about 25 minutes at each station. There are 6 stations, and for each “rotation” (going through each of the stations one time) there is a literary term that is being focused on. So, here are the stations:

  1. Reading time
    1. Students read silently and then keep track of their reading in a reading log.
  2. Literary term work
    1. Students watch a video detailing a literary term. They then write a paragraph responding to a question dealing with the literary term.
      1. This is being done with a google doc with linked YouTube Videos. Students got the doc through Classroom.
  3. Reader’s response journal
    1. Students choose one prompt out of several to write at least a paragraph response to. The prompts focus on their reaction to their own personal book, but are also focused on whichever literary term is the term for that particular rotation.
  4. Makerspace!
    1. Students create something (I have several projects, but that’s another blog post)
    2. Students record a video reflection of their creation and post to our Google Classroom class for others to see
      1. Students are using YouTube’s feature of “my Webcam.” They then get the link and upload as a class comment to an announcement post in Classroom. If my students were older, I would probably have them create their own channels and post that way.
  5. Vocabulary
    1. Students find 5 words in their book that they didn’t know. They then fill out the definition and synonyms and antonyms for the words
  6. Grammar
    1. Students work on standards-aligned lessons on the site No Red Ink. They then go back to their writing from stations 1 and 2 to correct any grammar errors (focused on the concept from the grammar lesson).

We are doing 5 rotations; each rotation lasting approximately 3-4 days. At the end of rotations, students will write a book review of their workshop book (focusing on the 5 literary terms which have been studied). This review will then be published to the web (in a Google Doc format). We’ll make a short url for the review, and print off this link. Then, each link will be taped inside the actual book the student read in our school media center. Not only will this create an authentic audience, but it will also give useful information to other students in the school about what books to read.

So far, it is really going well. Some stations are more of a hit than others; some stations seem to be using more critical thinking (or different types) than others as well. Students are creating some really amazing things, and they are for sure loving the choice and ability to spend time reading something they love and reflecting upon it.

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!