Too many curriculum objectives and too little time! What to do?
A fun activity using technology not only achieved a number of curriculum goals but it raised my Grade 3 students’ level of enthusiasm to new heights!
I was feeling a bit overwhelmed when I considered my ‘to do’ list.
In Language Arts, our curriculum expectations list that students will:
- Reading: read a variety of texts and demonstrate understanding of the important ideas and supporting details
- Writing: write for an intended audience using editing, proofreading, and publishing skills
- Media Literacy: create media texts using knowledge of language conventions
Our Information and Communication Technology outcomes require students to:
- Use technology tools to communicate through multimedia
- Compose, revise, and edit text
- Navigate and create hyperlinked resources
- Use communication technology to interact with others
My primary students had Kindergarten reading buddies that we met with once a week. Students were paired up and had a 30 minute session in the library or classroom where the older student read a picture book to the younger child. Both grades loved this activity and although it had a wealth of academic, personal, and social benefits, it wasn’t listed in the curriculum but neither the students nor the teachers would consider missing a session.
Could I possibly combine all these issues in one fun, meaningful, and effective learning experience?
The Kindergarten teacher’s collection of those delightful little white square storybooks, the Mr. Men and Little Miss series came to the rescue! I noticed that these books were the fan favorites of both younger and older children. Whether it was the funny characteristics of the main characters that we see in ourselves, the simple illustrations, or the size of the books, I don’t know, but they were hugely popular!
Here’s the activity that to my surprise, turned out to be wildly successful:
Read the Storybooks
During reading buddy sessions, student pairs had to read at least one Mr. Men and Little Miss book. If they read more than one, they should pick a favorite.
Create Digital Storybooks
In the computer lab, each Grade 3 student created a Mr. Men and Little Miss digital book. Summarizing the plot of the book, they made a series of pictures with a sentence of text on each page. Most students used about 5 pages to retell the story, but it could be done with as little as 3 pages. Of course, then a few adventurous and industrious children went to town and created much more lengthy renditions. Some were unstoppable and even went on to make more than one book. Did I mention it was an immensely popular activity?
The program we used was HyperStudio but Microsoft PowerPoint would work equally well. Students wrote the summary as one sentence and drew a picture on each page, then connected the pages with buttons. We borrowed the actual books from the Kindergarten teacher for computer lab time, as students asked to refer to the story and its illustrations for their own recreations.
The beauty of this series is that the drawing technique can be easily emulated by young children. Any program that allows students to draw with a solid black line and then use a fill bucket to color the shape will work. My students had used HyperStudio and the drawing and text tools previously, so the only skills that needed to be introduced was the task of retelling a story with a sentence and a picture on each screen and the skill of creating a button. Otherwise, some pre-teaching in the form of skills introduction and practice would be required.
Share and Celebrate
The most excitement occurred when it was time to show the digital storybooks to the Kindergarten reading buddies. My students were thrilled to have their young friends come to our computer lab period and demonstrate their creativity. To involve both partners, the Grade 3 student opened the story file and read the text, but had the Kindergarten student click the buttons to move from page to page.
If we had more time, I would have had the Kindergarten students rotate from computer to computer to view the work of other students. However, for the next lab period, my students asked if they could look at each others’ stories and so we spent a session sharing once again. This had to be the sign of a successful project!
Perhaps it was a lucky break that these curriculum expectations and classroom activities worked so well together, but I’ve found that learning experiences using the computer are most effective when they are meaningful to the students. If children can see the relevance of an activity to their own lives, they are most likely to be keen to learn the skills required. If you’ve had a similar experience, I’d love to hear about it.