Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Writers' Workshop

Hello Families,

Two weeks ago our class was fortunate to have a team of teachers come to work with us for two days. With the help of pedagogical consultants Wendy King and Dale Mackenzie, and Sutton Elementary teacher Cathy Canzani, students wrote and compiled ebooks in just nine hours of class time.

The week before, students had been placed into teams and had been asked to complete a story map. The theme I choose for them to write about was beauty. They were asked to consider what is beauty, and whether it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We discussed what beauty could mean, how a moment in time could hold beauty, as could the perfect athletic moment, or a special relationship could be beautiful. Student teams produced very different ideas, from ideas of beauty and romantic love to parental sacrifice, stories inspired from tragic real-life events and stories that followed fairytale conventions. The diversity was very promising.

Monday, Wendy and Cathy led the student groups through the process of storyboarding and then refining their ideas and creating a rough draft. By the end of the day, each team had a story which included a 'snapshot,' a moment in which a scene is described, and a 'thoughshot,' in which the internal world of the character is explored. Students worked very hard to create strong narratives.

On Tuesday, Dale joined us and students used the iBooks Author software to create books which included original photos, drawings, slideshows, audio files, and videos. Students had taken time to decide if they needed costumes or props, and they filmed in and around the school to be able to add widgets to their story.

Two groups decided to use claymation to tell a part of their story. These teams worked with Dale to construct backdrops and build their characters, and used the iMotion app in the iPad to create short stop-motion animation. A very interesting and painstaking process, claymation requires 6 photos per second of video and teams had to think through the movement and dialogue to accompany the animation.

Other teams were able to add special effects to their videos, making it appear that bombs exploded or characters appeared out of a burst of fire. The cool factor was off the charts.

In the last hour of the second day students presented their books to grades four and five. They were very proud of their work, with good reason, and they were able to discuss what they chose to add to the story and why. This project was an excellent example of using technology to enhance learning, and using equipment and applications to do something that cannot be done with pencil and paper. It was very exciting for all of us, and we all learned a great deal.

The final ebooks, available at this link, are worth downloading as a keepsake and to see what your child's team was able to produce.

Many thanks to Wendy, Cathy and Dale, and many congratulations to the students!

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