Research to Practice (In progress) – Revision Thinking Through Film

Idea Formation:

After considering my curriculum for the past 2 years with my 9th grade language arts classes, a pattern began to emerge whenever I had students do project based learning. Students would write their formal paper, produce film about their writing, and then either write a secondary piece based on the experience or go back and revise the original writing piece.

As I looked back at the level of engagement and improvement evident in my class data from these project based learning experiences compared to the experiences where students wrote and revised their paper in a traditional drafting process, I started to wonder what exactly was sparking their improvement. This is when I noticed the connection to how they interacted with film. To be completely honest, I did not intentionally incorporate the filming process into their writing process in many of these units. I saw the film as a separate extension for them to engage in. What was really starting to happen was that students were able to use the filming process and their own produced film (whether it was performance based or reflective film of them talking through their projects/process) to think about their written work in a completely different way and notice elements they may have originally been unable to see and address in their formal draft.

As 9th graders (14-15 year olds), students really struggle to think about the writing process and edit their own content. It is comfortable for students to address grammatical and formatting issues that their teacher points out, but actually modifying the content and making sure that they are addressing the prompt to the best of their ability is a major struggle. So, I started looking at how I could highlight and engage them in this process of revision thinking. This led me to a lot of research on the revision process or what I found more often, the lack of revision writing that happens in a classroom. “Revision is essential in helping students learn to write independently because it pushes students to critically consider the effectiveness of their work, yet research indicates that revision is frequently overlooked by students and teachers” (MacArthur, 2013; Witte, 2013). As this statement suggests, I have noticed this in my own school setting, especially in a language arts department where each teacher has 140-150 students they are responsible for. The revision process takes time and that is something that is hard to work into a 43 minute classroom setting where every CCSS standard must be met and 17 days of class time are allotted for state PARCCs assessments.

The result of reflecting on my curriculum, researching revision practices, and the past 2 years of classroom experience with my kids was a desire to create a framework for the writing process that incorporates film and actively helps them engage in revision thinking. “Proficient writers revise throughout composing and use revision to think more critically about their topics as well as hone their work for the audience, making revision as much a process of discovery as it is creating a final product” (MacArthur, 2013; Sommers, 1982; Zito, Adkins, Gavins, Harris, & Graham, 2007). As stated above, revision is about the process more than the final product. The goal of this research to practice experience is to have my students work through this process in order to hone their critical thinking skills about the work they produce. This will be repeated, not only in the unit outlined below, but also in 4 other units throughout the year.

 

CCSS Focus Standards:

*Many standards will be addressed throughout the unit but these are the 3 focus standards.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 9–10 here.)
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Describe the content of the learning experience:

*This is a work in progress and will be updated with supplemental material links, class strategies I plan to use, and other resources/adjustments.

1st Experience will be our narrative writing project. (Write-Feedback-Script-Film-Evaluate/Reflect -Revise)

  1. Students will write group narratives (3-4 students) They will be grouped according to the genre they choose to write in. The writing process will focus on narrative elements and framework we have been studying in class while they constructed their Personal Narrative Projects (first assignment of the year).
  1. Turn in Draft 1 in Google Classroom for feedback from Miss Wallace. This feedback will be in the form of comments on Google Docs.
  1. Revise and resubmit draft for “Green Light” on the scripting process
  1. Write Film Script from story -Dialogue Development – (Resources soon)

~What will transition from the story to the script well?

~What elements of your story can be cut or should be?

~What story elements must be kept for coherency and completeness?

  1. Submit Script Draft (While teacher looks over/offers feedback students are moving into the blocking process). If scripts are formatted correctly and students have a firm grip on dialogue development and pacing then their film will be “green lit” and they will proceed to blocking.
  1. Film Blocking done in Graphic Novel style panels with a written strategy that will be submitted for feedback. (Strategy with guiding questions provided)

~Where will it be filmed? Why?

~What props/sound effects, etc. are necessary? Why?

~What camera angles/lighting will you use? Why?

~How do your decisions help set the tone in your scene?

~How will the actors’ body language convey the mood or theme being portrayed in each scene?

~Lines – are there any? Why or why not?

~How are you conveying your message to your audience without outright telling them your message?

  1. Filming – students will film their scripted and blocked stories in the span of a week + 2 weekends: Students will be assigned or choose roles such as director, lighting, stage direction, continuity manager, props, makeup/costuming
  1. Showing/Viewing films – Film Review Strategy

~Evaluative/Reflective individual piece on student’s own process and end product – w/input from class feedback (share out format on class feedback)

~Group Analysis Strategy where groups look at their role in the filming process, their expectations, reflection on changes they would make if possible, and how they feel the audience reacted to their end product.

  1. Selection of  top film from the class to be viewed at the Freshmen Film Festival (6 total 15-20min films, Community invited, short Q&A after)
  1. Prep for festival (this would be an extension piece to the assignment)
  1. This experience will then be used as a model to work with Text-Film-Text in other units besides narrative.

Describe the pedagogical methods that you’re presently considering as you design this experience:

  1. The writing process – focusing on analysis, evaluation, and revision
  2. Film design and using film design to showcase author/director choices
  3. This writing-filming-writing experience results in a Film Festival, which would be a project based learning framework but we are sort of building the pieces outside of that framework and then working into it. (If that makes sense at all) *Capstone assignment maybe?

Technology/technologies being considered:

I am considering laptops, smartphones/cameras/other filming devices editing programs and apps, youtube for informational supplementals about the filming process and checking out how scriptwriters / directors work through their process.

Works Cited

Dinkins, E. G. (2014). MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS’     PERSPECTIVES OF AND RESPONSES TO STRATEGIC REVISION INSTRUCTION. Middle Grades ResearchJournal, 9(2), 75.

I Know What You Did Last Period…

One way I would like to keep improving my practice is by connecting to different content areas on a regular basis. We all tout that we make real world connections in our classrooms, but the real world isn’t split into subjects. By connecting the curriculum, forming cross-curricular projects, constantly collaborating with core teachers, and connecting lessons even if just through conversation, we can provide students with a more authentic real world experience. I want to be able to reference the work that students are doing in other classes because that connection will provide a pathway for transfer from subject to subject. If every teacher was able to say, “I know what you did last period,” then the material that is covered would have a way to coexist and breathe in a much more organic, meaningful way.

This also applies to the use of technology in the classroom. It’s not enough to just have the students using technology, there needs to be a clear purpose and understanding for why that technology is being used.  James Paul Gee backs this viewpoint in his discussion of technology use, “Digital media should extend, supplement, complement, or augment deep real-world experiences and interactions” (p. 208). Having students research, invent, or connect ideas from more than one core subject area through technology will enhance their learning experience. Students will then be able to start making their own connections between subject matter, enabling them to navigate a world that will constantly crisscross.

How do you actually accomplish this in a classroom? There are many constraints that appear immediately. How do I get my co-teacher onboard with my plan to infuse different subject matter? How do I convince the freshmen math, science, and social studies teachers that sharing what we are teaching and forming cross curricular goals is worthwhile for students? After trying a few projects that crossed the core content boarders, I believe that having a clear vision is essential for persuading other teachers to join in the learning process you envision. If I give a colleague a clear, concise outline of what I plan to do, then there is a much better chance that they are willing to cooperate. Last year I was able to have a 2 week group work project where students simulated different forms of government in their language arts, social studies, and science class through the rule of their class tribes. Gee touches on this by stating, ” People need to learn in contexts where something is at stake for them, where what they are going to learn matters to them, and where they understand why it is important, worthwhile, and a valuable use of their time”       (p. 209).  The assignment ended up really resonating with students because they saw the daily connections between their lesson across 3 classes.

Another reason this project went so well I believe is because it illustrated the 8 elements of a good project that Martinez and Stager mention in their book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering the Classroom:

Purpose and Relevance: The purpose of our project was to teach students about different forms of government through the implementation of class tribes, where one group member was the chief and the rest of the group were the civilians or ‘littluns’ in conjunction with Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Time: Students were given 2 weeks to explore and work as a group/government in their language arts, social studies, and science classes. This gave them ample time to assimilate to tribe life, test the boundaries of their government, and reflect on whether it was the best form of government. They were also able to make meaningful connections from their tribe life to the characters and government systems established in the text.

Complexity: “The best projects combine multiple subject areas and call upon the prior knowledge and expertise of each student. Best of all, serendipitous insights and connections to big ideas lead to the greatest payoff for learners” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 58). This was prevalent in the way students responded to the assignment and the end of unit feedback that was received. It made me want to continue to struggle to establish more cross-curricular assignments.

Intensity: This project was intense because it pushed students outside of their comfort zone, was continuously part of classes over an extended period of time, and made them think about a world larger than the one they lived in.

Connections: “During great projects students are connected to each other, experts, multiple subject areas, powerful ideas, and the world via the Web” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 58). Students were able to connect their ideas with multiple subjects, form ideas that were very powerful, and use the web as a tool to foster learning and curiosity. Next year I would love to add the element of Skyping with expert historians or authors to add to the experience.

Access: Students were able to access the internet as needed on the class laptops and also on their own devices. They were also provided with 5 different teachers who could provide them with assistance throughout this project. That network of mentorship, feedback, and support would not be available if each teacher stuck to their own content area and did not collaborate.

Shareability: Students were constantly sharing their tribe life experience with each other, their other teachers, and the upperclassmen. Their enthusiasm and willingness to talk about the assignment showed the level of engagement. Making different parts of the experience visual and shareable experiences added to the project.

Novelty: This project definitely had a novelty aspect to it. Students who were chief wore Hawaiian style leis as symbols of power, the tribe life was carried out in 3 different classes over 2 weeks, and students who broke tribe rules had to complete punishments such as writing a Haiku of their glorious leader or writing their bell work with their opposite hand. Novelty is always a great way to engage students in an activity. Nothing says that you cannot have a little bit of fun while you learn.

These 8 steps help teachers create cohesive, effective project based learning. When students engage in each step they will be part of an experience that will highlight their critical thinking skills. Technology and project based learning are only effective as simulations of the real world if you are including several subject areas.

References:

Gee, James P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Martinez, Sylvia L., & Stager, Gary S. (2013). Invent to learn: making, tinkering, and engineering the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

TTK Mentoring and Meaning

I recently spent a significant amount of time contemplating online literacy, specifically information literacy, through the creation of our Special Interest Group Information Literacy Skills (SIGILS).

SIGILS Word Cloud

One concern that was immediately evident as we began to gather information for our SIG was the way students and teachers currently use literacy skills and how that structure does not fit with the new digital texts that kids are interacting with. James Paul Gee alludes to this idea and offers a solution in his book The Anti-Education Era, “Let’s call this essential early foundation ‘talk, text, and knowledege mentoring,’ or ‘TTK mentoring’ (where “talk” means interactive, sustained, elaborated talk)” (200). TTK mentoring is a way to promote literacy development through multiple platforms from an early age. The ability to talk about texts in an elaborate and interactive way is a skill that students will need to have in order to be competitive in the work force. If parents and teachers are fostering this type of talk and text connections through TTK mentoring from an early age, then students would be much more prepared to engage in critical thinking at the high school level. Gee backs this idea by stating,

“Children today will have to ‘read’ (consume) and ‘write’ (produce) with a whole suite of technologies, including texts, digital tools, and social media of different forms often used in social media away from kids early, but to build on experiences with these media to create a pathway towards higher-order and complex thinking, skills, talk, and texts, just as we want to do with books” (Gee,  201).

The  task  of navigating and connecting all of those technologies and texts will help students solve complex problems if they are carefully guided through the process. If students are introduced to this framework at a young age then by the time they are middle or high school students the process of navigating and connecting digital texts should be the platform that their learning is built on. This would allow higher level educators to push students to extend their thinking and create/produce material that they would not be able to tackle if they did not have prior TTK mentoring.

Gee also speaks about how humans all strive for meaning, which resonated with my own life and teaching practice. I teach language arts to 9-12 graders, we tend to talk about material that gets a little more personal than some other subject areas. Connecting the author’s meaning or a character’s viewpoint to my student’s own viewpoints and lives is a daily occurence in room 205. Finding meaning in a text, analyzing what the meaning is and why it is important in the grand scheme of a life is important for student growth and promoting lifelong learning. Gee mentions,

“For some young people, lack of meaningful learning in school can be ameliorated via learning out of school. For all children there are twenty-first-century skills that are, at least today, more often developed out of school than in it” (202).

Every lesson and every subject will not resonate with every child and the meaning behind the work will not always be clear. Students use technology to search out their interests and learn about those interests at an alarming rate. Their vocabulary, creativity, engagement, and collaboration skills can be exponentially enhanced through their online involvement. This could also be seen as an incentive to start flipping the classroom setting. Providing students with small, web assignments and then giving them several options of how they can build upon that knowledge may spark students to build off of what is meaningful to them and craft new meaning through the choice they are given.

The problem lies in the fact that these literacy skills need to be fostered from an early age through TTK mentoring  in order to have a lasting impact on students’ thought processes.  As Gee explains, “Nothing weighs heavier on the human mind than complexity” (140). We can help students sort through that complexity in order to obtain meaning and make connections by constantly having conversations about the connections between texts and ideas in the primary years.

References:

Gee, James P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

[Untitled image of a lightbulb with plant]. Retrieved July 21, 2014 from http://pixabay.com/en/bulb-light-bulb-growth-plant-light-216975/

Reflecting on Team Teaching

Team teaching is a part of my daily classroom routine in room 205 and I was delighted that I had the opportunity to team teach through the program as well. It’s always interesting to teach with someone new and meld your ideas together into a lesson. As long as there is a collaborative spirit, two minds are definitely better than one. You have two people available to address student needs, to troubleshoot, to help differentiate and deliver the material in engaging ways. Each person brings their strengths to the table and has someone who may be capable of backing them up where weaknesses emerge. Team teaching also provides teachers with a way to validate what they are doing on a daily basis. Instead of wondering whether or not the material is truly connecting to core standards, the project you created has any loopholes in it, or the disciplinary action you decided on was effective, you have someone in your classroom who can constantly help assess what you are doing and back you up if questions arise. Although it may be daunting to invite someone into your classroom space and a bit unnerving to hand over the reigns, I truly believe that building a strong co-teaching relationship really provides the kids with a better classroom experience.

On that note, the team teaching I did for the program was with Joie Marinaro for two readings from edge.org written by James O’Donnell and Howard Rheingold. The question both authors were trying to answer was, “Is the Internet changing the way you think?” Both authors voiced that the internet will surely change the way you think, but their viewpoints on how they would change and how much control you would have in the process differed. O’Donnell wrote about how this change is actually a physical change in the way we interact with technology, which is evident in the title of his article, “My Fingers Have Become Part of My Brain.” While Rheingold’s piece “Attention is the Fundamental Literacy” discussed how technology users can either learn new literacies and ways to be attentive or allow them to overtake their attention.

When we planned our lesson, we wanted to allow time for discussion of two questions that were generated from the reading. In order to get everyone tuned in for the discussion, we opened our lesson by asking  students to respond to the following on Mentimeter: “What strategies do you use to sustain your attention while interacting with technology?” Our goal was to have the class reflect on how they stay attentive and we predicted that many people would dull one of their senses as a way to focus. When we had everyone’s responses we formed a word cloud and discussed the outcomes through Mentimeter. One hiccup with Mentimeter that we encountered was that it did not filter out the prepositions or articles that people wrote in their responses, so we had to sift through the word cloud a bit. In the future, maybe it would be a good tool for one word responses but not open ended questions.

The answers that everyone came up with led into our discussion of the two focus questions we wanted to address:

Do you agree with O’Donnell’s assumption that shifting literacies are involuntary–that we are victim to our tech. use?

Do you agree with Rheingold that it is inevitable that the Net will change how and what we think as it teaches- or reteaches- our attention span?

Although the conversation shifted from our initial outcome of talking about the new literacies and became more of a discussion on digital citizenship and the importance of teachers in a student’s netizen education, the discussion turned out to be quite engaging.  We used Prezi to navigate through the discussion and the activity that we planned using Snagit. Everyone was asked to snag an image of a netizen and create their own interpretation of what a netizen is.

In hindsight, it would have been beneficial to breakdown what the difference was between a citizen and a netizen because everyone was using the terms interchangeably. Because our discussion morphed and went longer than anticipated, we decided to have students do the Snagit activity in pairs and then instead of sharing them all one by one, we held a gallery walk where everyone took a stroll around the room and admired the interpretations of netizens that the others had created. I actually thought the gallery walk ended up being a better discussion/presentation strategy than our original plan.

I thought the lesson went rather well. Yes, it ended up veering in a different direction from the original plan, but the class was engaged and had the opportunity to have an authentic discussion about issues that are part of our current classroom environment. We were left with the question, What is a teacher’s role in preparing students to be responsible netizens?

References:

O’Donnell, J . (2011). My Fingers Have Become Part of my Brain. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Is the Internet changing the way you think? Retrieved from http://edge.org/response-detail/11113

Rheingold, H . (2011). Attention is the Fundamental Literacy. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Is the Internet changing the way you think? Retrieved from http://edge.org/response-detail/11370

Flipped Class Website Intro

Last year when I had my first round of parent conferences in October, I found that many parents did not know that I had a functional class website let alone how to operate it. I also needed to walk students through the process in class several times before they completely understood where daily assignments were, how they could submit homework online, and where they should post for their weekly blog posts. This year, I am going to provide students and their parents with a video tutorial that works as a tour of the website. That way whenever they have questions about the site at the beginning of the year they can refer back to the video as a guide.

This will also be a nice way to introduce them to one of the ways I will be flipping the classroom this upcoming year. Although many of my flipped instruction videos will hopefully be interactive, I believe walk through tutorials could work really well for explaining how to navigate new sites, apps, and programs. This video tutorial is a little longer because I want to make sure that they know how to navigate the class webpage completely. I am also introducing myself to parents at the beginning of the tutorial. Usually I would try to keep flipped videos between 2-3 minutes, 5 at the most.

 

After students watch the website tutorial with their parents, they are asked to complete a Google forms survey. This will help me determine who understands the uses of the website and can be a homework grade. It will also give me parent feedback and allow anyone that has questions or concerns to leave a comment.

I am excited about flipping my classroom because it will allow us to focus on the production of work in class and the questions that accompany that work instead of the instructional process. If students receive the instructions or lecture portion of the lesson in small doses outside of class, then they can return to class with their questions ready and their interest piqued for the assignment/project portion of the unit. How much work could we accomplish if the prep work was done outside of class? What extensions could be added to projects that have previously been done in class with the lecture as part of the class time? The possibilities are fun to anticipate. Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager address this idea and other project based learning in the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering int he Classroom. The book focuses on the Maker Movement, but there are several moments that I thought of during this post and the following is one of them:

“‘I think it’s an exaggeration, but there’s a lot of truth in saying that when you go to school, the trauma is that you must stop learning and you must now accept being taught’ -Seymour Papert” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 69).

This quote highlights what flipping a classroom represents. It stops students from being taught and instead gives them the opportunity to learn in an organic, individualized fashion. If students are able to focus on creativity and innovative ways to display their knowledge in class, then it is reasonable to say that the end product will be much better than what they would have been able to create if a majority of the class time was spent on instruction.

Flipping the classroom is a valid option because of the technological advances we have made. Students have the ability to learn in new environments and through new experiences because of the technology available. According to Donovan, Bransford, and Pellegrino, “Technology can help to create an active environment in which students not only solve problems, but also find their own problems. This approach to learning is very different from the typical school classrooms, in which students spend most of their time learning facts from a lecture or text and doing the problems at the end of the chapter” (p. 207). It is a challenge to implement a new method of teaching into my classroom after spending a large amount of time creating a curriculum, but I am encouraged to take the leap by imagining the possibilities that a flipped classroom could gives my students.

References:

Donovan, S., Bransford, J., & Pellegrino, J. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

Martinez, Sylvia L., & Stager, Gary S. (2013). Invent to learn: making, tinkering, and engineering the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.