Reading, Teaching, Learning

Sunday, July 17, 2016

DigiLit Sunday - Digital Multigenre Projects

I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.

     Margaret has taken an hiatus away from DigiLit Sunday because of her travels to Africa.  She's back now and sharing her amazing adventure.  When she gets back to DigiLit Sundays, I'll link up then, but I've been meaning to chronicle a wonderful 6th grade project that we did at the end of the year, so I wanted to do that before the summer got away in case anyone wanted to put something like this on their radar this school year.

     Recently, Megan Ginther and I presented at the OCTELA (Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts) spring conference in Columbus.  Our session was on Exploring Fear and Courage in History Through Multigenre Projects.  I've been doing multigenre projects with students since 2005.  When I first started, I gave students choice in whatever topic they'd like to explore.  One year I had students choose a U.S. President to go with a social studies unit, and Megan has had students do some on the Titanic.  A friend and colleague has students do a multigenre memoir in a binder form.  I've always had students use trifolds.

     After presenting our session, we opened up to questions and discussion, and we started to think about digital options since now we are moving toward 21st Century Skills and beginning to have 1:1 technology in our classrooms. Several educators in the session gave suggestions for digital tools that would work well.  I love when you go to present a session, and you end up learning from those who attend!! Teaching is all about collaboration!  I decided to take those ideas back to the classroom later that spring.

     Because of the unique characteristics of my gifted program, May is a crazy time in my classroom.  Not that it isn't for everyone, but my class is a pull-out gifted ELA class, so many times homerooms and teams don't send their kids because of special activities at the end of the year.  This poses a conundrum that I've been trying to solve since I started.  I still need my students to be engaged, challenged, and learning, but they don't always come every day, so it's much better to have something completely student-driven and high-interest as opposed to direct teaching.  Our ELA department teaches in themes (I also teach with literacy contracts), and I have my students for two years, so they've had a lot of experience with many themes and contracts.  In 2015, I experimented with having my 6th graders choose their own themes (they can't choose one we've already explored) and write their own contracts, complete with self-selected text sets and projects.  I loved how engaged the contracts kept them, and I was amazed by their themes and projects.  This year, I decided to do the same, only have their projects be multigenre and digital.  This worked well because they were already doing big History Day Projects on trifolds.  They didn't need another trifold project!  I decided on Thinglink to help them put these together (in the future, I will give them a choice in what digital tool to use, also).  They chose their own groups, themes, text sets, and they were on their way! I was thrilled with the result!! They were required to include one created genre for each member in the group and 4 found ones.  They had to include explanations for each.  One extra created genre had to be a mind map, which they generated as a group.  They used Mindmeister for those and linked them.  The mind map had to include 10 major concepts with 3 sub-concepts for each.  It had to show evidence of their reading and media finds. Take a look and let me know if you have further ideas for multigenre projects!