Saturday, May 9, 2015

Celebration Saturday and DigiLit Sunday Combined - Flipagram, Student-Generated Literacy Contracts, and Mindmeister

Discover. Play. Build.
 I'm so happy that Ruth Ayres started a Celebrate Link-Up on her blog!!!
Margaret Simon hosts a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
I almost forgot to put together an April Celebration of Focus Moments on Flipagram,  an easy video-making app, so here it is:
     May is always a little trying in my position as a gifted pull-out ELA teacher.  There are MANY interruptions in the schedule (including testing, softball tourneys, field trips, reward parties, assemblies, etc.), so sometimes groups of students don't come to class or have to leave early or come late.  This took some getting used to last year when I was new to the building because I would have things planned and then I couldn't do them.  It caused me great frustration.  This year, I'm trying to avoid that by planning more independent learning activities so kids can work on things when they come, but if they can't, they're not missing instruction.  I can't say I'm never frustrated by schedule interruptions, but I'm a lot more positive about it this year.  I'm excited about what my 6th graders are doing (my 5th graders, too, but I'm going to cover that later).
     I gave them a choice between two month-long learning avenues.  One, I could provide them short-term independent activities that I chose, and they had a couple days to complete them.  I'm mostly using Scope Magazine activities for them, which are wonderful.  Two, they could collaborate with a partner or group on making their own literacy contracts.  Literacy contracts are an organizational tool I use all year ( my former colleague and friend, Megan Ginther, and I have developed these and have been using them for years now) in which I choose a theme topic, we generate essential questions around it and build a concept map on it, read text sets that address the theme topic, and write or make a culminating project that shows their learning.  Most of my 6th graders have had me for ELA since 4th grade, so they've experience A LOT of literacy contracts and covered many theme topics and genres.  This time, they would be in charge of their own contract by choosing everything themselves.  I would help them with the text sets, and support their efforts, but they would be mostly on their own.  I honestly thought there would be more kids who chose the first option - the short-term activities.  However, the largest group of kids chose the literacy contracts, and I've been really excited about what they're doing!
    Here are some theme topics they've chosen (they had to choose one we hadn't covered before): hope, friendship, romance, love, conflict, coexistence, loyalty, and corruption.  They've chosen their small group fiction books with my help, and they're required to read a short nonfiction text that relates, and watch/read two kinds of media (videos, TEDTalks, websites, songs, etc.).  They had to generate their own essential questions about their theme topics and start building a concept map.  Their concept maps could be on paper or online.  Last year, we used for online mind maps, but they didn't love that site.  They (on their own) discovered a new, easier one to use:  They are figuring out how to use it, collaborate on it, and attach videos, songs, and websites to it.  This group, whose theme topic is HOPE, has built this mind/concept map so far:

It's hard to see, so here is the link.
     Another group who chose HOPE (they were in another class, so it was fine to choose the same topic)  is planning their culminating project as a fundraiser for Nepal.  They went to the principal, and she said they could raise money in the café during lunch, but they had to write a proposal first and then meet with her.  They turned in the proposal on Friday!  The groups are motivated, excited, and pretty independent.  And I'm not frustrated if they can't be there all the time!  Win, win!
     One more fun digital tool!  Libby took an education class this semester (she's a marketing major, not an education major, but she's had fun taking some courses in her last semester that have branched out from business), and had to create a webquest for students.  She chose mythology, and since I teach a mythology unit to my 6th graders, I will for sure use it next year!  

Off to read your celebrations today and will look forward to DigiLit Sunday tomorrow!


  1. I read and I can feel the engagement, joy and deepness of learning. I am excited both for you and your students. And how cool to be able to use the mythology quest your daughter created.

  2. I like how you made that change in your teaching strategy that will help lower your frustration and also makes a way for students to have meaningful class times with you even when the schedule is wacky. Sounds like a good plan.

  3. Amazing engagement! You must be so proud of all of these students. I loved reading about the process.

  4. Holly, when students become independent learners and creators, then a teacher sits back to reap the rewards of her tutelage. I am so impressed by the way your students are able to make their learning come alive for them. Libby's Mythology Webquest is a very good example of allowing students the opportunity to explore a topic with peers to build knowledge and vocabulary. I will definitely show this work to the 6th grade teachers I work with.

  5. I love how you engage and bring the world into your classroom, Holly. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful process.

  6. I was just ranting today about how frustrating these last few weeks are. I never know who will be coming to class and for how long. And I get these kinds of requests, "My class is watching a movie. Can I go?" Sure! I love hearing I'm not alone. I decided this year per Donalyn Miller's summer reading rant that I would have summer reading be the last two weeks lesson plan. This way they can do the packet in class (if they come) and not have to do it over the summer.

    Your students continue to impress me with their independence and dedication to learning. I'm trying to read between the lines that surely you have some who will not do this project, but I'm not getting that at all. I wish I could take a field trip to your school.