Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Speaking of Motivating Students...

Looking for a new way to motivate students? This year my students and I have discovered a nifty tool that we have used for different types of publishing. As mentioned in a previous post, my students were unmotivated readers, which often impacted their desire to write, create, and publish. Then, thanks to some reading on Twitter and the blog-o-verse, I discovered Voki.

Voki allows the user to create a personalized talking avatar that can be easily embedded into wikis, blogs, profiles, and email. And even better, it wasn't blocked at school. This was perfect for my students to use for their writing and publishing for The Coast to Coast Chronicles. Voki has the option for the creator to type the text they want spoken or record their voices with their avatar. This was great for those special needs/ELL students who needed extra practice recording their voices fluently, affording me a tool to assist in my differentiated lessons.

Initially, my students wanted to create them as a "book teaser" to give their audience from The Coast to Coast Chronicles (over 300 students across the country in grades 3-7)  the opportunity to learn about a book that they enjoyed and get them hooked so that they would want to read the book as well. Having a new tool seemed to encourage my students to want to read so that they could contribute through this medium. Other students who saw these first Vokis, asked my students for directions on how to create them, letting my students (once again) become the teachers... a big boost in self-esteem for these hesitant readers, writers, and speakers. And let's face it, who of us doesn't love playing with the mouse and watching the avatar's eyes follow it?

After these first Vokis were created, my students began to apply this tool towards publishing their writing for other projects and in other content areas. While working with the astronomy students, many of my students were inspired by the astronomers that they learned about from their older counterparts. Since we were publishing on the theme of Exploration for our 7th edition, several of my students, who had not previously chosen to use Voki, created Astronomer Vokis.

This week, yet another idea arose from my students. We needed to compose a thank you note to a couple of different people/groups. We were discussing several different ideas, and one of my learners suggested that we create a Voki to express our gratitude. He even added that not only would it be a creative way to write a thank you note, but it would also teach the other classes/individuals a cool new tool that they could start using too. Cool, huh? My fifth graders were finding new ways to apply a familiar tool to publish their writing and use it to also influence and educate others. Nice thinking. Wish I had thought of that.

So next time you have a student who needs a differentiated lesson in writing, reading,or speaking, or perhaps they may not be highly self-motivated, maybe Voki could be used to help meet those needs the way that it has helped me meet the needs of some of my students.

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