Thursday, January 12, 2012

Weebly to the Rescue

As my students were putting the finishing touches on their collaborative PSAs that they were creating with students from across the country, we were reading There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar. One of my goals this year is to bring more literature into our day in spite of our rigid schedule and prescriptive reading program. (See blog A Book in a Day) I select books that have high interest for the students in my class, that spur great conversations, and that reinforce the standards that we're studying. This book has many of the themes that that go along with the Coast to Coast Chronicles Edition 9's theme. The 200+ students wanted to create and collaborate on the theme of "Making a Difference." These PSAs were for The Coast to Coast Chronicles.

As we finished up our book, my learners asked if they could create different projects to go with the book that would also connect to their collaborative work on the Coast to Coast Chronicles. That's right...they asked to do these projects. They brainstormed all kinds of ideas about what they wanted to create. As with everything else, we only had a small amount of time that they could work on this project from start to finish. They wanted to publish "a digital poster that would hold their different projects." My first thought was that we would use Glogster. But after a few minutes, we discovered that it was blocked at school. One student said, "I wish we could just create a website or something." Great idea. That's when Weebly came to the rescue.
Weebly is a free site (there is an upgraded paid version) that allows one to create websites. It has a very easy drag and drop interface that my students navigated very quickly. There are preset themes and templates to get you started. While two of my students started setting up the page for the class, the other students broke into pairs and began planning and writing their projects.

I conferred with each pair several times throughout this project. They knew that they were responsible for explaining what they were creating and why it supported the themes of the book and the Coast to Coast Chronicles. Several of them wanted to tell about the story and the themes through a certain character's point of view. After writing, and conferring with me, they decided that Voki would be a great way to publish this. (See blog on Voki). Another team wanted to use the camera and act out what they had learned from the book about bullying. They decided to publish is as a Voice Thread. Others wanted to write poetry. They wanted to create songs with their poetry. We pulled up Songify on my smart phone, they selected the music that they wanted to use, read their poetry into the phone and published their song.
My learners were so excited about what they were creating because they felt like it was going to be a surprise to all of their collaborative Coast to Coast partners....a little something extra for this edition. Of all the tools used, the one that's holding it all together is Weebly. It may not be as flashy as a VoiceThread, Voki, or song, but without it my students' planning would have probably stopped short. It housed all of their creativity and supported so much learning. So although it probably won't be discussed much when the other students see our Weebly, my students know that it's the tool that made it all this student-directed learning possible.

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