Sunday, October 21, 2012

An App Stop on Their Learning Journey

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know, my students have been actively engaged in participating in the Global Read Aloud. My students have been so engaged in diving into The One and Only Ivan, that they actively pursue finding time in our very rigid schedule to read and discuss it. You have to remember that my students have spent their entire education on a prescriptive curriculum and have not ever had the opportunity to explore an amazing piece of literature (before they come to me). What I love is how a story can really change and move who you are as a person. It makes you re-evaluate your place in the world. It can be transforming.

What makes this experience even more valuable to my learners is that we are connecting with other students worldwide through Skype, Twitter, and blogging in order to discuss and share this book. There is also a wiki where students can publish any work in which they engage that relates to the book; my students were anxious to contribute to this community of publishers.

We are working on analyzing characters in our reading and our writing. Thanks to Lara Deloza at the International Reading Association, I was introduced to a free app called Trading Cards.  This clever little app (also will be available on Android) allows the user to dig deeply in examining all aspects of a character. When my students began a debate about which character was the most important to the story, I felt like I needed to give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas with a wider audience. Since one of my students had helped me test out the trading card app, she suggested that they create character trading cards.

My learners divided into small groups to write about their character. As I travelled around the classroom listening to their conversations, their depth and understanding was amazing. They were inferring characteristics based on how other characters reacted to their character. They were making connections with other books they had read, movies or television shows they had viewed, and their own lives. The idea that they were going to be publishing and sharing their ideas with other students gave my learners an authentic reason to really analyze their writing.

After they had written their summaries and created an illustration of their character based on the description in the book, we conferred. I had them explain and justify the choices that they had made in their writing before they set off to publish their trading card. One group of students even expressed that they felt like these characters had become their friends. (Isn't it amazing the depth of understanding and connections that students will make when they get to read and enjoy really engaging literature?)

Once they began publishing, they discovered that they had to really limit the number of words that would fit into each category. At first this lent itself to some frustration because they really wanted to include all of their writing. Then one of my clever students reminded them that they could always publish their trading cards and their entire characterizations on our class blog. The rest of my learners agreed that this was an excellent solution.

I love this time of year. After months of guiding them, everything has started to click with my students. They have the confidence to state their ideas, justify them, suggest ways to improve upon them and find solutions for one another's challenges. They have learned the power of being in a student-directed classroom. Not once during their discussion did they focus on the technology...they focused on the learning. Our week was filled with a new energy that had not been there until now. They now KNOW that they are the ones designing their learning. Watching them take that step into becoming independent learners has been the best I never grow tired of witnessing.  I know that there is no stopping them now...and that app was the vehicle that got them to this place on their learning journey. I can't wait to see where they take us next.

1 comment:

  1. Julie,

    Thank you so much for reviewing the ReadWriteThink Trading Card app, and for this example of a way to use it with students. We love hearing these stories about how our programs are being used, and seeing the student work is very rewarding.

    Thank you for promoting this on your blog.

    Associate Editor