Yesterday was World Teacher Day. I do not think I need to be applauded for what I do. However, I do like actions from my class. Actions that remind me why I started this path in the first place. I’ve had a few ups and downs with Prezi collaboration, but last week went fairly well, so today I was hoping that they would be able to edit with another person without too many hiccups.
I think it’s a bit odd, but a few students have been asking me why aren’t we writing essays or when are we going to write essays? I’m not sure if it’s excitement for essays or just that they’ve been programmed to think that ELA is about writing essay after essay. I am not saying I disagree that essays have a purpose, but essays aren’t the only representation of student knowledge. However, I do have to eventually teach them how to do that, so I started scaffolding their essay skills yesterday.
One of the weaknesses I’ve observed with essays is a lack of specific evidence or examples from the text being studied. I design my first couple of assignments with any text for my students to find proof for future use. Something I’ve been doing for years now, but many students end up “losing” these mini-assignments as the term goes on, so I thought I’d use Prezi for them to be engaged more, and so they’d have a permanent copy online.
We started with a basic attribute web yesterday. The students were supposed to jot down a few characteristics for any character from Romeo & Juliet (e.g. Romeo is melancholy. Tybalt is vengeful. Benvolio is Loyal, etc.) then they’d be able to work with a partner to find specific lines from the text to support those claims about those characters. Simple task of course, but instead of mapping this out on paper, we went to the lab and logged on to the Prezi site.
I had one student start a Prezi then invite a partner to edit by posting a link. I told my students that they could share the link via email or use the chat from our Literary Term Google doc. They all used the Google doc to share the link and started to post the specific quotes from Romeo & Juliet and building paths and linking aids. I really expected that there were going to be connection problems and formatting issues, but there were fewer than anticipated. I actually had a chance to just walk around and observe the learning process in action. It was neat to see them collaborating from their own computer but on the same Prezi canvas. Some of them were sitting across the room from each other and still building great presentations.
One pair had split the canvas diagonally and made a simple branching list of quotes, but then linked their characters by using an image in the middle. Another group had drawn squares that designated each person’s working space, so they wouldn’t get in the way of their edits. I really enjoyed that some students were enthusiastically flipping through Shakespeare to find quotes that would fit the adjectives they had chosen. This also reminded me that I know that some of the students would have just killed time until the class was over if they had to simply map this out on paper, but instead yesterday’s level of engagement was very high.
Not everyone finished yesterday, but I’m pretty stoked to share some of what they did with my department at our staff meeting. I hope that I don’t seem too pretentious or over-achieving, but I really have been enjoying using all these tools with my students. The living literary term chart has been growing, the quizzes/polls with clickers have been engaging for unusual suspects, the collaborative web tools have kept them sharing and communicating, and the overall learning has kept me inspired.