As much as the it was difficult for me to start the Coetail process for Course 5, once I got into it, it was so much fun! I partnered with Lauren for our final project, which provided me with a classroom of students to work with, and an in-house person to bounce ideas of off.
Lauren is also a “newbie” at my new school, so was experiencing a lot of the feelings of frustration, being homesick and a sense of being totally overwhelmed/on the verge of break-down at any given minute. If I’m being totally honest, it was her coaxing that pushed me to commit to finishing the course. We had several conversations like this:
Me: I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I have so much other work to do and I can’t add something else to my plate. Plus, Emmy (my 6 month old) is trying to slowly kill me through sleep deprivation (side note: I did this check and was experiencing 90% of this list. In a state of drama-induced-fatigue, I also may have Googled “How long can you go without sleep before you die?”).
Lauren: You already signed up. Plus, the project we want to do will be so great for student learning!
Me: I know, but I can’t even figure out how to squeeze this into my days.
Lauren: I know, it’s hard, but we can work on it together. Plus, you already paid.
Me: I don’t care if I just threw away three hundred dollars…
Lauren gives a disapproving look
This conversation may have happened a couple times, before we booked a time with her class to get our project started.
As I am a Literacy Coach in our school, we focused our project on reading strategies. Grade 1 is an extremely important year for reading development. Students are learning many different reading strategies, developing fluency and building stamina. Students need to be exposed to, and attempt, strategies many times before mastery happens. Students also develop at different rates, so although students are exposed to a certain strategy, they may not be ready to attempt it during their independent reading for several months. Because of this, Lauren and I thought that having the students create instructional videos of a reading strategy of their choice would be useful for two reasons: we could assess their understanding of the strategy and we could also use them throughout the year as a teaching tool for those students that needed a quick mini lesson.
Initially we had planned on doing our project during the first unit of Reader’s Workshop, “Building Good Reading Habits”, but we, personally, weren’t ready and Lauren was working very hard to establish solid routines with her students, while still keeping up with the curricular demands, so we didn’t actually start until the students were working on their second reading unit “Word Detectives”. This actually ended up working in our favor, as the students were now more familiar with the components and structures of the workshop model, and their reading behaviors and strategies they were using were more established. This unit also lent itself well to our work because it focuses heavily on students’ word solving skills and knowledge of high-frequency words.
RF 1.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words
- Creativity and innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
- Communication and Collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.By the end of the unit, we wanted the students to be able to do the following:
- how to choose the best reading strategy to help solve an unknown word
- plan and write a script that demonstrates understanding of a reading strategy
- use technology to effectively share learning through Seesaw
- effectively create a video using Seesaw
- provide peer feedback on others videos
- use feedback for improvement to improve their final project
Lauren and I started by creating our own instructional videos using reading strategies that we had from the “Word Detectives” unit. We posted QR codes on the anchor charts for the strategies we had created videos for.
Students recognized the QR codes and were really excited to watch the videos. Once students watched the videos, they were eager to try creating their own strategy videos.
Instead of attacking the whole class at once, Lauren and I decided to try it with a small group first. We asked students to create their own videos using the app Explain Everything. We created these for the purpose of kicking off a class discussion on what the strategy videos can be used for. We also wanted the students to analyze the videos, thinking about what the video is trying to teach them, what grabbed their attention about the particular video, and anything else they find noteworthy. The students decided that the videos were useful for teaching, or reinforcing a reading strategy we had already discussed during one of our mini lessons. Everyone agreed it was a fun way for our class to have a reminder of things they should be practicing in their reading.
Our next step was introducing Lauren’s class to Seesaw. We created a QR code for students to scan and login to the classroom we had created. The Grade Ones were pumped. They had already had so much fun, scanning and watching our strategy videos, they couldn’t wait to try out something else. We began by having an exploration of the app. Students scanned and logged in, and then practiced taking clear pictures. They also experimented with some of the tools the app has to offer, like drawing, typing and using the microphone. We gave them the easy (and fun) task of pairing students up with a partner, and had them take a picture of their friend, drawing and adding sound to their pictures. This allowed students to focus on becoming comfortable with the tools on Seesaw, without concentrating on the strategy they would be using, or their script. We never thought to approve and save the videos on the app, so we don’t have any to share – which is unfortunate, they were quite ridiculous!
After students were comfortable with the app and its features, we had students begin to create their video. Students selected a strategy from our Readers Workshop wall of anchor charts and a book from their book bins and chose a page to share. They then worked with their reading partner and practiced what they were going to say. At this stage in the year, not all students would be able to write out a script, and those that could would take a long time. We had been working on planning across our fingers in Writer’s Workshop, so we had students apply the same strategy for their script. Once students had practiced what they would say with their partners, they took a picture of their page and recorded themselves practicing the strategy. Students were not limited to creating one video. We wanted them to feel very comfortable with the creation process, so once they finished their first video, they had the option of editing their video, or taking a new picture and creating a second. Learner personalities were very apparent – some students who typically pay close attention to detail were focused on getting their first video just right, while others created 5, 6 and 7 videos. The students were highly engaged in the process and loved the fact that they were “teachers” who could help their friends with their reading.
Our next step was to hone the process. While all the students wanted to create the videos, we had some who had forgotten that the purpose was to teach a reading strategy, not just create a video. We went back to the first videos that Lauren and I created and watched them with the class, using them to create a list of what we thought were important to include in a teaching video.
We discussed what we noticed in the videos and what we learned from using Seesaw and came up with the following criteria:
We brainstormed and developed steps we would need to follow in order to create our strategy videos, then Lauren modelled for the class how she would follow the steps, while keeping our class-created criteria in mind.
Students couldn’t wait to try to create a new video. They were focused and on task. They used the criteria to help them make sure their video was up to par. Clear picture? Check! Clear voice? Stated strategy? Check! Check! Student were recording and rerecording, taking pictures and making sure they were satisfied. The pride the students were taking in their learning process was evident. It was so exciting to see!
The majority of the students used the chart, but we knew that the learning process would be even more powerful if they were able to watch each other’s videos and give each other feedback. Students were instructed to go through all the videos they had created and selected the one they thought best taught their strategy and fit the criteria. Lauren kicked off the day with a morning message focused on the topic of feedback and had students reflect and discuss what the term means and how it can help with the learning process. This turned out to be critical, as many of her students were unfamiliar with the term. Once they were able to clarify that it was not the food you give to animals, we were able to talk in greater detail about what it might look like. Students wanted to use the emotions to show if they liked or didn’t like a video, and we discussed the importance of specificity. Although the emoticon would show a feeling, it wouldn’t help the person who created the video because it doesn’t illustrate exactly what the person liked, or thought needed to be improved, in the video.
Students went back to Seesaw with full access to view and comment. Students were able to voice record or type their comments which allowed all students, regardless of their ability to provide feedback to their peers. In order to ensure that all students were given feedback, we had students watch and comment on their reading partner’s video. After that, they were allowed to comment on a friend of their choice.
The next time we discussed the process as a group, we focused on what we should do with the feedback. We decided that feedback helped as create better products and improve as learners. Although it can be challenging to hear that there are things we can do better in our work (students were given the format of saying something they liked and something to work on), we agreed that this helps us learn. The students then went off to read or listen to the feedback that was given to them and plan out the changes that needed to be made to their videos.
Here’s one of our final products:
Despite a few hiccups along the way (iPad update issues, making sure all students allowed Seesaw to access their photographs and microphone which was VERY time consuming!) it was a great experience for teachers and students! Students were engaged, regardless of their reading level and have been using the strategies to help them during Readers Workshop time.
This is definitely something I would do again with another class. We are working on developing a rich reading culture at our school. Part of that process is having students connect with books that they really enjoy. I am hoping that I can convince the Grade 5 teachers to use this process to have their students to create book talks to share with their classmates. This will expose students to books they may not have considered before, while having students think about the texts they are reading. Stay tuned!
I’m experiencing some YouTube embed issues on my end. Until I get them straightened out, here’s a link to our journey!