Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Perfecting our Speech in the Smyser Library using iPads by Emily Porter, Librarian, Smyser Elementary School

I wanted to pilot some ideas I had about the students’ prior knowledge using smartphones and taking selfies, with an educational twist. I thought about all the times I saw a parent ask a child to take a photo with the smart phone and then share it on Facebook or YouTube.  I started thinking that they could flip the task on themselves to improve speaking and writing. With all of that technological expertise, I figured 4th graders would be able to handle the tech part - all I would have to do with them is work on the writing task. Voila! the Sixty Second Speech unit was born.

Using topics the students would be able to write about abundantly, I asked them to answer writing stems. I put the stems on the elmo and distributed index cards. I put the timer on for 60 seconds and told the kids to write - using the stems as the springboard. We did this 3 or 4 times before I distributed the iPads. I wanted the kids to be exposed to the pacing before they tried to actually film for 60 seconds.

 Students took turns filming each other. They were frustrated at first because many did not have a speech that lasted sixty seconds - even though they had written for 60 seconds. They struggled with the concept - that writing takes longer than speaking.  It would have been a cool realization if they had recognized the metacognition - but they are only 4th graders after all :)
Once they got the iPads and saw their speeches were too short  for themselves, they would go back and write more about the topic. While someone else was being filmed, kids would be furiously writing.

Each student watched the timer. As it ticked, the student recording could not believe how long a minute of talking could take. I heard a lot of, “keep going, talk slower,” and reactions of, “That’s it??!! But I wrote on both sides of the card!” The activity helped with pacing and timing. Students would go back and continue the drafting process without prompting. They wanted to make that 60 second goal. I didn’t have to force anyone to participate - they coached each other to success.

EL students wanted to use the iPads, so the most timid students gave speeches so that they could film the partners. There is something about being “behind the camera” that was alluring to the students.  Going back to my original thought, I do believe it was the students’ level of comfort with smartphones that lent itself to the activity. Never had I been able to get kids who spoke little or no English or those self-conscious of their speech to talk to a large audience. In front of the iPad, however, the dynamic changed. This activity has made me rethink how I  teach EL students, for sure. Maybe it is due to all the practice kids have talking on Skype and video chatting with friends and family away from Chicago. Whatever the reason, I will continue to use the iPads to encourage writing and speaking with my 4th graders.

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