Friday, 23 December 2011

Guest Student Blogger!

Sorry for the delay...I've been meaning to post this for awhile! I draw names out of a bucket to decide which lucky student will be our guest student blogger. This time  it is EC! This is her short news report on our Skype chat with Luke Navarro. Our focus in this task was to use the data from our skype interview and create a short news report. Students were asked to a) be as specific as possible, b) include all 5W and How, c) use a variety of sentences and d) use transition words, like first, next, then, finally, etc.

Luke Navarro Report by EC

Who is Luke Navarro? Luke Navarro is a game reviewer! 

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Luke and Mrs. Johnson's Gr. 7/8 class had an interview on Skype to talk about his job and he answered any questions we had.

First, he told us he doesn't get paid for his job. Then, he told us his hobbies besides gaming and reading are hiking, cooking and gardening. Finally, he told us that his favourite game right now is Skyrim.

It was awesome talking and hanging out with Luke Navarro!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Video Games & Connectivity!

As my students are well aware by now, I am often on Twitter chatting with other teachers around the world about technology and education.

Recently, I was on Twitter, looking for ideas for my up coming game design unit. I have been planning a game design unit as our next media literacy project after the holidays...I have looked at, and Batman Game Creator --but I couldn't quite settle on any one site.

It wasn't until I chanced upon Kevin Hodgson, a Gr. 6 teacher in Massachusetts, that I found the perfect game design site and also some great ideas for its implementation! This post on  his class blog site, makes great connections between design and writing. The site he is using,, also incorporates writing into the game process. If you take a look at the Intro Video, you can see why, as an educator, I like this design site so much! And I really like how the games are  'old school' arcade style!

Chatting with Mr. Hodgson about his game designing, I happened to tell  him about our video game review writing project that we are just completing...he was very interested in that and I sent him our graphic organizer to use as a template. His class has now started writing game reviews...and he also told another teaching friend, Kent Manning (a fellow Ontarian, located in Prince Edward County) about the now the three of us, through the sharing power of Twitter, are similarly designing games and writing game reviews! Through Twitter, we inspired each other & shared resources. This is very cool!

Our game design unti will start in January and our game reviews are almost completed. The reviews that I have seen so far are so amazing, I feel I can't just pick one 'student guest blogger' for this assignment.  In fact,  I hope to put up these reviews on their own distinct page!

I am very much looking forward to January and our game designs! Stayed tuned for more info after the break...!

PS. Mr. Hodgson found this ehow description regarding 'how to write a video game review'. I hadn't seen this before starting our project, but I'm glad to see that our plan was quite similar to the 'real life' version, only missing a few steps!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Thanks Mindconnex/Shakespeare in Bits! Plus 'Determining Importance"...

William Shakespeare
First, a big thank you to Mindconnex in Dublin, Ireland, for skyping with us today. We met Jer, Michael, Fergus and Fiona. They showed us the features of their software program, Shakespeare in Bits, told us a bit about the company, and answered some of our questions.

Many thanks to Mindeconnex for taking time out of their busy day to chat with us! I, too, hope to prove that Shakespeare can be interesting and easy to understand by using your fabulous software! We'll let you know how it goes in a couple of months!

But this morning wasn't just about chatting with people from half way across the was also about using the information from this chat to learn an important skill...DETERMINING IMPORTANCE.

During the skype session, I asked students to take notes, jotting down key words and phrases. Afterwards, we did a 'determining importance' activity.

As I've noticed in student's reading comprehension activities, they are getting better at pulling specific details from texts, but could use some support in determining which details matter more than others. What are the MOST IMPORTANT details!?

To start this off, we did the ol' 'What are 10 items you need to survive on a deserted island for a year' activity! Students worked in groups to determine their Top 10 lists. Then they had to pare it down to 5...then they had to pare it down to 1... Students had to explain their answers.

We then took our jot notes from the skype session. Students were asked to pick their Top 3 important details from our talk with Mindconnex. They then had to narrow it down to the Top #1 most important detail...and explain why...

Every group was able to justify their most important detail...and generally speaking, they were all quite similar. The most important detail regarding today's not the fact that Michael is the CEO, or that they obtained the voice actors from a library of Shakespeare audio recordings, or that it took 6 months for the finished product...though these, of course, are all interesting facts...

...but rather that Shakespeare in Bits makes Shakespeare easy to access/understand by, for example, translating it into modern english at the click of a button!

Students were able to zero in on the essence of the project, and the main point of the Skype session today...and the reason why we are using this we can easily access the amazing, creative, beautiful, funny, clever writings of Shakespeare.

I am very much looking forward to January when we launch this project!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Skyping with Ireland!

This Monday morning (Dec. 12th) we have the good fortune to Skype with a software company in Ireland...Mindconnex! They are the developers of Shakespeare In Bits, the software we are going to be using to study Romeo & Juliet in January!

Here is the agenda for the session, which will last about 30 mins, as mentioned by Fiona in her latest email to me:
  • Introduction to team - Mike (CEO - he cracks the whip and makes sure we do our jobs!!), Fergus (Chief Product Officer - he looks at the product from an educational point of view), Jer (Creative Director who does the animation)
  • Quick overview of the company
  • Demo of Romeo & Juliet - showing animation, original play text, notes, translation, analyses, character maps and biographies
  • Open the floor for comments/questions (we can include questions about our jobs here).
This is a bit different from our other Skype session...first of all, we will not be interviewing them, rather they will be telling us things and we will be taking notes. Secondly, this time there will be more than 1 person on their end of the screen. Finally, we will have a chance to ask them some questions (like about their jobs), but not everyone will get the chance to ask. There will be limited time for questions.

We are the only Gr. 7/8 class in Canada that is doing anything like this!  I think we are also the only Canadian class (of any grade level) that is a  part of their Educator Partnership Program!

I can't wait until we can start using this software after the holidays!

If you'd like to read more, check my previous post on SIB and the Educator Partnership Program!

Before we cross the finish line...

Students, there are two and a half weeks left until the holidays and I just wanted to summarize a few things we have left to do before that end date:

-Video Game Review (due Friday the 16th!)
-Math Frames 4 videos  (due to my Frames 4 file folder by Friday the 9th)
-Math oral presentations (present a graph) (must be completed by Friday the 16th)
-Van Gogh LIne & Colour Art finished (must be completed by Friday the 16th)
-Independent Novel Study #1 (due Friday the 16th)

Please note: these are required for assessment purposes so they must be completed on time!

Also, lets not forget that Mindconnex in  Ireland will be Skyping with us regarding Shakespeare in Bits! Monday Dec. 12th!

Here are some other things I hope we can finish between now and the holiday!

-Just Dance Review (Reading Comprehension Re-do)
-Writing Analysis (how to bump up from a level 1-2-3)
-Goal Setting (based on feedback re: reading & writing)
-PopLit Lyrics started-using lyrics to determine main idea w/supporting proof, mood, point of view (we will carry this into January--it will evolve into an oral presentation and also we'll be looking at those aspects when we start  R&J in January--we will also be looking at character/setting/plot)
-Frames 4 independent projects finished
-CATS book talks

Whew! That is a lot still to lets keep our focus!

Soon I will be posting on what we can look forward to in the new year!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Reading Comprehension...Where's the Beef? Take 2!

Students, take a look at this video! Why am I showing it to you, after today, do you think?

As I mentioned in a previous post a while back, in relation to student writing, there has been a need for more 'beef" other words, more specific details! (At that time, I referenced the Wendy's commercial from 1984.)

Since then, we have, in our reports and review writing, been working dilligently to add MORE other words, more specific details (which are to be well organized with transition words, such as 'first', 'next', 'then', 'also', etc).

However, as we are doing reading comprehension activities (for example, reading a game review and trying to explain the author's opinion by quoting details from the text), I find myself asking the SAME question as I peruse student answers...


A reading comprehension task is, if you think about, a writing task because we usually ask students to WRITE their answer down. The same rules thus apply! All those skills we have been sharpening in our writing tasks work here too! Give me specific details (using those transition words to organize those details)! GIVE ME MORE BEEF!

Also, when reading other people's writing (especially non-fiction writing like this game review...which is, at heart, an essay) you will often find that those writers have themselves CREATED A BEEFY HAMBURGER!

So where should you go, highlighter in hand, to look for the BEST, JUICIEST, MOST SPECIFIC DETAILS?!

In the middle of the text...where THE BEEF is!

Most students at this school are familiar with the 'answer sandwich' when crafting a reading response (aka., the 'answer hamburger').

Students, writers of all types use this approach when crafting THEIR writing!

Their main idea or argument/opinion is the top bun. THE BEEF or MEAT of the sandwhich is their supporting proof/details. The conclusion, which is a re-iteration of their main idea or argument/opinion, is the bottom bun.

When you are looking for the main idea/argument, go to the buns.

When you are looking for good, supportive quotes and details, as we are now...GO TO THE MIDDLE, WHERE THE BEEF IS!

Go to the middle to get the best proof you need!