Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Playing Wii For Persuasive Writing

Those of you who know me, or have read my bio page, understand my interest in games based learning. Earlier this year, we used the Wii in math as part of our data management unit.

Now we are using it in a literacy capacity.  Today, we played and critiqued the Wii game New Super Mario Brothers Wii.

Four at a time, students were invited to the front of the room to play the game. Each game session lasted about a minute or so. After each session, we filled out a section on our brainstorming sheet as we prepare for review writing.

We were looking at: explaining & summarizing the game play, determining the effectiveness of the controls, the sounds (music, effects, voice), the graphics, the multi-player function (and justifying those opinions) and 'other' (student choice). We also looked at personal connections to the game and then every one gave the game their individual, overall rating.

Before we played, we brainstormed what made a game 'good' or 'bad', coming up with criteria with which to judge the game. It is considered a higher order thinking skills to be able to evaluate and assess with a critical eye...and also to justify one's opinions with evidence. We applied those skills to the video game and will continue to use those higher order thinking skills as we apply our critical eye to a short film and also a text as we continue in this persuasive writing unit.

Students got quite impassioned in their opinions today. Some thought the game too childish (for which they had to JUSTIFY their positon--for example, the graphics are too much like a cartoon, the game play is too easy) while some thought the game one of the best, ever (for which they had to JUSTIFY their position--for example, the music is happy & well suited to the sense of the fun that the game provides).

One thing we have been emphasizing in our reading & writing program is the need for SPECIFIC DETAILS. Whether writing personal narratives or answering comprehension questions on the CASI, students have been encouraged to put in specific details and to justify  their responses with details from the text...or in this case, the video game.

The final assignment in this unit will be a persuasive essay in the form of a review of a game, movie or book of student choice.

For more details on this persuasive writing unit, see my previous post called "Persuasive Writing"

Friday, 25 January 2013

Non Fiction Read Aloud

In our class, I like to have independent reading time, where students can explore books of personal interest to them, and I also like to have whole class read aloud, where I select a book to read together as a class.

At the start of the year, we read Patrick Carmen's Skeleton Creek (Book 1), a mysterious fiction novel that incorporates video into its storytelling. This book intrigued many students...they have now independently read on in the series!

As our next read aloud, I chose a non-fiction narrative (we are taking a closer look at non fiction in our guided reading groups right now).

When we doa  read aloud, it provides me with the chance to model the comprehension strategies that students use when reading independently  During independent reading time, when they have finished reading, they take out their Readers Notebooks and craft responses to a variety of reading comprehension tasks that are listed on the wall. There are almost 20 to choose from for fiction, 9 to chose from for non-fiction. Some examples include: make a prediction, make a connection, define a word you do not know, find synonyms, explore point of view, write a summery, determine the main idea, create a sound track for the story, give your opinion providing 3 points to support it, etc. etc.

When reading aloud, I can take the same tasks and model my own response as well as illicit several student responses to show different kinds of responding.

Also, it is a great way to share the joy of reading and the joy of shared experiences.

Our non-fiction read aloud right now is RUNNING TO EXTREMES, a biography of a Canadian man, Ray Zahab, who changed his way of life to pursue fitness...via ultramarathons. His first ultramarathon was the Yukon Ultra Marathon. His second was The Marathon De Sables in Morocco's Sahara, we are just discovering his next race!  To achieve his goals, he has to be resilient, determined, brave...and to avoid the negative self talk in his own mind that tells him he 'can't do it'.

Where in the world will Ray go next?!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Persuasive Writing

We are now into our unit on persuasive writing...I like to start with what I call 'hamburger' outlines. This is an outlining process that mimiks a hamburger:

intro to your argument = top bun,
 3 substantial paragraphs of points/proof = 3 BIG beef patties,
 conclusion/connections to your argument = bottom bun.

I like this outline because it is easy to visualize and its fun. Also, it means I can say things like "Where's the  beef?" when students submit weak paragraphs/patties--which, like in any good burger, should be the predominate flavour and bursting with substance/proof/support for one's argueent. (Of course, we have looked at the old Wendy's Where's the beef? ad to explore this analogy).

I like to incorporate media into writing and to voice our opinions about certain matters we have used these vids to create hamburger outlines.

a) TED TALK by Kevin Alloca "Why Video's Go Viral"...which is a perfectly crafted hamburger/oral essay if ever there was one! We used this talk to define the quintessential hamburger outline, using his argruments, his points/proofs, and his conclusions. This is now an anchor chart hanging in the classroom.

b) Winter Attack Ad. We studied this argument of 'Don't Vote For Winter because..." listing the ones we noticed in this 'ad' and adding our own. We also explored the other seasons and crafted argument 'ads' for fall, spring and summer.... Don't vote for summer! First of all, it is too hot! For example, some days it can reach 30 degrees or higher, which makes it too hot to go outside! It is boring if you can't enjoy the outdoors...

c) Lady Ga Ga's meat dress (posted at the bottom of my media page). Ok, this isn't a video...but the picture caused quite a debate...if you were Lady Ga Ga's advisor, would you suggest she wear this dress? Why or why not?

Here are some other arguments we looked at for outlines:

d) Beckham kick...real or fake?

e) Is this a time travellor from the future talking on a cell phone in 19128? Or no?

Of course, students eventually will be moving on from outlines to substantial persuasive essays of their own as they craft a review of a book/game/movie of their choice. Before that, though, we are going to work whole class at defining the criteria for judgeing the worth of a book/game or movie so that they have substantial criteria to base their arguments on... I'm looking for more in those beef patty sections than just 'because 'you should watch/play/read it because it's fun/funny!' or "because I liked it!".