Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Making Book Trailers with iMovie

Posted on: November 14th, 2013 by Chris Loat

Students in Rakshin Kandola’s Eng. 10 class are creating a different type of book report these days. Gone are the book summaries or endless comprehension questions that students often find very

tedious. In her class, students are making book trailers (in the style of movie trailers) for the books they are reading. Students are working in groups and reading the same material, then collaborating their ideas to create a book trailer that lasts 60 – 90 seconds. In the end, the groups of students present their book trailer and lead a discussion with the rest of the class about the theme, tone, characterization, issues, problem / solution, setting, plot and more. It is likely the collaboration process in which students learn about the different aspects of the story, but it is the final movie presentation during which students really show what they understood.

Students not only learn about different components of a story, but also learn about collaborating, compromising, cooperating, and communicating. They learn how to present information using visual, audio and video components, and learn how to get across a message loud and clear. Lastly, students also learned the value in being organized and in having a plan. Each class, students set goals and wrote a reflection on the process, and used this to guide/monitor their progress. Students also created storyboards and developed a sold plan before opening their laptops and firing up iMovie.
How did they complete such polished book trailers? Below is the lesson sequence for doing this, along with a couple of examples from her class.
1. Select the story they plan to read.
2. Read their books.
3. Use storyboards to plan out their book trailer.
4. Collect images / videos / audio, film and take their own videos and images.
5. Load content onto a usb drive and subsequently on macbook computers loaded with iMovie.
6. Begin to create book trailer with iMovie 11.
7. Midpoint check in. Students present what they have completed and get feedback from other students in the class in regards to their information and technical aspects of the presentation.
8. Continue to work on book trailer.
9. Present book trailer at the class filmfest.
My role in this project was to introduce iMovie to the students and show how they can present their ideas with video clips, images, audio clips, timing of information, camera techniques and more. I showed them how to use timing to create suspense, how to use the camera filters to create mood (e.g. use soft focus to create etherial mood), the impact of background audio on how images are viewed, and how to use the Ken Burns effect to bring attention to part of an image. In the end, students fully understood the finer points of the story, as well as how to convey a message using different forms of media.

Below are some examples of the book trailers the students created, and here is the a link to the series of lessons and project criteria that were used.

Book trailer for the story ‘North End Faust’
Book trailer for the story ‘Rebellion’
Book trailer for the story ‘Door Knobs’
Book trailer for the story ‘The Betrayal’

Using Toontastic in the Classroom

Posted on: October 24th, 2013 by Chris Loat

The app Toontastic allows students to create an animation in which they move characters and provide the audio to narrate / explain their animation.  The results is an animated cartoon in which their characters speak, and the combination of moving characters and audio recordings often results in a well crafted product. This app is a favourite among many students as it allows students to express their toontastic website, called toontube, dedicated online repository for publishing student creations.
Screenshot of some student
work from Toontube

understanding or emotions with verbal rather than written language and allows students to creatively show what they know in a variety of ways. Student work can be published online at the 

Allowing the students to explore Toontastic often proves useful in getting the students to understand how it works. The free version of the app has some built in settings and characters; students also have the option to create their own setting and characters with a basic paint tool built into the app. Unfortunately they are not able to import images or characters created outside of the app. The app has a  built in storyboard template for the telling of a story and is organized into 5 scenes: Setup / Conflict / Challenge / Climax / Resolution. Students can add or eliminate these scenes or can disregard them altogether (if they are going to animate a non-fiction piece of work or a poem). Whatever format they choose, Toontastic provides an alternative way for students to communicate their information and, IMHO, is one of the more versatile apps on the iPad.
Tips for using the app
  • Be sure the students record their voices in a relatively quiet place as the iPad picks up background noise.
  • Students should rehearse their lines as it is a bit tedious to review and redo each scene. Most students will need more than one trial for each scene, but rehearsing their lines will limit the number of ‘takes’.
  • Doing the work in groups works quite well as this lends itself to multiple voices and more than one character moving at a time.
  • Remind students to use emotion in their voices as the character’s don’t show facial expression to show how they are feeling.
Ideas for Using the App
  1. After writing a fable or myth, have students create custom characters and settings, then narrate their story. (see the below example of a First Nations legends created by a grade 5 student )
  2. Use the characters to develop a balance of dialogue and narrative in their creative stories. Often, students will only have dialogue when experimenting with the app, so practicing with the narrative explanations helps develop this aspect of writing.
  3. Animate a poem they wrote.
  4. Create a cartoon version of a novel read in class that contains a similar problem / solution.
  5. Animate some reading responses that involve the interaction between two or more people (e.g. some of the action strategies developed by Jeffrey Wilhelm).
  6. Tell a news story and use the animation as live video footage of the story.
  7. Practice French vocabulary. For vocabulary, students can create objects with the draw/paint tool and then record a sentence (or just the word) as they move the object
  8. Practice French conversations. Students can use the stock characters and record a basic French conversation between them. Or ESL students can practice conversations in English with the characters.
  9. Create a conversation between geometric shapes and highlight their properties.
  10. Narrate and animate the steps of a process in Science. For example, student could draw the different phases of the water cycle as their setting and then have arrows and labels as characters that are brought in when each phase is explained.

Using Screencasting in the Classroom

Posted on: October 18th, 2013 by Chris Loat

When teaching students in the upper grades, one type of question they do not like is the ‘Explain Your Thinking’ type of question. Sometimes, students just want to get the answer and move on. Being one of those students when I was in grade 6, I understand that; I got the answer correct and I wanted to just finish the work. However we know that students who are able to reflect on the processes they use to solve problems will be better able to utilize these processes in different situations. 

The iPad has come to the rescue and made it easier to utilize screencasting to complete this type of work. Students are now able to do work on the iPad and record their verbal explanation of the work they are doing. There are many apps that allow for this type of work, including Doceri, ShowMe, Explain Everything, ScreenChomp, and Educreations. Regardless of which one you choose, these apps are able to synchronously record both pen strokes and audio to create a screencast. I like the app Doceri as it is free, it has a variety of tools, can use multiple screens, and it allows for easy sharing.
Ideas for Integrating Screencasting into your Curriculum
 
1. Math:

  • the teacher can explain a Math concept and post it online for students to use if they forget or struggle with learning the concept
  • pose an exemplar type question and allow students to answer it using Doceri, then email it to you to keep as evidence of their learning
  • students can also explain a Math concept and post this online for others to learn from
  • load a hundreds chart on the iPad and show / explain different number patterns (or load any other black line master used in Math to explain other Math concpets)

2. Science:

  • the teacher can explain a Science concept and post it online for students to use if they forget or struggle with learning the concept
  • students can explain the steps of a cycle or process (students should load the photos on the screen before recording their explanations)
  • students can take a photo of an important part of an experiment and have students explain its importance or the explanation of what happenend and why

3. Social Studies:

  • the teacher can explain a Social Studies concept and post it online for students to use if they forget or struggle with learning the concept
  • students can load a map on the screen and explain why settlements / cities are often located along particular geographic features (e.g. rivers)
  • students can create a slideshow of photos about a particular topic (e.g. Ancient Egypt) and give a verbal explanation of each slide

4. Language Arts:

  • students can load a photo of their poem and read it aloud, then send it to their teacher as evidence of their oral reading and use of expression
  • students can load a photo of a setting and highlight/verbally explain the parts they could describe in their writing
  • students can load a photo (about any topic) and verbally explain how the photo could be incorporated into a creative story or poem; pre-talking before writing often works for students rather than silent brainstorming
  • students can read aloud a passage and while reading, make connections (text to self, text to text, text to world); underline the part of the book and then verbally explain their connection

5. Physical Eduation:

  • the teacher or student can load photos of the finishing position or important position of an exercise or skill to show students and explain to them how to complete an exercise or skill
  • the teacher or student can load photos of basic offensive strategy or defensive zone coverage in basketball (or any other sport) and explain the key strategic points

6. Art:

  • students can take a photo of their own art piece t and explain the process used to create it
  • students can make a slideshow of some pieces of their own art and give a verbal reflection about their own work
  • the teacher can take a photo of a person’s face and draw lines showing the proportional position of different parts of the face
Have fun making your screencasts. They are a great way for kids to show what they know.

Using Popplet in the Classroom

Posted on: October 13th, 2013 by Chris Loat 2 Comments

Popplet Lite is an app that allows students to create a word web, mind map, or any other organized collection of ideas. The big differences between using Popplet and creating one by hand is that the ideas can be easily moved around and colour coded, and that photos/images can be easily inserted instead of written ideas. Students add ideas by double tapping the iPad screen to create a cell or ‘popple’.

Inside the popple, students have the option to:

  • type text in the middle of the popple
  • use their finger to draw a sketch (or handwrite) with the pencil
  • add a photo taken with their camera
  • add a photo from their photo library
  • colour code and resize each popple.

Most students will figure out how to add the different elements; however here are a few tips for using the app:

  1. For drawing sketches with the pencil, enlarge the popple, draw the sketch, then resize the popple down to its smaller size.
  2. To select multiple popples, tap each one with two fingers.
  3. You can copy a popple by holding your finger one the popple. ‘Copy popple’ will appear and then tap this button.
  4. Paste an image copied from elsewhere by tapping and holding your finger on a popple. ‘Paste image’ will appear and then tap this button.
  5. Move the entire popplet by dragging your finger outside of a popple.
  6. Move one popple around the screen by dragging your finger inside of a popple.
  7. You can cut/copy/paste text within and between popples by tapping and holding on the text. A selection of buttons will appear which allow you to cut/copy/paste text.
  8. Create a new branch between two popples by tapping on the popple, then tapping on the grey circle just outside the popple, then dragging your finger to the popple you want to connect to.
  9. Colour code your popples so each similar idea / word is the same colour (e.g. all proper nouns are green).
  10. Change the arrangement (left, centre, right justified) or size of the text by tapping and holding on a word, then tapping on select or select all. A new dialogue box appears on the right side of the screen to alter the text. This is done while in text mode, so tap the T on the popple before selecting your words.

Ideas for student use of Popplet Lite in the classroom include:

  • brainstorm ideas for a written essay in an organized manner. Remember, the ideas can be images from a website, photos they take with the iPad, or sketches made with the pencil tool.
  • make a word web for a specific unit of study or in second language. This is a great tool for ELL students or for learning French vocabulary.
  • make a concept map with connections between ideas (sadly, words cannot be placed on the lines in popplet). One could make a concept map without the adjoining words and print it off, then have the students add the words to show their understanding between the concepts.
  • categorize ideas / words / concepts
  • create a timeline by arranging the popplets in a linear fashion
  • collect facts for a research project (using popplet makes it difficult to copy/paste long sentences or paragraphs, therefore helps to prevent plagiarism)
  • create a family tree with photos and names
  • Ideas for teacher use of Popplet lite in the classroom include:
  • create your own 4 Pictures 1 Word game
  • seating plan (with names and photos)
  • class brainstorm of ideas
  • create a unit plan

See the examples below of how popplet can be used in the classroom

Canada Vocabulary for an ELL class, with words categorized
Seating Plan for a Classroom
Framework for brainstorming essay ideas
Fact Collecting for a Research Project on homo habilis

Using the App ‘Book Creator’ in the Classroom

Posted on: October 4th, 2013 by Chris Loat

The app ‘Book Creator’ is a versatile and intuitively set-up app that allows students to easily create digital content in a variety of ways. In Richmond, teachers have used their iPads and ‘Book Creator’ to publish ebooks on a variety of topics and in a variety of genres. Below are some ideas for using ‘Book Creator’ in your classroom.

1. How To… Books
Kirsten Wallace at Steves Elementary first taught a series of lessons on procedural writing to her grade 5 class. After learning the skills required for procedural writing, the students used the app ‘Book Creator’ on the iPad to explain ‘How To Tie a Shoe’. Each student wrote about this topic and explained the process with text, photos, audio recordings, and video. The ebooks were shared with their little buddies in grade 1 (a true test if their explanations were clear!). The next assignment was to explain the steps to their Science experiment for the annual district Science Jam event. Again, the students used the app ‘Book Creator’ on the iPads to write, verbally explain, and show with photos/videos the series of steps for their Science experiment. Students used the performance standards (adapted to student language) to self-evaluate their assignment on ‘How To Tie a Shoe’ and then made changes to improve their work. Using ‘Book Creator’ allowed for easy edits to the digital work the kids had completed so far. These same criteria were used to self-assess their Science experiment procedures and make changes along the way.

Steps 3 and 4 of ‘How To Tie a Shoe’ ebook. Students used
both video and audio recordings to help explain the process.

2. Collaborative Books
Sandy Sanderson and Susan Fawcus at Kingswood Elementary used ‘Book Creator’ to make a collaborative ABC book on Ancient China, their theme for Social Studies. Each student was given a letter of the alphabet and came up with an idea that started with their letter and connected to Ancient China. Students researched the topic and presented their information on one page in ‘Book Creator’. The pages contained text, images, audio explanations and videos. Some students created their own videos with the animation app ‘NFB Pixstop’ or by video taping themselves with the iPad camera, and then embedded them into their page. When their page was done, students emailed their work to the teacher who collated all pages into one book.

Cover page for the ABC ebook on Ancient China.
One page from the ABC ebook on Ancient China. The video is
an animation made with NFB Pixstop which was then embedded in the book.
Another page from the ABC ebook on Ancient China. The
video is a recording the students took with the iPad camera.

Another idea for a collaborative book is to give primary students a sentence starter to complete (e.g. One spooky night, I saw…). Students made a page in ‘Book Creator’ and wrote their completed sentence on the page. They then illustrated their sentence with a drawing app (e.g. Doodle Buddy or Drawing Box). After the drawing was finished, students saved it to their camera roll on the iPad and then placed it on the ‘Book Creator’ page. When the page was finished, students emailed it to their teacher who collated the pages into one ‘Book Creator’ book.

Cover page for the collaborative ebook ‘One Spooky Night’.
First 2 pages of the ebook ‘One Spooky Night’.

3. Non-fiction Books
Sonya O’Neill at Steveston London Secondary had her Spanish 9 students learn about a Spanish speaking country by researching the country and then making an ebook. Students were asked to incorporate Spanish on each page, and since the audio function in ‘Book Creator’ is easy to incorporate, it was a favourite among the students to complete this part of the criteria. Other students also video taped themselves speaking Spanish and included these videos in their books. At the end of the project, students did a presentation about their country by sharing the book on a flat screen TV.

Two pages from an ebook about Argentina. Audio buttons
beside the page titles play student recordings in Spanish.
Video files were embedded on different pages to show clips
of life in Argentina.

4. Photo Book

When she taught at Blair Elementary, Janice Novakowski would take photographs during walking field trips and would make photo books for the class to reflect on the following day. Using ‘Book Creator’, she would present each photo on its own page, along with a simple sentence for the Gr. 1 students to read. Since the iPads were set to automatically sync books, the book could be put on all 30 iPads for each student to see.

Cover page for the photo ebook of a walking field trip.
Pages of photos and simple text for the Grade 1 photo
ebook of a walking field trip.