How to be a storyteller: podcasting in immersion

Deciding to guide students in becoming podcasters and sharing their work is, in my mind, an easy extension of what happens naturally in our language classrooms. The purpose of language is communication. We become better communicators through practice, repetition, and feedback. Podcasting formalizes lots of those natural dialogues.

When I started working with my students at Niitsitapi, we needed a way to record and share the stories so they lived beyond the walls of our classroom and into every classroom in our building and podcasting seemed like a natural place for this work to happen.

What does it mean to be a story teller? What are the elements of a good story?

Podcasting is storytelling. No matter what topic you choose with your students, you are asking them to find a way to make stories matter for the audience. The only way a listener is hooked beyond the initial opening is storytelling. Contextualize math, science, social studies and suddenly you have yourselves a story. And once you have a story it begs to be told…

For the purposes of the first foray into podcasting, there was some freedom for students in knowing that honouring traditional stories meant not making changes or additions to the story. Telling was retelling. And becoming familiar with the elements of a good story gave students confidence to write their own stories and plus the work later.

As the work passed into the second year, it grew from retelling traditional stories to plussing them with many sides. A multi-sided story that includes both science eyes and traditional perspectives. Kids were hooked. We brainstormed all of the many sides that might be important to telling our story.

Once you have the why down, the how is pretty easy.

Studio space:

Finding recording space in busy, noisy schools can be challenging. I found that a quiet corner in the classroom works just fine and, in the end, we adapted our puppet theatre to be the large “box” and insulated it with blankets. I left the upright pipes unchanged, mostly because I didn’t want to buy new joints. If I were designing from scratch I would likely make a few modifications but sometimes design constraints are a good thing. Mostly successfully recording is about teaching students to respect one another in the classroom; if one group is recording the others need to be next to silent. Milk crates stuffed with soft materials was an excellent exploration of a science unit in hearing and sound and make darn good mini studios.

Pre-production:

Listen to podcasts and determine elements of a good podcast using kid-friendly podcasts as “mentor texts”. We looked at the types of podcasts and most decided on one or two voices in a conversation, retelling the stories learned.

The amazing team over at Tumble Podcast accepted a Skype session with my students and discussed what makes up a good podcast and offered support on technical elements of recording. One of the tips we liked best: record in a place with lots of “stuffy soft things”.

Writing

I had students use this format to organize their thinking for the introduction and this to write the script. Some of my work in another lifetime is in writing for film and television, so I was kind of winging it here with how to write an official podcast script. I showed students examples of my scripts and we discussed the elements that made them “good”. We looked at samples of scripts including this. Finally, I made up my own version of what I wanted it to look like to help organize their work.

The class divided into teams and each took on 1-2 elements of the topic. They researched and brainstormed using a concept web, which they turned into a rough draft. The final draft is a colour-coded script where each student has highlighted their lines with a different colour.

Production:

I used the Blue Yeti mic to record my work as a part of my masters in educational technology, so I figured that if it was good enough for that work it was good enough for the classroom. We paired it with garage band on the macbook pros at school. Even this much is not necessary, though… there is absolutely nothing wrong with the production quality you’ll get out of an iPad or iPod in a room with decent acoustics.

Postproduction and publication

After recording, it’s time to edit the audio. I like Garageband for putting things together but find that it’s tricky for young students to do without one-to-one support. If you have time available for it then I’d say go for it and make it fancy… if not, there is nothing wrong with a simple voice recorder on your smart device and hitting pause and record as needed. If you choose to add music be sure to use podcast friendly music and credit the creators. Good habits are important to instill in our students.

We chose to publish our podcast to Soundcloud and place a link to it on our classroom Website and Twitter feed rather than creating an RSS feed and publishing to iTunes, which, I guess means we’re not an official podcast, but with a budget of zero dollars and when this gives us access to everything we needed as school-based podcasters, this fit the bill.

The love of being an author and storyteller is a delicate plant that needs to be nurtured for kiddos. A little praise, a little space for taking risks, a little nudge towards improving the next draft. They’re enjoying the work for now and I can’t wait to share the next iterations.

Word of the week: Lendemain

Forgive me, here. I’m trying something new… I have long suggested that explicit vocabulary instruction is essential for students in learning how to read. In her book, Proust and the Squid, Wolfe discusses the importance of developing oral language in support of developing literacy, especially for second-language learners. She was speaking specifically about English Language Learners and I am applying her ideas to my context: French Immersion. My students, most of whom French is a second language, but some of whom are acquiring it as a third or fourth language, participate in a weekly PWIM exercise in which we use an image to shake loose as much vocabulary as possible and then use the vocabulary in context.

I recently had the opportunity to work with a teaching partner to team teach a PWIM lesson that lead into a beautiful math discussion, so I HIGHLY encourage the use of PWIM in support of learning. Mathematical discourse.

I have played with the idea of how to help the discussions from our PWIM work continue to live on so that students can access it later.

As a learner myself, I used CBC’s C’est la Vie podcast to learn French vocabulary. I liked that it provided a single word each week and provided multiple ways of using it. Information presented in English with word use in French. I’m going to try that context here and see what happens with not promises that I won’t adapt it at a later time…

So with that, the first of a (weekly) podcast series for my personal use with my students. If it’s useful to you in your context then I’m more than happy to share.

 

Show Notes:

Bonjour! Welcome to The Value of Wonder! The podcast where we look at new French vocabulary for the Primary French Immersion classroom!

Today we’ll be looking at the word “lendemain”. Lendemain is a word that is used to mean “the next day”, so imagine telling a story in the past… “En vacances, je suis allée faire du ski. Le lendemain, c’était plus relaxe! J’ai pris in café avec ma mère, puis nous avons magasiné au centre d’achats.”

It might also be used in the sense: the day after. For example, if I were talking about a ringette tournament I might say, “le lendemain du tournoi de ringette j’étais fatiguée!”

If I were thinking in bigger terms I might want to use “Pensons au lendemain”, which means, “Let’s think about the future.” In this case, I’m not talking about a day in particular but a general sense of “the days that come after this one”. “Pensons au lendemain” might be used if I were trying to make a big decision… “Je pense à acheter une voiture très dispendieux… un Lambourghini… Mais je dois penser au lendemain… si j’achète un Lamborghini je n’aurais pas les fond pour acheter du café.”

The phrase “les lendemains” might be used to mean consequences. “Les lendemains de ses actions aujourd’hui seront grave.” As in “Les lendemains d’acheter un Lambourghini aujourd’hui seront grave! J’ai besoin de mon café!

The most commonly used way students in primary school will use it is the first meaning, “the next day”. We read the book together, “un dragon sur l’eau” where a little girl goes swimming with her class. She didn’t want to go because the water was cold, but “le lendemain elle est allée à la piscine avec ses amis.”

If you can use “le lendemain” in a sentence to mean the next day, then you will already be a master of its basic meaning. Donc, à la prochaine, les amis! Je vais rendre visite à mon amie vendrendi et le lendemain, j’ai invité ma mère chez moi!

Au revoir et à la prochaine!

Resources: Thoughtco

Making Time for Creativity: One Second Each Day

How do we encourage creativity in the classroom?

 

Creativity in the classroom… why does it matter and how do we support students in developing creativity?

Creativity in Education-one second each day.band

Script: 1 sec every day

Links from the podcast

1 second every day

Campus Calgary Open Minds

Canada in a Day

Resources

Craig, C., Deretchin, L. (2011). Cultivating Curious and Creative Minds: The Role of Teachers and Teacher Educators, Part 2. R&L Education.

Cropley, A. (2001). Creativity in Education and Learning. Sterling, VA: Psychology Press

Egan, K. (1997). The educated mind: How cognitive tools shape our understanding. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Halliday, A. (2017). Lynda Barry on How the Smartphone Is Endangering Three Ingredients of Creativity: Loneliness, Uncertainty & Boredom.

http://www.openculture.com/2017/09/lynda-barry-on-how-the-smartphone-is-endangering-three-ingredients-of-creativity.html

Robinson. K. Aronica, L. (2009) The element : how finding your passion changes everything. New York : Penguin Books.

Zomorodi, M. (2017). How Boredom Can Lead to your Most Brilliant Ideas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=37&v=c73Q8oQmwzo

Give them words

The further I dig into Regie Routman’s Read, Write, Leadthe more I feel that The 2 Sister’s (also hereDaily 5 and Café literacy structures help teachers meet the criteria of an effective literacy classroom. My own interest is technology-supported second-language literacy, lately with a focus on disciplinary literacy.

Read. A lot.

I always hesitated to do Daily 5 in French and English in my classroom (Grade 3 is the first time students get English Language Arts in addition to French Language Arts) because it felt like too much time “lost” to reading, but Routman suggests that teachers don’t allow students enough time to engage in uninterrupted reading. That being said, the independent reading students do must be supported by the teacher. This is a fine balance;  careful monitoring and support of student reading but not so micromanaged that it takes the joy out of it. That is the precise reason I am not a fan of home reading logs – tracking number of minutes and number of titles read in exchange for anything takes the innate joy out of reading. Reading is for fun and for information and I want my students to see it that way.

That being said, I conference with students about once a week about the books they are reading to ensure they are a good fit and that students are aware of and working towards their logical next steps.

Talk even more

In immersion, the cognitive load of students is double: not only are they acquiring the ability to interpret text, but they are also working to acquire a second language. Primary school students acquire language the same way any speaker of a language does (listen to small children learn language – every time I do I remember my love for linguistics). Students need to hear language but they also need to USE language. In our language classrooms, teachers need to ensure ours is not the only voice being heard. He who constructs the meaning does the learning; let students do the talking.

Agency and authenticity

How do you pick your next read? Are you aware of the cognitive processes that go into it? We listen to friends. We browse book stores and libraries. We dig into book reviews on Amazon. Sometimes we catch them in the wild. Sometimes we track our reading using social annotation or social reading sites like Goodreads or the local library’s tracking feature. We as teachers need to provide students with these same opportunities. The purpose of tracking reading cannot be accountability to the teacher but accountability to one’s self and working towards one’s goals. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of teaching literacy is to develop students who are able to interact independently with text for multiple purposes.

We must know our learners as readers, but, more importantly, our learners need to know themselves as readers. This is where learning management systems such as the Calgary Board of Education’s IRIS are invaluable. Students need a place to reflect on their learning and they need agency.

Translanguaging is not interlanguaging

Translanguaging involves allowing students to access their full language repertoire. Many bilinguals are not even aware that they speak multiple languages. There are simply the words used with one audience and different words used with another audience. As immersion teachers, we tend to tamp out the use of a student’s maternal language in favor of the immersion language. Immersion tends to ignore the fact that students speak other languages but if we intentionally teach them metacognitive comprehension strategies that draw upon their first language student’s literacy skills will be enhanced. We do it in our first language, amassing vocabulary throughout our lives and building upon our understanding of linguistic structures as we learn. We need to leverage this for our second-language students.

A well-stocked library and accessibility options

Learners need access to high-quality, high-interest texts that will engage them in reading. While there is a time and a place for leveled readers, I am not a fan of them personally outside of teaching specific skills. I personally distinctly remember two events in my “learning to read” life:

  1. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I dug up a copy of W.O. Mitchel‘s Who Has Seen the Wind at my local book mobile (remember the old days when library books came to rural areas on a bus?) because I remember my mom talking about how it was an important book in Saskatchewan. The librarian made me put it back because she didn’t think it was a good fit for me. Crushed, I put it back. I hadn’t actually intended on reading it but on having my mom read it to me. To this day, I have not read that book.
  2. When I must have been about 10 or 11 my mom went back to university and read Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel. I found the book on the bottom shelf of the living room book shelf and settled in with it, reading the book and enjoying my mom’s annotations in the margins. Did I understand it the same way she did? Surely not. But I loved that book.

Just because a book looks like it might not be a good fit doesn’t mean that readers can’t access the story. As an adult, roughly 50% of my reading is audio books. I participate in endurance sports (and for many years participated in endurance commutes) which means that if I want to read, I have to do it while I do something else. One of my family’s favorite things to do on long road trips is to plug in an audio book. While we may not engage in close reading while doing so, we do engage in shared story. If we as teachers know that approximately 10% of our learners have difficulty accessing text, then we need to find accessibility options for our students to engage.

Above all else, our classrooms need to make space for joy in reading! If we take pleasure in books and help our students find the happiness in shared story everybody wins!

 

Digital Literacy, Multiliteracies, and Classroom Accommodations

Forgive my cross-posting. This was originally written for a class and I’m reposting here to share with those educators I frequently interact with. Thoughts welcome.

apples

When reference is made to classroom accommodations, there is often expressions of distress — concern that if the student just can’t cut it in the classroom with the “normal” expectations then there will be adjustment in the tools available or to the curricular expectations. But, if, as Cazden posits, the fundamental purpose of education is “to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community and economic life”, then providing tools for students to do the job is not an accommodation to meet their learning needs — it is part of the job of teaching. Digital tools for teaching and learning are simply the latest iteration in a long line of technological advances. When discussing a return to the “good old days of teaching and learning” the reference is not to a return to wax tablets nor to a return to one-room school houses with ink-wells and chalk and slate. To what, then, is the return to basics advocating?

Adult learners have the experience with tools to decide which tools are necessary for which jobs. While occasionally handwritten work may trump digital tools (when the writer experiences difficulty wrangling a sentence into the desired form, when the learner feels like the task is not engaging or that they are falling asleep during reading, when the learner desires a bodily-kinesthetic connection between concepts), adult learners, workers, citizens, rely heavily on digital tools for work and play. Lists are made on a phone. Reading is done from digital textbooks where the reader can highlight, annotate, and export notes, which are then turned into written responses in longer form using digital mind mapping tools to plan and google docs to write, wordpress to publish, share and interact.

Digital voice assistant-controlled software, including Siri and Google, are frequently used to interact with devices. Of iPhone users, 98% have used Siri to interact with their phones, although a smaller percentage use a digital assistant regularly. “Hey Siri!” or “Ok, Google” have already become common vernacular among young learners. Blog posts, essays, letters, and emails can be dictated via talk-to-text tools that are fast approaching the accuracy of humans, although there remains reluctance to engage in voice engagement with digital tools while in public. Yet classroom educators continue to insist that if a child cannot write with pencil and paper with flawless spelling and grammar with only the support of a photocopied graphic organizer as an outline tool and a ten-pound-brick of a dictionary that they cannot write and the hand wringing begins.

As stakeholders in education, let’s  let go of the double standard and denying tools to learners until after they have mastered “the basics”. Luke and Luke assert that competence with one domain is often inappropriately reconstrued as incompetence with print-based literacies and “that the crises of print literacy and their preferred ameliorative social strategies are being used as a nodal point in public discourse both to delay and sublimate the emergence of new educational paradigms around multiliteracies, around new blended forms of textual and symbolic practice and affiliated modes of identity and social relations” (Luke and Luke p. 96). The paradigm shift will happen with us or without us.

As in the 70s with the introduction of calculators into calculus classrooms there was considerable concern that the new technology would suppress learners’ abilities to master the basics. Calculators are now standard tools in the classroom and there is an app that can easily read and solve handwritten complex equations. The work of classrooms is not to deny learners access to tools that facilitate learning and working with information but to teach them “to be information literate, […] to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (ALA, p18)

References:

American Library Association (ALA) (1989). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Cazden, C. Cope, B. Fairclough, N. Gee, J. et. al. (1996) A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. http://newarcproject.pbworks.com/f/Pedagogy%2Bof%2BMultiliteracies_New%2BLondon%2BGroup.pdf

Clark, B. (2016). Microsoft’s Speech Recognition is now just as accurate as humans. The Next Web. http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2016/10/18/microsofts-speech-recognition-is-now-just-as-accurate-as-humans/

Dobson, T. & WIlinsky, J. Digital Literacy.

Leswig, K. (2016) Here’s why people don’t use Siri regularly, even though 98% of iPhone users have tried it. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/98-of-iphone-users-have-tried-siri-but-most-dont-use-it-regularly-2016-6

Luke, A., & Luke, C. (2001). Journal of early childhood literacy: Adolescence Lost/Childhood regained: On early intervention and the emergence of the techno-subject. Sage Publications.