Sunday, November 29, 2015

"The Moment" i.e. Using a snapshot for writing

photo CC Courtesy of Ed Yourdon via Flickr
   I read an article today from the Grantland Sports Blog website (associated with ESPN) by Shea Serrano looking at his rankings of characters from an early '90's baseball movie. While the article was an interesting distraction from my normal educational duties, I couldn't help but like how Mr. Serrano introduced his article by showing a small clip from The Sandlot to emphasize a powerful memory from his younger years.  The introduction brought two ideas to the front of my mind:

1) Isn't it amazing how something so seemingly insignificant can leave such a powerful and lasting impression on children?  As an educator, this is something I need to reflect on and wrestle with more...

2) What a fantastic idea for a writing activity, which I think can span multiple grade levels!  Here's the idea: Have a student write about a powerful moment from a film that inspires, promotes, or speaks into their life in a significant way.  I see students researching the clip on Youtube, introducing "the moment," and blogging about it.  Students then can comment on each other's "moments" and build relationships throughout the building.

These types of writing and thinking prompts challenge our students to be reflective, thoughtful, and evaluative, especially if we put in the time to model and teach those skills.  What writing prompts have you used to get students thinking in powerful and dynamic ways?

What movie moments have spoken to you over the years?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elementary News using TouchCast and iMovie

       I can't believe it's November already!  All my good intentions to continue writing this blog went out the window as soon as school started- I hope to renew this resource starting today.  With that said, I wanted share what the elementary students and staff are doing at BCLUW- using the Touchcast App and iMovie App for iPad, students are filming and reading a weekly newscast that gets shared to classrooms, parents, and the community.  Here's last week's news:

Using Touchcast, a free green-screen iPad app, we pick a background from a Creative Commons source.  The students receive their scripts from the principal a few days before, and rehearse.  On filming day, a student runs the camera and the app while the news reporters recite the news.
Touchcast is great for adding backgrounds using a green screen- it's a very user-friendly program that allows for some basic editing of film.  The really cool part is that you can add interactive elements to the broadcast- pictures, websites, music, video, etc.  If you upload the Touchcast by logging in, the elements in your video become interactive- that is, users watching your video can "touch" the elements and go to a different site.  You may also upload your video to the iPad's camera roll, which is what we do.

After uploading to the camera roll, we import the video into iMovie and add Creative Commons or fair-use copyrighted music, create title sequences, and export.  Everything is loaded into Google Drive and shared with parents.
Students using green screen with iPad

Students apply to be a part of the broadcast, and a new group of students are "hired" each month.  The entire process takes about 30 minutes to film, and about an hour to edit.  Allowing students to participate in the process can meet all sorts of Iowa Core standards, including Reading, Speaking and Listening Domains, and 21st Century Skills.  The Common Core doors fly open when students are allowed to write their own non-fiction school news!  Feel free to comment below any other ideas you might have to make this process more fun-