Posts Tagged ‘podcast’

Public domain image from Pixabay

Public domain image from Pixabay

So, I’ve been thinking and thinking about podcasting and getting an audience for my students’ work. I tried one version in the fall. Didn’t quite work the way I imagined, although students’ creative writing was really good and enthusiasm was solid.

I planned out a different version for this spring semester course. I tried to take into account some of what held the project back in the fall.

  • I thought about having a set time each rotation/week where some part of class would be devoted to this.
  • I thought about how to have regular, new content on our podcasting site and made a schedule for students to sign up for dates to complete work.
  • I thought about the ability to leave comments and decided to change to Soundcloud as the podcast home.
  • I thought about what I might not have thought about and asked my wonderful colleagues @TeacherDebra and @Betney802 to give me feedback on my plan.

Still not working out.

The varied due date thing is just not something that I can make work. This might be me, might be my second semester seniors, might be a combination. So, I ditched that.

Then, the audience part. This is something about which I feel very strongly. However, in reflecting, again, I think that it’s time to scale back on my audience. Instead of using Soundcloud, I am posting the podcasts on our class Moodle page. This does not give us a very large reach, but that’s where I’m landing. As I have mentioned before, I do tend to plan bigger than is realistic.

In discussing this with my colleague @Betny802 with whom I talk about the power of audience a lot, we realized that we might be able to work together next school year to get an audience that is within the school, but beyond my classroom. I’m just not ready to give up on this idea.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 1.57.46 PMSo, I’ve been thinking about authentic audience for student work for a while. Sometimes I do more than think about it; I talk about it. Often, this doesn’t go well. My audience in those conversation may be authentic, but is not enthusiastic. Given the reaction to the last time I brought this up with a group, I haven’t discussed it in certain circles for a while. However, the winds may be shifting. It’s like el niño. You don’t always know when the shift is coming, but it feels really different when it does.

Ok, I so desperately want my students to create for their peers. It kind of makes me crazy. And yet since moving to high school, I have not been able to get this going in a way that is acceptable to me. But now that el niño is in town, I am trying again.

Here’s my plan.

Students choose a sentence from our book (so far Slaughterhouse-Five and Life of Pi), a sentence that has grabbed them in some way. Then, they write a short piece of fiction or non-fiction (400-600 words) that includes that sentence. The “expert sentence” could appear at the beginning, middle, or end of the student’s work. Finally, once the piece is complete and edited, students record it as a podcast that also includes a very short conversation with a classmate about why they chose the given sentences.

I had an old podbean site that was sitting around from years ago. So, I repurposed it and we are up and ready. When I shared this idea with the class, a few of them were worried that people might be mean. As we got working and writing, I heard things like “I don’t like my story,” or “this isn’t going anywhere.” I responded with some variation of “this is your work going out into the world with your name on it. Don’t put something out there that you don’t think is good.” I did not reply with anything about the deadline or due date.

I am not going to sit here and claim that all the students have written amazing pieces or took the entire enterprise with total seriousness. However, a number of them were interested in the chance to write creatively; something that they mentioned they haven’t done in a while. Plus, we will do a piece for each book we read, so they’ll get to write and read more of their work.

Feel free to listen to the stories that are ready so far. Truth and Fiction on podbean. I found a few other teachers who said they would have students listen and give feedback, but I know everyone has her own class as well. We need to build a wider audience to get some responses. I have put a link to a google form for feedback.

The students would love to hear from anyone.






So, I’ve been thinking about Twitter again recently. During the school year, I felt pulled in too many directions to be doing much tweeting. However with summer schedule in effect, I’m back. (My position is 12 month, so I’m at school, but the pace is much more livable, and I have time to noodle around and actually find new things.)

One of the things I’m working on is a new English elective called “Truth and Fiction.” I have the book list pretty much set, but am looking for some podcasts. I read about the Mortified series and started listening. I’m hooked. And, now that I’m back to tweeting and have my summer learning hashtag to support, I tweeted this.

Next thing I know, I’m having a conversation with @Mortified.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 1.22.35 PM

How great is that?

This I Believe Classroom Poster

So, I’ve been thinking about our recent “This I Believe” unit. I tried to develop it into a collaborative projectand a few other classes signed up, but it didn’t get as much traction as I had hoped. There’s always next year.

Anyway, I forged ahead myself. I teach in a classroom that is usually self-contained. However, for 3 weeks at the end of January and beginning of February we do a little mini unit that involves all 3 sections rotating for science, social studies, and this year a writing unit. In the past I have done various math units, but I was ready for a change and felt that the “This I Believe” unit I tried out last year was worth expanding.

Once again, we listened to several podcasts from the “This I Believe” website, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and several songs. We discussed not only what ideas were being shared but the various strategies that were used to make the ideas powerful. After a plan, a draft, a peer review, and another draft students recorded themselves reading their statement and embedded the recording on a glog. Here are a few. There should be a play button somewhere on each glog.

Jacob believes in reading.

Cayman believes in soccer.

Chloe believes in skiing.

Ruby believes in acting.

Marshall believes in baseball.

Aly believes in pitching.

There are a couple of things I really like about this unit. First, I like that the students write something personal and creative that has some guidelines. So while it was creative, it was not formless. I also like that the students record themselves reading their statements. It is so great to listen to their voices. I mean I listen to them all day, but in any class there isn’t time to listen to a student talk, uninterrupted for minutes at a time. In addition because glogster plays so well with Edmodo, the glogs could go right into the Edmodo groups for others to see and hear. The students got to comment on each other’s work.

And, parents LOVE it. I played most of the recordings at spring parent conferences. There were a lot of big smiles. In addition I think some parents heard their children’s voices in a new way. They heard their children speaking about their beliefs in a way they probably don’t hear very often.

At the end of the day, I like to think that my classroom represents an academic community, even if it is only 5th grade. What I hope to be able to provide at a conference, and as a parent what I hope to get, is an idea of what a child is like as a member of that community. I think these pieces did that for me and for parents.

20101006 - PRIVATE - IMG_7904So, I’m still thinking about EduCon. The first conversation that I attended was presented by three impressive ladies:  Pam Moran, Becky Fisher, and Paula White. I knew from past experience that I would not be disappointed spending 90 minutes with them. I follow all of them on Twitter, try to keep up with that they write, and have either attended sessions with them before (f2f or virtual) and/or met them. Rather than sum up their presentation, I am sharing what ideas it brought to my mind.

The topic was writing, but we quickly moved to communicating more broadly. One of the things that I have written about before is having my students record themselves reading their essays. I was remembering this as the conversation bounced around ideas about grammar and punctuation. One of the things I like about teaching in the lower grades and at an independent school is that I do not have to give a single grade for writing or reading. Instead I have a skills list that allows me to comment on a student’s ability to do many of the individual parts of writing. So as I wrote last year, listening to my students read their work allows me to focus on the communication of ideas and not get bogged down by the grammar and spelling errors. I need to comment on them too, but I don’t like to have that be the only thing. It reminded me that I need to do this more. I have tended to keep this for more personal essays rather than expanding it to analytical writing. Although everyone could probably use some speaking practice, there is a limit to what I can cram into the school day/week/year. It might be that I should focus on having those students who struggle with the mechanics record more of their essays. It may not be as critical for everyone as some are quite proficient in being able to write what they think.

The other idea that came up for me was the public nature of students writing for a real audience. I am totally for student writing getting beyond the classrooms and hallways. When blogging and using wikis for  writing came up, there was, of course, some push back as to security. There was the usual conversation about students not sharing personal information online. It’s a pretty techie crowd, so we moved on quickly. But, then as we talked about giving students choice and writing about ideas and following their passion, we were talking about students being personal. I have a few things to say on the topic:

  1. It is more of an issue for elementary students; I get that.
  2. Schools routinely publish pictures of students who play on teams or win awards in newspapers or online. These pictures include first and last names as well as year of graduation and sometimes town of residence.
  3. Personal is not the same as private.

I think that we really need to expand the conversation to a distinction between personal information (I like soccer. I love to swim with my family in the summer.) and private information (I live at 123 Main Street. My social security number is). There is a lot of education conversation going on right now about personalizing learning and students writing about authentic interests and sharing those thoughts. Great, no problem, in my opinion. My students are only a few years away from being able to join social networking sites using their real birthdays where they will undoubtedly share both personal and probably some inappropriately private information.

What they are doing now is blogging. Blogging about their ideas and interests. They are neither picking on other students nor navel gazing. I like to think that they are learning to share publicly what is personally of interest. I hope they catch the blogging bug, and get a real serious case of it. Maybe that way they will not be so tempted to fill their networks with pettiness because they will have already built networks around shared interests and ideas. (Cue the dramatic music, sunrise with silhouetted person etc.) Ok, that might be a bit of wishful thinking. But it is still true that we are blogging. It is also true that we have had, and will continue to have, conversations about what is ok to share, what is not ok, and what is a gray area that depends on family comfort levels.

Spending 90 minutes with Pam, Becky, Paula and the other educators in attendance not only gave me a chance to see some of the great work that other students are doing, but it also inspired my to think more about ideas that have been swirling around in my head. Time well spent, for sure.


(creative commons licensed photo by Nicola since 1972)

So, I’ve been thinking about the essays I assign 5th graders. (To give you some idea of what to expect from 5th graders, at the beginning of the year many of them think “essay” is “SA”.) I’ve also been thinking about the podcasts we’ve been doing this year. If this were a title fight, who should win?

I say this is round 2 because in round 1 podcasting got disqualified, something about paperwork not being in on time. Anyway, so in round 2 (that would be now) podcasting is here and all official.

Boxers by Keith Haring, Berlin (1987)

So let’s meet our opponents:

In one corner, in the striped trunks, we have the traditional essay. The essay is a recognized champion. It fits in with how any serious thoughts used to have to be presented. It has lots of impressive sponsors. It’s not always very agile in the hands of 5th graders and gets obsessed with details. When everything comes together though, it can blow you away.

In the other corner, wearing polka-dot trunks, we have the podcast. The podcast is the challenger. It is hip, casual, and plays a little loose with the rules. It is part of the new digital crowd where folks present ideas in a variety of ways. It can get too free-form when it mixes with 5th graders. You have to watch out for being swayed by its cool factor, but when taken seriously, style and personality of the students come through loud and clear.

Here’s my blow-by-blow recap: I would feel I was doing my students a disservice if I did not teach them to express their ideas in written form. That means reading carefully first, thinking and putting ideas together second, planning what to include and the order to put it in third, and finally drafting and editing a final essay. That said, one of my stated goals of this type of assignment is the be able to use it for some sort of assessment–of thinking and writing. So, while the essay allows me to asses grammar, all those little errors sometimes overwhelm some solid thinking. But I have noticed as I have listened to the podcasts my students made that it is easier for me to see beyond the grammar when I am not in fact seeing the grammar, but listening to the power or lack thereof of ideas.

I have added podcasting as a final step, not substituted it for writing. There are very few people who probably should just speak off the top of their heads and be assessed on it, and I would guess none of them are 10 years old. When I listen to their essays, I get to hear the students stressing the parts they think are important (which of course more experienced writers can do just in text, but we’re not quite there yet). I get to hear each student breathe life into that flat paper statement.

So who wins this round?

I have to say it’s a split decision for me, folks. I’m keeping both of these powerhouses in my class; they’ll just have to get along.
Photo by Achim Hepp used under creative commons license.

(Not sure what it is with my chosen metaphors lately; they seem to relate to activities in which I do not participate as I neither sing nor box.)

So, I’ve been thinking about our class climate. In the beginning of the year I had what I called “5E Day” with my class, which was loosely based on George Couros’ Identity day. (Read about it here and about its impact here.)

One of the comments to my description of the resulting class tone wondered if we would need “booster shots” or any sort of redo. So far, I have to say that I think my class this year is a very supportive and cohesive group. Yet, I felt like this idea of a periodic booster might be worth remembering. And now I think I have a booster activity.

We are switching the book we read before winter break this year and it turns out that my new plan is in many ways a 5E Day booster. So here’s the plan:

  • We have listened to, read, and discussed in some detail both Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and President Kennedy’s “Inaugural Address” (ask not what your country can do for you).
  • We have been reading and listening to a selection of “This I Believe” podcasts from NPR (chosen by me with a wide variety of themes that are not too heavy).
  • We have been collecting “I believe. . .” statements in a jar in the room.
  • We are about to write a “This I Believe” essay as a book character.
  • I will collect, write-up, and the put into wordle our 5E beliefs.
  • I will make a podcast or Animoto video of our beliefs before winter break, no promises on this one, but it would be super.
  • Everyone, me included, will write a “This I Believe” essay (or poem or song) and create a podcast.
  • We will all listen to or read each other’s essays.
  • And, we’ve also read some short pieces that are somewhat related and totally entertaining.

I have to say I did not set out to create a 5E Day booster unit. I set out to plan a new unit that had some good pieces of what I have done in the past (King and Kennedy’s speeches) and some things I have been meaning to do (“This I Believe” essays). But, oh happy day, I have a feeling it’s going to be both a decent unit and act as a 5E Day refresher.

How many days are there until break?