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Cultivating Classroom Community Through the WRITE Method

By Carrice Cummins, Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez, and Elizabeth Manning
 | Oct 06, 2017

2017_03_30-DL-300wAs we move forward in the new school year, we strive to help students continue to learn about each other and to foster a strong classroom community. This can be done using WRITE, a five-step process that employs digital tools and resources to help students share their stories. You will find that students will quickly become engaged as they use technology to move through each step.

W: What to Write

R: Research

I: Initial Draft

T: Two Kinds of Editing

E: Extend to an Audience

What to write

During stage one, deciding what to write, students will tell their life stories. They can start this project by creating a timeline to detail their key life events. Using ReadWriteThink’s Timeline Generator or Sutori, students can import picture slides into movie software and add voice narration and background music. The idea of sharing content is not unfamiliar to your students as they do this on a regular basis through their interaction in social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, My Story, etc.).

Research

The research stage requires students to locate pictures that illustrate their story. For hard copies of pictures, students or parents can take a picture with a cell phone then either air drop, message, or email the picture so it can be saved to a folder on the computer they are using for this project. Sometimes, the quality of the picture is lost when a picture is taken of the picture. If that is an issue, CamScanner can be used to scan pictures so that picture quality stays intact. 

Initial draft

The initial draft stage involves students inserting their pictures into Google slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Apple Keynote.  Each key event from their timeline becomes a slide in the slideshow. The title of the slide can be the significant date (e.g., August 3, 2008) while the subtitle could be a brief description of the key event (e.g., Best birthday presenter ever—my dog, Chica!). Students insert the corresponding picture to the slide, then they write a script that elaborates more on the key event (e.g., This was probably my favorite birthday of all times. Mom and Dad gave me my very own puppy.  I named her Chica, and we go everywhere together.) 

Two kinds of editing

During the fourth stage, students perform two kinds of editing: editing for content and editing for CUPS (capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling). For both editing tasks, students can work in small teams and edit each other’s slideshows for the following content elements:

  • Title: Date included on slide
  • Subtitle: Brief description of key event
  • Picture: Reflects the key event
  • Script: Additional information about the key event

Any feedback from the peer reviewers can be provided using the comment option in Google Slides, Microsoft Office, or Apple Keynote. During CUPS editing, the peer reviewer checks the work for capitalization, usage, punctuation, or spelling errors. If errors are found, then the peer reviewer adds a comment. Once this review cycle is finished, each student revisits their slideshow and script to make any needed corrections.

Extend

During the last stage of the WRITE process, students have the opportunity to publish their life story as a movie. Students import their pictures into Apple iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, and then use their script and add voice narration to provide the additional information for each key life event they shared. The last step is to add a remix of music that plays in the background.  Once completed, these life story movies can be shared with the rest of the class so they can learn more about other members of their classroom learning community.

Community building is a critical component of a strong student-centered, collaborative learning environment. Students can only learn and grow when they feel that they can take a risk and try something new without fear of judgment or ridicule. This project allows students to recognize and to appreciate that they each have a story to tell and that the community of the classroom would be incomplete without each one. In a classroom with a strong community spirit, there is a sense of encouragement, understanding, and empathy. This type of technology integration is a way to allow students to express themselves using a digital fingerprint while building interpersonal connections with their classmates.

Carrice Cummins is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has over 40 years’ experience as an educator with primary areas of interest in comprehension, content area literacy, and teacher development. She served as the 2012-13 president of the International Reading Association.

Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has been an educator for over 30 years, and her areas of expertise include literacy and technology.

Elizabeth Manning is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. A veteran K-8 teacher of over 25 years, her areas of interest include content area literacy, writing workshop, and curriculum design and development.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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