This year has been exhausting. More students, more preps, more demands of increased test scores on writing and reading. More, more, more with less given back. This equals exhaustion.
As a ninth grade team, one of our essential learnings is for our students to write with a critical and argumentative intent. Our common assessment working towards meeting this essential learning is having our students compose thesis statements that state the title, author, answer the question asked and provide a value as to “why” that is the answer. With every story we read, we write a thesis statement working towards proficiency. By now, my kids have composed at least 7 thesis statements on various short stories from Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger” to Richard Connell’s “Most Dangerous Game” to David Brenner’s “Fish Eyes.” All of these stories focus on our essential question of the semester “How do words and actions affect who others become?” We have written out our thesis statements on note cards, posted our thesis statements on our class blog, and shown them to one another using the document camera. Ahh, the document camera…
I can’t tell you how much I love this piece of equipment. After having laptops for four years, I am so used to the instantaneous power of learning and immediacy of information. When I have taught student writing before, we always exchange papers with USBs to edit one another’s work and to showcase writing workshop tips and suggestions. It takes time loading one’s paper, and getting the kids to emulate the strategies I am demonstrating on a student’s papers. But it is worthwhile to see them learn from one another.
This year with the document camera is different though. I am not sure if it is just the tool, or the amount of writing my all boys’ class is doing, but they can’t wait to share their writing with the class using the document camera. On Wednesday, I asked the students “who would like to share their writing so we can learn together from the editing process?” Almost 2/3 of the class had a paper they wanted to share. They all wanted to use their writing as an example so that the rest of the class could give feedback to the paper under the camera. As we talked through the paper, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, the students were making the changes to their own paper that they were seeing on the screen. The kids were visually learning and kinesthetically learning. Kids weren’t just sitting idly by while I was helping one student; through my review of helping one student’s paper, we were all working together learning from one another’s examples and mistakes.
Reflecting, I am not sure if the excitement over editing was from the free editing, the sharebility of ideas, the feedback for writing, or that they are all boys and feel “ok” with sharing their work since there is no female pressure (I remind them all the time that I am a female, but they tell me I don’t count). I am saddened though that I lose my document camera next week. Hopefully, the technology gods can come to my rescue and replace it with one I can keep, because I can see real continued use of this not with just writing, but the reading process as well. Rather than kids just sharing their ideas out loud- which I love but know it doesn’t meet all kid’s learning needs , some kids can share their thoughts through the document camera that are written into their own books. Kids can show their questions, their thinking process, their inferences and connections.