As I’m preparing to present at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit 2011, I’m thinking a lot about transliteracy and how I can create experiences and opportunities for students to “read, write, and interact across a range of platforms.”
Fifth grade approached me a few weeks ago about collaborating on a day of September 11th activities. Because they are departmentalized this year, they wanted to bring connections to September 11th in each of their classes: reading, social studies, and math. The more we planned the more the day came together as a day to experience the events and stories of September 11th in multiple ways in order to create a complete story about the day’s events.
The day started with each student getting a September 11th ribbon to wear throughout the day. In homerooms, students wrote and illustrated what a hero was to them.
When students rotated to their reading class, they read the book Fireboat by Maira Kalman. They watched videos of the actual fireboat and had a class discussion about how heroes were found in unexpected places during the events of September 11th.
In the media center, we started our time by watching a 2-minute video that overviewed the day’s events. We read a 3rd grade student reflection from the book Messages to Ground Zero: Children Respond to September 11, 2001 collected by Shelley Harwayne. Then, students went to the computer lab and used a pathfinder of websites to experience September 11th through videos, interactive timelines, personal accounts, news reports, and more. Along the way, student wrote down information that they learned about the day. To close our media center time, students used Wallwisher to create their own memory wall for September 11th. Students wrote thank –you’s, prayers, emotions, and other thoughts on our collaborative wall.
At the end of the day, students returned to their writing and illustrations of heroes to see if their thinking had changed in any way after experiencing the day’s lessons. They also revisited the 5th grade wall to see how it had developed throughout the day. Reading each 5th grader’s thoughts is a powerful experience and to see all of their thoughts published in one location was a dynamic closing of today’s lessons.
These students were less than one-year-old when September 11th happened. Their lives are very disconnected with the events of that day. We wanted today’s experiences to immerse the students in the stories and tragedies of this historic event through multiple kinds of media. By the end of the day, students had:
- Viewed recaps of the events of the day
- Listened to accounts of the day through multiple viewpoints
- Interacted with timelines and maps
- Read and viewed news reports
- Viewed personal videos & eyewitness accounts
- Read and listened to stories & children’s books inspired by the tragedy
- Wrote personal thoughts, views, and facts
- Collaboratively documented their thoughts as a grade level with web 2.0 tools
As usual, I was amazed at the level of engagement and collaboration as students worked with technology. At the beginning of the day, we had a big issue with Wallwisher not allowing students to post their messages. I was frantically trying to figure out the problem, but at the same time students were trying out different things to fix the problem. It was a student who figured out that the page had to be refreshed before typing a new note because we were all logged in under our school’s generic account. Because of their willingness to try things out, the rest of the day went very smoothly to capture all students’ reflections on the wall.
The sheer amout of resources for September 11th can be overwhelming, but I can only imagine how the number of resources might grow if this tragedy happened today. Today, we would have tweets, facebook posts, huge amounts of personal videos, blogs, and more. We would be able to live this story in a much more diverse way through multiple platforms. I was impressed at the close of the day by how many platforms students had used to experience this tragic story, and I feel like our students leave us today and head into the weekend with a better understanding of September 11th as they see the memorials and television specials on Sunday. I invite you to take a moment to visit our 5th grade wall and read students thoughts from today.