Third grade has been working on an Allen Say author study. In class, they have read multiple books, compared and contrasted, and started identifying what marks a book as Allen Say’s work. In the library, we also read a book by Allen Say to fold into this class conversation, but we used the library lesson for another purpose, too: tinkering.
Our read aloud was Kamishibai Man, which tells the story of an old man who has retired from his work of traveling into the city to sell candy and tell stories. A kamishibai uses a wooden box mounted on a bicycle to display beautiful paintings which inspire oral stories. The stories are told in a series so that audience members want to come again and again. At each storytelling session, the kamishibai man would sell homemade candies which was how he made his living. During the story, we had great discussions about how technology has impacted our lives in positive and negative ways because in the story the kamishibai man has to quit his job because people would rather watch tv.
Following the story, we practiced our own way of oral storytelling using puppet stages, characters, and backdrops in an iPad app called Puppet Pals. This app allows you to select up to 8 characters and 5 scenes. You can upload your own images for the characters and scenes or choose from the library of options. Users can move their scenes and characters off stage when they are not in use. With a record button, every movement and voice is recorded as long as it takes place in front of the backdrop. Puppet Pals lets you record up to 2 minutes of audio which sets it apart from some other apps that only let you record for 30 seconds.
We did a quick demo on the board by having 2 students come up and make a quick story in the moment. Then, students split into groups of 2 or 3 with an iPad and spread out throughout the library. They quickly got to work figuring out how puppet pals worked. Most groups made multiple stories because they would think about something else they wanted to try once they finished one story. It was fun to step back and listen to all of the voices that students were creating for characters as well as how they were moving characters in and out of the set and making them larger and smaller on the screen. The students were trying this app without fear of failure, and they were learning so much about how the app functioned. Some of them even created some pretty decent videos in the short time that they had to tinker.
Our closing time was once of my favorite times. I asked students to think for a moment about what they might want to do if they made a longer video and had a longer time to work on it. They listed out several things that probably would have come from a teacher checklist or instructions, but the difference was that they came to the realization of why these checklist items were needed because of their tinkering. It wasn’t just something the teacher or I was asking them to do. Instead, the checklist served to improve their work and organize their product. They named things like:
- Write a script for the characters.
- Include instructions about when to change the backdrop
- Write notes about when to shrink or enlarge a character.
- Pause the recording in order to switch out characters or scenes. Put this in the script too.
- Practice before recording.
- and much more.
Third grade is about to launch into a study of folktales. I think Puppet Pals has great potential to be a part of this project, so I intentionally used this tool as part of our Allen Say project to have a purpose for tinkering but also to make sure that tinkering happened before we asked students to create a more polished product. Now, I feel like the stage is set for all 3rd grade classes to create a folktale Puppet Pal project if they want to. I want to think more about how tinkering opportunities can be built naturally into lessons prior to larger projects beginning. This type of model takes knowledge of the upcoming curriculum and early conversations about the kinds of collaborative projects that will be taking place each quarter. I love this new thinking that has potential for future planning with teachers and students.