What the Gingerbread Ninja Heard

Last week we had the opportunity to work with the kindergarteners at Fishers Landing. While I am not one of those gifted with the native talents of a primary teacher, I have spent enough time with its inhabitants to be comfortable with the habits and fluent with most aspect of their communication.

Kinders are a highly intelligent group; they are strikingly honest, deeply empathetic, and shockingly self-focused. In fact, it is not uncommon to witness all of these behaviors within moments of each other and sometimes simultaneously.

We were working with the students to develop their skills and understanding of story form. To do that we were recording unique variations of The Gingerbread Man story, as told to us by the students, with sound effects of student-chosen characters added in editing. The concept is simple enough. The classes had already read a variety of gingerbread stories and the kids had identified the common elements, such as the gingerbread character meeting three different characters before meeting its untimely end. From there, it doesn’t take much work to convince a five-year-old to create their own story; and for a student of the digital age adding sound effects seems like something that has always been a part of good stories.

All that was left was for them to write their script, or create a storyboard if they liked that idea better. It was nothing complex, or even wholly complete in most cases, just something on paper that kept them on track during the telling, something that showed the order of events.

To watch this writers workshop was to bear witness to 21st-century alchemy. The subtle yet sloppy mixing of graphite, grim and… something strangely sticky yielded pure gold on several levels.

 

(Link to just a couple of student audiobooks)

Academically, the students offered strong evidence of understanding story sequence, rhyming, the power of iterations and patterns. They talked about and demonstrated the use of tone, voice, and inflection at levels they won’t be asked to reproduce for another six years.

Socially, the students were excited, engaged, and eager to share. Jimmy, whose face bore evidence of at least one sticky substance, had a four-page story with only a couple letters but plenty of heavily lined images that did not do justice to the epic adventure of a gingerbread ninja that fought off howling wolves, growling bears, and a hissing snake only to be swallowed by an alligator.

Eva’s story didn’t have the illustrative quality or intensity of Jimmy’s, but it was eight pages long and Eva wrote and then read every word, and became quite critical of using the “right cat sound.” Still unsatisfied with my efforts after four attempts, she took pity on me.

“I don’t think you can do it so how ‘bout I just make the sound and say them where I want them.”

We recorded countless riffs and covers of the classic lines “run, run as fast as you can…” some in the sugary sweet voice of a cookie and other laid out like old school rap. The students also felt free to use an animal from well beyond the barnyard standards. The resident realist wanted the sound of joggers chasing a cookie, only to be followed by the next storyteller who needed the sounds of a unicorn, mermaids, and a shooting star.

Make no mistake, the product quality was low, the background volume high, and the running time was inconsistent, ranging from 11 seconds to 3 and a half minutes. It took us most of the first class to adjust and configure the lesson into something that was going to work. But it did work.  The audio stories added authentic and real academic discussions between kindergarten students.

It takes a little prep but no more than most new lessons.

Soundbible.com has a huge collection of royalty free sounds you can download.

Mp3converter.net lets you copy/paste any youtube video into its page and converts it into a ready-to-use mp3 file because, unfortunately, soundbible doesn’t have a unicorn or mermaid sound. Youtube does. A unicorn sounds like a running horse with magical twinkling in the background, in case you were curious.

Audacity is a free sound editing software already on most teachers’ devices. It’s not super user-friendly but easy enough if you stick to the cut and paste to start with.

Literacy Blog Round-Up

(Thanks to Karrie Fansler, James Cantonwine, Jodi Stevens, and everyone else who refers great blogs.)

  • For our middle school friends, Lanny Ball has a new post on Two Writing Teachers about beginning a unit with a keynote. How do you open units (Calkins or otherwise) in a way that provides students with affirming, positive reasons for engaging in new concepts, knowledge, and skills (and hopefully emotionally engaging texts, tasks, targets–all related to a powerful topic)?

Continue reading “Literacy Blog Round-Up”

Community Support for ELLS

community support for ellWhen building a support network for English language learners (ELLs), community organizations can play a valuable role and offer resources that schools may not have at their disposal in order to work with ELLs and their families. While the community schools model is one way that these partnerships can grow and thrive, a school need not be an official community school to have effective partnerships. Follow this link to learn more about supporting ELLs and their families.

Using an interpreter for conferences or communicating with families?

If you plan to use an interpreter to connect with our ELL families this year please follow the link to our new document: How to Work with an Interpreter – Tips & Advice.”

interpreterWe hope this information will help you have productive and effective conversations with our ELL Families when using an interpreter.

Thank you,

Catherine Carrison, Ph.D.

ELL Department Manager

Evergreen Public Schools

360.604.4007 ext. 4470

How to get students to better identify fake news

Given increasingly fast and bite-sized nature of information production, distribution, and consumption it is becoming increasingly important for people do develop some special skills to employ when being hit with fake news. One way to develop the skills needed to deal with fake news is to learn how it is created and the tricks it employs and a great way to do that is to create fake news. Here is an article about some teachers who who have their students write fake news stories so they can better detect it.

EPS Academy Offers Real Learning that Translates Directly to the Classroom

Do you need time and support to plan units that your kids will engage in and care about?

Sign up for: Learning Design for the Workshop Classroom, or Supported Unit Planning in PBL / Inquiry

My students have Chromebooks, now what?

Beginners, click here! Past beginner, but need more? Click here

Struggling to reach your at-risk kids?

Develop your skills in supporting students with social-emotional and cognitive learning needs in this session: Structures, Systems, and Routines to Create a Calm Classroom out of Life’s Chaos

Join us on November 20 & 21st at the EPS Academy at Cascade Middle School to get exactly what you need; and earn up to fourteen clock hours doing it!