Last fall, Alfie Kohn gave a workshop called The (Progressive) Schools Our Children Deserve. Although he is a controversial and outspoken critic of education, Kohn’s mantra is getting kids “juiced” about learning. His criticisms of the education system have been hotly argued, but getting kids excited about what they are doing requires no debate. Call it engagement, motivation, drive, or whatever -- if kids become independent and self-motivated about what they are learning, we win as teachers.
This past year in the library, our second graders designed their own stories. It was a lesson that began with a reading of How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck? by Daniel Alderman. This colorful, whimsical book of tongue-twisters, illustrated by twelve different children’s illustrators, and its accompanying CD had the kids howling and singing all the way back to their classrooms. The best part about it was that they began to make up their own tongue-twisters at lunch, on the bus line, and at home.
Putting all that juiced up energy to work, they used a wonderful Web 2.0 tool called Storybird to design and publish their own stories. It was design, literacy, information and thinking all in one, or as we call it, D-LIT. We talked a lot about language, parts of speech, use of rhyme, and in particular how homophones and homonyms changed the meaning of their sentences. They used a basic plan to brainstorm their ideas, and if someone had trouble, others in the class were eager to help. The hardest part for most was not thinking of two words or a compound word, but whether the combination made sense in reverse. This post is peppered with some pages from their books.
So how does all this fit in with getting “juiced” about learning? Well, it was not what they did in class, but what they did when they left. These students began authoring and publishing their own stories using Storybird, and not just one book, or for one time. They took pride in the sense of ownership over their ideas and in designing books for themselves and others. They quickly learned that they could search their classmates’ stories within Storybird and comment on them. Indeed, they were empowered with the spark of a life-long learner. Design, literacy, information, and thinking (D-LIT) all merged into one. For a complete look at their stories, please visit the 2nd Grade Digital Storytelling Projects.