May 14, 2011

In the education world, the words "May" and "June" carry heavy connotations. For some educators, "May" and "June" carry hope, a light. Ah, summer is almost here. For others, "May" and "June" signify an imperative job: I must keep my classroom and lessons engaging. We realize if we don't, the "almost" of summer will quickly turn into the "almost" of insanity. The equation is clear: Disengaging classrooms plus disengaged kids equals disaster.

May is poetry month in room 102 at Bronx Green. Georgia Heard's book Awakening the Heart has given me tons of amazing ideas for turning room 102 into a poetry world. During the first few days of our unit, we designed heart maps: a visual
representation of who and what is important to us, who and what is inside our hearts.

Heart mapping alone boosted our post-testing drowsiness immensely. Hands down, my kids' level of engagement during heart mapping was the highest it's been since before test prep. Let's face it, endless multiple choice questions are no fun - for teachers nor students.

Heart mapping required our brains, markers and construction paper. Imagine how much more engagement we could see if we infuse technology into poetry. And that is just what we are going to do...

Starting next week, we will be starting poetry stations (thank you again, Ms. Heard). While activities similar to heart mapping will have their place, there will also be two iPad stations.

Last week, my students came up with a symbol and writing system to mark up a poem. For example, if students draw a lightbulb next to a line, they have an idea. Next to the symbol, they explain their idea. If you see a picture of a person, my student has a text-to-self connection that you can also read about next to the symbol, etc. In the first iPad station, we are going to transform these skills digitally using the Popplet app. Each student will type one of their own poems inside a black Popplet. Then, students will switch iPads to digitally mark up (using color) each others poems with ideas, questions, text-to-self connections and thoughts on powerful/meaningful words, images and/or lines. Here is a rough-draft example of what one group already started working on during an after-school enrichment block.

At the second iPad station, students will be using the Instant Poetry app to create poems using images and words. This station will be centered around their current unit in social studies: Ancient Rome. I plan on creating folders on each iPad where students will be able to observe images and art from Ancient Rome. In a separate folder, I will place non-fiction texts about Roman topics such as religion, leaders, art, the gods, architecture, etc. After students read and study the articles and photos, they will have the opportunity to design their own Roman-inspired masterpiece.

I am looking forward to see how well these activities will keep my students engaged until June 28th. Forget the disaster equation. I want room 102 to prove that engaging classrooms plus engaging learning equals hardworking matter the time of year.

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