Monday, 4 March 2013

Exemplars and Comics

Using Exemplars with Photocomic
Using exemplars to set clear expectations is vital when designing a project... This is our infusion of technology in the process of examining student work, setting criteria and building a rubric for writing a  feasibility report for settling a planet.

The Bigger Picture
We're well on our way to colonizing the solar system! Kids have completed their research, and they're now ready to compile their information into an official "Colonization Report". To do this, they'll need to examine both excellent and lackluster reports to help wrap their heads around the expectations .. We wanted to find a way for students to document what makes a good report and found a natural connection with an App called Photocomic.

After this, students will write reports that they will submit to the Canadian Extra-Terrestrial Space Agency for review. They will then write a storyboard and screenplay to help them develop a recruitment video to help them lure students, parents, and community members to their planet.

The Task 
Students will be given specific topics (Creative Language, Organization, Visuals, and Content) to carefully consider as they go through the exemplars.  Each student will record successes and shortcomings about their topic using an iPad app called Photocomic.

The App
We've used the app Photocomic for a number of purposes and the more we use it, the more we love it! It is simple enough that clean, clear work can be created, published, and shared within a 30 minute period. It's been used to act out key moments within a book-study, to role-play social situations, and to enhance concepts such as friendship.

It allows you to take photographs and arrange them in a number of ways to look like the pages of a comic book. Students can add all of the elements of a comic, including speech bubbles, thought bubbles, action words, etc.

The Process
Students are challenged to become masters of the "Photocomic" app in 5 minutes. The only rules: You must touch every button to see what it does and you must create a comic!

Students are given their task cards and join their groups. They are to take photographs of the exemplars and to annotate with speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and action words to show what they like/dislike about the exemplar. It is expected that each student will contribute 1 speech bubble/sound effect.

Students then go to the next table, take a close look at that exemplar, and repeat!

At the end, the students will put their comics on to the teacher's computer, who will throw all of the pictures on the SMART Board so that everyone can see what makes a great report. Afterwards, the teacher guides the students as they come up with their own rubric that clearly describes the expectations.

We really need to narrow the focus...
All students can participate in this because there is so much to evaluate! Some students can use higher-order thinking skills and analyze the content. Others can really think about the grammar/word-choice, and others still can examine the visuals. We'll choose the roles and make sure they cater to the right students.

Using the Photocomic App students can either be detailed about about their evaluation (they can write speech bubbles, clearly outlining why they may/may note emulate something), or they can can use sound effects such as "Ouch!" to show that something is undesirable.

5 Considerations About Exemplars
Narrow the Focus: We had 4 to 5 people in each group, and each student had a role where they were looking for a certain topic. It was way too much, and the activity nearly bombed because of it! Were we to do it again, I'd suggest having each group focus on one topic, rather than 4. And I'd suggest the each group share one same topic of analysis.

It's great how they could use the '!!!!' symbol
to point out the juicy words!
Time: At the beginning, we gave students iPads and told them to get started after explaining the task... If only it were that simple! They jumped right in for sure, but they took inconsequential pictures and didn't provide thoughtful comments.

After the first round, we had them close their iPads and focus on the work itself. After we heard sufficient discussion and we had a chance to discuss with each group, then we had them open the iPads.

Groupings: I'm always tempted to put a higher student with a lower student to settle behavior issues and enhance learning. I wonder, though, what this is doing for both students' learning! One isn't challenged by the other, and the other is so far below, are they getting anything out of the lesson? Would it be better to put all of the lower students together and to use different exemplars with catered expectations? How would that look?

I guess that "Zonk!" means it's good... 
Exemplars: We used great exemplars and 2 non-exemplars that were created at a much lower grade level. It's tricky though... We have students that really struggle with reading and writing, and I'm hoping that they didn't feel awful about themselves when they saw the non-exemplar was at their ability level. When the integration model fails, I guess...We'll have to find new ways to approach this next time.

Return: The idea of annotating with the iPads worked really well, but some extra work needs to be done with the kids! It's just October, so I'm hoping that we'll get this figured when we try it another few times... We'll see!

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