Sunday, July 22, 2012

Character Development Activity

 Have the kids pick a famous actor/actress as their main character. (Their character should be approved by their parents since the kids will be watching movies and such. You don't want anyone going home and telling their parents that YOU told them they HAVE to watch some R-rated movie.)

Tell the kids that their job is to become a private investigator or a paparazzi (those phrases sound so much cooler than "researcher"). They must watch movies, look on the internet, read, etc. to learn about the character they chose. They need to learn everything they can about their character (However, IF it arises, I would tell them not to focus on any break-ups or any law-breaking. Usually, simply telling them that it is not appropriate for school is a good-enough reason for them.). The kids should answer questions like: What do they look like? How do they walk? What are their favorites? What does their voice sound like? etc. Give them a time frame to do this, maybe a week. Have lots of mini-lessons planned for writing descriptively and using sensory details. You can print pictures of their characters off so they can do some writing in class also.

This idea will also get the reluctant writers writing in their writer's notebooks because they should take "notes."

When their ready and have collected enough data, have the kids use what they have learned to develop a description of their character.

You can do this with other characters and the setting. You can even have them pick a problem from a movie to write about. REAL writers do this all of the time (reading and watching movies to get ideas).

If you choose to have them do the same activity with other story elements, you can turn it into a project.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Photovoice Project

Photovoice is designed to be a Powerpoint presentation and personal narrative. I find that when the kids can take a large project and take each section through the writing process, essentially publishing or making a final draft in pieces, it works better. This project is no different. The kids think this project is exciting, and it aligns well with the common core standards, including technology.

Photovoice was first introduced to me during my masters program at Ashland, and I have adapted it to use in the classroom. It gives the kids an opportunity to write about themselves (which they love doing) and learn some good writing skills on how to make a Powerpoint as well as how to write a personal narrative. When it is divided into sections that they can complete independently, it seems like a less daunting task to them rather than trying to complete the whole thing at one time.

I think that it’s important not to give intermediate kids any more than 8 subtopics in any writing project. And then those subtopics are small, consisting, in this case, of only a paragraph. Here are the sections that I used for the Photovoice: introduction, where/when you were born or birthday, your favorite place, school, family, hobbies, favorite toy, home, and pets. I also have a section for work at the end, but the kids don’t really have a job, so we’ll skip that. You can adapt your subtopics any way you see fit. Writing about "favorites" is very popular. For each section, the kids take a picture of an object to symbolize that topic (you’ll have to have a discussion on symbolism with them), and then they write about it.

If you want to take the project further, the kids can make the Powerpoints into movies by saving it as a .PNG file. (Click “save as,” “other formats,” and in the save as type drop down menu click “PNG Portable Network Graphics Format.” Then they can open it up in Windows Movie Maker and add music, narration, and such. Just “Google” for a more detailed summary on how to do that.)

If access to technology is an issue for you, you can also do a paper version, which I have done. For my project, I had the kids make accordion books with pockets (take a 12” x 18” piece of construction paper, fold a long side up about 2 inches, and accordion fold it into 8 sections. Use a couple of staples to hold the fold in place if you need to.). The kids glued the photos on the fronts of the pockets and then put the writing onto little tags to insert into the pockets. (Making a Powerpoint is actually probably a little easier because you don't have to resize the photos and print them out. An alternative might be to have the kids bring in objects that they can glue right to the pockets without taking a pic or draw pictures of the objects. They might not, however, enjoy or be receptive to taking away the actual use of photographs.) They used a lot of art to decorate the pieces and some scrapbook embellishing ideas. This works well, too. It’s a lot more exciting than your plain old paper project or even paper with a decorative border.