I am using inquiry to drive my writing unit (with a focus on expectations 1.4 and 1.5). We are using the graphic organizers via the Kidspiration Maps (Lite) app. The organizers in this app became the foundation for our questions as we moved into step two.
We changed some of the sub-headings to suit our purposes. For example, Anatomy became simply Description and Reproduction became Adaptations. For some students, we deleted a few of the sub-headings in order to further differentiate.
Step 2: Gather and Organize
The kids have been diligently researching their animals and explorers. I provided some websites, but they are also utilizing a Britannica site that the Librarian had previously introduced.
I have done guided groups and individual conferences to 1) make sure each student has appropriate website(s) to access at their ability, 2) facilitate the research process and 3) make sure they have answered every question.
Regarding number two, I found that the kids were inclined to want to "google" every question instead of reading through information to find answers. Thus, the guided groups are proving rather effective.
Step 3: Interpreting and Analyzing
During the above guided groups and conferences, I have been scaffolding the students, through my own questioning, so they can determine if they have enough information on their graphic organizers. We are currently in our 7th research period.
I have been able to show students how to check off their questions as complete and thus know when they were actually finished researching. Some had come to me thinking they were done before we did the checking off. In many instances, I had to find another suitable website for the student to continue researching.
Having to check off the questions gives the students a significant visual aid and a sense of accomplishment. Being LD, the students really need this modelling of organization to facilitate their executive functioning skills.
Having said that, every student was very successful when using colour-coding to organize their research points in Kidspiration. Some needed support with getting the arrows to flow the correct way throughout.
Step 4: Evaluate and Draw Conclusions
The next step is for students to do some summary writing. The kids are working at various grade levels, so a few of the kids will be learning to put some of their information from Kidspiration into sentences with their own words. Other students will be writing a full paragraph using at least one point from each Kidspiration section, while others will be learning to write and link a couple of paragraphs.
Step 5: Communicate
As a finale, the students were going to use Glogster (a poster app) to share our learning. Unfortunately, our school’s paid accounts were being utilized by other teachers. There is a free 7-day trial version, however, I couldn’t be certain that the kids would be finished in that time frame. So instead, we are using ThingLink which is very similar to Glogster in functionality. This app is to take the place of good 'ole bristol board for an oral presentation.
ThingLink is extremely user friendly and enables one to add text, pictures/images, and videos. As the teacher, you can create a class group and invite the students which is helpful for marking purposes because you have easy access to their creations.
I whipped up a Thinglink (it took me only five minutes—super easy) to highlight some of the tech features as mentioned above. The next morning I demonstrated how to use the app as a visual aid while doing an oral presentation. We co-created success criteria: 5 pictures, 3-5 text boxes, 1 video (1-3 minutes in length), pictures have to be relevant, appropriate, and directly referred to during their oral presentations, text has to be interesting (we don’t really care when your explorer died, but tell us how old he is instead).
And then they were off to the races. While we had technical issues downloading the app onto some iPads, those kids were still able to search for pictures and videos and save them to their gallery for future access. The kids are great at exploring the finer attributes within the apps and quickly discovered things like how to change the little icon that automatically appears when you add media to the ThingLink.
I will post some ThingLinks in about a week.