Biographies are a great way to introduce students to artists, authors, and composers. They are a great way to integrate learning from other subjects. This has been particularly important for me this year. We started a dual immersion program at our school which has just reached the 4th grade this year. I teach language arts and math for 1/2 a day to two different classes. Trying to fit it all in in 1/2 day and touch on the other subjects as well has been quite challenging. I have found that it is absolutely necessary to integrate the other subjects into our language arts. Otherwise we just don't have enough time for them.
To start our lesson out today, we will be reading "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers: Ludwig Van Beethoven" by Mike Venezia. I will have the kids take notes as I read the story aloud, and then I will play the following video clip:
This is part of the 4th movement of his 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy) which Beethoven composed when he was almost completely deaf.
Today we are on Chapter 10 of "Who Was Dr. Seuss?" by Janet B. Pascal. This is a chapter book biography we have been focusing on during our biography unit. In this unit, we are really zeroing in on how to take good notes, which information is best to write down, which information could we leave out. While we read "Who is Dr. Seuss?" we talk about these things. After we read each section of the book for the day, we talk about what notes we took and why we chose to write those particular notes down.
I chose "Who Was Dr. Seuss?" because everyone in the class has heard of Dr. Seuss. However, the facts in the biography are not commonly known. This way the subject is familiar yet they will all come away from the biography having learned knew information about Dr. Seuss.
As we read chapter 10 today, the students will continue to take notes on the biography note sheet I gave them on the first day we started the book. After we have read today's chapter, we will again discuss what information in today's reading was "note-worthy."
Earlier in the unit, while introducing the students to the wonderful world of note-taking, I told the students we would be having a celebration today. I allowed the students to bring snacks while we enjoy the presentation of our biography report videos we created earlier this week.
The program we used to create our biography videos is iFunFace on the iPad. You take the student's picture and then they can disguise their face to become the character they are portraying. They can also disguise their voice.
Today they get to see their biographies come to life. Technology has come so far from when I was in fourth grade. Back then we did have a computer lab in our school, however, we only used it once a week to play a game called "Oregon Trail." That was my experience with technology in the classroom. Now, kids are literally surrounded with technology. There is hardly an aspect of there lives that is not effected in some way by technology. Children are naturally drawn toward technology. We as teachers have the power to harness that draw by utilizing technology in our classrooms. In my opinion, technology "hooks" the kids without the need for further attention getters. It draws them in naturally. They are engaged in what we are doing when I use technology.
You want a bunch of 10 year olds to listen to each other's biography book reports? Disguise the kids as the character in the book and have them video tape the report. All eyes will be on the video.
We have done just that. Now we get to celebrate by watching our reports. I can't wait! (And neither can the kids!)
This is one of the adjustments I have made over the 13 years I have been teaching. In the past, I would have had the students write a book report and present it to the class. Now, using digital technology to record the students, they get to sit back and enjoy the reports. The use of technology made the reports high interest and all of the students were anxiously watching the videos. I feel they learned more and paid closer attention to the digital reports as opposed to the traditional book report presentations.