Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sonic? You want to write an informational report about Sonic?! Okay...Here We Go! (Part 1)

(Since this post is about an entire unit...I'm going to write it in two parts. Part 1 will include the researching & prewriting portions of the project. Part 2 will be about the actual writing process. Otherwise, this post will be LOOOOONNNGGG!!)

I wanted to end this year with a BANG by doing a huge writing project with my 5th/6th graders! 

As you may or may not know, reading/English/language arts ( I like to say) is one of the hardest subjects for the deaf/hard of hearing. The average reading level for individuals who are deaf/hard of hearing across the nation is at about the 4th grade level. This means that there are some that read above that level and some that read below the 4th grade level. This is the case with my students. It is their weakest subject and at the 5th/6th grade level, they have become frustrated with struggling year after year in this area. 

Last summer, I attended a week long workshop in Knoxville about Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI). This is a framework that is specifically designed to help teach writing to deaf/hh students. I absolutely loved it and tried to implement it throughout the school year, but after a while, I got away from it. It's a bit of a complicated process to implement without guidance at first. So luckily, my school hired the creators of SIWI to come to our school 2 days out of each month, February through May, to teach the other teachers/administrators about this process. I was super excited to see the creators again and to learn even more about the program! Well, throughout their visits to WTSD, they suggested that I write an expository report with my students as a group. They knew it was a huge undertaking, but I was totally up for it! 

So, here is what happened next...

I introduced what we would be doing for our final writing project and the students suggested, discussed, and debated about which topic they wanted to write a report on. After much deliberation, they all came to an agreement to write about:

Yes, you read that right. How they came to a consensus to write about Sonic was a long process, but never the less, they were all super excited about this topic. We worked together to create questions that they wanted to know the answers to using the 4-square method. So, when they went to the computer lab, they had a guide to help them begin the research process.

The unfortunate thing about this topic that there are not any books about Sonic, so they had to rely primarily on internet based resources. They worked in pairs and recorded a list of different resources they found into a Word document. We came back to the class and reviewed the resources and saw that many came up with the same resources.

Next, I printed off one of those resources (an article on wikipedia) and gave a copy to each of the students. I know Wikipedia is NOT the best resource, but it was the best of what they found. Earlier in the year, we discussed the pros and cons about wikipedia, so the students were knowledgeable to the fact that this was not what they would typically want to use. You make do with what you got! :) Anyways, we read the article together and the students discussed as a group what facts they thought were important to remember and highlighted them.
Highlighted Wikipedia article
Then, we took the highlighted portions of the article and typed them into a Word document to create bullet notes. I told them that they were not allowed to copy what was in the article, so they discussed how to change it to their own words.
Sonic Notes
After the notes were all typed up (5 pages), I printed two copies and had the students cut them out into strips. I then divided the students into two teams, gave each a pile of the cut up notes, and instructed them to sort them out into groups. It was so amazing to watch them work together and discuss which notes should go in which pile. After they sorted out their pile of notes, they took a yellow sticky note and titled each group. Below are some pics of this activity...
The two teams then swapped tables to check out how the other team did. They found that 3 of their groups were the same, but the rest were not. So they had to discuss which ones were the best and why. Both teams worked hard and it was interesting to see how the groups of notes compared/contrasted between the two teams. In the end, they came up with 5 groups of notes. (Shown below) They were very careful to only have one copy of each bullet note. They didn't want any doubles :)

Once they decided upon their piles of notes, we utilized a wonderful technology called Webspiration (a web version of Inspiration)to transfer our cut out notes into a huge thinking map for prewriting. I absolutely LOVE Webspiration/Inspiration!! It is so easy to use and the kids enjoyed utilizing it as well. However, the main reason for my love of Webspiration/Inspiration is the ability to transform your bubble map into an outline with the click of a button! This is absolutely divine! It makes for organizing notes soooooo much easier. I have included small pics of our Sonic map & outline. There is also a small demo pic showing how maps can be transformed into an outline by clicking the button. :)

Top: Our Sonic Map / Bottom: Demo Map/Outline Conversion
Front of Sonic Outline

Now, we are finally ready to get started on the writing portion of the project. Whew! I don't think people realize how much work is involved in the beginning stages of the writing process! Stay tuned for part 2 of this unit...I will be posting it tomorrow sometime. I was going to do it tonight, but I've decided I hear a book calling my name ;) So, I'm going to go and enjoy my brain candy instead! :)

Ta-Ta for Now!


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