DIY Online Big Books for Beginners

Whilst I was preparing for Term 1, 2014, I went looking throughout our school for big books. I am a firm believer in the use of big books from pre-school and into secondary as a tool for teaching students to read. I don’t just mean the process of reading but also, text analysis, code-breaking, critical thinking and synthesis. By integrating spelling, grammar and writing into big book lessons, students are better equipped to understand how all of these facets of literacy work together.

Anyway, in my search to find big books, not only did I not find many, but the ones I did find weren’t really relevant to my purposes… especially since our chosen text type was exposition. I went straight to my principal to ask for more books. Then, I changed my mind. Although we will always need books and I want my students to have a deep love of books, there are many limitations to the traditional big book.
  • Students often can’t see the text very well.
  • Only one practitioner can use each big book at a time
  • They need to be accessioned through the library
  • They easily become tattered
  • It’s difficult to find a big book that specifically addresses everything
So, I did something a bit out-of-the-box. I wrote my own big books. Online. That way, all the teachers in my stage could be using the same book at the same time. They would be able to be displayed on screens so that all students could see them. The student with albinism would be able to bring to the texts up on her special screen. Then I realised more benefits:
  • I could use themes that are relevant to the age of the students I teach
  • I could make the book an example of the text type we’re focusing on
  • I could include examples of the grammar focus
  • I could include specific examples of spelling blends we’re looking at
  • I could even have a link to the Integrated Inquiry if I wanted to
I used 2 mediums for my on-line books: Storybird and Calameo (with a combination of PowerPoint). The illustrations for Storybird are so beautiful. I managed to find some artworks that fitted a couple of themes and I plotted out two books using that medium. Then I used an online e-zine creator, Calameo, in combination with Powerpoint, to create 2 other books.
Before I started writing, I did some research about issues that are important to 10 year olds. I found that facilities for hobbies (ie. skate parks) are really important to that age group as are ways to deal with conflict (bullying). At this age, students are also starting to empathise with other children their age so I could write something about that.
Once I had written a basic outline and included an example of an exposition, I then went back and adapted words to suit the spelling focuses as well as changing sentences to suit the grammar theme for that week.
I’ve included 2 examples of the big books I created – one from Storybird and one from Calameo.
Story Bird – The Skate Park                                             Calameo – Reading For All Children
Enjoy 🙂

Preparing Students for Web 2.0 with Object Lessons

At NBCS, we’re about to embark on BYOD for Stage 2. Having been part of the introduction of BYOD in Stage 3, I’ve been considering how we can do it this time around with less drama.

I’m not really a censorist* (*word I just made up;) but I do firmly believe that students need a “toolbox” of understandings, skills and processes to help them to best utilise Web 2.0.
Before even getting online in 2014, I really want my students to understand some vital aspects of the Web.
1. Whatever is written on the Internet is a permanent version of ‘I was ‘ere 2014’.
Although I’ve tried to explain to students that ‘…whatever is written online is like permanent sky-writing that follows the writer around everywhere’, students don’t really seem to get it. To understand the permanence of what’s written online, in Term 1 I’m going to give each student a graffiti tile that will be on display in our learning space. I’m also going to give each student a permanent marker when I tell them that they may write anything on the tile knowing that it will stay there for the rest of the year reminding all visitors of their legacy.
I wonder what my students will write…
2. Web Storage and #Hashtags
The language of hashtags may be fleeting but it is also a helpful way to organise and subsequently search for documents. Whether it be online or offline, I’ll be teaching my students how to tag each aspect of the their. At a workshop last year, I saw an example of this from Tom Barrett in which students tagged each piece of work with 3 things: the overall KLA ie. #Maths, the sub-area ie. #SubtractionWithTrading and their progress ie. #IGetIt! What a fabulous way to help students reflect and mentally file their learning journey.
3. Learning Through Play
Play is an area of learning that has been highly under-utilised in recent times. When I reflect on how I have become familiar with Web 2.0 tools, there is one major factor; I’ve taken the time to play and explore that tool. Experimenting with Web 2.0 tools is interesting and fun. How often do we allow or encourage our students to play with a tool once we’ve introduced it? I began the practice last year of whenever I heard about a new Web 2.0 tool (ie., I’d pop it on Edmodo, ask my students to play with the tool and then discuss the tool in our class meetings. It was a great way to develop critical literacy as well as see how attuned my students’ IT skills were. Sometimes, students would even craft an email to developers with feedback.
4. iFiltering
No web-protection software or filter is 100% effective. Unsavoury content is going to pop up when children are on the Web whether we like it or not. It’s vital that students are taught what to do when they come across content that is in appropriate. I’m sick and tired of children being told to “ignore” things that make them uncomfortable. That is unacceptable. I teach my students to do a number of things when they are confronted with inappropriate content:
  • If it’s a website, students should copy/paste the url into an email to their teacher or the IT Department. If they have a cyber-safety help button, they should then use it.
  • If it’s an image (perhaps in an image search), students should email their teacher or the IT Department with a screen-shot of the page and the search word/s used.
  • If students come across another student interacting with inappropriate content, they should report it… anonymously if need be.

5. Web 2.0 Tools Have Specific Purposes
As with a normal tool box, each tool should be used for their specific purpose. It’s difficult for our students to determine and understand when and how to use each specific tool. Just like students have different coloured pencils, rulers and sharpeners for various tasks, web-tools are also used for different purposes. By agreeing on a “tool-name” ie. Edmodo could be a cork notice board, students can relate the tools to real life. By using a social-media-esque tool such as, Edmodo, we can teach students how to post appropriately. Edmodo is helpful because students can’t contact each other privately, all communication must go on the wall. By asking ‘Would you stick that on the notice board?’, we help students to discern what is appropriate or not. To help students understand the Edmodo boundaries, we agreed that all posts should be about school only and that all posts should have correct spelling and punctuation. Students deemed it acceptable that posts outside these boundaries would be deleted. Eventually, I became just another participant on Edmodo and they monitored the appropriateness.
Just in case I’ve lulled all of us into a false sense of security and we all begin to think that by implementing these ideas, students won’t still make mistakes with Web 2.0, we’re not only in trouble but we’re wrong. They will. And it’s how you, me and the learning community deals with these mistakes that will really help students to use Web 2.0 effectively.