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Listening- Comprehension-Podcasting

As a former World Language teacher, I know of the importance of hearing the target language as much as possible. In order to internalize a new vocabulary word, you have to hear it at least 70+ times. By hearing I mean not only the sounds of the letters that make up the word, but also the context the word is embedded in... the melody of the sentence that embraces that word... the words that lead up to it and the words that follow it to make meaning and conclude the sentence.

When learning a language, it is especially important to attach a feeling to a word in order to make meaning of how it will be used in the future with maybe other words surrounding it than the ones originally learned. It is equally important to give language learners the opportunity to practice using the words, sentences and melodies and help them be comfortable in pronouncing them and feeling and hearing them come out of their mouth.

Recording a podcast and the EDITING of the podcast is a great tool, especially for language learners to play with the mechanics of the language. It gives the learners the opportunity to see their voices, read the sounds, manipulate the sequence of sentences, sounds can be deleted, edited, emphasized and re-arranged similar than a word processing program can do this with the written word.

Our second graders were learning the story of Purim a few weeks ago. Their teacher and I planned to have the students record the story as a podcast to be shared with their parents on their classroom blog. Students had had experience with podcasting the previous year as they produced Flat Stanley and a Magic Tree House podcast as first graders.

Their Jewish Studies teacher worked with each of them to write individual parts in Hebrew to create a script of the Purim Story. Collaboratively the class had to make sure that the entire story was told between them.

Then we started recording them in Garageband. We recorded each student's sentence, but were careful to record the sentences completely out of order.

The children loved listening to their recordings over and over again. Once all the parts were recorded it was time for the students to edit the podcast file and move each clip into the correct order to tell the story of Purim.

Putting audio clips into order

We connected the computer to the SmartBoard which allowed students to come up to the board to use their fingers in order to find a certain place in the recording, play, pause, start, listen and decide to which position the clip should be moved to.

Listening Comprehension

Again, I would like to emphasize that this project was NOT about using Garageband (the tool). It was NOT about producing a podcast (the genre) . This lesson was about writing a script, listening, comprehension, collaboration, speaking skills, and fluency in the target language. The tool allowed us to manipulate sounds, re-listen, think critically and logically about the best way to present the story- all in the target language. The genre allowed us to share our work, amplify our reach, gain an authentic audience and motivate students to create and be creative.

Even if you don't speak Hebrew, take a moment and listen to these 7 and 8 year olds. Listen to their fluency, melody and motivation in their voices. Maybe you want to leave them a comment to let them know you "heard" them.

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Bats From A-Z

This following blog post was written by Mrs. B's 2nd graders as part of the important process sharing with an authentic audience and reflecting on the process. They posted it on their class blog, however, that blog does not allow for comments from non-registered users. They would really love to receive comments, so feel free to leave a comment here, if you would like to let our 2nd graders know what you think of their work.

by Mrs. B's 2nd grade

It all started with a story. We read "Fast Food on the Fly," a story about bats, in our Wordly Wise book. We were so interested that we decided to write reports about different kinds of bats. We each chose our own bat, and they were all from Australia. We used the computers to research our bats, and we made a bat cave in the hallway where we displayed our reports.

We decided to create an ABC video to give people information about bats. Mrs. B and Ms. H showed us an example. Then we took a bat quiz. Next, we worked with a partner to brainstorm ideas using the alphabet organizer. We printed out the organizers with all of our ideas. Some letters were easier than others so we had to do more research to come up with a fact for each letter.

Once we decided the best fact for each letter and assigned the letters we used Pixie to write and illustrate our ideas. We went over them and checked to make sure they were correct and looked good. Then we recorded ourselves reading our facts. Finally, we published our video, and we are so excited to share it with you!

Some Reflections:

Image from Peter Pappas

Ayden: We met our goal by finishing the video and teaching everyone about bats. I learned facts about bats that a lot of grown-ups don't know.
Elad: I did this before when we did the values report because I had to look in a book.  I can use this again when I do another report or project.
Eliana: It was important that we taught people new information about bats. I learned to work together without arguing.
Griff: I see a relationship with this project and the president reports because we had to research on the computer for both. In both of them we were teaching people. I feel that I learned a lot about bats. I see that there is so much I didn't know about bats.
Jona: Our class did really well. We edited and revised it. We had to take our time in order to make it really good.  We used the computer and used typing skills. I learned more about bats and I liked using technology.
Natan: We worked well together.
Mrs. B: I was very pleased to see the growth from our very first project, the fire safety and prevention video, to this project. I think you are going to be very prepared for 3rd grade.


Third Garders Being Called Upon As The Experts

Third graders had the opportunity to be called upon being experts. They were asked to skype into an educational conference presentation being given by Kelly Hines from North Carolina and share their experience of using Skype at school. Students were excited and prepared well by being assigned different job responsibilities during the Skype call.

Here were their job descriptions:

  • Answer and Hang Up Skype call
  • Greeter (Introduce ourselves)
  • Q&A
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Live Blogger
  • Note-Taker- laptop
  • Note-Taker- paper & pencil
  • Note-Taker- Doodler - iPad

Distribution of Job Responsibilities

Mrs Hines sent us three questions ahead of time. As a class, we collaboratively brainstormed how we could best answer these questions.

Question: Preparation & Brainstorming

Skype Prep

Skype Prep

Here is the post from our Blogger:

Today we are skyping with about 50 teachers learning to skype. We are telling stories about our skyping. We are teaching teachers. We had three people to answer questions. We are telling stories of why it’s good to skype.

Here are the notes they took on the laptop about our Skype call:

* Skyping with North Carolina
* Teaching teachers
* About 50 teachers learning
* Answering questions
* Telling stories
* Never skyped
* Showing our teacher
* Asking to check out our blog
* Learning how to skype with other teachers

Here are the images taken by the student photographer (remember third grader!)


Note Taker- Pencil & Paper

Videographer & Q&A

Doodler/ Illustrator

Here is the screenshot of our "doodler/illustrator" from the iPad.

iPad "Doodler/Illustrator"

Here is an excerpt of the video taken by one of the third graders to document the connection.

It was a fantastic opportunity for the students to practice their oral presentation skills, learn about specific audiences (in this case teachers learning about using Skype in their classrooms) and documentation skills (paper & pencil, video, images, illustrations and blogging).



Mystery Skype Call with Fourth Grade

Mystery Call

We had a blast with a "Mystery Skype". Two classes connected without knowing WHERE each one was geographically located. The idea was, by asking targeted questions, to find out the city we each lived in.

We stated the rules at the beginning of the call:

  1. One class starts asking a question to determine the geographic location of the other class.
  2. Questions can only be answered with "Yes" or "No".
  3. If the class who asked receives a "Yes" answer, they continue to ask another question until they receive a "No". It will be the other class's turn then to ask a question.

On our end, we gave students different jobs to help figure the location out.

Questions & Answers

  • Q & A: students were in the "hot seat" asking and answering questions in front of the webcam


  • Scribe: Student who wrote the clues we received on the board to keep track of positive and negative responses




  • Researchers: Students were ready and waiting with Google Maps open on their computer or with an atlas to take the clues received and narrow the search down and to feed information to the Q&A speakers.

We had a blast trying to figure each other's location out and learned that we need to learn to ask good questions that will narrow possible answers down. We also learned that we all need to work together (Q&A, researchers and scribe) and communicate in order to solve the mystery of our Skype connection's location.

Here are some of the clues we figured out:

Our skype mystery connection lives:

  • in the USA
  • where it is cold right now
  • in the North of the USA
  • does not live in North Dakota
  • in Michigan
  • about an hour from Detroit
  • close to a lake
  • in a small town

We needed some help to continue finding their exact location: We received the following clues:

  • they are close to the border with Ohio
  • the first part of their city's name is a "baby sheep"

Our mystery class was from Lambertville, Michigan!

This mystery call was a lot of fun and teaches students critical thinking skills as well as collaboration, communication and geography skills!


2nd Graders Talk About Blogging

Mrs. B's second graders talked about blogging today. Listen as they share some of their favorite things about blogging as a class.


Behind the Scenes of a “Quality Commenting” Video

Take a few minutes to watch the following "Quality Commenting on Blogs" video by third graders. Then follow along the description of the creation process and "behind the scenes" work that went into the production of the video. Let's dissect the video creation and look at the learning process itself.

We were inspired by Mrs. Yollis's 3rd grade "How to Compose a Quality Comment" Video...

...and watching our own 2nd grade class' tutorial "How to Navigate the Classroom Blog",...

..our third graders were ready to create their own video about "Quality Comments". For the ones that believe a 5 minute video takes about 5 minutes to produce... you are in for a surprise...

We started out by brainstorming what we already knew about commenting. What does quality even mean? What would a "quality comment" on the third grade classroom blog mean? We then compared what we came up with with Mrs. Yollis's advice.

Quality Commenting Brainstorming

We really liked how Mrs. Yollis' svideo had their Panda bear woven into the script. So our third graders came up with the idea of writing their scripts around being a newscast. It was a perfect timing, since one of our school's family had just been featured in our local news.

Watching a sample Newscast video clip

It was time to introduce the concept of storyboarding. How could we make sure that we were going to include all of the brainstormed ideas of what a quality comment was in our news show? What characters would we need in the show? Who would take what part?

Storyboarding as a Class

The class created a collaborative storyboard that everyone was happy with. The next part was for each student to write their script. What were they going to say in the movie? How could they teach others how to leave a quality comment?

Students wrote their scripts, had them peer edited and classroom teacher approved before they went into the computer lab to type the group scripts (anchors/reporters/interviewees) into a Google Doc, which they shared with me.

A tip I learned from Dean Shareski's K12Online Conference Keynote was to use my iPad as a teleprompter. I had downloaded the iPrompt Pro app, then copied and pasted each group's script from the shared Google Docs into the app and we were ready to start filming.

Students were reflecting, writing and drawing about their experiences during the process of creating the video in their (paper) journals.

Filming started and the kids were very enthusiastic and patient as we had to re- film several scenes over and over again. They started to be their own critics, wanting to do their best work.

As we filmed different scenes (out of order due to time challenges, illnesses and absences), the storyboard became even more important. Although students did not edit the video directly, I tried to involve them as much as possible in the process. By projecting the iMovie project onto the big screen, I asked them to use their previously created storyboard and "read" alongside as the movie played. I paused several times in between to have them help me "predict" the next scene and help me drag and drop the correct clip into place. They also helped suggest appropriate text titles placed onto the movie clips and had the final say in approving the movie before it was exported.

Extending the Classroom

We could have ended learning about quality commenting with the completion of the video... but... how do we make more connections for our students? How do we take learning off the pages off the book, open up the walls of our classroom and tear down the barriers of subject separation in the context of the school day? How can we extend the learning that took place during the production of the video?

It was a logical choice to try to connect with Mrs. Yollis's class from California. It was them who inspired us to start thinking about quality comments. After reaching out to Mrs. Yollis on Twitter, they immediately left us a comment on our blog.

Students could put their newly found "quality commenting" skills to use by responding to their California peers.

Mrs. Yollis's comment on our 3rd grade classroom blog

We arranged a skype call with Mrs. Yollis's class. The students loved recognizing their students (and Panda!) from the video. We learned a lot about their state and school community as well as shared facts about ours.

Take a look at Mrs. Yollis's blog post about our Skype connection or view this short video below.

The conversation between the two classes is continuing via the classroom blogs!


Florida is two hours away from Orlando. How far is Los Angeles to Disneyland?

Evie, Jonah, Yoni

We had a wonderful time skyping with you! One thing we learned is that the highest point in Los Angeles is 14,000 feet. Thank you for letting us skype with you.

Your Friends
Ben, Drew, and Zoe

The differences between Florida and California are California has mountains and Florida is flat. California gets earth quakes and Florida gets hurricanes. California doesn't get much rain, Florida gets a lot!

your friends from Martin Jay Gottlieb Day School,

Jamie and Elior

Hi this is Liam,Itamar and Zachary from the 3rd grade we loved skyping with you we learned a lot.How long did it take to make your movie? What inspired you to make your movie? Did you get the idea of making your movie about quality comment from watching another video?We would like to skype with you again! The ocean here is very warm most of the year it's in the eighty's.

Dear Mrs. Yollis,

We enjoyed skyping because we learned new things about California.
We like skyping because you get to meet people around the world.
We think it is cool that you live 20 miles away from L.A. !

Rebecca,Savonnie,Ethan :)

Lindsay and Adia said...

Lindsay♥ and Adia♥

Dear Rebecca, Savonnie, and Ethan,

This is Lindsay and Adia from Mrs. Yollis' class. We loved your comment! It doesn't seem as if you are beginners! You are amazing commenters!

We had a fun time skyping with you too! Have you ever been to Disneyland in L.A.? If you have been in Disneyland before, how did you like it? Did you meet any Disney characters? What was your favorite ride?

Both of us have been to Disneyworld in Florida. Adia loved meeting Minnie Mouse because she was so cute! Lindsay liked meeting Mickey. It was extremely fun!

P.S. Adia earned her own blog and she included the URL for you. It is above their greeting

Dear Ben, Drew, and Zoe,

We loved skyping with you. It was wonderful learning about your community, and sharing about our community. A similarity is we both live near the ocean. A difference is that we live across the country! We are very excited to be your blogging friends.

Jaden and T:-)cker

So, do you still think that creating a 5 minute video takes about 5 minutes? Do you still think that the only thing that students "got out of" filming the video was FUN? It was NOT about using the technologies and creating a movie.

It was about

  • the writing process: brainstorming, pre-writing, drafting, revising, proofreading and publishing
  • all the skills and literacies that students touched upon and practiced
  • extending the classroom and finding an authentic audience
  • making connections with experts and peers from outside of our local community
  • collaboratively working together

Take a look at the following template, I have been using with the teachers to plan and reflect when upgrading a lesson or unit to include 21st century skills, literacies and the roles to empower learners (based on Alan November)

The "X" indicates a role that we did not assign to anyone in this particular upgrade. It is not necessary to use all the roles all the time, but by documenting the roles that were used we, as planners and facilitators, become aware of what we might want to focus on the following upgrade.

Digital Storytelling is a wonderful and natural medium of the 21st century.

Digital Storytelling Skills

And here without further ado is the final product. The Seminole Swamp Morning Show:

Students are so proud of their work, they invited their parents into the classroom to present the story "Behind the Scenes" of the creation of their video.

By taking images of every step of the process, we created another storyboard. This time we used PowerPoint to show the scenes. Each student was responsible to tell about one step of the process with the appropriate slide being projected in the background.


Professional Development Day- January 28th

On January 28th, while students had a day off, MJGDS teachers spent the day learning together, sharing ideas and resources and nurturing our professional learning community. We watched Adora Svitak's TED talk, "What adults can learn from kids." We discussed the importance of deep, reflective learning.

We then had the opportunity to practice using our blogs (on our faculty ning) for professional reflection by writing our individual philosophies or vision statements. Here is the wordle of our philosophies:

Through this exercise we were able to see clearly our common beliefs about teaching and learning. Connecting these beliefs with our standards and benchmarks puts us in the position to think critically about our curricular materials and strategize our next moves in upgrading content and curriculum. Stay tuned!

In the afternoon session, we watched two short videos about passion, one called "Finding Your Element" from the ImagineIt Project and another short video that our very own Mrs. Tolisano created, also about passion (this one shows footage from our school, and we enjoyed it so much that we watched it twice.)

Teachers were given the opportunity to search the creative commons images on flickr to find one image that represents their passion. It was fun and highly educational. Many teachers were unaware of the image resources on flickr; others learned the importance of searching for images within the creative commons. As always, discussion centered around how to use these new ideas and skills in their own classrooms with their students.

Finally, teachers took the time to share and discuss our individual plans for professional development. Each teacher has identified a specific area for professional growth and outlined a plan for the year. During this session we learned about our colleagues' goals and discussed the connection between our passions and our professional growth as teachers.


Third Graders Skype with Los Angeles, California

Our 3rd grade students connected with Mrs Yollis's class from Los Angeles, CA after they left a comment on our classroom blog here at MJGDS.

Also take a look at their fabulous post on THEIR blog describing our skype connection.

The Skype call personalized and made our virtual connections and visits to each other's blog real. Hearing from the other class (and vice versa) that they recognized individual students, made students understand that they work has a real and global audience.

The Skype connection also started a relationship between the two classes (students and classroom teachers) that will continue by visiting each other's blogs, leaving comments and helping extend each other's classrooms by broadening our horizon.


Backchanneling…Movie Watching… Note Taking…Information Scribes

The issue of copyright came up with our 7th & 8th graders as they were creating Gloggs and a podcast about different characters of a story. The Mrs. K, the language arts teacher, asked me to join them to reinforce and discuss copyright, creative commons, public domain and fair use. Not an easy task...

I decided to show the class the ~10 minute The Fair(y) Use Tale video clip.

At the same time, I wanted them to take notes collaboratively. I chose to create a Today's Meet chat room and then directed them to log in by sharing the URL with them. To make sure that all of them were in the "room" and signed in with their first names only, we performed a simple roll call by asking to quickly write a "Hello". That let me know too that all of them knew how to post to the channel.

Sign in and Roll Call

We had a talk about:

  • appropriateness (or not) about social comments to the channel like "This is sooooooo cooool!!!!!! or "You said this already..."
  • How do we focus on the content?
  • spelling and format- text talk ok? full sentences? Length? 140 characters or less?
  • collaborative writing: don't repeat what the person before you shared, add something new
  • note taking: What is important from the video? What will help us later remember key points of the content?
  • organization of the notes: How can we show when a new segment starts in the video? How will this reflect in the notes?
  • multitasking: listening, summarizing, writing, reading

7th graders backchanneling while watching movie clip

As we switched the Todaysmeet chat screen on the projector to the video, we reminded students that their teacher was the chat room moderator and would be following along what they were writing. We made sure we stopped the video at appropriate intervals to switch back to the chat screen to go over the notes they had taken so far. We also started asking them what they thought would be discussed next or if questions they had would be answered in the next segment? That helped them focus on content and listen in on specific facts.

Organizing and pulling out information

The TodaysMeet log was copied and pasted into a Google Doc that was shared with all the students. Then the "Backchannel Clean-up" started. Google Docs allows all collaborators to edit the document at the same time. You will see each other's cursor in different colors and with their username attached.Remember that the backchannel log will appear in reverse chronological order.

Someone is responsible for:

  • deleting the time stamp and author's name from each Today's Meet entry
  • deleting duplicate entries
  • double checking for fact accuracy
  • adding (if they were not added via Today's Meet) and bolding relevant segment titles
  • add bullets, if appropriate, for visual clarity

After the clean-up is completed, students can add further notes that were missed during the live backchannel or connections to other information or facts (via links) that they thought of later.

I can also see a student use different highlighter colors in Google Docs to color-code and group certain information and segments.

Using a backchannel tool like Today's Meet, is a great way to give your students the role of "Official Scribe". The official scribe is one of the six roles Alan November advocates to empower learners. Alan furthermore says that

Do all of your students take excellent notes everyday? What if there were online collaboration tools that would give your class the opportunity to collaboratively build one set of perfect notes? Using a shared blog, wiki or another collaborative writing tool like Google Docs ( students can share this responsibility and create a detailed set of notes that can be used by the entire class.

Students leaving a lesson with the PERFECT NOTES....We are getting there...

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.



November Learning podcast- Students as Contributors: A Podcast with Silvia Tolisano

We (Head of school,Jon Mitzmacher, 5th Grade Classroom teacher, Shelly Zavon, Middle School Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Reppert, Technology Director & 21st Century Learning Specialist,Andrea Hernandez and two of our students, Sabrina & Hannah) were interviewed by Alan November for his NL Podcast Series about the use of student jobs in the classroom!

Take a listen to the November Podcast Episode: Students as Contributors:

In this podcast, Alan interviews Silvia Tolisano, 21st Century Learning Specialist, along with other administrators, teachers and students at Martin J. Gottlieb School. Here, students are being encouraged to take more of a leadership role in their learning as they take part in a variety of jobs inspired by Alan November’s article, Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm.

The jobs these students are doing give them a great deal of responsibility and provide them with authentic tasks that result in meaningful content that supplements their learning and connects them with experts from around the world.

Silvia will be a presenter at the 2011 Building Learning Communities Conference. Click here for more information and to register.

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