Our fifth grade students were studying cells, viruses and contagious diseases in August when school began. At that time the Ebola outbreak was just getting going and was in the news constantly. This seemed a perfect opportunity to link current events, a world-wide issue and what they were studying in science. Oh, and did I say I thought it would be a great chance to combine research, note-taking skills and technology in the library media center?
Research Begins: Note-taking, Foldables & Reference Sources
I designed a foldable for students to use while reading and taking notes. I created this foldable with space for different reference sources, including a dictionary, an atlas, an encyclopedia, a newspaper, a thesaurus and websites.
Foldable graphic organizer
I wanted the students to utilize all of the sources, which I now realize was too ambitious within our limited library time. They did research during two library visits (for a total of about 40 minutes) and this wasn’t enough time. I looked at their notes after these two sessions and chose a small group from each class to work further on the project. I chose the students who had the best or most complete notes on Ebola and worked with these 5 groups. I worked with each small group one more time researching filling in any gaps so that they would have a more complete understanding of the disease.
Concluding Research and Summarizing
I worked with students during their lunch period, so as to protect instructional time in their classroom. It took forever to complete the projects as I only had about 20 minutes each time to work with the group. In one week I worked with each group one or two times as I rotated through the classes.
Once they had completed their research, the students decided what information they wanted to include in their presentation. I wrote their notes on chart paper and then typed it up for each group. I made sure that we noted where each fact had come from so they could complete a bibliography to include in each project. They worked with this compiled list. I cut the notes into individual strips of paper and had each group organize the information for their presentation. They glued the strips on a paper and this became their outline.
Summary of students’ notes organized for an outline for the presentation.
Images & Credit to Source
To save time and move the project along, I found about twenty images and copied them into a folder along with the information on the source of each photo. Again, I stressed to them that we must include this information in the presentation. I let them choose as many photos as they wanted that went along their outline of facts.
Enter Technology and a Few Glitches
I had the students choose from a couple of formats, including Prezi, Photostory and Flipsnack. As I practiced with Flipsnack some more I started having some issues with it, so we eliminated that from the lineup. Then I had problems with recording in Photostory. The recording volume in Photostory was so low that you couldn’t hear it. I switched computers, microphones, and laptops (one using XP and one with Windows 8) and never could figure out why the volumes were so low, so I transferred the photos of the two groups who had chose Photostory into Windows Movie Maker. Whew….this was supposed to be the fun part!
I finished with the last two groups this past week (in the midst of the Scholastic Book Fair, but that’s a whole other stress-filled event). The students were happy with their finished products and now have expertise that they can share with their classmates who did not get to work on these projects. Anything to break out of the PowerPoint mold! I told the 5th grade students that didn’t want them to move up to middle school only knowing how to use one digital tool.
The students have come away with practice in note-taking, a review of reference courses, increased digital storytelling skills and a heightened interest in the Ebola outbreak. I figured that when the outbreak was getting started in August that it would be a story that would get larger and involve more countries as time went on. Students come up to me all the time now and say they saw something on the news about Ebola. We even have a location connection with the story here in Albany, GA as the son of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, is a physician at our local hospital. We saw him on the ABC World News early in the crisis. Students were very interested in that and wanted to contact him and let him know what we were doing (and I will be emailing him a couple of our presentations).
Here are two of the projects!
Link to one of the Prezis: