e-Reading: Seeing books differently

January 7, 2010

"Studying" by tripu

During guided reading yesterday I was sharing a book of short stories with one of my groups who find reading challenging. We looked at the contents page and I asked what it was. One of the boys confidently replied, “I know, it’s the home page”. He continued to describe that the page contained “links” which “take you to” the different content in the book.

To me this offered a fascinating glimpse into the way he sees books, with some interesting implications. When I see a book of short stories I see it as a linear text. Granted, you can read the stories in a different order but I still see it essentially as a book with a start and a finish. My pupil’s comment made me realise that to him it is conceptually a non-linear text, potentially to be dipped in and out of like a website. At the age of 8 he has assimilated the conventions of a web text and appears to be bringing this abstract concept to bear on his developing understanding of more traditional media.

Although it feels like a bit of a paradox I find myself trying to explain old media to these pupils by comparing it to new; something which is difficult for those who have not grown up with technology to do. When introducing the class to email the best concept they could find to explain it was not as an electronic letter (which most of the visual clues in email software are based on). Instead it was described as ‘like a text message on a phone but longer and on your computer’.

To quote an old Apple slogan, these children really do ‘think different’.

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Sentence writing with pictures

October 17, 2009

In the last few weeks I have been discussing IEP targets with children in my class (Year 4). A number of them have targets relating to writing simple sentences, and had been set targets last year to have regular practice writing sentences to go with pictures they were given. This struck me as a good idea, and is something I have done before with my year 2 class on the advice of my fantastic PGCE tutor Kate Glavina.

However, I had an interesting conversation with one of the more streetwise boys when I suggested this. He took offense at the suggestion he couldn’t write ‘simple’ sentences, and when I suggested the picture writing his response was along the lines of “Not again, that’s baby’s work writing about those pictures of girls!”. I asked him what he liked, and he replied immediately ‘Cars! Hummers, Porche’s and Lambourghini’s!”. Therefore, much to his amazement, we made the deal that if I found him some cool pictures of cars, then he would write me some cool (not simple) sentences.

Due to the fact  other things got in the way, we didn’t get round to making this happen for a week or so. Throughout that time he was asking me when he was going to do his ‘car work’, and soon some other children were asking me as well…

Last week I put together the pictures. I am a big fan of Compfight.com, a search engine that lets you search for high quality images which are creative commons licensed. It was obvious from our conversation that these pictures needed to be exciting and engaging, so I used compfight to find a set of pictures which I hoped would genuinely engage him and the rest of my reluctant writers. I feel strongly that you need to have high production values for things you make for the classroom, so I used Apple’s Pages to put together a sheet that would complement these exciting pictures.

Last week we began, and the results have been fantastic! There was great excitement when I revealed the full colour pictures I had printed for them, and a genuine scramble for children to get the ones that grabbed their interest (some had chosen to go for wildlife rather than cars as their subject). The best part is that in two short sessions several of the pupils who were making no attempt to organize their ideas into sentences have started to do so. We still have a lot of work to do, but they are really starting to try to improve their writing as they want to do their best at this activity. Our last session ended with them all imploring me to let them take them home, something which really surprised me coming from these children. “My Mum will work on it with me because she loves cars too and she will remind me to do my car work.”

Just a simple idea, but one I thought was worth sharing. It just shows how taking some time to listen to children’s interests can reap rewards in terms of their engagement and effort. Hopefully, as this is something they have engaged with well, they will be willing to return to it to try to edit and improve their sentences.