February 13, 2012

Wow! I can't believe this journey is coming to an end. However, I am so proud to say that our "Golden Government" book was a huge success! I feel that having a professional author to coach and guide us (the students and myself) created a powerful atmosphere of engagement and experience. The students were very excited to work with Roz and eagerly looked forward to our "Skype Meetings" with her.

The project started with the students reading through "George vs. George" and jotting down what they noticed about text features, writing, illustrations, etc. Students used the book as a mentor text throughout the process to see what good writing and illustrations looked like. Despite the fact that our nonfiction book was about Government, our curriculum does not directly relate to the American Revolution. Therefore, we had a difficult time connecting to the actual content of the book. However, the book was used throughout the unit as inspiration for their own pages.

As the project progressed and topics were selected, students were able to research their topic. Students used the Internet, books, and interviews as forms of research. I am very pleased to announce that due to this project our fourth grade students were able to meet the new mayor of our town. Meeting the mayor was an exciting experience for all and my group was able to obtain some really interesting information! My class also was able to interview one of our class parents who immigrated from Poland when she was eighteen to come to college here. It was fascinating to be able to hear the story from someone who really experienced the process, rather than a book!

After researching, students created an outline of their page. Students were encouraged to use "George vs. George" as a mentor for their outline. For example, my Legislative group was inspired by an illustration and decided to create a flow chart of their branch with illustrations. Groups decided on a format. Some groups chose a more traditional nonfiction page approach with "fun fact boxes", headings, and subheadings. While two of my groups that were in charge of The Bill of Rights, listened to the advice that Roz gave. Roz suggested that the groups make a comic of the different bills. Well, those groups ran with the idea and executed it in an unique and fun way! We thank Roz for that great idea!

Currently, our students are finishing up some last minute touches. We are also having a "cover contest" for those that are interested in creating the cover. We look forward to seeing what our artists come up with!

One of the most meaningful lessons that Roz taught my students was that they need to have "meat" and "salt" when writing their nonfiction information.The students really understood the analogy. This helpful phrase has now been added to our classroom terms that we use daily.

Our last meeting with Roz will take place this week. We will have the students share their pieces and celebrate their hard work! It will be extremely meaningful to celebrate with Roz.

The only issue that we faced during this project was due to technology. I found that through Skype it was very difficult to hear Roz speak sometimes and for her to hear us. We also had some delay in the picture function.

I have to say the project ran smoothly due to the collaboration from Roz. She was always there to help us with an idea or concept. I also have to thank Awilda Montvalo, our art teacher, who was there throughout the whole project to help the students with their illustrations and provide them inspiration. It was also great to work Janelle Aharoni. It was not easy for two classes to create a book together but we were able to make it work without a hitch.

Overall, I am so honored that my class was able to participate in such a meaningful project. They not only learned the content of our Government unit but they also learned how to become nonfiction authors with advice from an expert! I know the students will always remember the work they did for this project, the lessons they learned through hands-on experience, and the fun they had!

December 21, 2011

Last Thursday, Janelle and I had the opportunity to "meet" Roz, our author on call via Skype. It was so exciting to begin to brainstorm our ideas together for our nonfiction journey. Roz had so many creative ideas to share! We feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to work with her.

Janelle and I came into the meeting with our objectives for the unit: inspire the students to become nonfiction writers, discuss the process of generating ideas, writing for a specific audience, understanding the research process, and how to add voice to our pieces.

We originally thought that the students should be divided into seven groups. However, after meeting with Roz, discussing our objectives and timeline, we realized it could be more beneficial to have one giant book for both of the classes. By creating one book, students would have the opportunity to delve deeper into one specific aspect of a subject rather than a general overview.

Janelle and I are going to introduce the book, George vs. George and our author, Roz, when we return to school in January. We will use the book to motivate and excite our students about our nonfiction project. On Friday, January 7, we will have our first 20 minute meeting with Roz and the students via Skype. Prior to the meeting, we will have introduced the project, assigned topics, and divided our students into groups. The students will also have the opportunity to do some preliminary research on their topic. Roz will whip up some excitement for project and the students will get to know her as an author.

We plan on having a second 20 minute meeting with Roz mid-way through the project to ask specific questions and monitor progress.

We hope to finish our book by early February. We will have to work hard because we only have social studies for a 45 minute block every other day. Once our book is complete, we will share and celebrate our hard work during our last 20 minute conference session with Roz. Students will present their information in an engaging and interesting way.

Yay! I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us and what interesting ideas the students will bring!

I feel so fortunate that I am able to be included in such an innovative and unique journey! It is so exciting to be able to work collaboratively with a professional author! I hope this experience provides my students with a new and refreshing outlook on nonfiction. My students love studying the authors of the books they read. Now, with advanced technology, we get to interact with our author! I know our students are going to be so engaged and motivated throughout this venture. I can't wait to get started!