By Tina Zureick and Craig Dunlap
How would someone pick a good book if they could not read?
For the past three years, Tina has been asking this question of her second graders at Yealey Elementary School in Florence, Kentucky. She partners with Craig, the technology teacher, to create an ambitious project-based learning experience with her students. Read on for an explanation from Tina and Craig about the project.
We created this project when we attended a Buck Institute for Education seminar on project-based learning in the summer of 2017. Our goal was to create something that would promote literacy in our school, teach students about persuasive writing, and have a jaw-dropping technology piece. What our students have achieved has far outpaced our expectations.
We start by asking students how they can help younger kids pick out books, and of course they readily volunteer to sit in the library and talk with kindergartners and first graders about the books. After a while, we lead them to the idea of creating videos to tell about the books. This gets them super excited, but we warn them there is a very long journey ahead of them before they become YouTubers!
One of the first things we need to teach the students is how to write a persuasive piece. We do this by showing numerous book trailers and commercials and discussing how they work. This helps students write a criteria chart to guide us through the process. Along the way, we spend a lot of time perfecting how to create a hook and a closing.
We also have students talk with professionals in the children’s lit world via video chat. Two of our favorites are Christy Mihaly, author of Hey, Hey, Hay!, and Jessica Linn Evans, illustrator of Little Mouse Finds a Friend. We read their books to the class and come up with a list of questions to ask before the video chat. During the chat, we talk about their jobs in general, the writing and illustrating processes, and how they promote their books.
After a solid couple weeks of talking about the writing in general, it’s time to choose a book. Over the years, we have had the public library bring us books to read, we have checked out books from the school library, and we have raided first-grade teachers’ shelves. After students have their books in hand, it’s time to write!
The writing process is a struggle for many of our students because we try our best not to script it. We give students the guidelines they wrote and see what they can do with them. We teach them how to use Google Docs so they can make edits as they get feedback from us and classmates.
A month and a half after starting the project, we are finally ready to film. We create a little set with bookshelves and record the commercials using the camera on school Chromebooks. Students also take pictures of three illustrations in the book using an iPad and upload them directly into the cloud-based video editor WeVideo. Finally, we add a small graphic with book information, some stock music from WeVideo, and a closing image from our school. Then the video is ready to publish after a teacher approves it.
At that point, the students are done, but we have a lot of work to do. We download the video from WeVideo and upload it to YouTube. We create a QR code with the YouTube link and put that on a sticker. Those stickers go in the front cover of the book, and the video can be viewed for years to come. We also post the videos on our school social media sites so we can spread the joy.
This year, Free Spirit heard about our project and wanted to join in. They donated six books to our school and we produced videos for those books. We wanted these book videos to be a bit better quality, so we used some professional lighting and a GoPro instead of a webcam. After publishing the videos to YouTube, we reached out to the authors to show them our work and asked them to share the videos on their social media sites. We’re pretty excited about this partnership and proud of the work our kids did. You can see these commercials on our YouTube channel.
When we tell people about this project, we get a lot of surprised looks. After all, this is a lofty project for second graders. We’ve found that with high expectations, strong collaboration between teachers, and hard work, the project can be a major success. In fact, after we do the project with Tina’s class, her students become the experts and help their peers in other classes write, edit, and film their own projects.
If you have any questions about this project, we would love to talk to you about it. While we both have a good handle on the entire project, you can email Tina about the ELA side of the project and Craig about the technology aspect of it.
Tina Zureick is a second-grade National Board Certified teacher with 27 years of experience, 13 of which have been at Yealey Elementary School in Boone County School District. She loves co-teaching situations, especially because the kids benefit from each teacher’s strengths, not to mention the teamwork involved on the teachers’ side of it. This project is proof of such an endeavor.
Craig Dunlap is the Blended Learning Teacher at Yealey Elementary School in Boone County School District. In his 26-year teaching career, his love of technology has followed him through four different schools. He has taught at Yealey for four years. This project gave him the opportunity to work with an amazing group of second graders and watch them take leadership of their own learning. He is proud of and amazed by the great work done by these students.
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