Tuesday, 8 November 2011

My First Webinar (and some backstory)

Today I got to do something that, when I was a kid, nobody ever would have believed possible - I did my first live webinar (thanks to SimpleK12.com :-).

See, when I was a kid, up until my early teens, I was painfully, brutally shy. I was all elbows and knees, spiky hair and freckles like a raccoon mask around my eyes and there would have been NO WAY that you could have made me even THINK about doing something like this!

Now I teach a public speaking class and have given many pro-D sessions an tech training workshops face-to-face with hundreds of teachers.

So what changed? I remember the day that I changed how I saw myself. I realized that I was being my own worst enemy. I realized that walking around looking at my shoes was like wearing a sign that said "please pick on me!". And I realized that humor makes a pretty good shield sometimes :-). I raised my eyes up and started making eye contact with people. I walked taller. I started using my sense of humor more and over time, my self-confidence grew.

Now I'm absolutely not afraid to try new things. I need to challenge myself to keep honing my skills to become a better teacher, but I had never given a live webinar presentation before and I felt a healthy case of nerves leading up today. I realized how much I use my audiences' body language and posture to gauge my presentation by. With those cues removed, I felt a bit like I was flying blind, but it felt SO good to do it that now I'd gladly do it again!

So try something new. Really, what other life are you waiting for? You've got a chance? Suck it up and give it a go!

- Posted from my iPad

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pre-CYOA Webinar Nerves :-)

So tomorrow's going to be an interesting day indeed. I have volunteered to do a webinar for SimpleK12 and tomorrow is the tech check before we go and do it LIVE on Tuesday! Hope the lab cooperates with me tomorrow :-)

The webinar is about the CYOA project mentioned on this blog. As I've said before, every 4 weeks I do a different video-based project with my students (on a 3 block cycle). Now for the past 2 blocks, my friend and colleague Maggie has been handling the project portion of my class while I teach a CAE test prep class, and she's done a FANTASTIC job with each project, including the CYOA one...but it means I'm feeling a bit rusty :-) I think Maggie and I have a good system going and she's definitely got the skills and personality to make everything go, so in that respect I'm very lucky - some of my staff members are card-carrying Luddites who still feel uncomfortable with the photocopier :-)

Speaking live without being able to see people's faces is a whole different animal from what I'm used to, so I feel a tad more nervous than usual. My PowerPoint is prepped and ready to rock, so I'm just going to go for it and hope I explain everything clearly. Glad it's going to moderated :-)

SimpleK12 rocks! It's THE place where I can actually get some pro-d that fits my tech needs that go with my Ed-Tech coordinator position. Highly recommend a look if you've never seen their stuff before.

More tomorrow!

- Posted from my iPad


Monday, 29 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 6 + 7

We invaded the computer lab and students began narrating their parts of the story. The groups were finished by the end of day 7.

Materials and Equipment
1. Book computer lab time - my students worked in groups, so space them out around your lab space as much as possible. Computers should have Movie Maker installed.
2. Headset microphones (1 per group)
3. Copies of story booklets (students have these already)

The Process
1. Before we went into the lab I instructed students to make sure ALL members of their group recorded their own narration and that ALL members got to use Movie Maker to perform basic editing tasks and recording (to avoid 1 student doing all the work while the rest of the group dozed)
2. Students were asked to sit together and use 1 computer per group. I also wrote the directory path on the board that the groups were to use when saving their work (something they did frequently, but even so we had computers freeze and some groups lost some work).
3. Each group worked on recording their part of the story in small chunks so that if re-recording was necessary, it would only be for a small part (as opposed to recording a whole page at once, making a mistake right at the end and then having to record it all again :-). The workflow was basically "practice, record, name the recording, save the project, repeat with the next person".
4. I had each group put a title at the start of their project so that we could follow the story more easily when viewing them on my YouTube channel.
5. After each group had finished their recordings, they then had to listen again and adjust the volume of each sound clip so that their voices had similar volume levels throughout their project.

- Posted from my iPad

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 5

After all the prop creation, dividing the story into scenes and then recording those scenes and moving it all onto the computer, we were ready to begin the final stage of this project: the narration!

Materials and Equipment

1. Student copies of their story booklets with the scenes marked on them
2. Lab time and headset microphones for recording

The Process

1. We talked about the difference between telling a story and just reading a story, especially stories like Up, Up, Down (tone of voice, changes in volume and speed) and then creatively read some of the lines from the story together in small groups. I gave suggestions and feedback and picked out words that we could work on for pronunciation. We then practiced those words as a class before continuing.
2. I told students that I wanted them to read each line creatively and that they all needed to take turns - I want to hear all of them in the story :-)
3. I split my 2 main groups into smaller groups for the next part (so now I had groups for part 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b. These groups of 3 students were going to be responsible for telling just part of their booklet to ensure that everyone was involved and had a chance to learn how to use Movie Maker.
4. Students in their small groups went off to practice reading each line creatively and correctly and I circulated to correct pronunciation errors, offer suggestions if asked and answer any questions.

Tomorrow we'll start recording in the lab!

- Posted from my iPad

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Days 3+4

These past two weeks have been CRAZY busy, so I'm behind on my posting! Gasp! After the props were all made, we went into the recording phase of the project. We talked about how the audio in the videos would be muted so that they could narrate their videos later, so noise didn't matter. Creativity and using their group members as much as possible throughout each recorded scene DID matter, so my students were quite busy figuring out ways to make sure everyone was busy either being in a scene, getting a scene ready, working the camera or critiquing a scene for their group. Busy, busy, busy.

Materials and Equipment

1. All the props that your students have created
2. Extra tape, paper, markers, scissors and white-tac...just in case :-)
3. 2 video cameras and spare batteries for both ( we used our trusty Flip cameras)
4. 2 areas where you groups can go so they aren't tripping over each other :-)

The Process

1. Each group divided their booklet (which was 1/2 the story remember) into short scenes of about 1 or two lines each. This was done so re-takes of a scene could be accomplished quickly and easily. This would also assist for narration later on. Each scene was numbered so that the saved video files could also be numbered. This would make editing less painful later on.
2. I gave each group a camera, explained that the wrist strap was not optional, and then sent them off to 2 different parts of the school where they would not interfere with each other (or any other classes :-). They took the spare batteries too.
3. I had told my veteran students to teach the new students how to use the cameras so that everyone got experience and everyone got to take turn being in the scenes.
4. I moved between the two groups offering assistance or suggestions if they asked for any and picking on their pronunciation and grammar while they planned and recorded (yes, it matters even then). I had each group show me some of their recorded scenes on the camera and offered critique if it was warranted or if they asked me.
5. At the end of the hour, I brought both groups back, wrote the location of where to save their videos on my whiteboard and told them to ALL go and learn from a veteran how to dump video off the cameras and where to put the cameras when they were finished.

Another post to follow about prepping for narration! SO much fun!

- Posted from my iPad

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 2

The two groups completed preparing their props today after more work on them yesterday. I've been by asked colleagues about the purpose of so much creating during class time. Isn't it just wasted time? Absolutely not! If you are actively engaged with your students, if you treat it as a language activity with new vocabulary opportunities and plenty of error correction and if you explain how language is connected to the activity for the students (which you would do anyways, right?), there is so much potential! These are just some of the reasons why my students have so much fun creating things- it's beneficial! They know I'm listing to everything, that I will correct them and that they get tons of new vocabulary they will have to actively use throughout the project! Win-win!

Here is a description of what this stage of the project looked like.

Materials and Equipment

1. Coloured paper
2. Scissors, tape and glue sticks (LOTS of scissors:-)
3. Large chart paper
4. Coloured markers (3-4 sets works best)
5. A camera you can use to document their creativity!
6. Space to store all the crazy props! We just used a table.

The Process

1. You can set up all the materials before class begins or, as was the case for our class, I just showed students where to get the materials, how to politely ask for materials and then let them go and get whatever their group needed.
2. Monitor each group's progress and yes, still pick on pronunciation and grammar errors - this is important so that the students understand that project work does not equal mental vacation time! They need to be applying their knowledge in real time.
3. Offering "creative suggestions" is sometimes helpful, but too much kills the flow of ideas in the group. Learn when to just leave things alone. Having said that, sometimes you get some awesome results from a quick suggestion.

An Example? In the picture below is a refrigerator. This group also created a "door" for it, and on the door it said "Samsung", a Korean manufacturer. There were a couple of Japanese students in group and so I asked them who made good fridges in Japan. Apparently, Hitachi is quite good :-) This sparked a very interesting group conversation (while they continued working) about fridges in different countries. This lead to another Japanese student recalling a famous Hitachi commercial, which she then sang and translated for her group (the translating process was very interesting to watch and became quite a collaborative affair!).
All that from one question! I think that is a very positive result for everyone involved.

- Posted from my iPad

Monday, 8 August 2011

Storytelling 2.0 - Day 1

We're into the second week of a new study block now, and this means a new type of speech (Demonstration speeches with props) and a new digital project, Storytelling 2.0! Given the strong positive feedback from colleagues, from students and from their classmates, we're staying with a video-based project again this block.

We're going to take a Robert Munsch story and work on recording the different scenes from the book. After that the students will narrate each scene (focusing on using expression and emotion, changes in volume and speed and clear pronunciation throughout the narration), and we'll produce the whole thing as a video to share online.

Materials and Equipment

1. Copies of 1/2 the Robert Munsch story Up, Up Down (A and B parts, six copies of each for the two groups in the class)
2. MP3 Recording of Robert Munsch reading Up, Up Down from his website
3. Scissors, glue sticks, tape, coloured paper, chart paper, boxes of coloured markers (enough for two groups of students to share)
4. Copies of handout How to Be a Storyteller (one for each student)
5. One copy of The Paper Bag Princess (to read to the class)
6. Copies of The Paper Bag Princess (one for each student)

The Process

1. I told my students that to introduce this block's project and since I'm a dad (and I have two cute princesses in my house), I'd like to share a story with them that my daughters love that would give them a clue about the project.
2. At this point I gave each student a copy of the story (and asked them to follow along as I read) and then read The Paper Bag Princess to my them in a totally over-the-top dramatic way, complete with voices and sound effects :-)
3. Afterwards, we discussed the story, the vocabulary, the way it was read and what the students thought of it. I also asked them what they think their next project will be (they eventually got it :-)
4. Next, I gave each student a copy of the handout How to Be a Storyteller and had them read it with a partner and we discussed any questions they had.
5. I gave one group of students each a copy of the Part A of the story (six students), and the other group each a copy of Part B of the story (six students).
6. I told the students that, as a group, they were going to divide their handout into scenes, plan how to show each scene as a video and then prepare props for each scene. Only then would they be able to start recording (possibly next class). The groups were told to have ALL group members make a copy of their plan on their handouts and to NUMBER each scene to make editing easier later.
7. I advised students that when they did their recording, they should shoot the scenes with a few extra seconds before and after the action to make the editing later a LOT easier. I also told them that ALL group members must appear in each scene somehow - even as furniture would be okay :-)
8. I told students they would be evaluated as a group and that participation, attendance, creativity, use of props as well as their narration would all be evaluated in a rubric for this project and then I turned them loose!
9. The two groups got their scenes sorted out and both groups got started (but did not finish) preparing the props they would need for each scene.

- Posted from my iPad

Monday, 1 August 2011

Power Speaking Music Videos - Finished!

Sorry for the delay in posting this! We actually wrapped up last week. What a block! It's been super busy, but I feel this project was worth every second of time we spent on it together. The groups have finished their projects and have also finished their video feedback of the project. No other project I have done has received so much applause from students in the lounge at lunchtime, and no other project has been requested by so many students for the next block .

The big question occupying space in my brain is what am I going to do with my next class? Stay tuned to find out!

To get feedback, I gave students a list of questions about the project I wanted them to answer. They wrote down some notes about what they wanted to say, had a partner read the questions aloud during the video and looked at their notes while answering . It's all a bit stilted, but I've found that leaving it too open-ended doesn't result in a lot of useful feedback.
We had 1 semi-operational lab that was booked solid, so they had to do the editing on their laptops. 3 different versions of Movie Maker later, and we were ALL highly unimpressed by the hassles. It didn't help that we were under some pretty strong deadline pressure, but they still managed to get it done.
- Posted from my iPad

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Power Speaking Music Videos Continued

We're now up to day 8, and the projects are nearing completion. The recording phase continued for several classes (each one hour). Many of the groups did multiple re-takes to get exactly the right scene recorded. I am getting tired of hearing these songs played in 5-second intervals over and over again

The editing stage will be next, and here's how it's set up:

Materials and Equipment
1. Book your lab or have one student from each group bring in their laptop for their group to use.
2. Movie Maker 2.6 or the Mac or Linux equivalent. You can download it from here and install it on both Vista and 7 Windows systems...it's a much better tool than what is shipped with those versions.
3. Pazera Video Conversion Suite - free, powerful, and easy to use. Convert mp4 to avi in a jiffy. Download it here.
4. Headphone splitters (from the Dollar Store)
5. Power Bars
6. A couple of USB drives/thumb drives (small ones are okay - the files are tiny)
7. You may need to download DivX codecs as well as K-Lite Codecs onto a USB drive if Movie Maker doesn't play your converted videos correctly (on the K Lite page, click on "mirror 1" or "mirror 2" to start the download) They are easy to install on student laptops if needed.

The Process
1. Set up your power bars so your students can get their laptops powered up. My room has very few useful plugs, so all our power bars have very long cords on them.
2. Give each group one of the headphone splitters and ask them to plug in their own headphones so the room doesn't fill with multiple songs at the same time .
3. Download copies of Movie Maker 2.6 and Pazera VCS and put them both on a couple of USB drives prior to class. Share these with the students so they can quickly get the software and get it installed on their laptops.
4. I very quickly went around and showed each group how to use Pazera to batch convert their mp4 vids from the Flip cameras to the avi flavour that Movie Maker prefers.
5. Students imported all their converted videos into Movie Maker and then muted the audio on all of them Some of these students had dozens of short videos, so this took them a while! They also imported their song into Movie Maker to use to help them time their videos to the song.
6. Once finished, students will save and export their final movies (we're not here quite yet - see the note below) and I'll share them with our school community and possibly chuck them into my Dropbox as well.
7. Three of my students needed the codecs, five of them didn't - no obvious connection to the type of operating system, so it was good I had those codecs available for quick installation!

The Sharing
Next Post!

- Posted from my iPad

Friday, 8 July 2011

Power Speaking Music Video Project - Day 3

Lots of work accomplished this afternoon! The teams were quite busy prepping props, discussing where to start and stop recording and, of course, recording various parts of their songs complete with lip-synching and gestures.

It was very helpful for teams to work together to help with recording. It also seemed to work very well to have the song playing while they were lip-synching in their video clips. We can mute this later in Movie Maker when we put all the clips together.

There's no specific lesson plan for this day since the students are all off doing what they need to do. Of course I still circulate to help answer question as necessary, but all-in-all, I was not needed.

Since tomorrow is Friday, we don't have an afternoon class together. This means we'll continue this project next week starting on Monday. So far it's been awesome!!

- Posted from my iPad

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Power Speaking Music Videos - Day 2

Today was the big day - choosing groups, choosing songs and then starting to put it all together.

Materials and Equipment
1. Lyric sheets for all the songs from Day 1 (3 copies of each plus 1 for you)
2. Coloured paper, scissors, tape, chart paper and markers
3. Write all the song names on the board before class begins

The Process
1. I put my students into groups of three. Sometimes this is less painful than letting try to decide themselves
2. I dealt every student a card from a standard deck of playing cards. Next I had students in their groups choose the highest card amongst their group members (so now there were just 4 cards - 1 from each group). I had these students show their cards and then go to the board and choose the song for their group. The highest card went first, the lowest card went last - there was a LOT of good-natured begging and pleading at this point as students tried to negotiate to get the song they wanted for their group members.
3. I gave each group copies of the lyrics for the song they had chosen and explained how to read them, especially the parts where the chorus repeats itself.
4. I asked the groups to go through the lyrics and think of one gesture they could do for each line of the song. They could be as creative as they wanted to be and I reminded them that they would need to lip-synch the song too, so they should start getting used to the song while working (in other words, play it over and over again).
5. I showed students all the craft supplies, told them they could make or use anything they wanted in their music video and then moved each group to a separate spot around the school where their songs wouldn't disturb anyone and set them to work.
6. While they were working, I circulated to offer suggestions or assistance as well as help with any wacky vocab and grammar problems that came up. This was extremely creative and productive! We'll need another class to get this stuff done before we start recording. That's when the craziness will REALLY begin!

The Sharing
I'm kicking myself for not getting some pictures of today to share. I'll try to grab a camera tomorrow and snap some pics of all the awesome ideas my students have come up with so far!

- Posted from my iPad

Power Speaking Music Videos - Day 1

Today marked the start of a new 4-week study block at my school. This means that I have 8 shiny new students and 4 grizzled veterans this block . I love the fact that my veteran students help get the new students quickly up to speed on class routines, due dates, etc...

This block we're learning how to give an informative speech, so students will be learning structure as well as how to use PowerPoint effectively and how to use gestures in their speeches to add emphasis and memorability.

The afternoon projects for this block will be centered on the creation of music videos with the students lip-synching and using gestures for various words in the song in their video and then using the original song for the soundtrack.

Due to copyright limitations on the music (all pop songs), we can't upload these, but we will share the final products with other students in the school.

Before the Class
1. Gather a selection of songs from the top 40 that have a good beat and no profanity and are, of course, in English. My plan is to choose enough songs for 4 groups for 3 weeks with a few leftover (14-16). I might change this plan after this week and allow students to choose their own song for weeks two and three.
2. Download a copy of each of the songs you choose to share with students in class. Many of my students already had these songs on their various phones, 'pods and 'pads.

Materials and Equipment
1. The song "The Eency Weency Spider"
2. Lyrics for "The Eency Weency Spider" handout (1 copy for each student)
3. Speakers for your playback device
4. CD with each of the songs you selected on it (or load them onto your own playback device)
5. Print copies of the lyrics for each song (enough for each group member and one copy for you)

The Process
1. Tell students that they are going to get to listen to some music, but not for relaxation . Since we are learning about gestures, they will be adding some gestures to a song to make it more interesting and memorable. You could make this even funnier by telling them what an awesome dance song you have for them.
2. Give each student a copy of the Eency Weency Spider lyrics. Give them a chance to ask questions about any new vocab. We had fun with teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy and teensy-weensy . Spout was a new one for my students as was the phrasal verb wash out.
3. Now have students just listen to the song the first time while following along with the lyrics. You can sing along if you want to
4. After rockin' out, put students into groups of 2 or 3 and tell them that you want them to add some gestures to the song and that they will get to do their gestures with the song when you play it again. They can write ideas on their lyric sheets if they want to but the group must all do the same gestures. They should try to add one gesture per line if possible!
**A note about gestures - on the board I wrote and explained the following:
*Can help

1. make your speech more interesting
2. make your speech more memorable
3. make your speech easier to understand

Gestures should be...
1. Big and Obvious
2. Culturally Clear
3. Timed Carefully: I caught a big fish.

'Big and Obvious' means that your elbows need to be out from your body and the gesture needs to stand out. 'Culturally Clear' means that your audience will understand what your gestures mean. To help explain timing, I said the fish sentence with my arms outstretched the whole time (to show the 'big')- WRONG; then I said it again, but put my arms out only after I finished - WRONG; then I said it again, gesturing with my arms only on the word 'big' - CORRECT

5. Now give students approximately 10 minutes to create and practice their gestures for the song. Circulate to offer assistance as needed.
6. Play the song again, watch the students' gestures and stop the song if anything looks out of synch. We had several false starts with giggle attacks , but eventually we got through the whole song. Then we played it a couple more times to show off We talked about how difficult the timing was and admired each others' creative gestures before moving on.
7. On the board I wrote down the artists and songs that the students could choose from: Taio Cruz - Dynamite, Pink - Please Don't Leave Me, Tinie Tempah - Written in the Stars, Adele - Rolling in the Deep, Jessie J - Price Tag, Bruno Mars - Grenade, Avril Lavigne - What the Hell, Jack Johnson - You and Your Heart
8. This was the end of our hour, so I asked my students to start thinking about which song they like the best and then choose their top three. I told them we would choose songs for their groups tomorrow.

The Sharing
Nothing to share yet, but just wait until we're done! It's going to be awesome!!

- Posted from my iPad

Monday, 27 June 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure Project - Day 5

Today was THE day! The students hammed out the grammar for their annotations and then we headed to the lab to start linking videos together using YouTube's annotation feature. It's amazing how a few hours can be condensed into a single sentence :-)

Materials and Equipment
1. Computer lab time
2. CYOA Annotation Planning handout
3. Student copies of their Storyboards
4. CYOA Annotation How-to handout

The Process
1. Due to unusually sad attendance this morning, my 4 groups of 3 were each missing one person. Nice symmetrical absenteeism! Yay! Also, bizarrely enough, none of the missing people were the owners of the YouTube channels that had the videos uploaded to them last class. Double Yay!

2. Since this is the last week of our 4 week study block AND since Friday is a stat holiday here in Canada, we had to use some of our morning class to prep this up. We're also down to one lab, so we had to get in while we could .

3. Students worked with their partner in class and created grammatically correct annotations for each of the decision arrows on their storyboard using the CYOA Annotation Planning handout. They wrote their sentences down (each made a copy) and then had someone from another group check their grammar. After that, I checked them too. Just in case. Unfortunately I forgot to check their video titles...*sigh*

**Note: I asked the students write their annotations with "You" instead of "I"...this followed the format of the CYOA novels we had read earlier in the project.

4. To the crap-lab! Partners sat together. Partner A signed in to their own YouTube channel (where the videos had been uploaded to the other day).

5. Partner B went online to YouTube and found their videos with a quick search. Partner B then copied and pasted each video link into a Word doc on our shared server file. This was done so Partner A could just copy and paste each link into the appropriate box while annotating. After finishing, they closed the file.
**Note: If Partner B made a numbered or bulleted list of their links, this caused some problems when pasting the link into the annotation box - the number or bullet point came too! Scroll back in the link and make sure there is nothing before the http: part!

6. Partner A opened the document that their partner created and started copying the sentences and links into each of the annotation boxes for each video. They used the CYOA Annotation How-to handout to guide themselves. Partner B's new job was to go to each of the videos after their partner was done and click / test-drive each annotation! VERY important and we caught a few errors this way!

7. We got all of the lab work done in an hour. The in-class writing took approximately 20 minutes.

Hope all this verbosity is helpful to you! If you want to know more, drop me a line!


- Posted from my iPad

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure Project - Day 4

We wrapped up the last of the recording today and then students uploaded their videos from their folders on the network. This was a bit of an adventure due our lab being a wee bit...well, "quirky" (trying to keep it polite here ).

Materials and Equipment
1. Students' videos in their own folders on the network
2. Students should have their own YouTube channels - my students have these set up as part of our class. Each group needed to choose one members' channel to upload their videos to.

The Process
1. We booked our lab time and had the groups get together and start uploading their videos. They had selected one member's YouTube channel to upload to. The videos must be uploaded before they can be annotated/linked together.
2. One of the surprising challenges for my students was giving each of their videos a descriptive title. I showed first group finished how to upload and title their videos and instructed the three of them to assist their classmates as necessary.
3. Due to our lab's pathetic upload speeds, this was all we were able to accomplish in class. The next class will have us in the lab again, annotating all the videos together.

The Sharing
1. We will be sharing the final results in the next post, after all the annotation craziness is wrapped up. The students are all very keen to share their videos with each other and I can't wait to see their final products!

Please let me know if you have any questions or if you've tried this with your own students! Bye for now.

- Posted from my iPad

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure Project - Day 3

Today was a day filled with recording craziness! I have to say, I am extremely impressed with the creativity and effort that my teams of 3 put in today - SO many great / weird / surprising collaborations between teams to help make their videos even more awesome!

Materials and Equipment
1. (2) Flip Video Cameras
2. Spare batteries for Flip cameras
3. The CYOA Planning handout from previous days

The Process
1. As students worked with their groups to finish up / tweak their storyboarding, I gave each table of 6 students (2 teams at a table) one of the Flip cameras and instructed them to work together and help each other with recording their different scenes.
2. I also told the teams that in their handout there was a blank page for planning out and discussing tricky bits of dialogue. If there was grammar or word choice questions, I asked them to write it down there and come and show me. I told them that I did NOT want a script for each scene! Besides taking too long to prepare, it would make their delivery all stilted and awkward. They all agreed that this was a VERY good decision to make :-)
3. Finally, I explained where I wanted them to save all their videos on the network and how I wanted them to name each video according to the numbering on the Storyboarding part of the handout (this part was actually completed by self-selected members from each team / table after class had wrapped up).
4. Students got to work and were recording and working together for the entire rest of the time. We'll need to continue a little bit next class, but we'll have most of the videos ready to upload in another day or so!

The Sharing
Their videos will be uploaded within a couple of days and then they can work on annotating / linking them up into a complete CYOA video adventure!

Stay tuned for more!

- Posted from my iPad

Choose Your Own Adventure Project - Day 2

For this part of the project I split my class of 12 students into groups of 3, gave each a copy of the CYOA Planning handout and helped them get a handle on what they needed to do. It worked extremely well!

Material and equipment
1. 1 copy of the CYOA Planning handout for each student.

The Process
1. Like I said, I put the students into groups of 3 and gave each students a copy of the CYOA Planning handout. This redundancy will be handy in case of the occasional absent body from a group for our next class - each student made a copy of their plan.
2. I wanted to keep my students indoors, so I limited their story problems to things that could happen at school (eg: You're 25 minutes late for class. What do you do?). I explained that we'd brainstorm a few and then they would develop a few more in their groups. After that, they would choose one and fill in the crazy storyboard with all the arrows in the CYOA Planning handout.
3. We brainstormed a few of school- related problems together on the board and then I turned my teams loose and circulated to offer advice or assistance as needed. As my class is all adults, some of the possible story endings were getting a wee bit, um, "adult" in nature, but still, they were very creative!
4. In our one hour time slot, most of the groups did not completely finish their storyboarding, which was fine. We're not in a rush and I wanted them to not feel stressed.

The Sharing
1. Most of the sharing today happened between the groups at each table. There was a lot of "Oh! That's an awesome idea - we could do something like that here in our story". At some point I may get inspired to scan and post a completed storyboard from one of my teams, but for now I'm just going to wait and see where this project takes us.

In our next class, we're going to be starting to record each scene in their storyboarded plans. It promises to be chaos, but glorious, productive chaos!

Oh, by the way, I took one plan from each group and made a copy for myself - I wanted to see if I could spot any potential difficulties and help preempt them, but they were all quite solid and made sense.

Until next time!
- Posted from my iPad

Monday, 13 June 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure Project - Day 1

Did you ever read Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were younger? If you did, then you probably remember marking pages with your fingers "just in case" If your childhood was lacking this fun, the basic idea is this: Imagine a story that allows you to make choices about the path the characters take. Some stories have 25 possible endings (or even more!), but most of the endings are not good for your character :-). You make choices flipping to different pages in the book and read the next part of the adventure. Continue until you reach one of the endings. I loved these when I was younger and my son really enjoys them now.

Then I remembered seeing a YouTube video called "The Time Machine" and decided to try something similar (on a much smaller scale) with my Power Speaking Students. This posting is just for the first day of the project.

Material and Equipment
1. Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) novels ( 1 book per pair of students)
2. Mark one spot in one of the novels where there is a life-or-death decision
3. Dictionaries (most of my students use electronic dictionaries)
4. Sticky notes for quick bookmarks
5. Computer lab access to view "The Time Machine"

The Process
1. Begin by talking about how we make SO many choices all the time, every day and most of the time they aren't important enough to think about carefully.

2. On the board I began by writing "My alarm went off at 6:15 this morning" and draw 2 lines out from it to start making an upside-down tree shape. I asked my students to tell me one thing I might have done (eg: "You got up") and wrote "I got up" on the board under one of the lines. Then I asked them for another possibility (eg: "You hit snooze") and wrote "I kept sleeping" under the other line. I went back to the first path, "I got up" and repeated the process by eliciting 2 more options under it. Then I did the same for the "I kept sleeping" path. This means I had 4 options now, 2 from the "I got up" side, and 2 from the "I kept sleeping" side.

3. You could continue doing this, but we decided to put some different endings to our 4 options and stop there. One ending can be the best, one was good, one was bad and one was terrible. The "best" and the "good" endings finished the "I got up" path. The "bad" and the "terrible" endings finished the "I kept sleeping" path. The "best" ending involved me getting a promotion (don't I wish it was that easy ) while the "terrible" ending had my boss beat me up !

4. Now I showed the students the novels and we discussed if any of them had ever seen or read something like them before (all but one of my students said "no" to both questions). I explained how these novels were also about choices (like we had explored on the board, but more interesting ) and that I had an example for them (I shared the life-or-death option in one story and the class had to vote on which path we should take. The majority chose incorrectly and so we all died . There was much sadness.

I put students into pairs and had one partner randomly choose a novel. I told students to take turns reading their novel aloud with their partner (great opportunities here for error correction and vocab building!) and to decide together which choices to make. I gave them approx. 20 minutes to do this. We stopped and bookmarked where they were at (they put their names on the sticky notes and put the notes in their books).

5. Now I told them I wanted to show them something EXTREMELY cool in the lab. I explained that some very creative guys had created a CYOA video adventure and that they were going to have a chance to explore it in the lab. For each choice, these guys made different videos and connected them together! It's so neat!

Note to my school Admin people: This would have been even cooler if our blasted lab had cooperated . Our school has a garage sale of crappy old PCs and they were sooooo slow loading the YouTube videos that my students quickly became frustrated and bored!
We had a "plan B" with an alternate site for them to go to while they were waiting, but c'mon! REALLY? This is the tech level we all have to suffer with? Talk about killing the buzz! It's EMBARRASSING !

The Sharing
This will come later...for now, we're at the "plotting and scheming" stage

As usual, any thoughts or comments are welcome. Thanks!

- Posted from my iPad

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Video Feedback from Students

I think that my students enjoy my class. Actually, I'm pretty sure most of them do because of the feedback I receive from them. One way my school uses to collect this feedback is in the form of a face-to-face interview at the end of a 4-week study block. As I see it, the problem with this technique are these:
1. It takes a relatively long time per student
2. It may be hard for students to express their true feelings with me sitting across from them.

I thought I would try something new this time. I created a video feedback mini-project for my students to complete without any interference from me.

Material and Equipment
1. A video camera with spare batteries
2. A tripod
3. A chair
4. Interview Handout: A single page with the interview questions I usually use face-to-face and lines under each question (for students to jot down some notes before they go and record their responses)

The Process
This worked well this time because I was out of my class for approximately 20 minutes with some administrative tasks, so my students didn't have any pressure put on them by me being nearby.

My students are all competent using our Flip video camera and since it was mounted on a tripod (and they are all adults), leaving them unattended was not an issue.

Students found a classmate to control the camera and to read the questions aloud. They took their papers with them since this was completely unrehearsed and again, I wanted this to be low pressure for them. After one pair finished, another pair would come out.

When not recording their responses, the students were practicing for final speeches that they would have to deliver the next day. Again, this was routine, so my not being in the classroom was not an issue for my students.

The Sharing

I have not posted this feedback anywhere, but I have shared them with my administrator via my Dropbox account (which I recently upgraded. I'm quite happy about that ). Unlike several of my colleagues, I don't fear feedback from my students and I am quite happy to make my feedback as transparent as possible. I always get at least one or two great ideas to layer into my course as well as food for thought about the established routines we use.

If you try this out with your class (or if you already do this type of feedback activity with your students), drop me a line - I'd love to hear more about what you are doing!


- Posted from my iPad

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Idiom Dictionary Project

Idioms are the bane of my students' existence, or at least that's what they like to tell me! There are SO many of these in the English language, so how do you help students learn them?

This was the question that lead to the creation of the Idiom Dictionary Project. FYI, my students are all in their 20s. We repeat this project each week with new idioms.

Materials and Equipment:
1. A selection of idioms that your students have been studying (12 works well for my class size of 12 students)
2. Two video cameras (we have 4GB Flip cameras)
3. Approximately 30-40 minutes of time to explain the project and have your students plan and record.

The Process
1. On the board I write Start the Camera, Say the idiom, Show what it means (no definitions please), Say the idiom again and then Stop the camera.
2. I explain how they will work in pairs and each pair will choose two idioms (no groups can choose the same one so it's first come, first served - they have to write their choices on the board and if someone beats them to it, they must choose a different idiom).
3. I demo an example for them or show them a couple of examples from previous students and then
4. Split the class into 2 groups of six, give each group one camera and send the groups to 2 different places to get to work.
5. The students get so creative! I float back and forth to help and give error correction if needed, but otherwise I leave them alone. They tell me they like it that way :-). Even though they are working in pairs, they are always willing to help each other with their role plays, offer suggestions to each other and do the recordings.

The Sharing
1. Since each group did not see what the other had created, we go to our lounge space after everyone is finished and hook the cameras up to the big TV to share the videos - this is so much fun and the students really enjoy seeing each others' work.
2. I also upload these to our class YouTube channel (wwww.YouTube.com/joshhooper) where we can use them as a week 4 review tool before their final exam.

If you get a chance to try this with your students, drop us a link - we'd love to see what you've created!