Guest Blog Post: Pecha Kucha More Than Chit-Chat

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We are excited to start off 2013 with our guest blogger Jackie. She took the leap of faith and started teaching internationally at a school in Jakarta, Indonesia this past year.  I had the privilege of meeting her in person in Singapore a few months ago when she was visiting during her vacation. She is a faithful reader of our blog and currently teaching 7th & 8th English and technology. We are thankful for her thoughtful contribution! 

Seventh grade students in a growing English proficiency literature class struggled to comprehend Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman until the setting and social issues came alive through their compositions of pecha kuchas.

What is a pecha kucha and how did students compose them in our classroom? To begin, Pecha Kucha is the Japanese word for “chit chat.” The term refers to 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. The idea originated as a way to prompt presenters to create thoughtful, compelling representations as an alternative to a popular presentation method that tempts people to be wordy, not in a good way.

Our class took a cue from a previous teacher at our school, Jabiz Raisdana, to attempt amini-pecha kucha (10 slides shown for 20 seconds each) as a way to familiarize ourselves with the setting of Boy Overboard, Afghanistan. Because students appreciated the visual aspect of pecha kuchas, we decided to expand it to examine the themes of  the book, Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. Also, the Middle Years Program (part of the International Baccalaureate program) at our school, requires a “Visual Literacy” criterium for English Acquisition Learners which pecha kuchas provide an opportunity to demonstrate.

“Pecha kuchas helped me understand the book better,” was overheard by one student in the middle of researching this project. Boy Overboard proved to be somewhat challenging with its vocabulary referencing war and its Afghan setting. When asked why and how pecha kuchas helped her, the student responded that the slides allowed her “to see” scenes from the book.

Students gravitated toward the social issues surrounding the book as well. We tied the theme of gender equality, prevalent in this book set during Taliban control, to the UN Millenium Development Goals. Students followed the unfolding story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for her BBC blog and views on education for girls–and connected this to the characters in the book as they are forced to leave Afghanistan because their parents run an illegal school for girls.

We capitalized on the text-to-world connection and the visual nature of pecha kuchas to build a scaffold for students. My hope was not only that the students learn about Afghanistan and themes of the novel, but how to comprehend written and visual texts.

Here are the steps we took to compose our mini-pecha kucha reader responseassignment:

  1. Discussed the elements of the book: characters, setting, theme, etc.
  2. Identified setting or themes that would help students better understand the novel. (Made a list.)
  3. Partners chose a theme and began planning by copying and sharing this planner.
  4. Carefully evaluated and selected images that supported an understanding of the topic.
  5. Cited each image, while starting with a search of Creative Commons images.
  6. Composed text for each image that reflected an accurate reading of the image while connecting it to the topic and how it helped the students better understand the book.
  7. Recorded the pecha kucha while timing to be sure the slide was shown for roughly 20 seconds only.
  8. Screened the pecha kucha for the class, answering questions about why certain images were selected and explaining how the slideshow connected to the novel.

Pecha Kucha Evaluation Rubric.

Here is an example of a finished mini-pecha kucha on the topic of Desert Life in Afghanistan by 3 seventh grade students; Holly, Elaine and Da Ran.

Reflections: After the assignment, I had these thoughts:

  • We are still working on beginnings, middles and endings when writing. Although the pecha kuchas encourage writers to focus on the specific image shown, we are still thinking about we can incorporate a “wrap-it-up” ending and tie the topic to the novel.
  • Many students struggled with selecting images that “looked” like they fit the topic, but they were not sure if they were taken in Afghanistan or Pakistan or elsewhere. We discussed how Flickr images often include a description of the photo and could provide more context than a simple Google image search.
  • Students shared the citations with me on the planner, but where should they include them on screen in the final project? Rolling credits?

For more from Jackie, go to: http://jakartajackie.wordpress.com/

Student Made Props Rocks!

It’s finally showtime for my fifth grade students! Today, we had our performance of Geology Rocks for the whole elementary school and besides a few small technology glitches it went pretty smoothly. I think the teachers had more fun enjoying some of the humor from the lines and songs! Tomorrow, we have the performance for the parents. 🙂

The props for the musical were all made by the students. We had the students make signs that said the name of the part and a picture of it. We worked with the art teacher, Rachel. She had them make the signs and our one big prop (a mountain) for the stage.

The art teacher had them use different mediums for the signs. Some were done with water colors, color pencils or thick crayons. The students then used black paper to cut out the words and glued them on top. Afterwards, I laminated them and hole-punched them on the top and put a string through it. Now, the students could hang them around their necks during the show.

For the rocks (igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary), they cut out signs in the shape of rocks and colored them. They came out really well too!

Thank you Ms. Rachel for all your help! We couldn’t have done it without you. We ❤ art.

Math Stories for Newbies!

Our first guest blogger for two apples a day is Joelle, who is not only fluent in English, but her native tongue is French. She has taught in elementary schools in Canada, before making the plunge to the international scene. She is currently teaching third grade at an international school here in Korea and happens to be our amazing co-worker. 

Let’s make Math Journals come alive…

Yes, math journals are great ways to communicate and see what your students learned during a particular lesson.  I will not argue the importance of math journals. However, what if I offered you an idea that not only got the students writing about math, but got them excited about math?

Turning Math Journals into Math Stories

Often math journals include a math problem where students create or complete a math question. Examples are; Jenny has 8 marbles, she gives Lucas 3 marbles. How many are in total? Another one may be, what is a fraction? There are so many questions we can ask our students to see if they really grasped a concept.

What if math journals were more than just a reflection or an answer to a problem? What if journals came to life?

What are Math Stories?

Math stories are written by the students about a particular concept you are covering in class. I personally use it at the end of my unit as a review of vocabulary and concepts. At the beginning, these stories may take your students 3 or 4 (50 minute periods) to write, however, the more the students do them, the easier it becomes and eventually may only take 2-3 (50 minute periods).  For teachers, the best part of Math stories is that there is absolutely no planning involved, as long as you keep a list of key words or concepts going on Word Wall or Math Wall. This way, students can refer to this “already made list” on the board when writing their stories.

Math Stories for NEWBIES!

Model! Model! Model! Choose a math story and do a read aloud. If you are not sure where to begin, here is an excellent website with book lists for every math strand: http://childrenspicturebooks.info/articles/picture_books_for_math.htm

Afterwards, discuss with your students the various components of the story. What makes a math story? This lesson should look no different than what you do in language arts.

Day 1-2: In groups of 2, have your students start brainstorming and writing out a draft of their math story. Since the focus is on ideas, I usually don’t give them more than a period and a half to finish this portion.

Day 2-4: Using chart paper, have your students start writing and illustrating their story.

Day 5: What you do on this day is completely up to you. What I have done in the past is have students rotate to different groups and read each other’s stories.

Benefits of Math Stories

  • Students are making connections with the concepts taught in class with real life examples
  • Students who don’t like math will often find this activity amusing and not realize they are working or reviewing
  • This activity can be adapted for any grade level
  • Cooperative learning
  • Easy to prepare
  • Assessments can be made both for Math and Language Arts

Fifth Grade Musical: Geology Rocks!

“Musical plays for the musically timid teacher…” Yes, that is the tag line for Bad Wolf Press that Melody discovered last year. Her class performed,  “The Turkeys Go On Strike”, which was a huge success. They have a wide arrange of musicals for the different grade levels and subject areas.  You do have to pay to order the musical, but it was definitely worth it.  It comes with a  copy of the script and a CD with all the songs and instrumentals versions as well. I can definitely say I am a musically timid teacher, but Bad Wolf Press makes it easy to do and fun for the kids.

This year, both fifth grade classes will putting on the musical, Geology Rocks! It is a mystery where Sherlock Holmes and Watson are trying to figure out what happened to Professor Rock. It goes along nicely with our science unit on landforms that we are currently studying. In the book, they give great tips on how to practice, rehearse and perform the musical. They give you a four week plan. So this week, we are on week 2, where students have been listening and singing the songs. There are 10 songs that are in the musical. The students don’t necessarily sing all of the songs. I have to admit, last night as I was trying to fall asleep, the chorus to the main song in the musical was stuck in my head…He loves, he loves, volcanoes…

Next week, the students will be reading the script and choosing parts. I hope to post more on the process and final production of our first ever fifth grade musical!

P.S. We ❤ comments! Let us know that you were here.

Geology ROCKS!

The Cast