Stefanie Wissmann’s fourth grade students at Cragmont Elementary are now Screencastify pros. I first learned of their experience screencasting when Stefanie shared an example of their fiction reading podcasts with the Cragmont conference email list back in January. Soon thereafter I watched them record their nonfiction research podcasts. Recently the class circled back to screencasting after reading historical fiction novels in book clubs and I returned to see it in action.
This time around, their task was to summarize the book, identify major themes, and provide evidence to support them. Stefanie instructed them to make their latest podcasts conversational. Students were focused on asking each other questions and reflecting on the book.
Book clubs met and prepared a brief script. Some groups sketched out an outline for their podcast including questions to ask one another. Others wrote out more prepared remarks. Students asked each other about the historical setting, the plot, major characters, favorite moments, and so on.
Each group quickly assembled one Google Slide which included the cover and the title of the book to serve as a backdrop for their recording.
Then each book club recorded their presentation twice. They listened to their first attempt, discussed what went well and what they aimed to improve, and then tried a second time. Many of the groups made use of an external microphone for an even higher audio quality (although the built-in Chromebook mics work pretty well).
Two days later, Stefanie shared all of the historical fiction podcasts in a Hyperdoc through Google Classroom and provided students with a note-taking sheet to jot down their reactions. Stephanie carefully modeled each step and allocated 20 minutes for students to listen to podcasts while taking notes. I wandered around the room in awe as I observed students skillfully toggle between the podcasts and their online notetaking sheet. Some students chose to listen and reflect simultaneously. Others paused the podcasts to focus on typing out their thoughts.
Afterward, students shared out their notes about their favorite podcast with their elbow partner. Stefanie challenged them to make note of common themes across the podcasts during that discussion.
This lesson wrapped up with the class generating a list of the common themes they had identified. Sadness. Discrimination. Racism. Troubles/problems like separation. Family/connection. Bravery. Stefanie asked which books had each of the themes. Students figured out these themes were woven into all of the historical fiction novels they read. Then a student pointed out these themes are also present in their current read aloud book, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. After that, another student noted these themes are present in the graphic novel Smile by Raina Telgemeier and other novels as well.
The class left with a new and profound understanding of universal themes. Stefanie ended the lesson with the sage advice to keep looking for these themes as they continue reading fiction. On my way out the door, Stefanie and I marveled at the rich discussion they had. Stefanie’s creative infusion of technology and carefully crafted lesson provided students with the time and means to gain new insights about literature.
– Mia Gittlen, K-8 Instructional Technology TSA