Our second unit of inquiry in first grade at my school is a How We Express Ourselves unit. In prior years, it used to be very teacher driven, fact recalling based, and require little higher order thinking skills, as it centered around making good choices when expressing yourself in social situations. This year, my first grade team and I decided to revamp this unit to make it better for our students. As a team we decided on a new central idea that centered around how we express ourselves through powerful stories instead. This change allowed us to integrate the unit with more content based subject areas, as well as involve more student centered inquiry into the mix. Since making the change and completing the new unit in November, it was easy to see that it was indeed improved from before.

Here are a few examples of this year’s powerful stories. Students could choose to make a new story or retell a favorite of theirs. All students were highly engaged and the products met the standard we set, plus they were pretty stinking cute! However, I feel they were lacking in their depth of understanding of both powerful stories and tech use that we wanted to achieve.

Upon personal reflection, I think that a few more changes to this unit would increase the depth of understanding of powerful stories for our students, as well as allow for more meaningful and effective technology integration.

Here are some changes that I made:

  • Social Learning: Previously when students were finding out answers to their wonderings about powerful stories, we would access peers, teachers, and parents to share stories that spoke to them and why. To allow for more quality research on the topic, as well as global collaboration, I decided to also add Twitter to this unit. Using our Twitter page, students can ask their favorite authors ways they make stories powerful and/or poll a large audience to see what there thoughts are on the matter as well.
  • Student Research & Content Curation: Before, when students needed examples of digital stories, I chose only a few I liked from Youtube and showed them to the whole classroom. To allow for more student tech use with research as well as student centered learning, I created a Padlet page of powerful digital story examples. Now students can access a wide range of stories that I added to it and become curators of their own content by adding other digital stories they find that are powerful as well.
  • Direction: The powerful digital stories students created before were very open ended and students could choose to make up any story or retell a story they love. The open-endedness of this task made it difficult for students to find direction and produce more quality work. My change for the final project now is for students to re-create a powerful story that reflects their culture, or a story from a culture they found to be especially interesting to them. This will not only give students more direction, but also allow them to practice having empathy for the different cultures around us.
  • Choice In Tech: Previously, I only allowed students to choose between the 2 apps I taught during the unit to use in their final project. Now I will introduce more apps at the start such as: Puppet Pals, Book Creator, DoInk Green Screen, Stop Motion, and ChatterpixSince I will have already introduced some of them earlier in the year for other purposes, the ones I have not yet done will be introduced on day 1 of the unit via the Padlet page I created. This way they will have plenty of time to mess around with them, see examples of stories made with them, and decide on the one they are most interested in that best allows them to portray their powerful story.
  • Personal Reflection: At the end of the unit before, students would post their story on their personal Seesaw blog and comment on each others’ work. My next change is to add some personal reflection to it as well. After viewing and commenting on others’ stories, students will then comment reflections on their own digital stories through using the two stars (two things they did well with creating their story) and a wish (one thing they need to do better at) reflection format.
  • Global Collaboration: The only place their final digital stories were accessed before was on their personal Seesaw blogs. Next year I will have my students submit their stories to the Stories of a Lifetime global collaboration project. This will not only allow my students to become global collaborators, but also encourage them to do more quality work knowing it will be viewed by a global audience.

Throughout my first course in Coetail, I’ve learned so much: that teaching needs to be more student centered so students feel more empowered and engaged, that tech integration needs to be meaningful and require students to access higher order thinking skills and creativity, and that learning is increasingly connected therefore we must truly model and teach the skills of good digital citizenship and global collaboration. After thinking about this learning, I feel as though the changes I made to this unit are a true reflection of those core essential ideas. The unit embedded here will not be taught until next school year and after discussing it with my team, but don’t fret, I will plan to make a post about it then to let you know how it goes!