Monday, February 10, 2014

Heroes Among Us

 All the report card marks have been tabulated and all the report card comments have been crafted and students will receive a written record of their progress to date this coming week. The students that I see in Grades 1-4 for Media Literacy had a major project as part of their first term work. Our inquiry question was about the qualities of a true hero. During library time, we read about make-believe and real-life heroes, while learning about the fiction and non-fiction sections of the library. For media classes, we took a critical look at costumes, their target audiences, and the overt and implied messages they contain. The culminating task was for students to create their own, unique superhero costume. I'm sorry that I'm unable to share more of the photos I took, but in the interest of protecting their secret identities, I've only posted a few examples that included masks and hid faces. I was really delighted by some of the final products, as well as the presentations that accompanied them. We provided a lot of the materials for constructing these outfits at school but allowed the option of purchasing small items as needed if the students desired. Class time was given to become costume designers and students were also able to work on the project at home.

Project Successes
I was really delighted with the variety of costumes we saw. Students took the basic concept (super hero clothes = optional cape, optional mask, symbol on chest) and ran with it. Many kids were very enthusiastic about the topic and even brought their costumes in early, prior to the due date. Presentations were never boring, as we heard about all sorts of creative super powers and design choices. The rubric worked well, as did the student peer evaluation forms that the "little teachers" used to mark each other. (I'll post the project description, rubric, and student mark sheets on this blog now or in the near future.) Parents were able to be involved with this project in a way that didn't then disadvantage children who didn't have the same level of assistance at home. The heroes you see on the left side of this post (from top to bottom: Haunter, Fire Guy, Re-User, and a hero whose moniker I've totally forgotten!) all look different but are still interesting and clever.

Project Challenges
Even though I sent home the project description for parents to preview, I still had a couple of households who either a) thought they adults had to do all the work for their child with sewing and major purchases, or b) had no idea that we were doing a project. I heard about Misunderstanding A in time to clarify expectations to all the classes, but then the opposite occurred - some parents thought they were not permitted to help by sewing. I think I will insist on receiving these assignment description sheets initialed by a grown-up if I do something like this again, and maybe even translate some of the instructions. In the future, I'd also like to build in a check-in spreadsheet so that I knew how students were faring during the process. Building times (and I was happy to realize that this project could be classified as a "maker fair") were chaotic as students measured, cut, searched, stapled, and asked for help. Projects are more fun but take more time and effort than a worksheet does and there were several students that did not complete a super hero costume, despite reminder notes in their agendas and class time. Several students lost their plan sheets, and those papers counted as part of the final project. If I understand it correctly, the Ontario Ministry of Education's Growing Success document says that you cannot penalize a student in grades for not submitting work, and thankfully I had enough other assessments to compile a final grade, but I was really disappointed that some students didn't produce anything for us to see.

I took photos of every super hero we met, and many of those pictures will be posted on a school bulletin board. I hope the display generates the same amount of excitement as the rest of the school discovers that Eco-Girl, Thunder Man, Advice Girl, Clumsy Man, Ice Girl, Rope Girl, Black Hole, Mega Hand, Hornet Man, Super Rarity and other super heroes are among us.

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