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All About Polar Bears - Kindergarten ESL by Monica Schnee
This VoiceThread won a PBS Teacher Innovator Award. The authors of the "book" are kindergartners who were learning English as a second language. Some of the children barely spoke English, as you can see by the short sentences, and some were advanced students. They had just started to learn how to read and write. This work is a great example of how children learn a second language, how they learn literacy, how they learn oral fluency and practice their oral skills and most importantly, how their parents were able to see and hear how their children are learning English. Most parents speak/write English very poorly so they were embarrassed to comment. However, they all watched it at home, with us in the classroom and sent it to their families overseas. The most exciting thing was for them to have children who had just arrived in this country and had not only learned how to speak English but also won an award!
I taught a nonfiction social studies/science unit about polar bears. We spent a lot of time reading books, looking at websites, particularly National Geographic and Nature on PBS. We collected facts, a word that children learned in nonfiction. Then, each student chose a fact, wrote it and had to illustrate it like a true nonfiction illustrator. Therefore, the drawings had to be in "real colors". After we finished our "traditional hard copy" book. We read it to all the kindergartners, including their American peers. Then we practiced our lines and made it into a VoiceThread.
- Reading and writing a nonfiction book
- To have students learn to do research on one topic
- To have students find a fact that they wanted to share
- To have students write a fact for an audience
- To have students match their words with their picture
- To have students read with fluency and expression for an audience (live and virtual)
Challenges or setbacks
Originally, I had taken pictures of each child and that was their identity but since the district did not allow me to post the pictures, we did a lesson on "self portraits". This was the big surprise! So each child drew him/herself. Then I changed and uploaded each identity (that was a lot of work for so many kids)! I was also asked to cover their names. That is why the pictures do not look as good as I would have liked to.
I used a digital camera to take pictures of the book and a scanner to scan the self portraits.
I would encourage others to see if they can use pictures of the students as I had done initially. If you do them straight from your computer, the job is much faster and easier.
I would also have them practice with parents to write a comment because many parents do not know how to do this.
This could be used in English speaking classrooms across the world to show how children learn to read and write developmentally at a different pace. It can be used as an advocacy piece to show those educators who do not believe in programs such as English as a second language, how powerful it is to be able to teach these children to speak, read and write and that they can do it in an extraordinary short time if you put in the effort.
It can be used to show how important parent involvement is.