KAPOW! Students Get Creative with Comics in Spanish Class

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.29.44 AMStudents often struggle to find creativity and relevance in their Spanish writing assignments.  Often, the textbook vocabulary can be dry, unrelatable or “boring”. Additional challenges include not knowing enough supplemental vocabulary to truly tell an interesting story in their own words. Which results in students turning to online translations tools to “fill in those blanks” and typically I am left with a lovely essay written by Google Translate. So how does a teacher get students to bring to life their textbook vocabulary while staying true to their own abilities??? A comic!

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Teachers often struggle with how to use technology to encourage storytelling. Typically a new app or website can be everything from exciting to terrifying…and time consuming. Many teachers want to find ways to grow their projects using the SAMR model. SAMR is a model designed to help educators infuse technology into teaching and learning. Pixton Comic Maker is an easy to use website that really allows students to design, develop and infuse digital learning. To make an amazing project, teachers and students do not need to access another site (i.e: students do not need to use Quicktime to record voices, Pixton provides all tools needed within its site). There are also many helpful “how-to” videos provided by the website. I was very impressed with how quickly my students learned the website and their final projects were really incredible!

The Pixton Comic Website is both a teacher and student friendly website that not only allows students to write and create their own stories, but allows them to fully bring them to life by providing the technology needed to record student voices directly into the project!

The end result is a narrated slideshow that tells the students story in their own words. I believe that this a a website that can teachers, regardless of content area, can use to create individualized and innovative projects.

Student Example

Pixton Comic

We then used http://www.qrstuff.com/ to link our pixton comic to a QR that allows everyone

We used a simple QR code to allow others to share in our assignments! Try it! 

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Upper School Research Tools

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 3.26.06 PMResearch is a time consuming process, but there are a plethora of online resources and websites that help alleviate the stress of compiling information, annotating sources, and composing a paper.  Many students often feel overwhelmed with the research process, and they don’t necessarily know how to begin.

The early portion of research requires structure and organization.  A tool like Symbaloo allows students to bookmark credible web sources.  Students can now go to one page that houses all of their research content, and each link or resource is represented by an image tile.  Patti Weiss, the Instructional Technology Facilitator at The Fletcher School, discusses the versatility of Symbaloo and asserts, “Symbaloo provides students with both guidance and independence, leading them to take responsibility for their own learning while continuing to benefit from Fletcher’s excellent devices and technology resources”.  Symbaloo’s user-friendly features and simplicity makes research less daunting.  

Citing sources and formatting are two other areas of the research process that involve careful attention.  Schools and universities across the country warn students about the negative consequences of plagiarism.  It is important that every student understands the importance of citing every source.  Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (also commonly known as Purdue OWL) outlines all of the rules of both the MLA and APA Formatting Styles and Guides.  The site provides thorough explanations of the rules as well as samples of citations and formatting requirements.  Furthermore, students who need to review any grammar concept can easily access helpful tips on English grammar, usage, and mechanics on the site.  Purdue OWL also updates their site regularly to include the latest changes on citation rules and requirements.

Students at The Fletcher School are exposed to research-based writing assignments in the ninth grade.  Mr. Gale, a Composition teacher in the Upper School, remarks, “Ninth graders learn how to identify credible sources on the web, extract relevant information, paraphrase the research in their own words, and understand how to cite their sources correctly.”  This exposure prepares Fletcher students for the writing that they will encounter in college.  

History is another course where students conduct research-based projects.  Mr. Jolley, a History teacher at The Fletcher School, claims, “Research is necessary to the understanding of history.  Often students learn from the perspective of the teacher; it is just as important for students to take ownership of their learning, and they should examine documents from the past that show the ideas, feelings, and reasons behind the historical content they are studying in class.  It is imperative that students are given the skills to find and evaluate historical resources; these skills serve them across curriculum and allow them to apply the same skills in the outside world.”

The writing that Fletcher students complete in all of their courses ultimately prepares them for their Senior Exit Project.  Fletcher seniors are required to compose an 8-10 page research paper on the topic of their choice and create a multimedia presentation to be presented in front of the Fletcher community.  Seniors take a two-day field trip to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Atkins Library to explore ideas for their project and collect sources.  They continue the research and writing throughout the fall semester.  Google Slides, Keynote, and/or Prezi  are among the tools that they use to create the multimedia component of their project; they also use Google Docs to compose and revise their papers.  The Senior Exit Project is a wonderful opportunity for the  Fletcher seniors to showcase their writing, critical thinking, and oral presentation skills.

With a methodical plan and the right tools, any student is capable of writing a well-developed, organized, and properly cited paper.