Friday, July 7, 2017

Up Up and Away: Super Students Write Superhero Stories

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, wait...It's a Kindergartener!

This year I decided to be adventurous and try something I never attempted before. No risk no reward, right? It began with a simple assignment I left for my sub one day. I found on Teachers Pay Teachers a superhero design sheet. It allowed students to design their own superhero. Students had to come up with a name, characteristics, and superpowers for him/her. The goal was to keep students occupied during my absence.  I also wanted it to be a fun and creative writing project for my students. They got so invested in it and loved designing their own superhero that I decided to make this a bigger project. This would be a great opportunity for students to use their writing skills to spread kindness and thank our kindergarten buddy class. During PARCC testing each 3-5th-grade class is paired with a K-2 grade class as their buddy. The younger students do not test. Instead, they deliver little gifts and words of encouragement to the older students during PARCC testing. It's fun and sweet and the older kids love seeing the little ones. It brings a smile to their faces during the long PARCC week. I thought it might be nice for us to say thank you to the kindergarteners who gave us kind words and support.

Thus, began Top Secret Plan: Superhero Story. After emailing the teacher and getting her class list, I informed my authors of their brave task. The task was to create a superhero story that had a kindergartener as the main character. To be honest, I thought a few of my students would reject this challenge at the end of the year. Yet, no one complained. They knew it was a gift. A student was depending on them and they did not want to let anyone down. This took about three weeks total. The students filled out a plot page (which I created) on Google Docs with the very basic parts of their story. They had to go through their draft with me before advancing on to Google Slides. This was to ensure that grammar, spelling, and sequence were appropriate. Each Google slide became a page in their story.  It was cute to see how they incorporated the kindergartener and the stories they created. The students had creative freedom so their stories were so different. I loved how some students used the different point of views. While others used real world problems like pollution. Students were to write at least ten pages. This was to make sure no books were too short. Students got to design the cover, add appropriate online images, or draw their own after completing their story. I emphasized that they needed all the words typed before designing. I had students peer review each other's stories before they came again to meet with me for the final edit. Once completed, the stories were printed in color and bound like a book. Students then gave the book to their kindergartener.

Each student was given the opportunity to present their book to our class. Many were so proud of their creations. What was even better is when we surprised the kindergarteners. They had no idea we were coming (besides the teacher of course) and welcomed us with open arms. My students got the chance to share their stories with the students that characters were based on. There was so much joy in every students' eyes. There were some little ones who were screaming for joy when they heard their name in a book. My students could not stop talking about this experience. When they left the classroom, each child sharing how their kindergartener reacted. They got to pay it forward and in their own way share kindness. They were able to make someone's day. That is priceless. 

What did we learn? Students worked on plot, narrative writing, editing, revising, presenting, and using digital tools. An important life lesson learned was kindness. It was about doing something for someone when they have not asked anything of you. Saying Thank you to those around you and finding joy in surprising others. I have always enjoyed surprising others. Whether by creating homemade gifts or something giving them something they enjoy. One story I share often with my students is the story about how I feel when I see my grandmother open a Christmas gift. A gift I have worked days to complete. From spending several days drawing my grandmother or the family tree I painted for my mom. It's always been something I find joy in and I got to share that with my students this year. They got to have that feeling surge through them and bring joy to others. 

I learned something too. I learned that it is okay to jump on an idea and see where it takes you. This could have tanked and I will admit the timing was not the best (weeks away from the end of the school year), but we did it! The end result was worth all those hours spent working on the project in class. The time dedicated to it in my class was well worth it.  I hope that I can continue this type of activity with future classes. Also, I learned that tech tools can do such much more than we thought. I had never before used Google Slides other than to create presentations. Using it to make a picture book was a great idea. It allowed my students to have so much creative control over their work. It also allowed for so much peer teaching in the process.

Have you ever taken a risk on a project? How did it go?

How can we encourage more teachers to take risks?

What kindness projects do you do or would like to do?

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