Absolutely! I have to admit that I am still on cloud nine over our Summer Learning Camp Skype with author, Neal Shusterman. My kids were excited. I was excited, and I think this was a wonderful way to connect my students to the text!
A little background...
If you have read my previous posts, you know that I am in the process of working with 7-9th graders for two weeks on Language Arts review. We call it Summer Learning Camp, and it is meant to give the kids a jump start into the school year. My part being Language Arts has been focused on reviewing some of the most common areas of struggle for students in writing and reviewing how good readers attack text and make meaning of it.
To do this, I have used a combination of read aloud with Mr. Shusterman's book, Dread Locks, discussion and activities based on the book, and review of grammar and writing. This review has been a mix of google docs and smart board lessons for editing work. I have also used the iPads for students drawing pictures of the book events and characters, reading the book Dread Locks with iBooks, and testing out the Edmodo platform...AND I REALLY LIKE IT! I love the way I can ask students to brainstorm questions for Mr. Shusterman and then vote for the best. I like how they can make predictions about the story plot. I like how they can draw pictures and upload to the site for everyone. I like how files like videos and docs can be uploaded for everyone. I like how we can edit comments together, digitally. And so on...
I like this community of readers that we have developed. We all invested in this story, and we are all making meaning within the text.
So, today at 10:30, Mr. Shusterman called us on Skype to answer a couple of quick questions. These were the questions we brainstormed together, practiced this morning, and were VERY excited to ask. We did a practice run with @seankaiser to check equipment at 9:30 (THANK YOU, SEAN!). We were a little giggly and nervous before the Skype! So, we watched a couple of YouTube videos of Mr. Shusterman discussing his books and writing process.
But, once we started talking and listening to Mr. Shusterman, it was amazing to see my students intense attention. Here was a REAL author, talking to US about his book and being an author. We had 5 questions that referred specifically to the book and being an author.
My absolute favorite moment during the call was when we asked, "What made you want to be an author?" Mr. Shusterman talked about how it wasn't something he necessarily chose...it was more of a calling. He couldn't imagine doing anything else. It was such a part of him. The feeling that he conveyed in his voice was NOT something we could capture for reading about him, or even viewing a video. I really think my students understood that feeling.
Many of my students showed their excitement after the call ended with comments like, "Wow! That was awesome!" or "That was the coolest thing ever!" So, what a huge payoff. Summer Learning Camp bumped up a notch with a real connection. I mean, how many times can you talk to the guy that wrote the book you've been reading for the last couple weeks!
With two days left in Summer Learning Camp, what are my plans?:
- Gotta finish this book. We are right on the edge!
- Create a new INTERACTIVE book cover for Dread Locks using the iPads and an app called Composer (beta app that I will be testing out this school year).
- Include an original music score (embedded in the interactive book cover) by a couple of my kids that have been testing out GarageBand app on the iPad.