Friday, January 2, 2015

First Interactive Book Building with 8th Graders...Ummmm, Not So Great!

Let me begin by saying that I am ok with failure...totally. I see the value in it. I understand the necessity of it. No one loves the feeling, but you grow from it. So, this entire post is based on that level of acceptance.

But, boy does it sting!

This year, I made the transition from 5th grade science to 8th grade science. It took me about a month to truly settle in and start enjoying myself. Like most loves, it wasn't at first site. Now, I can't imagine leaving the grade level. The kids make me laugh. The content gives me challenges. The staff in my building...top notch!

One of my first goals with switching to 8th grade was to carry over my book building process that I used very successfully with the 5th graders. We created two excellent books using iBooks Author, the iPad, and high school editors. Our book about Stone Lab was so well received that we were getting tweets left and right about it! Our energy book was the number one way that we prepared for the Ohio Achievement test at the end of the year. Students really knew their information! This led me to want this same process for my 8th graders.

So, how did it go?
Today, I spent the day rearranging, editing, and struggling over our first book, Exploring Earth Science. I have to say that I am just not impressed. While the students will probably find it to be stellar material, and it does have a great value for our learning, I am disappointed by the work.

Here are my concerns...

  • There are a TON of videos, animations, and iPad projects mixed in the book. There is VERY little actual writing. The text portion is really weak.
  • The content understanding is somewhat visible, but it definitely could be better.
  • No glossary or entry media

Why? Why is this first text weak? I would have expected 8th graders to have a better first book.

These are my thoughts...
  • In building books with the 5th graders, the work was mainly done together or with mentors. I scaffolded their responsibilities from a whole class writing event and building with our first book to an independent writing and building event with their last. I definitely didn't support the 8th graders enough. My expectations were too high, too soon with the writing and technical book building part. Next time, there will be a more scaffolded event.
  • My familiarity with the content just wasn't there. This is my first time through the information, and I didn't have the best prompts and support to give because I'm still developing my knowledge base!
  • Too much...too long of a time line! This book should have been broken up into 3 books. It covers too much content for these students to write about. The events from months ago aren't fresh enough to add detail.
  • The level of importance that I assigned this task wasn't nearly enough to get quality work. Honestly, the project became somewhat of an after thought for me. So, what did I expect from kids! The cheerleading that needed to happen to make this a great book didn't happen mainly because I was swamped with learning the content and designing the next class lesson.

So, publish or not?
I think that while this isn't our best work, it does have value. It is a nice packaging of our learning experiences for the Earth Science information. We can use the projects and learning later to review for exams, and the students will grow from this experience. Sharing at home will be easy with this book published to the iBooks Store, and it is a representation of how we are learning together.

It's not all perfect. It's not all polished and refined. I will still share this student text when it is available, and I will learn from my mistakes. Conversations...Learning and Growing!

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