Amidst a very hectic term, our literacy planning called for the children to write a newspaper article based on their spring performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. So I set off to have my year five class begin folding pages of their literacy books into columns, design a space to draw a picture, caption and headline/subheading. During my main teaching, I highlighted the need for orientation and reorientation sentences and using past tense and writing in the third person when it dawned on me that I had taught this exact lesson in year three and year four! Despite my effort during the main teaching, this was not a lesson that could easily be adapted to adequately challenge a year five class; especially given the new rigorous assessment criteria for the year six SATs that these children will face next year.
Once the writing was complete in their books and the pictures were coloured in with a caption underneath, I marked the work in detail to provide the children with feedback as to how they could improve their articles; even though the lesson was now over and they would not have time to redraft. In order to give the children the opportunity to act on their feedback meaningfully, I decided to have them consider the writing that they put so much effort into presenting neatly in their books as rough drafts and introduced them to the Pages app on their iPads. I spent a morning introducing the features, layout and allowed them to have scribble time (10 minutes to explore the features on their own) with the new software. Once we were ready to start, I introduced the simplistic newsletter template to the children and explained that their article was to be the front page story and yet one of many other articles in their newspaper. This was an especially difficult idea for the children to understand because their past experiences with article writing was so limited; they had never created anything so close to an actual newspaper article. So we looked at newspapers, their ads and ‘side stories’ to begin discussing the purpose behind a journalist’s writing and the motivation to capture the reader’s eye. We discussed the newspaper business model and then resumed work on their articles with the intention creating a persuasive front page.
As the children finished typing up their work, I realised that this use of technology was very low on the SAMR model (Puentedura, 2013), that it was simply repeating the task that was completed in their writing books. So instead of deleting the other boxes on their templates with ‘filler’ stories. Next we moved from third person to first person and had the children write a critic’s review of the show, along with quotes from members of the audience. We experimented with which quotes to include and which ones would be displayed in bold, as to suit the point behind the review.
This lesson was extremely beneficial for the children as it gave them a real purpose to motivate their writing
I was also able to guide how they used layout and persuasive language to create meaning. I would highly recommend Pages or any other writing template that allows for easy editing before submitting the final product, as this allowed me to provide immediate feedback and have the children act on it then and there. The potential for the use of this technology extends to many other forms from web design to interactive presentations, and in this way the use of technology goes beyond the previous mandate that all children must simply be able to use powerpoint or Microsoft word. Instead the children are able to use the technology for their own purposes.
Puentedura, R. (2013). SAMR: Beyond the Basics. Available at: http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2013/04/26/SAMRBeyondTheBasics.pdf [Accessed March 2016]