Notefish Web Research Tool: Julie Coiro and Jill Castek

This was one of my favorite Cool Tools, and one I will definitely use. I love the way it will help my student organize their research, remember their sites, and keep track of their information. Too often my sixth graders, in spite of multiple warnings, forget to write down their source information, and then, as they start to do their citations, ask to use the computer to try to track it down again. I will have to be vigilant to make sure students are able to translate anything they copy and paste into their own words. Sixth graders don’t usually mean to plagiarize, but think changing a word here and there will suffice.
I am also very excited that I can use Notefish to keep track of my own research. I, too, have been known to think I have the source information or the specific note of information I want, only to find that I don’t, and then it is back to the source or source list! Also, I often come across interesting material as I am researching something else, and have saved it in a document or EBSCOhost folder, but the Notefish site gives me many more options, with increased annotation ability, organization (including color!) and rearranging the information. I can’t wait to use it.

Voicethread: Bethany Smith

I enjoyed Voicethread very much. For some reason, this session seemed shorter than the others, although that may be because it was first, and because I had so much fun. I liked it because it is a tool I can easily use with my students at all levels, and I can differentiate the types of projects they create by difficulty. I’ve been curious about Voicethread since I had a student teacher use it, but I never got to see the finished product, as she ran out of time. My students seemed to enjoy using it, however.
I also like the fact that voices can be recorded or that text can be typed, and I think the drawing tool has many uses – I’m not sure what all of them are, but I can see writing lessons being taught with this tool – perhaps a series of them, and then having students review the specific ones they need.
For the first time last year, I had two students who spoke almost no English. This year, I will have all of the students in sixth grade who are limited English, as well as ICR students. Especially for these, I see that Voicethread would be a great way to write. For many students, video and images are much more meaningful than text. Using video and images to help tell their story would make their writing more fun and easier for them and easier to understand for the reader. Even advanced students often prefer video and images to text. Combining them can only help the entire communication process.
Finally, groups can use Voicethread to create their presentations, allowing me to see it over and over again if necessary. Often, it is difficult to assess a presentation when there are so many things going on at once. This tool would allow me to be more consistent and fair with my assessment.

Digital Video as Process and Product: Carol Pope

The main reason I chose this session was that I was already familiar with the other tools being taught in the concurrent sessions. Although I am very familiar with Carol’s Outsiders project, and am the teacher partner in the Wolf Pack Writing Partners, I was very interested to hear the theory behind the work Carol is doing with these. I have seen the success my own students have felt when they produce writing and then record it digitally, and their pride in not only their work but also the video itself. I know the impact WWP has on my students, increasing their confidence, raising their awareness of teaching and learning and its mutuality, increasing their love of writing. Hearing the pedagogy which supports it, helped me appreciate the experience even more. The importance of the students’ use of symbols, for example, was a piece that I had not really thought about.
I was impressed with the writing to learn process. While I use some of these strategies in my classes, I had not differentiated them in this way. Now I will use them with better understanding and more intention.
This summer, I held three sessions in public speaking during Centennial’s Leadership Camp. Students paired up, interviewed one another, and then introduced one another as important speakers/experts. They used flip cameras to record themselves. My original plan was for each larger group to choose the best video to share with the entire class, but we did not have time. However, what was so interesting to me was that this step was not necessary. We had gone over the rubric I gave them for public speaking, and I had explained the importance of speaking slowly, clearly and loudly, and of standing still. I’m not sure I would have even had to do that. They were extremely critical of themselves, which did not surprise me, but also recognized clearly the things they did well. The fact that they were recording made the experience more important in their minds, and so they “self-monitored”, as Hiller put it.
I plan to use flip cams often in my classes this year, for both formal and informal projects. I agree totally with Carol and the other presenters that the “first-take” is an important piece of this particular learning process, as students view it more as a process rather than a perfect, finished product. My students will use them to record presentations of original and studied poems, stories, scenes of stories, and vocabulary words. We’ll use flip cams to learn about the five themes, Greek and Roman myths, and Imperial Russia. I’ll know that students will be transforming what they have heard and read to real learning as they film.

Primary Access: Meghan Manfra

Understanding the difference between primary and secondary sources and the importance of primary documents is an important social studies objective in middle school. I am thrilled to think of the uses of Primary Access in facilitating the teaching of this objective, and in making history come to life for my sixth graders. I like the fact that I can gather a limited number of sources from a huge database and give my students a new, fun, yet effective way to show me what they have learned. The example Meghan used was an activity on the Industrial Revolution, and my class studies this. We don’t spend a lot of time on it, and sometimes this important piece of history can get lost between the more romantic Renaissance and Age of Exploration and the World Wars. I could immediately see how my students could use primary sources to show me they understood the concepts of the IR. I could also see that any lesson would be enhanced with this tool. The plethora of material for US history is mind-boggling, so I also plan to share this tool with my eighth grade colleagues in Language Arts and Social Studies, as well as in Science. They will be able to use this site almost daily.
It occurs to me that is a low-stress way to assess student knowledge. Asking students to select pictures and then add captions, via voice or text, makes it seem as if they are only having to do part of the work. The documents help remind them. Another use would be to ask questions using the documents. These two uses would be great for ICR kids or the limited-English speakers I teach. Still another possibility would be to present a collection of documents and have students describe their impact on the world.
The possibilities are endless.

Lesson Application: Resetting a Myth

Content: Language Arts
Grade Level: Sixth
Context: Quarter 1 Myths, Fables and Legends (integrating with Social Studies content of Ancient Greece and Rome)
8 days, 1 period per day (about 52 minutes)
Cool Tools: Digital Video as Process and Product and Voicethread


Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives drawn from personal or related experience.

1.02 Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
  • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard and/or viewed.
  • making connections between works, self and related topics.
  • creating an artistic interpretation that connects self to the work.

Goal 5: The learner will respond to various literary genres using interpretive and evaluative processes.

5.01 Increase fluency, comprehension, and insight through a meaningful and comprehensive literacy program by:
  • interpreting text by explaining elements such as plot, theme, point of view, characterization, mood, and style.
  • extending understanding by creating products for different purposes, different audiences and within various contexts.
  • exploring relationships between and among characters, ideas, concepts and/or experiences.

5.02 Study the characteristics of literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry) through:
  • reading a variety of literature and other text (e.g., novels, autobiographies, myths, essays, magazines, plays, pattern poems, blank verse).
  • interpreting what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the work.
  • exploring how the author's choice and use of a genre shapes the meaning of the literary work.
  • exploring what impact literary elements have on the meaning of the text such as the influence of setting or the problem and its resolution.

From NCDPI (

Specific Skill Objectives:
Students will be able to
o identify the elements of myths (VOX3)
o compare/contrast a myth to a short story
o explain the cultural importance of myths
o retell a myth they have read in a modern setting
o use a video camera to record the story
o upload the story to the web
o use Voicethread to narrate it

Days 1-2
o As a class, students will orally share their previous knowledge of myths and mythology.
o Students will complete the “Before” column of the Anticipation Guide: Arachne
o With student input, the teacher will define: myth, gods, goddesses, origin of myths, cultural aspects of myths, elements of myths (VOX3)*, mythological tie-ins (Harry Potter, superheroes, etc.), extraordinary characters and events, purposes of myths, oral tradition
*V - cultural values
O- oral tradition
X – extraordinary characters
X – extraordinary events
X – explanation or lesson
Students will:
o Read “Arachne” aloud as a class.
o Independently answer questions on the back of their Anticipation Guide.
o Go over answers as a class to check for understanding.
o Discuss specific elements of Arachne (VOX3)
o Complete the “After” section of the Anticipation Guide.

Days 3-4
Students will read a variety of myths (at least 3) independently or as groups.
The teacher will
o facilitate choices from preselected myths and check for understanding.
o conduct a discussion of setting and its effect on a story.
o Explain the “resetting” project and go over the rubric
o Demonstrate the use of Voicethread and flip cameras
As a class, students will
o orally recreate the story of “Arachne” in a modern setting.
o check their recreation with the rubric (as possible)

Day 5 - 8
Students will
o independently or in groups of two or three, choose one myth they have read to retell with a modern setting.
o complete a storyboard or outline of their story
o create a video using the “first-take” method
o choose the type of video to create: hand-drawn or computer-generated slides, web-based media, live actors, etc.
o upload their video to and narrate their story, via text or audio.
o complete and turn in a project handout, explaining how the setting change affected the story, justifying any changes, and identifying the five mythological elements in their video
o present their video to the class
o answer questions about their artistic decisions from the class
o complete and turn in a project reflection including the questions: How did the video project affect your understanding of your myth and of mythology? How did the video project affect your understanding of the impact setting has on a story?