This project was done with three little girls, a family with whom I went on a vacation. They had been my students for a little over a year, and the younger girls were in kindergarten, and the older girl in third grade.
Through prior lessons, we’d studied the alphabet. We’d begun to make an alphabet book , which I’d also done that year with a kindergarten group that I saw four days a week. With the full-class, the alphabet books were easier, because each kid had to find only one letter’s worth of things.
Anyway, my small group and I took pictures as we went along. Mostly, they were things that the girls knew already like zipper, tree and fountain, but in some cases I would point to things and say, “Ok, that’s an aqueduct, what letter do you think it begins with?” either because the object was too perfect a tourist attraction, or because they were stumped for a letter.
That evening, we edited together the video, with all three singing the song and naming objects into my laptop, and then with the older girl helping me to put the names onto the images. I later made the poster version which you see above.
This lesson would work with larger groups of children on field trips too. They could be given the mission to find things (with their adult chaperones) that began with certain letters. As most class sizes are somewhere around 20-30 students, it’s perfect. Either more advanced students could be paired with less advanced ones, or the more advanced students could be given extra letters, depending upon how many actual students are in each class.
The editing would not be as easy to do, since each kid would want to participate, but given the way the alphabet books worked, it could be done, on a day by day basis. Once we had the photos on the computer, each child could go up to the teacher in computer time, record his word, and paste the word into the image in photoshop.
The poster can be printed large, up to 20″x30″ although I’ve never printed it bigger than A4. It could be hung in the classroom to allow the students extra time to look at and remember each letter. This kind of reinforcement worked with my small group and their poster, as well as with the kindergarten and their alphabet books.
When they finished lessons, or had a free moment, students went to the poster, or to their book, and started looking at each object and trying to remember what it was called. When I was able to be present, I scaffolded by mumbling the first sound in words that they couldn’t remember: “bas” for “basket.”
That same kind of reinforcement is the logic behind making a DVD that the children can use at home: they think it’s really cool that they themselves are on the TV, even if it is a DVD that they made themselves. It also can trigger deeper parent participation in the children’s learning. This supportive culture is created simply by making an object that the child wants to share, be it a book, a dvd, or any drawing that the child takes home.
*Video and images reproduced with assent of children and the consent their mother. Names kept secret to preserve the privacy.