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Hanging out at the Bronx Zoo
Third-graders at Mountain View recently participated via Internet in a Google Hangout about lemurs that originated from the Bronx Zoo. Jason Brodo’s class joined Cheryl Conte’s class for the video chat, which was simulcasted live to 50 classrooms across the country. The Mountain View students were one of just three groups that appeared on camera and got the chance to ask questions.
The virtual field trip focused primarily on the red ruffed lemur, a species of primates found only in the jungles of Madagascar. Animal experts discussed the diets, matriarchal societies, physical characteristics, and behaviors of these critically endangered animals. They also touched on some of the causes for the declining lemur population.
The Hangout, sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society, helped support the third grade science curriculum which includes the study of bio diversity and endangered species.
“As a class, we often visit the Wildlife Conservation Society webpage,” said Mr. Brodo. “We’re in their circle on Google Friends so we have access to their videos, pictures, and posts. The Hangout and online resources from the society help virtually bring much of our science curriculum to life.”
The Hangout was displayed on the classroom’s Smart Board. The Smart Board’s laptop, which has a built in microphone and camera, was used to broadcast the student’s questions.
Mr. Brodo regularly uses technology as a teaching tool to provide students with engaging and interactive lessons and experiences. In the past, for example, he has used video chats through Skype to connect his students to their peers all over the country.
The discussion about lemurs can be seen at https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/110530899648024214215/events/cnnkmtal2vu6dhhr8e2l4sebrkc
Fairy tale theater
Many classic fables, fairy tales, myths, and legends were orally passed along from generation to generation long before they were set down in writing. Storytelling was an honored tradition and each narrator freely interpreted the material, adding and omitting as he or she saw fit.
Even today when print and digital files allow a story to be set in stone, authors are coming up with new variations of the old. Do a search for "Little Red Riding Hood," for example, on Amazon and you'll be amazed at the sheer volume of versions.
Tinc Road’s second grade classes recently learned two classic fables and made them their own. Here's how it worked:
In Jeanne Santucci’s class, for example, she first told her class the stories of "The Ant and the Grasshopper" and "The Lion and the Mouse" in her own words and styles. The students asked questions about the stories, trying to grab a firm hold of the morals, characters, and other narrative elements.
Next, the students created scenic backgrounds and paper puppets. Then working in pairs, the kids used the puppets to improvise, rehearse, and refine their own spins on the two tales.
They added details, dialogue, narration, and action to make the stories uniquely theirs. The students had already learned the "vocabulary" of fairy tales and fables including theme, moral, setting, characters, and dialogue, but their interpretations were bound only by their imaginations.
Using the puppets, the students performed their fables for each other, as well as for kindergarteners and first-graders. This helped build their speaking and presentation skills.
The final assignment and the ultimate goal of the project was to have each student set down his or her reconstructed tale in writing.
“The verbal interaction and the way the kids shaped their stories by repeatedly telling them was amazing to see,” said Mrs. Santucci. “They really brought the fables to life and personalized them. If I had asked them to write their own versions of the fables without having them act them out, they would have struggled. But there was no writer’s block this way.”
Writing a fable is one of the components in the district's second grade writing curriculum. It also supports the Common Core State Standards in writing which specifies that by the end of the school year second-graders should be able to “Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.” [CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.3]