Greatest Invention? Kindergarten

Green Screen Weather

Ms. Meyer prepares her students for a weather report.

Mitchel Resnick of the MIT Media Lab, calls kindergarten the “greatest invention of the last 1,000 years.” And in his latest book, Lifelong Kindergarten, he argues that all schooling needs to be more like it. His point is that the rapidly changing world, only assures us of uncertainty in our future. So instead of preparing students for the world we know today, steep them in an environment where they can think creatively and develop the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions.

This has been on my mind as my kindergarten colleagues (Ms. Meyer, Ms. Theall, Mrs. Nedwick), our librarian (Mrs. Turner), and I wrap up a weather project featuring the greatest elementary school combination ever! Kindergarten students and a green screen.

Teaching and learning is always fun when everyone around you is pulling together and smiling. To the persnicketers, no this culminating project does not make these students weather experts or meteorologists. They may have misspoken or over/understated some weather facts that save lives.

But in this project, their tender brains were inundated with a flurry of activity. Self-checking content information, delivering memorized and unscripted lines, coping with the pressure of performance, in front of peers, teachers, and a live camera, while recalling their preparation for storytelling, including body presence, eye contact, and voice, while balancing on a stool so that we can see more than their heads, and trying to imagine that the green wall behind them is actually a funnel cloud or snowstorm, and then in the end, hopping off the stool with relief and laughing about it all… my goodness.

Every school day really should be more like kindergarten.


Video Chat Etiquette

Whether we communicate with a partner in a video chat or face-to-face, we rely on the same basic interpersonal communication skills. We use our verbal language, voice intonation, body language, and facial expression to convey our thoughts, meaning, and motive. The goal for each partner is to be understood. The Video Chat Etiquette graphic below was designed to prepare students for an online interview, but it serves as a reminder of how we communicate with on-screen partners to have a meaningful and enjoyable conversation.

video chat etiquette



Show YouTube Videos without the Distractions

YouTube is an essential educational tool in today’s classroom. But not everything on a YouTube video page is vital for learning. Not anyone’s playlist, or on-deck videos, and definitely not the comments section. With this in mind, there are a few online tools that allow teachers and students to view YouTube videos without the sidebar distractions. Here are three choices: Safe YouTubeView PureWatchkin. Each one allows you to copy/paste a YouTube link that will transform the original page into clutter-free viewing of just the video. Just the video. Give them a try.



Stop Motion Animation for the Classroom

With Stop Motion Studio for the iPad, creating stop-motion animation has never been easier. This app is appropriate for all K-5 students. You can animate any inanimate object. Perhaps it’s an illustrated paper cutout or maybe a pencil or lego piece. Stop Motion Studio gives students a captivating outlet for their creative ideas and voice. And during the production process, it introduces them to sophisticated concepts such time, storyboarding, audience, and citizenship, even at the youngest elementary age.

Take a look at the tutorial below, then let me know if you’re interested in bringing this production tool to your classroom!



Storyboard Experiment

Fourth graders use storyboard squares
to during their video production.

I tried a new type of storyboard this year. Instead of the traditional paper comic strip storyboard template, I handed out individual panels, allowing students to focus on one scene at a time.

I did this because after years of experimenting with digital storyboards (Google Slides or Keynote) and the traditional comic strip storyboard handout, both left me frustrated. The digital storyboards tended to feel like finished slideshows and for students, it restricted their vision of what their video could look and sound like. And when it came time to transfer the media elements from their digital storyboard to the editing software, the resulting video was essentially the same storyboard slideshow.

As for the paper storyboard, revisions became a hassle. Once they filled out their comic strip storyboard template, the paper workspace looked full. And then as peers and teachers added revision notes, the storyboard would become messy, even confusing. Visually it would also squeeze out room for any other potential changes, consequently reducing the students’ will to revise their work.

But with the individual comic strip squares, students developed one scene at a time. They had greater flexibility to make changes. If they made a mistake or changed their minds, they’d simply grab another clean square. But these individual squares were most helpful when they were laid side by side sequentially. It became a visual retelling tool that allowed the storyteller to see the gaps in their story such as with sequencing, transitions, or a lack of information. If there was a storytelling gap, they’d slide the squares apart and insert in between them a fresh one with proper transitional information.

I will use the storyboard squares next year as well. This may not be the perfect solution, but I like the results I’ve gotten from students so far.