Thursday, May 22, 2014

Teachable Moment: The Man Who Painted Birds

Teachable moments... those moments when there is a sense of true engagement. There are essential questions being generated not by teachers, but students!

I shared a read aloud with my class titled: The Man Who Painted Birds (Journeys lesson 30, day 1). When low and behold, I looked up and discovered that everyone was not only interested, but eager for more! It was a teachable moment... the last week of school to boot!

The story was a brief biography of John J. Audubon.  It gave a quick description of his early life and a more detailed retelling of his artistic journey.

After exploring the National Audubon Society's web site, the class brain stormed using Thinking Maps.  Students came up with a list of what they knew, wanted to know, and how they would learn it.   Students unanimously decided that they wanted to choose a bird to research. The next step involved narrowing the scope of the research.  What were the most important details to look for?   What was the most efficient way to locate this information?  What skills would be needed to find this information? After much discussion the class had an outline.  I turned their outline into a printable.  As always, the rule for a "worksheet" is less is more. The less I include, the more the students are thinking and taking ownership.

It was time to dive into the nitty gritty...aka the fun part!

The stars must have been aligned, because our classroom had just been equipped the week before with an apple TV.  We checked out a class set of iPads and established listening and speaking guidelines for this media.  The room buzzed as everyone utilized search engines, and exchanged ideas.

At this point, you should be aware that a large number of students were overwhelmed by the shear amount of information available. Much of the text was beyond their ability to comprehend.  This was a great point to stop and discuss exactly what it was we were looking for and techniques for skimming and scanning web pages to find this information.   While this is a very different set of reading/comprehension skills than that of close reading, the idea of searching and retrieving to find text evidence was the same.

After some practice and peer discussion, students were able to navigation pretty efficiently.

Below are a samples of students' products for this lesson.





This was a wonderful way to wrap up the school year.  It's always rewarding when we plan and students explore new ideas, but it's even better when it happens spontaneously.  You just never know when those teachable moments will arise!