Thursday, March 7, 2013
Studying Earthquakes with Collaborative Flip Books
Over the past few weeks we've been studying earthquakes in the sixth grade science. While textbooks are fantastic for telling us science concepts behind earthquakes (types of faults, stresses, and importance of tectonic plate boundaries), the human impact of these occurrences is often lost in the technical terminology.
This year I had the students take a closer look at one specific earthquake by creating both non-fiction and narrative writing pieces that were compiled into class ebooks. Students chose an earthquake based on their birthdate using the USGS’ “Today in Earthquake History” page to give them a personal connection to the event. Then, they researched more information about the specific earthquake event online (putting their Google power-searching skills and/or Google Ninjas learned earlier in the year to use).
Initially, students wrote a news article in a Google Doc about the basics of the event (who, what, when, where, why) along with some science earthquake facts and some safety tips as any good news reporter would do. Next, they wrote a companion historical fiction piece putting themselves or a character they created into the events. Last year, when I first created the assignment, I just had students publish their two stories using Google Docs and left it there. I was so impressed by the level of creativity used by last year’s students that this year I felt I needed to take it further - publishing for others to see.
So, this year after typing them up in individual Google Docs (and sharing them for me and/or another student to edit), I had them add their stories into a collaborative slideshow via Google Presentation. To prepare, I created a shared Google Presentation file for each class period with a title page. I linked the Google Presentations into the assignment instructions page (also in a shared Google Doc) for easy access. Each student copied and pasted the text of their stories into slides and added images for visual impact.
Once the deadline passed (8pm Wednesday night), I took their editing privileges away and downloaded the Presentation file as a .pdf. Using the free digital bookmaking website SnackTools, I converted the .pdfs into flippable books for a fun picture books on a shelf effect. Finally, it was easy to share out the link with students via email and embed the bookshelf into our student anthology site.
Reflecting on the process for next year, I think I need to emphasize properly siting their images more. They’ve been taught to do this in the past, but I think we were all so caught up in illustrating their slides, reading each other’s work, and changing fonts that we let this important detail slip a bit unfortunately. Next year, I’d also like to have them peer edit each other’s work in a more formal way (using a rubric) instead of just sharing docs. Overall, my students and I are very proud of all their hard work and ready to show off our final products!