It was a dark and spooky night…. Many teachers across the country are trying to tap into the excitement of the Halloween season as a springboard for creative writing assignments. Spooky stories with talking scarecrows, glimmering pumpkins, and haunted houses have all the makings for reinforcing figurative language, adjectives, adverbs, story elements… the list goes on. But just as we ask students to look at these kinds of assignments through a creative lens, maybe teachers can look at the assignment differently, too.
For those of you that remember the work of Seymour Papert, let’s apply his theory of constructivism to that traditional Halloween story. Papert suggests that learning happens best when the student is engaged in active, hands-on learning where he builds some measure of external artifact. In other words, when students use their hands to construct something physical, they simultaneously engage their minds with the ideas and develop greater conceptual mastery of the learning objectives. If you agree with this theory, and most teachers do, then let’s consider how that Halloween story might be a more effective learning experience.
What if we enabled students to create their story rather than just write it? What if we asked them to focus on the details of their creative writing piece in terms of objects that they bring to life? What if we gave them an opportunity to express their understanding of story elements or adjectives through a tangible representation of their ideas?
Consider stop motion animation. Gumby came to life in the 1950s for entertainment, and animations have been used for years to help students visually see and understand concepts. For many years kids were consumers of this kind of technology, rather than producers of knowledge using the technology. Since that time, instructional technology has grown by leaps and bounds and our children know few limits to what they can explore or communicate with technology.
SAM Animation is simple, easy-to-use software that enables children not only to develop their ideas, but also to express them in a way that requires planning, explaining, and creating a tangible representation of their thinking. In essence, SAM allows them to become producers of their own learning rather than recipients of information. SAM provides a simple user-interface so that the student can focus on understanding the content, not the software. Additionally, the cross-curricular integration enables teachers to easily create meaningful learning experiences for virtually any instructional topic.
Our students are digital natives, and the technology tools and gadgets they use every day are simply a natural part of their lives. When we can use this technology as an instructional tool, we not only engage students, but we also provide the kind of learning environment that allows children to take ownership over their learning and take creative thinking to the next level.
Try out the SAM Animation for yourself. A free light version is available so teachers can see just how powerful and easy this tool is.