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DeLay classroom embraces LISD strategic design
From staff reports
DeLay Middle School LEAP facilitator and English/Language Arts teacher Brandy Williams is embracing Lewisville ISD's (LISD) strategic design by incorporating lessons that require her sixth-grade students to facilitate their own learning and use technology to share their newfound talents with other students in the Lewisville High School feeder pattern.
One particular lesson spanned several weeks during the fall semester and allowed students to morph in to authors, illustrators, teachers and more. The multifaceted experience enhanced writing skills and reinforced learning about cultures and traditions while encouraging students to step outside their comfort zone of usual assignments and friends.
During the first step of the project, students investigated the ideas of family and belonging by observing their own behavior and viewing vignettes on community events and family traditions. They kept daily journals with times and notes, which helped students connect learning and question ideas if belonging.
As an additional step in their study, students interviewed family members and neighbors. Since many traditions and cultural norms are formed within communities, this portion of the project was crucial to help students understand that family is not just built by blood, but also the people we select to bring into our lives.
"We took time to define each topic (culture, belonging, choice, family and tradition) through reflection, home surveys, reading and discussions," Williams said. "From there, students choose a tradition to research."
In the second step of the project, students analyzed writing and illustration concepts in children's books like "The Little Mermaid" and "The Cat in the Hat" in order to create a guide for writing their own books. From there, they initiated the writing process. Each student completed a storyboard and met with Williams during a writer's conference to discuss grammar, ideas, changes and improvements.
"Mrs. Williams really left the decision up to us," one student said. "I liked being able to choose what I wrote about because it made the work more interesting for me."
To begin third step in the project, illustration, students were introduced to Storybird, a free website designed for aspiring authors to make, read and share visual stories. After exploring Storybird, they chose between creating their book through Storybird or by hand.
"They use learned writing skills and technology, along with imagination and creativity, to write and illustrate meaningful children's books from beginning to end," DeLay Principal Jim Baker said. "I'm proud of them, but more than that, they are proud of themselves. As educator, it feels great to see that kind of confidence and excitement in your student's faces. Mrs. Williams does a wonderful job going above and beyond to engage DeLay students."
Students mastered three specific learning objectives through this project: identify and analyze traditions of the community and home, use the learned writing process to create new, published works of merit and collaborate and mentor others to synthesize learning over traditions and culture. Students chose the tradition that they would write their children's book over from this activity.
"My goal was two-fold," Williams said. "Essentially, I wanted my kids engaged in learning and writing about cultures, traditions and choice. Creating a children's book was an easy way to get the writing done and the fear of writing eliminated. Secondly, I wanted to model that writing isn't tedious, difficult or impossible for younger writers. There are so many younger students who are really fearful of writing. I felt if I could show them good, interesting writing from students who weren't that much older, some of the fear would subside and excitement would take over. This project gets to the heart of our Strategic Design goals. Students create, lead and interpret their learning, both for themselves and the greater good of their communities."
The project concluded Dec. 17-21, when Williams' students connected with others at College Street Elementary, Lewisville Elementary and Huffines Middle School via Skype, a free web based videophone network, to share their stories and answer questions.
"The 'Meet the Author' Skype sessions with DeLay got rave reviews from our teachers and students," Lewisville Elementary Principal Yogi Rascon said. "It was inspirational for our students to see and hear from middle school students and realize they will be there in just a few years."
"Initially learning took place in my classroom, but it traveled to students' homes and communities," Williams said. "Then, it was pushed out to our district through our feeder pattern Skype sessions. We also visited special needs classes to read to them. Since my students and the special needs student rarely interact, these sessions took away some of the unknown."
In addition to using Skype, Williams' students stepped out of their comfort zone when they did in person "Meet the Author" sessions with special needs classes. Through this activity, both Williams' students and special needs students learned to look past differences and make lasting bonds.
"This experience has been rewarding for all of us," Williams said. "I look forward to doing more lessons like this."