Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lesson Observations

After reviewing many lesson plans I finally found one I could modify to use with my class . I found a lesson plan from the Minute Man National Park. This lesson plan included more primary source documents than I wanted to use right now. My students are not at the point in our curriculum where we are at the American Revolution yet and I am only doing this lesson with one class (my home room) as a test case and we will use their finished Voicethread with both classes when we get there in our curriculum. The MMNP lesson used all 4 Amos Doolittle prints and even more primary source first hand account by Thomas Gage as well as some that involved the Battle of Concord. The lesson I created I only wanted to look at the Battle of Lexington and the 1 Doolittle print and I limited the first and accounts. I also wanted to include my FlipVideo of Alex Cain on the Battle Green.

I finished my lesson plan  with my students just prior to Christmas vacation. I started my letting my students that they were going to help me with a project I was trying out for a course I was taking. If it worked out well and we all liked our results we would share it on my classroom blog with parents and with the other class when we were studying the American Revolution.

First I started by setting up the Voicethread accounts for all my students (see previous posting). I started by showing my students the Jim Hollister Video which they liked.  I had to play it again when I mentioned my son was in the video so they could see if they could spot him. We then discussed primary and secondary sources which went really well since I have already covered this with them this year.  We watched the Alex Cain Video and they could not hear the video well the first time due to all the traffic noises in the background. Some of the students started with the first hand accounts with a partner while I pulled two students over to study the large 11 x 14 laminated Doolitte print I have to study and observe. They studied the print and wrote down their observations. I was able to have them step into the hallway table to get ready to record their observations while I gave another team the laminated print. I had the laptop in the hallway table and logged each student into the voicethread and used my cellphone to let them read their observations. The students were fascinated to read their observations into my phone and then moments later clicking on thier picture and hearing their observations.  I had another smaller copy of the Doolittle print so then I could have 2 teams working on these observations while I sat with each student while they recorded on the voicethread.

I also had to explain to the students about how to read the primary source first hand accounts. Explain that these documents have the actual words used by this person (primary source) up top and then any vocabulary that might be unfamiliar to them in the middle and at the bottom is a translated version of the same account but in modern day English. Have the teams work together to answer the questions on their worksheet.

Students worked well and loved this lesson. I had to wait until the next day and finish up in our ELA block to finish our summarizing and the assessment letter. I had to model how to write a letter on the overhead first and keep the sample letter up there for the students to use. Most students were able to complete the assesment but a few were having a hard time coming up with something to write.

Mass Historical Society

A few weeks ago, I got to visit the Mass Historical Society,1154 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215.  I wanted to read some background material on the Battle of Lexington.  I got to view primary source documents including a listing of the militia men from all over that were that day as well as the ones who died.  I will have to mention that this is not a place for a non-serious search. It was not easy. Starting with the parking situation in the Fenway which is non-existent.  They are located around the corner from the Mass Ave block where the Berklee School of Music is located. Most of the parking around this area is Resident Parking Permit only. There are some parking meters on Mass Ave which is what I found after circling the block after 30 minutes.

 They are very hard-core about thier restrictions. You cannot bring in anything with you into the viewing room-not a jacket, a purse, phone, etc. They have lockers you can leave your belongings. You will need to bring a laptop which they will let you. They will also allow a camera (without flash). For more information on visiting the museum click here.

You will need to get the wi-fi access code from the librarian in the viewing room. I takes awhile searching their ABIGAIL Online Catalog. I tried a few different searches from Keyword in Title and Subject searches.  I was trying to only look at and read print material.  They had some files on microfiche but that required going down to another viewing room and more instructions I felt I did not have time for.  By the time I found parking, registered with the front desk, packed away my belongings, got the "lay of the land" I only had only a little more than two hours left before they closed.

I did find a diary of an Elias Phinney who details the history of the Battle of Lexington and the details of the morning of the 19th April, 1775. This was a very delicate bound copy and the binding of the book was very old.  The librarian brought it over with gloves and placed in on a foam wedge to read and I had to turn the pages very carefully. I needed to use a weighted string to keep the pages open as they don't want the pages touched often.  It was hard to read due to it being written in longhand and the ink was really light in some areas. It took some time and patience but what I was able to read was interesting. I was able to take a few photographs of important pages or the lists of militia written in the diary.

I also found a secondary source written by a grandson, Cyrus Hamlin about his grandfather Colonel Francis Faulkner who participated in the Battle of Lexington. This wasn't as long and in better condition as it was the grandson was who re-telling his grandfather's recollections. The text was in type face but very tiny typeface. I needed to use one of the library's magnifying sheets. Before I knew it my time was up and all materials had to be returned. The sources I found are listed below.

Format:Printed Material
Call number(s):E241.L6 P5 1825
Creator:Phinney, Elias, 1780-1849
Title:History of the battle of Lexington : on the morning of the 19th April, 1775 / By Elias Phinney.
Publisher:Boston : Printed by Phelps and Farnham, 1825.
Description:40 p. ; 21 cm.
Local notes:MHS copy contains two copies bound together.
Subject(  Lexington, Battle of, 1775)

Format:Printed Material
Call number(s):Box 1887
Creator:Hamlin, Cyrus, 1811-1900.
Title:My grandfather, Colonel Francis Faulkner, and my uncle, Francis Faulkner, Jr., in the battle of Lexington : Read before the Lexington historical society, May, 1866 / by Rev. Cyrus Hamlin ...
Publisher:Boston [Mass] : Press of Stanley and Usher, 1887.
Description:16 p. ; 23 cm.


Voicethread is a software program that  allows many different people to comment on your photos, videos, etc. anywhere in the world for free!  According to the website: "A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam)."  I spent a LOT of time today trying to figure out how to set up an account for myself and then to register each one of my students.   The company did send me this document on thier Class Manager that was very helpful in setting up my classroom account. My main difficulty was finding a way to set up each student without using thier specific email addresses. 

If your students have their own school email addresses its quite simple, you just send them an email with a link to join.  My students do not have email addresses and I wanted to be sure this would be secure so no-one from the outside could access thier account.  Although on the website it states it the student is under 13 or does not have a valid e-mail adress you can set up a VT (Voicethread) Username which formats the account to look like an email adress based on the domain name you chose for your account.

I was able to set up individual accounts for each of my my students by setting up a VT Username for each and their sign on were simple just their first name and first letter of their last name. I already had photos of each of them I took on the first day of school for our photo puzzle that I was able to use for thier account icons. I made the password the same for everyone. I had decided I was going to log each student in myself before they recorded their observations so it did not matter. I had no webcam or external microphone to use so I decided to use my cellphone to let the students record their observations.

The students loved to record their observations on voicethread and loved to hear all the students observations. I felt the students took this much more seriously because they were being recorded. I felt they got so much more out of this exercise due to the thrill of recording on the website.

FlipShare Video/YouTube Issue

I finally decided how to do my primary source lesson on the Battle of Lexington! Taking into account that I am running out of time and that the 5th graders are not in the American Revolution in their curriculum, I decided to do a test run with my home room.  We reviewed what we mean when we say what is a primary source? secondary source?  Then, I handed out a copy of  the student worksheet: What Really Happened? and had students watch the video of Alex Cain, Revolutionary Re-enactor talk about the Battle of Lexington on the Lexington Green that I took in July, 2010.  The only problem is that the FlipVideo I took also picks up the traffic noises so that I had to play the video twice for the students to really hear what he is saying. They answer the questions on the worksheet and afterwards we discuss why this video as a secondary source.

Another problem I had with this video is that is was 17:21 minutes and I could not upload the video to YouTube which only takes videos under 15 minutes.  I used the FlipShare software on my laptop to trim the video. I tried to end it at a good spot where it made sense and it ended up 14:20  minutes. I was then able to upload the video to YouTube and then able to post to my blog.  The Blogger software is difficult to post videos directly to the blog unless you upload it to YouTube for example first.  There are ways on YouTube to make our video private so no-one without the link can view the video and you can enter no tags to make it un-searchable.