Thursday, 14 February 2013

Kids book

For this project I wanted to give the students more freedom in which to work. Usually, I would give each group a page on my Wikispace.  I did this so I could manage and monitor them more closely. 

However, for this class I decided to give each group their own Wiki. It meant that they had to give me permission to access their Wiki.

By doing this I wanted the students to take more responsibility and take a step back from the project in order to leave it to them. I took on much more of an observing role in this project. I was there to offer support and any help, however, I wanted each group to make the project their own and work independently from me. 

- Autonomous learning;
- Team work;
- Collaborative writing;
- Design;
- Book creation;
- Group presentation. 

Step 1
Assign the students to groups, but try and vary their writing ability. 
I usually put one strong writer in each group to act as the lead and kind of teacher to the others.

Step 2 - Aims
Tell the students that they are going to make a book for kids. They have to decide:
- Theme;
- Age of children;
- Method of delivery - eBook or paper-based;
- Style;
- Content;
- Design
- Basically everything.

However, they should keep in mind that this book should encourage kids to read more so it should be interesting. Also, the book will be given to orphanages or refugee schools. Therefore, it should be cheap to reproduce. 

Step 3
Help each group to set up their own Wiki. Explain how they can possibly use one page for ideas, research, notes etc. However, leave it at that. Part of the fun is for them to figure out how to use it for themselves. They will inevitably find stuff you didn't even know about and teach you how to use it. It has happened many times, believe me!! 

Step 4 - Research
Tell the groups that the first step is research. They should go to book stores, amazon etc and find out what makes a good kids book. After a few days, with the class talk about what makes a good kids book. Then, how can they use these ideas in their project.

Step 5 - Theme
For many of my students, coming up with a theme was the hardest part. Should it be a fairy tale, informational? I talked to each group about it, but I didn't decide for them. I just asked questions and let them figure it out for themselves. 

Step 6 - Method
Each group had to decide whether to make the book online as a Wiki or paper-based. As a class we had a discussion about this. We looked at eBooks, paper-based books and made a list of the advantages and disadvantages. These could range from, price, ease of editing etc.

Step 7 - Deadlines!
With all group projects I want the students to understand the importance of deadlines. I made sure that each group showed me their task notes and asked them to explain who was doing what and when it should be done. This helps to reduce misunderstandings and to make sure each person feels responsible for their own part.

Step 8 - Group cohesion 
I had one group that seemed to take a disliking to each other. I had emails saying they wanted to change groups or go solo. In the end, I told them to deal with it. You are in a group, it is up to you to put aside your differences. Be a little more considerate and compromise. It is an important skill to learn, so do it! Eventually, the group produced an excellent piece of work - to my surprise!

The project ended up going really well. I was amazed at the amount of work the students had put into it. It was also interesting to hear that apart from the regular meetings we had in class, they held regular meetings outside of the classroom to talk about and meet their own self-made deadlines.

Giving them full control could have gone two ways - badly or great. Luckily for me it was the latter. They exceeded my expectations in all ways. They documented their work, shared ideas, held meetings outside the class and generally put in a lot of effort into it. 

I guess the proof is in the work. Check out the video below for an example of the students' work.

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