Final Project Reflection

My final project for Course 3 started off with a movie created using iMovie.  The final product was posted in my blog entry:  Digital Storytelling in Gr. 1.  After hours of work, I was able to put together slides taken from a handwriting program we use called Handwriting Without Tears.  Despite various strategies used to teach students proper letter formation, there are still some students who do not form their letters correctly.  We teach them to start their letters at the top because forming letters with a downward stroke is easier than pushing the pencil up.  Nevertheless, there are many students who find it hard to make this transition. 

I use the movie as a warm up each time we start our handwriting practice.  I play the movie on the Smartboard, as the students do their warm up exercises.  (They put their hands together and push their fingers against each other.  They also lock their fingers, one hand above the other and pull.)  While they are doing this, the workbooks are being handed out.  I knew they would start singing the song “Where do you start your letters?” but little did I expect them to break out into a cute dance routine.  They started to make movements that went with the song.  Each time they heard the word top, they would reach up.  When they sang “is this the bottom” they all touched the floor.  I can’t help but think that these gross movements are helping some students connect to the idea that letters start at the top and not at the bottom; and it is helping them transfer this to their fine motor manipulation of their pencils.  It is a fun way to energize the students and it really helps students enjoy a task that they may find challenging.

Since the movie was taken from screen shots of a Smartboard notebook that I had created using screenshots from the student workbooks that had been scanned, I have tried to create an interactive document that the kids could use in addition to their workbooks.  My idea is to use the Smartboard video application and record the correct letter formation.  I plan to make short video clips of each letter.  These will then be embedded into each slide so students can see a video of the correct letter formation and then try it themselves on the Smartboard.  These video clips can also be posted on our Grade blog for parents to see and use at home when the handwriting comes home for homework.

Unfortunately, I have stumbled on some challenges.  The notebook that I have created is projected onto the Smartboard.  This make the letters a lot larger and I am not use to printing with such a big text.  Sad to say, a lot of my penmanship, which was once very good, is now a thing of the past.  I simply don’t print or write that much any more.  As a result, I can’t seem to print as neatly as I would like to model how to form the letters correctly and have them sit on the lines.

In addition, the Smartboard in my classroom has lost some of its accuracy when I calibrate the pen with the board.  As a result, it is difficult to start at the top and on the line.  Forming the letters using the lines is a bit of a hit and miss.  As a result, making video clips is next to impossible. 

I have tried to problem solve by changing the resolution of the projection onto the Smartboard.  This reduces the size of the projection which helps when I use the Smartboard pen and have to write on the Smartboard.  Nevertheless, the calibration is still not as good as I would like it, especially if I am going to record this and post it on our blog.

I even tried using a tablet, but that proved difficult as the letter that I had to trace and the lines that I had to sit my letters on, were on the Smartboard and not the tablet.  I even tried printing the screenshots and reducing the size of them to fit the tablet.  I then taped the printouts onto the tablet and tried to record the letter formations.  This got me closer to my goal, but it was a lot of work!  As the tablet that I was using was not mine, I had to give it back.  There were others in the school that I could borrow, but the challenges in this case seemed to outweigh the benefits.

I don’t accept defeat easily.  As a result I plan to use other methods to make the recordings.  I could use the document camera that is in my classroom or try using a Flip camera.  All I need is time!  For now, my students and I will have to be satisfied with the movie I created.  There is still lots of room for improvement with the video, but as a first product, it ain’t half bad!  Despite all my set backs, I have learned quite a bit about a lot of different digital tools.  I just wish I had more time to learn how to use them and how to best make use of them in an effective and transformative way to improve my teaching and the learning that my students experience.

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~ by Vu Lam on October 31, 2009.

2 Responses to “Final Project Reflection”

  1. There’s nobody out there that can say you didn’t try. You’ve exhausted every method I can think of and I know you don’t take defeat easily. It will come together….maybe your idea is just ahead of its time. 😉

    Great movie…..great work!

  2. Vu, i am impressed with your dedication to reach our learners and help them with the fundamental skills (writing) to help build a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. It is educators like you that ensure our learners are truly successful and reach their potential! Bravo!

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