The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Starting a New Top Secret Project

Today we started a new project, which I have, on a whim, decided to brand as “top secret” although it isn’t secret at all and, by the time you finish reading this, you, too, will know about it. But hey, it is fun to use “top secret” to label a project that we are doing in the class. The entire project is the culmination of our social studies research project on European explorers. The idea is being drawn from another teacher within the district who shared it with us at a Literacy Across Content Areas inquiry group meeting two months ago.

The project started with the students getting on the computers in the lab and brainstorming as much information about the early explorers as they could. I was happy to see that they moved away from the ThinkQuest site I had directed them to initially and began searching out other sites. They generated lists of key words and phrases, including names, locations, and dates. After generating the lists, the students put them aside and went on to other work.

In the afternoon, we had a class discussion about text features, focusing on what they are and examples of them. The class then broke off into small groups of three or four and spent about twenty minutes examining the text features of a variety of alphabet books I have in the classroom. They were told to list the features and prepare to share them with the class. Some of the features that the groups identified were:

  • cover
  • title page
  • individual letters of the alphabet on each page
  • key words or phrases that start with a specific letter
  • short paragraphs to describe the key word or phrase
  • illustrations
  • glossary/index

Having laid the foundation, I announced our top secret project to the class: each student will select one letter of the alphabet, and will then write an entry for our own alphabet book, featuring the European explorers. We are going to work on this project tomorrow morning and hopefully finish before the end of the week. I think I’ll also steal an idea from yet another teacher and scan each of the completed pages and turn them into a video, with students narrating their pages. We’ll see if we have time for that before the end of the semester, which is rushing toward us like a freight train!

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