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How to teach 3 social studies units covering over half a century in 4 weeks: A 5th Grade Glogster Project

Last year, I began a journey with 5th grade that integrated multiple social studies standards into one big project.  The teachers put students in cross-classroom groups and assigned them social studies topics for a unit on the turn of the century.  Each group made a glog about their topic after using print and digital resources to gather information.  We were amazed by the leadership, collaboration, and innovation that took place in that project, but we made a lot of mistakes along the way too.  You can read more about last year here and here.

This year, we almost didn’t do this project.  The teachers were feeling even more overwhelmed by the content this year because they had to teach 3 social studies units and 2 science units in 9 weeks.  You would probably feel overwhelmed too if you knew you had to teach these units in that amount of time:

Even the district planner recommends a total of 12 weeks for the units, but requires that it be done in the 3rd quarter (9 weeks).

After multiple combinations of meetings between me, the 5th grade social studies teacher, the gifted collaboration teacher, and the instructional coach, we developed a plan for how this year’s content might look.  Each of the 3 social studies classes were assigned a unit.  Within each class, topics were assigned to individuals as well as groups of students.  These students made plans of how to divide the content among their group.  On Mondays and Fridays, the social studies teacher and gifted teacher did direct teaching of some of the content from all 3 units.  On Tuesday-Thursday, students came to the media center to research their topics in online databases, websites, and books.  Last year, students just took notes as they read, but this year we wanted students to have a better structure that was based in questions that came from the standards.  The gifted teacher combed through the standards and created 2 different graphic organizers with questions for students to consider.  The organizer also had space to document resources used.  Some students chose to use digital copies of this organizer while others chose to print it out and write their notes.

Once again, I pulled together a pathfinder divided up by topics.  This pathfinder gave each student a handful of websites about their topic.  I also showed them how to search the databases found in Georgia’s Galileo collection.  My paraprofessional took the topics and searched through our print collection.  If a book matched one group’s topic, she put a post-it with their names on the book.  If a book spanned multiple topics, she put it in a shared stack.

To begin our journey, I briefly introduced the pathfinder, graphic organizers, and how to take notes (not copying and pasting entire paragraphs of information from websites).  I also showed a glog from last year’s students to give them an idea of what they would ultimately be doing.  We chose not to introduce how Glogster works at the beginning.  We also chose to not give students logins and passwords to Glogster.  Students then began a week of research.  The social studies teacher, gifted teacher, student teacher, my paraprofessional, some college students, and me began working with students as much as possible to support them in their search.

After a week, I introduced how Glogster works by showing a very basic run-through of the kinds things it can do.  Students continued to research, but as they finished, they checked in with one of the adults.  Most of the time we offered additional guiding questions and support so that they had the most complete information possible.  Once students reached a point where they had enough information, they received their username and password to Glogster.

Most students began Glogster with deciding on their wall background.  Then, they moved to adding text from their organizer.  Eventually, students branched out to include photographs from public domain searches and linked their pictures to the sources they came from.  Some students also did audio introductions to their glog or recorded audio for various parts of their glogs.  Some students used Screencast-o-matic to do screencasts of timelines from PebbleGo or tours in Google Earth.  A few students used webcams to record themselves talking.  One group even did a webcam video of their resource list rather than just creating a text box for it.

You can view some of the finished or in progress glogs here:

Recovering from the Great Depression

Black Cowboys

Wright Brothers

George Washington Carver

Alexander Graham Bell

Thomas Edison

Spanish American War

McKinley & Roosevelt

Panama Canal

Immigration

Voting Rights

US Contributions and Treaty of Versailles

Lusitania and Other Ships

Duke Ellington

Louis Armstrong

Harlem Renaissance

Babe Ruth

Charles Lindbergh

Henry Ford

The Great Depression

Jesse Owens

Stalin, Mussolini, Roosevelt, & Churchill

Holocaust

Presidents of WWII

Bombing of Japan

Changing Role of Women

Tuskegee Airmen

Cold War

Khrushchev & McCarthy

D-Day, VJ, & VE Days

Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, & Hirohito

Panama Canal 2

Once students finalize their glogs, they will present them to the rest of the 5th grade to share the responsibility of teaching and learning this massive amount of content.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

Student Collaboration with Glogster Edu

In January and February I worked with 5th grade on a unit called Bigger, Better, Faster.  Before the unit started, one 5th grade teacher came to me with an idea of grouping students together in triads and assigning each group standards from the 5th grade GPS related to the turn of the century.  The groups would have students from each of the 3 fifth grade classes and would be formed based on the student’s strengths.  Her original hope was for students to create a final product such as a brochure or tri-board.   Once we began collaborating, I suggested that we think about giving students multiple options  that included some technology-based final products so that students could use one or more of the options in their products.   We decided on Glogster, Animoto, Power Point, and the paper-based brochures.

I created a pathfinder with links to various resources in Galileo and on the web.  At the bottom of the pathfinder, I included a double entry journal for students to use as they researched so they could copy and paste direct quotes from websites and put the quotes in their own words.  Students spent several weeks researching their topics.  Students also created their own united streaming accounts and watched videos about their topics.  We explored Creative Commons as a resource for finding images to include in products, and students got to work creating.

Classes took turns rotating through our media center computer lab so that I could support them, but they also used laptops in their classrooms.  During the last week, the entire 5th grade met in the media center and used the laptops and the lab.  If I did this unit again, I would have done this format of work session during the entire unit.  Although it was loud and chaotic, amazing things began to happen.  As students began using tools like glogster, they figured out tips and tricks.  When one group discovered something, they immediately began sharing their new-found knowledge with the other groups.  Soon, groups established themselves as experts on particular technology areas, and other groups quickly realized who they needed to go to for help.  This student-to-student collaboration was the ideal situation you want and it built a community of learners among the whole fifth grade.

This was my first venture into Glogster, and while it hasn’t been a perfect experience, I’ve been amazed at what the students have figured out how to do by just going in and exploring.  I showed them Glogster as one option for their final products, but I did not go into great detail about how to use it.  The most frustrating thing for them so far has been that the free basic educator account does not allow them to upload files.  I’ve temporarily fixed that by subscribing to a one-month trial of the premium account so that we can see how well we actually like using Glogster.  All in all, using tools like Glogster to create a final product has been a motivating experience for most students.  Instead of creating tri-boards and paper brochures and posters, they are creating digital content that can be easily shared with a wider audience.  They have worked collaboratively, and we’ve seen that each student is bringing his or her strengths to the groups.  I’ve stood in awe as I’ve watched one student pull up  from the research phase of the project, which contains both quotes directly from the source and information in student words, while the other students had the final product pulled up to input the information.  I’ve watched students split themselves between 3 computers to do individual work, email their work to one another, and then find ways of putting it all together.  Some students in the groups used Animoto, Power Point, or searched resources like School Tube to locate or create pieces that were then embedded in their group’s Glogster or other product.  This project has reaffirmed the power of doing initial instruction and then giving students a space to create, at which point the teachers and media specialist become facilitators and supporters of learning as students need guidance or run into barriers.

Now that the project has come to a close and students have shared their learning with the whole 5th grade, I plan to subscribe to the premium version of glogster ($99 for 50 accounts) and use this with other classes.  I already have a 2nd grade class that will be using Glogster to document their exploration of inventions.  My plan is to bring in some of the 5th graders who just used Glogster to sit alongside the 2nd graders as they begin their own projects.  I hope to do more student-to-student collaboration across classes within a grade level and across grade levels in the future.

You can view 2 of the Glogsters below.

http://barrow26.edu.glogster.com/false/

http://barrow31.edu.glogster.com/the-wright-brothers/

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons