My classroom is filled with hermit crabs, a beta fish, a bearded dragon, a box turtle, worms, and a fire-bellied toad. Outside of the traditional nurturing skills and responsibility children gain from having these classroom pets, they also enrich our classroom learning experiences.
In third grade, my students are expected to be able to describe how living organisms interact within their habitats. Instead of limiting their learning to DVDs and textbooks, I challenge the students to transform into scientists as they make discoveries through hands-on learning and driving questions they formulated themselves.
I allow students to choose their own groups, rather than assigning them, based on the living organism they are interested in learning about further. Once groups are formed, students research five to seven facts on their living organism using Google and information guides from local pet stores.
After gathering facts, students brainstorm ideas for their living organism investigation by generating problem statements. Some examples include: Is a turtle attracted more to lettuce or turtle food? Does a hermit travel faster going east and west versus north and south? Will more worms travel to an apple or a cracker?
Once the students agree upon a problem statement, they formulate their own hypothesis. Next, they collaborate on materials needed, how they are going to gather their data, and a detailed procedure. Then they carry out their investigation. While doing this, they use digital cameras to gather video and images for their culminating movie. Students work together to discuss whether or not their hypothesis was correct, as well as what they learned and what they would do differently if they performed their experiment again. Finally, they write a script detailing facts about their organism and each step of their investigation.
At last, it is time for their movie! Students use Windows Movie Maker to document their experience. This software is a free Windows program allowing users to create, edit, and share movies.
How do you use Windows Movie Maker? Well, it is actually quite simple. After uploading any videos and images onto your computer, you will need to open up Movie Maker. Under Capture Video, there are options to import pictures, video, audio, or music. Anything uploaded will go into your Collections. Images can be captured with a digital camera, cell phone, iPod, or any other device that allows you to upload images or video to your computer.
Everything needs to be placed on the storyboard. If the order of the images doesn’t matter, feel free to select the “Make an AutoMovie” option. Movie Maker will automatically create the movie with special effects and transitions. If a specific order is needed, you’ll need to drag and drop the photos or videos from your Collection box into the storyboard frame. Don’t forget to add a title and credits for your movie by clicking on the “Make titles or credits” under the Edit Movie tab and following the instructions.
You can also insert transitions after adding each image on your storyboard, or you can wait until everything is arranged how you would like it. You may also opt not to add any transitions at all. These appear under the Edit Movie tab along with video effects. Some of the many things you can do with effects are blur images, slow them down, make them black and white, fade them in or out, mirror them, or rotate them.
Once you have completed this, you can add audio by clicking on the “Show Timeline” option at the bottom. When doing this, you can place the audio wherever you would like on your movie. Highlighting it allows you to edit the length of the audio. Sometimes it will take a few times playing with the add/delete arrows when editing to get the audio or video clips the exact length you would like them. Click Play to preview the volume. If it is too loud, click the set audio levels icon and adjust the volume as needed.
If you are looking to narrate your movie, you will need an internal microphone on your computer or an external one you can purchase for as little as $10. If using an external microphone, plug it into your computer. Click on the “Narrate Timeline” icon that appears on the bottom left-hand corner (it looks like a little microphone). Start the narration and speak into the microphone. When finished, click “Stop Narration” and a box will appear, prompting you to save the file as Windows Media Audio (WMA). Once you have done this, it will automatically upload into your collections where you are able to drag it to the audio section of your timeline.
After each step, be sure to hit the “Save Project” button. Preview your movie one last time to see if any changes need to be made. On the task menu, click File, then “Save Project as.” Type a name for your movie and save it on your computer. You’ll be prompted to select the quality of the video you want. This will take a few minutes depending on the length of your movie. Once it is complete, click “Finish” and you can preview the movie on Windows Media Player.
For the class project, students upload captured images and video to their movie and add in transitions, effects, titles, and credits. They use the narration feature to record their investigation script. Following completion of the movies, we have a film festival where parents are invited to view their movies. Of course, don’t forget the popcorn!
Creating a movie works perfectly with this project, but there are unlimited other applications for it, too. Other ways I have used movies in the classroom are filming movie scripts students have written from stories we have read in class, crafting student biographies, and identifying geometric shapes in the real-world.
By allowing students to use Movie Maker in the classroom, I have noticed an increase in creativity, problem-solving skills, collaboration among students, and engagement in their learning. Outside of the film festival, I upload all of their movies on our class blog for friends and relatives. An authentic audience has always instilled my students a sense of motivation to work harder. It is important to present the students with the opportunity to take ownership in their learning.
Who knows? I may have the next Spike Lee or Steven Spielberg sitting right in front of me!
Brandi Leggett is a National Board Certified Teacher in Middle Childhood Generalist. She received her Master’s in Elementary Education from Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania. She currently teaches third grade at Prairie Ridge Elementary in Shawnee, Kansas.Her classroom website is www.usd232.org/bleggett and classroom blog is http://teambleggett.blogspot.com/.
© 2013 Brandi Leggett. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. TILE-SIG Feature: Digital Storytelling Think Outside the Trash: Global Recycling Project-Based Learning