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ERIN STANFILL
Finalist

PreK | Social Studies | Real World Application or Field Study

Station WTTW in Illinois

My Classroom Innovation

Every year my students engage in author studies, where I use authors’ collections to introduce features of print, writing craft, content, and illustration styles. I started this year with a study of Todd Parr followed by Mo Willems. During each study, I projected photos of the authors and invited students to ask questions about them. I believe that if children see authors as real people then they will see that potential in themselves. I used the books to engage students in conversations about feelings, focusing on a variety of emotional vocabulary and how we read emotions through facial expressions. To help students notice expressions, I set up a digital camera and tripod and invited students to be photographers of one another. Later, we reviewed the photographs by attaching a computer to a projector and screen. Simultaneously, students used the “About Face” game from Arthur through PBS Learning Media to practice matching feelings with scenarios. After this, we collaborated with our sixth grade partners. My students chose four emotions: mad, sad, happy, and scared. They used iPads with their partners to find synonyms of these words, such as joyful, frightened, and heart sore. Students leveled these words by intensity. For example, mad might move from angry to rabid. Next, the partners used the Drawing Pad app to create portraits and photographed each other with their corresponding expressions. Last, the drawings, photographs, and vocabulary were compiled into a photobook on Shutterfly.com, which was published and used as a resource. I view children as competent and capable of using technology. In a typical study of emotions, students might draw expressions or look at photographs. However, when students apply a new method to create and demonstrate learning, such as photography or digital drawing, their learning is enhanced and they take ownership in it.

How Students were Engaged

Students connected with the authors during the studies by learning about their writing styles, as well as their personal histories. They even wrote Todd Parr an email asking him questions, which he happily answered. By getting to know the authors, the content of the books belonged to the students; they became partners in the learning. One commonality between Mo Willems and Todd Parr is their focus on feelings, through words or illustrations, and my students noticed this. When they took photographs, they described expressions for the other person to make. For example, the photographer might say, “Move a little this way. Make a silly face. No, sillier. Stick out your tongue so you look super silly!” Then, when we reviewed the photographs, students remembered which photos they took and their intention in taking them. As we continued studying about feelings and read more books with emotional vocabulary, such as “How Are You Peeling?”, I heard students using these new words with each other and to describe their own emotions. One day, when my assistant went home sick, I heard one girl say to her mom at pick up, “Mommy, one of the teachers is miserable today!” This let me know that students were connecting in meaningful ways with new vocabulary. When students worked with their sixth grade partners, their engagement reached another level. By searching for synonyms for basic emotions, students immediately connected with the new words. Then, they moved beyond drawing faces and looking at images in print resources, to actually creating portraits on the iPads depicting the new vocabulary. Furthermore, they used their developing photography skills to capture images of their partner’s faces. This project shifted beyond typical methods of displaying knowledge into the area of creation, which is one of the major goals of learning new information.

PBS Program/Content Used

Arthur- Arthur's "About Face" game through PBS Learning Media