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Adding a 21st Century Spin to Reading I A Step by Step Guide to Creating a Classroom READbox

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If you were to walk past Room 113 at Patton Elementary in Austin, Texas, you’d see a “READbox,” inviting you to check out a student recommended book.  Everyone’s seen the traditional book report, but this project uses a green screen and augmented reality to showcase first grade book reviews in an engaging and innovative way. 

Creating our READbox is one of my favorite projects of the year. It closely resembles a traditional Redbox© so it really draws the attention of others to our classroom door. More than anything though, it allows my students to showcase their personalities, artistic abilities, public speaking skills, and unique book preferences while learning 21st century skills.  

I have to admit, this idea originated from a previous librarian I worked with. She was always looking for ways to innovate in a traditional library setting. One way she led the way for innovation was to place QR codes on books in the library that connected to students’ book reviews. After learning about augmented reality, I realized that I could use the same idea of highlighting book reviews through a technology-focused public display, a READbox.

Fun Step by Step Guide to Creating a READbox

1. Choosing a book   To begin our READbox project, my first graders each choose a book they are interested in reading. One of my favorite things about this project is that all students, regardless of reading level, can participate. We end up with a wide range of book reviews from picture books to chapter books. After reading their chosen book, the students then illustrate a backdrop for their book review. A great tip that I give my students is to leave a space on their illustrated page for their body to be placed when they begin recording with our classroom green screen. Once students have completed their backdrop, we either scan them into JPEGs or take a photograph and save them to our iPad’s photo album.

2. Writing scripts    After students have illustrated their backdrop, it’s time to begin writing scripts. The students have a choice: I offer a template to use or they have creative freedom to write their book review from scratch  We begin by reading a few published book reviews from the backs of our favorite books and watch several examples on the Book Burps site. My students and I discuss what a catchy book or movie review includes such as the title, interesting characters, persuasive techniques, and an overall rating.  I always enjoy seeing the personality of my students shine through in their scripts. Their humor and creativity never cease to amaze me.

3. Recording day   The most exciting part of the project. To prepare for Recording Day, we type their scripts into the Teleprompter Lite app on our iPad. What’s neat and useful about Teleprompter Lite is the way it turns your device into an actual teleprompter. Words scroll along the side while videoing and the reader can easily adjust the speed of the scrolling words. This app has become so useful in many projects throughout the year.

With students standing in front of our green screen, we record their videos directly in the Teleprompter Lite app.  For some reason, I was initially intimidated to use a green screen in my classroom. It sounded like a foreign concept and not something that had a place in a first-grade classroom. After learning about the Green Screen by Do Ink app, I realized that there was no reason to be intimidated. I bought a cheap lime green tablecloth and hung it up in the back of my classroom and have been so excited to find new ways to use it time and time again.  

Recording in front of the green screen allows us to layer my students’ artwork behind the video of them reading their book review. After each book review is recorded in the Teleprompter Lite app, it is saved directly to the device’s photo album. From the Green Screen by Do Ink app, you simply press “New Project” and import both the backdrop and the recorded video. This app allows you to create multiple layers in your video. Your backdrop is the first thing that should be added and can be inserted by clicking on the plus symbol on the timeline at the bottom. Then the video is added in the middle timeline.  

 4. Creating the READbox door    Once all videos have been finalized with backdrops and recorded scripts, it’s time to create our READbox door. I cover my classroom door in red butcher paper and place a white arch and letters beneath resembling the Redbox© logo.  Next, I take photos of each book cover and print them in color. I glue each photograph in rows beneath the READbox title.  

5. Adding Reality Overlays   The final and most exciting part of the project is to create augmented reality overlays using the HP Reveal app, formerly called Aurasma. After creating a classroom account and channel in the app, I then turn each video into an Aura. To do this, you simply click the plus button, choose the video you would like to use as an overlay, and hover over the corresponding book cover image to create a trigger. 

6. Creating your Channel    Lastly, you add it to your channel. I also include instructions on the READbox door for viewers to download the HP Reveal app and follow our channel. This allows them to view our augmented reality book reviews.

Seeing the amazement in my students, administration and visitors when they interact with our READbox is truly incredible. It makes technology and reading infectious. In fact, the project is so popular that my current school librarian asked me to put up an additional READbox in the library for the entire school to view.  

Julie Hildebrand is a first grade teacher in Austin, Texas and has been teaching for 11 years. In addition to her general education students, she also serves Gifted and Talented students, as well as English as a Second Language students. In addition to being a Heart of Texas Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Julie is also a Discovery Education Ambassador, and a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Digital Innovator All-Star.

Julie Hildebrand

Julie Hildebrand First Grade Teacher

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