How do you use email with students to teach and consolidate vital skills such as Send, forward and reply. I have been using think.com with my older students this term (year 5 and 6) and wanted them to use email, as part of the program we were working on. In this environment I used two methods based on a paper based game I used to play regularly in class called "consequences." The idea of the original game was to introduce a character, fold the paper over and hide the name, and then add another, fold the paper over, and add an action, then a response, followed by another response and end with a consequence. On unfolding the paper a really bizarre story plot would unfold, and I would encourage students to develop this plot idea during writing sessions, oral storytelling or storyboarding.
Using the think environment the idea of a "chain story" evolved, firstly as a game we might play using email. A student would write the beginning of a story and then send it onto a friend to continue. They would reread the opening and add one or two sentences before forwarding it on to another friend and so on, the finished story arriving back at the start for editing, revision and publication to their think spaces. Organisationally this proved to be a challenge. It strikes me however that this could be a useful activity to carry out away from the PC, and could easily be developed as a small group collaborative writing activity within the classroom itself, using pencil and paper methods, before moving the idea into the world of email.
NOTE TO SELF: Activity might be more effectively organised by grouping students and encouraging them to story write within a given group chain, students working through the list in order. Originating student may need to resend the story around the list again or choose to complete and publish the story they recieve themselves.
Think.com is a fantastic environment to work with students in, it provides web space and individual e mail accounts for each student. Each student has a potential webspace of 10 pages, and six items to a page. Widgets are provided within the environment to enable them to add discussion boards, brainstorms and surveys which encourage others to interact with them in their think spaces. They can upload text, and pictures too, among other media types, so writing in this environment has massive multimodal potential.
I recently added a development of the chain story idea to my own think space. Using a discussion board. I began a chain story, to encourage students to add to the discussion board, the next stages in a story. Watch this space to see what happens next. It is a bizarre way to write a story as rather than beginning at the top of the page and moving down, it begins at the end of the page and is read backwards. Check out think for yourselves. A fantastic resource for encouraging collaborative work that I will be coming back to in this blog over and over I am sure.