The Journey of a Banana

It was food week, Year 2 were exploring how they navigate internet pages, and comparing life in their current location with that on St Lucia. It can be very easy for students to begin seeing the internet as a play space and not an information source, so from the very beginning of this unit, simple web quests had been built in to our sessions together. The sites we were to use had also been preselected, and linked to our school community pages. Initially they involved students in locating pictures or key words in simplified online texts such as those to be found at schooltrain, but later involved labelling maps from online and CD based atlases, which share many of the features with a web page.

Learning how to navigate and locate information on the web is fine but the next stage is actually learning that we can do stuff with it. In this case we began with the Oxfam Cool Planet Website,
and their Bonkers about Bananas pages. Using these as a starting point, we discussed the origins of Bananas and the processes involved in harvesting them and transporting them from the Windward Islands to the Supermarket and how all this had to happen before the tasty yellow fruit ends up in our lunchbox. The photographs on the site are excellent, and break the process down, as well as providing a map which locates the islands and texts which support discussions about Fair Trade and the lives of banana farmers.

In this session we opened 2 create a Story, and using the teacher options I enabled the full toolset view. With the children at the Interactive whiteboard, we set up a writing frame, by copying the images of the process from the approriate web pages, and pasting them to the image box at the top of each page in the writing frame we were creating. On completion of the process we watched the slideshow, and discussed what text we might add to support our readers in understanding the journey of a banana. We saved the file to the shared space on the network and the children were asked to work in pairs to find, open and begin writing their story of the journey of the banana.

As mentioned in a previous post I introduced pictorial folders to our network in September, and these 6 and 7 year olds have learned through regular practice, how to log on, and how to find their work independently. One or two students still find this a bit of a problem, but most can not only open files they have saved, but are beginning to cascade save their work, adding numbers to redrafts and edits. This has obvious benefits for assessment for learning practices, and in enabling them to go back to previous work, if they make mistakes. The outcomes of the activity was developed over two sessions, the pictorial support structure within the texts enabling them to develop continuity in their work from one session to the next, and in some cases to go back and reread, check and make simple revisions to the texts they had input previously. In the final stages before publication the students were encouraged to recolour their slides, and fonts to make them readable, and to input animation and slide transition effects from the menu. Discussing this first, and the effects we might choose, the students were very choosy about which would bring about the effects they wanted. For example, swinging bananas in trees were given a rocking animation, bananas from the supermarket, were sent spinning or exploding into the shpopping basket, and processes were often faded in or faded out of the frame. Review during the plenary session of the purposes of the animation effects chosen, yielded good reasons for the effects the pairs had chosen. These documents were so exciting, that over the next couple of weeks, I will be including them in Flash format in a gallery on the school website. In the mean time the students have moved a long way from September when they required everything they produced to be printed out, and instead were really excited at the possibility of sharing their work with their class teachers in class on the IWB or through the website, realising the animation effects they had chosen would be missing from any paper based work. This has very exciting possibilities for the view of publishing that these students are beginning to develop. It will be interesting, with the introduction of class Blogs, developments of the school website and the introduction of a VLE, to see just how much of the "textual" work these students develop in the future will be promoted and displayed by them in digital format.

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