Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fantastic Flying Books

There's a wonderful animated movie and app called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  The movie is nominated this year for an Oscar for Best Animated Short and it's available for free download through iTunes.  The app costs $4.99 for the iPad, includes a link for the movie and is definitely worth it.
Last week I showed the movie to the ELL class and had them taking notes about the movie.  It is filled with music, but no dialogue, and I wanted them to be able to tell the story of the film.  I gave them a form to fill out listing the characters, the settings, the problem, and the resolution.  Afterwards they had to retell the film's story in their own words.  Many of them did a very good job, though only one of them was able to really retell the story in her own creative way.  She truly made it her own story.  I think one of the differences for this student is that she was well-educated in her home language in her home country.  Many of our students are refugees with limited or no schooling in their former refugee camps, or they cannot read or write in the language that is spoken in their own home.  It is much easier to acquire fluency in a new language if you are literate in your first language.
That said, I am looking forward to next time, when the students will have the chance to spend some time with the Fantastic Flying Books app.  It is an interactive book with narration that tells the charming story of Morris Lessmore who is displaced by a terrible windstorm.  It's a wonderfully charming story with very clever interactive features, including a bowl of alphabet cereal in which readers can make words.  Afterwards they can even take photos of their bowl of words and save them.
I'll keep you posted on how the students like the app.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Practice Makes Almost Perfect

Objective:  Students will increase reading fluency through using their voices to express feeling while reading.

We've been spending lots of time recording our reading aloud, listening, and critiquing.  The last two times students came to the library they read Reading Fluency Practices from their ELL textbooks.  These were readings they were familiar with already.  The first week two students shared iPads and used a form to critique their own reading and their partners' reading.  With some good feedback from their ELL teacher, Jennelle, I changed the written response form so that students would be required to use complete sentences when they critiqued their own reading aloud.  I also had students working alone with their own iPad.  This made a big difference in the quality of their reading and written work.  Since they're saving all their recordings in Dropbox, I can listen to them from home.  They each have their own folder in the same account, and we've been able to save many weeks of recordings and compare their reading fluency now with how they did in the beginning.  I'm really beginning to hear much improvement.  I was hoping the students would be taking their standardized reading test this week, but it's been moved to March, so I won't know till then if what we've been doing translates into better reading scores for the students. I certainly hope so.