by Shelbie Witte
As teachers, we've often been faced with disengaged students as we begin discussing literature we've read together in class. Our recent work with 6th graders emphasized this fact as we embarked on using the literary discussion model used in a local middle school classroom. Many of the students were hesitant to speak in front of their peers or to offer opinions that were different than others. We realized that in order to work through higher-order thinking within class discussions, we must implement techniques that move students to verbalize their thinking. The strategy we have successfully used to encourage higher-level thinking is collaborative learning within small groups, using the Livescribe Smartpen.
The Livescribe smartpen is a hand-held device that records audio and anything the user writes or draws on special dot paper. Users can then tap anywhere on the paper that they have written on in order to hear the audio associated with those notes. These notes can also be uploaded to a computer and converted into a pencast—a PDF document that plays back both audio and handwriting.
During a four-week study of the young adult novel Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, sixth graders discussed the novel and designed projects that demonstrated their understanding of what they read. To motivate and engage students in discussions and analysis of the novel, we used learning stations facilitated by the Livescribe smartpen. These learning centers employed Livescribe’s smartpens to involve every student in literature analysis discussions. The Livescribe centers allowed students to demonstrate comprehension, team
collaboration skills, and the ability to analyze textual events and themes. Groups of five students
of mixed ability levels rotated to different stations every 10-15 minutes. Some of the most
popular Livescribe centers were 1) vocabulary practice, 2) discussion questions, 3) a cause and effect chart , 4) a body map analyzing a character, and 5) a story map that had students identify and analyze tone, mood, conflicts, themes, and genres.
Interested in learning more? Go to: www.shelbiewitte.com and click on Livescribe Examples.