I’ve been hearing rave reviews about VoiceThread for some time and have wanted my students to create one. I’m finally jumping in, tackling a VoiceThread project with my English 11 students.
We’ve just finished reading The Great Gatsby and have focused on Fitzgerald’s color symbolism. Before reading the novel, students did a quick (two 90 minute class periods) project on color symbolism to introduce the concept of symbolism and how colors can add a whole layer of meaning and mood through their connotations. I used a modification of the ReadWriteThink lesson: Connotation, Character, and Color Imagery in The Great Gatsby. Students created posters, each group selecting a different color, sharing what connotations are associated with the color. We then displayed the posters in the classroom as a reference throughout the unit.
As we read the novel, we paused often to reflect on the colors in the novel, what meaning the connotations add to our understanding of the characters and themes. Students recorded their color symbolism analysis in color journals. Now, as a culminating activity, students are working in groups to present their analysis of one color in the novel as a VoiceThread. I’ve introduced the project by sharing some sample VoiceThreads and having students think about how they could use VoiceThread to present their analysis of their color in a creative format.
Today, we arranged students in groups, provided them with a graphic organizer, and had them use their color journals and an online text of The Great Gatsby to search the novel for examples of their color. I quickly showed students how to use the “Find (on this Page)” tool in the “Edit” toolbar to search a text for a specific word—in this case their color or any variation of it. For example, students analyzing the color purple searched for purple and lavender. Each group then discussed how Fitzgerald was using the color in the novel: what the color symbolizes and what deeper meaning it adds to the text. The group then penned a thesis sentence and decided which three text examples would best support their thesis. Next, they distributed the workload, assigning one member to write the introduction and conclusion, and a chunk (detail from text + commentary explaining the connotation of color and significance to overall novel) for each of the other members.
Next week, now that students have planned a rough draft of the content, we’ll tackle the multimedia part. My student intern, Ashley Dorsey, created roles for each group member: digital image locater, graphic designer, and documentation specialist. When we go to the lab next week, each member will have a specific job to complete, each job important and essential to the completion of the overall project.
Before going to the computer lab, I’ll give a quick mini-lesson on being a responsible user and producer of online content. I was a bit alarmed while browsing the VoiceThread site. I viewed several projects before finding one that cited images used in the presentation. In an age where we can all, with relative ease, borrow, mash, and publish content—images, text, audio—it is never more important that we teach our students to be responsible, to give due credit to their sources. Mine will do so by adding a source slide at the end of the presentation. Using Easybib, students create an MLA citation (that’s the format my district pacing guides say I’ll teach my juniors) for each image they use that is not their own original creation and for any other sources they use for information. I’ll have them copy and paste the bibliography entries (generated by Easybib) onto a PowerPoint slide. They will save the slide as a JPEG or PNG and then simply upload it to VoiceThread as they would any other image.
My students are excited about the project as am I. I’m looking forward to seeing where they can run with their creative genius. I still need to create a rubric (I know—I’m supposed to have shared that with students at the beginning. Time—I just can’t seem to find enough of it!). I’ll share some of their finished projects and the rubric in a later post.