Apples, apples, everywhere -- why not on the Internet? That's what second-grade teacher Susan Silverman wondered.
Each fall, Silverman taught a unit on apples. Many other teachers do the same thing. So, with her husband as technological advisor and editor, Silverman enriched her core curriculum by designing a terrific Internet project that combined the popular fruit with poetry.
Then a special pumpkin project made its debut!
Susan Silverman was a teacher on a mission: to extend her classroom beyond its walls. She's managed to achieve that goal through fantastic Internet projects, and she has taken many other classrooms on her Web adventures. An experienced educator with an understanding of technology, Silverman began with an idea -- apples! A workshop on poetry formats gave her the integration idea she was looking for, and that "seed" of an idea grew into the delightful and entertaining An Apple a Day project.
Teachers learned about the project through Silverman's postings on listservs and Web sites. They were invited to choose a poetry form from many samples and have their students create apple poems that followed it. Then Silverman displayed the students' work on a Web page, accented with music and one illustration from the class. Teachers submitted their class's work by email or snail mail. More than twenty-five second grade classes participated in the project! The students wrote many different types of poetry -- including cinquain, apology, couplets, phrase, sensory, five W's, diamond, and acrostic. The other educators who participated in this project shared Silverman's practice of introducing apples as a beginning theme of the school year and were excited to have their students writing poetry and displaying it on the Internet.
Most teacher participants didn't find it difficult to integrate An Apple a Day into their existing activities. Connie Mark, a second-grade teacher from Waiau Elementary School in Pearl City, Hawaii, included apple poetry as the language arts component to her apple unit. Among the many activities her students enjoyed were studying types of apples found in their home state of Hawaii, measuring apple weights, and apple printing. Instead of tossing the apples in the garbage when they had finished, the students buried them in their garden as compost -- an excellent way to "teach" the scientific concept of recycling!
Margaret Dugmore's students in Cape Town, South Africa, had much the same experience with An Apple a Day. In addition to writing apple poetry, they surveyed the class and created a graph of their favorite eating apples. They also drew pictures of apples. As a climax to the activity, the students sampled apple delicacies that were baked by some of their helpful mothers. Among the dishes were apple cakes, apple puddings, and toffee apples. The tasting session culminated with a vote for the best apple recipe!
What did the students have to say about all of this apple fun? They loved it! Mark reports that her students liked the various poetry formats and had a great time writing their phrase poems. Dugmore's students showed their parents the Web pages with their poetry during an "Open Day" activity that occurred shortly after the project was completed. She says, "For sometime afterwards when the students came for their computer lessons, they would ask me to put the Web pages up so that they could see their poems and listen to the music."
This doesn't surprise the project's creator.
"My students loved hosting this project," Silverman says. "They were very proud to see that so many classes from different areas were involved. Since students wrote the poetry, they were able to read most of the words. It held their interest, and they were excited to see each new completed page."
A fringe benefit of the An Apple a Day project was its ability to bring students and teachers around the world together through poetry, adds Silverman. She invited teachers who joined the project to share ideas and become keypals with other classes involved. With participating classes from all over the United States, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and Costa Rica, this was truly a "global" endeavor!
"Coordinating collaborative projects was a most gratifying experience," said Silverman. "It gave me the opportunity to share my expertise and learn from others. The work was all done on my own time and at my own expense, but was a true labor of love."
Building on the success of her apple project, Silverman then designed the Pumpkin Patch Project. See how she "carved" a niche for second graders on the Internet and made it possible for kids and teachers to get connected!
Considering the success of this apple project, one might assume that it would continue in its present form for years to come -- but Silverman was ready for a new challenge.
"I received many requests to repeat this project but [I] wanted some change, so I picked pumpkins," says Silverman. "Many students are not permitted to participate in Halloween, so I thought that keeping to a 'pumpkin' theme would not exclude anybody."
The goals of that project were similar to those of An Apple a Day. Silverman created Pumpkin Patch to "support state and NETS learning standards and provide a resource for teachers." The pumpkin project Web site offered cool facts about pumpkins, links to related Web sites, pumpkin recipes, and resources that would enrich any unit on the topic.
"One of the highlights of the apple project, and I have done many Internet projects, was the simplicity of it," volunteers Dugmore. "It wasn't difficult to get the children to write poetry and we were given examples of different forms to follow. The project Web pages, with individual sites and their own music, made it very special for the children."
And of the Pumpkin Patch project, Dugmore adds, "Our Grade 1 teacher has already started collecting pumpkin pips [seeds] to use as counters for math and the class is going to plant some pumpkin seeds and see if they can grow a plant."
Note: Susan Silverman has retired from teaching 2nd grade and now works as an adjunct professor at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). You can still visit her projects online, however -- and perhaps start one of your own.
Susan Silverman's Internet Projects
An Apple a Day
Visit this project by Susan Silverman to read apple poetry by second graders from various schools in the United States and other countries. Each page was designed for a specific class and offers poems, an illustration, and music. Young students will find the simple poems easy to read because they were written by children.
Like its predecessor, An Apple a Day, this project involves creating poetry for publication on the Internet -- but this time, the topic is "pumpkins"! Become a member of the Pumpkin Patch, and your class will use poetry formats to create original verse for a Web page. There are many pumpkin resources to incorporate into a pumpkin unit, too.
A Winter Wonderland
"Walking in a Winter Wonderland" -- or should it be "reading"? Grab your winter boots and your best reading glasses for a tour of some terrific "winter" literature! See what classroom teachers and students have done with favorite snowy tales -- The Mitten, Owl Moon, A Snowy Day, The Snowman, and more! Among the activities that you will find on the pages are new endings for the stories, student illustrations, and letters to main characters.
Article by Cara Bafile
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