Tuesday, March 26, 2013

5th graders publish their writing online!

A few years ago I saw noted educator Yong Zhao speak at a PNAIS conference and was struck by something he said: what if you went to work every day and just "practiced" your job, but never produced anything real that actually had an impact on the world? You'd soon feel very discouraged.
He pointed out that sometimes in school that is what students feel like they are doing year after year; he stressed the importance of offering them work that will touch others' lives, work they can feel proud of and invested in because it matters.
I thought about this - and about how our students are drawn to collaborative, dynamic, Web 2.0 sites such as Wikipedia. (While we warn students about the potential pitfalls of Wikipedia and do not allow them to cite it for their school-related research, I do explain that it can play a valuable role in leisure-time information seeking and can be a great jumping off point for getting an overview of a subject and collecting data that you verify in more reliable sources.)
Recently our 5th graders learned about Simple English Wikipedia, a version of the site intended for English language learners and younger readers. The articles it contains are shorter and written in easier English. We compared and contrasted articles on the same topics in regular and Simple Wikipedia.

Then each student came up with a topic of interest that either did not already have a Simple English Wikipedia article, or that had only a very short one that needed additions.
They spent time researching their topic using credible sources, such as our school and the public library's databases. They wrote their articles, had them reviewed and edited by their peers, and created properly formatted MLA citations. Finally I uploaded them to the web!

Since anyone can change Wikipedia, some of their articles no longer exist in their original form, of course! This in itself is a valuable lesson in the strengths and weaknesses of using Wikipedia as a source.

Interested in reading what they wrote? Check out the links below! Isn't it fun what a wide range of subjects they covered? I hope they all feel proud of the fact that they are helping to contribute information that will be of use to many readers around the world!

First, here are the articles that were brand new and did not exist before one of our 5th graders wrote it:
1920s Fashion
Aquarius (constellation)
Campbell's Dwarf Hamster
Flag Football
Northern Pygmy Owl
Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Steven Moffat
Next, the articles that students contributed much-needed additions to:

Black Mamba
Fashion Design
Fishing Lure
Gabrielle Douglas
Jeremy Lin
Macaroni Penguin
Major League Soccer
Mountain Goat
Phoenix (mythology)
Poison Dart Frog
Pol Pot
Rhythmic Gymnastics 
White Hole

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