It is without a doubt a whole different world when you are talking to middle schoolers about writing when they actually care and want to be writing. All in all, the first day of middle school tech writing camp was a success. I now understand what NWP directors go through with logistics on the first day. My co-director and myself spent a good portion of the morning getting a majority of our students signed up for their Google accounts so they can use google docs. Unfortunately the Ipads were not ready today so the students had to use their composition notebooks, which isn’t a major set back, it was just frustrating when it is a middle school tech camp and they couldn’t use the technology.
After their writing into the day was completed, we focused on argumentative writing with the campers and we used George Hillock’s Teaching Argumentative Writing and Crime and Puzzlement by Lawrence Treat. The campers looked at two different cartoon murder scenes and wrote down what evidence or facts they saw in the picture. Then, they used that evidence to form a rule or warrant. If the evidence did not answer all of the questions the campers had, they wrote down those questions. The students worked in groups on this and eventually they wrote a police report. Before the students wrote their reports we had a detective from the CMU police department come in and speak to the campers about his job and what police reports look like and why writing is important in police work. The students asked great questions about his profession and they asked really smart questions about the reports they were writing. In addition to the detective, we showed a model of an actual police report that was done on a car theft. I also showed the campers a short youtube video on writing a quality police report. The video had to be slowed down because it went to fast, but the students were able to understand what we were asking. When the students were done with writing their reports, all four groups shared out their report. Next year, I am hoping they will be put into a google doc and then be shared with the other groups so they can collaborate and get feedback from their peers.
The really fun part came in the afternoon when the students got to use the digital still cameras and the digital video cameras. The campers were instructed to make their own murder scene and take digital still pictures of the staged murder scene similar to the ones that were given to them earlier. In addition, the campers were to take the digital video cameras and record a narrative that would explain the scene for others to follow. Before the students were allowed to wander the building and stage their murder scenes, they needed to develop and write out their plan for what they wanted to do. Furthermore, they needed to write out a script for their narrative. Once their scripts and plans were approved, they were able to start staging their scene. What I want to do is load their images and videos into youthvoice.net. Then, I want the camp participants to go to youth voices and watch other groups videos and look at their pictures. After viewing other groups work, I want them to comment on their work. I have to upload their work tomorrow morning to the youth voices website.
The last item I had participants complete today was write a short reflection on the days events and discuss what they might have learned about argumentative writing, visual literacies, writing as a whole, etc. Reflecting on my own work today, I want students to have more time to play with the digital cameras. I would also like to bring them in props to use next year (if we go this route). It would also be beneficial for the participants to have more time to plan for their murder scene and script.
Again, it was a very successful day. I feel that it went well and it extremely fast. Tomorrow we are exploring poetry and we have a poet lined up to come in and speak to the students. It should be a blast!