A Fun Classroom Activity for Common Core Standards

By Darcy Pattison

How do you get kids interested in a book about vultures and desert tortoises at a summer program where they are interested mostly in having some fun? And how do you do it while fulfilling the Common Core State Standards?

One of the tenets of the Common Core State Standards is the use of technology with kids. This summer, I volunteered at the Arkansas Audubon (ar.audubon.org/) summer camp. Camp Director Mary Smith agreed when I asked if we could do some videotaping with kids to create a book trailer for my new book, DESERT BATHS.

First, I studied the Common Core requirements. The Common Core ELA Speaking & Listening anchor standard #5 requires students to “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding.” An appropriate task for this standard is for students to create a video. In this case, we also emphasized close reading of the text of Desert Baths (CC ELA Reading anchor standards #1, 2, 4) to understand how each desert animals stays clean.

Note: The camp had a wide range of ages, so I didn’t use any specific grade level standards. The Common Core provides Anchor Standards, which are in turn specifically interpreted for each grade level. By following the more general Anchor Standard, I was confident that we would accomplish something appropriate for each student.

After the close reading of the text, students were assigned an animal to act out and practiced a couple times.

Videotaping the Desert Baths Book Trailer

Videotaping with kids can be chaotic. In order to minimize this, I set up four stations.

  1. Camera man. The camera man was responsible for running the camera and taping the Actor. I use a Kodak Z-i8 hand-held camera because it is the only camera in its class with an external microphone jack. The camera was mounted on a tripod and the Camera Man had to make sure it was the right height for the Actor and was positioned for the setting to fill the screen.
  2. Actor. The actor was responsible for standing on the stage, saying his/her lines and acting out how a desert animal takes a bath.
  3. Sound Man. I plugged a lapel microphone into the Kodak Zi8 Camera. If you look closely, you can see the wire on the kids. The Sound Man was responsible for making sure the microphone was placed on the Actor correctly. Also, to conserve the batteries of the microphone, it was turned off except when in actual use. The Sound Man was responsible for making sure the microphone was turned on and off at the right times.
  4. Stage Director. This was a favorite task, because this person got to yell out, “Quiet on the Set.” In addition to starting and stopping the action, the Stage Director was responsible for making sure everything was set up correctly, the Actor was ready and then directing everyone to start.

The stations worked well because students came to the videotaping in groups of four and each student rotated through all the tasks. They knew their job was important and they took it seriously. Watch and see what fun they had.

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