Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Colonial Values Webquest Lesson

You may remember my post from about 2 months ago on Webby Webquests. Well, I'm back to talk about the actual implementation of this Webquest. You might recall that I used my husband's 4th graders as the target audience. Today, I actually worked on this "Colonial Values and America Today" WebQuest with them. Due to time constraints, we had to narrow the project down from it's original intent so we only did the Patriot & Loyalist roles and instead of creating a video with a question to the President, they wrote it. We also eliminated the group presentations. Other than that, it pretty much followed the same format. My assessment and notes follow:

The first group of fourth graders seemed to catch on pretty easily. I explained the concept of a WebQuest, went through the introduction/background and the task. For homework the night before, they were given a list of "values" vocabulary words. I explained participatory democracy and played Obama's Open for Questions video that invites all Americans to ask questions at These students were very excited by this idea and wanted to know if they could start with that! However, we then moved into group work. I used the Native American role as an example showing them how they can click on links, and listen/watch the multimedia content. I then played both the Patriot and Loyalist videos asking those in the respective teams to pay particular attention as they will find useful information for completing the worksheets. I emphasized that there was no "one right answer" but they still had trouble with this. Some of the students made good use of the links and media to fill in the charts, but others seemed to be relying on what they had already learned. My husband also wanted them to complete journals as if they were Patriots or Loyalists writing to family "back home" but we didn't have time for that. He plans to have them continue this in class tomorrow. This group also requested feedback so I shared with them my answers explaining that they are not necessarily "correct" but rather my beliefs. They struggle with this concept and I could see them erasing answers as I started to speak to reflect what I was saying. To prevent them from changing their answers, I collected the packets while I shared my answers and then returned them. To wrap up, we came back together as a class and I asked each of them to write their questions to the President. This packet, plus their group work and participation, will be used to evaluate the Social Studies unit instead of an exam. Some liked this idea and some did not.

The 2nd group of 4th graders did not work as efficiently. I skipped the Native American demonstration in the interest of time. They had a lot more trouble filling in the charts although they paid a lot more attention to the content of the videos. In their groups, they were much more focused on playing the other videos on the site than reading the text for "answers". This caused bandwidth issues in the lab and I had to ask them to stop playing the videos and show them on the SmartBoard only. The problem this caused was less work time, so my husband is going to have them finish the charts today and then get to the diaries tomorrow. They also did not ask to review the answers and so we allowed them more time to work on their questions for the President.

Lessons Learned:
1. 4th graders need a lot more time to read, even when those sites/pages are kid-friendly.
2. Group work is only as conducive as the group participants and work environment allow. Some of the students ended up working alone and did not like the idea of sharing their answers even though this was encouraged. Also, the room layout was not ideal for group work.
3. Websites should be loaded on the computer before the students come in so they don't have to first type the URL in the browser.
4. SmartBoard usage helps as long as students aren't blocking it. In this lab, the computers were set up in such a way that some students kept leaning on the Smartboard and inadvertently changing the page.
5. Always be prepared to change on the fly.
6. Testing that all the links work and the Smartboard is displaying the content properly ahead of time is important but not enough. It's also important to think about how simultaneous usage will impact performance when the students are using the sites on limited bandwidth.

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