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Online - On Stage - and ACTION!

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Keywords: e-mail, website, playwriting, acting, theater, internet, information literacy
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Technology, Foreign Language, Social Skills, Information Skills
Grades P-K through 5
School: P.S. 239 Officer Ramon Suarez, Ridgewood, NY
Planned By: Nancy Shaw
Original Author: Nancy Shaw, Ridgewood

Online -On Stage - and ACTION! is a year long study in which 4th grade children are matched with a class in a foreign country. They use free Internet resources to communicate with each other and learn about each other’s language and culture. They research topics on the Internet and from print materials. Together they study a common topic, view a professionally produced play, receive coaching from a visiting artist and write, produce, and perform an original play that takes place in their partner location.

P.S. 239 is a Pre-K to Grade 5 school located in a high-need, working-class urban community. About 800 students are enrolled this school year. Many come from families that look to the school to support their children’s academic, cultural, and social development. About 80% of students are eligible for school lunch. Nearly one-fourth of our students are English Second Language learners. Access to computers and Internet are not generally available at home (digital divide - a disadvantage in having requisite technology skills for 21st century).

In order to compete in the global market, our children will need to go beyond mastering traditional basic skills. They will need to become fluent in information literacy and they will need to understand other cultures. In school we need to incorporate experiences into the curriculum in order to broaden their perspective and deepen their understanding thus extending their background knowledge beyond the school walls and the city limits.

With the occasional support of the library media specialist, a minimum of two teachers are recommended because ideally, the project takes two periods a week: one in the computer lab and one in the classroom. The visiting artist is scheduled during the class time so that the children can continue gathering information and emailing their friends during computer time.

Our objectives are to integrate technology with social studies, language, character building and the arts. The children will learn how to use email to write a letter, to post messages on a website, to participate in a group project both on line and during the theater component, and learn about theater from both audience and actor points of view. In both communicating with their epals and writing their plays they will learn to work together to achieve a common goal.

The activities in this project align with the following ISTE Technology, English Language Arts and the ARTS standards:

1. ISTE Technology
STANDARD 1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
b. create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

STANDARD 2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
c. develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
d. contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

STANDARD 3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

STANDARD 4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:
b. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.

STANDARD 5. Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
b. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
c. demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.

2. E.L.A. Standards
STANDARD 1: students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.
STANDARD 2: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.
STANDARD 3 Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.
STANDARD 4 Students will read, write, listen, and speak for social interaction.
3. Arts Standards
STANDARD 1: Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts

Before the first class, we match a teacher in New York with a teacher in a foreign country. There are two free Internet resources we use: we can use epals for straight e-mailing and we can use thinkquest to outline the project. Either way the two teachers need to be acquainted and have a plan of action before matching up the children.

The first few lessons are spent giving the children the overview, getting them familiar with their user names and passwords and logging in and most important teaching them basic netiquette.

Every week the teachers choose a topic to discuss: landmarks and places of interest, parks and recreation, comparing school, favorite pastimes etc. We use ThinkQuest like a blog to post pictures of places of interest along with anecdotes to create an online discussion and to learn about each other. We encourage the children to research the facts themselves so that the discussion is more personal. We use epals to match the children according to their interests, to develop letter writing skills and so they can learn more each other’s language culture.

Eventually the teachers choose one subject they would like to explore together for the ultimate purpose of writing a play. Some topics to be considered are: different versions of Cinderella, major events in history, inventions and scientific discoveries, issues like global warming, energy, and world peace, biographies of famous contemporaries etc…
PS 239 Technology/Theatre Project

With this common purpose in mind, each teacher takes their class to view a professionally produced play. The online discussion continues. The teachers choose weekly topics: script, production, direction, character development, plot, props, and scenery. By this time both teachers and children are in the habit of writing to each other regularly, participating in a group discussion and using online resources.

Next, we invite a resident artist to work with our students. Every week for 8 to 10 classes, they will learn about these aspects of theater. The class is divided into groups of six. Each group is responsible for writing a short scene, with interesting characters, a plot with a beginning, middle and an end. They will situate their play in their partner location. They can approach this in two ways: the groups can work independently of each other or the class has a bigger idea and each group works on one scene for the play. During this time the children continue communicating to make sure they have good background information and details to animate their characters.

Finally, they put on their play in the intimate setting of their classroom and film it. The DVD is mailed to the partner teacher. The children can also travel from class to class and present their play to the other children in their grade.
This camcorder will ensure this project in future years and encourage other projects. The school currently does not own a camcorder that we could borrow.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Social Studies
Foreighn Languages
Theatre Arts
Cross-culture celebration
continue e-pal friendship after the project ends
Links: epals
NYS Dept of Ed - ELA standards
Other Items: 1 The new DZ-BD70A - single drive camcorder, $ 1299.00 each, total of $1299.00