The poem “Chicago” illustrates the critical thinking skills that I want to help promote and encourage in my students. As we read some of Sandburg’s poetry in class, I realized that the students did not really have the time to absorb or think about the poetry we were studying due to class time restrictions and the amount of material we cover in American Literature over the quarter. I wanted to select one poem to analyze and explore in depth. It was important to select a poem where they could study not only the words, but the meaning behind the words as well.
I selected one poem that would have very vivid symbols and language, so that my students could hear Sandburg’s rhythm as they read the lines. I also decided to select a poem that represented the Realism that we were studying in that section of poetry and fiction. Finally, I opted to put a majority of his lines on the slides, so they would not have to keep referring back to the text, but could do the assignment completely(if they chose to do so) from the VoiceThread project.
The goal of the project was to take the poem out of the classroom where students are sometimes reluctant to comment on how they understand the poem or what they think the poet intended. I find that the most reluctant students in class are often the most responsive on the VoiceThreads. My original objective was to illustrate the ease of using VoiceThreads to my students as I had made that an option for their final project. I created this as a sample VoiceThread, but as their enthusiasm grew for the project, I have decided to utilize VoiceThreads more in future Literature classes.
The easiest part of creating a VoiceThread project is using presentation slides created in PowerPoint and then simply saving them as a jpeg file to upload. They transfer beautifully that way. I utilized the photos from Microsoft Office and Power Point files as well as the map of Chicago.
The hardest part of any VoiceThread on online project (I think) is explaining new technology to the students, particularly those who are new to the computer or perhaps just use it for email, etc. My students wanted to know why they couldn’t “just respond in our journals” to the questions. I explained that I wanted to use this as a pilot and they and their peers would be able to create their own as an options, so that is why I selected to do the assignment as a VoiceThread and not a journal post.
I utilized Power Point tools and Microsoft Office photo clips of Chicago. I also utilized my built-in computer microphone to record my questions about the poem
I would advise other educators who teach literature to definitely try out a VoiceThread project in your classroom as a pilot and then give them an optional assignment where they can create their own VT. I am very happy to say that I now am receiving requests from my students for help with their own VoiceThread final projects for both my Introduction to Literature and my American Literature classes. I have learned that if you open the door and lead, the students will definitely follow!
This VoiceThread could be adapted to any level on the study of language arts, literature, etc. As an educator, I have discovered that the more we offer our students to encourage their own creativity, the more we gain as educators. The engaged students lead the path for the others in the classroom and something very magical takes place. By utilizing this VoiceThread technology in the classroom, we not only teach the material, but teach our students to become the teachers of others in their classroom, their workplace, and the world community.