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February 21, 2012 Project-Based Learning — Endangered Animal Unit, Part 2 By Megan Power
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    Our endangered animal project is moving along! This week you will see how my students worked together to create their persuasive videos and how we presented them to the school. You will also find a link to all six student-made videos. They are beyond powerful and were created by 5 and 6 year olds!

    If you haven’t read it already, part one of this post offers an overview of the project and shows how I researched with kindergartners.



    What "Persuasive" Means

    Once my students had gathered enough information, we moved on to creating their persuasive movies. "Persuasive" is a big word for kindergarten, but it is an action they are pretty familiar with. We took a bit of time to talk about what persuasion is and how they have used it in the past: When they try to get their parents to let them have a play date with friends or to stay up a little later at night. Most kids at this age just give their cute faces with their hands clasped together and beg, “Please, please, please . . . ” Although they are very cute, this simple form of persuasion is not very strong. We had a class discussion about needing details and facts to convince or persuade someone. Once the kids got a little more understanding of this, I told them that if they want some extra recess time right now, they needed to persuade me to let them have it.

    As you can imagine, a classroom of 26 5–6 year olds will start with a ton of begging. Once they saw that just begging "please" wasn’t getting them anywhere, they rethought their position and slowly started to give more persuasive reasons. Of course, I reacted to each comment to assist them in seeing if I was getting convinced or not. Here are a few of the persuasive comments my students made:

    • We have been behaving and making good choices.
    • We are trying our best on all of our work.
    • We did all that research on our animals and really want to help them.
    • Playing is good for us because we are kids and need to get energy out.

    Once my students understood what "persuasive" meant, I showed them a sample persuasive movie that I made about the manatees as well as a few student movies from past years. We held a class discussion about how the movies made them feel and what the students did to get their audience to feel that way: e.g., playing sad music, including photos that match the words, using powerful phrases that taught about the animals, and using color, font, and animation.


    Write the Script

    After the students knew what they were supposed to create, we began writing the scripts. With this young age group, I had them start working on it, and then I went around and assisted the groups. We had a basic format for the movies:

    1. Catchy lead.
    2. Facts about the animals.
    3. Tell and show why they are endangered.
    4. Ending.

    Once student scripts were typed, we began to look for photos. 


    Searching for Photos and Teaching Online Safety 

    At this stage I taught my students how to search on Google for images and save them in a folder. This sounds like a huge task for young children because it has multiple steps, but they caught on in five to ten minutes and began finding tons of appropriate pictures.

    When students are searching for photos or information online, you always have to discuss safety. I set the students' Google search to "safe mode" and then remind students that all photos online are not safe or nice. They need to make sure they only look at the ones they need for their project. Believe it or not, in my many years of searching online with students, I haven’t had many students, if any, not follow this rule. Because they are so invested in the project, they do not want to waste their time not following the rules.


    Creating the Movies With Windows Movie Maker 

    Once my students had their scripts written and some photos, they began to build their movie. For this project we used Windows Movie Maker because it gives my students options to edit their videos without being too overwhelming. To teach Movie Maker, I give them a basic overview and make a quick sample movie with them. Then I let them learn the program as they are creating their movies. The beginning of this step can get a little crazy, but once the kids get into the process and start to see their movie come to life, they just take off. I really do encourage you to allow your students to learn and figure out the program as they go instead of teaching them every step.

    Don’t forget to add appropriate music to the videos. We learned that music really helps the audience to feel emotions. A Web site that I use often is Freeplay Music, a music licensing service. The music's free for personal, noncommercial uses.


    Creating Interest Posters 

    Once our movies were in progress, we began to advertise our animals around the school. I love this piece of the project because the way I set it up forces my students to work as a team. The groups must make two posters each that will be hung around the school. Once they decide on their words, they come to me as a team to get stencils to trace one letter at a time. Doing it this way ensures that students are making their posters neat as well as really practicing their spelling. The whole team must come up together to get each letter. Doing it this way takes a little longer, but it really pulls every member into the poster-making process.

    I am always so excited during this step because little amazing things happen. For example, in one group, a struggling student was the one that told me which stencil letter the group needed. They decided he would be the one for this job and not only did it give him practice withhisletters and spelling, but it boosted his confidence and his interest in his learning.


    Once the posters were completed, we walkedaround the school and had a quick marketing lesson. We discussed where they could put their posters so they were more visible to all students. It was wonderful to see how quickly students picked up on this small marketing strategy.


    Presenting the Movies to the School and Student Voting

    After the movies were completed and the interest posters had been on the walls a few days, we presented our endangered animal movies to the school. To give the movies a more touching effect, I had one student from each group read their movie out loud. Not only did this assist other early readers in the school, but it heightened the emotional effect of the videos. Watch our student movies.

    After watching the videos, each student in the school voted on one animal they would like to help. Independently my students emphasized to their audience that they should not just pick the cutest animal, but pick the animal that needs the most help.


    Sorting and Counting the Votes

    One of our kindergarten math standards is sorting and counting. This was a very real and purposeful way to practice these skills. Each group got a very large stack of ballots and began sorting and counting the votes.

    In the end our Javan rhinos won by a lot!


    This has once again been such an amazing learning project that has truly transformed my students into people who feel empowered and really care about the world around them. Please check back in two weeks to hear the final part of this amazing project and learn how we raised money to symbolically adopt the Javan rhinos.



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