Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned Vol. I
PROJECTS FOR THE PACIFIC REGION
Roberta Hogue Davis
The purpose of this paper is
to present a third-grade curriculum that integrates information
about the Pacific Region with existing curriculum goals. This
Pacific Region unit will include project-centered activities that
will seek to develop in the students skills for acquiring and
utilizing knowledge. In this way, the learning unit will serve to
incorporate process leaming with the learning of specific facts as
they are presented in regular classroom lessons.
The Pacific Region unit will
center on three major class projects that will focus on our
school's participation in the Sister School Exchange Program and
in the Australaska Writing Project. Both programs were developed
by the Alaska Department of Education to encourage interaction
between students from Alaska and countries of the Pacific Region.
With the Sister School Exchange Program, DOE provides initial
organizational assistance for Alaskan schools wishing to establish
communication exchanges with schools in China. Australaska Writing
Project provides a telecommunication network through which
students in Alaska can exchange written messages with students in
Project One: Producing a
The first project of this
teaching unit consists of the production of a video documentary of
our class to be sent to our sister school in Harbin, China and to
the class of our Australian pen pals.
By writing and filming the
documentary, students will develop skills in speaking and
listening, writing and composing as well as in creative thinking.
In addition, the students will expand their abilities to
communicate and cooperate in small groups. Seeing their thoughts
actually recorded on videotape will enhance the students
self-esteem. Critical analysis of television programming will be
incorporated into the video project. The project also provides an
opportunity for involving the community in school-based
Young students using video
equipment will need supervision and guidance as they develop
independence. The stated purpose of the project, skeleton plot,
and exploration questions will be the main pro-organizational
components that the teacher will bring into the class discussion.
In addition, the teacher will need to introduce the class to
various camera techniques and assist the students in editing and
Stated Purpose of the Video
- To introduce ourselves to our
pen pals in China and Australia.
- To describe the daily life of
a third grader in an American classroom.
The documentary will open by
showing the students arriving in front of the school. The
following scenes will depict a group of students walking into the
school building and into their classrooms. Each student and the
teacher will be introduced by name, age, and special
characteristics. Then, the documentary will present scenes from a
typical school day. These scenes will be accompanied by students'
comments. The production will close with a shot of the students
holding up signs with written messages of farewell.
The following discussion questions
should help the students to determine what they wish to include in
each scene of the documentary. After discussing these questions,
the students could develop story boards to assist the production
crews in filming the various scenes.
Story boards tell the film plot
with pencil sketches of the scenes, instructions for the camera
crew, and written dialogues for the actors. Third graders may find
it difficult to produce these complex manuals. Possibly,
small-group or teacher-directed activities will facilitate the
concept. The teacher-generated discussion questions will address
the following topics:
- Who should be filmed in the
- Should any special school
personnel (e.g. principal, office staff, custodians,
etc.) be introduced while the students are walking to the
- How should each student be
introduced? (Discuss using pixilation as a form of animation
that would allow us to introduce several small groups of
students at a time.)
- What special characteristics
of themselves would the actors of the first scenes like to
share with the audience?
- What activities should be
filmed? Should we film class sessions on all
subject areas or should we just
film scenes from our own classroom and from some special
- Should we present the
information in the form of a story (e.g., a new
student is introduced to classroom
routines) or just in the form of several loosely connected
- What should we
- How can we show the concept of
- What should we film out of
- Should we try to sing a
special song or show a special game?
- Should we refer to the other
classes in the school?
The following camera angles will
be demonstrated to and practiced by the students: long (whole
body), medium (waist up); close-up (face), extreme close-up (e.g.
nose, shoe, hand, etc.), panning (moving the camera slowly), over
the shoulder (the camera is positioned behind the subject), zoom
(lens is used to go from a long shot to a closer shot), low angle
(camera is place below the subject), high angle (camera is placed
above the subject). While practicing with the video camera, the
students will be asked to view television shows for camera angles
and other techniques. In class, students will discuss the reality
or fantasy of television programming. This process should
contribute to developing in the students the analytical skills
that will allow them to view television programs more
The video project offers various
opportunities for interactions between the students and the
community. Field trips to a local broadcasting or cable station
could be arranged to provide the students with additional
background information. Possibly, the local television station (if
available) would agree to air the documentary as part of a public
service promotional. Parents and other community members could be
invited to a special opening night for the production. Students
may also want to make copies of the documentary to show to their
foends and families. Furthermore, after producing this first
documentary, the students may want to explore a community issue in
another video project.
Project Two: Learning about
the Cultures and the Peoples of China
The second project of this
teaching unit on the Pacific Region will be disbursed throughout
the school year. In this project, students will learn about
various aspects of life in Chinese families and communities. In
addition, the students will produce materials to exchange with our
sister school in China.
The project will draw upon various
community resources to expand the classroom curriculum to include
information on China. The following resources could be utilized in
classroom activities designed to foster in the students a greater
understanding and appreciation of the Chinese culture:
- Guest speakers from China (if
- Chinese high school students
who attend a bilingual program at a local school (if
- China kit developed by the DOE
in connection with the sister school program;
- Films, kits, and books
relating to China and the Pacific Region.
Throughout the school year,
students would participate in a variety of special activities that
will be centered around Chinese customs, traditions, holidays, and
institutions. For example, after touring a local China restaurant,
the students could cook a Chinese meal, using spices that have
been imported from China. The third graders could also read
Chinese children's stories or play Chinese children's games. These
materials could be made available to the students at classroom
centers that focus on various aspects of the social and cultural
life of China. In addition, in urban schools classroom space could
be set aside for the Chinese bilingual teacher to work with
individual students. At times, the bilingual teacher could also
teach the entire class to familiarize the students with his or her
presence in the classroom. At other occasions, the bilingual
teacher and the regular classroom teacher could team teach the
A second component of this project
would consist of producing various items to be sent to our sister
school in China. To develop the students' pride in their own work,
a box could be set up and labeled, "Our Best Work." As the school
year progresses, students could fill the container with samples of
their assignments and projects. These items could be sent to our
sister school in Harbin in exchange for materials from our Chinese
friends for the third graders to explore and display in their
Project Three: Applying
The third project of the
learning unit on the Pacific Region will focus on the computer as
a communication tool and as a medium for learning. Students will
apply their word processing skills when writing narratives to be
sent to China and Australia. In addition, the students will learn
to master graphics software to produce a newsletter that will be
distributed throughout the school and to the foreign pen
The students will use word
processors to send letters to their Australian pen pals via the
telecommunications network. After the students have developed
relationships with their pen pals, they will start to exchange
information about specific topics, such as my family, my town,
things I like to eat, slang words, and hobbies and
Through these activities, the
students will improve their reading and writing skills. In
addition, they will learn how to write and responu to personal
letters and how to write clearly and precisely about a specific
Materials and Student Progress
How successful will this
teaching unit actually be in blending information on the Pacific
Region with existing curriculum content and in promoting in the
students an interest in these areas of the world'? How will the
students' progress be evaluated? These questions must be addressed
before the innovative techniques can be incorporated into
The Sister School Exchange Program
and the Australaska Writing Project focus on the direct exchange
of current information on cultural habits, values and beliefs
between students in Alaska and students in China and Australia.
This exchange will contribute to decreasing egocentric,
ethnocentric, and stereotypical perceptions of the
Initially, the students will focus
on themselves as they produce the video documentary. They
will become more aware of other nations as they write to their
pen pals in Australia and exchange materials with our sister
school in China. Class discussions comparing and contrasting the
lives of people in Alaska, China and Australia will increasingly
enable the students to empathize with others and to assume a
positive attitude toward cultural diversity around the world. The
third graders will be encouraged to draw upon their experiences
with their pen pals to evaluate trends of change around the world.
The students will observe change as they compare the information
they obtain from encyclopedias, textbooks, films, etc. with the
information they acquire through their interactions with their
peers in China and Australia. The students will have to deal with
ambiguous situations while producing the video documentary. Prior
to and during the filming of the documentary, the third graders
will discuss various ways of viewing ideas. These discussions will
enable the students to react more constructively to situations of
conflict and ambiguity.
The students' progress will be
evaluated through examinations of work samples and in conference
between individual students and the teacher. These conferences
will focus on determining how the interactions with students in
China and Australia affect each child. Special attention will be
given to the level of a student's enthusiasm about and to the
degree of his or her involvement in the project. In addition, the
conferences will address the students' progress in improving their
For additional resources and
information regarding the Sister School Exchange Program, contact
Annie Calkins at the Alaska Department of Education or Bill
Parrett the the UAF Department of Education.
J. Kelly Tonsmiere
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