Monday, November 3, 2008

Something You Probably Don't Know About Me

My seventh grade students are in the middle of creating a presentation. It is a project that I schedule every year. I call it "Something You Probably Don't Know About Me".

The Skills for This Project
This is the fourth year the seventh graders have created PowerPoint presentations. Each year, from fourth grade on, I try to keep the students focused on using an image to provide a focal point for the audience's attention. It is their job to use the Notes section of the screen to provide information or tell a story. Mechanically, they do not have a difficult time pulling together the titles and images, so we begin by focusing on a story.

In this project the students select a hobby, collection, sport, or favorite activity. I require the students to have a total of seven slides.

Slide one: Title slide including the presentation title with a sub-title that includes their full name, grade, and the month/year the presentation is completed.

Slide two through six: They must tell how they got started, what they are doing now, and their plans for the future.

Once the Story is Written
The students will take about two 42-minute classes to write their story. I have learned about the sports activities, annual trips with family, collections, and abilities of my students. They enjoy the presentation because it is fairly easy to write and I love learning new things about my students.

Their next job is to find images that support the words in their story. They can bring pictures from home to scan, the can use digital images from home, and use images they find on the Internet. This usually takes one 42-minute class.

They must focus on clean, clear images that are proportionally correct.

Custom Transitions
I teach the students how to create custom transitions. They learn that it is inappropriate to fill the presentation with sound effects just because they are able to do so. They are to be consistent with their transitions. If a title wipes on to the screen on the first slide, it should do so consistently throughout the presentation. I show them how to set a timer so they do not have to click through every step of the transition.

They do not include bullet lists in the presentation.

A Great Experience
The reason I continue to do this project is that it provides the students with a reason to tell a story that they already know. It is good practice for future presentations – whether they are with me or somewhere else. The story is the thing. We are visual creatures and would prefer a great image that supports a story rather than reading the story from a slide.

The Content
I provide the students with a sample by telling the students a story about me. Something they probably don’t know about me is I left North America for the first time just three years ago.

My first two slides focus on how I became interested in the idea. My dad was the middle child in a family of 15 children. He grew up on a farm in Ireland. When he was 21 years old, he decided that he would seek opportunities in America. Back then, families were quite big on farms. His mother was one of 16 and his father was one of seven. I knew a number of my aunts and uncles. Half of them moved to the New York area and I saw them several times a year. There was always this mysterious other half of the family.

Every year, at Christmas time, we would send and receive cards with very interesting addresses. In my mind, they were unusual. They did not include a house number, or a street address. It was simply the family’s name, the word Muliarkane, the town of Caherciveen, County Kerry, and Ireland. I couldn’t understand how the letters got to my grandmother. My dad tried to explain that Muliarkane was a section of the town of Caherciveen and that everyone knew the O’Sullivan farm.

Growing up, everyone in class would at one time or another ask about each other’s heritage. I was always happy to tell my classmates that my father arrived in America when he was 21. It was always fun to feel like Saint Patrick’s Day was special.

Three years ago, my mother said she received an invitation to a family reunion in Ireland. She more or less said, I guess we (she and my dad) should throw the letter away. I told her to pass it on to me. It seemed a little like wishful thinking, but I thought maybe I might be able to go with my family. The boys were going into third and fifth grade, so it was not really going to be hard to travel with the children.

It took a lot of planning in a relatively short period of time. We found out about the trip in March and the reunion was in July. There was a flurry of activity to get everyone passports, arrange air transportation, and try to figure out where to stay. It is a part of the country where it is easier to stay at a bed and breakfast than find a hotel.

Sadly, my dad died about six weeks before the trip. He had never returned to Ireland and I was looking forward to telling him about the trip, and showing him photographs when I returned.

The trip more than surpassed my expectations. We spent two glorious weeks traveling in and around the Ring of Kerry. I met my father’s younger brother and wife for the first time. They still own the family farm. My youngest aunt was not able to attend the family reunion, but since she was attending a wedding in another part of the country, she caught up with me at the family farm the second week of my stay.

My aunt took me on a walk to the place where my father attended school. It was literally uphill both ways. I learned that they would walk barefoot through the fields, and carry bricks of peat to heat the little one room schoolhouse in the winter. The original house is still on the property. I was able to really see where my dad came from.

I had the opportunity to meet many first cousins. They had not traveled to the United States, so it was our first time meeting. They were so welcoming. They took us on day trips and really share their life with us. The dinner with the members of our extended family was an event I will never forget. It got to the point at the end of the trip that my husband would tease me that we could walk up to any house, and it would be the house of a cousin. It was true in many ways.

In the future, I would like to return to Ireland. I really only saw the Ring of Kerry and Cork (the location that my dad took the ship to America). I know there are many more parts of the country to explore. We passed right by the Blarney Stone, but didn’t really have time to stop.

I would also like to learn to speak the Irish language. My dad had to take many classes in Gaelic. The family only spoke English at home, so he always said that classes were very confusing. He could still count from one to ten, and knew the words for cat and dog. Some of my cousins teach the Irish language in school and said that it was not really a difficult language to learn.

I have included the images from my presentation from SlideRocket if you care to take a look.

Image Citations:
Ann Oro, 2005 Trip to Ireland on Flickr

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this great idea, Ann. I'm always looking for a better way to teach 5th graders PowerPoint. Your tips are fantastic as well. Can't wait to try it!