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Our School

Ruth Ann Mugerauer
School District of Amery, Amery, Wisconsin

Subject: Language Arts/Photography
Grade: 2-4 (Gifted)

"Audio-slide shows are great motivations. Cameras have that special magic that makes any project 'click.'"

Purpose and Description of Project

A simple request to provide entertainment for the school open house turned into an intensive three-week project when 24 gifted students decided the entertainment should be a slide/tape presentation featuring the school building and staff members. The curriculum areas Mugerauer selected to stress were creative writing and art photography.

Activities

After the students decided on the form of the entertainment, they selected a title- "Our School"-and brainstormed a list of what should be included. They decided to collect information through questionnaires given to the entire staff and selected interviews. After the questionnaires were developed and completed and the interviews finished, this information was gathered by the students for inclusion in short reports on individual features.

Then they learned to operate a simple 35 mm camera with the help of a professional photographer who demonstrated how the camera and its parts work and who showed them basic camera techniques. The students carried out their photography activities all around the school, critiqued the developed slides, and retook slides as necessary.

Organizing the reports and slides in logical order proved to give the students the greatest difficulty because they had had little experience in organizing and writing reports. The school's creative writing consultant gave them guidelines to follow in compiling the reports and eliminating redundant language. The students practiced reading their reports and finally taped the narration. When the visual and audio aspects were combined, students viewed "Our School" as a final evaluation-and then they were ready for the open house.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

The entire school staff was very cooperative in filling out the questionnaires and giving interviews. The creative writing consultant and the professional photographer contributed their expertise to the project's focus on creative writing and art photography.

The materials that were required were simple. Students used their own writing supplies, and Mugerauer provided a 35 mm camera and tape recorder. The school's screen and slide projector were used for the final performance. The only major expenses were for slide film and tapes.

Outcomes and Adaptability

Mugerauer followed a lesson plan developed from the Frank E. Williams "Model for Implementing Cognitive Affective Behaviors in the Classroom," which provided guidelines on teacher strategies and desired pupil behavior. This approach proved successful as the students showed considerable improvement in writing skills. In addition, students really enjoyed interviewing the teachers and other staff members because this gave them opportunities to form special relationships.

The school's lighting situation did turn out to be a drawback. Students, however, showed their awareness of how background, lighting, poses, etc., affect the composition of the slides, and the slides they took were remarkably clear and well focused under the circumstances. Eventually they learned to deal with the glare from glasses and many shiny surfaces, but some minor lighting problems remained, illustrating that the camera has limitations. Student nervousness surfaced when it was time to tape the reports, but the reactions of the audience at the open house told them that the finished product was a hit. The project was especially successful because it combined academic learning and fun, and it could certainly be adapted to any group of students in any school.

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