6th Grade Maasai Culture Project: We’re Almost There!

Flickr by hoteldephil

Two weeks into the project, 6th graders have been working hard in research teams to gather information regarding their specific topic for our Maasai Culture project and have almost completed their presentations.  Things have been running smoothly for the most part; however, we ran into some issues early on regarding the age-appropriateness and readability level of certain web resources, which turned out to be a great lesson in digital citizenship.  We also made the decision to switch from Keynote to iMovie, although students were given a choice.  Keynote offered many features that the students wanted to incorporate into their presentations, but we found that iMovie, as the presentation application, was best suited for the task.  Some students used Keynote and then incorporated that into their iMovie clip.

The project has naturally developed into four segments:

  1. Research
  2. Writing
  3. Creation of Presentation
  4. Presentation Sharing

Prior to their research, students participated in several activities regarding online research and digital citizenship.  These focus lessons included:

  • Effective searches using keywords
  • Appropriate digital content and responsible viewing
  • Research design and implementing a research plan
  • Creative Commons  for graphic content and source citation

Reader’s Workshop focused on information text and included the following focus lessons:

  • Informational text features
  • Note-taking
  • Main idea
  • Paraphrasing

After having gathered their information, the next phase of the project focused on writing.  Students wrote a factual paragraph about their Maasai research topic which will serve as the narration for their part in the group presentation.  Writer’s Workshop concentrated on paragraph writing and included the following focus lessons:

  • Basic structure of a paragraph / Organization
    • Topic Sentence
    • Detail Sentences
    • Clincher Sentence
  • Effective leads
  • Ideas
  • Sentence Fluency

A notable challenge for students was the process of paraphrasing.  This is a developing skill for sixth graders and required a significant amount of direct instruction as well as careful source referencing and several re-edits for some.

After a process of drafting, editing, peer editing, and writing conferences, students finalized their paragraphs and were ready to begin putting their presentations together. The purpose of the presentation is instructional and students have kept this and their audience in mind as they worked.  iMovie and Garageband were new to many students, so two lessons of direct instruction were  given for both applications.  It didn’t take long for them to get the hang of both, especially with the assistance from a few of their peers who are skilled in both of these programs.

The fact that students have a real audience of sixth graders at Jakarta International School really focused their efforts and added another layer of accountability across the board.  We were also very happy and excited to hear from Jacob Mameo, a Maasai who has agreed to preview some of our presentations and offer feedback.  Thank you Ruth Ingulsrud for this amazing connection.  Students can hardly wait to share their work with him and follow up on his expert advice.  We anticipate sharing our presentations with JIS toward the end of next week via Edublog.  ASIJ students still need to prepare a viewing template for JIS students so that their feedback comments are focused and purposeful.

After we “flatten” the walls of our classroom and share our presentations, JIS students will reciprocate by sharing information about different cultures which they have been studying.  It’s been an exciting process for both my students and my team so far!  We are extremely pleased with how well our language arts curriculum has integrated within this social studies project.


About Jamie

I am currently a middle school Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at The American School in Japan.
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One Response to 6th Grade Maasai Culture Project: We’re Almost There!

  1. Fantastic! I love that you naturally evolved the project based on the needs your students discovered (from a set Keynote-based project, to one with more options). iMovie will also be great to make it super easy to share with your colleagues at JIS.

    I’m glad to see that you have also naturally followed the design cycle process with your students. If you do another project like this, it might help to actually indicate these different stages with students and offer feedback at the end of each part. I find it really helpful to make those steps clear so that students understand how to manage a big project like this.

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