Category Archives: Service Learning

Light and Sound Exhibit

Not only were the third graders expected to create a set of instructions explaining how to make a science experiment, they were also expected to share their learning at an exhibit.  Lower School students as well as family and friends were invited to come and celebrate what the Magical Minds had learned in their latest Unit of Inquiry.

Reflecting Mirrors

Reflecting Mirrors

It may look simple, but this exhibit performs three very important functions in our learning process:

  1. It’s a summative assessment.  As the Magical Minds put their experiments together, and as they explained their thinking, I was watching to see how well the understood the content we had covered.  I was also looking to see if they were using the “science words” we had learned, using them in the correct way.  Finally, I was looking to see what skills the children had mastered over the last six weeks, including writing quality instructions, using the scientific method and creating experiments.

    Assessing the Learning

  2. It’s a celebration.  This exhibit was like a grand “You did it!”  Our friends and family saw what magnificent learners and scientists the Magical Minds truly are. It’s a nice way to joyfully complete and wrap up a unit.

    Celebrating Learning

  3. It’s service learning. We exposed our friends and family to new learning and interesting experiments.  Our hope is to teach as well as inspire others to do their own experiments into light and sound.  This year’s third graders remember when last year’s third graders did a similar exhibit.  Their memories both motivated and challenged the Magical Minds in their learning. Our instructions on how to create experiments is also a service to an even larger audience: kids teaching kids around the world.

    Service Learning

    Teaching Others


SOLSC: Vokis Explain Quality Commenting

It’s a perfect storm! Literacy, inquiry, service learning and technology come together in one lovely assessment:

Explain Quality Commenting

Last week, the Magical Minds and I explored what it means to write a quality comment.  We even taught the fourth graders about what we learned.  As they were leaving our classroom, Ms. Terje asked if we might make some instructions that could be shared with others.

PERFECT! We were also learning about making quality instructions.  We are writing instructions for our upcoming Light and Sound Exhibit (a summative assessment for our unit of inquiry). Creating instructions on how to write a quality comment would make for a fantastic formative assessment (a practice round of sorts).

I asked the Magical Minds, “what kind of instructions do you want to make?”  I reminded them we could make a video, written instructions, or a photo explanation.  I showed them Voicethread as a possible option. I was pretty sure they were going to do a video option, but then the idea of using Vokis came up.  “Can we make our instructions using Vokis?” someone asks.


Image by 我是魚夫 via Flickr

I have to admit, I don’t get it.  These speaking, eye-rolling avatars are all over the place, and I just don’t get the appeal.  But, these third graders sure do.  I didn’t see anything wrong with this idea.  Mr. Marcel, our technology teacher, had introduced them to this technology, and they seemed to think they could do it no problem.  I conceded, on one condition – we do out prewriting/pre-thinking together in the classroom.  This was my modeling moment.

Fifteen minutes later we are in the technology lab and they are making it happen.  Vokis are shouting out explanations: “be specific,” “start a conversation,” “use conventions,” etc… The voices are played in slow-motion. They speak in different accents.  There are a couple smiley faces, at least one alien, a dog and a vampire.  And, all of them do a pretty good job of explaining how to write a quality comment.

For a rough version of our voki-spoken instructions, click here.