Bush Elementary School fourth graders became Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon makers through an ELA persuasive writing assignment in Cristin Hockenberry’s class. The students wrote a persuasive essay for the Macy’s parade committee explaining why their balloon should be included in the annual parade. Mrs. Hockenberry collaborated with JPS Technology Integration Specialist, Jason Kathman, to have the kids create a photograph of their balloons, complete with a new background, using their iPads.
“The idea of writing a persuasive essay to convince the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade committee to choose a new balloon comes from a former teaching teammate, Scott Chelli, who I still collaborate with to create lessons that engage students in learning,” said Mrs. Hockenberry. “Writing is one of those topics that can be challenging to get students excited about. By adding this technology component to the lesson, students were actively taking part in learning over multiple standards in one lesson over multiple days. On day two when a student asked, ‘Are we going to get to work on our writing today?’ I knew they were really excited about what we were doing. They never ask to write! The students liked this writing assignment and the technology piece because it pulled everything together and made the topic seem real.”
Mrs. Hockenberry’s class has been doing a lot of writing this year. They have been writing to entertain with creative writing, writing to inform with explanatory pieces, writing to respond to text they have read, and even writing poetry to connect to the main character in Love That Dog. Having students switch to a persuasive writing piece allowed them the opportunity to work on the voice of their writing while continuing to build on their basic knowledge of language skills. Students were engaged in the project because they had a connection to the balloon they wanted to see in the parade. This connection made it much easier for them to find reasons to be able to persuade the “committee.” Having the opportunity to actually create the balloon using technology allowed students the chance to see their balloon to connect it to their writing Students really loved this project.
“I chose a unicorn for my balloon,” said Bush Elementary School fourth grader, Maddie Wilkins, who brought in a stuffed unicorn to photograph. “The reason I gave why I chose the unicorn is because kids like unicorns because they have magical powers, including the ability to fly. So that makes sense for them to be in the Macy’s parade as a balloon. I think it’s fun because we aren’t just writing, we are learning things about technology and I think that is kind of cool.”
Mr. Kathman helped the kids take the photos, download them into Keynote and take out the “green screen” to replace with a fun, new background photograph such as an old Macy’s Day Parade or sky.
“Jason had a significant role in making this project happen,” said Mrs. Hockenberry. “He has been a blessing with all areas of technology every single time I email or call about a lesson. I told him what I wanted to do and that I wanted to move beyond having students draw a picture of their balloon or print something from the Internet. He threw this idea out, created videos to teach the students how to use the different technology pieces needed so students could work at their own pace, and even took the time to help in the classroom. It was a great collaboration between ELA and technology.”