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Last week I spent time in North Carolina working with teachers who were preparing for an upcoming reading and writing unit. One of the main areas of focus for this particular ELA unit was point of view. From how characters in literature perceive a situation to the way writers express their own point of view, we discussed a handful of strategies for helping students tackle this area of focus for the upcoming unit. As our discussion moved to thinking about how digital tools could elevate and energize the traditional ways we might approach these lessons, I introduced a few of my favorite resources to this group of enthusiastic elementary school teachers.
If you’re a regular reader of ClassTechTips.com you know I’m a big fan of virtual reality in the classroom. One of my most popular posts this year featured a handful of Google Cardboard tips and hundreds of people have downloaded my free eBook on Getting Started with Virtual Reality. During this professional development session, it seemed like the perfect time to explore how virtual reality experiences could help students think deeper about point of view.
Point of View Activities with Virtual Reality
Helping students understand someone else’s perspective of a situation is a challenge for readers, writers, and just about anyone who doesn’t initially see eye to eye with a person who feels differently than them. When students hold up an iPad and move up and down, and left to right, they place themselves in the shoes of another person while standing in your own classroom.
Perhaps it’s a character from a read aloud that inspires a virtual reality experience. You might read a passage from a book where the main character visits the Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore. You can then choose a Nearpod lesson or Google Cultural Institute experience that transports students to the same place as the character. With this type of activity you might ask students to use evidence from the text, and details from the 360 image, as they respond to their reading.
As writers, you might want students to take on the role of a person living in a specific place or an animal living in a particular biome. To tell a story from their point of view, a virtual reality experience can help students empathize with their character and have a deeper understanding of what life is like for them. This type of activity can inspire writers of any age to think about how the spaces and setting of a story influence someone’s point of view, whether they are standing at the top of Mount Everest, walking through the Grand Canyon or viewing the Golden Gate Bridge, all within the four walls of your classroom.
Virtual Reality Writing in Action
The tweet on this page shows one of the models I shared with teachers last week. We thought about how to inspire student writers to explore point of view with virtual reality but wanted to make sure there was an opportunity for students to publish for an authentic audience. As exemplars, we created pages for a collaborative book using Book Creator (now available on Chrome) which let us add voice, images, and text to each page.
Not only did our planning for integrating virtual reality into instruction help energize our thinking about the learning experiences students would have in the upcoming unit, it also gave us the chance to explore content area connections. For example, as these students study the continent of Africa during their social studies block, they can explore the point of view of elephants at a watering hole thanks to videos from Discovery VR. You might have students dive into stories shared by CNN VR or New York Times VR to make social studies and science connections in your classroom.
Learn more about integrating technology into your literacy instruction in Taming the Wild Text: Literacy Strategies for Today’s Readers the new book from Pam Allyn and Monica Burns, now available on Amazon
How are you inspiring your writers? Share your comments below!
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Best, Dr. Monica Burns - Founder of ClassTechTips.com