Last week I was working in a school where they had asked me to help them integrate elearning into their class programme, specifically focussed around literacy. I was working with two year 8 teachers who wanted to collaborate together on something over a long period of time, like a term. As part of my usual ‘interrogation’ I learned that they had ordered a class set of “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins for their classes to read. And that was all I needed to come up with a plan for elearning in their respective classes. By the end of the planning, the work had stretched out to two terms but the teachers were so excited about the learning and literacy potential of the unit, I have no doubt that it will be a success. I can not wait to get back to the school next term to review their progress and to tweak the plans accordingly.
This whole unit is based on the BIAM challenge, which is traditionally held every November.
The unit of work unfolds like this. The students will read the book as a class set, we have even ordered an audio copy for those that might be challenged by the level of the text and have also purchased copies to be read on the tablets in the class via the Kindle app. Pretty standard stuff at the moment.
However what I have proposed is that the two classes then plan and write their own fan fiction extension, back story or parallel story to the Hunger Games. They will have to collaborate between classes. This will mean that both classes will have to story board the work carefully to ensure that all are clear on the progression of their story, the characters, their attributes, mannerisms and style of speech. All of this will be researched out of the original as they read it in literacy activities designed by the teachers and I. Plus, this same planning rigour will have to be applied to any new characters they want to introduce to their story, again we have planned a series of language based activities to enable the students to have a large lexicon of descriptions, vocabulary, moods and settings to populate their story . As the students flesh out their ideas they will put all of these on a collaboratvie mind map using Mind42.
Running parallel with this planning work, they will have the chance to read and review other fanfiction work related to the Hunger Games. Fanfiction has a massive following, the Hunger Games itself has 13 618 stories posted to the Fanfiction site for those fans who do not want to see the series end and want to keep the stories and characters alive. This will provide an almost limitless resource bank of teen generated written content, which the teachers can use with their students to hone their own editing skills and also their feedback and feedforward skills, as the students will be encouraged to give feedback to other fans on the site about the work they read.
To ensure that the students collaborate, their fanfiction variant of The Hunger Games will be made up of 10 chapters, with five groups in each class being responsible for writing one chapter. The twist is that one class will write the even numbered chapters and the other class writing the odd numbered chapters. Therefore, to ensure that there is an overall consistency the students will have to collaborate with each of the groups writing the preceding and following chapters to ensure consistency of style and plot. I have even suggested that for those less enthused by the writing of this fanfiction genre, these students could create their own graphic novel, using tools such as Comic Life or ToonDoo.
I have also proposed that the teachers use the fanfiction site as a space for the students to launch their draft and completed work, in order that they get feedback and comments from a genuine audience that will know the work they are studying inside out. They will have a authentic audience for their work and the feedback will help them to improve the work as they write it.
Finaly when the book is complete, we have planned a J K Rowling style public reading of the first chapter, and not only that the completed book will be self published to the Kindle store where anyone will be able to download and read it for free. Our students will become published authors.
Watch this space!