Digital Literacy in Kindergarten: Penguin Movie Magic

Every year in Kindergarten Christy and I like to do one digital literacy project with our children.  We always enter into this process with mixed feelings.  We know our children already spend some time using apps and games on iPads and iPhones and more games on computers:  Do they really need more tech time?  However, we are also of the mind that creatingwith technology, rather than consumingtechnology, is something we can teach our children in their school setting.  We have the resources to do so and so this year we’ve made something very special:  Penguin Movie Magic.

We Love Penguins

In Kindergarten, one of our Science Big ideas is plants and animals have observable features.  The penguin is our animal of choice to discuss habitat, appearance, young, behaviour and life cycle. 

Digital Literacy and Technology Support

For all things digital, we draw upon the experience and expertise of our District Innovation Support Leader (Technology), Ridgeview Grade 7 teacher and BFF Ms. Cari Wilson; Grade 7 teacher Mr. Russ Paterson and our Grade 7 Big Buddies.  Cari was instrumental in helping us to establish an internet and social media presence with this website.  Mr. Paterson is our Big Buddy teacher and our Big Buddies…well, they were once our Kinders in the former half-day program, and now they are Grades 7s who are very much loved by their Little Buddies.

Our goal for each Buddy group was to create a documentary movie about penguins using the Green Screen by Do Ink app.  Big and Little Buddies collected information from the internet, and images from Google, for each area of our Penguin Planning Framework.  Our framework helps our Big and Little Buddies to be organised in their research, stay focused on specific topics, read for information and practise the skill of note-taking. 

We wanted the children to tell the story logically so we supported them with a group plan for reference as to how each movie should play out.  We discussed our objectives as a large group and wrote up the group plan together. This was also a good time for the Big Buddies to clarify any questions they might have, and a really valuable opportunity for the Little Buddies to see direct instruction in another learning context:  how teachers, and students of all ages, can collaborate together as a community of learners. 

The fun really begins following completion of our research.  Each of our Big Buddies, with tremendous patience, encouragement and humour, taught their Little Buddies what to say during filming.  

The Green Screen by Do Ink app allowed us to superimpose the computer graphics behind the actors.  Being of the make do with what you’ve gotmanner of thinking, we used the green paper off of our paper rolls for our green screen.  We had several setsdown the Primary hallway so four groups could film simultaneously.  Even better, since the completion of this project, our Principal, Mrs. Brady, has bought us a real green screen!  Thank you, Mrs. Brady!

A great deal of rehearsal preceded the actual filming.  Cari acted as gatekeeperto ensure the Kindergarten children knew their lines before going in studio.  The Big Buddies would count their Little Buddy in with 3, 2, 1, actionbefore filming or the words would be lost.  

Needless to say amongst the laughter, repeated takes and endless heaps of praise, this was a learning process that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.   We all realized that while showbiz might look easy, it is actually a lot of very hard work.

Mystery Box Inquiry

In Kindergarten, we use the guided inquiry process.  For us, guided inquiry is about play, discovery, exploration and oral language developmentin questioning skills.  The Kindergarten plays a lot, as they should, because that is the Kindergarten child’s work at school:  to play.  We believe that all learning for Kindergarten should be child-centred, hands-on and play focused where their natural intuition for play leads them to discover and explore their world in their own time.  Imaginary play, block play, puzzles, dress-up dolls, Lego, playing with language at the Imagination Station, the Dollhouse –it’s all in a day’s play for Kindergarten.

Now admittedly, to teach questioning skills, we have to do so by direct instruction but we still make it playful for the children.  We begin by placing an object in the Mystery Box.  Then we have the children ask up to 10 questions about what might be in the Mystery Box.  In the beginning, there is a lot of guessing.  But over the 4-5 Mystery Box Inquiries we complete, we notice real change in the sophistication of the children’s questions.  

Our focus is on the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why and how) and we help the children re-frame their guesses and beginning questions (is it a….?)to questions they can start with the 5Ws (what does it feel like?where does it live? how does it move?)  We also teach them to ask checking questionsto confirm their theory, based on the information we’ve revealed in our answers, about what’s in the Mystery Box.  Our focus is for the children to ask questions that require us to answer with more than just yesor no.  After 10 questions, the children are allowed to make a guess and amid much clapping and fanfare, the Mystery Box is opened when a correct guess is finally made!

Final Cut

At publication time, our Penguin Movie Magic projects are now completed.  We debuted our movies to our Kindergarten families during Student-Led Conferences on April 26, 2018.  Our Big Buddies helped us to upload their Little Buddies movie to FreshGrade so each family was able to access their child’s account during the Conferences.  

We wanted to note that in addition to their movie, our children also completed response pages for each Mystery Box Inquiry to make their own Penguin Research Booklets.   As our children move onto Grade One in a few short weeks, printing their names, colouring and completing frame sentences are important and necessary skills we need to not only have taught, but practised in a meaningful way.  Our integrated learning process of building relationships, digital literacy, guided inquiry, writing and presenting is multi-layered and complex, as all good teaching and learning should be to meet a variety of student needs. 


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