One of the realities of the 21st century is that we get information from many different media. Typical scene in an ordinary American home: you get up in the morning to the sound of the news on your clock radio and check Twitter, then turn on the TV to follow the story you got interested in from those two channels, read the paper with your coffee, turn on the radio as you drive to school, discuss the headlines with colleagues at work, catch some international perspectives at Facebook and the BBC news site, read a related article in a magazine at lunch, and finish up in the evening with a YouTube report or response on the subject.
That’s also how we want our older students to approach a subject, using primary sources, interviews, and a range of print and other media to gather, analyze, and synthesize information before they write their papers.
How can we prepare little kids for this relationship with information? Fortunately, there are things for little kids that are available in multiple media channels. One example is a new book/CD from Trout Fishing in America, a family music band .
Their newest recording, Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important, is a CD with a book. It’s not just a recording of the book, but a CD containing songs and the story, plus a home movie of the band in Ezra’s treehouse and a printable PDF file with lyrics and the illustrated story. (Get full details about Trout Fishing’s latest release.) A product like this offers a variety of different kinds and sources of information, which kids can put together to gain a fuller understanding of the story, just as we do when we get information from multiple channels.
Here’s a video of one of the songs, “16 or 17 Hours of Sleep,” to enjoy in your classroom.
Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important is the story of Chicken Joe, a cat who sleeps in a hen house, and how he forgot a very important day: his own birthday!
Think of all the teaching points here:
- animal homes
- remembering and forgetting
- sleep and health
- rock and roll
How can you bring lots of different media into the classroom without bringing in chaos as well?
Start with the book. Read aloud to the students and use your favorite techniques to ensure and assess understanding — we like Feelings Puppets and sentence strip sequencing, acting out the story, and using story maps and graphic organizers to retell the story or follow along.
Move on to a video or listening selection, whether it’s a recording of a story, music, or another related multimedia element. With this example, there are lots of choices, so you can experience different aspects of the story each day as you work with it. Giving kids a focus for listening, such as finding the answer to a particular question or drawing an illustration for the story or song, can help keep the classroom calm even when the video or recording is exciting.
The illustrations by Stephane Jorisch are charming, and lend themselves to “read the picture” activities as well. Following up with a quieter, more focused activity of this kind can help students settle down while bringing in new information. We also like to move kids away from the screen for a while and give them opportunities to interact with physical objects like books and art supplies.
Finally, give the kids a chance to produce something of their own in response. For young children, drawing a picture or creating a dance that expresses what they understand of the story is perfect. Slightly older students can write a letter to the artists (contact info at the links above) or write their own song or story.
We hear a lot about “information overload.” It isn’t practical to reduce the amount of information children receive or to limit the number of channels, but by helping them to learn how to process it, we can reduce overstimulation and help them make good use of varied media.