Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Human Teachers STILL Required

" any millennial teacher with a large format display at the front of the class and a connection to YouTube and its clones will tell you, storytelling and reader motivation has evolved digitally."

Human Teachers No Longer STILL Required:
Storytelling and Motivating K-2 Readers with YouTube Videos
By Dr. Rose Reissman

Back in the late 20th century my mother, an elementary teacher, loved to do expressive read-alouds with her class of youngsters. She’d read with theatrical storyteller voices and gestures, which she would accompany by singing music that she’d improvise as the story progressed.  If she was really into it, she’d play a record in the background to set the class’s mood.

My memories of mom’s performances, which were intended to motivate emergent readers to engage with text, are very fond ones. She had a gift for putting her theatrical side at the service of developing a range of reading, speaking and listening skills in her young students. And they loved the literary experiences they had in her classroom.

However, as any millennial teacher with a large format display at the front of the class and a connection to YouTube and its clones will tell you, storytelling and reader motivation has evolved digitally. Readily available media items make it easy to for a class to view an animated or live action film of a story being read.

Indeed,  even as best seller print picture books arrive on bookshelves or are read aloud to young readers on classroom rugs or in library reading rooms, their digital counterparts are available online. Further, the now near ubiquitous YouTube video connects classes to authors or actors reading and performing books. 
In fact, for most any well known author, living or deceased (death is no problem as YouTube renders authors immortal); there is not just a single, but rather, multiple videos of readings or talks or Storyteller versions available.

Either in anticipation of a work’s release and sale, or to get intended young audiences involved by engaging  their multiple intelligences (spatial, musical, and kinesthetic) many book publishers are developing video trailers similar to those that generate audiences for movies.

So who needs a human teacher reading aloud with expression, voice changes. and recorded music in her single classroom, when the Internet is full of You Tube storytellers that can be looped forever and read on demand?  Should the teacher and young emergent reader or older elementary child take cover and run away from these non-human, forever energized, click and play rivals?  Is it “Game over, humans!” for  teacher-reader and young learner audiences?

Of course not! Don’t think of these available videos as replacements for the teacher, think of them as resources that the astute teacher can use to provide richer and deeper learning experiences. And for those teachers for whom giving a theatrical reading performance to a class seems out of reach of their own talents, these videos can fill an important gap and fill it well!

Use these videos to engage, to motivate, and to enhance learning experiences directed at fostering critical and comparative analytical listening and speaking skills!! 
Case in point: The newly published 'Ada Twist, Scientist' (2016) is already riding the Children’s NY Times Best Seller list.  I was excited and enthused about it, when I first got a copy from the bookstore. Then, I went online to find its author and illustrator chatting away.  How terrific, since I could extract a mystery question from what they said on YouTube, or a question about their appearance, or reference to the book my grade two students would read.

I could use these found media items to excite them in connecting the story with its real life creators.  Interestingly, its now bestselling author, Andrea Beaty, no longer visits classes, not even by Skype.  But my students will be thrilled to see and hear her in person as well as sly illustrator David Roberts. With the aid of the videos my students can feel they “had” them, and conveniently, right after Ada Twist story time in our class.  I could even throw in the added experience of having the kids draw and talk as they imagined how Andrea and David would look and sound and then have them check their conceptions against the YouTube provided reality.

Even better, we could talk about how the story might be read aloud in a different, deeper, or funnier tone than I read and the students could generate a range of styles and tones that would fit this story of the never still, always inquiring Ada Twist, its principal character.  This wonderful twiss to this literacy learning experience is made possible by a mere click on YouTube that enables us to find and hear several variations of styles for reading the story - a range of speaking and listening and interpreting which support the text but make it lively and engaging.  The students can decide subjectively, but with reference to text and the use of illustrations – as a sequence or one by one- which video storyteller version is the most effective for them and why and justify that choice with a few illustrations or words from the print story that were well conveyed in the multimedia format.

Beyond that, I always have kids do a media transformation of a print text to a performed play or a storyboard sequence.  Why not use the digital storyteller version of Ada Twist and the YouTube trailer or any of the online interviews for it as an anchor and have students with an available video camera or audio recorder (every Smart Phone has one), design their own book trailer to help Ada Twist twist her scientist way to the top of the Best Seller list or at least enable young George Lucas, Disney, and Pixar creators to become digital literacy storytellers and children’s literature and literacy marketers, themselves!!

The sound of the expressive human voice telling a story and reaching out to the audience at his or her feet will never be stilled; nor should it.  But that voice can be joined and strengthened in its reach to engage every child listener and reader in the circle of literacy by now including YouTube videos that connect the circle’s members with authors and story tellers who never tire or die or fade away.  We human teachers have nothing to fear from the Digital Storyteller, which is just another tool to use to reach readers and invigorate reading, writing, speaking and listening.  We will always be needed, and in the digital age, more than ever!

Dr. Rose Reissman writes, reads, and treats herself to multimedia experiences every day.  She is the founder of the Writing Institute, which has added PS 135 K as its latest school with over 150 schools in network.  Dr. Reissman writes frequently for the NTA-New Teacher Advocate -Kappa Delta Pi.


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