“The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” Web 2.0 Project

One of my favorite children’s books, and one of the best books for motivating kids to write is “The Mysteries Of Harris Burdick” by Chris Van Allsburg. We recently began a collaborative writing project designed by Lisa Parisi and me – Lisa gets the credit for doing the bulk of the set-up work. She set-up the Google Docs the participants will use, and the wiki page that explains the project. We also met a couple of times over Skype on weekends to pull it together along with numerous Twits and emails.

Students will write stories inspired by the drawings and captions from the book collaboratively. Members of each classroom are grouped in 3’s and 4’s (1 or 2 members from each class), to write about one of the illustrations. They will share ideas via Google Docs and video-conferencing on Skype to brainstorm, discuss and finally author their stories … all the time discussing where it should go next and helping each other proofread. The finished stories will be posted for all to see. Our first Skype session will be Thursday so that both classes can meet.

To prepare my students I had them write “Pass-It On” stories. They were given the beginning of a story:

I was walking home one day when I saw a bird off in the distance flying in my direction. As it got closer I noticed it didn’t look like any bird I had ever seen. It kept flying towards me and to my amazement it zoomed right up to me and landed softly on my shoulder. I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought it was cool, but it also made me very nervous. Then it bent its neck to look me straight in the eye and suddenly …

Each student then took over the story and wrote for 10 minutes … after that they passed their story to the person next to them who then had to continue the story. We continued to pass them around their group, about every 5 minutes, until they got their own story back which they then had to bring to an end. We started to post some of the finished stories on our blogs, all should be posted by week’s end. This doesn’t mimic exactly how the project will work, but I wanted my students to have experience working on a piece of writing that wasn’t all their own.

Learning is messy!

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9 Responses to “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” Web 2.0 Project

  1. Fantastic!
    Can’t wait to see what two great 5th grade teachers facilitate with their students in a collaborative world!

  2. Steven Kimmi says:

    This is a great idea! That book is excellent for getting kids writing and I bet it will be interesting what the kids come up with. I think that environment has so much to do with thinking. The “Pass-It-On” story is great too. I use it, but I encounter some problems: messy handwriting, things not making sense. Do you see those problems and if so, how do you handle them? I guess I only give shorter time periods. Maybe 5-10 minutes would be more effective. Is there a way my students can leave comments for your students stories?

  3. Here is a link to my creative writing blog. http://mrccreativewriting.blogspot.com/ My students have written stories based on the book. I find it really inspires them to write. I never have trouble getting them to write fiction when I start with it.

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  6. Kimberley Smiley says:

    This sounds like a really good idea. I am a student in a master’s program for Teacher-Librarian. I would really like to use this concept to adopt a book club for students to read certain books and share thir comments. Do you think this would be a good idea? Please send your comments.

  7. Deborah Vann says:

    Helping students to be more creative when writing is great. Students can learn how to collaborate with each other. Students will have an opportunity to see someone else’s viewpoint. Being able to see your work in print makes you appreciate the books that you have read and makes you want to write even more for someone else to enjoy.
    The students would understand the job of the author much better. The author of a book sometimes pulls some of what they’re writing about from life experience or what they’re dreaming about in life. When authors pull things from their life experiences they draw you in and helps you relate and better understand what the writer is talking about. By the authors pulling you in this makes you want to have a voice and have people enjoy your writings as well.
    When dealing with literacy this program is very important. It helps to put an end to this very serious issue if illiteracy. It gives students a chance to see just how important it is to learn how to read, as well as, read books that they can relate to. This program also helps teachers learn how to approach this in their classrooms.
    Do you think this is good way to have students interacting?

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