In these days of time-saving, cutting-edge and tech-savvy classroom lessons, one program holds a great deal of potential as a teaching tool for both elementary and secondary teachers - blabberize.
Blabberize.com is a web 2.0 tool that can be used with no prior experience and put to practical use in little time. The idea behind this website is to upload a photo or picture, and then record voice (using a microphone). The final product is a photo (you have chosen) that has a moving mouth (which you manipulate) and saying the words that you record.
As a program that students as young as primary can play a large part in using, blabberize can be an ideal way to use a technological tool for "writing in role" and "empathy" lesson activities. Have students research a particular culture or citizen of a country and then write in role how their life compares to ours. When students are finished, they can show the class their chosen person (with a photograph) and listen to them explain their way of life and daily activities.
This tool is also a terrific way of utilizing peer helpers and 'buddies' in your school. Have junior and intermediate students pair up with a primary student or pair of students. The older child can work the technology aspects to the program, while the primary student can focus on the writing in role and speaking presentation. It is a great collaboration opportunity and will help your peer mentors demonstrate leadership skills, initiative, and possibly even, conflict resolution (depending on the group dynamic).
Here is a brief list of the strands of Social Studies that could lend themselves to blabberize:
Grade 1 - The Local Community
Grade 2 - Communities Around the World
Grade 3 - Urban and Rural Communities
Grade 4 - Medieval Times
Grade 5 - Ancient Civilizations
Grade 6 - First Nations and European Explorers
Grade 7 - New France/British North America
Grade 8 - Confederation/Settlement of the West
*For each of these units;
1. A character could be researched or taught about in class
2. Students write or speak about what life is like for them (and how it relates to life today)
3. They upload a photo of the character and create the shape of the 'moving mouth.'
4. Students get to listen to a "guest speaker" in class - a character from their Social Studies unit that explains to them information about their lives.
***My one word of caution is to preface any lesson that you undertake with an explicit message about stereotypes and generalizing. Students should write and record "in role," but they must take caution not to use overt stereotypes or poke fun at a particular cultural group/way of life.
You could have a great deal of fun with accents and dialects (as components of you Oral Language program) and even incorporate Shakespeare through soliloquys that would otherwise not make it from the student's mouth to the "stage" by using blabberize.
Give blabberize a try! I would love to hear about how it goes with your class and even have you post a reply that shares YOUR IDEAS about how to use blabberize in teaching.