Sharing Our Ideas Through Media

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The SWBAT create, share and publish their own work to describe the process of building their paper towers.

Big Idea

Engineers share their ideas and so do we! The children will create a cartoon-like character and a voice-recording of the steps they took to design their tower!

Teacher Notes

Note: In a 5 part series of previous lessons the children made towers from just newspaper and tape.  This is an extension of that series.  However, this lesson could be adapted to about any subject in which you would like the children to create a presentation to share with others.

*You will probably want to consider breaking this activity into two different sessions.  I like to have them fill in their 4-square organizer on the first day and then rewrite and record on the next day.

Activity Overview

In the second grade science performance expectations, the students are expected to effectively communicate information.  This activity does that in an exciting way!  With their  partner, the children write down the steps they used to create the tower that they have previously designed and built.  Then they create a cartoon-like Tellagami and a voice recording telling about their process.  The Tellagami can be sent to an email and viewed by the whole class!

NGSS/Common Core Connections

Scientists and engineers must be able to communicate their ideas clearly, orally as well as in writing. Therefore, the main thrust of this lesson is for the children to communicate their ideas. This lesson incorporates many of the ELA standards.  The students will be writing a procedural text in which they recount a short sequence of events, including details and temporal words to signal event order.  They will also be collaborating with a peer to create, produce and publish writing.  The students will be recounting an experience with appropriate facts and details while speaking audibly in coherent sentences. These audio recordings will include visual displays to recount their experiences.


Tellgami app--FREE; you can use it with a phone or ipad--not the computer.  In the free version your students can record for 30 seconds.  If you purchase the app for $4.99 you get to record for 90 seconds.  If you use the free app, your children will have to create a shorter presentation, but it is feasible.

ipads--1 per team, or as many as you have

four-square organizer-1 per student

regular writing paper-1-2 per student

finished towers from previous lesson--1 per team

index cards--1 per team

Advanced Teacher Prep

In order to use this fantastic technology, I first went to the website and familiarized myself with the program.  The Tellagami application only works on an iPad or a phone, not on a computer.  So I went to the site, followed the site's directions and downloaded the app (see resources Tellagami link).  On the iPads that we have at our school, I had to go and add my email to each one, since that's the media that the final product will be sent.  Please make sure to do this beforehand.  

Once on the app you push the "create" button.  It will show you a general overview and how it works.   Once you're set, go on ahead and PLAY!  Boy, is it fun!  It's kind of reminds me of paper dolls, only a lot more "high-tech!" First you customize your character's gender, skin tone, eye color and even the head size!   Then you can change your character's mood.  Last, you can choose a background.  (For this project, your students will be taking a photo with their tower, so the photo is the only background you will need). Then you click on "share."  Click save and it automatically creates your Gami.  Click on the Gami itself and a speech bubble will appear.  Touch the triangle to record your voice.  You only have 30 seconds! Once I had the hang of it, I created my own Tellagami to show the class as a model.  You will want to do the same.


10 minutes

This activity is so thrilling, it is easy to engage the class.  I show them my own Tellagami and they are hooked!  I tell the class they will be making their own Tellagami so we could share the great work we had done on our towers, and they are stoked!  They can't wait to get started!  

We discuss how it is important for scientists to communicate their findings with others.  So as scientists, they need to share their information we had learned about building paper towers.


45 minutes

I have the same pairs of students that were partners for building towers work together for this activity.  

Today you are going to have the chance to share how you built your towers with others.  Engineers share their ideas so others can learn from them.  You will be doing the same thing.  The first task for your partner team is to name your tower.  You might want to name it from its shape or size, what it looks like or what it reminds you of.  You will need to talk your ideas over with your partner and make a decision.  

This is another opportunity for the children to be creative and also to listen to others.  They will have to come up with only one name, so the kiddos might have to make some compromises.

Once you have made that decision, I would like you to write the name of your tower on an index card.  Since the name of your tower will be a proper name, what do you need to remember?

This creates authentic practice in using capitals for proper names, a concept which my students seem to struggle with.  I just have to keep in mind, the more the practice, the more likely they are to remember those pesky capitals.
Once you have written the name on your card, you will have a few minutes to decorate it.

I want their cards to be neatly done, but I know if I give them unlimited amount of time we will have no time left in which to do the main part of our project.

Now that your tower has a proper name, I would like you to write down the steps you took in building your tower on this four-square organizer.  It is a four square that we have used in our other writing.

First we need to write a topic sentence that tells what our whole presentation is going to be about.  We might want to start with, "Building the _______________ (fill in name of the tower) Tower was _____________________ (fun, interesting, difficult).

At this point in the school year, I like to support the students by helping them write the topic sentence.  It can be a difficult task for them and writing sentence frames on the board give them an opportunity to write a personal sentence, while still within parameters.

After the children fill out the topic sentence, they continue on by filling in the rest by writing step-by-step directions.  See the 4-square writing organizer for directions on how to use the organizer.

Note:  They cannot get too detailed since when they use the Gami app, they only have 30 seconds of record time! If you buy the app for $4.99, you get 90 seconds of recording time.

I am kind of a stickler about things, so I want the children to recopy their work.  It makes it easier for them to read when they are recording their voice and it just adds more completeness to the project.  It is definitely worth the time and effort.  Click here for a super short clip showing a boy recopying from his 4-square.  I asked the class why they think I had them use 4-square organizers, click here for a girl's response.  Please see the reflection for why I like to teach the children to go back and reread their writing.

Click here for a sample of a child's procedural writing page.

Creating a Gami Recording

10 minutes

Before the children actually make their Gami, there are some decisions to be made.  Since this is a team project, one person will get to do the speaking and the other person gets to personalize the Gami.  In this way both members contribute, and everyone is happy.  

When each groups finishes, I have them go to the Tellagami app. and follow the directions for creating and designing their own Gami.  They can choose the gender, clothing and even the hairstyles!

The next step after you have created your Gami is to take a photo of your tower. Set your tower down with the decorated index card in the front. Once you have it in the desired position, click the camera to take a photo.  This will be the background for your Gami.  Press the back arrow and you will see a microphone.  Press that button so you can record your step-by-step directions.  You will see a circle and a square.  Press the circle to record and the square to stop.

When the children have finished their recording, I click on the share button and send their Gami link to my email.  

Click here and here for student samples. 



15 minutes

Then I send their Gami link to my email.  I open up the link and the students watch each others’ Gamis.   The kids are thrilled to watch their Gami's on the "big screen."  It was so cute how they blush and look down for the first few seconds when their Gami was talking, but quickly got over that!  By the end of the quick 30 seconds they stand with their shoulders a bit higher and ask to see it again!  The others listen so intently, they are hooked!  Of course they all ask how they can get this app at home.  How fun!

We end the session with talking about how important it is for engineers or even scientists to communicate their findings.  


The Gami’s are so darn COOL-- you are going to love this!  My kids will be talking about it for days!