LRNG Innovators Challenge at Bastrop ISD: Buncee & Student Voice

When Katie McKay, Teacher Consultant at the Heart of Texas Writing Project, approached us with the idea to incorporate Buncee into her 2017 LRNG Innovators Challenge grant proposal, we were stoked! She explained her idea: work with the educators of Bastrop ISD, a rural district outside of Austin, TX, to promote student-centered writing practices and publish student writing for an authentic audience, locally in public spaces and globally online. Using Buncee, the students could share their work in many ways. We were (and still are) thrilled to be a part of this initiative to promote student voice and choice!

Fast forward months later, and Katie’s proposal was approved by LRNG Innovators! The project, Choice and Voice: Agency and Audience in a Resilient Rural Texas Community, is now a part of the 2017 LRNG Innovators Challenge. The work Katie and the Bastrop ISD educators are doing is fantastic, and we are honored to be a part of it. In a recent unit of study Katie shared with us, Bastrop ISD Kindergarten teacher Shirley Miller used Buncee to help share her students’ work at a local community institution: Berdoll's Pecan and Gift Company!

Heather Augustine, a parent to one of Ms. Miller's students, shared her daughter's reaction to seeing her writing in a public space:

"My daughter was so excited to take us to see her writing work displayed at Berdoll's. We scanned each of the QR codes to listen to her classmates' stories. This was such a great way for us to not just celebrate her writing, but the stories of her friends and classmates as well. We talked about similarities between their stories and how some of her friends' stories might inspire future writing pieces she could create."

Ms. Miller explains how the students used Buncee's audio recording feature to verbally tell their stories:

"After students recorded [the audio of] their stories, I played it back for them. If they were satisfied with their recording, I pressed done and moved on to the next student. If they didn't like it or were hard to understand, we cleared the audio and recorded the story again.  It was an easy process and the students were quite tickled to hear themselves speak."
 
Read on below to hear Katie explain how Shirley empowered her students’ voices.
 

Shirley planned this unit of study to guide her kindergarten students to tell stories from their own lives in their writing. She had observed that students loved to talk about their lives and had many skills in and motivation for storytelling. This unit was designed to help students orally compose sequential, focused, and clear stories from their own lives and to see that authors can use drawing and writing to record and tell their stories to broader audiences such as their peers, their family, and the community.

In class, students used a variety of materials to draw and write the stories that they had first practiced telling orally. As a member of the Choice and Voice Team Project, funded by the LRNG grant, Shirley is working to connect students' in and out of school interests by publishing her student writing in prominent community spaces. Shirley chose to add the digital element of QR codes through the use of Buncee to ensure that her kindergartners' students stories were clear to the reader/listener.

Kindergartners' skills in storytelling and composition develop orally first, and she believed that having students' voices heard would not only help readers appreciate the detail in their drawings and the intention in their spelling and writing but also help the audience to connect with each individual young author.

Another important aspect of Mrs. Miller's class' work is that they were using technology in innovative ways. In schools that are under pressure to perform for high stake testing, the integration of technology is often limited to use for remedial work or practice that could just as easily be done with pencil and paper. The use of Buncee and QR codes, however, gave Mrs. Miller's young students the technology they needed to deliver their true intentions and personal stories to a broader audience than they would have been able to reach with crayons and paper alone. Mrs. Miller serves a culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse group of students. Buncee helped their voices to be heard and appreciated in prominent and respected community spaces.

Since her unit was set to wrap up around the Thanksgiving holiday, Mrs. Miller's class planned to share their drawings, writing, and audio recordings of the stories first with families and peers in the classroom and then, more publicly, at a nearby and local community favorite business: Berdoll's Pecan and Gift Company. Berdoll's is located in the direct route from urban Austin, TX to rural Bastrop and is less than a ten-minute drive from Bluebonnet Elementary School, where Mrs. Miller teaches. Many members of the Berdoll family, including the current Berdoll's owner, attended or still attend Bastrop schools. The work was displayed in the storefront window and customers, parents, and students, viewed, read, and listened to Mrs. Miller's class' stories as they stopped by to buy pecan pies and more for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Check out the photos of the students’ work at Berdoll’s Pecan and Gift Company.

Be sure to scan the QR codes to hear the students' audio recording, telling their stories!

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Bastrop 5

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