Staying in Character for Sarah Brynes

My favorite project is gearing up. How can it be my favorite, it is only the second time doing this with students? Well, the energy the project created and sustained, the comments from students, and the story all rolled into one, it is my favorite project. There is so much crammed into this project! There is something for everyone, including students, teachers, administrators, parents and students!

You can follow these guidelines and create your own social network project with any book you are using with your students. A NING, is a great social network to use with students ages 13 and older. NING is a very supportive site, and if the project is for an educational institution the NING folks will remove the ads from your ning site. All you need to do is email them, tell them your NING URL, say you are a school and ask for the ads to be removed.
The full directions are at posted here. Please try this out. We have been very happy for years with our free Ning service. The whole process took me 1 minute to fill out the form, and then wait 2 days for the ads to disappear. It couldn't be easier!

The eighth grade teachers, I am working with, chose a book for all 120 students to read. Part of the writing the students are asked to do is about writing in character. So, for this book, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, all the students read, choose a character they want to be, create a page in the Ning site and then blog, answer questions, create an avatar all in character. The name we chose for the Ning is, Staying in Character for Sarah Brynes. We hope by adding this piece of technology the students will feel free to write with purpose, share with purpose and think outside of themselves. By adding this work to a Ning, we create a social network where students can work while in class and continue conversations outside of the school day.

When our students join the ning they must fill in a profile with required questions. Sometimes this part takes a lot of thinking since we are asking them to respond in character immediately. This sets the stage as they answer questions about their zodiac sign, their moods, who they would like to meet, etc. Here is my profile:
About Me: Ms. LemryMoods:empathic, supportive, futuristWho Would I like to meet?Eleanor RooseveltInterests: gardensZodiac Sign: GeminiDescribe your life-changing moment and how it changed you. My life changing moment each year, is when I meet students who have grown another year older. I love hearing student ideas about school, technology, the future. I think it best when I attend 8th grade and 12th grade graduations and see what wonderful young people you have all become. Once the students get past the profile page, they head off and create an avatar of their character. We use this free avatar service. This is always fun for our students to compare their avatar with all the other Ms. Lemry's and avatars their peers have of the same characters in the book. After their avatar is posted they begin answering 3 prompts left by their teachers. The students/characters are also encouraged to comment to the other characters at they populate the Ning and as they answer the prompts.

When we started this project last school year in May, we had 4 weeks of school left, we will be in a similar position this year. I was sure that the students would start out in character, but soon would revert to themselves and comment about their dances, weekends, and their own 8th grade graduation. However, that did not come to pass. The students stayed in character for the entire project. The students had very thoughtful comments and blog responses.

This year I hope that the author, Chris Crutcher will check out the Ning and see how he has positively affected the students in our school. After all, by posting in our Ning we will have a wider audience. Check out Chris Crutcher's myspace. Our Ning will have opening day June 6, 2009. You can check out the main page from last year for an idea about what this looks like What is your latest book project?