Mack Benn students act it out — onscreen

Published 8:41 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The students could hardly wait for it.

Sitting in the Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School library, a group of rising fifth-graders were staring into a television screen. They would make faces and wave their hands, because unlike most shows on T.V., the students themselves were the stars of the show. Anything they did was immediately shot up on screen, much to the amusement of the students.

“You can see yourself and you can make yourself do funny things,” said Darius Corporew-Henderson. “It’s fun.”

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Aside from making themselves laugh, the students were using the television for a reason.

They were participating in a videoconferencing exercise that would connect them to another rising fifth-grade class at Kilby Shores Elementary School.

When the schools do connect, the classes can see each other in real time and can talk back and forth.

On Wednesday, the classes took turns reading to one another, and even participated in interactive reading exercises where one class would begin a poem and the other class interjected at various points.

Earlier in the day, a different set of classes put on a play, “Master Man.” The play, which features a growling villain and a crying baby, both with Herculean strength, allowed students from different classes to act out different roles while performing it at the same time.

“You get to see your friends on TV and you meet other people that are miles away,” Kassim Rawliner said. “And you can talk to them because they are right there.”

The exercise not only helps children develop their reading and public speaking skills, it also reinforces the growing trend of creating a more technologically advanced classroom.

“You have got to meet the different learning styles of the children,” said Lori Mounie, summer school principal for Mack Benn. “You can’t just lecture. You need to be visual and interactive. Look at what takes the children’s attention when they are at home. We need to use the tools we have available to teach some of our lessons.”

Mounie said that a number of teachers at Mack Benn are incorporating more technology into their summer school lesson planning, which she said is an encouraging trend.

“If they use it in the summer and get comfortable working with it, then they will transfer it to the regular school year with their classes,” Mounie said. “That’s where we want to be headed.”