African American Alphabet Audio Slideshow or eBook
Read D is for Drinking Gourd by Nancy I. Sanders (2007) to introduce students to the idea of a topical alphabet and the topic of famous African Americans and their struggles/accomplishments.
2 Guided Research
Each student selects or is assigned a letter of the alphabet. (If there are fewer than 26 students, give stronger students 2 letters. If more than 26, duplicate common letters.) Based on prior knowledge or with teacher guidance, each student will select a topic that starts with their letter. The topic should be a famous person (first or last name), important place or event in African American history.
Depending on the age and skill level of the students, the teacher or librarian may wish to pre-select books and websites for students to use for research. With the research question of "what is the significance of this person, place, or event in African American history?", guide students to research and take notes. I provide my students with a paper or digital graphic organizer for taking notes. Inspiration Maps and Popplet are great mind mapping tools for taking/organizing notes. I direct my students to use World Book Online (we have a school subscription) and school library books for their research. Other educational databases and encyclopedias such as Britannica School would also be good sources. For older students, biography.com and educational history websites may be appropriate. Students should gather enough information for a paragraph (3-5 facts). During this research time, students may also want to select a copyright friendly image to include in the slideshow/eBook. Don't forget to keep track of sources for citation!
3 Independent Writing
Using the information gather during the research phase, students will write a paragraph on their topic. Google Docs, Pages, and Word are all good word processing applications. The paragraph should include accurate and relevant information and clearly answer the research question explaining the significance of this person/place/event. Before recording/publishing the paragraphs, I recommend peer or teacher editing.
4 Product Creation
When I did this project, my students created an audio slideshow using VoiceThread. Each student uploaded a picture representing their topic (some came from an image database, others were hand-drawn). Then students recorded themselves reading their paragraph aloud. Each slide was organized alphabetically to create an A-Z presentation.
In the future, I plan to do this project again using the Book Creator ebook making app. Students will put their images and paragraphs into the book (in alphabetical order, of course). I may also encourage students to read their sections aloud with the audio recording feature. If you don't have access to iPads, StoryJumper is a free, web-based eBook creator for kids. Creating an eBook is a little more work on the teacher because he/she may have to merge multiple books or collate pages into one book.
No matter which platform you choose, make sure students include source citations for all of their sources, including images. If a student creates original artwork, I always ask them to cite themselves.
Share the slideshow or eBook with other students, teachers, and parents. In class or at home, have students listen to or read slides/pages created by classmates and write down a question on something they want to know more about. As a more advanced extension activity, encourage students to create their own slideshow/book on a narrower topic (for example, an entire book on Martin Luther King, Jr.) or a different topic.