Using ClassVR for Narrative Writing at Gonzales Middle School
Gonzales Middle School, Louisiana
Gonzales Middle School, Louisiana provides secondary education for students in grades 6-8.
Below is a first-hand description of the exciting benefits of ClassVR and how Gonzales Middle School have already seen improvements in their students’ work by embedding ClassVR into their lessons
ENTHUSIASM FOR NEW TECHNOLOGY
Sixth graders at Gonzales Middle school have had the privilege of being able to try out a set of ClassVR virtual reality headsets from Avantis Education, during the middle of the second semester of the school year. This is the time of year where students and teachers alike are exhausted. This is also a critical time in the year because state testing is around the corner.
From the minute the headsets arrived, the students began begging me to use them as soon as possible. I knew that I wanted to tap into this enthusiasm and motivation to recharge my students’ interests in learning, so I began planning lessons immediately. Although I had only just received the headsets, the software made it super easy for me to navigate and prepare the headsets for the lesson.
NEW STUDENT EXPERIENCES
The students learned all about narrative writing in the first nine weeks, literary analysis writing during the second nine weeks, and research-based writing in the third nine weeks. I found the shark encounter experience through the ClassVR portal and the perfect opportunity to review narrative writing was born.
The students were given a text written in the first person about a marine biologist student going on a field experience dive in the Pacific Ocean. The story was left with a large shadow approaching the main character. The students had to complete the story, with the only requirement being to complete the story using believable narrative elements while staying true to the point of view the original story was written in.
Considering our school population is high poverty, many of my students have never even been to a beach before, and because of this, imagining what the main character would experience in the ocean was going to be a daunting task. Being that the narrative was written in the first person, the students would have to share the thoughts and feelings of the character as he was having an encounter with a mysterious underwater creature.
EXCITEMENT AND ANTICIPATION
This is when I brought out the ClassVR headsets. The excitement in the room was tangible, and the students were anxious to see what I had programmed for them to see. I intentionally did not tell the students what they would be viewing as to keep the anticipation at an all-time high. The first group of students put on the headsets and, although the rest of the class were supposed to be planning their writing, all eyes were locked in on the students wearing the headsets.
Giggles erupted as the students began reaching out to touch what they were seeing, as well as when they ducked because large sharks were swimming toward them in the programmed experience. The narrative they had read came alive as students became the main character, swimming with these underwater beasts. They were able to feel what that marine biologist student felt in the moment, and by describing those thoughts and feelings, their narrative writing improved significantly.
I know that this is just the beginning of the endless possibilities of what the ClassVR headsets will do for my class in the future. We are already planning a cross-curricular activity with the science and social studies teachers for a project the students will complete after state testing. I’ve seen a new sense of excitement in my classroom because of the goggles, and I’m thankful that they came at just the right time.
“As educators, we are constantly having to find innovative ways to package content to keep up with the ever-evolving world around us. By having these ClassVR headsets, the four walls of my classroom have dissolved and a window to endless learning experiences has been opened.”
Courtney Dumas, 6th Grade Teacher