SOS Story: Lauri Vitale

The Spotlight On Strategies series (CDN) is one of Discovery Education’s most popular resources. First introduced 2012, this collection of strategies helps teachers use media in effective and engaging ways.

The best part about the SOS is that they are flexible and can be used across grade levels and content areas. We are excited to share SOS Story: an SOS series that elevates and celebrates teachers showing how they put the SOS to work in their classrooms.  We would love to share your SOS Story. Visit this form to find out how!

Teacher:  Lauri Vitale

SOS Strategies: They Said What? (CDN Version) and Multiple Perspectives (CDN Version)

District: Tippecanoe School Corporation

Role: 5th Grade Teacher

Twitter Handle: @lavitale424

Lauri’s Story

This week we’re excited to share Lauri Vitale’s SOS Story. It is a great followup to the SOS Top Ten for Social Studies blog post that was shared in February. Here’s Lauri’s story:

My fifth grade social studies curriculum includes teaching a unit on early explorers to the New World. I want my students to learn that there are many different perspectives of the explorers and exploration done during this time period, so I pull in a variety of different resources for them to learn from, including texts, video, and images.

The picture book Encounter by Jane Yolen provides opportunity for a great read-aloud for my students because it immerses them in an accounting of the landing of Christopher Columbus and his crew from the perspective of the Taino people who lived in the West Indies at the time.

This year I decided to also incorporate SOS strategies to help students grapple with the many different perspectives of these explorers and their journeys. I paired SOS Multiple Perspectives (CDN Version) and They Said What? (CDN Version) and created a rich experience for students to explore this topic.

Using the Strategy

As part of the unit of study, I asked students to track key details about various European explorers, including the reasons for their expeditions and what accomplishments they are known for. They used SOS Multiple Perspectives (CDN Version) to guide discussion about how these details would change when examined from various perspectives. For example, how would the anonymous crew members have described these explorers? What about the sponsors of the journey, the families left behind, or the Native peoples they encountered?

Student placing Post It note onto the projected image.

Students used Post It notes to share what they imagined each person in the painting was thinking or saying.

I used SOS They Said What? (CDN Version) to encourage students to personalize the perspectives they were beginning to understand. I began by projecting an image of a painting on the board and adding two speech bubbles, one for a European crew member and one for a Native person. I asked the class to analyze the image and imagine thoughts and dialogue that might have taken place between individuals in the images. Students were given one Post-It note and the choice to fill out thoughts or words for one of the two perspectives shown in the image. I asked students to add these pieces of dialogue to the image one at a time to allow time for discussion.

Students worked with partners before sharing out ideas as a whole group.

Students worked with partners before sharing out ideas as a whole group.

Next, I had students repeat the process, but this time as partners. I found it helpful to have students work in pairs to analyze and add dialogue to a second projected image because it focused their efforts and gave them all an opportunity to practice and discuss.

Example of a completed SOS They Said What? image with speech bubbles.

Example of a completed SOS They Said What? image with speech bubbles.

After practicing adding dialogue together, students worked independently on Chromebooks to add dialogue to other images that I shared with them via a shared Google Slide deck. Here’s a great management tip: I put the images into the master slide so that students weren’t in jeopardy of deleting or changing the images as they added the dialogue boxes.

Strategy Outcomes and Adaptations

Using SOS They Said What? gave my students a concrete opportunity to explore multiple perspectives more closely and to produce evidence of their understanding in a way that was easier for me to evaluate.

Additionally, the process of placing and discussing the Post It note dialogues helped students recognize that within our classroom there are many differences in our perceptions and understandings. This led to some strong discussions about how perspective and experience influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

One possible extension for future activities with these two strategies would be to have students choose a perspective and develop a lengthier response. For example, when using SOS Multiple Perspectives strategy, I could give them choices such as writing a letter back home, writing a song that highlights thoughts and emotions from one perspective, or creating a video announcement that promotes a specific viewpoint.

Ideas for Sharing the SOS

This is the first year my school has incorporated SOS into our classrooms, and the response has been exceptional! Not only has my fifth grade team regularly incorporated the strategies into our lesson planning, we also have two pre-service teaching candidates from Purdue University who have loved learning more ways to engage our learners through digital media. Through both our school bulletin board and Spring DEN Ambassadors program we have been able to bring these strategies and ideas throughout the building.


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