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Pirongia School Waikato, New Zealand

Dragon-naming competition

The Pirongia School Dragon Gallery in Dragonsville

I am a teacher and webmaster in a country school in New Zealand who made use of the "Dragonsville" online writing "motivator". Being so remote in the world, the internet is an important resource to link our children to the outside world.

The topic currently under study in the junior school (our 5, 6 and 7 yr olds ) was "castles" (and the medieval environment surrounding them.) During this holistic study, teachers are using the topic as a motivation for all sorts of art, drama and creative writing experiences.

However, it is a topic very distant in time and place from NZ children. We cannot go down the road and visit a castle as English children probably can. So as school webmaster, it is my job to seek out useful online resources to help support the topic.

The KOTN "Kids Castle" and "Dragonsville" pages were ideal for this purpose.

All I did was put a link from our site's juniors "Tasks" page to Castles and Dragonsville, making it easily available for our children to use.

But as this was for children so young, many with little experience of using computers and the internet, I felt that the opportunity could be under-used, so decided to work with individual children to ensure their participation. Time was limited so we restricted this activity to our Year 2 children only (mostly 6 year-olds).

I showed the whole group the Kids' Castle and Dragonsville websites, reading with them, about Emerald at the Naming Pool and explained that each of them would have a chance to choose, name and write about a dragon. Then I withdrew one child at a time. To save time, I filled in the name, age etc section of the form so the child only needed to do the creative part. In most cases, the picture of the dragon on the screen was all that was needed to inspire sentences from the children, especially the brighter ones. The job of motivation had been done for me by the web site.

Occasionally, with slower children, I needed to prompt by saying, "Just look at your little dragon. What does he look like? What do you think he likes to do? Can you make a sentence about him?" and the children would soon come up with sentences. They typed these onto the screen before sending to the other side of the world for Emerald and the Dragonmaster to peruse.

Before letting them hit the send button, I carefully explained what this would achieve. When Emerald thanked them by flying over and blowing a fireball, the children were truly thrilled. This is when 6 year olds are unbeatable! They appreciate this kind of thing as only 6 year olds can. Very
rewarding and fun for the teacher to see their reactions!

It was a perfect system of exciting visual motivation and immediate visual reward for the effort of written composition by the children.

For the teacher, the task of teaching literacy was the same as if the children were writing the conventional way with paper and pencils. Sigh! Constant reminders about punctuation etc.

To have the children's work specially judged by Simon Widdowson (known to our children as "The Dragonmaster") added a "global" feeling to the whole exercise invaluable for children in such an isolated location. They are then able to see, through the Dragonsville Gallery, how their own writing
compares with the rest of the world! What must this achieve for the future writers of the world!

I am booked into tomorrow's school assembly where I will be using a data projector to demonstrate the exercise to the whole school including parents, showing the web pages involved and how everything happened online. I will then present the prize of a book of dragon poems to the winner, and so Dragonsville will be famous in Pirongia.

On behalf of the children of Pirongia School and future writers of the world, I thank you for your creativity and hours of work in creating the site which has made all this possible.

Tui Allen
Webmaster of Pirongia School
New Zealand
October 2004

The Pirongia School Dragon Gallery

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