Sparkes’s students download a free version of The Secret Garden from the iBooks Store. They start by reading the novel together in class, which ensures they all have a sense of the characters and plot before diving into the complex concept of setting. Even though the students in Sparkes’s class are at different skill levels, each one has the tools they need to fully participate.
Sparkes leads activities that take students out of the classroom to develop their understanding of setting through experimentation.
Sparkes purposely teaches The Secret Garden in March, the precise time of year when the snow begins to melt and gardens begin to reappear in Canada. Her students go outside with iPad and take photographs using the built-in camera. They focus on the potential for life in the soil and how that contrasts with the bleak gardens after winter. Exploring how their own local gardens are coming to life connects the students directly to the book’s themes and characters.
The students select 15 to 20 of their photos that best illustrate one of the book’s key themes — rebirth. Students compose photos that look like they were taken in the early 20th century, which is when the novel takes place. They’re careful to leave out modern elements like cars, and use iPhoto to edit and assemble a montage that showcases the energy lying beneath the earth.
Sparkes asks students to think about mood within the settings they photographed. Then, using
GarageBand, they each compose a piece of music that reflects the mood of the garden as it comes to life.
They use a collection of instruments to create a score to accompany their photos. Sparkes gives her students the structure of the assignment and they set their own standards for success, pushing their creativity accordingly.
In their final project, students demonstrate that they understand the intricate relationship between setting, mood, and the novel’s themes.
The iTunes Store has an extensive library of apps, books, music, movies, podcasts, and learning materials that make it easy to give students choices, accommodate more learning styles, supplement favorite activities, and completely reshape the way you use old and new material. Use Rhiannon Sparkes’s lesson as inspiration, or explore your own ways to integrate iPad as you plan, personalize, and perfect your lesson. Download a guide to exploring education content in iTunes