Monday, March 2, 2015

Famous Texans, with a 21st century twist!

Open House and Spring Break and STAAR Writing, OH MY! I don't have to to remind y'all that this is a crazy time of year. 4th grade at our school always does a special something for Open House called the Famous Texan Wax Museum. This year, we wanted to spice things up a bit.

My FABULOUS ELA partner teacher and I were speaking with our principal a couple weeks back. We were discussing how to revamp our very traditional Famous Texan project. If we need to rewind a bit... 4th grade social studies in Texas focuses on SUCH a neat subject- Texas history! In order to give students an ownership in their learning (as well as tie in with biographical reading and research skills), our grade level has a Famous Texan project! The students select a Texan who they would like to "be," from Ann Richards to Willie Nelson. Students then create a poster including a photograph and 10 important facts about that person. Students also dress up as their Texan and present a speech in 1st person from the viewpoint of their Texan. Students present the speeches in class, then later on that week in Open House as a "Wax Museum." It is a BIG 4th grade tradition!

Back to our conversation, all 3 of us love the bones of the Famous Texan project. My principal started throwing out ideas of how to incorporate newly learned technology into showcasing our students' work. She tossed out ideas from ThingLink to Canva to sharing via Google Drive and MORE. We are blessed with a principal who is an idea person. She sees the big picture, and we take it from there and put a plan to the idea. It was, like all successful things, a great group effort. :)

I was hooked on ThingLink. In case you are interested, this is a free app where students can interact with images through comments, links, and videos. (Learn more by clicking here.) Instead of having a Word Doc printed alongside a picture of a Famous Texan, why not make that Famous Texan picture interactive? It is more exciting for the creators as well as the audience.

Sidenote: I strongly believe that the curriculum should drive the classroom and integrate technology as you go. The integrity of this project was always centered on the research and biography aspect. :)

Next came an obstacle, how can I allow students to show-off a digital project in a traditional school hallway setting? My answer- the ever effective, ever lifesaving QR code, posted alongside a picture of the Famous Texan. I don't know how I lived before those things. :) My favorite QR code generator site can be found here.

We split up the project into two days of instruction- one day focused on creating the interactive image on Thinglink, and the other day focused on creating the poster which would be in the hallway.


Students uploaded a picture of their Famous Texan onto the app Thinglink. The app is extremely user friendly, and the kiddos took to it quickly. One they uploaded the image, students added their 10 facts (they had already researched their Famous Texan in conjunction with the library and social studies the week before) by simply clicking on different areas on the picture. Once students typed in all their facts, they saved the Thinglink, opened it in Safari, then copied the link and sent it to me through a Google Form. Later, I created QR codes from the links shared with me.

*I found a neat trick- If kiddos want to edit their Thinglinks, they can update it within their app, save it again, and no new QR code needs to be created!




Students created a Google Doc on their iPads, including their Famous Texan's name and A.K.A. Their Name underneath. Unfortunately, kiddos aren't able to input photos into Google Docs on their iPads. So, they also shared with me the photo of their Famous Texan they used for the project. I compiled the two together using my laptop. The results were so fun and personal!

**Click on the posters above to be directed to the ThinkLink image!**


Students created a poster using the Google Doc print out and their QR codes on scrapbook paper. They presented, dressed in full attire, the next week. Students provided feedback for each peer by submitting a compliment on a Google Form after each presentation. At the end of the day, I provided each kiddo with the compliments that their peers wrote about them. So fun!! This Thursday, at Open House, students will again have the opportunity to present in costume to their family and friends.

How about y'all? What do you do for a research project? Any ideas or apps to share? :)


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I'm so excited to follow you on this journey. I'm very proud of you and all that you do. Keep up the great work!

  2. I love this so much! I'm in Coppell ISD and was looking for a way to revamp our famous Texan wax museum, and this hit the spot!

    1. I'm so glad you found this helpful!! Yay! I'm actually a graduate of Coppell High School. Small world. :)