Lets Go Fly a Kite!

Activity Overview: 

Using a variety of sources, fourth, fifth and sixth grade ESL students research and report on aspects of kites including history, types, building, and flying kites using Inspiration Software as a graphic organizer. The students then use gathered research to complete informational booklets using ClarisWorks 4.0. Second grade students in a future science unit will use the booklets.

Students will develop research skills using a variety of electronic and print media, and the ability to put their research into a useable form by organizing research data into informational booklets using ClarisWorks 4.0 word processing.

Using a variety of sources, 4th, 5th and 6th grade ESL students research and report on aspects of kites including: history, types, building and flying kites using Inspiration Software as a graphic organizer. The students then use gathered research to complete informational booklets using, ClarisWorks 4.0. 2nd grade students in a future science unit will use the booklets.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)


Curriculum Standards from:


National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators from: http://cnets.iste.org/sfors.htm

In a whole group students will brainstorm what they know about kites, what they want to know and how they can find this information.

ESL Grades K-8: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.2

Grades 3-5:  2

Grades 6-8:  2

Students will divide tasks and areas to begin research individually and in pairs using various tools – printed material, multimedia encyclopedia, WWW.

ESL Grades K-8: 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.3


Grades 3-5: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9

Grades 6-8: 2, 3, 4, 5

Students will share and discuss their areas of research with the rest of the class and then will input information into graphic organizer program (Inspiration)

ESL Grades K-8: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3

Grades 3-5: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10

Grades 6-8: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10

Students will fly kites that they have made on their own, and then evaluate in journals and verbal discussion their flights, based on the research data they’ve collected.

ESL Grades K-8:  1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3


Students will analyze and organize data collected into outline form using Inspiration Software and then divide up sub-headings to begin writing their booklets about kites for second graders.

ESL Grades K-8: 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3

Grades 3-5: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10

Grades 6-8: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10


Students will create booklets using ClarisWorks 4.0 word processing and will illustrate the booklets by hand.

ESL Grades K-8: 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3

Grades 3-5: 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10

Grades 6-8: 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10

Students will reflect on what they’ve learned and accomplished by spending time writing in their journals.

ESL Grades K-8: 1.1, 1.3, 2.2, 2.3



Ardley, N. (1984). Just look at…flight. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Enterprises, Inc .

Devonshire, H. (1992). Science through art-flight. New York, NY: Franklin Watts, Inc.

Dixon, M. (1991). Flight. New York, NY: The Bookwright Press.

Gibbons, G. (1989). Catch the wind! All about kites. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Kaufmann, J. (1980). Fly it! Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company.

Marks, B. and Marks, R. (1980). Kites for kids. New York, NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shephard Books.

Schmitz, D. (1978). Kite flying. Mankato, MN: Crestwood House.

World Book CD (2000). Kite, Flight. Chicago, IL:World Book, Inc.

Inspiration Software. Inspiration, Inc. 
Available: http://www.inspiration.com  

World Wide Web Sources:
American Kitefliers Association, 2000.Kite Festivals Calendar. 
Available: http://www.aka.kite.org/cgi-bin/aka_calendar.ksh

Childers, B. Kid Kite Web, 1996. Kites for Kids Only. 
Available: http://home.kc.rr.com/bchilders/.

Ellis, D. Kids, kites and education do mix!, 1999. Kite history. 
Available: http://kckiteclub.org/DaveEllis/TOC.htm

Ellis, D. Kids, kites and education do mix!, 1999. Contents. 
Available: http://kckiteclub.org/DaveEllis/TOC.htm

Ellis, D. Kids, kites and education do mix!, 1999. Kite names. 
Available: http://kckiteclub.org/DaveEllis/Kitename.htm

Ourshack Festivals. 
Available: http://www.kitez.com/Festivals.html

St. George’s Preparatory School, Bermuda. 1996. Kite Rules. 
Available: http://cyberfair.gsn.org/gprep/kite.rules.html

Staplehurst, J.A. 20 Kids * 20 Kites * 20 Minutes, 1997. Big Wind Kite Factory.
Available: http://www.ex.ac.uk/~jastaple/kites/projects/sled/sled/html.

I assess mainly through observation. I evaluate whether the students are attentive, willing to take an active role in the group, as well as their willingness to be introspective in their journals and the quality of the finished booklet as a collaborative effort.

Catherine Howland, Orchard Hill Elementary, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Over a normal course of events, this activity would take 2-3 weeks to complete in a pull-out situation with 45 minutes daily of time to devote to all tasks needing to be completed.

I have taught this learning activity several times in the last 6 or 7 years. It has evolved in a variety of ways. When I started, I didn’t have access to computers as I do now so we depended primarily on printed matter. We then added electronic information sources and in the last year began using the WWW to seek information. I have found that this is research that grows, because as you find more information, you also begin to find conflict and disparity in information.

Perhaps the greatest experience is that my students discover each and every time that these ‘toys’ depend on science and math in order to work.

Technology Resources:
I chose the resources that I used in this research project because they are what were available to me at the time. I have had to be really selective about the Web sites that I have made accessible to the students. Some of the kite related sites contain such detailed and complex information, that unless you are a native speaker of English with a highly developed interest in kite flying, the information is very difficult to understand.

I also include some basic non-fiction texts such as Catch the Wind! All About Kites by Gail Gibbons because the information is basic and presented in a simplified language format so that it is easier for the lower level language learners to find a measure of success in developing research skills.

School Background Information:
The combined population of Cedar Falls and its neighbor, Waterloo, is approximately 90,000. The parents of my students are employed in a variety of situations. I have several families who are here through John Deere Corporation. 
Another group of families are affiliated with the University of Northern Iowa in some way, either as students in either undergraduate or graduate programs, and the last third of my students' families are employed in various white and blue collar positions.  There are 4,322 students currently enrolled in the district.  There are 300 students in my school. Eleven percent of the students in my school have limited English fluency.  The ethnicity of the students is very diverse.  Students currently served in the English as a second language program come from Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Turkey.  When the video was made, the program also served students from Bangladesh, Kuwait, Moldova, Japan, Somalia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

Teaching Strategy:
I chose this activity because all of the students can take ownership of it. Just about everyone loves to fly kites, and we all also know SOMETHING about them. It is an activity that the students have always seemed to love expanding their knowledge about. I use the cooperative learning strategies because it requires the students to communicate on various levels and my primary goal is to help them to improve their communication skills. This is an activity that I think is suited ideally to a small group setting such as my classroom because the students are in a situation where they are comfortable and safe to experiment with their language skills. It allows them opportunities for feedback and interaction with the subject matter.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity http://www.intime.uni.edu/model/modelimage.html
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Following the Model of Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model, I feel that the Principles of Learning that were highlighted in the video included Active Involvement.This activity could not have been done if the students were not actively involved in all aspects of research. They did the brainstorming, questioning and even decided who was going to research each aspect. Active Involvement was also required in the information sharing aspect of their research.

This activity also included Patterns and Connections. There was one instance where the concepts of the forces - drag, lift, and gravity were unclear in their application to kite flying. As the students went through the day, they found that as they flew their kites, there is a clear application of these forces to kite flying. One student said, “If there wasn’t gravity, it wouldn’t be fun to try to fly a kite,” - and this was the same student who said earlier in the day, “I don’t like gravity because it always makes my kite crash.” These Connections are critical to see the importance of research.

The students designed their own kites and then attempted to fly them. After they flew their kites they spent some time with their journals reflecting on their experience and what they learned. This aspect of the activity involves Direct Experience, Reflection, Informal Learning, and Frequent Feedback. As the students brought in their kites (they had made them previous to the videotaping), they shared their designs and why they chose them. They gave each other a lot of feedback in the form of questions about their kite designs. As they flew them, they helped each other and also added a lot of feedback. As the teacher, I also provided a lot of feedback as they were doing their research.

I feel that the Reflection on their kites and how they flew is about as much of a Direct Experience as possible. They designed them without any other assistance, other than materials being provided, and then they had to make their materials lists for me so that I could find them. They researched information about flight and kite flying after they had built them, so this experience involved a lot of flexibility of thinking.

The students learned a lot in the formal learning environment as well as informally in their outdoor experience. They were actively involved throughout the activity, whether it was working with reference material or going outside to fly their kite, they were learning.

With Information Processing, I believe that all of the aspects of the model were highlighted. Appreciation was established when the students chose the topic for research. Presearch was done by using the K-W-H-L chart to establish what the students knew as a group and what they wanted to find out about kites and flight. The students divided up the questions to share the research, in which they used a variety of sources to Search for information, and then when they came back to the group, they had to share their information. There were some interesting moments when Interpretation was touched on, as several students found different dates for when the first kites were built. There was as much as 3000 years difference in the dates. They had to interpret the data and decide how they would use it in their report. They then had to decide how they were going to communicate their data to their audience (the second graders who will be learning about kites). This activity also included a lot of self-evaluation, and accountability for the final product. They were going to be the teachers of the next group of kite researchers and they wouldn’t want to share a mediocre product.

This activity involves a lot of language skills - oral, written, listening, reading. These are outlined in the National ESL Standards. These standards involve both informal, or communicative language skills, and a formal, or cognitive/academic language skills. See: http://www.tesol.edu/assoc/k12standards/it/01.html

The part of the model that I find the most interesting to respond to is the Tenets of Democracy. I strongly emphasize in my classroom that it is a safe place where we can be free to make mistakes, and no one will be put down for trying. Students take Individual Responsibility for their own learning and are given a great deal of choice in their topics of study. I use a lot of cooperative activities that involve Thinking Together and Making Meaning.

The one part of these tenets that is the most interesting is the Critical Thinking and Decision Making. Because of where they come from, some of my students have never experienced Democracy in the classroom. I have had a number of students who come from Communist or Socialist countries - and even if this political philosophy no longer stands, the effects can be seen in the classroom. There are some cultures that teach that the teacher is the giver of information and not to be questioned… To ask for clarification is likened to insulting the teacher, because their only job is to absorb the information and then be able to use it to answer questions on a test. Other students are taught to question everything. It is a challenge when both philosophies are in the same class! The class in the video was comprised of a Japanese student, a Mexican student, a Chinese student and a Chilean student. Only two had a common first language and all four have different philosophies about learning.

My responsibility here is to teach them about the American system of education and equip them with the skills they will need, both linguistically and culturally to find success in the American mainstreamed classroom.

Student Characteristics:
My students have very diverse characteristics -Currently, my students come from 18 different countries and speak 16 different languages. Add to this the diverse educational philosophies, and approaches to education and learning, there is even more diversity. I have to take all of this into account when I am planning any activity.

I usually do this activity in the spring with my second grade students because it ties in nicely with their study of the weather in their science unit. This year it will also tie in with art, as we will have an artist in residence who is a kite builder and our art teacher has recently spent some time in Japan studying their art of kite building.

When I do this unit with older students, as I did in the video, it is intended to be a group building activity. Although it is not academically challenging, and kites can be a lot of fun, so the emphasis changes to building research skills, questioning, compiling information, sorting data, and putting their research into useable form.

With the cooperative aspect of this activity, the students who have different philosophies can learn a little about how things are done here. It also gives them a safe situation where they can experiment with some activities that might not be so comfortable to them, but will be necessary, as they become more a part of the mainstream.

Evolution of the Activity:
This activity has evolved over the past years because of the availability of technology in my classroom. The first time I did it, reference books and person-to-person contact with ‘experts’ in the area were the limit of our sources of information, and the final reports were hand written. When access to word processing and CD-ROM encyclopedias was gained, the topics were expanded because more information was available and the finished product became much more 'polished'. The research topics expanded further when access to the Internet became available to the students.

One area that has fallen behind, however, that I would like to bring back, is the person-to-person contact. In the past students called or visited businesses and experts that specialized in kites to find some of the information needed. This required them to use different language skills than what they use when doing classroom research, and gave them experience with using their developing language skills in public. It is easy to forget this aspect when the Internet gives you access to all of this information without leaving the room.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology http://cnets.iste.org/students)