Let’s Give Them Something to Talk about-TOY TALK:

– Using Chromebooks to infuse pop culture artifacts with real world student collaboration and conversation.  Grades 4-8

As a teacher, you want to immediately get your students unaccustomed to holding a “tagged” (using someone’s first name as part of a comment or question) conversation enthusiastically engaged in a conversation they can own as speakers and listeners.  While you are dedicated to fostering student collaboration and collegial discussion, somehow the abstract topics the standards book offers even changing school conduct or classroom rules, just don’t jell into a shared student owned discussion.

But wait, you have a tool that cannot only audio record and capture that discussion, but has multimedia features that will help that discussion be recorded so that students can listen to it and enhance their clarity of speech and the shared flow of peer answers and comments, but also capture much more.   In what ways do using chromebooks as a tool in a student-centered tool for developing speaking and listening skills foster those skills beyond merely recording audio files?  What kind of a topic beyond those abstract or distanced from grades 4-8 realities can immediately give students something they know enough to want to discuss?

Why not have them talk about the toys they actually own?  Of course, beyond talking about the toys, they can also photograph them or hand draw them.  These photos and pictures can be saved to their respective chromebook files.   Why not have students go out as action researchers to examine t childhood toys in the cupboard?   Students may opt to actually photograph their own or younger siblings’ toy cupboard or display. These photos plus recorded comments from younger siblings about favorite toys or even older siblings about toys they still cherish can become audio files that can be played in class and be reacted to by peers.   Using toys, students have a research issue they can authentically engage with and a built in family and friend action research subject group without leaving their neighborhood.  Their research data- written interviews, photos, online toy descriptions, recorded interviews, hand drawn art and photos can become part of Chromebook Toy Talk folders which can be shared and get the discussion in class going based on student inquiries and comments on student action research.

This sounds very and captivating plus online and print news stories often focus on the latest toy fads such as fidgit spinners-

http://www.kansascity.com/living/article147722404.html/.  These toys also have social and emotional aspects which can be easily discussed by students and some schools have weighed in that their use in the classroom is distracting students from learning.  It is easy to see how this discussion plus a sample fidgit spinner could engage students and a video could be made of the students playing with it and talking about it.  That video could be saved to the Chromebook.  Once saved, it could be another authentic student owned way of starting an authentic student conversation about a real marketable current toy with economic, engineering design and social ramifications.

Courtesy of chromebooks students will be recording, drawing, photographing, filming plus talking collegially away pop culture artifacts.

But wait outside this joyous classroom door, a supervisor worried about test scores and rigorous student learning maybe looking in suspiciously at all this positive talk. In fact the classroom may actually be rather noisy with groups listening to videos and looking at on site toys.   Perhaps fidgit spinners will be spinning as well!

How can we introduce the topic so the supervisor and the students do not see this discussion of dolls and action toys as too “babyish”?

First, have students check at home for dolls and action figures they once played with or yo yo/slinky toys their siblings currently own.  In addition for those who did not play with these American commercial toys because they are from another country where these toys were not available, they can canvas pre-schools/day care centers and toy stores to survey what dolls and toys are popular.   Of course, in doing so they will taking photos and recording interview comments from peers and adults. State that they need to actually look at the dolls or action figures or have the kids they interview look at the actual toys when they answer the questions.

PROMPTS for an interview script

  1. Why do you like your doll or action figure? What makes you want to play away with the rubix cube or fidgit spinner or other toy you return to day after day?  Why is it a favorite of yours?

2.What stories or talk do you make up for these toys as you play with them?  Tell it to me or draw it for me and let’s talk about it.

3.What makes you choose to play with that toy over others you were given?  In what ways does playing with this toy make you feel better when you are sad or more confident?  Explain in your own words or draw a graphic that explains beyond words.  You can save that to your chromebook.

4.As you played with these types of dolls or action figures when you were a little kid, did you make up stories for them?  Can you share them in writing or draw them?  Please do if you remember them.

  1. At any point did you want to look like the ethnic type of the doll or action figure?  Did you see yourself as growing up to be “like” this toy in the real world?  Why yes, or why not or did you ever even think about it?
  2. If you are female, did you only play with dolls or did you play with action figures as well?  Explain which and why or if both, why.  If you are male, did you ever play with dolls or only with action toys, Explain and explain why.

Classroom Conversation:

Bring into class an actual doll or toy you played with when you were a child.  Write or draw a reflection about the toy you bring in that answers the prompts above. If you never played with actions figures or dolls write why that was.   Teachers may want to do this activity with their students and bring in their children’s old toys or photos of their own old toys.  Fischer Price has now recreated and markets toys from the late 20th century and calls them retro toys( www.fisher-price.com).  Just having a teacher or a parent go through the website with students at their chromebook can evoke an interesting adult and millennial student dialogue about whether these toys of the 20th century have current appeal for this generation.

Conversations and Collaborations

All of these below can be videoed or recorded to spark additional school chromebook conversation or shared with distanced peers or invited adults.

Potential In class activities and discussion for students who come in with toy artifacts can include the following:

Collect all the toys in a large canvass grab bag or place them on trays.

Have students randomly select a doll or action toy which is not the one they contributed to the collection.

Ask that they describe the toy selected in terms of its appearance and then tell how or why they would have chosen to play with it when they were little children.  If for some reason this is not a toy they would have chosen to play with, have them explain why they wouldn’t have played with the toy at all.  Ask them if they might have played with the toy had its coloring and physical features been like their own or if that has nothing to do with their choice or something to do with it but they cannot explain.

Give all the students a chance to react to the stranger toys they selected.  Next, encourage the owner or the student who brought in the toy to share his or her written or illustrated responses to the toy, Allow the class to comment or debate various discussion points including what sex should play with the toy and whether it needs to look like or be a potential upscale for a ethnic adult or should kids just have fun playing with it.

The discussion will at least stretch out to two periods (90 minutes) in one day or over two and students can culminate this with some final projects (actually beginning investigation projects) such as arguing for ethnically featured dolls and action toys as better future role models for students or arguing for dolls and action toys as being just fun generic toys which adults want to infuse with ethnic and racial significance.

Extending the conversation beyond the classroom

Students can also use this opportunity to interview parents and grandparents and relatives who reside in other countries to find out which doll brands and action figures from other countries are or were important to them as kids and as parents.  These interviews which can courtesy of Chromebook capacity be recorded or filmed or presented as word docs= might lead the students into researching the faceless dolls of the Dominican Republic or the religiously significant Asian dolls.  Students might also want to investigate the literally nest selling and changing Disney, American Girl, Bratz, Hasbro, and Mattel toys and dolls to begin to investigate different physical and dress types.  They can do online research and download public domain photos of these toys and visit the sites spending no money or losing school time from their seats.  Finally museums such as the Museum of the City of New York have toy collections as do the New York Historical Society of toys which can offer historical perspectives for students.

What all this talk about dolls and action figures will do is to plunge students for real into an ongoing discussion, which they will actually decide as future consumers buying or not buying these dolls and action figures for next generation kids.  In making this 21st century buying playing decision using the audio, video, picture, movie, slide and doc capacities of the Chromebook, they are using a technology tool to research these pop culture artifacts some of which also engage technology.

That is certainly bring consumer reality and authenticating argument skills for real commercial toy market shares decided by reflective consumers’ putting their dollar power for their argued positions.

If that isn’t a convincing argument for toy talk, what is?  Chromebook a class time to do so and don’t forget to relax as you prepare- fidgit spinners anyone?


Black Doll, White Doll


A Girl Like Me


Kids React to Fat Barbie


News Coverage of Doll Test



The Dictionary of Toys and Games in American Culture. (2014).   Frank Hoffman. Routledge eBook.

Rethinking Pop Culture and Media Education. (2012). Marshall, Elizabeth and Ozleen, Sansoy, editors. Wisconsin: Rethinking Our Schools.


Dr. Rose Reissman,

Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5

About Sector 5,

Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.


CONTACT: contact@sector-five.com.



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