Friday, February 26, 2016

The Broadcasting Class

I don't just get to teach Social Studies.

I get to teach an elective.  The beauty of this is that, within reason, I can make that class what I want it to be.  For the last two years it has been a broadcasting class.

In this class I attempt to have students create various media projects that are then shared throughout the community.   I attempt to teach the students what makes a "good" project.  And then they did. My first semester group of 7th and 8th graders created an awesome virtual tour of newly renovated spaces in the middle school.  Check that out here.  That received some pretty awesome attention throughout the community and the architect company who designed the spaces.

Second semester started with a whole new group of kids ready to top what the last batch created. They were approached by our Inventions and Innovations teacher to create a presentation highlighting Cheney's first year success and struggles of implementing STEM and Engineering by Design curriculum.  No big deal right?


She is getting on a plane on Monday to present to the International Technology Engineering Educators Association Conference, our video being part of that presentation.

The catch?

These kids pulled this video off in SIX class periods.  43 minutes of class time every-other-day. (We are on a block schedule and electives occur in half-blocks in the afternoon, but still follow the every-other-day pattern.)  This is the vast majority of February.

The lack of time was my fault.  When I was told the presentation needed to be done by the 29th, I just assumed she meant March.

It's a Leap Year.  She meant February 29th.

So in six class periods, my students interviewed teachers, took pictures, edited video, and worked their little tails off to get this done.  WITH A DAY TO SPARE!!!

So...Here it is:

What exactly did I, the teacher, do to help this?  Not much...

  • On the introduction, I wrote the script.  We used an app called Adobe Voice.  I love it!  If you are an iPad user, check it out.  It's awesome!   I assigned two 8th grade students to edit and change whatever they wanted on anything with that video, except the script.
  • Students had to create small parts of the video and then email them to me separately.  In order for this to work, the videos all had to be less than one minute.  I helped do small editing techniques in order to get everything to fit.
  • I told them to redo things.  Over, and over, and over again.  They were sick of coming in and me saying "sorry to do this to you, but that wasn't good enough and I need you to fix it."
  • I pulled a few kids in during study halls and teacher-aid times in order to work "overtime" on parts of the project that were taking longer.
  • Continued to nag and hound them with the reminder that this is real life.  We have been essentially "hired" to create this presentation and it has to be GOOD!  

Talk about preparing kids for the "working world."  Create a presentation over a topic you may not fully understand, you have a date that is has to be done, some of you will have to put in overtime, some of your "co-workers" may not work as hard as you, you will disagree, your "boss" (me) will criticize it and tell you it's not good enough.  

When they finished an sat in the room watching the final presentation there was a since of relief that it was done, but more so PRIDE.  They were proud of what they accomplished in a short amount of time, and they love that their work will be shared with others.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Suffrage Haikus

One of my favorite ways to assess students' knowledge of a topic is to use poetry.  I first came up this idea a few years ago when I was working to incorporate more writing in my classroom.  (I wrote a post about that here)  My first strategy for using more writing in social studies was to just piggy back off of what the language arts teachers were currently doing in their classes.  Mrs. Harris, the 7th grade Communications teacher, had just finished up a unit on poetry and spent a great deal of time working with students on using strong, vivid words that included sensory details.  This was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I would use poetry as a unique way to analyze a photo from the past.  By February in the school year, students have had a great deal of practice investigating a variety of first-hand accounts such as letters, government documents, photos and political cartoons.  This would provide a different way for students to have to think at a higher level while studying the primary source.

So I took a very basic poem to start with.  The haiku.  Simple format of 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and then 5 again in the last line.   This was easy enough for me to teach the students, while reminding them of their recent poetry unit with Mrs. Harris and the importance of strong words.

The topic?  Women's Suffrage.

I printed off four pictures (three primary sources and one illustration), gave each student a photo and these instructions:
  • Create a haiku poem that describes the photo and uses your knowledge of our study of women's suffrage.  
  • The poem should follow the haiku format of 5-7-5 syllables.
  • Use strong, descriptive words that are unique and fresh.  Sensory details!
  • Incorporate the vocabulary, people, and other issues we have discussed on the topic.
  • Your words should not be redundant
  • Correct spelling.  
I then explained to them that they would be writing their haiku and displaying their photo on construction paper.  This would be designed sort of like a scrapbook page.  Neatly arranged on construction paper and given a title. EACH one would then be displayed in the hallway for all to see. AND the students' names would be on the front of the paper so everyone would know who created each poem.  It is amazing to see the time, effort, and quality that is produced when the kids know that EVERYONE'S poem will be displayed and not just "the good ones."  The kids out-did themselves for sure!  I am very proud of the way these turned out.  They will look awesome lining the hallways with color and civic learning!

Here are a few of results.  Be prepared to be WOWED!
Gage S.

Mason A.

Morgan S.

Ethan C.

Garret J.

Ethan Y.  "Universally"  Wow!

McKenzie R. -- Seriously...Undaunted! Talk about use of strong, vivid words!

Natalie B.

Saige T.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Be Like Bill" Meme Turnout

I would hate to leave you all hangin'.

I wrote a blog post about an idea that came to me to use the popular "Be like Bill" meme template for students to create historical ones.  Read that post here.

Students were required to create TWO "Be Like Bill" Memes.

  1. One had to be over Andrew Jackson
  2. One had to be over another person from early American History 1800-1900.  It could be someone we have talked about already, someone we would talk about, or just someone they want to look up.
  3. One meme had to be positive "Be like..."
  4. One had to be negative "Don't be like..."
  5. They had to create the meme on the iPad.
So, what did I learn with this activity?  What would I do different next time?
  1. The first time I assign this activity to the students I should probably only require one.  It would make it a quicker assignment. This took a little longer than I wanted to spend.
  2. I would require students to provide evidence to support their meme.  This way they have documents to back up their meme.
  3. I could ramp this up a bit and require students to do some research on the "other person" of the meme requirement.  This would force students to site their sources.  Once I told them they could do any other person from American history, they went straight for the internet.  Some even copied text directly out of Wikipedia into their meme.  Not cool.  I need to do a better job in this area!
Without further ado... Some of the best!