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Back to the Top Teaching Blog
September 10, 2014

Back-to-School PSAs

By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Nothing builds community and student autonomy quite like working on a video-production team under a tight deadline. So rather than waiting until later in the year to begin tech-intensive creative work, I decided to challenge my students with a team video-making project during the second week of school. How better to establish a class that values teamwork, student autonomy, and a can-do, figure-it-out attitude about technology?

    Inspired by fellow blogger Christy Crawford’s "Getting to Know Our Community" post from last year, my students filmed public service announcements (PSAs) to share with the other classes at our school. Each team chose an important community member at our school to interview about how our school works — the principal, school safety officer, nurse, physical education teacher, etc. They had one period to plan their interviews, one period to film it, and two periods to edit their projects. In just four days, their movies were ready to share with their peers in classes around the school!

    Check out one team’s interview with Wayne, our cafeteria manager:

     

    Back to School PSAs FAQ

    How did you assign roles to the students in their groups?

    My students worked in groups of four or five, and they devised their own roles. Before beginning the project, we discussed as a class what they needed to accomplish and the types of jobs they might have — videographers, interviewers, editors, cue-card holders, etc. But I let my students know that it was their responsibility to divvy up the work in a manner that would best suit their own group.

    You really trusted your students to use iPads and computers while traveling around the school conducting interviews during the second week of school?

    This was a leap of faith for me — I hardly knew these kids, and I hadn’t formally introduced all of the routines for using technology, group work, etc. I was honest with my students, and told them that this was an ambitious project. I let them know that I was counting on their “professionalism” and that I was sure they deserved my trust. (I also let them know that I’d have to pull back a LOT on the “fun stuff” if they didn’t seem to handle it.) Needless to say, all of my young filmmakers were excited by this motivating, authentic work and were eager to prove that they definitely could handle it!

    Who came up with the questions for their video interviews?

    During the planning period for the project, I gave each team chart paper and markers. Most of the groups brainstormed all of their possible questions and then narrowed their selection down to the three or four most important.

    This team brainstormed questions to ask the school nurse.

    What did the students film their movies with?

    They used the video cameras on iPads — which aren’t ideal in terms of sound and picture quality, but did the trick. Some of the groups got unusable footage, mostly because of inaudible sound. This was a prime lesson on the importance of clear sound for future video projects. We analyzed the “bloopers” as a class, and my students became far more aware of the importance of steady camera work.

    When did your students film their movies?

    I sent two teams at a time to film their subjects, while the rest of the class was doing a reading or writing assignment. Teams only had 15 minutes to film their footage and return to class. So, over a 45-minute period, six teams were able to record their movies.

    How did your students edit their movies?

    They used iMovie to edit their films. Rather than teaching the entire class to use iMovie, I pre-taught four student “techsperts” (tech+experts) who then worked with each team to help them figure out the software. This was far more efficient — and student centered — than teaching them all directly.

    What would you change about the project for next time?

    Rather than just interviewing the important adults around our school, I would allow students to come up with other topics that can addressed with student interviews.

     

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    •       One year ago: "Building Teamwork and Bridges: A STEM Icebreaker

    •       Two years ago: "To Spell or Not to Spel? Creating a Just-Right Spelling Program"

    •       Three years ago: "Poetic Beginnings"

    Nothing builds community and student autonomy quite like working on a video-production team under a tight deadline. So rather than waiting until later in the year to begin tech-intensive creative work, I decided to challenge my students with a team video-making project during the second week of school. How better to establish a class that values teamwork, student autonomy, and a can-do, figure-it-out attitude about technology?

    Inspired by fellow blogger Christy Crawford’s "Getting to Know Our Community" post from last year, my students filmed public service announcements (PSAs) to share with the other classes at our school. Each team chose an important community member at our school to interview about how our school works — the principal, school safety officer, nurse, physical education teacher, etc. They had one period to plan their interviews, one period to film it, and two periods to edit their projects. In just four days, their movies were ready to share with their peers in classes around the school!

    Check out one team’s interview with Wayne, our cafeteria manager:

     

    Back to School PSAs FAQ

    How did you assign roles to the students in their groups?

    My students worked in groups of four or five, and they devised their own roles. Before beginning the project, we discussed as a class what they needed to accomplish and the types of jobs they might have — videographers, interviewers, editors, cue-card holders, etc. But I let my students know that it was their responsibility to divvy up the work in a manner that would best suit their own group.

    You really trusted your students to use iPads and computers while traveling around the school conducting interviews during the second week of school?

    This was a leap of faith for me — I hardly knew these kids, and I hadn’t formally introduced all of the routines for using technology, group work, etc. I was honest with my students, and told them that this was an ambitious project. I let them know that I was counting on their “professionalism” and that I was sure they deserved my trust. (I also let them know that I’d have to pull back a LOT on the “fun stuff” if they didn’t seem to handle it.) Needless to say, all of my young filmmakers were excited by this motivating, authentic work and were eager to prove that they definitely could handle it!

    Who came up with the questions for their video interviews?

    During the planning period for the project, I gave each team chart paper and markers. Most of the groups brainstormed all of their possible questions and then narrowed their selection down to the three or four most important.

    This team brainstormed questions to ask the school nurse.

    What did the students film their movies with?

    They used the video cameras on iPads — which aren’t ideal in terms of sound and picture quality, but did the trick. Some of the groups got unusable footage, mostly because of inaudible sound. This was a prime lesson on the importance of clear sound for future video projects. We analyzed the “bloopers” as a class, and my students became far more aware of the importance of steady camera work.

    When did your students film their movies?

    I sent two teams at a time to film their subjects, while the rest of the class was doing a reading or writing assignment. Teams only had 15 minutes to film their footage and return to class. So, over a 45-minute period, six teams were able to record their movies.

    How did your students edit their movies?

    They used iMovie to edit their films. Rather than teaching the entire class to use iMovie, I pre-taught four student “techsperts” (tech+experts) who then worked with each team to help them figure out the software. This was far more efficient — and student centered — than teaching them all directly.

    What would you change about the project for next time?

    Rather than just interviewing the important adults around our school, I would allow students to come up with other topics that can addressed with student interviews.

     

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    •       One year ago: "Building Teamwork and Bridges: A STEM Icebreaker

    •       Two years ago: "To Spell or Not to Spel? Creating a Just-Right Spelling Program"

    •       Three years ago: "Poetic Beginnings"

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