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Use interviews to motivate, inspire creativity, and connect students to their learning


Lately, I have come across lots of fun projects that utilize interviews. Many are the more traditional oral history style projects, but some use the interview model as a way for students to apply content knowledge and demonstrate understanding.

The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts insist on shared responsibility" for literacy instruction, including specific informational text standards for Science and Social Studies. With the wealth of information, data, and primary source material, in these disciplines, it would be easy to copy and paste information.

InterviewBecause interviews are written in first person style, they help prevent a simple copy and paste of information. In her great article Foundations for Independent Thinking, Liz Allen shares, “When students are given an assignment that encourages higher-level thinking, the opportunity for “data dumping” (copying and pasting) is almost nonexistent.”

One of things that is great about creating interviews from research and information are the actions students need to build them – dramatize, order, arrange, prioritize, combine, and plan. These words can be found in the higher-order area Bloom’s taxonomy.

Most importantly, developing in interview from research and information requires students to determine the questions that should be asked. As Sara Armstrong explains, “Effective inquiry skills are essential for success in our rapidly changing world.” In a world of near constant testing, so often classrooms are focused on getting the answer correct. Paying attention to questions helps us think critically about information as well as prioritize.

Interviews with Historical Figures

For example, to summarize learning about Colonial Virginia, 4th graders at Ellis Elementary School in Manasses, Virginia interviewed a Colonial Virginian. Based on their notes from their studies, students worked to develop the questions for their interviews. They used a green screen to combine themselves, clip art, and site photos into a more authentic product.

Interview with a Colonial Virginian

Read more about the project and watch the video.

Animal Interviews

After completing a unit on owls during a larger unit about endangered species, third-grade students at Krieger Schecter Day School in Baltimore, Maryland were challenged to interview an owl. They worked in teams to research an owl, write questions, develop a script, illustrate their interview, record it, and create an interview movie. As teacher Amanda Levine shares, “The best part of this project was watching the students read, process, analyze, and apply information” as they developed their interview.

Find more videos like this on Connect

Interviews with Artifacts

Historical artifacts, like documents, buildings, artwork, and household objects are great ways to learn about life in the past. Students can help bring these artifacts to life and make history more personal by interviewing the objects. Interviewing helps students identify the perspective of a historian as they personify the object with gender and other human characteristics. A lesson plan for artifact interviews is on Creative Educator!

Find more videos like this on Connect

Documenting Oral History

Sharing the content of interviews through digital storytelling values the experiences and ways of knowing in our own communities. Interviews showcase the knowledge, wisdom, and values a person holds and reflect a way of looking at our world. When students conduct interviews, collect oral histories, and create living multimedia memories, they act as community researchers.

When Pat Leslie and her students at Robert Hunter Elementary in Flemington, New Jersey were learning about the experience of immigrants at Ellis Island,  recent immigrants visited the classroom to share their stories. Students listened, asked questions, and responded to what they learned through visual representations and a class movie on theirJourney to Freedom. As Leslie so eloquently eloquently shares, “When the collected oral histories were transformed into a digital story, it provided deeper understanding of the recent past.”

Find more videos like this on Connect

These are just a few samples of the ways interviews can be used to connect students to their learning. How do you use interviews?

Five projects to engage digital learners


While there's lots of conversations around about engaging today's digital learners, the solution isn't simply to use technology. I don't think anyone will agree that playing Cow Clicker is the best use of our limited classroom time.

With the pressure of today's classrooms, students use of technology needs to help them progress towards a specific learning goal (content or process), as well as require them to apply what they know to create something new or solve a problem.

Engage Digital LearnersSo what kinds of work can students do that meets content and process learning goals? Most importantly they need to be CREATEing and making, not just consuming. Here are 5 of my favorite ideas.

1. Develop a Public Service Announcement

Students today aren't lazy, they are as idealistic and passionate about issues that affect them. Climate change, privacy rights and freedoms, health and safety,the list goes on. If you don't agree, maybe you aren't listening.

A PSA is designed to get people to change their behavior, how much more real world can persuasive writing be? Use PSAs to help students explore content issues in depth as well as practice writing and communication skills.

Created in Frames. Find more videos like this on Connect.

2. Create a book trailer

Students in our classes don't want to use technology with the end result of simply filling out a digital worksheet. Yes, that boring book report isn't any better just because we published with technology. But what kid nowadays goes to the movies without seeing, or looking up, one of the trailers about it? Movie trailers are fast-paced and exciting. They have just a few minutes to share details about a story that will connect the viewer to it.

Created in Frames. Find more videos like this on Connect.

When making a book trailer, not only do students have to know the characters, settings, and events in a story, they have to consider them in light of what someone else might find interesting. To make a great trailer, they may actually have to read the book, not just read about it online.

3. Make your own TV Show

Students today spend more time watching TV each year than they spend in school. While they may not be watching high-quality educational shows, they have most likely seen great storytelling, watched a news broadcast that affected their mood, and see a video biography on a person who interested them, even if it was about an entertainer.

Ask today's digital natives to take their existing knowledge and media literacy to craft unique responses to content they are studying. The better the question you use to frame their work, the better their response will be.

Find more videos like this on Tech4Learning
Created in Frames. Find more videos like this on Connect.

4. Help someone else learn

There is a lot of talk nowadays about the flipped classroom, but consider asking students to create videos that teach others by demonstrating a process or explaining a rule. We all know when you teach something, you learn it better. You also have to think of many different ways to approach and share information so that others can understand it. This multi-faceted approach also helps the "teacher" cement the concept in the brain.

Created in Pixie. Find more videos like this on Connect.

"When I notice someone having a grammar problem, I refer them to a student-created tutorial designed by one of their peers... and when one of my students shows mastery of a concept, I know it’s time for them to create one of their own!” shares Katy Hammack, a teacher in Santee, California.

5. Tell a story

Yes, just tell a story, any story. When students write their own stories, they have a chance to apply everything they have learned about grammar, voice, organization, and audience. A polished digital storytelling product may be a great way to hook learners, but we all know the real learning happens during the process. Producing a digital story requires planning, writing, editing, composing, considering, analyzing, articulating... the list goes on.

Created in Pixie. Find more videos like this on Connect.
The next time you are at a party or family event bored to tears by the long story seemingly without end or point, you can rest assured you are helping to save numerous people from this horrible fate.

The best projects

The best projects aren't the ones targeted to meeting a specific or narrow standard, but ones that move students toward mastery of many different skills.

Bloginar - Connect to literature to build literacy and love of books


"Whether they’re just starting to write or are already accomplished writers, the motivation to write better and write more grows exponentially with the promise of a published product." --Linda Oaks, Tarbut V'Torah School, Irvine, California

I came across the idea of a bloginar this week and thought I should try it out. A bloginar is essential an short version of a webinar. Choose a specific idea, share examples, strategies, and resources that make it easy for someone to digest and implement. So what topic to choose? Lots of things made me want to focus on encouraging literacy.

My son started Kindergarten this week and of course a big focus of their classroom is fostering a lifelong love of reading. I love the projects they have already done which focus not on letter sound correspondence or memorization, but on encouraging them in their journey toward literacy.

One project he recently took home was a book he created of things he can already read. Again not just sight words, but his names, signs he knows the meaning of (like stop), and other SUCCESSES. So often in class, we focus on things students don't know (if we assess prior knowledge and they know it, we move on!) and forget to celebrate what they do know.

This combined with recent conversations with Linda Oaks and Bernajean Porter led me back to the idea of Connecting to Literature through making or creating or authoring or own works. So, in other words, this blog post boils down to: "If you want to connect to what students are reading, have them start writing!"

If you are looking to get started with ways that students can write, create, retell, plicate, and extend what they are learning, follow these steps!

Step 1: Watch - Making Literature Connections with Pixie

Step 2: Read Linda Oaks article that inspired the video!

Don't miss her suggestions for children's books that are easy for students to create on their own.

Step 3: Explore examples of student work like Things That are Most in the World by Judi Barrett.

In this project, Miss Alia's 2nd grade class at Woodward Academy wanted to create their own book. As a class they brainstormed all of the superlatives they could think of. Then, each student chose their favorite one, wrote a sentence that provided a clue to the meaning of the superlative, and illustrated their page in Pixie. All of the student pages were then combined into their class's unique story.

Having each student recreate one page in the repetive style of many children's books makes it easy to accomplish a creative technology project because individual student work is combined to create a class project.

Step 4: Come up with your own connections!

Once students become more confident with their writing and with Pixie, you have them create their own stories or maybe even book trailers.

Perhaps to much of a blog and not a succinct webinar type idea, but as I work on that, please share your successes! I look forward to learning how you connect to literature.

Claymation in the Classroom - Great Memories


I have recently been revisiting the joys of claymation as I have been writing a Making Claymation in the Classroom eBook.

Years ago, I used to lead claymation workshops for educators almost every week. While I still get to every once in a while, what I really miss is doing workshops with students.

This workshop was an exact indicator of how powerful claymation can be--and this was even before we had Frames to make the computer part easy! Did we have some problems during the process? Sure. Did everything work out as planned? Not even close.

However, the workshop was comprised of over 80 upper elementary and middle school students. At one point during the process, I pulled the chaperones aside and had them listen. While there was a nice hum of activity and movement, it was almost dead quiet. Not one student was horsing around, off-task, or complaining. Yep, that's right. Over 80 middle school students in one giant room and not a peep. They were so engrossed in building their characters, storyboards, and sets, I could hardly interrupt to give suggestions. Now that is what I call engaged learners.

Math claymation

And their topics? We had a group recreating battles in the civil war, showing how terrain and troop movements over time affected the outcome. Another group retold the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears so they could take it home to show the 2nd granders who were studying fairytales. Another group created a volcanic eruption, demonstrating plate movements. And the list goes on.

It definitely reminded me of why you want to at least try claymation. There really are few things out there better for engaging students in the curriculum. If you are interested, I encourage you to download the free Making Claymation in the Classroom eBook!

I was reminded of this particular workshop because I found several fantastic photos of these students working on their projects! While I have a pretty strong recollection that I actually got a release form from their parents to use their picture, I can't find it in my piles of releases. So sad!

So, if you are out there Tony, with your chili pepper dude, you still inspire me!

Making Claymation in the Classroom

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