So, I’m still thinking about leaving a legacy. I wrote the other day about starting the year with that in mind. I thought I would share an example of some work I did with my class where we did leave a legacy, however small.
Last year I asked my students to create “common craft” or “in plain English” style videos based on events in The Odyssey (We read this version in 5th grade). Each group picked a chapter and planned a short video which I filmed and shared to Vimeo. See them here. Please go watch one, they’re pretty nice, if I do say so myself.
We did this at the very end of the year, which is often not a time of great learning. I told the students the following:
- We needed to brush up on our summarizing skills.
- This would be a chance to try to represent big ideas in a simple, visual format.
- They would need to work effectively together. (We’d been practicing)
- I was going to use these videos to teach next year’s class.
Summarizing is something that one might think is not necessary by the end of 5th grade, but that would be wrong. In my experience, kids are so attracted to those “fun facts” and “sparkly tid-bits” as I call them, that they often write so-called summaries that do in fact record events that happened in the reading, but are not really summaries. They are more like “my favorite parts” collections.
We had also been talking a lot about big ideas. It’s not easy to go back and forth in your head between thinking about lots of explanation and then boiling it down to a word or image or both.
Of course the age-old working together and time management reared its ugly 2-headed self as well. Each group had to write a script, practice it, run it by me, practice it some more etc. They also had to plan how to move the pictures in and out of the camera view. This was actually our second video project like this. And, the improvement from one project to the next was huge! Hmm, practice is beneficial?!
None of these first three topics were really lighting up the room, which I am sure will surprise no one. And, by the end of the year, honestly, I could have predicted with a high degree of accuracy which students could do these tasks and to what degree. But at the end of the year what I can’t always do is inspire students to do good work. Here is where the “I’m going to use these next year” part comes in.
When I said I was going to use them to help teach next year’s class, it was a whole new ballgame. There were questions about how I would save them so that I would be able to show everyone. There was talk about what the younger students would like (thinking about our authentic audience). The attention shifted from “who’s in my group” to “what cool thing we can do with our chapter.” Now, as it turns out, I’m not teaching that anymore, but I didn’t know that would be the case at the time. We made the videos, put them in an album for next year, and felt good.
And, then I saw some post on Twitter asking for examples of using video in class or something or other. So, I added our link. A little later, I got a message thanking me for the examples and telling me the videos were helpful at a conference. When I told my students they were not only surprised, but thrilled. They were teaching other people-other teachers.
(Small) legacy left.