This would be the last post post in the trilogy of “Is this what learning looks like?” series. Part one can be found here, and part two can be found here. What I am grappling with here is an end product that clearly does not have much specific content, is mostly emotional, and leaves the kids room to “be wrong” in their interpretation.The unit we just finished ended with the kids making Note Card Confession style videos. If you are not familiar with them here is an example (many more can be found by going to youtube and searching “note card confessions”
I’ll start off with an random example from our class below:
The unit was on Jacksonian Democracy and focused on the classic question, “How democratic was Andrew Jackson?” We twisted the question…the kids are very familiar with the terms bully and ally. We turned the question into “Was Andrew Jackson a bully or ally to the American people?” Which most kids twisted simply into “Was Andrew Jackson a bully or an ally?” I’ll give a super quick day-by-day, and then go into more detail about the video at the end. I don’t normally go into the history and sources we use to get t o a final product, but I will for this. For note card confession videos I think it is very important that they follow an in-depth look into the topics they will cover. As you can see in the video above, they are more “emotional” than content. They are the kids attempting to put themselves into the shoes of the people they studied. They are not writing about them, but attempting to be them. Not something you can do by just using a chapter from the textbook. So what follows is not all the sources and activities, but some that stand out for me…and the ones I can provide a link to a digital copy. Again…just a quickie look at each day…
Day 1 I simply sit in a chair and tell the story of Andrew Jackson from parents’ immigration to becoming President. I simply love telling this story! Kids think its pretty awesome too. Now I do tell it in a way that every kids believes that anyone who was penniless, homeless, and parentless at age 14, became a lawyer, married his true love, became an American war hero, and then threw a huge White House party must become an ally to the american people! I do love telling the story of his duels…like detailed stories, not just “he had some duels.” You have to be there… We then discuss how a person’s past makes them who they are today and how it influences future decisions. How people’s actions are based on past experiences, nature vs nurture, and then I ask the kids “What experiences made you who you are today…list three experiences….how are they responsible for making you who you are today?” How can this information change how you interact with someone? Is someones actions excusable based on their past? When is it? What we do based on our decisions? Are we in control of our actions?Do we make decisions or are we simply programmed by our past? and finish with “Will this man grow up to be the ultimate bully, or the ultimate ally?” At this point 80% of each class believe he will be revealed as an Ally to the American people.
Day 2 We start off going over some of the questions they still are haggling with from day 1 and then watch a 30 minute clip from the History Channel video on the War of 1812 (partial clip). After that video Andrew Jackson wins even more support from the class. He assembles a motley crew and defeats the British.
Day 3 We start off with this source and kids start having a few doubts…Maybe the brave boy of the Waxhaws wasn’t going to be such an ally… We then move into the Election of 1824. Watch a common craft video on the election, read a summary from a secondary source, and then take a look at this. The corrupt bargain is pretty interesting…and confusing to them :0
Day 4 We go over changes in voting rights that are occurring, who supports and doesn’t support Jackson, and then into the election of 1828 with this. Nope, not going to let you continue reading until you go back and click on that last link. That is an awesome source. Whoever made it was giving a deep message to the people in the community. Won’t tell you how or what, you’ll have to figure it out like the kids…and the broom is not the deep message!
Day 5 We go over Jackson’s inauguration (source and source) , what a fun story. And then we sing Andrew Jackson’s campaign song and discuss…yep, I play the guitar, and we sing it! If time allows I like to also play George Washington’s and compare.
Day 6 What does a person owe to those that support them? Child? CEO? President? We cover the Spoils System (source and source). I should add that they cover some topics mostly on their own, one example is the Nullification Crisis. At this point, after we take a vote at the end of each class the vote is getting closer to 50/50 on bully/ally.
Day 8 We do a reader’s theater with a story from the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Sorry for the audio, I forgot to turn the mics on and only the camera mic in corner recorded. The reading of the source starts around 2:10, I had a student leave to go to the bathroom and was trying to stall for him!
I do love the silence that follows the reading….every time. The video does not capture the mood in the room. The document we read is here. I took the source and broke it up for reader’s theater. Then we read some sources, examine some images, discuss bias in the images between artists. You can see some of the images at the end of the preso below:
Day 9/10 Intro to their essay, worked on it in class. Essay was a very straight forward “Was Andrew Jackson a bully or Ally to the American people?” We do body paragraphs first. Then intro and conclusion. When they are doing the body paragraphs at first they might not have a thesis set. This forces them to take each topic and analyze their evidence carefully before jumping to a conclusion. Please try not having the kids create a thesis and then trying to research and write to prove that it is true. Let the writing be part of the investigative process. The essay had to be done before they could start the note card confession video, this way I knew they were entering the video process with the appropriate background knowledge.
Day 11(which I think was really day 9…somewhere I screwed up!) Introduced Note Card Confession Video Assignment by first showing some examples from youtube…WARNING…you cannot just open youtube and start showing examples, you must preview them first. There are some very powerful videos out there, there are some hoaxes, and there is some junk. You need to pick some appropriate for your kids…and and the culture in your community. I showed these three:
And then handed out the assignment:
I showed then an example that group did in a previous unit (video below). They were making cards for something totally different, we filmed the cards, and put them into a video to edit, but when we hit play we decided to add music and leave it as is. So in a way, these two girls are responsible for this post! This was for a unit on the Monroe Doctrine that was supposed to be for the songs posted here.
We had a weird schedule. We had a ninety minute block of time in which I took three classes down to the library all at once and gave them time to work on their note cards. some kids were also able to film.
Day 13 This is the ultimate day of chaos. You have kids still writing, kids filming, kids editing movies, and all the kids with the flu returning. The only thing that made this possible was that the IT department finally downloaded movie maker the day before so I could take the file from the camera and put it onto a shared drive and have the kids make their own videos in the library. I created directions for the kids that were self-explanatory because I knew I would have no time to help anyone edit video in the chaos. If you steal one thing from this post, steal those. They really helped. if you have Windows 7, the new Movie Maker is a very kid friendly editor that is sooo much better than the old version.
We learned from making our RSA style videos that we can’t stand with our cameras and stay still. So kids found some fixed object to lean on.
Some kids worked individually, some in pairs, and some in threes. No matter how big the group you need three people to film. One to hold the cards, one to film and make sure person with cards keeps their fingers out of the way and stays in the same place, and a third person to read the cards and tell them when to flip. The third person MUST have never seen the cards before. Some groups realized early on that if group members read the cards they were too familiar with them and read then faster than their audience would. If you watch a final video that moves too fast, I can almost guarantee it’s because they did not heed that advice.
It helped if each kid picked a place to hold the card. So in front of belly button, at waist, etc.
I gave the kids a site to use for music, some groups brought their own in. Music is so important to video, I cannot stress that enough. Give them enough time to pick the perfect music. One of our simple rules is that if the viewer notices the music it’s the wrong song.
Day 14 (Again, not day 14…somewhere I screwed up with days!) We came in and some kids who had problems finished editing, some had to re-record, and many other little issues were also taken care of. One of those days that is always needed at the end of a project because not all kids work at the same speed, have the same luck, or had partners not impacted by that nasty bug going around our school.
This is a project I will do next year. It could fit into any unit, and kids of every single ability level were able to grasp what they were suppose to do. Kids at one end has some serious thoughts and ideas that really showed an empathetic re-telling of history, and kids at the other end…while there might have been small historical errors like dates, grasped how the event impacted people. One thing that did not work was doing the work in the library with 75 kids. I think a space in which they could “go into a corner” and be quiet would have resulted in more empathetic writing, and simply allowed them to get into their characters head.
Supplies…we had four flip style cameras from the library and two point-and-shoot cameras. I had an extra SD card so when a kid was done filming I took their card out to take file off of it, and put in the extra and sent the camera back out. I also had three tripods that many kids used to balance the cameras…one actually works and we were able to attach a camera to it. Keep in mind that because the audio on the recording is going to be muted, you don’t need silence when recording. We had access to computers in the library, but the editing is so easy that having a computer per group is not necessary. The editing time could be cut by 50% by having the kids write-up a title card instead of doing it on the computer…wish I thought of that ahead of time.
Tips…A sturdy setting for the camera…unless the kids are super careful just skip the hand help option. A third person to read the cards and tell person when to flip. Unless your kids are experienced, keep the editing minimalist. With a title card, kids just pop in video, pop in music. Give the kids one website for music, If you have the time great, but if you want to do editing in one period keep it simple.
What to expect…Now listen…I have heard a bunch of folks complain (comment) recently on twitter that only the best stuff gets shared on the net. It think it is important to not look at what someone else’s kids do, but think about what your kids can do with the idea. So if you see something incredible, your kids might not be capable of that and it’s ok. If you see something cruddy, don’t write off the assignment, what can your kids do with it? If you think these are cruddy videos, there is still an idea here that you can morph into something. One day I watched a science teacher take his class outside. They laid down and went eye-to-eye with a dandelion…and just watched it for three days. After I saw that it took me two years to take that idea and morph it into this, and that morphed into the idea in this post. So don’t expect to take this idea and do it as it…what can you morph it into? (Morph isn’t a word, or is it?)
When your kids finish these you will have a wide range of video quality. This assignment is harder than it looks. Putting yourself into someone else’s shoes is hard–just ask @woodenmask‘s kids (John’s kids are doing this). To stretch and attempt to do that will cause the kids to make mistakes. Some will get lost in their story and add things that never happened…no matter how many times you say stick to using the facts to make your fiction 🙂 The video at the top, and the next three are the only ones that are uploaded (rest are stuck under the snow at school). You will see a wide variety, and if you knew the background of the kids you would be very understanding of the mistakes, and very happy with the quality. I will include a playlist at the bottom next week when the rest are published.
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