This blog post has been in the making for over 12 months.The first part was written (and then left in the draft folder) in November of 2009, while the second part is being written as the unit was unfolding over the last few weeks.
I began working with our Middle School Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Kuhr, to upgrade one of her units (Author's Point of View).
I wanted to:
- describe the teacher's train of thought from the moment, I approached her with the idea of taking reading of short stories to challenging students to create a podcast narrated from a different point of view.
- compare the initial lesson objective the teacher envisioned to the unexpected lessons the project taught teacher and students.
- her journey of podcasting for the first time, playing and staying one step ahead of her students when working with Garageband.
- document 21st Century skills, students were being exposed to and were practicing.
I wanted to document in way:
- that could it could be shared on our school's (private) professional development Ning, so her colleagues could be inspired by her "courage" to just try it out and by the possibilities upgrading a "once traditionally taught unit" could bring to their own class
- that it could be shared on our school's 21st Century Learning blog to keep the school's parents informed of what their children were experiencing in the classroom. What skills are we teaching our students? What are digital natives capable of creating?
- that it could be shared on the Langwitches Blog in order to reach a wider audience than the one of our small school community. Reach out, so educators from around the world could get an idea that would, in turn inspire them, to try something different in their classroom and as a result reach more students from outside of our school.
Sharing what one is doing, sharing what one is learning along the way, will not only allow for reflection, but it also will create a ripple effect. A ripple effect that in turn will touch the lives and the future of others.
As the unit upgrade and the podcast project progressed, I kept documenting via a draft on my blog. Mrs. Kuhr was faster than I was and wrote a fabulous documentation and reflection of her lesson on our school Ning. With her permission, I am cross- posting:
To Teach the Literary Element - Author's Point of View
Students will learn the various points of view and be able to identify them in literary works. Students will explore how point of view affects a story's plot. Students will learn to discern the subtle differences between author's point of view and perspective, and how to employ each in their own creative writing.
Next, the SET INDUCTION:
I love to tell stories, so I began with a 1st person narrative about an awkward situation that involved me and several others. After I told the story, I asked students to imagine the thoughts and emotions of the other "characters"; how the story would differ, say, if told from a 3rd person omniscient point of view. Or, better yet, what kind of stories would the others tell?
Then, APPLICATION: Each class read a short story from their literature texts -
- 8th: The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
- 7th: The Foghorn and All Summer in a Day, both by Ray Bradbury
- 6th: Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
and was asked to identify the author's point of view. Students were then instructed to imagine how their stories would change with a different character's or object's perspective. Discussion ensued, and though the repartee was thoughtful and stimulating, I felt I needed something more concrete by which to evaluate. I had recently spoken with Silvia about the successful podcasts she was doing with the lower grades and wondered if the same technology could be used as an assessment tool...
Alas, the PODCAST: Using Garage Band, each student recorded a retelling of the story he/she read from a perspective other than that of the original narrator. Students could select a minor character, the protagonist or an inanimate object to tell their tales. In some instances, students were allowed to create characters (a.k.a. the "fly on the wall"), as long as they stayed true to the storylines. After recording the narration, enhancements (e.g., sound effects, music) could be added to the podcasts.
Finally, ASSESSMENT: Actually, the podcasts themselves are the means by which I will evaluate whether or not my objectives are met. As students finish, they will present their podcasts to their classmates, first explaining why they chose their particular perspectives. In each case, the class is responsible for identifying the author's point of view.
Note: Though higher level critical thinking and creative imagery were my goals, what transpired produced a whole new skills set in digital storytelling. As a result, I asked my 8th graders to create a generic Podcast Rubric for all grades. Hence, in addition to the lesson's objectives, students will be assessed on podcast content, technical production, and presentation.
The majority of the students "got it". They were able to use perspective and point of view in a creative writing/storytelling scenario. They were enthusiastic, focused (for the most part), and exhibited pride in their work. Peer review was more "critique" than "criticism" - always a plus. And I learned more about podcasting and Garage Band than I ever thought I would - or could!
WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Concurrent recording. Oy! There were not enough places to hide and record in quiet. Background noise was a problem, and editing often led to volatile frustration. Time was also an issue. I had originally scheduled 5 class periods per grade for this assignment. (I should have known better.) We are now on week 3.
WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN?
Yes, with tweaking. Now that I know what's involved, I'll begin with a definitive rubric that reflects objectives and goals, add a production schedule, and stagger recordings.
Lisa Nielsen from the Innovative Educator wrote around the same time as I had started this blog post (in November 2009) "21st Century Educators don't say "Hand it in", they say "Publish it!" . Mrs. Kuhr took yet another step towards becoming that 21st century educator. She moved from having her students "hand in" a written response to a prompt to allowing students to add elements such as voice and sound effects to support their character's perspective as they were recording a podcast. She also realized that her usual assessment rubric was insufficient. She invited her students to join her in creating a new assessment tool that would reflect, not only the basic literacy skills, but also the their podcasting skills.
Fast forward 14 months. We are in 2011 and Mrs. Kuhr has the previous year's experience under her belt. Podcasting (and Garageband as a tool) do not scare her anymore and she was ready to repeat the "upgraded version" of her author's point of view unit with her students.
Current 8th graders had had the experience with podcasting as 7th graders (with a different story). When presented with a new story, they were also given a choice of media they could use to express "their" chosen point of view.
A few students chose to create individual podcast files, while others decided on a collaborative episode. The latter group worked hard to come up with job descriptions and divide the responsibilities among themselves.
Here are the jobs they came up with:
- Project Manager
- Assistant Manager
- Sound Manager
- Script Supervisor
- Technical Assistant
- Character Coach
They also collaboratively designed a rubric for their point-of-view project.
Here are a few examples:
- The Tell Tale Heart retold by 8th grade (collaborative group work)
- The Tell Tale Heart retold by the old man's heart (William)
- The Tell Tale Heart retold by the old man (Manya)
One students chose to create a PowerPoint to express yet another point of view (the bed)
7th graders were also given a choice of media (audio, video, powerpoint, essay, multimedia poster, etc.). They all chose to create a multimedia poster with Glogster. Mrs. Kuhr quickly created a teacher and student accounts and had them in business in no time.
Glogs are interactive posters that can include different media (images, audio, video, text). All student-created-projects (glogs, powerpoint, videos or podcasts) involved dealing with, finding and using digital media for their creations. A mini-lesson evolved around the issue of Copyright and Fair Use grew out of this need.
Students created their glogs about a specific character from the story and their unique point of view. They linked to each other's glogs to tie the story together. Some students used more text and links, others were heavier on images and some even inserted audio.
Where do we go from here? How do we extend the learning further? How do we "upgrade" more parts to include more 21st century skills and literacies ? How can we give students more job responsibilities to empower them and take ownership in their learning? That will be part of Mrs. Kuhr's and my reflection before next school year's Author's Point of View unit rolls around again.