“When I go into a new year, I go in with a plan from A to Z – this is the beginning of the year, this is the first quarter, second quarter, the third quarter – until we’re at the end of the year and where we want to be. Every year by the middle of the year, the students have ripped up that plan and are working on their own plan. And this is what STEAM Box does a little differently.” – Roberto Gonzalez, Founder and Executive Director, STEAM Box, a Providence, RI-based ELO provider that connects youth to science, technology, engineering, art and math programs.
In the context of a newspaper and digital media club, it is important for students to develop reading, writing and speaking literacies, as well as curatorial, visual art, and/or multimedia production skills if it’s to reflect contemporary demands. Having ways for students to simulate “Becoming the Interviewer and Becoming the Interviewee” and squeezing in fun ways to build writing skills are ways to do this, as is Teaching “Visual and Oral Storytelling Techniques.” In the images and links provided, you will find instructions, samples, planning tools, and graphic organizers that help students understand, practice, and sharpen their skills.
Noteworthy about the materials I’ve provided is the fact that I’ve taught and used these items in newspaper and digital media clubs and classes, at conferences and professional development workshops, in High School English classrooms, summer and after school arts and enrichment programs for Middle School-aged youth, in community settings with adults, and other locations. A common thread in my instruction, no matter the setting and with any age group, is teaching students metacognitive skills. That is, teaching them to not only consume media, but to ask questions while they are doing it; not only how to answer a question on a test, but how to first plan a strategy that addresses how to answer each part of the question and how to complete it in time; not only how to take notes, but how to experiment and find the note-style suited to the individual learner; and not only how to brainstorm a list of questions for an interview, but how to prioritize, eliminate, and organize questions or information presented en masse.
You will see in some cases that some of the tools from sessions 1-3 appear here too. That is because the Who/What/When/Where/How/Why Graphic Organizer is a universal tool, and the video analysis tool is too – although the latter, from time to time, needs adjustments such as when it’s used with teacher-derived selections given the question that asks why students liked and selected a video. More notes are below about specific tools and how they apply to our key areas of ELA, STEM, Art, and SCL.
ELA Hint: The vocabulary graphic organizer, the third worksheet below the text, can be used as a daily warm-up exercise with teachers updating the worksheet daily with the new word or words, or by writing the word/s daily on a white or black board. Encouraging students to fill out the form out of order and/or to focus on the questions asking students to “explain it” in their “own words” or asking students to identify what it “reminds [them] of and why” is a great way to prompt students to use prior knowledge prior to jumping into an online or print dictionary. Another alternative is asking them to use Thesauri instead of dictionaries to help them fill out the sheet. To build skills through literacy, consider choosing a nonfiction book or historical fiction novel that follows or highlights a real-world reporter and the adventures and approaches s/he takes in the field. Literature circles and discussion groups where students not only summarize and pull main points, but also discuss reporting techniques outlined in a story is another way to get students using metacognitive strategies in an ELA setting to develop “baseline” competencies in writing and multimedia presenting.
STEM Hint: Audio editing programs offer great ways to stimulate sound, which are often key components to understanding, categorizing, teaching, and learning about living organisms, intergalactic matter and travel, and radio, television and multimedia engineering and production, just to name a few areas. How? With a program like Garageband, teachers can facilitate students mixing math and science concepts to replicate, exponentially and/or at scale, the sound of life in various ecosystems; hearing, and calculating the speed of sound waves with and without gravity; and manipulating sound to enhance, clarify, or project scholars, musicians, or reporters working in the field. Combine this instruction with the video analysis tool, and students will have already begun identifying techniques that stood out to them as consumers of media.
Art Hint: There are many affordable photo editing and collage-building tools available for phones, tablets and computers, and even embedded in individual social media apps, so running a lesson or asking students to edit a photo or make a meme might not be remarkable. But ask them to use an original, high-quality image instead of one from the internet, or even asking them to program-hop (for instance from a photo in a phone app to an internet-browser-based photo editing program only available on a desktop or laptop) and you might face looks of horror, opposition, and even confusion. This is a great opportunity to insert lessons on copyright, trademark, creative commons, royalties, plagiarism and the do’s and don’ts of remixing. Running workshops or setting up time for students to try new equipment and setting up or running tutorials showing how you, the teacher manipulated an original picture – or asking students to show each other – is a great way to create a culture of originality and innovation. See the list in the image above and in the highlighted excerpt below from a workshop I ran at a conference for educators. This represents part B and/or C of the plan, that in the words of Gonzalez from STEAM Box, will be “ripped up” as part of the next step.
SCL Hint: The “Word Bingo” game-card (and sample board) is a game that provides students with room to individually and collectively take ownership of common words and illustrate their own version of “show don’t tell.” The video analysis sheet plays a similar role and represents some of the first areas where control of content and direction of skill-building can be transferred from teacher to student. As an educator, you might not know a contemporary film reference that a student selects when they play “word bingo” but their peers likely know – and really whether it’s played individually or by team, the exercise is done to its optimal level when students check each others’ cards. Likewise, though an instructor might assemble a unit or lesson plan that is filled with writing cues and prompts, if students indicate that they are seeing (and not seeing) a number of visual editing skills at play and that’s what they indicate is interesting, depending on the setting and the kind of flexibility offered, an instructor’s next step might have to be to switch emphasis from story-writing to creative execution of storytelling, for including student voice and choice has to mean being responsive to it too!