As I began my sixth year teaching at a brand new school, with new students and colleagues, I had my mind set to not only find a creative hands-on way to get to know my students (and for my students to get to know me), and employ my love for teaching journalism into my English classes.
Don Goble's "Six Word Story, Six Unique Shots: Enhancing Writing Through Multimedia" was the perfect project for my seniors, of which I only have for one semester. Goble is a high school broadcast journalism teacher from LaDue, Missouri, and Apple Distinguished Educator who is an active advocate for using video in the classroom, as well as teaching media literacy to all subject areas, not just specific to journalism.
I adapted his lesson a bit to fit my needs for an English classroom, and that's the beauty of this project.
We began with various six word memoirs posted around the room, and groups of students rotated around the room discussing and recording their interpretations. When we were complete, we had a class discussion on our findings. Many students found that the selections I chose to represent had a darker or depressing theme. They tended to suggest death.
However, several students noted that the stories were ambiguous, and could also suggest the opposite, such as hope, opportunity and life.
We followed up that discussion with a great comment by a student, who said, "perhaps this just suggests that we immediately project the negative based on our world surroundings". BINGO. Perfect segway into our first unit focus of humanity, and what it means to be human. Why is it that we examine something ambiguous and immediately see darkness? What does this say about humanity? About our society? About our culture?
So what is the best way to get students to write a memoir in only 6 words? The same way you get them to write at all: brainstorm.
I gave students 60 seconds to write down as many words as they could to describe themselves, or their high school. Then, they had to choose the 6 best words that stood out and work to revise and rearrange them. Some students noticed they all had a common theme, and rather than using those exact words, they came up with the theme they embodied. For example, my words might be "educator, learner, kind, inspired, new opportunity". From that I notice that what I'm really trying to say about myself is: "Became a teacher, forever a student".
As I mentioned, I adapted Don's lesson in order to fit the needs of my students. My class is not a broadcast journalism course, and the lesson was more about the experience to create, publish and do something even more challenging: present a very personal story about themselves in front of their peers (I truly believe jumping that hurdle early will create a positive and outgoing classroom climate for the remainder of the semester). Therefore, I gave an option to also use still photos and publish them to an interactive multimedia site such as Flipagram.
Overall, this was an incredibly positive experience that built relationships with my students, and provided a basis of standards for our class that we can achieve a project through creation. My students also demonstrated incredible bravery by publishing their work for their peers to see.