Saturday, May 19, 2018

End of year reflections

Good morning, colleagues! This week I was sitting and watching my students collaborate while making their broadcasting segments. I realized, now that it's the end of the year, that I should probably blog about how my school year went!

I had some large shoes to fill in my the broadcasting position. The teacher who left, to become a full-time filmmaker, was beloved by the students and set an excellent precedent for the job. I knew that I wanted to put my own touch on the broadcast, so my focus for the year was to have students design stories that involved as many Skyview students as possible. Here's what went well:

All three classes worked together to produce the weekly broadcast. I set up a Google Doc script at the beginning of the year. The doc was accessible by all three of my classes. This allowed all three groups to work together to design the script because they could all see each others' work. This also drummed up excitement as students saw other ideas, were inspired, and then pitched concepts to me for later broadcasting segments.

Students had choices when picking weekly stories. Because I have three classes, I didn't want to favor one more than the other. Every week a different group picked "first" for broadcast segments. Students selected their top three choices for the videos (using a Google Form), then I put them into groups based on their decisions. 99% of the time the students got one of their top three choices. Because I rotated which class picked first, everyone got their first choice at some point (including being anchors!). Also, if a student or group pitched a topic to me, I ensured that they got that idea as their first choice.

The script layouts worked really well. I ended up having to build brand new scripts for Broadcasting 2.0. I knew when making the scripts that students would need guidance and structure, but I still wanted students to always have the ability to present their voice. I realized, over time, that some stories were very similar. I recognized that I could build a script template that could be reused over and over. I then put together that I could grade those scripts the same way! Once I developed a model, then I would plan a Marzano scale for proficiency grading. The script template gave the students structure for what they needed for proficiency but was flexible enough to allow for student creativity.

There were new students on the broadcast each week. To get student and teacher "buy-in," I created a Google Form that teachers would use to sign up their classes for the weekly show. Part of the video included teacher and student interviews. I would work with my students each week to pick new students that have not been on the broadcast. Then, to build community, I would have my students put the interviewee's name on the screen. That is a start to how people get to know each other. First, you have to learn their name. I also partnered with Yearbook to have access to their photos. We did a photo slideshow every week as a) a preview of the yearbook at the end of the year and b) so that more students could see themselves in the broadcast.

More school stories. As I said in my previous section, the broadcast is meant to build a community in the school. When dealing with middle school students, we have to walk a fine line between creativity, being outlandish, focusing on the school, and not being boring! I knew it was important for students to see themselves in the broadcast instead of just the broadcasting kids. I knew it was essential to design stories that focus on what's happening in the school. But I also want to honor MY students and provide them with the opportunity to be creative and have choice and voice. When I put the broadcast script together, I would always include some sort of original video. Even though a video is creative, if it's about a topic that the kids care about, then it will matter to everyone, though it may not be school related.

Added extra touches. I wanted kids to take ownership while also learning about all of the different jobs that are required to make a broadcast. I taught all of my students how to use GarageBand on the computer and iPad. I wanted students to design music so that, in some cases, they take ownership of the video they are creating. I also taught my students twenty-three different camera shots to try to add variety to the videos they produce. I also added extra school information like sports scores and daily announcements. My colleague who does daily announcements even thanks the broadcasting kids on Friday for saying them! I wanted to make sure my students were still seen in the broadcast, so they put the credits at the end of the show on top of videos of them dancing or being silly. I even let them put bloopers at the end of the broadcast for extra fun.

All in all, this year was a success for my students and for myself. I never thought that I would have a job in broadcasting (especially after eleven years as a social studies teacher), but I was excited to have this opportunity. I'm just taking it all in!

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website