My 5th grade students must document a pressing social issue (e.g., bullying, sexism, racism, smoking) using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. For their attempts to change the world through short movies, Microsoft awarded us $10,000. The most difficult aspect of this lesson was not in writing, shooting, or editing, but in helping kids realize their power to sway opinion and prompt positive action. Weeks later, they realized their ability to influence, impact, and organize a community for positive change, to stand up for their rights, to start a movement or even overthrow a tyrant! This lesson was priceless.
Whether students are buzzing about the myriad protests around the world, American patriots in history class, heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, or teacher rallies in Wisconsin, provide them with ample time and tools to investigate how ordinary people have prevailed in times of upheaval. If you've got a Mac computer and two 40 minute periods, you can EASILY create iReports of protests around the world. iReports force students to condense their retell of confusing world events into coherent 60 second sound bites. Read on for three steps for using simple technology to thoroughly digest and retell these stories of revolution.
Take a quick look at our first iReport:
Get Revolution 2.0 Resources
Acquire Background Info: Grab Scholastic's resources for Egypt and the Middle East, including articles for kids by kids in Scholastic News. Get a cheat sheet full of facts and a time line on the Egyptian revolution from The Huffington Post. Keep abreast of great resources for teaching about unrest in Libya and other parts of the Middle East with educator Larry Ferlazzo.
Investigate the Power of the Internet: Have you read about the Egyptian baby girl named "Facebook"? Her parents credit the social media site with kick starting the revolution. Check out Tech Crunch!
Or Not: Do you scoff at the idea of revolution being spurred by sites like Twitter and Facebook? Read Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article for plenty of ammunition to use against techie types who credit the Internet with saving the world. Let your students join the debate.
Research Protests in the U.S.: Did you know that marriage and pregnancy were grounds for dismissal of teachers? Check out a short article on the impetus for teacher's unions from education historian Diane Ravitch. Find a bevy of fabulous resources for lessons on labor unions from Rethinking Schools.
Investigate the Five Ws and One H
Reading hot topic texts and then answering the questions Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? will enable students to quickly and easily write 60 second news segments about revolution. These six questions make up the lead or first paragraph of any hard news story. See Teacher Vision for a free who,what, where, why and how worksheet.
For revolution 2.0 reporters, here are a few more questions: Why should you care about this protest? What does this have to do with you? How did the people involved use the right resources at the right time to achieve their goals? Once student pairs have scoured the text for answers, they are ready to start drafting.
Need practice before jumping into a hard news article? Have students recall the who, what, where, when, why and how in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" or any familiar fairy tale. Draft leads around the popular story, e.g., "Today in the woods, a golden-haired child ransacked the home of a local family . . . "
iReports Using Photo Booth
Here comes the easy part of the lesson. This project has no tripods or editing software to worry about. Using your computer's iSight camera, kids can shoot and upload short, hands free video in an instant.
1. Grab a MacBook and click the photo booth icon. (Every Mac has this program. Use your Mac "finder" to pull up the photo booth software on your computer.)
2. Click the film strip, the third icon from the left.
3. Click the red camera icon. Wait for the countdown . . . project! (To enhance sound quality. Use an external mic.)
Jazz up your 60 second newscast with wigs, anchor jackets and backdrops. My kids adore the photo booth's ridiculously easy green screen effects. Click the "effects" button on the right side of the photo booth window to add the Eiffel Tower or an underwater backdrop to your video.
1. Download a copyright free protest image (wide shots of Libyan protest, a Civil Rights march or a Wisconsin rally, etc.) from the Web.
2. Click "effects" on the right side of the photo booth window. Use the arrow to scroll to a "user backdrop." Drag the image to the "user backdrop" box and your computer will automatically resize the image.
3. Make sure to step out of the frame when prompted by the computer. Once you see the "Background Detected" message, you're ready to jump back into frame and shoot.
Celebration and Assessment
Investigating many places in political upheaval at once? Assign each revolution 2.0 reporter team a different topic. Allow another 40 minutes for teams to share and critique their five Ws and one H reports.
Years ago, a wonderful colleague secretly asked me to "borrow" the chairs in his classroom for an indefinite amount of time. His 3rd graders were angry, but eventually they devised a plan that included writing me letters and picketing my room. (Notice the punctuation and the angry spelling of "our" on the picket sign. I did my best to stifle my laughter when the 3rd graders marched into the room chanting.) I was thrilled to see how his students independently applied the lessons of their studies to a real-life dilemma.
Soon my co-teacher and I will create a situation to assess our 5th graders' ability to unite for positive change. Will our students remember the power of persuasive essays? Will they remember nonviolent strategies for success from local Civil Rights heroes they've interviewed? WIll they remember the lessons of their iReports or book club texts on social change? Stay tuned. . . .
Are you tweeting or blogging about revolution or political upheaval? Do you have ideas or resources for teaching about social justice? Share! We'd love to hear your strategies for creating powerful, media-savvy citizens.