Student Project: Year in Review

I have been wanting to write about this project for some time now. Now that I have the summer to reflect last year and plan for the fall, I wanted to share a fun project and highlight my students. 

One of the perks of being a “connected” teacher on Twitter is that I have an easy access to numerous resources. I connected with Katherine Schulten (@Kschulten), the editor of The New York Times Learning Network, on Twitter and had a chance to meet her in person at ISTE ’11. She is a former English teacher who is passionate about education. I enjoy learning from her and edu related people on Twitter. Some of these teachers have collaborated with me and others have been a source of learning inspiration (read about two examples from my previous posts: Connecting with students in Australia & Music in Me Project).

Right after the Winter break, I read a tweet from @Kschulten about a rap contest for students. The NYT Learning Network partnered with Flocabulary, an online learning site that teaches just about any subject through songs and raps. This project intrigued me because it combined music, tech and research. What important world events would my students remember and care enough to mention?

On the day I read through the contest rules, I realized that the contest closed the following day. I was disappointed that my students would not have an opportunity to submit their work. But I decided to go ahead and tailor the project for my students anyway 🙂

Project: Year in Review

  • PREP – The students and I watched Flocabulary’s The Year in Rap:  2010 and discussed its content and style. The students compared and contrasted the this rap to popular raps they listened to (Kayne West, b.o.b., Nikki Minaj etc.). Discussion topics  included through-composed vs. strophic forms, the rap length, accompaniment, solo vs. BGVs, and what role words and music have in a rap. I segued way into the project by asking, “What do you remember about 2011?”
  • PROJECT

Research: We went over this Google Doc which contains all of the information about the project. I let the kids know that they can decide to work in a group or individually. Most worked in a group, but a few chose to work alone. I worked on this doc with the frame work of NYT Learning Network contest rules, but adjusted to what I thought might work best to my students. I asked several Twitter social studies teachers on #sschat what sites are good for current events and listed a couple links they can go on. My reason: instead of citing just one source for all major news, I wanted to guide the students to seek out multiple primary sources. I allowed 4 class times (about 4 hours) for this project to be completed. Many of the students chose to come during study hall to get their work just right!

Music & Audio Recording: The NYT Learning Network contest provided music tracks from the fabulous folks at  Flocabulary, but since I teach music, I added this important music component to the project. My students have been using GarageBand (Apple app) for some time so I didn’t have to prepare them much for using loops. Unlike previous recording projects, I did not have the students use a separate recording mic. All audio recording and mixing were done from GarageBand.

So take a listen!

MY TAKE AWAY

  1.  FASCINATING TO SEE THE YEAR’S HISTORY THROUGH 12 AND 13-YEAR-OLDS. There were a wide range of topics and highlights. I loved that I discovered that my students are developing global citizens who, for the most part, care about world events. Class and 1:1 research conversations proved to be invaluable. Because students were documenting their work on Google Docs, I was able to follow their work and comment real-time.
  2. EXCITING TO SEE THE STUDENTS BEING EXCITED TO CREATE THEIR OWN MUSIC TRACKS. It was very interesting to watch students work. Partner groups needed to collaborate in class while listening to music (a headphone splitter is our friend). And because they had their Google Docs open, some chose to chat back and forth this way. Student group discussions on music style, lyrics, rhyming scheme, and instrumental choices were happening at a rapid pace. More than anything, they were listening. #win
  3. IMPORTANT STEP: SEEING THE STUDENTS IN HIS/HER LEARNING PROCESS. Some students were great researchers. Some were fabulous at writing the lyrics and some were just excellent at creating the music. The same students, while being so successful at these areas, struggled to use class time, or struggled with another part of learning. Partners were good  (since they chose their own) in this case. They motivated each other. It was important for me to recognize each student’s strengths and struggling areas and work through challenges. I have to say that guiding each group/student was a time consuming task, but to their credit, they worked hard! So…
  4. CELEBRATE & GIVE FEEDBACKS. It’s exhilarating when students call you like the world’s ending because they want you to listen to the short segment they have been working on (remember, I have {dramatic} Middle School students?). Run to them. Be excited for their successes, however short or minor. Also give them honest opinions and guide them to think about things they may have missed. The NYT Learning Network provided a rubric on their site, but I decided to give my own feedback as well as class feedbacks on each project. 

At the end of the school year, this project was mentioned many by my students as one of the memorable learning moments! If you decide to try, let me know how it went.

We live in a well-connected and resourceful time. Take some time to connect with teachers around the globe. You’ll be surprised how many generous teachers/organizations there are. Take time to learn and share! 

Last one…

This project has been shared via Skype with Samuel Wright (Wrightstufmusic) and for his Music Technology Presentation in March. He  is a music teacher and tech guru from Australia with whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Samuel recently blogged about his presentation and mentions my students here. W00t!

Happy Summer!

~Yoon

 

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