Saturday, October 28, 2017

Success with Video Book Talks

When setting my personal goals for this school year, I decided that I wanted to incorporate at least one new technology project per grading period. For the first quarter, I implemented a performance assessment that I created last year in which students use technology to create video book talks.

I expected that this project would give my students opportunities to practice 21st century skills and create genuine content for an authentic audience. The implementation of this assessment far exceeded my expectations, though. During our reflection time together, I realized that my students took risks, overcame fears, and grew as a community. Wow! What a powerful and worthy use of our time!

Video Book Talks

The performance assessment I’m implementing follows our first fiction unit in which students learned summarizing, inferencing, story elements, supporting ideas with details from the text, and the writing process. The assessment I created requires students to analyze story elements and apply summarizing skills in order to create a video book talk for a peer audience. Students must use writing skills to compose an organized script along with speaking skills to clearly communicate their ideas to the audience.

The benefit of adding technology allows students to produce genuine work that their peers will benefit from. Students can view multiple book talks for a variety of purposes: discover a new book to read, practice making appropriate comments in a discussion, provide feedback for peers, and compare or contrast various book talks for the same book. Moreover, the natural accountability of performing for a peer audience is great motivation for students to do their best work.

Here is the task I presented to my students:
The local library is creating a collection of book talks to introduce students to interesting books. As a librarian, your job is to write a script and create a video book talk explaining the main events and elements of a story without giving away the ending.

Creating Student Projects

Creating our book talks took about a week, including investigating elements of effective book talks, modeling, and student work time. I allowed students to choose their own picture books from our library to read and discuss.

I was expecting it to take a while to help 33 students record their book talks, especially because we cannot record at the same time due to noise levels. What I didn’t consider is that it would take us about an hour of recording time. As it was, my co-teacher and I were joined by our friend and instructional coach, Laura. She joined us so that we could better meet the needs of our students while recording. My co-teacher lead whole-group activities in the classroom while Laura and I helped students to record their book talks in a smaller setting. I know it will be a bit quicker in the future, because students will be familiar with the process and each student won’t need quite so much support.

There are so many options out there to use for a project like this like Padlet and Flipgrid. Instead, I decided to use the learning hub, our learning management system. I simply made a class discussion where students could record their book talks using the built-in recording option within my online class in the hub. Once students submit their work within our discussion, the class has instant access to view and comment on everyone’s work. There is no need for any additional software, and it’s easy for my students to navigate.

Student Responses

I was also surprised by how nervous my students were. They were very excited throughout the week with the promise of making videos. So, when it came time to record, I found myself reassuring many- MANY- students that they were going to do a great job. It was a nice reminder for me that my students were taking a social risk with this project. In the end, each student completed their book talk and published for our class.  

Here are a few highlights from our class discussion when reflecting about our work for the day:

“I was nervous, but I’m glad I did it because now I know I can.”
Wow! What a powerful statement. I didn’t consider that this assessment would be a way for my students to build their confidence in this way. I knew they would be trying something new, but they had such a sense of accomplishment. I am so proud of them for taking a risk and learning just how great they can be! I even had one student say, “It was fun to see myself on TV. I like me!”

“I don’t want people to see my mistakes.”
This led to a really great discussion about our classroom community being a place where our best work doesn’t have to be perfect. We talked about how we make mistakes with each other every day when reading, solving math problems, and building friendships. When I asked students to raise their hand if they made a mistake in their video, every single student raised their hand. Relief swept through the room when students realized mistakes were a common occurrence.

“I wasn’t so good at it yet.”
Yet. I love that little word. While this student was critical of her work, she has the expectation that she can grow in these skills. She has a growth mindset. Hooray!

My students were also able to give me valuable feedback for the next time we make video recordings. They want to be able to record in private, so that others aren’t watching or walking through their recording in the background. They’d also like more time to record multiple takes so they could pick their best video. Finally, some students would like the choice of doing an audio recording rather than a video. I think this is a wonderful option to offer for students who are feeling too nervous to be on screen.
Small group recording

Following some modeling on specific feedback, my students also provided each other with valuable comments. After our comment session was through, students took time to read through their comments and then verbally compliment their peers in class. You should have seen my kiddos shine! Our final step was to write comments on our own threads stating goals for our next book talk assignment. I’m really looking forward to how my students will grow the next time we do this.

Listening to peer book talks

Providing feedback for peers through comments

A Note on Performance Assessments

In a time in which achievement measured by standardized tests is a priority, my goal is to provide an alternate assessment tool that can assess the application of skills identified as critical for success in society today beyond typical paper and pencil tests. In my opinion, our standardized approach to assessment doesn’t fully measure the complex skills our students need for success. If students can practice and demonstrate higher order thinking, creative problem solving, and other 21st century skills, they will be better prepared for their futures.

As I was creating various performance assessments last year, I chose to start with the skills that real scientists, writers, and other professionals apply in their work because I want my students participating in genuine learning experiences. The types of products these professionals create were a starting point as I began upgrading my assessments.

Moreover, I want my students to be engaged and motivated by authentic and challenging learning activities, so I created the assessments to be situational. Each task gives students a specific role and authentic challenge that adults and professionals could be found engaged in on a daily basis.  This way, students can fully experience the content they are learning about with real-life application, rather than simply reading about it.

I’m so pleased that I used this assessment with my students. I can’t think of a traditional test that I’ve ever given that challenged my students personally, socially, and as a community. This assessment not only checked student learning, it extended it. That’s a win!

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