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Using Podcasts to teach about the Constitutional Convention

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Keywords: Podcast, Netbook, tablet, Smartboard, projector, constitution, convention, KVM, webcam, network, laptop, recording
Subject(s): Video, Technology, Podcasting, Special Needs, Writing, Reading, Social Studies, History
Grades 7 through 8
School: Urban Choice Charter School, Rochester, NY
Planned By: Maria Wade
Original Author: Maria Wade, Rochester
Author: James P. Hallahan

Date: December 8, 2010

Intended Grade Level: 7th Grade American History

Subject/Unit Topic: Early American Republic, Creating the Union

Lesson Title: The Constitutional Convention

Essential Questions:

1. Why did the members of the Constitutional Convention disagree on so many topics?
2. How was compromise important to the success of the convention?

1. New York Standards Used:

Standard #1

Key Ideas:
#1: Explore the meaning of American culture and interpret the ideas, beliefs, and values contained in documents such as the Constitution.
#2: Investigate key turning points in NYS and U.S. History and explain why they are significant.
#3: Gather and organize information about important achievements of individuals and groups. Complete well-documented case studies about individuals and groups. Describe how ordinary people and famous historic figures in the local community, state, and the U.S. have advanced the fundamental democratic values, beliefs, and traditions expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
#4: Consider the sources of historical documents and evaluate their validity.

2.Instructional Objectives

A. To understand how our country's founders created the U.S. constitution.
-In order to be a well-informed American citizen, all students must understand the origins of the constitution.
B. To understand the importance compromise played in the creation of the U.S Constitution.
-Students must understand the role compromise played in the creation of the constitution in order to understand why it included the
elements it did as well as why it left a number of components out.
C. To understand the impact a single person, as well as a group of people, dedicated to a cause can have on society.
-The constitution itself is difficult to comprehend if one does not understand the personalities that created it. Students will have a deeper
understanding of the constitution and American history once they know the people who formed the plan for the union.

3. Brief Lesson Summary/Overview:

This is a lesson designed for 7th grade social studies. In this lesson, students will be completing a podcast presentation of their research on one of the participating members of the U.S. Constitutional Convention. Students will complete this assignment using individual laptops to conduct brief research, create a script, and create a video podcast as if they were the person they are representing. The ideas they will be discussing in their podcast are their views on state's rights, how much power they think the federal government should have, what they think about slavery, what they want to happen as a result of the convention, and also some general thoughts they have about the convention. While the first three ideas are relatively established, the last two require creative interpretation on the part of the students. Creativity and light humor will be actively encouraged, as long as it is always appropriate and relevant. Both of these will be explained to students to prevent students from creating excessive, irrelevant content.
The following lesson outline takes place after students have already handed in their research and script outlines for approval and corrections from the teacher. Student will, therefore, arrive to class ready to record. Once they have recorded and put together their final products, they will present them on the Smartboard unit at the front of the room. Students will reflect and discuss on their own work as well as that of others.
The technology used in this lesson is a standard Smartboard set up at the front of the room, with a KVM switch allowing students to connect their laptops to the projector display and show what they have been working on in front of the class. The computers used are Tablet Netbooks, which come with built-in webcam and microphone, as well as tablet capabilities which will allow students to interact with their computers much like one can interact with a Smartboard.

3. Assessment of student learning
Student learning will be addressed in stages. Prior to this class time dedicated to recording the work they have done, their research and scripts will have been handed in and corrected. Grades for these two assignments will be based on completion and effort rather than content, as the goal of these initial projects is to make sure students are on track – they will be graded once for content once students have made corrections and recorded their podcasts.
All assignments – script, research, and podcast will be graded according to an explicit rubric handed out with the assignment guidelines prior to the completion of these tasks. The goal of these assignments is to give students an opportunity to turn in a rough draft of research and script, have the teacher pull them back on track, and then have the students use what they have worked on to create the creative podcast.

4. Preparation for this lesson:

Students will have completed research on their convention participants at this point and will have this returned to them as well as their approved scripts prior to this lesson. In order to get students excited about the lesson and save time, they will have also been introduced to the equipment and instructed on how to use it. Examples of video podcasts will be shown prior to the class, but also on the day of the lesson right before they begin work on their own.

5. Lesson Opening/Hook:

Desks will be arranged prior to the arrival of students. Since they will be working on their own, a number of desks will be separated in such a way that each student has their own working space. Desks will be outfitted with a cardboard divider as well to help prevent distractions from other students and minimize background noise and views of other students. Desks will be set up around outer edge of the room in such a way that has each student's back to the wall so there will be no visual distractions behind them and also to enable the teacher to address individual students questions without disrupting other student recordings. One laptop will be on each student's desk, turned off and ready to be used by each student.
Directions will be on the board as students walk in. Students will have each been given an assigned seat, their approved scripts and research will already be on their desk. Dividers will be down at first for preliminary instructions and to be able to view examples on the projector/Smartboard. Preliminary setup will allow students to get to work right away and will also help establish a professional atmosphere so students are aware of the importance and value of the assignment.
Once the instructions have been explicitly repeated (at this point they should already have a relatively firm grasp on what we are doing), students will begin. Any questions will be addressed, as well as possible technological issues as students begin to work. I will also reiterate to the students the importance of practicing once and refraining from extraneous or loud talking.

6. Lesson Body (Instructional Procedures and Activities)

Time Estimate Teacher behaviors/ Student behaviors


Teacher: Teacher will direct students to come in and sit quietly in their assigned seats as per the instructions on the board.

Students: Students will sit quietly. Scripts and research on their convention participant will be on their desk, instructions on the board will suggest they reread it quietly for practice.


Teacher: Teacher will remind students of the activity and direct students to turn on their computers and log into the recording program to be used. Directions for use of the computers and the program will be repeated once.

Students: Students will sit quietly and follow along on their computers as per the instructions from the teacher.


Teacher: Students will be instructed that they have about 30mins to record and that they will need to stop for a short period of time when the teacher raise's their hand and asks for their attention (the teacher won't be able to verbally call attention because some students may be recording). Teacher will walk around room (very quietly) as students record, taking care to stay on the other side of desk barriers so as to not show up in any video being recorded.

Students: Students will be recording their podcasts. If they have a question, they are to raise their hand and sit quietly so as to not disrupt others.


Teacher: After students have had a chance to record something, the teacher will silently indicate for them to pause. The teacher will take this time to ask if anyone is having any trouble or has any general questions. The teacher will also help students correct/edit any recordings they have so far. Directions will be given for how to add music to their work.

Students: Students will ask any questions they have and discuss any problems they ran into. This should, in the long run, minimize a great deal of possible problems students may encounter. Students will listen while instructions are given for adding music.


Teacher: Students will be directed to resume working. The full details of the assignment will be reiterated for students nearing completion – i.e. podcast length, music needed, pictures, required spoken elements, and other aspects of the assignment they should have with them. Teacher will remind students to remain silent unless they are recording and will continue to walk around the room, addressing any questions.

Student: Students will resume working on their podcasts, recording if they still need to and adding musical effects.


Teacher: Lesson closure – students are reminded to hand in their work by saving their work on the network. Any students not finished are asked to come up after class to discuss finishing. Teacher will give out short homework assignment, a reflection sheet that asks them various questions about the assignment, incorporating their own research as well. The sheet will be extensive, as they will also reflect on the work of others and upcoming online and class discussions.

Students: Students will save their work and return their laptops to the cart (if last class of the day, leave them on the desk, turned off, if there is another section for that day). They will take a homework reflection assignment on their way out. Students will also ask any last minute questions they have and see the teacher if they have not finished. If a great deal of students have not finished, extra time will be given the following class.

8. Lesson Closure:

During the last 5-7 minutes of class, the teacher will leave time for any questions the students may have as well as provide time for those who have not finished to address plans for finishing with the teacher. If more than half of students have not finished, about 10 minutes will be given at the beginning or end of the next class to finish.
Students will also be given very brief instruction on their homework to reflect on their day's work. They will be given a “reflection packet” that will be used throughout the unit project to discuss their thoughts on their work as well as others. Following this lesson, they will only be completing the beginning of the reflection packet that asks them to talk about their thoughts regrading their research and podcast recording. This will be due the following class.

9. Adaptations for special learners:

There are many ways to address the needs of any students. In case some students may have trouble concentrating on their recording with others talking, albeit quietly, around them, previous arrangements will have been made ahead of time with a special education or other general education teacher to have students record in their room. This will not be offered outright, but rather to students who may be anticipated to have trouble, or to those who appear to be having trouble. I am concerned that if it were offered to all students overall, many who don't necessarily need the quiet recording room will probably try to take the opportunity, leading to an overflow of students leaving the room.
The dividers should also help any students who may have trouble concentrating or staying on task focus on their own work.
If students are having trouble understanding the technology, I will personally help get them back on track. Hopefully many of these troubles will be addressed ahead of time when I take part of a previous class to instruct students and answer questions. For students who are having trouble understanding how all of the technology works, a written sheet of instructions will be provided. This may be provided for all students if it turns out they are having trouble remembering the steps.
Some students may have trouble with research and/or creating a script. These issues will be addressed prior to this class time dedicated to recording.
This activity would work great for students who don't necessarily learn very well through standard reading/writing learning. This will give all students, though especially those with special needs, another way to see the material and will greatly improve understanding.

10. Technology used for this lesson:
1. Smartboard unit
2. Tablet PC Netbooks – approximately 15
3. KVM switch for presentation of material on projector
4. VGA cables to connect laptops to Smartboard projector – approximately 9, ideally at about 10ft. each

10. References to Sources Used:
A. Class textbook will be used as a basic overview of people to cover.
The amount of computers is, of course, variable. 15 (or more) would be ideal. Price for the Netbooks was calculated by taking into account longevity of the product and the quality of the parts and brand name. Smartboard unit price was found on the SMART website and is a bundle of a mobile interactive white board and projector. If all of this equipment were mobile, the entire school could use it, which would be incredibly exciting.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
The use of this equipment is almost infinite - it could be used in easily every subject, especially if a mobile white board-projector unit was purchased. As a special education teacher, I would use this every day to help make everything more interactive for my students and would hope that other teachers would be open to tapping into the vast world of possibilities this equipment brings. I believe my lesson plan is exciting and would inspire others to use this equipment for similar ideas.
After this lesson, students will share their work on the Smartboard and be able to use these interactive tools for reading, writing, researching, and many other activities and lesson plans in the classroom.
Links: Link to Newegg, online electronic sales used for pricing
Link to Smartboard sales online
Materials: Mobile Labs, Video Cameras, Portable, Auditorium, Projector Screens, Microphones, Camera/Video Accessories, Reading, Literacy, Writing, Social Studies, Word Processor, Podcasting, Video Tools, Sound Libraries, Midi Instruments, Integrating Technology
Other Items: 15 Tablet Netbooks, $400 each, total of $6000.00
1 KVM Switch, $70 each, total of $70.00
9 VGA cables, $9 each, total of $81.00
1 Smartboard unit, $1500 each, total of $1500.00