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More than Just an Essay...

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Keywords: book report, research report, podcasting
Subject(s): Speech and Language, Writing, Special Needs, Science, Podcasting, Dyslexia, Grammar, Service Learning, Early Learning, Autism, Technology, Spelling, Social Skills, Video, Social Studies, Information Skills, Foreign Language, Reading, Math, English/Language Arts
Grades 5 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Wilson Magnet High School, Rochester, NY
Planned By: Shayna Ruckdeschel
Original Author: Shayna Ruckdeschel, Rochester
Materials -
*Student Completed Book Report / Persuasive Essay / Research Paper (can work for any written report)
*COMPUTER LAB - PC's with Windows Movie Maker (free) and Audacity (free) OR Mac Computers with iLife (Garageband and iMovie)
*Microphone headphones (or just a microphone for each computer)

1. After students have completed a written piece (in this example, we will call it a book report), students will practice reading their book report aloud to a classmate in order to become comfortable with reading fluency.
2. Once students have practiced, students will record themselves reading their essay into the computer using the microphones.
***If you are on a PC, use Audacity, and free program available online, to capture the voice. If you are on a Mac, use Garageband to capture the voice.
3. Using Audacity / GarageBand, insert an Mp3 instrumental (available for free on many sites for educational uses) into a new track. You can adjust the volume of the students voice or the music to make it "background music". Save this compilation as an Mp3.
4. Using Google (and obeying copyright laws), find IMAGES that are symbols of the book or images that tell the story.
5. Using Windows Movie Maker / iMovie, put the images in an appropriate sequence.
6. Insert the music/voice compilation into the background of the image slideshow.
7. Make it pretty with transitions and title slides... adjust timing.
8. Save as an Mp4 or WMV File and upload to class website.

I understand that not all students (or teachers for that matter) are technologically savvy. A lesson on how to use Audacity / Garageband and a lesson on using Windows Movie Maker / iMovie may be required before completing this project. Photos should all be saved in a specific folder and the iMovie/Movie Maker file should be saved with it. Moving files around can sometimes cause an issue.

Why do this?
I always like the idea of using this for book reports because you can have students choose music that fits the TONE of the piece, pictures that represent the SYMBOLS of the piece, and the report can discuss characterization, conflicts, setting, theme... They can use these videos as summaries of pieces they have read, which helps them to remember the piece later in the year.

In NYS, we have Regents exams, and students are required to write a critical lens essay on the exam in which they discuss 2 works of literature in relation to a quotation. They are required to use multiple literary elements to discuss the literature, so having these videos on the class website is helpful to help a student study for the exam later in the year as well.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This can be used for ANY content area in which a student has to research as well. I've used it in HISTORY (students created podcasts about The Holocaust, Ancient Civilizations...). I've used it in science (explaining the water cycle, body systems...). I've used it in English (as above, but also having students create POETRYCasts where they write their own poems and use the TONE for music and SYMBOLS for images). I haven't used it as much for math, but kids can create a video podcast EXPLAINING how to do a certain type of problem.
Have students watch each others podcasts and take notes.
Links: Link to Audacity download
Materials: Clip Art, Internet Services, Sound Libraries, Video Tools, Slideshow, Authoring and Publishing, Podcasting, English/Language Arts, Headsets, Microphones, Integrating Technology, Autism, Dyslexia, Speech and Language, Hardware Devices