I'm a big fan of Common Craft videos.

This is the third year I've done these videos as a mid-unit project with my 7th graders during their unit in Roman History and the project has evolved significantly over that time:

The first year I did the project, I was just happy to get through the project; there were a lot of elements to it and just juggling everything was something of a triumph. I discovered though, that given too much freedom in picking their topics, all 7th graders will turn their videos to the topic of stabbing someone. I made a note to myself to narrow the potential topics to stab-resistant subjects.

The following year (last December), I realized that my 7th graders need a lot more scaffolding than my 8th graders. Students' instructions need to be very explicit; they tend to do exactly what they are told - no more, no less. I was also frustrated by the old problem of group-work. Less motivated students would leave the diligent students to do most of the work, then share the same grade.

This year, I made it a point to write very, VERY detailed instructions. I wrote a rubric that graded the research and preparation parts of the project much more heavily than the actual movie, which had the double advantage of keeping students on track and being more fair, in terms of group-vrs.-individual work.

[Click below to download my project instructions and rubric.]
File Size: 113 kb
File Type: video rubric
Download File

In addition, I arranged for the 7th graders to interview an archaeologist about Roman life. I looked for blogs being written about archaeological excavations at Pompeii, found out who was heading up the American expedition, then emailed him to find out if there was anyone on his team who could talk to our guys. He put me touch with Leigh Lieberman from Princeton University, who agreed to do a Skype interview with us.

I was worried about putting our entire 7th Grade in the same room at the same time, but my colleagues assured me that they would be fine. (They were right, of course.)

To prepare for the interview and prevent "Do you have any pets?" or "What's your favorite color?"-type questions, I made coming up with good questions part of the instruction packet/rubric. I conferenced with each student to help shape their questions into something relevant to their projects.

I Skyped with Ms. Lieberman ahead of time to make sure that I had the technical issues worked out. At the same time, I recorded the conversation to give my guys an idea what their interview would look like. This all seems to have worked well - the interview was a fantastic success (though the credit for that has to go to Ms. Lieberman and the students themselves).

This Year's Lessons and Notes for Next Year:
  • Emphasize how long each movie should last (I shoot for 2-3 minutes) and that each member of the team needs to speak.
  • Specify a size for artwork and illustrations - six inches would be good.
  • Make sure that the students go over all the lines in their art with black Sharpie - pencil lines don't stand out enough on camera.
  • The decision to weigh the final videos less heavily was probably a good one. This year's movies were of mixed quality, but entirely secondary to the good research that my guys did. If I was judging them strictly by what I saw on-screen, I would not have gotten a fair assessment of what my students had actually learned.

As always, this project is an evolving work in progress. Next year's videos will be even better.

NH State Social Studies Standards and 
Frameworks Met by This Project

Students will be able to find social studies-related information:
·      Use economic and geographic data, historical sources, as well as other appropriate sources
·      Discriminate to select the most worthwhile and trustworthy sources
·      Draw on the diversity of social studies-related sources, such as auditory and visual sources, such as documents, charts, pictures, architectural works, and music.

Students will be able to comprehend the wide range of social studies-related materials by using skills:
·      Distinguish between facts, interpretations, and opinions
·      Test the validity of information by using such criteria as source, objectivity, technical correctness, currency
·      Draw from the source information at a level appropriate to the task at hand, i.e., skimming for facts or probing for deeper meaning
·      Utilize various types of sources such as documents, charts, images, artifacts, and maps
·      Cite sources, particularly from the Internet, accurately and completely

Students will be able to find information:
·      Use appropriate sources to gain meaning of essential terms and vocabulary, glossary, dictionary, texts, word lists
·      Recognize and understand relevant social studies terms.

Students will be able to use appropriate internet resources:
·      Access relevant and reliable websites
·      Search effectively and efficiently
·      Judge websites for reliability, bias, and appropriateness

Students will be able to present information in a variety of ways:
·      Present visually (chart, graph, diagram, model, Power Point, etc.)
·      Present orally (presentation, debate, group discussion, simulation, etc.)
·      Present in writing (research essays, abstracts, short answers, etc.)

SS:GE:8:2.3: Describe how culture, technology, and experience affect perception of places and regions, e.g.,    images created by mass media or travel. (Themes: E: Cultural Development, Interaction, and Change, F: Global Transformation, G: Science, Technology, and Society)

SS:HI:8:3.1: Explain how art, music and literature often reflect and/or influence major ideas, values and conflicts of particular time periods, e.g.,     manifest destiny,  protest movements, or freedom of expression. (Themes: E: Cultural Development, Interaction, and Change, J: Human Expression and Communication)

SS:WH:8:3.1: Demonstrate an understanding of how art, music and literature often influence or reflect major ideas, values and conflicts of a particular time. (Themes: E: Cultural Development, Interaction, and Change, J: Human Expression and Communication)

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