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Telling Our Story

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The inspiration for this idea came from a leader in New York, click here for story.

One of the most important things we can do as educators is tell our story. We share all the learning and positive things that are going on in our schools and classrooms because we are doing great things and they should be told! And as the saying goes,“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will”. As a teacher, I have mostly done this through a weekly newsletter which I send out via email and in backpacks for those who do not have access at home to email. I also have used the website to share information. But sometimes I have noticed that the newsletters are not always read, or don’t always make it home, and the hit counter on the website sometimes reflects that there were no visits that week. Can you relate?

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Image from socialmedia.com

So, I wanted to try and make this sharing of information more interesting, and what better way to do that than to have the kids do it themselves! After tinkering around with a few ideas, my class and I settled on video newsletters. These are written and produced by the kids. My only job is to hold the iPad and hit record (and that could also soon be turned over to a student) and then of course to email the videos out. Sounds good right?! But how do we get it done? Well, we are still learning, but here is our early process.

First, we brainstormed ideas for what topics would be included as standard in each video newsletter. The major focus is on our learning each week. So, we identified Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies as standard segments, each about thirty seconds to one minute long.

Next, we decided to include a segment each week on “Book Recommendations”. It is also about thirty seconds. We also liked the idea of including a “character trait” to focus on each week in our video. We could also use that segment as a reflection on something we are currently talking about or going through, such as this past week and the conversations we’ve been having about making sure we are staying focused these last few weeks of school. So basically this is a segment that is related to character, but could be flexible. Our morning meetings usually reveal what this will be each week. If we are having an ongoing conversation about something, for example, we might talk about including this.

Finally, we know there are always weeks when we do something different and we wanted to include those as well. Things like field trips or other activities would be included as they come up. We also have different adventures we always seem to find ourselves involved with and we want to include those as well. For example:

1. A couple of weeks ago we participated in a global challenge issued by a principal (@GustafsonBrad) on my Twitter. The challenge basically was to take a “squiggle” he posted and create something new and original out of it, and then tweet it to the hashtag @stuconnect which he had set up for this. Some will be chosen to receive art sets! Here is the original Squiggle, along with one my students’ creations:

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2. Last week, we participated in Teacher Appreciation by writing special notes on these cards that were posted by the U.S. Dept of Education and then tweeting pics to the hashtag #ThankATeacher.

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3. We recently started using Go Noodle to have some fun brain breaks during our day. Boy do we like this! It has become a great addition to our classroom!

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4. Mother’s Day gifts we made! (But we didn’t give away what they were, just that we have something up our sleeves!)

5. We learn new technology, and might want to include a favorite website or app that we are using, such as Kid Blog.

6. We put up our new Standards Boards each six weeks, and we would like to have a segment on these soon, maybe give a tour of them and talk about how we use them.

These are a few examples of additional segments we might have during a given broadcast. It really just depends on the week and what we decide we want to share.  We also have to choose carefully, because we want to keep these videos to around 5 minutes in length, so we are learning to be very purposeful when telling our story. This is the basic overview of the things that go into our classroom video newsletters each week.

After creating this rough sketch of what we would include as segment features in our news, we talked about how we would assign “reporters”. We decided that these would become our new classroom jobs, and rotate them each week. We have a student who is particularly skilled at creating videos, so he volunteered to be the producer and also train others along the way to do that job. Yay!

Here is how we go about putting it together:

On Monday, students are given their jobs. So for example, if John will be reporting on Math, he knows that by Friday Film Day, he needs to have written out about a 30 second summary of what we have been learning in Math. He will also decide if he wants to include an artifact in his report to help support his segment, and if so, which one. It is up to them to write these features and have their script ready to go Friday.

We hung a long piece of blue butcher paper on a wall in the room, and that is where we film. I just call each student back, quickly go over what they will be saying, and then I record them. It takes about 1 minute to do this for each segment, and we usually have about 6 segments, plus the intro/conclusion.

After each segment is recorded, our producer uploads them to our You Tube channel. From there, he downloads them, arranges them, adds text slides, and cuts them for clarity and length. And viola! We have a video! My job is to review what he has put together, make suggestions, and act as a second editor for things like spelling and grammar on the text slides. Then we all watch it, and I email it out.

I also made sure I have parent permission to share these, and we do not include our names.  We did talk about having reporter names, but decided to just forego that.

Below is our second video newsletter. Each week, we identify ways we could improve these. After watching this one, we know we need to make sure the volume is high enough, and that background noise is reduced as much as possible. We also tried to add special effects this time. But, we think they are better without these, because some of our words were cut off toward the end. It’s a learning process!

We have received compliments on our new newsletters from our parents! Below is a comment we received last week from one of the dad’s in our room:

Great job kids. I really enjoyed this look into the classroom. Keep up the good work. – Br.M.

We currently use One True Media for this newsletter. However, they will not be in existence anymore after May 30. My friend and IT Specialist Kirsten Wilson (@teachkiwi) recommended the app called “TouchCast” as an option for future recordings after OTM goes away. I don’t know anything about that particular app, and neither do my students, so we have something new to learn!

If you are looking for a fun new way to tell your classroom or school story, I recommend you try a video newsletter! I am hopeful that this might expand to a grade level or even schoolwide newsletter!  What others ways do you have of connecting with parents? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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5 thoughts on “Telling Our Story”

  1. What a great idea to give your students a voice out in the world. We use Mail Poet plugin on our blogs to help teachers with subscriptions so content is sent directly to parents.

      1. Wonderful idea! Thanks for all the details! Will def. want to try this next year!! The kids will be excited!!

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