About two months ago, I was listening to All Songs Considered with my little one as we ate breakfast. On my drive to school, I started thinking about how cool it would be if our English classes could make their own version of this since middle school kids LOVE music. I got really excited about trying to connect with the hosts as our expert mentors. (Although this connection never panned out, we had many other great connections.)
As I entered my rambunctious library, I discussed the notion with Mrs. Wilson one of our 8th grade ELA teachers who was on library duty.
She loved the idea of doing a PBL (Project Based Learning) centered on music as Mrs. Witter and Mrs. Wilson were already discussing revamping their yearly music project.
We created a great brain trust with our design coaches and decided to focus on the essential question, “How can Music shape our lives?” From there we had students blog, interview family and friends, and even help create our rubric. Essentially, this was a research project where we used “crowdsourcing” as our source of information. Students took all of that info and wrote radio scripts and then recorded their podcasts with Audioboom. Our band students came by and gave some feedback and then we finished our PBL with an “All Songs Considered Listening Gala.”
Visit our TACCK to see the details about the project (You’ll have to go to Tackk to get to the final product Audioboom links): https://tackk.com/8pzbq8
Overall, it was an amazing project and I can’t begin to tell you how amazed I was by our students here at Lamar. A few of these podcasts sound exactly like something you could hear on NPR.
However, one of the biggest elements of Project Based Learning is teacher reflection, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what we should do next year to make this project even more successful. One of the things I’d really like to add is more database research. I want our students to become better at finding good sources of information and finding great information inside those sources. Our design coaches also had some ideas about connecting with “Themes” earlier in the inquiry process. This got me thinking that it would be great to pull out some great articles from Gale about music connected to certain themes. Maybe I could pull some scholarly articles about “music and Alzheimer’s,” “music and stuttering,” “how culture shapes music,” and more. We could have students read these articles in small groups, identify the themes in each article, and then find two items that support the theme within the article. (I know this is super English teacher geeky of me, but looking at great writing is a great way to show them how to write their final product!)
This would help frontload nonfiction writing for the students. We could pull those articles out again at script writing time and say, “Now, remember when we read these? You are going to use the information from your interviews and your research in the same way to support your theme!”
(This should cut down on the podcasts that turned out like, “I interviewed my mom, my brother, and a friend. My mom said….” ETC.)
I’m also thinking that these articles would be a great pre-search activity.
The articles about music tied to certain themes should get them thinking about how music shapes our lives and maybe their PBL will become more focused?
Our band director, Mr. Hanna, also said he’d love to help with a lesson in sound quality and production quality for the podcasts.
While most students did a decent job, some had a lot of noise interference and some spoke very quietly with loud music blaring in the background. A lesson in sound quality could greatly enhance their final product. He could also guide them in the
art of “fading in” and “ fading out” so they don’t abruptly begin and end songs that stifle their beautiful writing.
I wonder what the students will be more curious about? I wonder how focused will next year’s PBLS be? Normally, I would be tired of a project after such a lengthy process, but I can’t wait to be a part of this project again next school year.
Our LISD Director of Educational Technology, Jerram Froese, wrote a great blog post about our collaborative PBL.