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“There are so many ways for students to demonstrate what they learn.”

Insights from the teacher behind the Chinese Knowledge video.

Adina Lerner is a middle school social studies teacher in Manhattan. We had a chance to visit her classroom twice last year and got to see what she and her students had done with Hip-Hop History of the World: Part I. We saw their amazing video, and we saw a lot more. Ms. Lerner shared some of her insights with us last week.

1. Tell us about the process of making the Chinese Knowledge video.
I had a really motivated sixth grade class last year, so I presented the idea of making a music video as an extra challenge. They were definitely up for it! First, we had to learn the content. Each student became an “expert” on a different section of Chinese Knowledge, and then completed a few projects of his or her choosing to share with the class.

To plan the video, we had a few brainstorming sessions during class. Soon we started bringing in costumes, making backdrops and choreographing dance moves. We recorded the video on flip cameras and edited the
clips on iMovie in school. We’re really proud of what we created.

2. How do you strike a balance in your classroom between creative projects and more traditional work?
The balance between “creative” and “traditional” isn’t as important as the students mastering essential skills and concepts. There are so many ways for students to demonstrate what they learn. I think a student’s ability to write a DBQ is just as important as knowing how to debate, write poetry, perform a skit, or work collaboratively. I strike a balance depending on how well the students are retaining the information and are actively involved in their learning. It’s obvious when the textbook just isn’t enough.

3. You ask your students to come up with goals for the future and then strategically plan out how they’ll achieve these goals. Would you recommend this activity for other teachers?
Absolutely! It’s important for the children to learn history, math, literacy, and science. But ultimately, a teacher’s job is prepare her students for the rest of their lives. I tell my students to write a list of goals for themselves. Then, we look at the goals every day and work towards them every day so they’re always one step closer to reaching them.

4. What’s one of your favorite classroom moments this year?
One of my favorite moments was when we held a debate on the Navigation Acts in my seventh grade class. The kids were split up to defend either the British or the colonists. The students truly prepared and it got quite heated in the classroom. We even had “sports” commentators narrate and interview the debaters after the event.

Click here for a lesson plan to make a Flocab video with your students.