One of my favourite classroom projects comes from FLIGHT 10. The project began by asking students to discover the truth in memory. The concept of this inquiry unit is that by studying the non-fiction narratives and comparing the two versions of stories from the elders (plus the visual and oral versions), students would see how the line between fact and fiction can be a fine balance.
We worked as a team, myself the classroom teacher, and Bryan Hughes the teacher librarian/media specialist for the school to have students answer that question orally, visually and textually to see how the line between fact and fiction can be a fine balance.
The students began by reading non-fiction narrative books in literature circles. Some of the novels we used included:
The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagna
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Benjamin Ajak
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
Next, students were paired with a classmate to interview a local elder. Most of the stories were based on conflict (since their novels from the novel study had a great deal of conflict in them), but some were just funny or unusual tales that the elder wished to tell.
After the interview, students individually wrote a biographical narrative in the first person about one of their elder’s stories. We did multiple drafts and critique processes on the stories, peer, self, and teacher, so that students could improve their work.
At the same time, students built shadow boxes for their stories. We supplied the pre-cut wood and used a woodworking room to nail and glue the pieces together. Painting them black took another couple of classes, but the students were extremely proud of having put their own display together! Students also created 5 to 7 artifacts to represent the story to place in the shadow box. The only requirement was that the artifacts needed to be their own construction. They also loved doing something tactile in an English Language Arts classroom (I have written on their engagement in this task in this previous post).
Finally, student used VoiceThread to tell the story orally using their own narration and recordings from the interviews they conducted with the elder. Here are two great examples of the final product from Declan and Ryan. Please feel free to add your own comments! This was displayed alongside the boxes with a QR code so the audience of the boxes could add comments on the VoiceThread.
After returning to the retirement home to share with the elders and after a presentation of learning to the community, students summarized their learning in a comprehensive blog post reflecting on the process of the project and the overall discoveries students made about the topic and themselves.
This project made an indelible mark on the class and us as their teachers. Together we were moved, frustrated, honoured, and overwhelmed – and we wouldn’t have given any of it up! We can’t wait for next time to improve upon what we have started! Check out this student’s personal reflection for more information!
Links Referred to in this Post:
Petra’s Blog on Engagement during the project
Declan’s VoiceThread on Newt’s Story
Ryan’s VoiceThread on Irene’s Story