Do you ever get the audible ”agghhh” from students when presenting a writing project? Us, too. Even better, how often do your students get stoked when they find out they have to write an informational essay? One out of thirty? Us, too. Truthfully, as teachers, we all have experienced this disdain from students if we have ever taught writing in our careers. We really believe though, that writing isn’t boring, we just owe it to students to package such literacy work in a way that engages them. Digital tools like green screen video technology might be the enticing packaging students are looking for to jump back onto the literacy playground.
“Writing isn’t boring, we just owe it to students to package such literacy work in a way that engages them.”
Goals and Rationale
By creating a space where students could play with green screens, it was our hope that students would find themselves engaging in a digital outlet to foster literacy development and share important messages about issues and events they cared about. Specifically, students had the opportunity to learn about their topic, paraphrase key details, practice effective fluency and speaking skills, while collaborating with their partner throughout their green screen video project.
The audience was composed of peer elementary students, CU-Boulder Literacy Coaches (members of our Digital Literacies class), family members, the school principal, as well as other guests. And now, our blog viewers, too!
CU-Boulder student-teacher assists one video team in creating a script from the Newsela article about an endangered species.
Description of The Process
Our workshop lasted one 45 minute session. The process was fairly straightforward. We launched the workshop with a 5 minute “Inspiration Presentation” for students. We informed students that they were about to get the chance to become news reporters, using green screen videos to share important messages affecting society today. Needless to say, students got pretty excited. The agenda of our workshop consisted of the following steps:
- Students were paired with another peer partner as well as a CU graduate student-teacher.
- Students were given a choice of news articles they wanted to turn into Newcasts via Newsela. This online resource offers articles with topics ranging from pop culture to endangered species. Each article included photos, which were important in attracting students’ interest.
- Students read through the article, highlighted key details, and summarized important points that would best support their message, which could be between 1-2 minutes in length.
- Students created a script for each person .
- Students practiced their script multiple times until they felt comfortable speaking. Some practiced on their cell phones first, using the camera video to watch/listen to themselves before trying again.
Students filmed in front of a green screen. We set up 3 rooms with a green screen for students to film in, so that students didn’t have to wait along time to video. Coaches used iPads to film students’ newscast using the app Green Screen by Do Ink.
Green Screen by Do Ink
Students view their newscast, discuss changes, and film again. They choose their best take to produce in DoInk (above).
Introduction and Demonstration of Project
Our posted goal for students to see.
Posted directions for getting started.
Posted directions on how to edit Newsreel.
News reporters share information and provide images relevant to saving the Bornean Orangutans (above).
Scaffolds and Supports
Designing this workshop to most effectively help students be successful required smart scaffolding. First off, we were lucky that each student team had an adult coach to guide and assist them. When exploring new digital literacies, ensuring students have an expert coach with them throughout the process can’t be understated. However, this does not mean that a lone teacher cannot integrate a unit using green screens into their classroom. If attempting this in a classroom setting, just be mindful that the process will take at least three sessions. Further, if your students are in the primary grades, we encourage inviting adult family volunteers to support students throughout the process.
We felt that having students share news using the green screens was both purposeful and authentic. Yet, news can be overwhelming. We wanted to make sharing news more accessible. Thankfully, Newsela helped us do just that. For this first venture, we constrained students’ choices of news events, asking them to pick from a pre-selected set of elementary level Newsela articles (complete with pictures). Students had at least fifteen different topics to select from, ranging from an article on rhino extinction, to McDonalds removing cheeseburgers from their menu. This level of variety enabled each student team to select a topic that both excited them and was meaningful to them. Scaffolding the structure of how students created topics for their newscast allowed each team to focus more on the literacy work and less on topic generation. Plus, the Newsela “news” articles were at the “Goldilocks” level for students to be able to successfully paraphrase the main ideas. Researching and choosing their own topics for future newscasts would be an important next step for students.
Scaffolding the students’ experience allowed them to access learning opportunities at a deeper level. During the workshop, we remember looking around and noticing every single student team was completely and totally absorbed in their creative design. They seemed to forget they were in a school setting. One team was practicing their voices for their newscast, while another was debating if they should include a certain detail in their presentation, while yet another group was avidly rehearsing their scripts. It was at this moment we realized incorporating scaffolded technology really can breathe life into literacy development.
“Scaffolding the structure of how students created topics for their newscast allowed each team to focus more on the literacy work and less on topic generation.”
Showcase of Final Products
- Two students report on endangered Bornean Orangutans
- Another news team reports on the endangered White Rhino
Share and Reflect
Patrick: “After witnessing how engaged, thoughtful, and successful students were in their projects, I decided to immediately incorporate green screen production into my own learning community. Students were given choices of writing or typing an informational biography of Henry Hudson OR producing a green screen video presentation with a group. Students unanimously chose to create a green screen biography of Henry Hudson. I observed students take such interest in their projects that students were routinely taking home their scripts to edit on their own, create homemade props to add to their report, as well as continually improve their work with enthusiasm as they received feedback from fellow students as well as the teacher. We feel that the power of incorporating green screen technology within literacy education exponentially increased quality of student work, amount of student engagement, and even the overall joy of writing for normally hesitant writers.”
Collin: “As a secondary ELA teacher, it was simply stunning to observe students read about their news topics with such ownership and authenticity. Each group worked hard to decide the most important information about their topics they should share in their newscast. They discussed and collaborated with their partners so well. I think it’s because they really bought into the idea that they needed to share about important topics affecting them, and reading, writing, and the digital tools of the green screen were simply a necessary piece to helping students develop their voices.”
Danielle: “I couldn’t be more excited to share our green screen workshop with other teachers/readers! The whole workshop process of creating and designing green screen videos is an incredible way to incorporate essential literacy skills while having tons of fun. I personally love how we get to witness our students come alive on camera. In my own classroom and during this workshop, I noticed some students who have a tendency to be more shy, or not participate in discussions, truly shine as they presented the information they chose to share. The amount of student agency, their own “want to do well,” was amazing to watch. With the growing desire to be a “Youtuber” in today’s world, students walk away thrilled with their final product, and the want to do a project like this again.”
“After witnessing how engaged, thoughtful, and successful students were in their projects, one of our team members decided to immediately incorporate green screen production into their own learning environment.”
These news reporters chose relevant background images to be revealed within their newscast.
Three Things to Change for Next Time
- More time! Next time, we would want to break up the workshop into more than one day. We were pressed for time in our workshop and thus had to rush the creative process. Although time constraints can be useful in many cases, we could have used another workshop to practice more or edit finished videos.
- Photos! Finding appropriate photos to go with overall message is an important media literacy skill. It is easy to quickly Google search for a photo that goes with your topic. However, if students had the time to carefully choose their photos, our students’ videos could be even more engaging.
- Microphone! Including a microphone would pick up students’ voices, even those students who are a bit more shy than others. In a loud room, a microphone can amplify student voice making for a more professional video.
Three Adaptations for the Classroom
- Amount of green screen availability. The more locations containing a green screen, the more efficiently you can get video production completed. And, locations need to be quiet.
- Teams of three or more students. A group can allow students to experience the various components of film production, such as filming, editing, or sound.
- Volunteers! Para-professionals, parents or other supervision would be beneficial as students will often film in multiple rooms to ensure productivity of the entire class.
We are all teachers and lifelong learners pursuing our Master’s in Literacy – Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Colorado @ Boulder. We are passionate about discovering innovative ways to develop students’ literacies.
News Report Team: Patrick, Danielle, Collin