6th grade just finished their annual MemoryCorps project. This is the 4th year we’ve included the project in our curriculum, as it meshes so nicely with their conversations about identity. The mission of StoryCorps is “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.”
Similarly, for our MemoryCorps unit, 6th graders interviewed a family member to learn from them and their stories. When possible, students captured audio and/or video of this interview, and after, they wrote a summary of the conversation and recorded themselves in school delivering this summary either using Garageband or Photobooth (we have batches of Logitech USB headsets with microphones which the students share). These files were uploaded/archived to our in-house video server powered by @Drupal and supported by Cristina Martinez, our brilliant network/server manager. English teachers, Amy Kissel and Elana Metsch-Ampel, created three separate shared Google Slides presentations — one for each of the three learning groups. Each student went to their class’s slideshow and added a slide which included:
The name of their family member.
A scintillating quote from the interview.
A brief biography about the family member.
A photo or a photo of an artifact representing that person.
Links to their reading of the summary and any links to the original interview when applicable.
Marisa wanted an internal space for kids to keep track of their independent reading, post book reviews, and social network about literacy. We examined GoodReads, Shelfari, and other sites before deciding to just have an internal Google Site that anyone in our school community could access and edit. The site was alive and kicking and heavily used for 6 years. Then last year, Cristina showed me her pet project. She used Drupal to build the site (because, lordy, that woman knows Drupal), and she built up a site that is internal, robust, and legitimately way more attractive to use. The kids love it.
Today, Eve Becker (8th grade English) and I reminded the kids how to navigate the site, add books, join groups, post reviews, and comment on other people’s reviews. Cristina was there to answer questions too, and I’m glad the kids had a chance to appreciate her to her face.
7th graders in Albert DeGrasse’s classes are about to begin reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
Today they read Chinua’s recent NY Times obituary from March, 2013. Albert asked them to consider this quote from the article:
“I grew up among very eloquent elders,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2008. “In the village, or even in the church, which my father made sure we attended, there were eloquent speakers.” That eloquence was not reflected in Western books about Africa, he said, but he understood the challenge in trying to rectify the portrayal.
“You know that it’s going to be a battle to turn it around, to say to people, ‘That’s not the way my people respond in this situation, by unintelligible grunts, and so on; they would speak,’ ” Mr. Achebe said. “And it is that speech that I knew I wanted to be written down.”
They also watched 24 minutes (from 13:00 – 37:00) of An Evening with Chinua Achebe which commemorated his birthday and the book’s 50th anniversary in 2008. The video is available on the Library of Congress YouTube channel and embedded below. Considering the quote above, it is particularly interesting that in the video, Chinua specifically chose to read a passage where the protagonist, Okonkwo, is offered advice from an eloquent elder, Okonkwo’s maternal uncle. Before reading the passage aloud, Chinua says that the words have a very different meaning for him now than it did 50 years previously, probably as he is now an elder. Meta, indeed.