We often hear phrases such as, “student-centered learning” and, “student-directed learning.” Educators often manifest these phrases through the creation of small groups, allowing students to work together, or giving student-choice in projects.
Although these are effective strategies, are they able to create conditions that allow students to build the skills of critical thinking and metacognition? I believe students can best build these skills through storytelling, inquiry, and reflection.
Storytelling with Video
The goal of teaching is to help students discover how they are thinking about a particular concept, their frustrations, any challenges they are facing, and successes they’ve experienced along the way. An effective way of getting students to reflect at this level is through storytelling.
A great way to reflect on a journey is through a video journal, such as one created in WeVideo. A video journal gives students the chance to reflect on their learning about a particular topic, unit, or project.
Video Journals may be new to you and/or your students but are quite easy to use every day in your classroom. Here is how to get started:
Identifying Your Topic
A huge roadblock of journaling is figuring out what you want to talk about. I find that if you have a conversation with your class and guide them through a couple of reflection questions, they will soon have lots of talking points.
Here are a few prompts to help get the conversation started:
- When were you on-track with this project? How did you know you were on-track?
- During this project, when were you successful? What did that feel/look like?
- When were you most engaged/focused on this project? What were you doing? How did that action affect the end result?
Collaborative Inquiry Process
Once your students have completed their reflective video journals, it is easy to bring in the collaborative inquiry process. Have your students share their videos with each other (my suggestions are through Google Drive or a YouTube channel).
Next have your students partner up. Each partner will take turns sharing their video stories. What can prove to be most helpful to each storyteller and listener are the words and phrases that emerge during the storytelling as well as key concepts, themes, and ideas.
As each storyteller shares, the listener records notes, capturing important features of the story being shared. Here are a few prompts you can use to help students identify the concepts, themes and ideas:
- What were the most compelling features of the story?
- What was the most quotable quote that came out of this storytelling?
- What was the most significant moment in the storytelling for you as a listener?
Reflecting and Building
As each student reviews the notes the listener took during the storytelling, students have the chance to pause and personally reflect on what was shared through this process and what stood out to their partner from their video journal.
Whether this opportunity to reflect is done independently or as a group, students are able to use this time to consider how their personal experience can serve as a beginning point for crafting an inquiry question that builds on an aspect of their experience.
Students craft a question, personally, and write it in the center of a sheet of chart paper or online in a collaborative document. Here are some sample questions students could create:
- What really matters when solving problems?
- What do I want to carry with me in my problem-solving toolkit?
- What do I want to change?
Using this question, students are able to discuss the proposed questions, exploring and expanding the possibilities of the inquiry.
Exploring Assumptions, Not Answering Questions
The intent of this activity is not to answer or propose ways to resolve questions, but rather to explore related assumptions and ideas. As students dive deeper into the questions posed, they many want to go back and revise their own question.
Utilize these questions as you and your students continue to solve problems, collaborate and critically evaluate information. These questions can be used as a platform for launching into a new project or to go back and refine a prior activity.
Storytelling for Idea Generation
Storytelling goes much further than just regurgitation of a past experience. If done in a meaningful and thoughtful way it can help students become powerful idea generators and provide a platform for reflective thinking. It also helps to build listening and questioning skills, so that the listeners assimilate these stories with their own experiences, and are able to express a concept or feeling in a new and unique way.
More Strategies to Deepen Learning
If you are looking for more strategies to help your students deepen learning, check out WeVideo Every Day: 40 Strategies to Deepen Learning in Any Class where I share tried and true classroom strategies to help students expand their knowledge and dive deeper into content and 21st century skills.
Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad is a speaker, author, and professional learning facilitator. He is the Chief Education Officer at WeVideo. Throughout his career, he has served as a teacher, assistant principal, university adjunct professor, consultant, and education strategist. He was director of elementary curriculum and instruction for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, as well as education supervisor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He speaks at both local and national professional conferences and is the cofounder of Bammy Award-nominated #LeadUpChat, an educational leadership professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter. Nathan is also the cofounder of #divergED, a Twitter chat focused on divergent thinking and innovations in education. He is a Google Certified Educator, Microsoft Innovative Educator, and 2016 Apple Teacher, serves on the board of the Student Voice Foundation, and serves on the International Literacy Association Task Force. Nathan is the author of Everyday Instructional Coaching and co-author of The New Art and Science of Teaching Mathematics with Robert J. Marzano. He has written several blog posts that have been featured on the EdTech K-12, Corwin Connect, Education Week, K-12 Blueprint, and Solution Tree websites. Nathan received a bachelor of arts degree in general science-chemistry from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, a master of education degree in administration and supervision from the University of Houston-Victoria, and a doctorate of education degree in learning organizations and strategic change from David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. He resides with his husband, Herbie Raad, in Maine. To learn more about Nathan’s work, visit drlangraad.com or follow him on Twitter @drlangraad