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After announcing early in the week that we might have a Skype interview with someone related to The Interrupters documentary, there was almost a new-found dedication to our gangs project. (Well, more importantly to me as an English teacher, students started putting a little more effort into the first draft of their essays.)
I announced the this morning that the rumors became reality, and my students definitely kicked their extra efforts into gear. In particular, five students volunteered (who weren’t at risk of falling behind) to help develop interview questions and moderate an interview with Alex Kotlowitz, the producer of The Interrupters and author of the bestseller, There Are No Children Here.
We started by sketching out some roles on the Promethean ActivInspire board. As project manager, I wanted to see all of my students involved. I also wanted them to be running the show tomorrow, yet I did not want to see the rest of my class (some 40+ students) left out. We settled on a plan to provide notecards of questions to up to 15 students (we felt that number of questions was adequate). We needed a moderator who would set norms for the Skype call, speak for the class during introductions, and then call on students as we proceeded through the interview. During our preparations today, we needed an expert to research each of the following: Kotlowitz’s bio, The Interrupters as a film, and how his expertise or interests could help us answer our driving question. Of course, we needed a secretary to keep track of the questions and to develop the cue cards, too.
Then, with a particular focus, we reviewed the trailer for the documentary. Finally, with enough inspiration from the trailer, students were off on their own, using the press kit from The Interrupters website, Kotlowitz’s personal webpage, one of Kotlowitz’s books, and Wikipedia to build the background knowledge necessary to ask relevant questions that would add to the rigor and relevance of our interview. The five students tasked with this responsibility were so focused that they were caught off-guard by the bell. They came to me to arrange to come back after school, when they finished their list of questions AND decided to re-arrange our room to better suit the Skype call.
For many reasons, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. First, I think my students came up with some really great interview questions. Next, it’s always great to see how my students step up to the plate when there will be other adults to impress beyond the “same old” faces they see every school day of the year. Tomorrow, our principal, my assistant principal and a New Tech Network representative are expected to stop in to see this discussion in-progress. A full report and reflections will be issued tomorrow. Stay tuned!