COETAIL Final Project – Persuasive Speech with Amazing Audiovisuals

I am very happy to have been involved in helping design a new unit for our  Grade 10 English course, on Persuasive Presentation. This would not have happened without the quest for this COETAIL final project.

Collaboration

I wanted to work directly with students, and for the entire cycle of a new project, or have the opportunity to help remodel an existing one. As a Middle and High School Teacher-Librarian, the best option was therefore to collaborate with some classroom teachers.  You can read in this previous post how I ended up working closely with the three grade 10 English teachers, for a total of seven classes, populated with 124 students! (a little crazy I know)
As those teachers are redesigning the grade 10 curriculum this year, it was a perfect moment to build a new collaboration.

After our first meeting on February 23rd (see picture), we shared a Google Docs, adding information about the next steps and checking with each other by assigning tasks to a colleague: it is a very efficient way to work together and to make sure everyone read the new information. We were still in hybrid teaching mode at the time, and therefore some of my colleagues would sometimes be working from home. We also had impromptu quick meetings when we needed to clarify something about the organization: luckily our office spaces, although in different buildings,  are on the same connecting floor, which was very handy.

Persuasive Speech: The Spoken Word and the Power of Persuasion

We want our students, adults of tomorrow, to master the art of persuasion, as those skills will allow them to express themselves, and to step up to make the world a better place. More than ever, when considering all the pressing issues our society is facing, being articulate and able to convince others to take action is critical to bring positive changes in our communities, for example for fighting for social justice for example, or for promoting sustainability of the environment.

Students were invited to brainstorm and then to each choose a topic that they care about. They could use a question they recently addressed in their “Change and Challenge of the 21st Century” course or something else they were already knowledgable of. This unit was not about research skills this time, which was a change for me, who spend a substantial portion of my time teaching that part of an inquiry cycle!

Essentials Questions of Inquiry

  1. What language techniques do speakers use to persuade their target audience? 
  2. What role does non-verbal communication play in delivering a message effectively?
  3. How can audiovisual elements be effectively used to support the purpose of a speech?
  4. How can one self-assess their strengths and weaknesses as a speaker in order to improve the final product?

Unit Plan – Understanding by Design

Find here the Understanding by Design (UbD) document drafted for this project. It might be subject to revision with the input from the English Department when we will update this unit next year.

Project Details

ISTE Standards

Here are the ISTE Standards for students I was going to focus on:

6. Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

6.c. Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
6.d. Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

7. Global Collaborators: Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

7.b. Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
7.d. Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

My COETAIL Final Project Video

Introducing the Project

The project was introduced by the English teachers during the week of March 15, which was a 3-days week,  due to Learning Conferences. The students were on Distance Learning those days due to the Hybrid teaching schedule still in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I attended all the classes on Zoom as I wanted to introduce myself and explain to students how I was going to be involved in this project with them.

Creating Amazing Audiovisuals and Using Tech Tools

I won’t be describing the entire project: obviously, the English teachers were responsible for their course content. I will concentrate on the “Amazing Audiovisuals” presentation that I created, the tech tools involved, the Google Form I designed to help students clarify their presentation aids’ choices. I will also explain why I implemented a self and peer-review of the practice speech they recorded either at home or at school with my help.

You can see at the beginning of my Google Slides below about “Amazing Audiovisuals” that I transformed my actual content (slides 2 & 4) into visually more interesting slides (3 & 5) to explain better to students how they should apply Garr Reynolds “Presentation Zen” concept. It was then followed by some examples. My own knowledge is based on the COETAIL course 3: “Visual Literacy: Effective Collaborators and Communicators”.

Besides urging students to apply those concepts and always tending towards simplicity in their presentation, I also shared some nice tools with them, like Slides Carnival, free Google Slides themes, searchable by category.

I also taught them how to find Copyright-free images by:
– selecting Creative Commons licenses
– using Unsplash or Pixabay
– taking their own pictures
And then how they can look for free music online, to use in any project, including this one.

All those tips are very important as students need to be aware of the ethical use of information, especially that they don’t always realize that it includes pictures and music that are easily found online, but not always copyright-free.
Of course, I reminded them to create a bibliography in Noodle Tools, which is the citation creator we use at our school.

At the end of the class, I asked students to fill in the Google Form “Amazing Audiovisuals” I designed to help them clarify their presentation aids’ choices. It also allowed me to gather details on their topic, and check if they needed help at that stage.

During the following week, I made sure to attend each class to offer help to students about their presentation. It was also a chance for me to get to know students better, as they explained their topic to me and why they chose it. It felt like a treat compared to the months spent teaching from behind a computer screen.
It was a great opportunity to give individualized support to each student: sometimes I was helping them to clarify their topic, guiding them to select the best visuals to build an effective presentation.

Nota Bene: in my original plans, I was going to offer a “Master Class” for students interested in creating their own audiovisual to be incorporated in their Slides presentation: short podcast, video, news-like presentation using our Creative Studio and its green screen room. Due to another lockdown in Belgium before the Easter holidays, we went back on Distance Learning, which, very sadly, made those plans impossible. I am looking forward to implementing this optional workshop next year! Who knows, it might even become part of the project for everyone at some point.

Recording the Practice Speech

Some student chose to record their practice speech at the library. I was, therefore, able to offer them a  practice set up in very similar conditions to their final presentation.

   

Students Collaboration

Nor the practice speech (obviously!) nor the final one were being assessed. The content of the speech itself will not be graded either. This decision was made to offer maximum freedom to the student: they could take risks, be creative, and really push themselves to enjoy their topic and make others passionate about it.
Therefore it was even more interesting to create a document for students to complete self and peer assessments for formative feedback. Summatively, they will be graded on a craft report in which they analyze their choices afterwards. They would be able to refer back to that document when finalizing their craft report about the decisions made and their motivations.

Students shared with 3 to 4 classmates their practice speech recording as well as the “Practice Presentation” feedback form I created. They were asked to give constructive feedback on the themes addressed in class to make a successful speech: tone, eye contact, gestures, audiovisual, engagement,…  rather than spotting small mistakes. Then they had to repeat the process on their own presentation for a self-evaluation. Here is, as an example,  Michael’s feedback form, filled in by three of his classmates, alongside his self-assessment.

Final Presentations

I thoroughly and truly enjoyed every step of this project. Obviously attending the final presentations was the highlight of it all! Students did an exceptional job with this project: they were involved, often passionate about their topic, they were making a conscient use of tone and gestures to engage with their audience,  and they created wonderful and powerful visual aids.

My only regret: I could not see all 124 speeches: two classes are scheduled during the same block (but I did run between both to see some students from each group), and two classes fell behind the original schedule, and by the time they started their presentations, my own schedule had filled up and I had to move on to working on other projects both in Middle school and in High school.

   

Challenges and Successes

When I first approached one of the English teachers to see if we could collaborate to implement a project on Social Justice, I thought it would mean working with her two grade 10 classes. Although enthusiastic about the idea, she quickly came to realize that she could not deviate too much from the other classes’ program, especially as her two colleagues and herself were in the process of rewriting the English curriculum this year. This is how I ended up working with all seven classes, or in other words, with 124 students.
One of the challenges encountered was the lack of schedule flexibility: unlike a classroom teacher, I needed to work with their planning. Secondly, working closely with so many students for a few weeks, on top of my other professional commitments, was a challenge.
It brought some frustration, at times. for example when I realized I couldn’t be involved in every speech being delivered (and I so much wanted that!).
At the beginning of the project, students in High School were still in hybrid teaching mode, at that point it meant alternating one full day on campus followed by one day at home with classes on Zoom. Unfortunately, due to a new lockdown, we went back to full Distance Learning before our Spring break in mid-April. Like so many of us since February 2020, I adapted my presentation but had to drop the “master class” workshops during which students were going to produce their own audiovisuals in our Creativity Studio.

In the end, I feel that this project brought a lot of learning opportunities for everyone, great collaboration moments, between colleagues but also between students, and it gave me the chance to teach students a different content than what I am used to as a Middle & High School Teacher-Librarian while building relationships with a lot of them. And that is precious. Learning happens better when there are relationships involved. I was really touched by how all students agreed to be filmed, and let me take pictures. Quite a few of them (and I am so sad I had to only select three) came to the library for a feedback interview, during their own time, “to help Mme Toilier with her own project”! <3

Final Words

Being part of this whole process was a great experience for me: it gave me the chance to “Be Alive in the Classroom” which is after all the COETAIL course 5 title and to apply some of the knowledge acquired in the last 16 months. Most importantly, I enjoyed working on redesigning a unit from the start and building a new collaboration that will continue.

COETAIL has impacted my practice as I am now fully aware of what new pedagogies look like concretely, and it allowed me to catch up with everything that is already happening in my own school. It also showed me how essential it is to keep learning and to stay connected with other educators.

Finally, I treasure all the relationships I built or developed thanks to this  COETAIL project: with those grade 10 students, with their English teachers Jess, Paul and Brian, with my COETAIL coach, Joel Bevans, and with Luis, and many other COETAIL-ers from our Cohort 12. My colleague and friend Charlotte helped me in many ways. And my family simply made that entire 16 months COETAIL journey possible. Thanks.

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Opening our Perspectives – Course 3 Final Project

We should always aim to open up our perspectives: in the workplace,  collaboration is a great way to achieve that. In Keeping the Door Open to CollaborationMinero explains how “intentional teacher collaboration creates a strong professional culture and spreads good ideas room to room”, which will be beneficial not only for the teachers but also for their students. 

I find a lot of truth in Robert John Meehan‘s above quote, and this Course 3 Collaborative Final Project made it all become real.
The first step was to contact my co-COETAIL-ers to form a group. After talking to different people, we created a team of four members working with teenagers.

While my first idea was to go for option 1 and create a 2-4 hour professional development program, once we started brainstorming it became clear, including to me, that offering extra professional development in a pandemic situation was not wise: in the past months, teachers already had to get used to a lot of new online tools to navigate distance learning, and their days (and evenings) became busier than ever.

Therefore we decided to create a unit planner based on the understandings of this course with the objective to support students in becoming Creative Communicators and Global Collaborators.

Our first challenge was to set up an efficient communication channel:  while using Twitter’s group messages seemed a good idea, it took a while to realize that one of us didn’t receive the notifications. Once it got solved, we also created a shared Google Doc where we could suggest some unit plan ideas and comment on each other’s.

As there is nothing better than meeting in person at some point during a collaborative project, we also organized a couple of video calls. Picking a time was not easy because of the different time zones: between Panama, Belgium, Russia, and Cambodia the common decent time window is quite narrow. I discovered a new tool along the way: timeanddate.com and we eventually found a time that worked for us, thanks to our colleague in Panama who is a (very) early riser!
We started the conversation by looking over the shared sample lesson plans and finally decided to revise the unit of one of our colleagues on Migration as he was going to teach it to his school’s grade 9 students  We agreed that it would give us all an authentic experience. Besides, I was personally interested in the topic as I used to collaborate with grade 7 Social Studies teachers on a  unit on the same topic, facilitating the research component in my Teacher-Librarian role.

Here is the Updated Migration Unit Plan that was produced

This type of task still remains a challenge for me, as writing unit plans is not my area of expertise: I usually collaborate with classroom teachers, and the content I deliver is incorporated in their lesson plans. The standards for what I teach independently, like Academic Honesty, are regularly revised but do not require the same type of process.

Obviously, the unit on Migration already included content standards, and our colleague updated them to reflect the newer version. Then we decided together which ISTE standards would be most meaningful, and which activities could be offered in order to improve student collaboration, with the relevant technology tools.

Here are the selected ISTE Standards:

  • 6.c. Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using various digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations.
  • 7.b. Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

For the technology tools, there were some constraints linked to what the students had already been exposed to: for example, one of our first ideas was for students to create infographics in groups [as it was part of one of our recent COETAIL course content], but that was dismissed as already included in the previous assignment.
After looking at different options, the chosen tool for the final activity is Parlay Ideas, a comprehensive discussion platform that allows students to interact with each other and their teacher, both virtually and in person. I didn’t know this tool before, but it seemed promising, and fitting the ISTE Standards we were aiming for, and to the unit that will be taught.

One issue though: the teachers of the Anglo-American School of Moscow had not used the live version yet.  The two tech-savvy members of our group spontaneously offered to run a PD session for them, going beyond our own course requirements and extending the collaboration spirit. Although I wasn’t able to join the training session, I received its recording and I would now be able to suggest this tool to my own colleagues.

This process was enlightening both from a personal and professional point of view as it showed the richness of our interactions and the power of collaboration.  As international educators, with diverse backgrounds and skills, it reminded us that sharing our experiences can only broaden our perspectives and knowledge, especially at a time when we all have to face a pandemic and the consequences that it brought to our teaching jobs.

Finally, I am hopeful that the updates made to the Migration lesson thanks to our collaboration were helpful and will bring added values for the students and their teachers.