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Sometimes, Less is More

Updated: Jun 5

I’m amazed at my seniors right now. I assigned a simple podcast and gave them some options to work in groups or record a video chat. If there’s one thing virtual teaching has taught me, it’s that less is more. Give students less directions and more options, and they will never let you down.

One student interviewed her grandmother about school and here’s a quote from the interview: “I loved learning. I loved the alphabet and words. I became an English teacher as a result of all of that. I loved to read. I would read anything I could find.” Another student talked about jazz and stopped to play piano to demonstrate what he was talking about. A group of students decided to talk to their future selves and here’s one classic moment: “I hope in the future I’m still playing violin. I want to have kids and whip out my violin, like, yo, check this out. I won’t have prom pictures for my kids, so I hope to flaunt my violin skills.” Another student revealed, “I’ve been working on a quarantine journal with all of my friends.”

The topics they picked included memory and social media, procrastination, their parent’s job and career, childhood memories, anxiety, television, the children’s book I’ll Give You the Sun, relationships with family, high school and college, staying home during the coronavirus, and music. Some created a podcast and some recorded a video chat conversation. One student submitted a screencast of text with a video of three different people talking (I don’t even know how they did that!). I watched in awe as one student created a video essay that contained an audio interview with an artist and images of her paintings.

Early in my career, I actually remember a student standing in front of the class and pressing play on a cassette tape recording of an interview for something we called the Oral History Project. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.

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