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Using Digital Storytelling

Last week when many of my 8th graders were on the annual field trip to Washington DC, those that stayed behind attended Camp Half-Blood.  We had been reading Rick Riordan’s, The Lightning Thief and one of the students came up with the idea to do one of the activities at the end of the book.  The activity focused on determining which Greek God was your parent and writing the story of your own quest.  I’m blessed to work with teachers who are willing to try anything, and we took this ball and ran with it.   Soon our week became filled with plans for a quest, battle training and a hero’s feast.

We broke our students into small groups and gave them the task of shooting and editing a 5 minute movie documenting their epic journey.  It was fantastic to see kids who were normally too cool dressed in pink neon wigs and crazy costumes as they took on the role of the characters in their movies.  It was also exciting to watch kids teach each other and work together to solve problems. The week ended with a bead ceremony and a screening of their trailers.

On the last day the young man who had made the initial suggestion came up to me and said, “You guys came up with this whole thing?”  I told him no, it was his idea and he said, “But I never thought it would be like this!”  This is why I love middle school, the wholehearted enthusiasm for something silly, and the real learning that comes from letting go. Sure, it was a lot of work. We planned for several weeks during our prep and after school to make sure that everything went smoothly, but it was so worth the time we put in.  

Here is the trailer I made with my colleagues as a model. Sorry that I can’t show my students’ work at this time, you’ll have to take my word for it, they were great.

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