Teacher Consultant

Clifford Lee

Life Academy High School
Oakland, California

Bay Area Writing Project

Best Practices

My American Immigration Digital Story project began with two in-depth interviews by students documenting the immigration experience of their subject (from push/pull factors from their home countries to the acculturation process in America). Students worked in pairs to plan interview questions and transcribed the answers into a transcript of five or more pages. From the transcript, the pairs of students had to synthesize the information into the most engaging aspects of their immigration story in a one to one-and-a-half page pseudo-autobiographical essay (written from the POV of their subject). They were taught to filter unnecessary information and highlight rich lines of text from their autobiographical essay to be used for the voiceover narrative. Students then had to cut and paste into their four-column storyboard the most important kernels of information that would best capture their subject's story. (My colleague and I added a fourth column, which asked students to explain the purpose of the line/visual/audio clip. We included this additional element to push students to be more meta-cognitive in their use of specific images and songs that would best complement their narration.)

Prior to the recording of the voiceover narrative, my partner teacher and I used several professional storyteller models to demonstrate the importance of tone, inflection, mood, clarity, and sound/music in fully capturing the story for the audience. We analyzed the various clips we found on the Internet, and paired up groups to "perform" and peer-edit their performance before recording their actual voiceover narrative.

Another key component in our digital story was the emphasis on oral language development (specifically speaking and listening skills) through the independent recording and revising of their voiceover narrative. This process of recording, listening, editing, and re-recording allowed students to shoot for mastery over their voiceover narrative, rather than simply completion of the project. Students also revised their writing on multiple occasions, as a result of the speaking, listening, re-recording process. Students remarked about how certain words/phrases didn't sound quite right and would change their voiceover, and partners would often correct mispronunciation and/or grammatical mistakes, as well as offer suggestions pertaining to the delivery of the voiceover.

This recursive process is quite similar to the Read 180 program that has been instituted across the Oakland Unified School District for English language learners. With over two-thirds of our student population being ELLs at some point in their academic career, the audio recording and re-recording of their writing was a critical aspect in the further development of their English language arts.